Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Annotated Table of Contents: Literature 02

The Greek Way. Edith Hamilton. In the dark days after the assassination of John Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy read this book at the insistence of JFK’s wife, Jackie. He said it helped him to accept the reality of what had happened and he began to move on to his own presidential bid. The ancient Greeks faced the ugliest matters with candor.

Jane Austen. Carol Shields. One of the finest writers of English novels, often rated with Shakespeare. Shakespeare lived in a man’s world and wrote about a wide range of characters and action. Austen lived in a man’s world and was forced to write about a limited number of characters and situations. Shakespeare and Austen never judged their characters, but made them come alive so that they live for today’s readers.

Nathaniel Hawthorne In His Times. James R. Mellow. You are going to learn why Hawthorne is one of America’s greatest writers.

The Ordeal of Mark Twain. Van Wyck Brooks. According to the author, Twain was a writer who could have made a significant contribution to the world’s literature, but became sidetracked by his success and popularity as a humorist. Possibly explains his extreme bitterness in the latter part of his life. He never fulfilled his destiny. Desired wealth and prestige as well as fulfillment of his creative instinct. He couldn’t have both. “The poet, the artist in him consequently…withered into the cynic and the whole man had become a spiritual invalid.”

World of Washington Irving. Van Wyck Brooks. This book reminds Americans of the struggle to define America, whether it would become just another imitation of a European state, or a country in which the people are responsible for their government. This book reminds Americans of the foundation for the American way of life. The period just beyond the “Declaration of Independence,” the Revolutionary War and the Constitution, 1800 to 1840. A new kind of history. Its title is deceptive, yet literal. The book is really about the WORLD of Washington Irving, rather than focusing on Irving himself. This book is about many people of Irving’s time—writers, statesmen, naturalists, explorers, and painters—who helped to open the American continent and define the government of America.

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