Classics and the Western Canon discussion

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General > Planning for our second 2015 read

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments We're deep in the world of 1904 Dublin, but it's time to step away for a few moments to think about our next major read.

The random number generator has spoken. (For those new to the group, our method of book selection is to run a random number generator on our bookshelf; that way every selection on it has an equal chance of being nominated. In addition, those moderators who wish to exercise the option get to add in one nomination of their choosing. If a classic work you think would make a good selection does not appear on the bookshelf, please ask the moderators to add it for future consideration.)

Anyhow, the random number generator has come up with some very interesting proposals.

In addition, since there was a bit of pressure last time to choose Ulysses (which is turning out to have been an excellent choice -- some superb discussion and the chance for many of us to read a book we would otherwise never have gotten through), the follow-up candidates in that group, Pilgrims Progress and Augustine's Confessions, didn't really get a fair shot at winning, so we're plugging them back into the selection this time.

As usual, the set of offerings is put forward for a brief time (how long depends on when I get around to putting up the poll, usually about a week, give or take quite a bit) for discussion, lobbying, etc., then the poll goes up, usually needing a follow-up poll to pick a clear winner.

So here, in alphabetical order of author, is the set of selections for your consideration for the early spring/fall (depending on which hemisphere you're in) reading.

Augustine, Confessions
Austen, Emma
Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress
de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Eliot, George, The Mill on the Floss
Eliot, T.S., Four Quartets
Hamilton et. al., The Federalist Papers
Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
Rousseau, Emile

Look them up, ponder, discuss, and prepare to vote!


message 2: by Dee (new)

Dee (deinonychus) | 291 comments What an interesting selection; with the exception of Pilgrim's Progress, I've not read any of those books before, but some of my favourite authors are represented. Pilgrim's Progress is arguably the first modern English novel, published a full forty years before Robinson Crusoe, and has had a huge influence since then. Emma is one of two Austen novels I've not read, so it would be interesting to read that and see how it compares with her others. I love T.S. Eliot, but for some reason have not read Four Quartets. And again, I've not read An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, but it keeps coming up in my other reading, as one of the foundational texts of modern philosophy, so would be great to read with this group.


message 3: by Zippy (new)

Zippy | 155 comments Patrice, you said "enough said" on Emile, but you're wrong. Say more! I don't know anything about it and would love to hear a few sentences from you.


message 4: by Nicola (last edited Jan 31, 2015 01:09PM) (new)

Nicola | 249 comments I've read the popular novels (Eliot and Austen - both very good) so I'd probably lean towards Pilgrims Progress, mostly because it's a book that's on my combined 1001 list and the subject matter would be something I'd struggle with alone. A good book group would make it much easier.


message 5: by Linda (new)

Linda | 322 comments Well, only two books initially stand out for me only because I don't really know anything of the other books without having to look them up.

So that leaves Emma, which I've read and would theoretically like to reread, but ultimately would not commit to since there are so many other books that I need an initial reading of first.

And then Mill on the Floss, which would be my choice since I've only read two Eliots and this was not one of them.

Nicola mentioned Pilgram's Progress, which I just quickly looked up. If it was chosen I would probably commit to that because of the reasoning she gave.


message 6: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments I seldom vote here. But what a selection!


message 7: by Theresa (last edited Jan 31, 2015 04:43PM) (new)

Theresa | 856 comments Yeah, I really want to read what a Great Man like Rousseau thinks about how to become a Natural Man. Not.

I wonder if he would want to raise up independent female thinkers who will not bow to authority.

I have only read one Austen and she really didn`t blow me away.

I`d go for either of the Eliots


message 8: by Zippy (new)

Zippy | 155 comments Theresa wrote: "Yeah, I really want to read what a Great Man like Rousseau thinks about how to become a Natural Man. Not.

I wonder if he would want to raise up independent female thinkers who will not bow to au..."


I'm smiling here... That book just might engender the liveliest discussion!


message 9: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments I would love to reread Emma with a group. I have read it twice and it is one of Austen's novels that has never been done well in a movie. Most Austen fans actually look to "Clueless" as the best film adaption.

I find it incredibly complex, it has some wonderful characters in it.


message 10: by Roger (last edited Feb 01, 2015 06:11AM) (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments I will go for Pilgrim's Progress. It's foundational for understanding our culture.

There are a lot of good choices here, though. Time spent with Austen is always enchanting and never wasted. The Federalist Papers and Democracy in America are foundational for understanding the American experiment, now perhaps in parlous state. Locke is the key to modern philosophy. I would read Emile but mainly as a chore, to understand the lunatic fringe of the Enlightenment. I've heard it said that a child actually raised according to that plan would be an undisciplined self-absorbed terror.


message 11: by Bob (new)

Bob G (neverlost) | 18 comments This list is interesting and is exactly the kind of and specific books on my list. Where can I find the booklist this was derived from?

Here are some thoughts about the books...

Of the ones I read, I thought Jane Austen as writer was most enjoyable. I have not read Emma though. It is going onto my list though for other reasons.

I thought Mill on the Floss pretty good (but suffers a much discussed "flaw" that has generated a lot of dicussion. I imagine this group will spend some good forum time discussing that.

I read one of Locke's works but not the one cited. I rated the one one I read pretty highly.

I thought Augustine's Confessions was an important book but I did not like his writing style.

Democracy in America (volume 1) is very very interesting for anyone living in the U.S. If I recall he wrote before the civil war and described interestingly an outsiders view of the different cultures in the North and South. US citizens should probably all read this book. The second volume I didn't like as much. However, if you are from France this would have been an interesting read. This was was less observational and more speculative.

I read Pilgrim's Progress so long ago that I don't recall much about it. I think I enjoyed it but like someone else who posted here, I have so many books I want to read that I haven't that I would probably skip the group read (as I did with Ulysses).

That leaves books that I have not read and want to: T.S. Eliot and Rousseau. I have read Rousseau in the past and was much influenced by him.

Having said all the above -- we can't exclude books that just one person has read. I am also unlikely to be an active discussion contributor, so certainly would want the active ones to choose the next book.

And again, where do I find the book list?


message 12: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5012 comments Bob wrote: "And again, where do I find the book list? ..."

Bob -- Try selecting "Bookshelf" among the selections on the upper right of the page.

(Note Eman's comment in Paragraph 2 @msg1.)


message 13: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments A silly question: Did any of these write an autography or confessions of some sort:
Austen,
de Tocqueville,
Eliot, George,
Eliot, T.S.,
Hamilton
Locke
?


message 14: by Dee (last edited Feb 01, 2015 04:25PM) (new)

Dee Emma or The Mill on the Floss. Because Jane Austen is a master, and George Eliot... I would read her grocery lists, if they were recorded.

Augustine's Confessions was a bit of a tedious read... I don't remember much, or whether I finished it, except for that long description of him stealing some fruit in his youth and his observations on sin.

Pilgrim's Progress, being a Christian morality lesson of sorts, also doesn't interest me much, and I wouldn't consider it a novel.


message 15: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Dominika wrote: and George Eliot... I would read her grocery lists, if they were recorded. "

LOL!!


message 16: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments I love the passion and intelligence that our members bring to these discussions of potential reads.


message 17: by Bob (new)

Bob G (neverlost) | 18 comments Thanks Lily. Bookshelf was hiding in plain sight! A nice feature is that it shows to me my ratings of the books on the shelf. I may suggest adding some per 2nd paragraph. Thanks again!


message 18: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Nemo wrote: "A silly question: Did any of these write an autography or confessions of some sort:
Austen,
de Tocqueville,
Eliot, George,
Eliot, T.S.,
Hamilton
Locke
?"


Let me rephrase my question: how much is known about these authors outside of their works? Can someone give a synopsis?


message 19: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments The poll is up. Let the voting begin.


message 20: by Lori (new)

Lori | 20 comments Wow, this is HARD. De Tocqueville sounds fascinating. I would love to learn more about America, its history and social context. I'd also really like to read Augustine's Confessions, mainly because I enjoyed The Golden Ass and as a result this group has inspired me to read more books from that era. I've never read any George Eliot, but would like to.

Decisions, decisions....


message 21: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Lori wrote: "Wow, this is HARD. ..."

Better too many tempting choices than none!

(I've been faced with that in other groups, where none of the proposed books had any interest for me.)


message 22: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5012 comments Everyman wrote: "Lori wrote: "Wow, this is HARD. ..."

Better too many tempting choices than none!

(I've been faced with that in other groups, where none of the proposed books had any interest for me.)"


Sometimes I am grateful for such times -- to pursue some interests of my own!


message 23: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Lily wrote: "Sometimes I am grateful for such times -- to pursue some interests of my own! "

But I hope we never face you with such a dilemma here. [g]


message 24: by Lori (new)

Lori | 20 comments Too many tempting choices is definitely better than none, but it doesn't make deciding any easier ;-) I think I need to come up with some sort of method for making a selection when I want to vote for all the books - like tossing a coin (or several, in this case!)


message 25: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments The choice is a relatively easy one for me. Since I'm not terribly interested in novels or American politics at this point, and I've read Augustine and Bunyan already, there're only three left: T.S.Eliot, Locke and Rousseau. Of these, I'd choose Eliot, partly because I find the following description from Wikipedia fascinating, and partly because I need much help understanding poetry, whereas the others I can handle on my own.

Four Quartets are four interlinked meditations with the common theme being man's relationship with time, the universe, and the divine. In describing his understanding of the divine within the poems, Eliot blends his Anglo-Catholicism with mystical, philosophical and poetic works from both Eastern and Western religious and cultural traditions, with references to the Bhagavad-Gita and the Pre-Socratics as well as St. John of the Cross and Julian of Norwich.



message 26: by Theresa (last edited Feb 06, 2015 02:31PM) (new)

Theresa | 856 comments Nemo wrote: "The choice is a relatively easy one for me. Since I'm not terribly interested in novels or American politics at this point, and I've read Augustine and Bunyan already, there're only three left: T.S..."

I voted for T.S. Eliot for that reason as well. However, with my head hurting a bit at present from Joyce, your post makes me wonder if I ought to go back down into a rabbit hole :D
If we do read Eliot I hope we get a nice palate cleansing intermission with a sane author before continuing on :)


message 27: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Theresa wrote: "If we do read Eliot I hope we get a nice palate cleansing intermission with a sane author before continuing on :) "

I had the same thought. The palate cleanser I'm planning definitely fits your suggestion!


message 28: by Melora (new)

Melora | 33 comments I would like to read either of the Eliots or Pilgrim's Progress!


message 29: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Melora wrote: "I would like to read either of the Eliots or Pilgrim's Progress!"

Me too, Melora.


message 30: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments In the event that T.S.E. is chosen, or even if it isn't, people might be interested in this reading of "Young Eliot," a biography of T.S. up to the publication of The Wasteland.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0520...


message 31: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments It would be nice to read The Wasteland and Four Quartets together, if the latter is chosen. There is a reading of the two poems by Paul Scofield at Audible, which lasts 1 hour 35 minutes. I wonder how long it would take to digest them.

http://www.audible.com/pd/Classics/Th...


message 32: by Dee (new)

Dee (deinonychus) | 291 comments Nemo wrote: "I wonder how long it would take to digest them."

Years. I can't speak for Four Quartets, but The Waste Land is one of the most richly layered poems I know, and is incredibly rewarding.


message 33: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Everyman wrote: "In the event that T.S.E. is chosen, or even if it isn't, people might be interested in this reading of "Young Eliot," a biography of T.S. up to the publication of The Wasteland.
http://www.bbc.co..."


Great find! I hadn't known he had such stellar ancestors. I have Russell Kirk's "Eliot and his Age" ready to read. Subtitle: "T. S. Eliot's Moral Imagination in the Twentieth Century."Russell Kirk is the only famous person whom I have known personally.


message 34: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Nemo wrote: "It would be nice to read The Wasteland and Four Quartets together, if the latter is chosen. There is a reading of the two poems by Paul Scofield at Audible, which lasts 1 hour 35 minutes. I wonder ..."

I have Scofield's reading from Audible, and I especially enjoy his reading of "Four Quartets." He did "The Wasteland" shortly before his death, I believe.


message 35: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments "Four Quartets" is the more manageable of the two: the 1971 Harcourt edition is 59 pages long, including front matter. But what pages! It deserves to be read slowly and often and with one of the excellent books that talk about it. I read two of them last month along with many readings of the poem. Both are available on Kindle. They are "Redeeming Time," by Kenneth Paul Kramer and "Dove Descending" by Thomas Howard. (Howard is a younger brother of Elizabeth Elliot, whom some of you may know of.) Amazingly, each brought out different but complementary ideas. It would take us four or five weeks to read "Four Quartets" together. "The Wastland" would take two months probably. Once you get a taste of Eliot via Quartets, I think you will want to read Wasteland, but perhaps at a later time.


message 36: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Laurel wrote: ""Four Quartets" is the more manageable of the two: the 1971 Harcourt edition is 59 pages long, including front matter. But what pages! It deserves to be read slowly and often and with one of the ex..."

It's probably fair to mention that the Four Quartets was Laurel's nomination, and I'm hoping, if it's selected, that she will take the lead in moderating the discussion.


message 37: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Something interesting about "Four Quartets": my brother is an arts critic (especially visual arts and theater). He posts a great work of art on his Facebook page each day with some witty comments. For the past month or so, I have been posting lines from "Four Quartets" that seem to me to fit with the art he has chosen. It is amazing how many things from this one poem seem to speak to the variety of paintings.


message 38: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments For the very best experience with "The Wasteland," there is a marvelous iPad app by TouchPress. It is fairly expensive but well, well worth it.


message 39: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments Four Quartets is in the lead by one vote, but only 19 votes have been cast from our hundreds of members. Do we really want to read another 20th century piece? We've never done anything from the mid-17th century, like Pilgrim's Progress.


message 40: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Roger wrote: "Four Quartets is in the lead by one vote, but only 19 votes have been cast from our hundreds of members. "

the vast majority of our hundreds of members aren't active, and many have never been. (We were a featured group a couple of years ago, which brought in lots of lookey-loos who joined, quickly lost interest, but didn't unjoin.)

I used to broadcast to the full membership when a poll was going up, but we got a number of people who would vote but never participate. So I quit doing that. Since we have an active discussion of nominations before the poll goes up, anybody who is even casually keeping track of the group will know when it's time to vote; as for those not even keeping causal contact I frankly prefer not to vote, though I would welcome their becoming active.

But quality is much more important than quantity, and I'm extremely pleased with the quality of the group we have gathered here. I am satisfied that we have some of the best and most significant book discussions anywhere on Goodreads.


message 41: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5012 comments Roger wrote: "Four Quartets is in the lead by one vote, but only 19 votes have been cast from our hundreds of members. Do we really want to read another 20th century piece? We've never done anything from the mid-17th century, like Pilgrim's Progress. ."

I supported Roger in his advocacy of The Pilgrim's Progress the last round of voting. Even though I love Laurel's moderation and would enjoy the exploration of T.S. Eliot, Roger's comments about the pervasive influences of PP have swayed me, even though PP has never been particularly high among the books I've "wanted" to read. I sense, like some of the other choices, PP could strongly influence other future reading, even quite probably of T.S. Eliot. May this amazing group eventually have read both, along with all the other wonderful choices that will be made.


message 42: by Nemo (last edited Feb 07, 2015 09:16PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Lily wrote: "Roger wrote: "Four Quartets is in the lead by one vote, but only 19 votes have been cast from our hundreds of members. Do we really want to read another 20th century piece? We've never done anyth..."

I too voted for Pilgrim's Progress last time based on recommendations from David, Everyman, Laurel and Roger, and actually read it soon after, as well as Bunyan's spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. Both are worthy reads, perhaps more so for Christians than non-belivers, for I think one cannot relate to or comprehend some of Bunyan's experiences and viewpoints unless he shares the faith to some extent. So I'd be quite content if the group chooses PP, though I may not be able to contribute to the discussion.


message 43: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Laurel wrote: ""Four Quartets" is the more manageable of the two"

Eliot wrote The Wasteland in his 30s, more than 20 years before Four Quartet. So I assumed that the latter would be more complex/mature. What makes The Wasteland a more difficult read?


message 44: by Cass (last edited Feb 08, 2015 12:15AM) (new)

Cass | 533 comments I think I spoke up about PP last time. I have read it twice. Loved it the first time, but the second time it was a much harder read. The characters are one-dimensional (Of course that is a feature of the book), the story is obvious. I disliked it and I didn't make it to the end (the second time).

It is not so much a story, as a lengthy parable. If it gets voted for I think I will be interested in how I feel about it, being both a Christian, and someone who dislikes this book and what it stands for (I don't like being preached to using overly detailed made up stories). "How does PP differ from any of the parables told by Jesus" will be a question I look forward to unpacking.

Having said all that, I can't bring myself to vote for it, but will read it if it is voted for.


message 45: by Tommi (new)

Tommi | 36 comments I would be glad to read T.S. Eliot, but because by then we've spent months on Ulysses, maybe something less modernist for a change. I went for Bunyan.


message 46: by Melora (new)

Melora | 33 comments I voted for Pilgrim's Progress because I will be reading it anyway, and I know I'll get more out of it if I read with this group. Still, if Four Quartets is chosen I'll probably read that too.


message 47: by [deleted user] (new)

@Laurel: You mentioned your brother's (and possibly your own) posting on Facebook. Could you share the names (either here or in a private message)? I'd like to follow him and/or you.


message 48: by Melora (new)

Melora | 33 comments And, Laurel, I'm so glad to have your recommendation of Dove Descending and Redeeming Time! I've had FQ and The Wasteland on my Amazon list for "summer reading," and those two are the ones I'd picked as my guides for Four Quartets.


message 49: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Zeke wrote: "@Laurel: You mentioned your brother's (and possibly your own) posting on Facebook. Could you share the names (either here or in a private message)? I'd like to follow him and/or you."

Gladly, Zeke. I am Laurel Hicks and would love to extend my friendship to anyone here. There are at least two of us, so look for the Laurel hicks who is retired and lives in Ferndale, Washington. My brother is Bob Hicks. He has quite a lively following and would love hearing from the people in this group. He is a freelance writer and editor in Portland, Oregon.


message 50: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 856 comments Laurel wrote: "For the very best experience with "The Wasteland," there is a marvelous iPad app by TouchPress. It is fairly expensive but well, well worth it."

Oh yes! I was looking for an excuse to get that, it is made by the same outfit that put out shakespeare's sonnets?

One benefit of reading T.S. Eliot is that you might wish to dial down your participation here (not that I'm suggesting that, but sometimes folks want a break) and could read just one or two of the poems. Similarly if you haven't participated in this group for awhile because you fear the time commitment you could jump in for just part of the discussion and not have had to 'quit' prematurely.


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