Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad

While transporting ivory along the Congo River, Charles Marlow hears whispers about the enigmatic Mr. Kurtz, who has apparently become ill while stationed upriver. Arriving at the Inner Station, Marlow confronts the nature of Kurtz’s mysterious illness, his ties to the local native tribes, and his slow decline into madness.

Friday, May 16, 2014

In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood
by Truman Capote

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

 As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage 
by Stephen Crane

The Red Badge of Courage is a war novel by American author Stephen Crane (1871–1900). Taking place during the American Civil War, the story is about a young private of the Union Army, Henry Fleming, who flees from the field of battle. Overcome with shame, he longs for a wound, a "red badge of courage," to counteract his cowardice. When his regiment once again faces the enemy, Henry acts as standard-bearer.

Although Crane was born after the war, and had not at the time experienced battle first-hand, the novel is known for its realism. He began writing what would become his second novel in 1893, using various contemporary and written accounts (such as those published previously by Century Magazine) as inspiration. It is believed that he based the fictional battle on that of Chancellorsville; he may also have interviewed veterans of the 124th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, commonly known as the Orange Blossoms. Initially shortened and serialized in newspapers in December 1894, the novel was published in full in October 1895. A longer version of the work, based on Crane's original manuscript, was published in 1982.

The novel is known for its distinctive style, which includes realistic battle sequences as well as the repeated use of color imagery, and ironic tone. Separating itself from a traditional war narrative, Crane's story reflects the inner experience of its protagonist (a soldier fleeing from combat) rather than the external world around him. Also notable for its use of what Crane called a "psychological portrayal of fear", the novel's allegorical and symbolic qualities are often debated by critics. Several of the themes that the story explores are maturation, heroism, cowardice, and the indifference of nature. The Red Badge of Courage garnered widespread acclaim, what H. G. Wells called "an orgy of praise", shortly after its publication, making Crane an instant celebrity at the age of twenty-four. The novel and its author did have their initial detractors, however, including author and veteran Ambrose Bierce. Adapted several times for the screen, the novel became a bestseller. It has never been out of print and is now thought to be Crane's most important work and a major American text.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Descent of Man

The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex
by Charles Darwin 

The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex is a book on evolutionary theory by English naturalist Charles Darwin, first published in 1871. It was Darwin's second book on evolutionary theory, following his 1859 work, On the Origin of Species. In The Descent of Man, Darwin applies evolutionary theory to human evolution, and details his theory of sexual selection. The book discusses many related issues, including evolutionary psychology, evolutionary ethics, differences between human races, differences between sexes, the dominant role of women in choosing mating partners, and the relevance of the evolutionary theory to society.

The Origin of Species

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection 
by Charles Darwin

On the Origin of Species, published on 24 November 1859, is a work of scientific literature by Charles Darwin which is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. Its full title was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. For the sixth edition of 1872, the short title was changed to The Origin of Species. Darwin's book introduced the scientific theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. It presented a body of evidence that the diversity of life arose by common descent through a branching pattern of evolution. Darwin included evidence that he had gathered on the Beagle expedition in the 1830s and his subsequent findings from research, correspondence, and experimentation.

 Various evolutionary ideas had already been proposed to explain new findings in biology. There was growing support for such ideas among dissident anatomists and the general public, but during the first half of the 19th century the English scientific establishment was closely tied to the Church of England, while science was part of natural theology. Ideas about the transmutation of species were controversial as they conflicted with the beliefs that species were unchanging parts of a designed hierarchy and that humans were unique, unrelated to other animals. The political and theological implications were intensely debated, but transmutation was not accepted by the scientific mainstream.

The book was written for non-specialist readers and attracted widespread interest upon its publication. As Darwin was an eminent scientist, his findings were taken seriously and the evidence he presented generated scientific, philosophical, and religious discussion. The debate over the book contributed to the campaign by T. H. Huxley and his fellow members of the X Club to secularise science by promoting scientific naturalism. Within two decades there was widespread scientific agreement that evolution, with a branching pattern of common descent, had occurred, but scientists were slow to give natural selection the significance that Darwin thought appropriate. During the "eclipse of Darwinism" from the 1880s to the 1930s, various other mechanisms of evolution were given more credit. With the development of the modern evolutionary synthesis in the 1930s and 1940s, Darwin's concept of evolutionary adaptation through natural selection became central to modern evolutionary theory, and it has now become the unifying concept of the life sciences.