Tuesday, April 26, 2016
by Martha C. Howell and Walter Prevenier
From Reliable Sources is a lively introduction to historical methodology, an overview of the techniques historians must master in order to reconstruct the past. Its focus on the basics of source criticism, rather than on how to find references or on the process of writing, makes it an invaluable guide for all students of history and for anyone who must extract meaning from written and unwritten sources.
Martha Howell and Walter Prevenier explore the methods employed by historians to establish the reliability of materials; how they choose, authenticate, decode, compare, and, finally, interpret those sources. Illustrating their discussion with examples from the distant past as well as more contemporary events, they pay particular attention to recent information media, such as television, film, and videotape.
The authors do not subscribe to the positivist belief that the historian can attain objective and total knowledge of the past. Instead, they argue that each generation of historians develops its own perspective, and that our understanding of the past is constantly reshaped by the historian and the world he or she inhabits.
A substantially revised and updated edition of Prevenier's Uit goede bron, originally published in Belgium and now in its seventh edition, From Reliable Sources also provides a survey of western historiography and an extensive research bibliography.
Friday, April 22, 2016
by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)
Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe is the third novel by George Eliot, published in 1861. An outwardly simple tale of a linen weaver, it is notable for its strong realism and its sophisticated treatment of a variety of issues ranging from religion to industrialisation to community.
The major theme of Silas Marner is of course the influence of "pure, natural human relationships," but there are several others. Some of these are never the subject of a direct statement, but constant repetition brings them to the reader's attention, and the novel draws some sort of conclusion about them. One of these themes is the function of religion in society. Another is the use of custom and tradition. There is a more direct consideration, focused on Nancy, of the extent to which "principle" should predominate over sympathy in human relationships. This is closely connected to the question of indulgence versus discipline in human life, as exemplified by the home life of Godfrey and of Nancy. A theme may be mentioned only indirectly and yet be quite explicit in its meaning. One such in Silas Marner is the effect of industrialisation on English society in the nineteenth century. Lantern Yard after the factory has been built is a grimy, dark place full of unhealthy people. There is a sharp contrast between the grim unfriendliness of Lantern Yard and the community spirit of Raveloe, between Silas' life (likened to that of a spinning insect) and the fresh air of the open fields.
In Silas Marner, Eliot combines symbolism with a historically precise setting to create a tale of love and hope. On one level, the book has a strong moral tract: the bad character, Dunstan Cass, gets his just deserts, while the pitiable character, Silas Marner, is ultimately richly rewarded, and his miserliness corrected. The novel explores the issues of redemptive love, the notion of community, the role of religion, the status of the gentry and family, and impacts of industrialisation. While religion and religious devotion play a strong part in this text, Eliot concerns herself with matters of ethics and interdependence of faith and community.
Monday, April 18, 2016
by Gustave Flaubert
Madame Bovary (1856) is the French writer Gustave Flaubert's debut novel. The story focuses on a doctor's wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life.
When the novel was first serialized in La Revue de Paris between 1 October 1856 and 15 December 1856, public prosecutors attacked the novel for obscenity. The resulting trial in January 1857 made the story notorious. After Flaubert's acquittal on 7 February 1857, Madame Bovary became a bestseller in April 1857 when it was published as a single volume. The novel is now considered Flaubert's masterpiece, as well as a seminal work of literary realism and one of the most influential novels.
Thursday, April 7, 2016
by Herman Melville
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is a novel by American writer Herman Melville, published in 1851 during the period of the American Renaissance. Sailor Ishmael tells the story of the obsessive quest of Ahab, captain of the whaler Pequod, for revenge on Moby Dick, the white whale which on an earlier voyage destroyed his ship and severed his leg at the knee. The novel was a commercial failure and out of print at the time of the author's death in 1891, but during the 20th century its reputation as a Great American Novel was established. William Faulkner confessed he wished he had written it himself, and D. H. Lawrence called it "one of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world", and "the greatest book of the sea ever written". "Call me Ishmael" is among world literature's most famous opening sentences.
The product of a year and a half of writing, the book draws on Melville's experience at sea, on his reading in whaling literature, and on literary inspirations such as Shakespeare and the Bible. The detailed and realistic descriptions of whale hunting and of extracting whale oil, as well as life aboard ship among a culturally diverse crew, are mixed with exploration of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of God. In addition to narrative prose, Melville uses styles and literary devices ranging from songs, poetry, and catalogs to Shakespearean stage directions, soliloquies, and asides.
Dedicated to Nathaniel Hawthorne, "in token of my admiration for his genius", the work was first published as The Whale in London in October 1851, and under its definitive title in New York in November. Hundreds of differences, mostly slight and some important, are seen between the two editions. The London publisher censored or changed sensitive passages and Melville made revisions, as well, including the last-minute change in the title for the New York edition. The whale, however, appears in both editions as "Moby Dick", with no hyphen. About 3,200 copies were sold during the author's life.