English literature

20 Stories

Tolkien's 'New' Labor of Love: Beowulf

'Lost' Beowulf translation published almost 90 years later

(Newser) - In 1926, an Oxford University professor named JRR Tolkien finished a translation of Beowulf—in his words, the "greatest of the surviving works of ancient English poetic art." Tolkien called the 11th-century work "sombre, tragic, sinister," and "curiously real," the Guardian notes. Elements of... More »

Kiwi, 28, Is Youngest to Win Man Booker

Judges loved Eleanor Catton's 'The Luminaries'

(Newser) - At an age when many authors are still just getting warmed up, New Zealand author Eleanor Catton has taken home one of the literary world's big prizes. The 28-year-old won the Man Booker Prize for The Luminaries, a tale of murder and greed in her homeland's 19th-century goldfields.... More »

'Bad Handwriting' May Settle Shakespeare Mystery

Professor says it proves 'Spanish Tragedy' lines are by the Bard

(Newser) - It's been a nearly 200-year-long debate: Did William Shakespeare add 325 lines to Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy nearly a decade after Kyd's death? None other than Samuel Taylor Coleridge raised the question in 1833, and a 2012 computer analysis seemed to lend credence to the theory.... More »

Scholar Finds 50 Lost Rudyard Kipling Poems

Set for publication next month

(Newser) - A literary scholar has unearthed more than 50 unpublished poems by Rudyard Kipling—and soon, the world will get to see them. They're set for release in March in the first complete collection of Kipling's poems, a hefty three-volume set containing more than 1,300 works, the Guardian... More »

Maybe It's Time to Get Over Shakespeare

Alexandra Petri wonders if the Bard should be, or not be, our literary touchstone

(Newser) - Is Shakespeare still relevant today? Before you answer, consider how many of his plays would be ruined by the addition of cellphones, writes Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post . "Soon, if we do a modern staging, we'll have to stipulate that, 'In fair Verona, where we lay... More »

The 13 Most Worthless Majors

Want a job? Avoid fine art, according to 'Daily Beast' list

(Newser) - Hey, college students: If your life plans include getting an actual job, you may want to avoid the stars of the Daily Beast 's "most useless" majors list. Majors are ranked in terms of employment, taking into account unemployment rates among recent and experienced grads, earnings, and likely... More »

Do Yourself a Favor: Read Dickens

As he nears 200, the novelist is more relevant than ever: Michael Levenson

(Newser) - Charles Dickens wrote in the 19th century, but at nearly 200 years old, he’s an expert on the 21st century as well. "For the mid-Victorians, government intervention was unthinkable, the market was king, only private philanthropy was tolerated," writes Michael Levenson for Slate . In other words, to... More »

Literary Critic Frank Kermode Dead at 90

Shakespeare expert was Britain's most celebrated critic

(Newser) - Britain's most acclaimed literary critic has died aged 90. Sir Frank Kermode—described as "the finest English critic of his generation" by author David Lodge—analyzed everything from Shakespeare to Kurt Vonnegut to the Bible in a writing career that spanned 70 years, the New York Times reports. Kermode... More »

Book, Movie Spur Shakespeare Debate

Why the 'battle of the bard' keeps going

(Newser) - An upcoming film by action picture director Roland Emmerich claims the Earl of Oxford secretly wrote Shakespeare's plays. Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro, meanwhile, has written a book defending the bard. He tells the Wall Street Journal why the debate is hotter than ever:
  • "It may have something to do
... More »

Letters Reveal Byron's Feud With 'Turdsworth'

Unpublished correspondence up for sale

(Newser) - A collection of letters written by Lord Byron to a clergyman, some of them unpublished, sheds new light on the Romantic poet—who discloses his sexual escapades with servants and angry opinions of fellow writers. Several letters refer to a serving girl whom he took as his mistress; he dumped... More »

Coetzee Leads Heavy-Hitting Booker Prize Shortlist

Veterans outpace first-timers for prestigious literary gong

(Newser) - JM Coetzee may become the first author to win the Man Booker Prize three times after his fictionalized memoir Summertime made the prestigious literary award's shortlist today. The South African writer's new book takes the form of interviews by a biographer writing about "the late author John Coetzee."... More »

The Not-So-Bookish Savor Twit Lit

(Newser) - Consumers short on time and even shorter on attention spans are turning to 140-character summaries of Great Books on Twitter, reports the Telegraph. Classics have been "distilled" into prose Twitterers can read in the time it takes to sneeze. Waiting for Godot? No problem: "Vladimir and Estragon stand... More »

Sylvia Plath's Son Commits Suicide

46 years after she killed herself, Nicholas Hughes hangs himself

(Newser) - The son of writers Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes committed suicide last week, hanging himself at his home in Fairbanks, Alaska, following a battle with depression, reports the Times of London. Nicholas Hughes, 47, was a professor of fisheries and ocean sciences but had recently left his position to take... More »

Ian McEwan: I Sheltered Rushdie After 1989 Fatwa

Novelist reveals how he protected his friend

(Newser) - Twenty years after the Iranian leadership declared a death sentence on Salman Rushdie, fellow novelist Ian McEwan reveals that he sheltered the writer in a house in the English countryside. In a long profile of McEwan in the New Yorker, the novelist describes how the pair listened to news of... More »

Psychologists: Victorian Novels Helped Us Evolve

Victorian literature upheld cooperation, personal sacrifice

(Newser) - Victorian novels didn't just tout moralistic values of 19th-century British society, they helped altruistic genes flourish, a study claims. Evolutionary psychologists say classic characters such as Mr. Darcy and Count Dracula helped instill and promote a sense of right and wrong in society, the Guardian reports, specifically the notion that... More »

Jane Austen Museum Bans Fans' Ashes

Devotees were using her garden as their final resting place

(Newser) - The caretakers of Jane Austen's estate in England have issued an unusual plea to her devoted fans: Please stop having your ashes scattered in her garden. Museum representatives say they understand the passion but can't allow the practice. “It is distressing for visitors to see mounds of human ash,... More »

Cambridge Poetry Students Analyze This

Notorious partier-songwriter's lyrics compared to 16th Century poem

(Newser) - Stodgy? Never! Cambridge University surprised its English students with an exam requesting literary analysis of Amy Winehouse lyrics last week. Students compared a poem by 16th century poet and ne’er-do-well adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh with Winehouse’s “Love is a Losing Game,” and songs by Bob Dylan... More »

JK Rowling Considered Suicide

Harry Potter author discusses depression during mid-20s

(Newser) - Before Harry Potter came along, his creator was broke, recently divorced, depressed, and near suicide, reports the Times of London. JK Rowling was a mom in her mid-20s, living in a cramped apartment paid for by a friend when she sought professional help. “We’re talking suicidal thoughts here,... More »

Fake-speare: Scholar Says Bard Portrait Is a Phony

400-year-old painting was swapped, she says

(Newser) - A famous portrait of Shakespeare owned by the Royal Shakespeare Company is a fake—a 19th-century imitation that replaced the older original sometime in the past decade, a German scholar claimed yesterday. “Where is the priceless 400-year-old original 'Flower' portrait?” she asks, saying that the painting appears different this... More »

Lit Hits the Fan as UK Publishing Feud Heats up

Spate of literary agent resignations has industry reeling

(Newser) - The upper rungs of British publishing are reeling in disrepair, after a handful of high-end agents resigned over the last month. At the center of the storm is Pat Kavanagh, wife of Julian Barnes, who left her post at a revered agency after plans for a major buyout went south.... More »

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