Friday, February 19, 2010

Top 10: Classics you feel you should have read, but haven't

Written by David Pocock
  • 10. The Catcher in The Rye (J D Salinger)

Salinger’s controversial 1951 novel sneaks in at number ten quite simply because it’s my favourite book of all time and I make it my life mission to force it upon as many people as possible. I’ve read it at least 10 times, and each time I have done so (ALERT: CLICHE TO FOLLOW) I have found something new within its pages. An absolutely enthralling read which I thoroughly recommend to anyone.

  • 9. The Hobbit (JRR Tolkien)

Since the release of the 2001 Hollywood blockbuster Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship if the Ring, Tolkien’s novels featuring the fantasy world of Middle Earth and main protagonists Frodo and Bilbo Baggins have become perhaps the most phenomenal success story in movie-adaptation history. And the reason why this epic piece of literature only makes number nine on the list is simple: A lot of people have read it. The original novel was released to great critical acclaim in 1937 by Oxford professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, becoming an overnight sensation. It has been in print ever since with the exception of World War Two’s paper shortage and has been translated into hundreds of languages.

  • 8. Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë)

I studied this delightful piece of literature at GCSE. I found it boring. Very boring. Painfully boring in fact. The only thing that tempted me away from gouging my eyes out were the pretty illustrations of the setting which were included in the edition we shared between two at school....

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fiction and Human Rights

In a scathing article, Jerome Stolnitz (1991) argued that art has only short term effects. Greek drama is regarded as powerful but, says Stolnitz: “There is no evidence that Aristophanes shortened the Peloponnesian War by so much as a day” (p. 200). Stolnitz asserts that effects of art simply do not appear in history.

Except that—as Frank Hakemulder has pointed out to me—they do. They appear in the history of human rights. As historian Lynn Hunt (2007) has shown, the establishment of human rights has been strongly affected by literary art.

We now think of human rights as universal, but Hunt shows that 300 years ago even the idea of human rights was not present in European society. It had to be invented. By the end of the eighteenth century a change was accomplished.

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