Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Tag: criticism

860: The Literature of Jealousy in the Age of Cervantes by Steven Wagschal

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860.9: Wagschal, Steven. The Literature of Jealousy in the Age of Cervantes. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2006. 191 pp. ISBN 978-0-8262-1696-0.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 860: Literatures of Spanish and Portuguese languages
  • 860.9: History and criticism

Spanish literature from the 16th and 17th century is some of the most intriguing, most fun, and most exciting that has ever been written. New techniques, new philosophies, and new cultures all combined to form works that revitalized the populace and helped to expand imaginative writing. Steven Wagschal’s Literature of Jealousy in the Age of Cervantes focuses on a few writers of this timeframe and how they interpreted both the cultural and emotional landscape of the region. His main focus is on the titular emotion of jealousy. Jealousy in Spain was different from that in other regions in Europe. It was a widely-varied, highly refined topic, so much so that Lope de Vega (1562-1635) wrote six whole plays with jealousy in the title. Oddly enough, Wagschal uses philosophical frameworks from Descartes and Freud to examine the Spanish works. He does, however, wisely incorporate the works of Valencian scholar Juan Vives as well. While Wagschal’s theses are varied, they do take into account the beginning of Spain’s decline as an empire, new humanist teachings, and a more detailed reading of the works of Cervantes, Vega, and Luis de Gongora y Argote.

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822: Shakespeare is Hard, But So Is Life by Fintan O’Toole

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822.33: O’Toole, Fintan. Shakespeare is Hard, But So Is Life: A Radical Guide to Shakespearean Tragedy. London: Granta, 2002. 162 pp. ISBN 1-86207-528-X.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 820: English and Old English literatures
  • 822: English drama
  • 822.3: Drama of the Elizabethan Period, 1558-1625
  • 822.33: William Shakespeare

I’m a firm believer that if you are a reader of English, you need to get at least one Shakespeare play under your belt as an adult. High schools trot out Shakespeare and try to make students understand it, but they’re basically brain damaged until the age of 25 (talk to any neuroscientist, they’re with me on this). If you’ve read one and don’t enjoy it, well, that’s fine by me, but don’t immediately dismiss the idea altogether. Fintan O’Toole’s Shakespeare Is Hard, But So Is Life is an ardent attempt to get people who would normally write off Shakespeare as oblique and antiquated to approach it in terms that they’ll understand.

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801: On Moral Fiction by John Gardner

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801: Gardner, John. On Moral Fiction. Open Road, 2013. Approx. 210 pp. E-book.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 801: Philosophy and theory of literature

John Gardner has opinions and he isn’t afraid to use them. In On Moral Fiction, he launches an invective against mediocrity and immorality in literature. Unfortunately, one almost immediately faces opposition when you throw around the term morality with respects to the arts. Gardner contends that literature, and art in general, must have both substance and a moral grounding. Without these two pieces, then the creation of the artist is nothing but vapid superficiality.

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810: Ornithologies of Desire by Travis V. Mason

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810: Mason, Travis V. Ornithologies of Desire: Ecocritical Essays, Avian Poetics, and Don McKay. Waterloo, ONT, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2013. 226 pp. ISBN 978-1-55458-630-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 810: American literature in English

This is another one of those book where I don’t have a fun, exciting, or enticing lede. Travis V. Mason’s Ornithologies of Desire is an in-depth look at the writing of Canadian poet-critic-essayist Don McKay. But rather than a straightforward textual reading of McKay’s works, Mason uses McKay’s love of birds and ornithology to create a ecocritical lens through which to examine McKay.

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809: This Craft of Verse by Jorge Luis Borges

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809.1: Borges, Jorge Luis. This Craft of Verse. The Charles Eliot Norton Lecture Series, 1967-1968. Edited by Calin-Andrei Mihailescu. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000. 150 p. ISBN 0-674-00290-3.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 809: History, description, or critical appraisal of more than two literatures
  • 809.1: Poetry

Most years since 1925, Harvard University has invited an accomplished writer or artist to give a series of lectures regarding “poetry in the broadest sense.” Speakers have included T.S. Eliot, Czeslaw Milosz, Aaron Copland, and John Cage. In 1967, they chose one of my favorite writers: Jorge Luis Borges. These six lectures sat in the Harvard audio archives for 30 years before they were found and transcribed for the next generation. His series, entitled “This Craft of Verse,” illustrates not only a theory of poetry, but also Borges’s connection to his readers and the world.

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