I saw a copy of No Island Is an Island at HPB, and was curious, so I snagged one at the library. It's a book of essays on four time periods and/or pie...moreI saw a copy of No Island Is an Island at HPB, and was curious, so I snagged one at the library. It's a book of essays on four time periods and/or pieces from English literature.
The first is on More's Utopia and how it was influenced by the classical author Lucian. Yes, we're back to my ignorance of classical literature again. For that matter, I've never read all of Utopia, though I've started it and not been able to keep going. So this was interesting but not something I could fully relate to.
The second was much more interesting; it was about Elizabethan views of poetry, and it quoted Roger Ascham and Philip Sidney. It also included references to Florio's work, which made me smile. It discusses the tension between the English and the Italians during this time. Interestingly, sometimes this tension took the form of a debate over which was superior: poetry that rhymed, or poetry that didn't rhyme. Yep, that's apparently an old argument. ;) Naturally, there were appeals to classical times, and claims that the best and oldest poetry didn't rhyme, and that rhyming poetry was only introduced into classical culture when German tribes invaded Italy. (This may or may not be true. I don't know enough to say for sure.)
The third, well, I've never even tried to read Tristram Shandy, so it didn't mean very much to me.
The fourth was about Robert Louis Stevenson. I haven't read the particular short story that it focussed on ("The Bottle Imp"), but the nature of the essay made it unnecessary. (Also, Kage Baker's work has given me a bit of a soft spot for RLS.)(less)
I can't remember if I decided that I wanted to read the Shakespearean dramatic canon before or after I saw this book, but either way, I think this wil...moreI can't remember if I decided that I wanted to read the Shakespearean dramatic canon before or after I saw this book, but either way, I think this will be good background. It is a good crash course examination of the Shakespearean authorship controversy, and also a reasonably good argument for the perspective that people separated from their descendants by hundreds of years should not be regarded as having an interior life identical to that of said descendants.
This bogs down a little bit in the section where it discusses the American authors and other celebrities (like Freud) who were anti-Stratfordians, but it eventually picks up steam again.
I think this book is reasonably accessible to lay readers, but some academic/scholarly experience will probably make for a faster reading pace.(less)
A while ago I read an interview with Ursula K. Le Guin where she remarked rather testily that, hello, Harry Potter is part of a long tradition of British boarding school novels, so what is all the fuss about? (I'll try to find a link if I saved one at the time. I found a not-by-me reference to it, though, so I know I didn't just imagine it.) Anyway, one of the essays is on this topic. It's not a brilliant essay, but I'm glad that someone at least addressed it, because I was curious at the time I saw the quote but came up dry when doing a library catalogue search, and couldn't think of any other examples.
I did think that Sarah Zettel's essay on why the series was not sexist but also not feminist was brilliant.
Also, there are some issues with sourcing. A lot of assuming that one knows things, but also, some things are simply left out. It's not at all fair to assume that the general reader knows that gestural or sign languages was used in monastery libraries, and that therefore there's no need to provide a source.
The perspective here is very secular. If you are Christian this book will probably rub you the wrong way in spots. I could go on a rant about how this book seems to have a hostile-to-religion slant that bugs me, though I am not religious myself, but time is short so I won't just now.(less)