Austen, Jane

Jane Austen (1775-1817) was an English novelist known for her witty, satiric novels portraying the social lives of the upper classes. Her stories, which uniformly ended in happy marriages, celebrated the virtues of reason and intelligence (as opposed to passion and impulse). The proof of Austen's universal appeal is the fact that all of her novels have been made into movies: "Emma", "Mansfield Park", "Northanger Abbey", "Persuasion", "Pride and Prejudice", and "Sense and Sensibility", not to mention Clueless (a parody of Emma).


Web:

http://home.earthlink.net/~lfdean/austen/
http://www.austen.com/
http://www.hants.gov.uk/austen/
http://www.jasa.net.au/jabiog.htm
http://www.pemberley.com/

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Brontė, Charlotte and Emily and Anne

The Brontė sisters Charlotte (1816-1855), Emily (1818-1848) and Anne (1820-1849) were English novelists. The sisters spent a lonely childhood in a remote area of English countryside, which no doubt contributed to their remarkably imaginative novels: "Wuthering Heights" (Emily), "Jane Eyre" (Charlotte), "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" (Anne), and so on. An interesting fact -- rarely mentioned by modern literary critics -- is that the Brontės come between "bronco" and "brontosaurus" in the dictionary.


Web:

http://www.bibliomania.com/0/0/9/frameset.html
http://www.datehookup.com/content-the-bronte-sisters.htm
http://www.digital.library.upenn.edu/women/bronte/bronte-anne.html
http://www.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~matsuoka/Bronte.html


Cather, Willa

"Cautiously I slipped from under the buffalo hide, got up on my knees and peered over the side of the wagon..." Does that sentence begin to stir your emotional dander and your love for adventure (at least, reading about adventure)? Yup, you'll love Willa Cather. Cather (1873-1947) was an American novelist and story writer who celebrated the pioneer spirit, which later became the burning flame beneath the American Dream. Cather wrote about life on the American frontier, balancing romantic imagery with a realistic portrait of the harshness of pioneer life. Cather's best-known books are "O Pioneers!" (1913), "My Įntonia" (1918), and "Death Comes for the Archbishop" (1927).


Web:

http://fp.image.dk/fpemarxlind/
http://icg.harvard.edu/~cather/
http://www.unl.edu/Cather/
http://www.willacather.org/


Conrad, Joseph

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) was born to Polish parents (his original name was Teodor Jozef Konrad Korzeniowski) in the Russian-dominated Ukraine and did not even learn to speak English until he was an adult. Although writing was difficult for Conrad, and English was his fourth language -- after Polish, Russian and French -- he was a master of atmosphere and characterization, and is considered one of the greatest writers of English fiction. Conrad's most well-known works are the novels "Lord Jim" and "Heart of Darkness". His work is imbued with a sensitivity to the nuances and ambiguities of what normal people call life, and what English teachers refer to as "the human condition".


Web:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/books/author/conrad/
http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/jconrad.htm
http://www.literatureclassics.com/authors/conrad/


Dante

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) is best known for his poetical works "The Divine Comedy" and "The Inferno", which have been translated from Italian into many languages. Dante was not only a poet, he was a philosopher, a rhetorician and a statesman. "When I had journeyed half of our life's way, I found myself within a shadowed forest, for I had lost the path that does not stray..." Thus begins Dante's poem "The Inferno". Dante's works offer a keen insight into human nature, and are considered to be classic literature, the work of a genius.


Web:

http://www.greatdante.net/
http://www.princeton.edu/~dante/


Dickens, Charles

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) is perhaps the most famous English novelist of all time. Blessed with an extraordinary gift of satirical humor, melded with the ability to bring his readers both to laughter and to tears, Dickens managed to arouse the conscience of his audience while capturing the popular imagination of his time. More so than any other English novelist, Dickens had the ability to tell a story. Within his many novels ("Oliver Twist", "Great Expectations", "A Christmas Carol", and so on), Dickens created the most marvelous gallery of characters in English fiction. When I was an undergraduate, I had a friend named Ralph who liked to read Dickens to relax. Now, you don't know Ralph, but believe me, the fact that Dickens could write stories that, a hundred years later, could interest a guy like Ralph really says something.


Web:

http://humwww.ucsc.edu/dickens/
http://lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~matsuoka/Dickens.html
http://www.fidnet.com/~dap1955/dickens/

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Eliot, George

George Eliot (1819-1880) was the pen name for Mary Ann Evans, an English novelist and poet who flourished during Victorian times. (She chose a masculine name in order that her work would be treated more seriously.) Eliot was an intellectual explorer, as comfortable in the sciences and philosophy (especially when it came to questioning religion), as in literature. Eliot's work is thought-provoking, with a special appeal to intelligent people. (It is well-known that Eliot categorically refused to read USA Today.) Eliot was a literary genius, and as such, skillfully created Victorian novels steeped in minutely detailed description and insightful characterizations. She is remembered chiefly for "Mill on the Floss" (1860), "Silas Marner" (1861), and "Middlemarch" (1872). If you are smart, and you have a lot of patience for detail, you will love Eliot.


Web:

http://landow.stg.brown.edu/victorian/eliot/eliotov.html
http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/gelliot.htm
http://www.selfknowledge.com/139au.htm


Emerson, Ralph Waldo

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), an American poet, essayist and lecturer, was one of America's most influential intellectuals. Emerson is remembered for introducing many important new ideas. Among the best known are his call for America to develop intellectual independence from Europe ("The American Scholar", 1837), and his assertion, in a lecture at the Harvard Divinity School (1838), that man's redemption can be found only in his own soul and intuition. One of Emerson's most well-known admonitions, from the essay "Self-Reliance" (1841), is "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall."


Web:

http://www.gonzaga.edu/faculty/campbell/enl311/emerson.htm
http://www.ralphwaldoemerson.net/
http://www.rwe.org/
http://www.transcendentalists.com/1emerson.html
http://www.watershedonline.ca/literature/Emerson/EMERSON.html


Faulkner, William

William Faulkner (1897-1962) was an American novelist from Mississippi. His greatest writing was based on the legends and history of the Southern United States, as well as the characteristics of his own family. His most famous works (such as the novel "The Sound and the Fury") are set in the town of Jefferson in the mythical county of Yoknapatawpha (pronounced just as it looks). In 1949, Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.


Web:

http://www.mcsr.olemiss.edu/~egjbp/faulkner/faulkner.html
http://www.uhb.fr/faulkner/wf/
http://www.unf.edu/library/guides/faulkner.html


Fitzgerald, F. Scott

To read anything by American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) is to marvel at his skill. Fitzgerald's writing was just right: neither top-heavy with description nor frantic with unnecessary action. He was a deliberate writer, one who would painstakingly revise, cut, prune and amplify, crafting each scene of a story until he got exactly what he wanted. Fitzgerald was a master, and his prose was greatly admired by other writers. Fitzgerald was also an erratic, financially irresponsible, often sickly alcoholic who was married to a crazy wife (Zelda). Fortunately, he was able to work with the legendary Scribner's editor Maxwell Perkins, who not only edited Fitzgerald's work, but who sent him money, helped manage his financial affairs, and generally looked after and encouraged the writer. Fitzgerald became a major part of the American literary scene with the publication of his first novel, "This Side of Paradise" in 1920, a book which epitomized the Jazz Age in America. His best-known work is "The Great Gatsby" (1925), a timeless story of the unsuccessful pursuit of happiness, a work which categorically defines the classic American novel. (Here are two interesting bits of Fitzgerald trivia: His full name is Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, named after the person who wrote the words to the American national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner". Also, Fitzgerald died on December 21, my birthday.)


Web:

http://www.educeth.ch/english/readinglist/fitzgeralds/
http://www.ipl.org/cgi-bin/ref/litcrit/litcrit.out.pl?au=fit-69
http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/fsfitzg.htm


Hardy, Thomas

As a young man in the English countryside, Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was schooled in music and literature by his parents. However, the family could not afford to let him pursue a career as a scholar. Instead, he was apprenticed to a local architect, and it was not until the age of 33 that he abandoned architecture to become a full-time novelist and poet. Hardy wrote many books during his life, most of which were first serialized in popular magazines. His best-known novels are "The Mayor of Casterbridge" (1886), "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" (1891), and "Jude the Obscure" (1896). As you read the work of Hardy, you will encounter two recurring themes. First, that our lives are often influenced by outside forces beyond our control. Second, that our character, which dictates our actions, is inborn and also beyond our conscious control. The confluence of these themes in Hardy's work results in novels that, though emotionally moving, are bleak. For example, my copy editor Lydia is a literature professor, and Hardy's "The Mayor of Casterbridge" is one of only two books that have ever made her cry. (The other one is "Mama Day" by Gloria Naylor.)


Web:

http://pages.ripco.net/~mws/hardy.html
http://www.wesspix.btinternet.co.uk/
http://www.yale.edu/hardysoc/Welcome/welcomet.htm


Hawthorne, Nathaniel

The novels and poetry of American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) explore the related themes of sin and guilt. In every age and every culture, there is always more than enough sin and guilt to go around, so it is no surprise that Hawthorne's writing has become a staple in the supermarket of American literature. His most well-known novels are "The Scarlet Letter" (1850) and "The House of the Seven Gables" (1851), both of which are set amid the strict, moralistic Puritan society of colonial Massachusetts. "The Scarlet Letter" tells the story of Hester Prynne, a young woman who becomes pregnant, even though her husband has been away for some time. As a result, she is branded an adulteress and forced to wear a scarlet letter A on her chest. However, she refuses to reveal the identity of her lover (who is actually the town's young minister), and she satisfies the letter (!) of the law by serving out her punishment with pride and strength: "On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter A." (Kind of makes you wonder about the large L on Laverne's sweaters, doesn't it?) Although adultery seems as if it ought to be a black and white issue, especially in Puritan New England, Hawthorne shows us that questions of morality often do not have clear-cut answers. Was Hawthorne proud of his work? On February 3, 1850, he read the final pages of "The Scarlet Letter" to his wife. He then wrote, "It broke her heart and sent her to bed with a grievous headache, which I look upon as a triumphant success."


Web:

http://www.gonzaga.edu/faculty/campbell/enl311/hawthor.htm
http://www.online-literature.com/hawthorne/
http://www.uwm.edu/dept/Library/special/exhibits/clastext/clspg143.htm


Hemingway, Ernest

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was an American novelist who lived in France when it was cool to be an American in Paris. Hemingway's writing is known for its plain, stark, tough, brutal, primitive -- dare I say it? -- masculine style. His first important book ("The Sun Also Rises") became a success by capturing the post-World War I disillusionment of the so-called "lost generation". (And this was years before anyone had heard of Generation X.) Hemingway's novels deftly resonate with the universal themes of Man's struggle against Nature, Man's struggle against other men, and Man's struggle (when no one is looking) against women. In 1954, Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. In 1961, after a long illness, he killed himself.


Web:

http://www.allhemingway.com/
http://www.ernest.hemingway.com/
http://www.hemingwaysociety.org/virthem.htm
http://www.lostgeneration.com/hrc.htm
http://www.timelesshemingway.com/

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Joyce, James

James Joyce (1882­1941), was an Irish writer of great renown, known for his profound and complex novels, such as the loosely autobiographical "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" (1916), and "Ulysses" (1922), which has been called the greatest novel of all time. Over the years, Joyce's writing became more and more convoluted, dense and obscure, reaching its apogee with "Finnegans Wake" (1939), an amazingly rich work of words and ideas that Joyce worked on for over ten years. The book is a self-styled "history of the world", told as a series of stream-of-consciousness dream stories, abundantly supplied with multilingual puns, historical allusions, and jokes that are so funny that no one, except Joyce, can ever understand them all without undergoing serious and irreversible brain damage. However, I think I understand it. It's easy. oui lost it in el, but we wernt hi (hi Carolyn!), undergoingone of Harley-she Plimpton Beersticker's fetster bestertester ideations, eh? 2000 A.D. (axle-ly 0.8333 eh? elle ore 2.653 perscent, like candle d'Carrie, apple) after my tohng-seng sang morethan 98.sixties; of the not dais but knight lneye memenom H-n joycened nocturnalnonchopin brayinemissions of leopoldbloom whosayz highrajer editorprints of hphots--


Web:

http://www.cohums.ohio-state.edu/english/organizations/ijjf/jrc/
http://www.robotwisdom.com/jaj/
http://www.themodernword.com/joyce/
http://www.uwm.edu/dept/Library/special/exhibits/clastext/clspg158.htm

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Shakespeare, William

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English playwright and poet, considered to be the greatest dramatist of all time. Shakespeare wrote a large variety of plays: histories, tragedies, romances and comedies, and his skillfulness and insight were developed to such a high degree as to almost defy description and analysis. That, of course, never stopped anyone, and today, in just about every high school and university in the world, there is an active Shakespeare industry, carefully discussing, memorizing, studying and generally taking apart just about everything that Shakespeare ever wrote. Although Shakespeare never wrote a made-for-TV movie or a vampire book, his plays are still performed frequently all over the world (even though he is dead and is, therefore, not entitled to any of the royalties).


Web:

http://shakespeare.palomar.edu/
http://tech-two.mit.edu/shakespeare/
http://www.ipl.org/reading/shakespeare/shakespeare.html
http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/rp/authors/shakespe.html

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Steinbeck, John

In 1962, American writer John Steinbeck (1902-1968) won the Nobel Prize for Literature. During his Nobel lecture, he declared the job of a writer to be "...exposing our many grievous faults and failures...to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit..." Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, a small farming town. As a youth, he longed to be a writer and, upon reaching man's estate, devoted himself to the craft, writing mightily about the oppressed, especially the poor, uneducated migrant workers upon whose labor the farms of California depended. Steinbeck's first popular book, "Tortilla Flat" (1935), contained humorous stories about the farm workers in Monterey. His later work, however, was serious, juxtaposing the dreams and difficulties of an oppressed people with the magnificence of the land in which they lived. Steinbeck displayed a sensitivity for the common man, especially the misfits, about whom he wrote with the compassionate awareness that a man can only be understood in the context of his environment. His most famous novel is "Grapes of Wrath" (1939), which tells the story of a family of Oklahoma farmers who, because of the 1930s Dustbowl (extreme erosion and drought on the central plains of America), migrate to California looking for a better life. Other important Steinbeck works are "In Dubious Battle" (1936), "Of Mice and Men" (1937) and "East of Eden" (1952) (the last of which was made into a powerful movie starring James Dean). I don't have time to go into all the details. Suffice to say that, if someone tells you that you remind them of Lennie in "Of Mice and Men", it is not a compliment.


Web:

http://ocean.st.usm.edu/~wsimkins/steinb.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/programmes/centurions/steinbeck/steibiog.shtml
http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/johnstei.htm
http://www.sjsu.edu/depts/steinbec/srchome.html


Stevenson, Robert Louis

"I have a little shadow," observed Robert Louis Stevenson, "that goes in and out with me, and what can be the use of him is more than I can see." Exactly. Who among us has not spent sleepless nights wondering the very same thing? The quote is from "A Child's Garden of Verses" (1885), Stevenson's best-known collection of poetry. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), born in Edinburgh, Scotland, was a highly accomplished writer of just about everything under the literary sun: adventure stories, romances, poetry, short stories, essays, biography, travel stories, reportage, plays, fantasies and fables. When he was 21, Stevenson announced that he was going to devote his life to writing, rather than follow the profession of his father, a lighthouse and harbor engineer. At first, Stevenson wrote mostly about travel, and it was not until he published "Treasure Island", a children's adventure book, in 1882, that he achieved popularity. This was followed by "Kidnapped" (1886) and "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" (also in 1886). Throughout his life, Stevenson was frequently ill and, eventually, had to leave the harsh climate of his homeland. Although he loved and wrote about the Scots and their history, he spent his final years on the island of Samoa in the South Pacific.


Web:

http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/stevenson/stevenson_ind.html
http://www.slainte.org.uk/scotauth/stevedsw.htm
http://wwwesterni.unibg.it/siti_esterni/rls/rls.htm


Swift, Jonathan

Irish-born Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) was not a happy man. Although he could read from the age of 3 and went to excellent schools (Kilkenny and then Trinity College), Swift was never able to advance his career satisfactorily. As a young man, he went into the church as the lesser of the only available vocational evils. As he grew older, Swift became cantankerous (as all great writers do once in awhile, and, of course, they should be excused). Moreover, from the age of 23, he suffered from a chronic, untreatable disturbance of the inner ear (now known as Meniere's disease) that produces vertigo and nausea. Still, Swift maintained a life of service to both Ireland and England, and, over the years, developed into a superb writer. Until his last few years, when dementia set in, Swift enjoyed a vital, incisive intelligence and an unmatched talent for satire laced with brilliant irony. Today, Swift is best remembered for his book "Gulliver's Travels" (1726), which, like all his work, was published anonymously. Although the stories are entertaining and amusing, they were actually written as a brutal denunciation of the current political and religious establishment. In 1729, Swift published "A Modest Proposal", a remorseless satire in which he proposed to solve the terrible problem of Irish poverty by encouraging parents to sell their children as food. In his later years, Swift calmed down somewhat, writing a lot of light poetry, as well as essays on more pedestrian topics such as language and manners. (Still, when you were invited to his house for dinner, it did behoove you to tread carefully if the meat looked a bit odd.)


Web:

http://www.jaffebros.com/lee/gulliver/
http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/jswift.htm
http://www.online-literature.com/swift/


Thoreau, Henry David

After graduating from Harvard, American writer Henry David Thoreau's first job was in his father's pencil factory. Despite significant contributions to the American pencil industry, Thoreau (1817-1862) is actually best known for his writing, in particular, "Civil Disobedience" (1849) and "Walden; or Life in the Woods" (1854). As a child, Thoreau was serious and was happiest when left alone. As he grew older, he became deeply religious, although he did not like going to church. Thoreau had high expectations of himself and of other people and, in fact, perceived himself as having many weaknesses. "Civil Disobedience" -- which begins "I heartily accept the motto, 'That government is best which governs least'" -- explains why Thoreau would rather go to jail than pay the tax that supported the Mexican War. "Walden" is a long, personal work, describing Thoreau's reverence for nature and his philosophy of life: "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away". (Note: This does not mean it is okay to let your kids run around and make noise in restaurants.) Thoreau dedicated himself to a search for truth and beauty, and he honestly sought to understand how life could be better for everyone. If you want to study his philosophy, I suggest starting with the chapter in "Walden" called "Visitors".


Web:

http://libws66.lib.niu.edu/thoreau/
http://www.eserver.org/thoreau/
http://www.transcendentalists.com/1thorea.html


Twain, Mark

Mark Twain (1835-1910) was an American writer and humorist who single-handedly ushered in the phenomenon of Modern American Literature. (The name "Mark Twain" was actually a pseudonym for Samuel Langhorne Clemens. At one time, Clemens was one of many Mississippi river pilots, among whom it was common to use the call "mark twain" to indicate a water depth of two fathoms.) Twain's novels and stories are of such enduring value that they are enjoyable even to school children who are forced to read real literature (by English teachers who teach to support themselves while they are finishing their own novels). Twain's most famous characters, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, are brilliant but folksy creations, as genuinely American as apple pie, baseball and complaining about Congress.


Web:

http://www.online-literature.com/twain/
http://www.yorku.ca/twainweb/

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Wharton, Edith

Edith Wharton (1862-1937) was born into upper-class New York society. (We are talking really rich here.) Wharton was a prolific and popular novelist and writer of short stories, who wrote mostly about the wealthy upper-class, New York society of her day. Her best novels, which demonstrate a masterful, entertaining and subtly ironic critique of her society, are "The House of Mirth" (1905) and "The Age of Innocence" (1920). A shorter novel, "Ethan Frome" (1911), is different: it tells the story of a New England tragedy brought about by surrendering to the temptation of forbidden love. If you have never read any of Wharton's novels, I suggest you start with "The House of Mirth", which is marvelous. In case you don't have time to read the entire book, here is a quick summary I have prepared just for you: "Selden paused in surprise. In the afternoon rush of the Grand Central Station his eyes had been refreshed by the sight of Miss Lily Bart... ...He knelt by the bed and bent over her, draining their last moment to its lees; and in the silence there passed between them the word which made all clear." The End.


Web:

http://www.gonzaga.edu/faculty/campbell/enl413/wharton.htm
http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~kip/wharton/whartonlinks.html
http://www.owleyes.org/wharton.htm


Wilde, Oscar

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), an Irish-born writer who lived most of his life in England, was the foremost literary wit of the Victorian age. Wilde's most famous work is his only novel, "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (1891). However, he is also known for his plays, such as "The Importance of Being Earnest" (1895), and his poetry, such as "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" [Jail] (1898). However, the talent for which Wilde is best remembered is the sparkling epigrams and dialog with which he peppered his work. ("There is always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has ceased to love.")


Web:

http://landow.stg.brown.edu/victorian/decadence/wilde/wildeov.html
http://www.bibliomania.com/0/2/57/
http://www.hoboes.com/html/FireBlade/Wilde/
http://www.oscariana.net/


Woolf, Virginia

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), an English novelist, essayist and critic, had a profound influence on the 20th-century novel. With her husband, Leonard Woolf, she set up a publishing enterprise, Hogarth Press, in 1917. Hogarth published Sigmund Freud in English (his first work in English), T.S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield and Maxim Gorky, as well as all of Woolf's own work. The Woolfs' house was the center of the Bloomsbury Group, a group of influential writers, artists and intellectuals. Woolf's novels include "Mrs. Dalloway" (1925), "To the Lighthouse" (1927), "Orlando" (1928), "The Waves" (1931) and "Between the Acts" (1941).


Web:

http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/vwoolf.htm
http://www.online-literature.com/virginia_woolf/
http://www.orlando.jp.org/VWSGB/