Monday, October 26, 2009

Twitter's take on great works of literature

Two US students have condensed the plot lines of some of the world's greatest books in to 140-character Twitter messages.

Dante's Inferno is boiled down to: "I'm having a midlife crisis. Lost in the woods. Should a bought my iPhone."

Sophocles' Oedipus the King is shortened to: "PARTY IN THEBES!!! Nobody cares I killed that old dude, plus this woman is all over me."

The compendium of tweets will be published next month by Penguin. Twitterature: The World's Greatest Books Retold Through Twitter, is written by Emmett Rensin, an English and philosophy student at the University of Chicago, and his university friend Alexander Aciman, who is studying comparative literature.

The books also covers Homer's The Odyssey, and the work of Milton, Kafka and Shakespeare.

"It's funny if you've read the books," said Rensin.

"There were some lines in the book where we're sitting on a couch and we're writing it, and we'd both laugh and say 'there's no way they're going to let us write that,'" Aciman said.

"I'm not going to say it's high art. There is some value to it, I feel, aside from the fact we're making available the idea behind great works of art."

Read more....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Plagiarism Software Finds a New Shakespeare Play

Plagiarism-detection software was created with lazy, sneaky college students in mind — not the likes of William Shakespeare. Yet the software may have settled a centuries-old mystery over the authorship of an unattributed play from the late 1500s called The Reign of Edward III. Literature scholars have long debated whether the play was written by Shakespeare — some bits are incredibly Bard-like, but others don't resemble his style at all. The verdict, according to one expert: the play is likely a collaboration between Shakespeare and Thomas Kyd, another popular playwright of his time.

Sir Brian Vickers, a literature professor at the University of London, came to his conclusion after using plagiarism-detection software — as well as his own expertise — to compare writing patterns between Edward III and Shakespeare's body of work.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Charlotte Bronte's Rochester is literature's 'greatest romantic'

The Telegraph & Argus - He may be prone to moodiness and lacking in good looks but Mr Rochester, the Byronic hero of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel, Jane Eyre, has been named the most romantic literary character in history.

Rochester, the novel’s lead male character, who employs the orphaned Jane as a governess for his young ward, came top in the Mills & Boon poll, followed by Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe and Fitzwilliam Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Rochester, whose appearance is described as being “more remarkable for character than beauty”, proposes to Jane despite her lower social rank but their relationship ends when she discovers he is already married at their wedding ceremony.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Haiku - What it is and how to write it

What is Haiku?

Haiku is one of the most important form of traditional Japanese poetry. Haiku is, today, a 17-syllable verse form consisting of three metrical units of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. Since early days, there has been confusion between the three related terms Haiku, Hokku and Haikai. The term hokku literally means "starting verse", and was the first starting link of a much longer chain of verses known as haika. Because the hokku set the tone for the rest of the poetic chain, it enjoyed a privileged position in haikai poetry, and it was not uncommon for a poet to compose a hokku by itself without following up with the rest of the chain.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Chinese Literature

The history of ancient Chinese literature is comprised of eight periods, each of which has it's own predominant literature types. These are:

  • Ancient times: fables and legends
  • Early Qin Dynasty: prose on history or masters
  • Eastern and Western Dynasties: verses, ditties, Yuefu songs, and historical prose
  • Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties: poetry and others
  • Tang Dynasty: poetry
  • Song Dynasty: lyrics
  • Yuan Dynasty: poetic drama
  • Ming and Qing Dynasties: fiction

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bars on books jar Harvard students

For nearly a century, the ornate library with the chandelier, fireplace, and wood-paneled walls has drawn students to its prized collection of classics, thousands of dust-covered tomes from Cicero to Twain.

The students who have long cherished the small library inside Dunster House, Harvard’s oldest dormitory, discovered a new feature there this week: two brass bars stretching across nearly every shelf, making the books impossible to peruse.

...“It seemed very peculiar that anyone at the university would want to actively prevent students from handling books,’’ said Jacob Sider Jost, a fifth-year PhD student. “There’s a very negative response to how this was done. There was no warning and . . . worse than being locked, the books are actually permanently fixed on the shelves, from which they cannot be removed.’’

Dunster officials have since apologized to concerned students and have explained that the bars were needed as a temporary way to protect the books - some of them highly valuable volumes or irreplaceable first editions signed by authors - after it appeared that several works had been stolen.

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Performing Shakespeare Is performing Shakespeare difficult?

Ben Crystal: Well, yes ... and so it should be! These plays are over 400 years old. They contain cultural gags and references that are completely obscure to us. But they’re also hard to perform because Shakespeare was so darned good at tapping into the human heart – so, as an actor you can’t allow yourself to hold back. If you can’t go to the depths of your soul, explore the extremes of yourself, go to the bad place as Othello or Macbeth, then you shouldn’t be on the stage. How important is it to understand iambic pentameter before performing?

Ben Crystal: That depends on how much you respect the writer you’re working with. Most of Shakespeare’s plays are written in that particular rhythmical style, so to ignore it would be foolish. Iambic pentameter is the rhythm of our English language and of our bodies – a line of that poetry has the same rhythm as our heartbeat. A line of iambic pentameter fills the human lung perfectly, so it’s the rhythm of speech. One could say that it’s a very human sounding rhythm and Shakespeare used it to explore what it is to be human.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

The Future of Publishing: Publishing is not a dying business; it's a changing business

The Huffington Post - One year ago, I did what many New Yorkers only dream about. During the most historic presidential inauguration and election of my lifetime, in the throes of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, at the emotional precipice of my mid-twenties, from the mean streets of New York City -- a Greenwich Village apartment, a job in publishing, and mounting debt -- I left it all to become a farmer.

...On my way out of the building, the President of this agency (a nice guy) took me aside and told me, wagging his guacamole'd chip: "Get out of publishing, Makenna. It's a dying business."

But turns out, those folks were wrong about several things.

  1. 1. Publishing is not a dying business; it's a changing business. It's a business going through literary puberty, fiscal adolescence, and management hell. It's a business that needs to grow up, in other words.
Read more....

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'Mockingbird' faces chop at Toronto schools

TORONTO -- To Kill A Mockingbird could be on the curriculum chopping block for all Toronto public schools.

A parent of a Malvern Collegiate student has asked the Toronto District School Board to remove the classic American novel from Canada's largest school board, the Sun has learned.

In August, a Brampton principal scrapped the book from a Grade 10 English course after a parent complained. Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board officials said the parent had objected to the use of the N-word in the book.

Matlow said parents may object to some of the words used in Mockingbird or some of the experiences the book's characters endure, Matlow said.

"But I don't think we should dilute the severity of what people went through in our history just to be politically correct," he said.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Literature and censorship

There is a book in the library that, according to some, “glorifies Satan, suicide, cannibalism and encourages children to be disobedient.”

This particular book has probably been read to every elementary student at some point or another and its writings have been used in homework assignments, debate speeches and even as a basis for other books.

What is this terrible book? Shel Silverstein’s “A Light in the Attic,” the children’s book of silly poems.

This week, Sept. 28 through Oct. 3, marks Banned Books Week, an annual event where libraries, book stores and book lovers celebrate the books that have been banned over the years. At Lee’s Summit High School, media specialists Sandy Stuart-Bayer and Michael Russell, encouraged students to take a closer look at some of the banned books.

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