Pride and Prejudice has delighted generations of readers with its unforgettable cast of characters, carefully choreographed plot, and a hugely entertaining view of the world and its absurdities. With the arrival of eligible young men in their neighbourhood, the lives of Mr and Mrs Bennet and their five daughters are turned inside out and upside down.
By Peter Brown
If Prince William and Catherine Middleton took to heart the wedding sermon delivered in Westminster Abbey by Richard Chartres, bishop of London, then Chaucer is on the royal reading list. The good bishop quoted two lines from the Franklin’s Tale to emphasize that successful relationships should be based on ‘space and freedom’ rather than coercion: ‘Whan maistrie [mastery] comth, the god of Love anon | Beteth his wynges, and farewell, he is gon’.
By Louis René Beres
In Plato’s Republic, a canonic centerpiece of all Western thought, we first read of the “philosopher king,” a visionary leader who would impressively combine deep learning with effective governance. Today, almost 2400 years later, such leadership is nowhere to be found, either in Washington, or in any other major world capital.
Plato’s Republic is the central work of the Western world’s most famous philosopher. Essentially an inquiry into morality, Republic also contains crucial arguments and insights into many other areas of philosophy. In these videos Robin Waterfield, editor of the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Republic, explains why we should read it, and what makes Plato so interesting.
By Peter Hunt
Captain Frederick Marryat, an experienced Naval Officer, was a pioneering writer of sea-and-island adventure stories, such as Peter Simple (1834) and Mr Midshipman Easy (1836). One day his children asked him to write a sequel to The Swiss Family Robinson, Johann Wyss’s extravagant embroidering of the Robinson Crusoe story, which had found its circuitous way into English via William Godwin’s translation of a French version in 1816. Marryat was not amused.
By Helen Small
Pathological lying, the philosopher Sissela Bok tells us, ‘is to all the rest of lying what kleptomania is to stealing’. In its most extreme form, the liar (or ‘pseudologue’) ‘tells involved stories about life circumstances, both present and past’.
“The best Victorian poetry is complex, challenging, and experimental,” Hughes says, and it enjoyed a wide readership as part of “the first era of mass media.” As literacy increased and printing technology advanced, the Victorians witnessed a media explosion during which more books, journals, magazines, and newspapers were published and read than ever before. The Victorian period, in this sense, was a forerunner to the Information Age, and much of the excitement, empowerment, bewilderment, and concern they felt as a result of revolutions in communication resembles our own.
By John Sutherland
We can never know the Victorians as well as they knew themselves. Nor–however well we annotate our texts–can we read Victorian novels as responsively as Victorians read them. They, not we, own their fiction. Thackeray and his original readers shared a common ground so familiar that there was no need for it to be spelled out. The challenge for the modern reader is to reconstruct that background as fully as we can. To ‘Victorianize’ ourselves, one might say.
It’s a holiday for James Joyce fans, a holiday known as Bloomsday. Joyce’s seminal 1922 novel Ulysses spans only a single day in Dublin (1904), and now we know every 16th of June as Bloomsday, so named after the novel’s protagonist Leopold Bloom. Typical Bloomsday activities involve including Ulysses-themed pub crawls, dramatizations, and readings. Some committed fans even hold marathon readings of the entire book.
The most famous of all vampire stories, Dracula is a mirror of its age, its underlying themes of race, religion, science, superstition, and sexuality never far from the surface. Here is a sequence of podcasts with Roger Luckhurst, who has edited a new edition of Dracula for Oxford World’s Classics, recorded by George Miller of Podularity.
By Peter Hunt
The fact that The Secret Garden taps into such a powerful theme does not mean that the book is not profoundly a product of its time – and for us to ignore the more immediate sources and stimuli of the book is to miss a lot of its richness. The book – like all classics – needs to be appreciated and understood in its contemporary terms if it is to be savoured.
I’m delighted at how many readers have sent in Royal Wedding poems, proving that they are up to the challenge. Please keep sending them, and remember you can also enter to win Oxford World’s Classics by simply tweeting.
Here are just a few I’d like to share today, but now that you’ve all watched the ceremony (with undivided attention, of course) I expect many more to come.
National Poetry Month, is nearing its end, and the royal wedding is just around the corner, so let’s write poems about it. I’ve made some suggestions below, but all forms are welcome. (If you really want to win me over, I suggest attempting my favorite poetic form, the sestina.) Send your poem to me care of email@example.com and I’ll post what I can tomorrow. (Keep it clean, please. Humor, satire and effusive excitement are welcome, insults are not.)
By Robert Cowan
“Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself.” So wrote Salman Rushdie and he should know. Certainly free speech is routinely held up, often unreflectively, as an unambiguous, uncontroversial good – one of Franklin Roosevelt’s four freedoms, the right for which Voltaire would famously die, even if he disapproved of what was being said. In the age of WikiLeaks, the freedom to disseminate information and its corollary, the freedom to know what those in power have said or done in secret, have found ever more vigorous proponents, but also those who ask whether it has its limits.
Josephine McDonagh, who has written the introduction to the Oxford World’s Classics edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, discusses the novel and its reception in a series of podcasts recorded by Podularity.
For me, one of the most interesting lines of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-Paper” appears near the very beginning of the story. The words are an aside, a nervous excuse—and the only part of this rambling, uncomfortable tale to be quartered off by parentheses: “John is a physician,” the narrator writes furtively, “and perhaps—(I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind—) perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.”