Posts Tagged ‘literature’
The banker and political writer Horace Smith spent the Christmas season of 1817–1818 with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley. At this time members of Shelley’s literary circle would sometimes challenge each other to write competing sonnets on a common subject—Shelley, John Keats and Leigh Hunt wrote competing sonnets on the Nile around the same time. Shelley and Smith chose a passage from the Greek Historian Diodorus Siculus, which described a massive Egyptian statue and quoted its inscription: “King of Kings Ozymandias am I. If any want to know how great I am and where I lie, let him outdo me in my work.” In the poem Diodorus becomes “a traveller from an antique land”.
The two poems were later published in Leigh Hunt’s The Examiner, published by Leigh’s brother John Hunt in London. (Hunt was already planning to publish a long excerpt from Shelley’s new epic The Revolt of Islam later the same month.) Shelley’s was published on 11 January 1818 under the pen name Glirastes. It appeared on page 24 in the yearly collection, under Original Poetry. Smith’s was published, along by a note signed with the initials H.S., on 1 February 1818… It was originally published under the same title as Shelley’s verse; but in later collections Smith retitled it “On A Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below”.
Comparison of the two poems
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.”— The City’s gone,—
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.
[TotH to @]
* Percy Bysshe Shelley (full text of the poem here)
As we express our gratitude that the Shelleys participated in contests, we might send comradely birthday greetings to Zhou Shuren; he was born on this date in 1881. Better known by his pen name Lu Xun (or Lu Hsün), he was one of the foremost writers– novelist, editor, translator, literary critic, essayist, and poet– in the China of his day. He was a major influence on the May Fourth Movement that began around 1916, and later the head of the League of Left-Wing Writers in Shanghai. He was a favorite of Mao Zedong; but though Lu was sympathetic to Communist ideas, he was he was primarily a liberal leftist and never joined the Chinese Communist Party.
History tells us that Walter Benjamin, the influential German critic of literature, art, and culture, died more than seventy years ago. So how is it that he’s now out doing lectures and has published a new book?
The fascinating tale in its entirety at “An Investigation Into the Reappearance of Walter Benjamin.”
[TotH to Tyler Hellard's Pop Loser]
* Walter Benjamin
As we celebrate simulacra, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that “Sugar, Sugar” hit the top of the U.S. pop charts. Written by Jeff Berry and Andy Kim as one of 16 musical segments performed by “The Archies” (a group of studio musicians) in the CBS “The Archie Comedy Hour,” the tune went on to become the number-one single of the year.
A mash-up of fine art and current SMS messages…
From the sacred…
…to the profane…
… readers will find oh so many more at If Paintings Could Text…
[TotH to @mattiekahn]
* Pablo Picasso (whose paintings-with-texts are here)
As we just hit “send,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1545 that François Rabelais received the permission of King François I to publish the Gargantua series– Gargantua and Pantagruel as we know it. In fact, Rabelais’ wild mix of fantasy, satire, the grotesque, bawdy jokes, and songs had been circulating pseudonymously for years.
Rabelais wrote at a time of great ferment in the French language, and contributed mightily to it– both in coinage and in usage. But his influence was even broader (Tristram Shandy, e.g., is full of quotes from Rabelais) and continues to this day via writers including Milan Kundera, Robertson Davies, and Kenzaburō Ōe.
In fact, some schoolchildren do have to work really hard for their educations…
More perilous paths at “25 Of The Most Dangerous And Unusual Journeys To School In The World.”
Lest we wonder if it’s worth it, we might spare a memorial moment for Michel Eyquem de Montaigne; he died on this date in 1592. Best known during his lifetime as a statesman, Montaigne is remembered for popularizing the essay as a literary form. His effortless merger of serious intellectual exercises with casual anecdotes and autobiography– and his massive volume Essais (translated literally as “Attempts” or “Trials”)– contain what are, to this day, some of the most widely influential essays ever written. Montaigne had a powerful influence on writers ever after, from Descartes, Pascal, and Rousseau, through Hazlitt, Emerson, and Nietzsche, to Zweig, Hoffer, and Asimov. Indeed, he’s believed to have been an influence on the later works of Shakespeare.
A collaboration of data scientists at the University of Vermont and the Mitre Corporation, the Hedonometer was created to gauge happiness by assessing word use. It was first applied to Twitter, as readers can see here. More lately, it has been turned on the repository at Project Gutenberg, so that users can test the “happiness” of thousands of classic books… as above. The chart in the top left shows happiness metrics through the whole of the book; the chart on the right shows a comparison of book sections, which one can select in the first chart.
As our friends at Flowing Data observe, “I wish I could say this meant something to me…” Still, it makes one happy to know that they’re on the case.
* Dalai Lama
As we search for word replacements codes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1977 that Hamida Djandoubi became the last person to be legally executed in France by guillotine.
How to get an 11-year-old interested in the works of David Foster Wallace? Crack out your copy of Infinite Jest, and recreate it in Lego. That was the project embarked upon back in April by American English professor Kevin Griffith and his 11-year-old son Sebastian. They’ve just finished, and – running to more than 100 scenes, as I guess any recreation of a 1,000-plus page novel would have to – it’s something of a masterpiece. It certainly puts these Lego scenes of classic literature to shame.
Griffith and his son had the idea to “translate” Infinite Jest into Lego after reading Brendan Powell Smith’s The Brick Bible, which takes on the New Testament. “Wallace’s novel is probably the only contemporary text to offer a similar challenge to artists working in the medium of Lego”…
Read the more at “David Foster Wallace novel translated by an 11-year-old – into Lego,” and see more at at the Griffiths’ web site, Brickjest.
* David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
As we piece it all together, we might send transformational birthday greetings to Paul Goodman; he was born on this date in 1911. A man of many parts, Goodman earned a PhD in literature from the University of Chicago, where he taught until he was fired for insisting on his rights openly to avow his bisexuality and to fall in love with his students. He went on to become a novelist, playwright, lay therapist (he co-founded the Gestalt Therapy movement), social critic, anarchist philosopher, and public intellectual. The author of dozens of books, he’s probably best remembered for Growing Up Absurd and The Community of Scholars. Part of the group known as “the New York intellectuals” (which included Daniel Bell, Norman Mailer, Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, Norman Podhoretz, Mary McCarthy, Lionel Trilling, and Philip Rahv) he was a regular contributor to Politics, Partisan Review, The New Republic, Commentary, The New Leader, Dissent and The New York Review of Books.
Any page of Paul Goodman will give you not only originality and brilliance but wisdom – that is, something to think about. He is our peculiar, urban, twentieth-century Thoreau, the quintessential American mind of our time.
“I have had UFO experiences, and yet, at the same time, I can easily be convinced that none of it is true”*…
In 1995, as part of the Walt Disney Company Presents series (that was hosted by Michael Eisner, doing his not-very-successful best to channel Walt), Disney aired “Alien Encounters.” A documentary that opens with footage of “an actual spacecraft from another world, piloted by alien intelligence,” and the pronouncement that “intelligent life from distant galaxies is now attempting to make open contact with the human race,” it only aired once.
* Frank Black (AKA Black Francis, of the Pixies)
As we look to the skies, we might spare a thought for Gertrude Stein; she died on this date in 1946. An American ex-pat, Stein was an author, poet, and memoirist (The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas). But she was probably most impactful and is best remembered as a hostess and mentor to a generation of writers (e.g., Hemingway,described her salon in A Moveable Feast) and artists (e.g., Picasso) in Paris, where– “the mother of us all”**– she held court for forty years.
** The Mother of Us All was the title of a Virgil Thomson opera for which Stein wrote the libretto. And while the subject of the opera, Susan B. Anthony, certainly deserves the epithet, so, many have observed, did its author.