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The latest new books in Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature

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  • 07/15/18--22:00: Melodramatic Moment
  • We seem to see melodrama everywhere we look—from the soliloquies of devastation in a Dickens novel to the abject monstrosity of Frankenstein’s creation, and from Louise Brooks’s exaggerated acting in Pandora’s Box to the vicissitudes endlessly reshaping the life of a brooding Don Draper. This anthology proposes to address the sometimes bewilderingly broad understandings of melodrama by insisting on the historical specificity of its genesis on the stage in late-eighteenth-century Europe.  Melodrama emerged during this time in the metropolitan centers of London, Paris, Vienna, and Berlin through stage adaptations of classical subjects and gothic novels, and they became famous for their use of passionate expression and spectacular scenery. Yet, as contributors to this volume emphasize, early melodramas also placed sound at center stage, through their distinctive—and often disconcerting—alternations between speech and music. This book draws out the melo of melodrama, showing the crucial dimensions of sound and music for a genre that permeates our dramatic, literary, and cinematic sensibilities today. A richly interdisciplinary anthology, The Melodramatic Moment will open up new dialogues between musicology and literary and theater studies.

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  • 09/06/18--22:00: Paper Minds
  • How do poems and novels create a sense of mind? What does literary criticism say in conversation with other disciplines that addresses problems of consciousness? In Paper Minds, Jonathan Kramnick takes up these vital questions, exploring the relations between mind and environment, the literary forms that uncover such associations, and the various fields of study that work to illuminate them.          Opening with a discussion of how literary scholarship’s particular methods can both complement and remain in tension with corresponding methods particular to the sciences, Paper Minds then turns to a series of sharply defined case studies. Ranging from eighteenth-century poetry and haptic theories of vision, to fiction and contemporary problems of consciousness, to landscapes in which all matter is sentient, to cognitive science and the rise of the novel, Kramnick’s essays are united by a central thematic authority. This unified approach of these essays shows us what distinctive knowledge that literary texts and literary criticism can contribute to discussions of perceptual consciousness, created and natural environments, and skilled engagements with the world.

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  • 09/27/18--22:00: Worldmakers
  • In this beautifully conceived book, Ayesha Ramachandran reconstructs the imaginative struggles of early modern artists, philosophers, and writers to make sense of something that we take for granted: the world, imagined as a whole. Once a new, exciting, and frightening concept, “the world” was transformed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. But how could one envision something that no one had ever seen in its totality?  The Worldmakers moves beyond histories of globalization to explore how “the world” itself—variously understood as an object of inquiry, a comprehensive category, and a system of order—was self-consciously shaped by human agents. Gathering an international cast of characters, from Dutch cartographers and French philosophers to Portuguese and English poets, Ramachandran describes a history of firsts: the first world atlas, the first global epic, the first modern attempt to develop a systematic natural philosophy—all part of an effort by early modern thinkers to capture “the world” on the page.

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  • 09/27/18--22:00: Loving Literature
  • One of the most common—and wounding—misconceptions about literary scholars today is that they simply don’t love books. While those actually working in literary studies can easily refute this claim, such a response risks obscuring a more fundamental question: why should they? That question led Deidre Shauna Lynch into the historical and cultural investigation of Loving Literature. How did it come to be that professional literary scholars are expected not just to study, but to love literature, and to inculcate that love in generations of students? What Lynch discovers is that books, and the attachments we form to them, have played a vital role in the formation of private life—that the love of literature, in other words, is deeply embedded in the history of literature. Yet at the same time, our love is neither self-evident nor ahistorical: our views of books as objects of affection have clear roots in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century publishing, reading habits, and domestic history. While never denying the very real feelings that warm our relationship to books, Loving Literature nonetheless serves as a riposte to those who use the phrase “the love of literature” as if its meaning were transparent. Lynch writes, “It is as if those on the side of love of literature had forgotten what literary texts themselves say about love’s edginess and complexities.” With this masterly volume, Lynch restores those edges and allows us to revel in those complexities.

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  • 10/10/18--22:00: Writer’s Map
  • It’s one of the first things we discover as children, reading and drawing: Maps have a unique power to transport us to distant lands on wondrous travels. Put a map at the start of a book, and we know an adventure is going to follow. Displaying this truth with beautiful full-color illustrations, The Writer’s Map is an atlas of the journeys that our most creative storytellers have made throughout their lives. This magnificent collection encompasses not only the maps that appear in their books but also the many maps that have inspired them, the sketches that they used while writing, and others that simply sparked their curiosity.   Philip Pullman recounts the experience of drawing a map as he set out on one of his early novels, The Tin Princess. Miraphora Mina recalls the creative challenge of drawing up ”The Marauder’s Map” for the Harry Potter films. David Mitchell leads us to the Mappa Mundi by way of Cloud Atlas and his own sketch maps. Robert Macfarlane reflects on the cartophilia that has informed his evocative nature writing, which was set off by Robert Louis Stevenson and his map of Treasure Island. Joanne Harris tells of her fascination with Norse maps of the universe. Reif Larsen writes about our dependence on GPS and the impulse to map our experience. Daniel Reeve describes drawing maps and charts for The Hobbit film trilogy. This exquisitely crafted and illustrated atlas explores these and so many more of the maps writers create and are inspired by—some real, some imagined—in both words and images.   Amid a cornucopia of 167 full-color images, we find here maps of the world as envisaged in medieval times, as well as maps of adventure, sci-fi and fantasy, nursery rhymes, literary classics, and collectible comics. An enchanting visual and verbal journey, The Writer’s Map will be irresistible for lovers of maps, literature, and memories—and anyone prone to flights of the imagination.  

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  • 10/17/18--22:00: Daily Charles Dickens
  • A charming memento of the Victorian era’s literary colossus, The Daily Charles Dickens is a literary almanac for the ages. Tenderly and irreverently anthologized by Dickens scholar James R. Kincaid, this collection mines the British author’s beloved novels and Christmas stories as well as his lesser-known sketches and letters for “an around-the-calendar set of jolts, soothings, blandishments, and soarings.” A bedside companion to dip into year round, this book introduces each month with a longer seasonal quote, while concise bits of wisdom and whimsy mark each day. Hopping gleefully from Esther Summerson’s abandonment by her mother in Bleak House to a meditation on the difficult posture of letter-writing in The Pickwick Papers, this anthology displays the wide range of Dickens’s stylistic virtuosity—his humor and his deep tragic sense, his ear for repetition, and his genius at all sorts of voices. Even the devotee will find between these pages a mix of old friends and strangers—from Oliver Twist and Ebenezer Scrooge to the likes of Lord Coodle, Sir Thomas Doodle, Mrs. Todgers, and Edwin Drood—as well as a delightful assortment of the some of the novelist’s most famous, peculiar, witty, and incisive passages, tailored to fit the season. To give one particularly apt example: David Copperfield blunders, in a letter of apology to Agnes Wickfield, “I began one note, in a six-syllable line, ‘Oh, do not remember’—but that associated itself with the fifth of November, and became an absurdity.” Never Pecksniffian or Gradgrindish, this daily dose of Dickens crystallizes the novelist’s agile humor and his reformist zeal alike. This is a book to accompany you through the best of times and the worst of times.  

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  • 11/06/18--22:00: Minor Creatures
  • In the nineteenth century, richly-drawn social fiction became one of England’s major cultural exports. At the same time, a surprising companion came to stand alongside the novel as a key embodiment of British identity: the domesticated pet. In works by authors from the Brontës to Eliot, from Dickens to Hardy, animals appeared as markers of domestic coziness and familial kindness. Yet for all their supposed significance, the animals in nineteenth-century fiction were never granted the same fullness of character or consciousness as their human masters: they remain secondary figures. Minor Creatures re-examines a slew of literary classics to show how Victorian notions of domesticity, sympathy, and individuality were shaped in response to the burgeoning pet class. The presence of beloved animals in the home led to a number of welfare-minded political movements, inspired in part by the Darwinian thought that began to sprout at the time. Nineteenth-century animals may not have been the heroes of their own lives but, as Kreilkamp shows, the history of domestic pets deeply influenced the history of the English novel.

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    What is Nigel Farage’s favorite novel? Why do Brexiteers love Sherlock Holmes? Is Philip Larkin the best Brexit poet ever? Through the politically relevant sideroad of English Literature, writ large, John Sutherland quarries the great literary minds of English history to assemble the ultimate reading list for Brexiteers. Brexit shook Britain to its roots and sent shockwaves across the world. But despite the referendum victory, Brexit is peculiarly hollow. It is an idea without political apparatus, without sustaining history, without field-tested ideology. As Sutherland argues: it is without thinkers—like Frankenstein waiting for the lightning bolt. In this irreverent, entertaining, and utterly tongue-in-cheek new guide, Sutherland suggests some stuffing for the ideological vacuity at the heart of the Brexit cause. He looks for meaning in the works of William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Thomas Hardy; in modern classics like The Queen and I and London Fields; and in the British national anthem, school songs, and poetry. Exploring what Britain meant, means, and will mean, Sutherland subtly shows how great literary works have a shaping influence on the world. Witty and insightful, and with a preface by Guardian columnist and critic John Crace, this book belongs on the shelves of anyone seeking to understand the bragging Brexiteers (and the many diehard Remoaners, too).

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