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Adam Burgess

Classic Literature


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April Updates

Friday April 11, 2014

Hello, hello, readers!

These last few weeks have been rather busy, but much new content has still made its way onto the Classic Literature website.  Below, you will find a number of book reviews/summaries for some excellent pieces of classic literature, as well as an exploration of the term "pastoral."

Literary terminology is something I hope to explore much more often in the coming weeks and months, as it is common to hear words and phrases pertaining to literature being bandied about, but do we all know what these terms mean, or how they have changed over time?  I may also create a list of my favorite dictionaries/glossaries of literary terms, for those of you who are interested in learning more.

Topics & Terms: Pastoral Literature

Review: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Review: The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway

Review: The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

Review: Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Review: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Review: A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Review: Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

I have received some requests, via email, for explorations of certain literary periods, such as the British Romantic.  In the coming weeks, I'll do my best to create a list of those topics you all have expressed interested in, and provide some posts geared specifically to your questions.  I hope that will prove helpful & interesting!


Spring Into Classics!

Tuesday March 25, 2014

Happy Spring! (Or so they tell me...)

Word around town is that the first day of Spring was Thursday, March 20th.  It's hard to imagine, as we're still "enjoying" temperatures about 10-15 degrees below average here in the Midwestern United States.  Today, we're experiencing a balmy 27 degree "Spring" day.  It's always fun to wake up to snow when it's not even winter anymore!

All rants aside, I'm thrilled that Spring is technically here.  This season is one of renewal, and with it I find that I'm always drawn to the Classics again.  Sometimes, I like to revisit old favorites, like Thomas Hardy and John Steinbeck.  Every so often, though, I find myself feeling a "Spring-like" desire to experience something fresh and new, a Classic author I've never explored or  a particular famous Classic work of literature that I've yet to attempt.

These days, I've had my eye on that copy of George Eliot's Middlemarch that sits on my shelf, unread all these years. It's a secret I share with only you, Classic Lit readers, as how could I, an "Expert" in the field not have read this one yet?? I have read and thoroughly enjoyed other Eliot works, but this one, her masterpiece, waits and waits.

So, what is it about some books that makes us feel so apprehensive?  I have read Moby Dick, War and Peace, and Ulysses, and have loved all of them. It's hard to imagine, then, that I'd have a mental block against any book, right?  Yet, there are mounds of them in my study that have sat untouched (well, unread) for years and years.

Do you experience this, too?  What books have you been meaning to read for years, but just haven't mustered the courage to begin, yet?

St. Patrick's Day: Luck of the Irish

Wednesday March 19, 2014

On Monday, we in the United States (and many around the world) celebrated St. Patrick's Day.  In the U.S., the festivities typically include parades, rivers dyed green, parties, games, and of course plenty of Irish stouts and whiskeys.

In the literary world, we can celebrate another element of Irish heritage, writers and their works!  Recently, I posted an article on the "Top 10" Irish Classics.  This is a list of some of the most well-known, well-received, and/or influential works written by Irish and Anglo-Irish authors in the last few centuries.

More than this, though, the books on this list are ones I believe anyone with an interest in classic literature would benefit from experiencing. We are lucky to have them!

Do you have a favorite Irish writer, or a favorite book or poem by an Irish writer? If so, I would love to hear about it!  Leave a comment below, and also check out these other recently published articles:

Review: Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet

Guide: The Circles of Hell in Dante's Inferno

Trivia: Shakespeare Said That?

Women's History Month

Sunday March 9, 2014

This month in the United States is Women's History Month.  Yesterday, March 8th, was also International Women's Day, celebrated by Google with a wonderfully uplifting, culturally diverse, "Google Doodle," (or, in this case, music video).  Here at About's Classic Lit site, we, too are celebrating women.  Some recent articles about Classic Women Writers include:

10 Profound Thoughts from Classic Women Writers

The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty

Unconventional Heroines from Classic Literature

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

While I am not one who typically qualifies writers into categories, such as gender, nationality, etc., instead preferring to think about literary periods, movements, and influence (as well as, simply, "personal favorites,"), still I think it is important to recognize and celebrate writers who have been or continue to be marginalized in some way, despite their brilliant talent and works.

Some of my favorite (Classic) Women Writers include: Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather, Jane Austen, Flannery O'Connor, Charlotte Bronte, Edith Wharton, and George Eliot.

Who are some of your favorites?  Or, to put it another way, what is your favorite work of classic literature written by a woman?

Weekly Round-Up: February 10-16

Monday February 17, 2014

Hello, Classic Literature Enthusiasts!

It is a goal of mine to post once per week with a "round-up" of information relevant to this website, including a list of articles that have gone live in each preceding week. Articles post to their category pages, not necessarily to the home page, so I want to make an effort to ensure you all can see what is happening from week to week.

There is a lot of great information already available on the Classic Lit section of About.com, so my goal is to write articles that give new information, discuss new topics, or offer different perspectives on widely discussed subjects. Literature is both constant and ever-changing, a delightful paradox that allows us to continue to approach it creatively!

In the last week, four articles have gone live:

1. Classic Literary Villains (Part One)

2. Celebrating Black History Month: Classic African-American Lit

3. Around the World in 80 Pages: Classic Short Fiction

4. Review: A Season in Hell & The Drunken Boat by Arthur Rimbaud

As you can see, there are a variety of topics being covered and in a variety of forms (lists, reviews, narrative approach, etc.).  This will probably continue to happen, as my own interests are wide and my styles vary with the topics and with my mood!

That being said, if there is ever anything you are interested in learning more about, or anything you would simply just like to hear my opinion about, please feel free to e-mail me or leave comments and let me know.  I will do my best to oblige!


A Warm Hello from the Frigid Midwest

Tuesday February 11, 2014

Hello, Classic Literature Explorers!

I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself as your new Classic Literature Guide here at About.com. My name is Adam Burgess and I hail from Chicago, Illinois, where I am happily working indoors as much as possible, these days, while we suffer through one of the worst winters in my remembrance (but, hey, inclement weather is a great excuse to do more reading!).

A brief note on my background, as this can be read on my bio page: I currently hold two degrees in English, Bachelor's-General and Master's-American Literature. I am also a Ph.D. candidate in English with emphases on modern American Literature and Literary Theory & Criticism. I have been teaching courses in English Composition & Rhetoric, Literature, Reading, and Humanities for seven years, and for much of that time I have also been a book reviewer and critic. In addition to all of this, I am one of the founders and current moderators of The Classics Club, an online community devoted to exploring classic literature.

My first post, Classic Literary Villains Part One, is live!

I know I am a new face for many of you, but I have so far received a warm and kind welcome from all of those with whom I have had the pleasure of interacting, and I am grateful for that.  I hope that my content, topics, articles, and thoughts on literature will be interesting, thought-provoking, and useful.  Please feel free to comment on posts with any questions or with thoughts of your own on the various topics we will be exploring together.


Love, Death, Failure & Success

Sunday January 26, 2014

SoBig - Edna FerberEdna Ferber wrote nine plays, two autobiographies, eleven short story collections, and thirteen novels.

Ferber also created So Big, a novel which received the Pulitzer Prize in 1924, and is considered by many to be the author's most popular work. In a juxtaposition of city and farm life of So Big, Ferber offers an exploration of the journey of life, with all the realities of love, death, failure and success.

As we read the lines, we discover a life, lived right before our eyes...

In So Big, Ferber writes: "He sat looking down at his hands--his fine strong unscarred hands. Suddenly and unreasonably he thought of another pair of hands--his mother's--with the knuckles enlarged, the skin broken--expressive--her life written on them. Scars. She had them."

What do your scars say about you: your life, experience...

How Are You Celebrating Burns Day?

Saturday January 25, 2014

Robert BurnsDid you know that Robert Burns was born on January 25, 1759? He is one of the most famous Scottish poets in literary history. His first collection of poetry was published in 1786. Robert Burns once said, "The wide world is all before us--but a world without a friend."

Take a look at a few of his quotes and works. Then, take a look at who Robert Burns was... And, yes, did you know that we sing that famous song by Burns on New Years Eve?

What are you doing for Burns Day?

So Long & Thanks For The Fishes...

Friday January 24, 2014

GoodbyeWhen January 1, 2014 rolled around, I was dreaming of all the ways this year would be better. I wondered what each day would bring: what wonderful books I'd get to read, and what other adventures were in store for me. I was full of hope for what I was sure would be the best year yet. I never imagined that I'd be stepping away from something that has been such a huge part of my life for more than 14 years.

But, some doors close, so that others can open. Always, unexpected windows of opportunity await (so often un-looked-for... but still, exactly what we need).

My last day at About.com will be January 31, 2014. It's with a heavy heart that I step away--not because I'm leaving, but because you've all been such a huge part of my family for more than 14 years. You've been there for the trials, the tribulations, and so many joys. You've seen my kids born. You've witnessed my son go through some of his most trying times of his life (diagnosed with cancer at 18 months old, and going through all the chemo, surgeries, and bone marrow transplants). You've been there when they said he wouldn't survive, and you've been there to celebrate with me when he beat cancer.

I've cherished every note: words of encouragement, corrections, ideas, stories, and suggestions. So, I want to thank you. You've been such a huge part of my life for more than 14 years.

This day seems particularly poignant, because it's also the day my son has his annual YES (Young Enduring Survivor) Clinic. Whatever you believe... I know that some miracles do happen. And, sometimes they walk into our lives...  and stay for awhile.

I hope you'll join me in the celebrations, and the continuing hope. You, too, are part of this never-ending story. And, I don't want to say "goodbye." So, just think of me as if I'm in the other room--exploring some of those other adventures in literature.

Please join me in excited anticipation, as I begin to survey all those doors (and windows) that stand, ready to be opened.

I still have a few days left with my site on About.com. Then, (I hope) you'll continue to share your stories with me. It's already begun: abookgeek.com. (And, I'd love to continue hearing your stories and words of wisdom.) Come, share the joys of book geekdom.

A Book Geek

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The Most Hopeful Days of the Year...

Sunday January 19, 2014

Beach DreamMartin Luther King Jr. Day is famous for "I have a dream..." It's a speech full of hope for the future (a dream that our children will live in harmony, that freedom and justice will prevail, and that an environment of hope, faith and brotherhood will transform).

Perhaps it's because that "I have a dream" speech touches me still... But, for me, January is a time of hope. It's a time when we can look forward--to gather around us that which we cherish most, and delve into a new year.

So, what do you cherish? What do you love? What are the things (abstract and specific: books, libraries, education, learning, being, becoming) about which you feel most passionate? How will you support, encourage, and embellish those passions in the days, moments, and spots of time that are left?

Salman Rushdie said, "Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination and of the heart."

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