This year is the 250th anniversary of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, first published on Christmas Eve 1764 as a seasonal ghost story. The Castle of Otranto is often dubbed the “first Gothic novel” due to Walpole describing it as a “Gothic story,” but for him the Gothic meant very different things from what it might do today.
In a week’s time, the residents of Scotland (not the Scottish people: Scots resident south of the border are ineligible to vote) will decide whether or not to destroy the UK as currently constituted. The polls are on a knife edge; and Alex Salmond, the leader of the separatists, has a track record as a strong finisher. If he gets his way, the UK will lose 8% of its citizens and a third of its land mass; and Scotland, cut off, at least initially, from every international body (the UN Security Council, NATO, the EU) and every UK institution (the Bank of England, the pound sterling, the BBC, the security services), will face a bleak and uncertain future.
As the first year of the World War I centenary continues, here is a selection of classic literature inspired by the conflict. Some of it was written in the years after the war, while some of it was completed as the conflict was in progress.
With carefree summer winding to a close, we’ve pulled together some reading recommendations to put you in a studious mood. Check out these Oxford World’s Classics suggestions to get ready for another season of books and papers. Even if you’re no longer a student, there’s something on this list for every literary enthusiast.
Browsing my parents’ bookshelves recently, in the dog days that followed sending Anna Karenina off to press, I found myself staring at a row of small hardback volumes all the same size. One in particular, with the words Romola and George Eliot embossed in gold on the dark green spine, caught my attention.
The horror of the First World War produced an extraordinary amount of poetry, both during the conflict and in reflection afterwards. Professor Tim Kendall’s anthology, Poetry of the First World War, brings together work by many of the well-known poets of the time, along with lesser-known writing by civilian and women poets and music hall and trench songs.
On Tuesday 19 August 2014, Garnette Cadogan, freelance writer and co-editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of the Harlem Renaissance, leads a discussion on Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.Each summer, Oxford University Press USA and Bryant Park in New York City partner for their summer reading Word for Word Book Club.
In the England of the past archery was the basis of military and political power, most famously enabling the English to defeat the French at Agincourt. In the later nineteenth century it is now a leisure pursuit for upper-class women.
On Tuesday 5 August 2014, Ammon Shea, author of Reading the OED and Bad English, leads a discussion on Shakespeare’s King Lear. Each summer, Oxford University Press USA and Bryant Park in New York City partner for their summer reading series Word for Word Book Club.
On Tuesday 22 July 2014, Jenny Davidson, Professor of English at Columbia University, leads a discussion on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. Each summer, Oxford University Press USA and Bryant Park in New York City partner for their summer reading series Word for Word Book Club.
How much do you know about the works of one of our best-loved classic authors? What really motivates the characters, and what is going on beneath the surface of the story? Using So You Think You Know Jane Austen? A Literary Quizbook by John Sutherland and Deirdre La Faye, we’ve selected twelve questions covering all six of Austen’s major novels for you to pit your wits against.
Whether your version of the perfect summer read gives your cerebrum a much needed breather or demands contemplation you don’t have time for in everyday life, here is a mix of both to consider for your summer reading this year.
On Tuesday 8 July 2014, Rebecca Mead, author of My Life in Middlemarch, leads a discussion on George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Each summer, Oxford University Press USA and Bryant Park in New York City partner for their summer reading series Word for Word Book Club.
By Maura Kelly
Great Expectations is arguably Charles Dickens’s finest novel – it has a more cogent, concise plot and a more authentic narrator than the other contender for that title, the sprawling masterpiece Bleak House. It may also enjoy another special distinction – Best Title for Any Novel Ever. Certainly, it might have served as the name for any of Dickens’s other novels, as the critic G. K. Chesterson has noted before me.
The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas, celebrates its 170th birthday this year. The classic story of friendship and adventure has been read and enjoyed by many generations all over the world, and there have been dozens of adaptations, including the classic silent 1921 film, directed by Fred Niblo, and the recent BBC series. Take our quiz to find out how much you know about the book, its author, and the time at which it was written.
By Maggie Belnap
Short stories populate many childhoods, trying to instill morals and virtues in undeveloped and wandering minds. Whether it’s the tale of Rumpelstiltskin or the boy who cried wolf, these tales make a powerful impression. Check out the short story quiz and see if you really know your short stories.