Two hundred years ago, on 16 June 1816, one of the most remarkable gatherings in English literary history occurred in a villa just outside Geneva. Present at the occasion were Lord Byron, who had left England in April to escape (unsuccessfully, in the event) the scandal surrounding his separation from Lady Byron; John Polidori, whom Byron had engaged as his personal physician.
What is the purpose of studying English? How does language underpin politics? What role, if any, should the subject play within democratic society? Attempts to understand attitudes towards these questions in the early-to-mid-twentieth century have previously emphasized two hostile schools of thought. Firstly, an approach towards criticism influenced by the Cambridge critic F.R. Leavis, who emphasized both the moral seriousness of literature.
When it comes to Roman poets, most have heard of Horace (Horatius Quintus Flaccus). Horace is the freedman’s son who, against all odds secured the patronage of Maecenas, Augustus’ right hand man.
It’s undeniable: all Harry Potter fans secretly expect to receive their very own Hogwarts acceptance letter. Ready to be the next magical prodigy, we assume that we’ll hop onto the Hogwarts Express, promptly be sorted into Gryffindor, achieve straight O’s in our O.W.L.s, and inevitably end up as Minister for Magic.
Sarala Devi was a prolific Odia writer whose work encompasses many genres including prose, poetry, short stories, essays, literary criticism, novels, and plays. She was a versatile genius who occupies an important place in the domain of women’s history. She was a Gandhian feminist and a critical modernist who eschewed exclusive binaries between the home and the public place, the sacred and the secular.
Since he was born a year after the Witchcraft and Conjuration Act of 1563 brought about the era of the witch trials in England, it is hardly a surprise that witches and witchcraft would come to feature in Shakespeare’s work.
I congratulate you and Mr. Vernon on being about to receive into your family, the most accomplished Coquette in England. As a very distinguished Flirt, I have been always taught to consider her; but it has lately fallen in my way to hear some particulars of her conduct at Langford, which prove that she does not confine herself to that sort of honest flirtation which satisfies most people, but aspires to the more delicious gratification of making a whole family miserable.
For all its supposed isolation out there beyond the pale of acceptable discourse — marginal words in the mouths of marginal people — we know a good deal about slang. We know its lexis, and keep chasing down the new arrivals; we know its lexicographers, some very well; we know its speakers, and note that far from monosyllabic illiterates, they coin some of the most inventive usages currently on offer.
Although there was hostility towards witchcraft and sorcery well before the 16th century, it is in this time period where we see religious and legal punishment juxtaposed with the increasing use and enjoyment of special effects in plays to convey magic and the supernatural.
Human beings are subject to a continual process of bodily transformation, but shape-shifting also belongs in the landscape of magic, witchcraft, and wonder. Marina Warner, in her award-winning essays Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Telling the Self, explores this idea ranging from Ovid to Lewis Carroll. In the extract below she looks at Shakespeare’s use of magic and demons
hy were Christian theologians in the ancient and medieval worlds so fascinated by a text whose main theme was erotic love? The very fact that the ‘Song of Songs’, a biblical love poem that makes no reference to God or to Israelite religion, played an important role in pre-modern Christian discourse may seem surprising to those of us in the modern world.
Along with the many creative ways that Shakespeare killed off his characters, there are even more ways to represent those deaths in the form of fun illustrations. Not a stranger to death himself, Shakespeare was living and working in a time where rampant disease and social violence were daily norms.
Historians and political scientists have quite the task ahead in making sense of the bizarre 2016 presidential race. Fissures in both major parties betray pervasive hostilities. The rise of Donald Trump from investment mogul to television personality to presidential candidate—a process that once horrified GOP insiders—has produced one kind of theater: the spectacle of anger and resentment.
Mortality is not a theme that Shakespeare shies away from in his works, and in many cases death serves an integral part of a play’s plot. Occasionally his deaths are tragic, others are gruesome and violent, and others are just creative (we’re looking at you, Antigonus), but they play move the play along or resolve its final conflict.
The second series of the BBC Radio 4 dramatization of the novels of Émile Zola (Blood, Sex and Money) is just coming to a close. The central theme of the present series is Sex. Sex is all-pervasive in Zola. It encapsulates the themes of desire, pleasure, and perversion; and it is inseparable from Zola’s social themes.
Listen to, and read a transcript of an interview from Nicola Barringer with Valerie Minogue, translator of Money by Émile Zola, part of the Rougon-Macquart cycle. In the interview, she introduces the Rougon-Macquart, Zola’s epic cycle of twenty novels.