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Literary Links

Florida teachers told to remove books from classroom libraries or risk felony prosecution

I’ve tried to hold back on the censorship news recently because, if I’m not careful, I’ll just burst into tears. But with this news story, we seem to have reached a whole new level.

Category: Censorship

How Edgar Allan Poe became the darling of the maligned and misunderstood

Scott Peeples, professor of English at College of Charleston and a Poe scholar, discusses the appeal of Poe, with an eye on the Netflix production The Pale Blue Eye, which features Poe as a cadet at West Point.

Categories: Literary Criticism, Literary History, Literature & Psychology

When Truman Capote’s Lies Caught Up With Him

The publication of In Cold Blood in 1966 made its author, Truman Capote, famous as the creator of the nonfiction genre that would come to be known as true crime. Here Sarah Weinman writes about “a surprisingly little-reported episode” that landed Capote in jail for a short time in 1970. This episode involved Capote’s tendency to embellish the stories he wrote about criminals. This episode, Weinman writes, “raises larger questions about his own attraction to true crime, and the ethical compromises involved in doing this sort of writing.”

Categories: Literary Criticism, Literary History, Writing

William Wordsworth and the Romantics anticipated today’s idea of a nature-positive life

Jonathan Bate, Foundation Professor of Environmental Humanities at Arizona State University, discusses the current “nature-positive approach” to global politics:

This is a dramatic shift from the mentality that has driven industrialization and global economic growth over the past 250 years. But it’s not new. As a researcher in the humanities and author of “Radical Wordsworth: The Poet Who Changed the World,” I see nature positivity as a welcome revival of an outlook that English poet William Wordsworth and other Romantics proposed in the late 1700s.

Categories: Literary Criticism, Literary History

“The Future Belonged to the Showy and the Promiscuous.” How Edith Wharton Foresaw the 21st Century

“She seems to have foreseen the excesses, obsessions, and spectacles of our current moment.”

Noting allusions to Wharton’s novels in several works of current popular culture, Emily J. Orlando, editor of The Bloomsbury Handbook to Edith Wharton, asks, “. . . why Wharton? Why now?” 

Perhaps it’s because for all its new technologies, conveniences, and modes of travel and communication, our own “Gilded Age” is a lot like hers. For the post-war and post-flu-epidemic climate that engendered her Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel The Age of Innocence is not far removed from our post-COVID-19 reality. In both historical moments, citizens of the world have witnessed a retreat into conservatism and a rise of white supremacy.

Categories: Literary Criticism, Literary History, Literature & Culture

Writing About a Muslin Girl Who Can Contain Multitudes: A Conversation with Bushra Rehman

Stephanie Jimenez interviews Bushra Rehman, author, most recently, of Roses in the Mouth of a Lion.

“My conversation with Rehman spanned why it was important for her to write a positive portrayal of Islam, how writers can mine their pasts for inspiration, what it means to stretch feminism to include queer people of color, how to inhabit the voices of complicated characters, and more.”

Categories: Author News, Life Stories in Literature, Reading, Writing

Dissolution Foretold: Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh on the Reality of His Own Diagnosis

“The problem is that our true self, our brain, has changed.”

Retired neurosurgeon, author of And Finally: Matters of Life and Death, considers humans’ concept of the self:

For most of us, as we age, our brains shrink steadily, and if we live long enough, they end up resembling shriveled walnuts, floating in a sea of cerebro-spinal fluid, confined within our skull. And yet we usually still feel that we are our true selves, albeit diminished, slow and forgetful. The problem is that our true self, our brain, has changed, and as we have changed with our brains, we have no way of knowing that we have changed. It is the old philosophical problem—when I wake in the morning, how can I be certain I am the same person today that I was yesterday? And as for ten years ago?

Category: Life Stories in Literature

In search of a language of loss

“Is there a correct way to mourn? When my mother died, I scoured the literature of grief for answers.”

Johanna Thomas-Corr looks to literature for comfort after her mother’s death.

Categories: Literature & Psychology, Reading

What the Longest Study on Human Happiness Found Is the Key to a Good Life

“The Harvard Study of Adult Development has established a strong correlation between deep relationships and well-being. The question is, how does a person nurture those deep relationships?”

Since one of the themes of narrative identity theory—the basis for the study of Life Stories in Literature—is the desire to find meaning and purpose in one’s life, I’m always drawn to research into this topic. This article is drawn from the recent book The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz. The information is from the Harvard Study of Adult Development:

Since 1938, the Harvard Study of Adult Development has been investigating what makes people flourish. After starting with 724 participants—boys from disadvantaged and troubled families in Boston, and Harvard undergraduates—the study incorporated the spouses of the original men and, more recently, more than 1,300 descendants of the initial group. Researchers periodically interview participants, ask them to fill out questionnaires, and collect information about their physical health.

Waldinger, director of the study, and Schulz, the associate director, have drawn this “simple and profound conclusion: Good relationships lead to health and happiness. The trick is that those relationships must be nurtured.”

Category: Life Stories in Literature

© 2023 by Mary Daniels Brown

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