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OWC Reading Group

The lasting appeal of Great Expectations

According to George Orwell, the biggest problem with Dickens is that he simply doesn’t know when to stop. Every sentence seems to be on the point of curling into a joke; characters are forever spawning a host of eccentric offspring. “His imagination overwhelms everything”, Orwell sniffed, “like a kind of weed”.

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Capturing the essence of Madame Bovary

The tragic story of Madame Bovary has been told and retold in a number of adaptations since the text’s original publication in 1856 in serial form. But what differences from the text should we expect in the film adaptation? Will there be any astounding plot points left out or added to the mix?

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OWC Reading Group

Oxford World’s Classics Reading Group Season 3: Great Expectations

When a mysterious benefaction takes Young Pip from the Kent marshes to London, his prospects of advancement improve greatly. Yet Pip finds he is haunted by figures from his past: the escaped convict Magwitch; the time-withered Miss Havisham and her proud and beautiful ward Estella; his abusive older sister and her kind husband Joe. In time, Pip uncovers not just the origins of his great expectations but the mystery of his own heart.

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Book vs. Movie: Far From the Madding Crowd

A new film adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy was recently released, starring Carey Mulligan as the beautiful and spirited Bathsheba Everdene and Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge, and Michael Sheen as her suitors.

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Bamboo Universe

Early summer in London is heralded by the Chelsea Flower Show. This year, the winner of the Best Fresh Garden was the Dark Matter Garden, an extraordinary design by Howard Miller. Dark matter is invisible and thought to constitute much of the universe, but can only be observed through the distortion of light rays, an effect represented in the garden by a lattice of bent steel rods and lines of bamboo, swaying in the wind.

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How much do you know about Dracula? [quiz]

Now that the second season of the Oxford World’s Classics Reading Group is drawing to a close, let’s see how much you’ve learnt from reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Test your knowledge of all things Vampire with our quiz.

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Before Wolf Hall: How Sir Walter Scott invented historical fiction

Historical fiction, the form Walter Scott is credited with inventing, is currently experiencing something of a renaissance. It has always been popular, of course, but it rarely enjoys high critical esteem. Now, however, thanks to Hilary Mantel’s controversial portraits of Thomas Cromwell (in Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies), James Robertson’s multi-faceted studies of Scotland’s past (in The Fanatic and And the Land Lay Still), and Richard Flanagan’s Narrow Road to the Deep North, winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize, the genre has recovered serious ground, shrugging off the dubious associations of bag-wig, bodice, and the dressing-up box.

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OWC Reading Group

Roger Luckhurst’s top 10 vampire films

There are many film adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula; many, of course, that are rubbish. If you need fresh blood and your faith restored that there is still life to be drained from the vampire trope, here are ten recommendations for films that rework Stoker’s vampire in innovative and inventive ways.

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Jesus takes a selfie: the Vernicle and Julian of Norwich

During her second ‘revelation’, Julian of Norwich has a bewilderingly dark vision of Christ’s face, which she compares with the most celebrated relic in medieval Rome. This was the ‘Vernicle’: the image of Christ’s face miraculously imprinted on a cloth that St Veronica lent Christ to wipe his face on his way to Calvary.

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OWC Reading Group

Discussion questions for Dracula by Bram Stoker

We’re just over a fortnight away from the end of our second season of the Oxford World’s Classics Reading Group. It’s still not to late to join us as we explore the foggy streets of Victorian London in search of the King of Vampires! If you’re already stuck in with #OWCReads, these discussion questions will help you get the most out of the text.

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Finding Trollope

Finding Trollope is one of the great pleasures of life. Unlike other Victorian authors Trollope is little studied in schools, so every reader comes to him by a different path. It might be a recommendation by a friend, listening to a radio adaptation or watching a TV production that leads to the discovery of Trollope and his world. I stumbled across Trollope in the early 1990s. I had recently graduated, moved to London and found myself working in a bookshop.

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OWC Reading Group

Why bother reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula?

The date-line is 2014. An outbreak of a deadly disease in a remote region, beyond the borders of a complacent Europe. Local deaths multiply. The risk does not end with death, either, because corpses hold the highest risk of contamination and you must work to contain their threat. All this is barely even reported at first, until the health of a Western visitor, a professional man, breaks down.

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How well do you know Anthony Trollope?

Next week, 24 April 2015 marks the bicentenary of one of Britain’s great novelists, Anthony Trollope. He was an extremely prolific writer, producing 47 novels, as well as a great deal of non-fiction, in his lifetime. He also worked for the Post Office, and introduced the pillar box to Britain. So, do you think you know Anthony Trollope? Test your knowledge with our Trollope bicentenary quiz.

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OWC Reading Group

Before Bram: a timeline of vampire literature

There were many books on vampires before Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Early anthropologists wrote accounts of the folkloric vampire — a stumbling, bloated peasant, never venturing far from home, and easily neutralized with a sexton’s spade and a box of matches. The literary vampire became a highly mobile, svelte aristocratic rake with the appearance of the short tale The Vampyre in 1819.

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Anthony Trollope: not as safe as we thought he was?

Anthony Trollope. Safe, stodgy, hyper-Victorian Anthony Trollope, the comfort reading of the middle classes. As his rival and admirer Henry James said after his death ‘With Trollope we were always safe’. But was he really the most respectable of Victorian novelists?

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OWC Reading Group

The birth of the vampyre: Dracula and mythology in Early Modern Europe

Although occultists like the antiquarian Montague Summers would like to claim that the belief in vampires is global and transhistorical (and therefore probably true), the vampire is a thoroughly modern being. Like the Gothic genre itself, stories of vampires emerge in the Age of Enlightenment, as instances of primitive superstition that help define the rational scepticism of northern, Protestant Europe.

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