Classics and the Western Canon discussion

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments I have selected for our interim reading Emerson's essay Self-Reliance.

When I initially read this in high school around 1960, and again in college in the early 60s -- if you weren't of the 60s at least I suspect you have some idea what it meant to be an idealistic college student in those years -- I recall finding the essay incredibly insightful and inspiring. When I was searching for a good interim read I read it again and -- well, as an adult of retirement age, a parent, and a grandparent, it reads quite differently.

I'll be very curious to see what others here make of it, and whether if you read it many years ago your views of it have also changed.

It's a fairly quick read, but it offers endless opportunities for re-reading and discussion.

If you don't happen to have it on your bookshelves, either in Emerson's essays, in that Norton Anthology of American Literature you haven't opened since your Am Lit course, or in some other essay collection, there are several copies floating around on the Internet.

Here's one copy.

Here's another.

Here's a link to a MobiReader -Kindle copy of Emerson's First Essays, which includes Self-Reliance.

Here is a copy which (shudder) includes a "translation into Modern English."

Here's a page from the Transcendentalists web site offering some aids to reading the essay -- I have NOT reviewed this so it may be total garbage, but there it's there if you want it.

There are many other resources you will find by a simple search.


message 2: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Hi Everyman. My take is along a similar pathway. I remember that when I read him when I was young I had found him quite wonderful. Then a few months ago, I read, yes, "Self-Reliance" with my face-to-face book group. And while I still LOVE a good number of the "sound-bites": "absolve me to myself," "Insist on yourself; never imitate." WONDERFUL phrases. Even phrases that didn't make sense...ah! They were beautifully worded. Nonetheless, I found I had some serious criticisms of the essay. Hope to join you and your merry band in September.


message 3: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1723 comments An inspired choice. Thirty-nine years ago a beloved great aunt gave me a beautifully printed Heritage Press boxed volume of Emerson's essays, which I have never opened. Now I will.


thewanderingjew | 184 comments Roger wrote: "An inspired choice. Thirty-nine years ago a beloved great aunt gave me a beautifully printed Heritage Press boxed volume of Emerson's essays, which I have never opened. Now I will."

Boo hoo, I feel neglected, no one gave me anything like that. I just printed it out from Eman's source.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I am definitely in for this discussion. I decided to challenge myself with Emerson's essays for the first time a couple of years ago. I got drawn in to not only his life and thought but also that of his Concord and New England contemporaries who marked this period of American History. Although Waldo isn't my favorite of the group, his work and influence dominates the scene in much the way that the huge, unsculpted granite stone dominates "Author's Ridge" in Concord's Sleepy Hollow Cemetary. It will be fun to see what people make of this important essay.


message 6: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Those who are voting for Middlemarch, by the way, might like to know that there is a discussion of it right now going on in the Victorians reading group.


message 7: by Dianna (new)

Dianna | 393 comments I have ordered my copy from Barnes and Noble.


message 8: by Evalyn (new)

Evalyn (eviejoy) | 93 comments I wanted to vote for either Middlemarch or Les Miserables but could only choose one. I'll be a happy camper whichever way we go.


message 9: by Peregrine (last edited Aug 18, 2009 08:03PM) (new)

Peregrine What do you say, Everyman and all, to having two to-read booklists, one for the big books that will be our major reads, and one for single plays, essays, poems and such? We would be able to vote for interim reads as well, and very short works wouldn't be up for consideration for major reads. I imagine that all would be able to contribute titles to either list. I had great fun deciding on titles to add to the current list.



message 10: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Peregrine wrote: "What do you say, Everyman and all, to having two to-read booklists, one for the big books that will be our major reads, and one for single plays, essays, poems and such? "

That's possible if that's what the group wants. I've been taking moderator's privilege to select the short interim reads because it seems easier (and because I get to slip in some works I really want to discuss!), but if the group doesn't approve, I'm open to change. Or, I would be glad to consider suggestions, though I do have a backlist of a number of ideas in mind.




message 11: by Peregrine (new)

Peregrine I present the idea, not as a matter of disapproval, but in order to open the range of works chosen and, as well, the fun of choosing.


message 12: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 180 comments Hi, I have been lurking a bit. However, this is my first time posting here.

I have a quick question. For the interim read, should we have the book read by Sept. 9 or do we start reading it together starting on Sept. 9? Thanks.

Self-Reliance has been on my TBR shelf for years. It will be great to finally get to it and read it with a group.

I did read a book that some here may like to add to their TBR lists, not for a group read, but just on their own.

The Whole Five Feet by Christopher Beha
It's about a man who decides to read all 51 volumes of the Harvard Classics Library.
The Whole Five Feet What the Great Books Taught Me About Life, Death, and Pretty Much Everything Else by Christopher R. Beha


message 13: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Alias Reader wrote: "Hi, I have been lurking a bit. However, this is my first time posting here.

I have a quick question. For the interim read, should we have the book read by Sept. 9 or do we start reading it together starting on Sept. 9..."


On full book reads, we read in segments. Discussion on a set of chapters can begin on the day the chapter topic is set up, so if one wants to begin discussing on day one without any spoilers, one should have read the chapters before the starting date. But one can also read the chapters during the week and join in the discussion during the week (or read posts right away if one isn't concerned about spoilers). And the discussions stay open permanently, so one can still, for example, make posts on Oedipus Rex or the early chapters of Don Quixote.

For the interim readings, which are much shorter, again people can start posting about the whole work starting the first day. So if you want the maximum time to participate, it would be advisable to read it in advance of the first day of the discussion (which for Self Reliance is September 9th), but it will only take an hour or two for most people to read, so really one can read it any time during the discussion period.

Does that all make sense?




message 14: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 180 comments Absolutely. Thank you !


message 15: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Alias Reader wrote: "Absolutely. Thank you !"

You're welcome. BTW, I forgot to welcome your first posting. Always happy to see a lurker join the discussions. I hope to see you continue to post actively in future!




message 16: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments And now the moment you've all -- or at least three of you -- been waiting for. Our next interim read, to run during the Midwinter break from December 17 to the start of Anna Karenina on January 6 (or thereabouts; Laurel will set the exact start date for AnnaK later) will be a lighthearted read with a bit of a Christmas theme -- Arthur Conan Doyle's story The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.

If you don't happen to have a copy of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and if not why not?, you can read it on line here.

While the Blue Carbuncle is the only official read, I invite people to use the discussion also to talk about the Sherlock Holmes stories and their influence more generally.


message 17: by Eliza (new)

Eliza (elizac) | 94 comments Everyman wrote: "And now the moment you've all -- or at least three of you -- been waiting for. Our next interim read, to run during the Midwinter break from December 17 to the start of Anna Karenina on January 6 ..."


Great choice!



message 18: by Grace Tjan (new)

Grace Tjan | 381 comments Everyman wrote: "And now the moment you've all -- or at least three of you -- been waiting for. Our next interim read, to run during the Midwinter break from December 17 to the start of Anna Karenina on January 6 ..."

Great choice, Everyman! I love Holmes and anything Holmesian. A good excuse to dust off my Annotated Sherlock Holmes by William Baring-Gould. : )


message 19: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Eliza and Sandybanks wrote: "Great choice! "

Thanks. But remember, you have to wait two more weeks until the topic is officially put up to start posting about it! So you have plenty of time to get your thoughts in order.

My Baring-Gould is also gathering dust on a top shelf where the over height books rest, but it will be coming down soon. For those who don't have the Annotated Holmes, you have two weeks to get it out of the library or on interlibrary loan.




message 20: by Grace Tjan (new)

Grace Tjan | 381 comments My Baring-Gould is on the BOTTOM shelf with the other big and tall books. They're so bulky and heavy that I'm afraid that I'm going to strain my wrist, or worse, have them hit my head when I retrieve them from a high shelf.


message 21: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Sandybanks wrote: "Everyman wrote: "And now the moment you've all -- or at least three of you -- been waiting for. Our next interim read, to run during the Midwinter break from December 17 to the start of Anna Karen..."

Elementary!


message 22: by Evalyn (new)

Evalyn (eviejoy) | 93 comments Oh no, Everyman, I must hang my head in shame. I don't have a copy of Doyle's Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle and - worse - I've never read it. I will remedy that right away! :)

Everyman wrote: "And now the moment you've all -- or at least three of you -- been waiting for. Our next interim read, to run during the Midwinter break from December 17 to the start of Anna Karenina on January 6 ..."


Eliza wrote: "Everyman wrote: "And now the moment you've all -- or at least three of you -- been waiting for. Our next interim read, to run during the Midwinter break from December 17 to the start of Anna Karen..."

Eliza wrote: "Everyman wrote: "And now the moment you've all -- or at least three of you -- been waiting for. Our next interim read, to run during the Midwinter break from December 17 to the start of Anna Karen..."




message 23: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Evalyn wrote: "Oh no, Everyman, I must hang my head in shame. I don't have a copy of Doyle's Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle and - worse - I've never read it. I will remedy that right away! :) "

I'm enchanted to be the one to bring you to this tale, which I consider one of the more classic Holmes stories.

Not to mention, so I won't until we get to it, that it has a very distinct echo of Les Miserables. I love it when readings tie together this way!




message 24: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda (rhondak) | 202 comments I was much surprised to first read The Blue Carbuncle several years ago and find it a first rate story, especially since I had never heard of it. It is also a lovely Christmas story, with the Holmes sense of austerity thrown in.


message 25: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 180 comments Dare I say, I've never read or even seen a Sherlock Holmes movie. :-O

I will request the book from my library.

I seemed to have stalled on Les. M. I have about 300 pages to go. I certainly will not give up now after reading 900 pages. It's just I seem to have a ton of other books that keep intervening. I will move it back to the top of my TBR stack.


message 26: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 113 comments I've never read a Sherlock Holmes story either, although I've always meant to. Looking forward to it as soon as I finish "A Christmas Carol" and a couple of other group reads. Alias Reader, hang in there. You can do it!


message 27: by Alias Reader (last edited Dec 05, 2009 10:14PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 180 comments Thanks for the encouragement, Andrea. I finished it tonight ! I am so glad I read it. :)

I see you are reading No Ordinary Time, with the GR History board. I have this on my TBR. I'm sorry I missed the discussion.

The best book I've read on FDR, in fact in all of 2008, was The Defining Moment by Jonathan Alter. I highly recommend it.
The Defining Moment FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope by Jonathan Alter


message 28: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 113 comments We're only about half way through No Ordinary Time if anybody else would like to join it. It goes pretty fast.


message 29: by Yrinsyde (new)

Yrinsyde Everyman wrote: "And now the moment you've all -- or at least three of you -- been waiting for. Our next interim read, to run during the Midwinter break from December 17 to the start of Anna Karenina on January 6 ..."

Yay!! I'm still reading my Treasury of Sherlock Holmes so as soon as I finish the current story, I will skip through to the BC. I discovered these stories when I was about 10 or 11 and I loved them all so much! Still do. And I've not read AK yet either, so that will be something to look forward to.


message 30: by Paula (new)

Paula | 63 comments Yay! Love the choice! I love all things Holmesian as well, and am excited to have this as our interim read. I think I have about 3 copies of the complete Holmes stories, and love reading some of the shorter stories on random nights. I haven't read the BC in years so will enjoy re-reading it with this group. Thanks, E-man!


message 31: by Amanda Paisley (new)

Amanda Paisley (AmandaPaisley) | 8 comments Great interim selection! I hadn't read Sherlock Holmes since my very early youth. At that time (I can't even recall which tale I read), it didn't appeal to me. I was glad this story was selected, as it merits new appreciation for the Holmes books. They're an easy read and quite cleverly written. Initially I had borrowed this story from our local library, but I was pleased to discover this morning that I have a collection of Holmes mysteries resting on my very own bookshelves.

Yrinsyde- I noticed your mention of becoming rather engaged with the Holmes stories around 10 or so. After reading this story, I also shared it with my up and coming super sleuth and she loved it! As you may also relate to, she really enjoyed finding clues and also re-reading for overlooked clues.




message 32: by Joe (new)

Joe A (eojsmada) I can't wait to start this, tomorrow. I have my copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes at my bedside just itching to be cracked open for The Blue Carbunckle.




message 33: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Fedorov wrote: "I can't wait to start this, tomorrow. I have my copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes at my bedside just itching to be cracked open for The Blue Carbunckle. "

This just came to my mailbox this morning:

http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/epic...


message 34: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) Laurele wrote: "This just came to my mailbox this morning:

http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/epicks/..."



Very informative and interesting page of interviews and readings pertaining to Doyle and his story character Holmes.


message 35: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments I am planning a two week interim read between AK and Middlemarch, but you won't need to worry about it until the time comes, since it is a very short (and I do mean very short) but very powerful (and I do mean very powerful) reading, readily available on line (I will provide links) if you don't happen to have it on your bookshelf.

I thought that a short reading anybody could get through in fifteen minutes (but which also almost compels re-reading multiple times) would be a good mental palate cleanser between two major reads. But I think it will also inspire some interesting discussion.

And no, I'm not going to reveal any more details until the start of the interim reading period on March 3rd, since I don't want to distract any attention from the last few weeks of AK, so you'll just have to wait to be surprised.


message 36: by Everyman (last edited May 12, 2010 08:09PM) (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments I have not has as much time recently as I would have liked to decide what to choose for an interim read between Middlemarch and Paradise Lost. Something lighter to cleanse the palate between serious reads? Something to dig our teeth into for a shorter period? Something quite different from our usual fare?

I decided to out forward a few suggestions for people to comment on which they might like to read, and will also be open if anybody else wants to propose a short work and lead a discussion on it (it needs to be something available on line for those who don't have copies, and something that can be read in an evening or two.)

My thoughts are running on several possibilities:

1. Orwell's essay Shooting an Elephant. This is an extremely powerful essay with a message certainly worth discussion, but it is also fairly graphic and can be unpleasant for some people to read. It can be found at http://www.online-literature.com/orwe...

2. Wordsworth's poem The Old Cumberland Beggar. I was unfamiliar with this poem until I read about it in Bloom's The Western Canon. I still don't know it well, but would enjoy the chance to get to know it better in this company. Find it here
http://www.bartleby.com/145/ww139.html

3. Plato's Meno, with it's famous opening line "Can you tell me, Socrates, whether virtue can be taught?" Isn't that still a highly pertinent question today? How do you create virtuous people? What IS a virtuous person? Read it at http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/meno.html

4. Shakespeare, Richard II. Perhaps the finest brief treatment ever offered of the nature of political power and its fragility (a question still highly relevant, especially in England today), it also contains some of Shakespeare's most lyrical writing:

"I had forgot myself; am I not king?
Awake, thou coward majesty! thou sleepest.
Is not the king's name twenty thousand names?
Arm, arm, my name! "

and

"For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison'd by their wives: some sleeping kill'd;
All murder'd: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear'd and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour'd thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!"

I suspect that most of us have a Shakespeare at home, but if not, it's many places on the Internet, including here
http://tinyurl.com/37ordgm

Do any of these offerings rouse folks to inspired discussion? Or do you have another offering to suggest that you would like to lead the discussion on?

Or shall we just take one or two weeks off to prepare for Milton and the plunge straight into Paradise Lost?


message 37: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Any of the above are fine with me Everyman, except for the Orwell. I don't do gruesome:(.

Perhaps the Wordsworth is more suitable for an 'interim' reading, as the others are more meaty. It would be nice to do a poem for a change, perhaps whilst eating some delicious Cumberland Sausages:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumberla...


message 38: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Either Wordsworth or Shakespeare for me. I LOVE Richard II, and especially the "sit upon the ground" quote. Shakespeare could get us into the rhythm of Milton's blank verse.


message 39: by Paula (new)

Paula | 63 comments I third Shakespeare. Haven't read any since High School and would love a shorter one to get back into his writing.


message 40: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Okay, with one "anything but Orwell" and three Shakespeare's, let's plan on Richard II for the interim reading.

Then the question, is two weeks enough, or should we plan on three weeks?


message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

Wow! Richard II as an interim reading.

I'd suggest three weeks. If the discussion dies, it will give people a week to catch their breath before the assault on Milton.

I love all the history plays, each for different reasons.


message 42: by Gerald (new)

Gerald Camp (gerryc) I may have missed a posting on this--don't seem to get computer time much these days. I don't have Paradise Lost on my shelf and neither does the local English language library (I live in central Mexico). Does anyone know if it is available online?
Gerry


message 43: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4426 comments Gerald wrote: "I may have missed a posting on this--don't seem to get computer time much these days. I don't have Paradise Lost on my shelf and neither does the local English language library (I live in central M..."

Here's one -- with critical apparatus, no less: From Dartmouth.


message 44: by Gerald (new)

Gerald Camp (gerryc) Thanks Thomas. I really appreciate this.
Gerry


message 45: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 10 comments I am fairly new so I am not sure on the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Reading...If it has not already been decided I would like to propose Locke's Second Treatise on Government and possibly Bastiat's The Law - they dovetail nicely and both are quick reads - a nice "palate cleanser" as you called it.

Any further information on how things are done here - how readings are selected, etc. would be greatly appreciated.


message 46: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Kevin wrote: "I am fairly new so I am not sure on the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Reading..."

Briefly: we have two kinds of reads, major reads and interim reads. Major reads are discussed in segments and usually last from six to sixteen weeks or so. Interim reads are shorter and usually last two, sometimes three weeks.

Major reads are selected by the group. Anybody can put a book that meets our criteria on the bookshelf (in the to-read shelf). When it's time to make a selection, I run a random number generator on the number of titles on the list, which gives us usually about eight titles, and the group moderators are each allowed to add one title of their choosing. That makes the first poll, on which members vote for their choice of the next reading. If one book is a clear winner, it's chosen. If two or three are very close together at the top, we usually have a run-off poll to choose the final winner. (In one case where the first poll gave us two books both close in votes but both way ahead of the field, we decided to read both of them as the next two selections.)

The interim reads are selected by the moderators, usually me but Laurel can also pick a work she wants to lead a discussion on, and I may from time to time invite members with special expertise to choose a work to lead a discussion on. These are works which can be read usually in an hour or two -- a play, an essay, a short story, that sort of thing. I only pick things that are on the Internet so nobody who doesn't have the work has to go out and get it.

Locke's Second Treatise is a bit long for an interim read, and is already in the bookshelf so it may come up as a candidate for a major read at some point. Bastiat's The Law is quite long for an interim read, but could be added to the bookshelf for possible consideration for a major read. It's fairly short for that, but has a lot to talk about so could make for an interesting discussion.

Hope that answers your questions.


message 47: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 10 comments Thanks! The Law is available online (even a free audible book, but I guess that would kind of defeat the purpose of a READING group!) but I thought The Law was about a three hour read. I know my 16 year old read it easily in an afternoon. But maybe you guys like to savor things and discuss them a bit more.

Like I said, I am new here, so it would probably be best to just go with the flow for a few books.


message 48: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Kevin wrote: "Like I said, I am new here, so it would probably be best to just go with the flow for a few books. "

As long as going with the flow includes participating actively in the discussions. New voices are always welcome. We'll be interested in having your thoughts after a few books on how the group is working out and what might be possible constructive changes.


message 49: by Aranthe (new)

Aranthe | 103 comments Would Conrad's Heart of Darkness be too long?


message 50: by Dianna (new)

Dianna | 393 comments Please...NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Not Heart of Darkness! I tried to read about two pages and put it on my list of books I couldn't finish.


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