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Questions tagged [literature]

Questions related to a group of works of art made up of words, classified as either poetry or prose, being either fiction or non-fiction, usually written but can also include oral traditions.

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What is the oldest known work of fiction?

What is the oldest known work of fiction that we know was meant to be taken as fiction? I mean to exclude mythologies; the audience of these was meant to believe they were true. What is the oldest ...
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1answer
243 views

Is the following claim concerning the loss of classical Latin literature substantiated?

I first came across an uncommonly precise claim that "94% of classical Latin literature was lost during the transition period of late antiquity" while listening to Peter Adamson's History of ...
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331 views

Which SF author was unable to check his own work out of the library due to insufficient security clearance?

Following up on the question Public knowledge of hypothetical nuclear weapons before Hiroshima?: I recall reading (many many years ago) an autobiographical anecdote by a science fiction author who ...
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1answer
89 views

Who is “A Gentleman”? (The listed tranlator of the 1758 English edition of Tusculan Disputations)

While reading a free ebook version of Tusculan Disputations, apparently photo-captured from a long-out-of-copyright edition, and being interested in the unusual grammar in the older book, I "flipped" ...
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Is the Prologue to Eunuchus the earliest recorded defense of literary fair use?

In Eunuchus by the Roman playwright Terence, there is a prologue penned for the explicit purpose of justifying the author's reuse of existing characters. In a section, the author identifies some ...
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6answers
405 views

What is the earliest known book / novel trilogy in literature?

Having recently finished (again) The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I wondered what is the earliest known book / novel trilogy in literature? (Yes, I know J.R.R. Tolkien wrote LOTR not as a trilogy but as ...
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860 views

Were the names in Les Miserables ever common?

Victor Hugo used a variety of unusual names in Les Miserables. Lets look at some of the major characters. Jean (Valjean) - One of the historically most common masculine surnames Javert Cosette - Her ...
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617 views

What are the tabs/spaces for in the Beowulf text

Here and other places they have strange spacing as seen in the picture: Wondering what it means and what the purpose of it / if it's necessary or has some significance.
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1answer
148 views

Was Ezra Pound a descendent of Jews?

I've tried to search the internet for poet's Ezra Pound genealogy, but I only find extreme-right sites... A person with the name Ezra seems to have some relationship to Jewish culture/religion. ...
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2answers
158 views

What is the drawing in this ekphrastic poem?

I'm trying to identify the drawing (an unfinished sketch for a painting?) described in this Donald Justice poem. Possibly an African in upper-class dress, with a horse and second person who's portrait ...
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1answer
7k views

Were Egyptian Pharaohs literate?

This video says scribes read letters to the king as the king was not literate. Can anyone comment on this
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377 views

Who is the first person in the 17th century to describe themselves as a “white” person and who invented the term “white race”?

According to the Wikipedia article entitled White people The concept of a unified white race did not achieve universal acceptance in Europe when it first came into use in the 17th century, or ...
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244 views

What does this Rx glyph mean in what looks like Latin?

What does this glyph (red) mean? Also, what usage was there for it and the other glyph that looks like a colon (blue)?
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2answers
176 views

What is the use of vinegar as a component in ancient ink receipes?

Quite some receipes of old (pre-iron-gall) ink seem to include vinegar. It is of pale colour though, and it may or may not be corrosive to the paper. Whats it's use?
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3k views

What kind of ink was used by medieval scribes in Iceland, given that there were no plant galls for iron-gall ink?

Iceland was deforested since early settlement, and possibly never had oaks. It has no gall wasps either. I understand that Iceland was very isolated in medieval times. So without oak galls, how did ...
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2k views

Did the medieval Europe have an active “lowbrow” culture?

When we look back on another age, we tend to skip to the highlights. That goes double for things like art, sports, literature, and music. But in our own time, we recognize that by divine fiat 90% of ...
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232 views

Was John S. Mosby the model/motivation/template for John Carter?

I've always suspected this but have never seen any concrete proof. Was the fictitious Edgar Rice Burroughs character John Carter based on the civil war hero/villain John S. Mosby? Mosby was arguable ...
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4answers
8k views

Did this “sledge rigged like a sloop” vehicle ever exist, or was it an invention of Jules Verne?

In Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days, the main character Phileas Fogg misses his train in the American north and ends up hitching a ride on a curious invention, as described here: There ...
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1answer
899 views

What was the contemporary reaction to Dante's Divine Comedy?

Dante's Divine Comedy is one of the great classics of world literature: a poem about Dante's journey through the three afterlives of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. During the course of these adventures ...
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2answers
306 views

How much of what we know about ancient philosophers comes from oral literature?

Have any orally-transmitted myths survived​ throughout the centuries in such a form that we could identify any of the ancient philosophers of Classical Greece and Rome in them? I'm interested in ...
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2answers
5k views

Are currently sold versions of “Mein Kampf” censored?

Mein Kampf was illegal in a lot of countries for a very long time. Yet, while browsing GoodReads I realised reading it might be very interesting to get some insight in how the horrors of WW2 came to ...
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What's the historical basis for Water Margin / 108 Heroes of Liangshan?

Chronicle of the Water Margin (alternatively known as Outlaws of the Marsh and All Men are Brothers), one of the Four Great Famous Works of Chinese literature, is a novel attributed to Shi Nai'an (施耐庵,...
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1answer
480 views

What's the oldest monomyth?

What is the oldest example of the Joseph Campbell's monomyth (AKA: Hero's Journey) story structure ? I know about Homer's Odyssey (circa VII BC). Are there any older examples ?
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3answers
180 views

Autobiographical books about the Atlantic war for WWII from the allied perspective

A long time ago I read Das Boot (which is the collection of experiences as war correspondent in a U-Boat, it contains also more gruesome depictions never mentioned in the movie). I would like to know ...
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1answer
3k views

Was *Green Eggs and Ham* really banned in China from 1965–1991?

The Wikipedia article on Green Eggs and Ham states that the children's book was banned in China in 1965 for its "portrayal of early Marxism", and that the ban was lifted in 1991. The citations for ...
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469 views

References or accounts in historical Egyptian literature about the Exodus

In the Bible, there is a long treatise about the miracles that had forgone the Exodus, the Book of Genesis details these. Then there are the dealings between Moses and Pharaoh, the magic fight of ...
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1k views

Did Muslims swear by “the beard of the Prophet”?

In Western historical fictions, Muslims (from the Middle East) are often depicted to swear by "the beard of the Prophet". "By the beard of the prophet, we will not offend you; but unless you ...
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2answers
312 views

How long were books in ancient times? [closed]

I wonder how long were the typical scholar books at the time of Aristote, Pythagoras and others. This is quite a large time frame but I mean roughtly "in ancient times". Basically my question is : ...
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2answers
128 views

Literature that changed the course of history [closed]

Are there any examples of literature changing the course of history, such as books or essays that made people fight for freedom, other than those written by Václav Havel, either positive or negative?
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1answer
246 views

Why was there an increase in literature regarding fire safety in America during the 1970s?

I came across this n-gram on Google Books: It shows a substantial spike in mentions of "fire safety" in American literature starting in 1970 and going on until almost the end of 70s. What caused this?...
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1answer
299 views

What was the first book translated from Japanese to any of the European languages?

What was the first Japanese book translated and published in one of the European languages? By "first" I mean the date of translation, not the original.
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489 views

Why was there a surge of writings about the Illuminati in America in the late 1910's?

I came across this interesting graph on Google's Ngram Viewer service: It looks like there was a massive spike in the occurrence of "Illuminati" in American literature starting around 1915 and ending ...
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547 views

Was The Prince by Machiavelli intended as satire?

Researching Machiavelli's other works, I found online that there is a disagreement on whether The Prince was actually meant to be read as political satire. http://www2.idehist.uu.se/distans/ilmh/...
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959 views

What are some examples of racism in pre-modern literature? [closed]

I just got thinking about this and really cannot think of a possible answer to it. In old literature, for example, the works of Shakespeare (which I know were plays but this question may still apply ...
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1answer
175 views

Can there be hidden ancient archives in Saudi Arabia? [closed]

Muslims once translated many ancient Greek texts. Could it be that much more is preserved, but not available to the international historical community? Could they be kept in mosques in Saudi Arabia, ...
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5answers
1k views

Origin of the idea of a series of books

I've been wondering lately, do we know where the idea of releasing books that were meant to be read together (such as a trilogy or longer series) came from? It's my understanding that really old ...
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307 views

What did Thomas Mann yield in negotiations with Nazis in 1933?

The following is from the article on Golo Mann (1909 – 1994) in the German Wikipedia (translation courtesy of Google Translate). Golo Mann was the son of German novelist and 1929 Nobel Prize in ...
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1answer
564 views

What evidence do we have that historical accounts we've found of ancient civilizations weren't fictional? [closed]

How do we know that the accounts we've found of civilizations (E.g.Egypt) weren't actually fictional literature in the way that Plato's Timaeus and Critias mentioned the island of atlantis as an ...
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332 views

Did Herman Melville write the “textbook” chapters of Moby Dick?

In Moby Dick there is a long chapter that is meant to be an excerpt from a textbook on whales. Did Melville compose that or was it actually copied from a textbook on whales?
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616 views

Were 'Phillipe de Croy' and 'William Whyte' historical people? [closed]

Not sure if this goes here, but I couldn't work see a literature stack exchange... In the Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet, I have always wondered about the following passage: '"I have my ...
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1answer
154 views

Were the Germans quoting Hamlet to describe their existential struggle in the Great War?

In illustrating how the Great War came to be viewed increasingly by Germans as an existential struggle, Max Hastings, in his Catastrophe: 1914: Europe Goes to War (p. 542), describes how The words ...
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2k views

What was the third best-selling book in the antebellum US?

Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel in antebellum America and the second best-selling book overall. The Bible, of course, was number one. Here's an insanely detailed rundown of UTC's sales ...
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641 views

Who said “Nature that framed us of four elements … doth teach us all to have aspiring minds.”?

Who said “Nature, that framed us of four elements, Warring within our breasts for regiment, Doth teach us all to have aspiring minds.”? According to the Web, you'd think it was Machiavelli, but my ...
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122 views

What is the edition/version of this book (Pensées De Pascal)?

Full Title: Pensées De Pascal précédées de sa vie Par Mme Perier, Sa Soeur Suivies D'Un Choix Des Pensées De Nicole Et De Son Traité De La Paix Avec Les Hommes (This is all one of the first ...
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0answers
75 views

Sales of books of Rousseau in Versailles

I am currently comparing the sales of books by Rousseau and Voltaire in the city of Versailles, and I noticed a very important peak in sales of books by Rousseau in 1781. I was wondering if anyone ...
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867 views

Countries which banned Ferdinand the bull?

Background The book "The Story of Ferdinand " is a short illustrated children's story featuring a bull who would not be provoked by a matador. When it was published in 1936, it was widely interpreted ...
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411 views

Were there a British 'Négritude' movement?

Did a movement similar to Négritude exist in the UK or amongst Anglo-Saxon Africans? Were there British equivalents of French West Africa's Léopold Sédar Senghor, Alioune Diop, or Aimé Césaire - ...
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1answer
2k views

Is “Friends, Romans, …” a historical speech?

While searching for a canonical translation to my language of the phrase Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears I was surprised to find reference to it only in the Shakespeare play. As the ...
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1answer
949 views

Why haven't Etruscan texts survived?

In Wikipedia it's claimed that Etruscan Civilization had a rich literature, but only one Etruscan text has survived. And AFAIK at the same moment we have many Ancient Greeks texts roughly from the ...
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280 views

What is the origin of the subdivisions of Heaven and Hell?

Isra and Mi'raj is the name of the journey of the prophet Muhammad, where he witnessed heaven and hell, describing their structure as well as the punishment and rewards that lay beyond. Hell and ...