How Original Was Shakespeare?


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If Franssen is concerned with the variegated history of Shakespeare after his death, Shakespeare’s Originality attempts to untangle the knotty roots of the playwright’s contemporary sources, inspirations and even plagiarisms. ‘Most people interested in Shakespeare’, John Kerrigan observes, ‘have wondered about his originality. Is it true that his plays were adapted from other authors’ plays, poems, and romances? Are his best-known speeches really lifted out of Montaigne and Plutarch?’ More consequentially for our understanding of Shakespeare, Kerrigan asks: ‘Does it matter, any more than it does when a classic movie is based on a novel?’

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Patrick J. Murray — History Today

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The School of Life — Why so Many People Want to Be Writers


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A question I too have had.

The longing one day to turn out a book — probably a novel or, less likely, an autobiography lies close to the center of contemporary aspirations. This is, at one level, a hugely welcome development, a consequene of widespread literacy, higher educational standards and a proper focus on the power of books to change lives.

But looked at from another angle, it may also, in private, be the result of something rather more desultory: an epidemic of isolation and loneliness.

The army of literary agents, scouts, editors and writing coaches testifies not only to our love of literature, but also, less intentionally, to an unaddressed groundswell of painful solitude.

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William Cho — Student Voices

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Philip Roth and the Roots of American Rage


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RIP Philip Roth.

Roth, who died Tuesday at age 85, never had children. Yet he wrote perceptively and with great empathy for Seymour “the Swede” Levov, the novel’s protagonist, whose love for his daughter, Merry, knows no bounds and is utterly unrequited. Handsome, affable, responsible, and wealthy, the Swede does everything right by the standards of the midcentury American bourgeoisie. He manages a successful enterprise, procures a trophy wife, owns a tasteful estate in the Jersey suburbs, and fathers a girl who brings ruin to it all. There is a rage within Merry, which, as she grows older, explodes (quite literally) in political radicalism before she smothers her inner flames under Far-Eastern asceticism.

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Sohrab Ahmari — Commentary

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Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203


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INTERVIEWER

Does science fiction satisfy something that mainstream writing does not?

BRADBURY

Yes, it does, because the mainstream hasn’t been paying attention to all the changes in our culture during the last fifty years. The major ideas of our time—developments in medicine, the importance of space exploration to advance our species—have been neglected. The critics are generally wrong, or they’re fifteen, twenty years late. It’s a great shame. They miss out on a lot. Why the fiction of ideas should be so neglected is beyond me. I can’t explain it, except in terms of intellectual snobbery.

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The Paris Review — Sam Weller

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10 LITERARY CLASSICS WE (NOT SO) SECRETLY HATE


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There are some classics that we just don’t like. We try but we fail. And we don’t like to talk about it.

Give me the plongeurs of Down and Out in London and Paris any day. From the jump, I’ve always found Animal Farm to be heavy-handed and ham-fisted. (Can a hand do both simultaneously? Orwell’s sure could.) The symbolism and satire are laid on so thick there’s no room left for a beating heart, or entertainment of any kind, or drama, or subtlety. How this one still floats around as a perennial ‘statement’ book is beyond me. (Do I feel this strongly about Animal Farm? Truth be told, no. I haven’t thought about it in fifteen years, at least, maybe twenty. Come to think of it, I don’t much care for Charlotte’s Web, either. So it’s entirely possible this isn’t an Orwell or an E.B. White problem but a bigger grudge I hold against farm animals.)

Dwyer Murphy

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Emily Temple — Literary Hub

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Jim Kay On Drawing The Boy Who Lived


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For all Harry Potter fans from Google.

What has been the hardest thing to visualize in the project so far?

It’s always Harry, every single time. He’s based on a young boy from the Lake District, who is fantastic looking and has a really unusual face. But when you draw that truthfully, it doesn’t always look right on the page.

The fact everyone wears robes is also really difficult to draw. They’re so loose fitting, everything is a nightmare. You’re begging for someone to wear something a bit clingy. Then of course, when you draw people on brooms, it can look very rude. It’s very hard sitting someone convincingly on a broom – you just dread broomstick moments.

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Google Arts & Culture

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200 Years Later, We’re Still Learning from Frankenstein: The 1818 Text


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There are some books have such a long lasting impact on society. Frankenstein is one such book. The more we progress the more this book becomes relevant.

Reading Frankenstein also causes me to wonder if Shelley’s emphasis on how paternal abandonment destroys children may have been a veiled commentary on her husband’s great friend, Lord Byron. Certainly there was room for critique. Like Percy Shelley, Byron had commenced affairs with women while married, and like Shelley, he had gotten his partners pregnant. In Byron’s case, he had an affair with Claire Clairmont, Mary Shelley’s half-sister, and then abandoned her when she became pregnant. Mary, Percy, their child, Will, and Claire pursued Byron to the shores of Lake Geneva, which set in motion the famous “ghost story” challenge that sparked Frankenstein’s creation. Is it possible that Shelley wanted men to comprehend how much damage they created when they walked away from children?

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Lorraine Berry — Signature

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