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Literature & Literary Criticism

“The Sweet and the Bitter”

| Filed under: Literature & Literary Criticism, Tolkien, Lewis, and Inkling Studies
Amendt-Raduege Cover

In 1956, J. R. R. Tolkien famously stated that the real theme of The Lord of the Rings was “Death and Immortality.” The deaths that underscore so much of the subject matter of Tolkien’s masterpiece have a great deal to teach us. From the heroic to the humble, Tolkien draws on medieval concepts of death and dying to explore the glory and sorrow of human mortality. Three great themes of death link medieval Northern European culture, The Lord of the Rings, and contemporary culture: the way in which we die, the need to remember the dead, and above all the lingering apprehension of what happens after death. Like our medieval ancestors, we still talk about what it means to die as a hero, a traitor, or a coward; we still make decisions about ways to honor and remember the departed; and we continue to seek to appease and contain the dead. These themes suggest a latent resonance between medieval and modern cultures and raise an issue not generally discussed in contemporary Western society: our deeply rooted belief that how one dies in some way matters.

 


Lincoln’s Lover

| Filed under: Explore Women's History, Literature & Literary Criticism, Poetry
Emerson Cover

In his Poetics, Aristotle said a historian and a poet do not differ from each other—one simply writes in verse and the other in prose. In fact, history and poetry have a long connection; much of what we know about ancient history throughout the world came to us through the centuries and millennia as epic poetry purporting to tell the stories of great men and events. The two genres also create a fascinating juxtaposition when each views one through the lens of the other. To consider the life of a historical person through poetry is both to see that person for who they were and to consider who that person could have, or even should have, been in a more poetically perfect world.

 


Her Voice Will Be on the Side of Right

| Filed under: American Abolitionism and Antislavery, Explore Women's History, Literature & Literary Criticism, Understanding Civil War History, Women’s Studies
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Decades before the Civil War, the free American public was gripped by increasingly acrimonious debates about the nation’s “peculiar institution” of slavery. Ministers considered the morality of slavery from their pulpits, legislators debated it in the halls of government, professors discussed it in their classrooms, and citizens argued about it in their communities. Antislavery women wrote novels and stories designed to convince free Americans about slavery’s evils, to discuss the future of abolitionism, and to debate the proper roles of free and enslaved women in the antislavery struggle. Many antebellum writers and editors believed fiction was an especially genderappropriate medium for women to express their ideas publicly and a decidedly effective medium for reaching female readers. Believing that women were naturally more empathetic and imaginative than men, writers and editors hoped that powerfully told stories about enslaved people’s sufferings would be invaluable in converting free female readers to abolitionism.

 


“There Would Always Be a Fairy Tale”

| Filed under: Literature & Literary Criticism, Tolkien, Lewis, and Inkling Studies
Flieger Cover

Devoted to Tolkien, the teller of tales and cocreator of the myths they brush against, these essays focus on his lifelong interest in and engagement with fairy stories, the special world that he called faërie, a world they both create and inhabit, and with the elements that make that world the special place it is. They cover a range of subjects, from The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings and their place within the legendarium he called the Silmarillion to shorter works like “The Story of Kullervo” and “Smith of Wootton Major.”

 


The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury

| Filed under: Literature & Literary Criticism
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Though it highlights just one year of writing, this third volume of The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury represents a crucial moment at the midpoint of his first full decade as a professional writer. The original versions of the 1940s stories recovered for The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury, presented in the order in which they were written and first sent off to find life in the magazine market, suggest that Bradbury’s masks didn’t always appeal to his editors. The Volume 3 stories were all written between March 1944 and March 1945, and the surviving letters of this period reveal the private conflict raging between Bradbury’s efforts to define a distinct style and creative vision at home in Los Angeles and the tyranny of genre requirements imposed by the distant pulp publishing world in New York.

 


The Great Tower of Elfland

| Filed under: Literature & Literary Criticism, Tolkien, Lewis, and Inkling Studies
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Beginning in the mid-1950s, scholars proposed that the Inklings were a unified group centered on fantasy, imagination, and Christianity. Scholars and a few Inklings themselves supported the premise until 1978, when Humphrey Carpenter wrote the first major biography of the group, disputing a unified worldview. Carpenter dedicated an entire chapter to decry any theological or literary unity in the group, arguing disagreement in areas of Christian belief, literary criticism, views of myth, and writing style. Since Carpenter’s The Inklings, many analyses of the Inklings—and even their predecessors—have continued to show disunity rather than unity in the group.

 


Reading Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not

| Filed under: Hemingway Studies, Literature & Literary Criticism, Reading Hemingway
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Published in 1937, Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not is that rare example of a novel whose cultural impact far outweighs its critical reputation. Long criticized for its fragmented form, its ham-fisted approach to politics, and its hard-boiled obsession with cojones, this blistering tale of a Florida Straits boat captain named Harry Morgan desperately trying to survive the economic ravages of the Great Depression by running rum and revolutionaries to Havana has fueled tourist industries in Key West and Cuba and has inspired at least three movie adaptations (including a classic cowritten by William Faulkner and starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall).

 


The New Ray Bradbury Review, No. 5

and | Filed under: Film, Literature & Literary Criticism, Science Fiction and Fantasy
NRBR 5

As a highly visual writer, Ray Bradbury’s works have frequently been adapted for film and television. One of the most stylized and haunting dramatizations is François Truffaut’s 1966 film adaptation of Fahrenheit 451. For this fifth volume of The New Ray Bradbury Review, guest editor Phil Nichols brings together essays and articles that reflect upon Bradbury’s classic novel and Truffaut’s enduring low-tech science fiction film, fifty years after its release.

 


Teaching Hemingway and Gender

| Filed under: Hemingway Studies, Literature & Literary Criticism, Teaching Hemingway
Kale cover Image

Ernest Hemingway’s place in American letters seems guaranteed: a winner of Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, Hemingway has long been a fixture in high school and college curricula. Just as influential as his famed economy of style and unflappable heroes, however, is his public persona. Hemingway helped create an image of a masculine ideal: sportsman, brawler, hard drinker, serial monogamist, and world traveler. Yet his iconicity has also worked against him. Because Hemingway is often dismissed by students and scholars alike for his perceived misogyny, instructors might find themselves wondering how to handle the impossibly over-determined author or even if they should include him on their syllabi at all.

 


Mysterious Medicine

| Filed under: Literature & Literary Criticism, Literature & Medicine, Medicine
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Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe were masters of mystery and fantasy, but they also engaged real controversies surrounding individual health, health care practice, and biomedical research in nineteenth-century America. During this volatile era, when mesmerists, phrenologists, and other pseudoscientists reigned and “regular” physicians were just beginning to consolidate power, Hawthorne and Poe provided important critiques of experimental and often haphazard systems of care, as well as insights into the evolving understanding of mental and physical pathologies. As writers, they responded to the social, historical, and medical forces of their own time, yet they also addressed themes of bioethics, humanism, and patient-centered care that remain relevant in the twenty-first century.

 


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