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.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
56
votes
15answers
12k views

Are there any important biographies of nobodies?

Biographies usually cover interesting people who said and did notable things. I'm curious about lives notable just for their contexts: the stories of unremarkable people in historically remarkable ...
33
votes
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 ...
31
votes
2answers
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 ...
30
votes
2answers
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
27
votes
2answers
7k views

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 ...
20
votes
3answers
4k views

Were Shakespeare's plays written for “high culture” or “entertain the bawdy masses” during his time?

Currently, the plays of William Shakespeare are viewed as great English literature, and viewed as "high culture". However I heard someone say that Shakespeare was writing "bawdy, violence filled plays ...
20
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
18
votes
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 ...
17
votes
2answers
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 ...
14
votes
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 ...
14
votes
2answers
806 views

Would the original readers of Lewis Carroll's books have made connections between the experiences in the books and drug use?

Modern readers of Lewis Carroll's books (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass) will undoubtedly make some connections between radical changes in perspective following the ...
14
votes
1answer
581 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/...
13
votes
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 ...
13
votes
2answers
513 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 ...
12
votes
3answers
299 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
641 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.
12
votes
1answer
734 views

How did the Nazis view Dickens' Oliver Twist?

After reading Oliver Twist, I note that Fagin is referred to as 'The Jew' and is portrayed quite negatively, especially in his appearance. Nevertheless, there is a certain feature of Fagin that we, ...
12
votes
1answer
300 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 ...
10
votes
6answers
573 views

Has a book ever caused the ousting of a dictator?

The new book, The Man Without a Face, by Masha Gessen is at least partially intended to humanize Russian leader Vladimir Putin in hopes that it will eliminate the power he appreciates by maintaining a ...
10
votes
4answers
1k views

Have American writing styles changed between the Civil War and Today?

Whenever I hear people recite speeches (Gettysburg Address) letters (largely selections from most famous letters of famous figures) and historical accounts (military accounts) from Americans who lived ...
10
votes
2answers
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 ...
9
votes
3answers
605 views

What was the primary motivation for a historical figure like Xenophon to create an extensive collection of written material?

Xenophon of Athens created a large amount of written material even by today's standards. Did he create this work knowing it would be read by future generations, or was it for his own satisfaction? I ...
9
votes
1answer
374 views

Are there any exemplars of the 'trope of the exiled poet' prior to CE 8?

For a class of mine I'm writing a paper on Ovid's Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto, where I argue that underneath Ovid's lamentation of his exile and praise for Augustus, he immortalizes himself as the ...
9
votes
2answers
497 views

Was it common practice in Victorian London or other Western European cities to name locations as places where fictional characters lived and acted?

When recently reading Dickens's description of Dr. Manette's residence in "A Tale of Two Cities" , I found in the notes to my edition (B&N Classics) the following: "A replica (of 'The Golden Arm') ...
9
votes
1answer
359 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?
8
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
7
votes
4answers
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 ...
7
votes
2answers
499 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
415 views

What did it mean to be a “Jacobite” at the turn of the 20th Century?

I'm currently reading the Ursula Buchan's biography of John Buchan, the Scottish writer and politician. (Buchan, U, 2019, "Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan", Bloomsbury, London) ...
7
votes
2answers
799 views

What literary or philosophical works did the ancient Egyptians have that have influenced ancient civilizations or the modern word?

We all know of the Roman and Greek literary and philosophical works which still resonate to this day and read by many. As a an ancient and long old civilization, what works of equal importance do we ...
7
votes
0answers
887 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
515 views

What is the full text of the song about the failed battle of Kiska?

I came across a mention of the song about the failed battle of Kiska in the audiobook "The Rising Sun". I started googling, but found only two mentions, both on Google Books. Is there the full text of ...
6
votes
0answers
121 views

What was the character of the Sylva Sylvarum that differentiated it from previous works?

The Sylva Sylvarum (1627) is recognized as the first 'treatise on natural history'. Some regard it as the most-complete work, for its day. But as early as 70AD, other works existed, such as Pliny's ...
5
votes
6answers
548 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
253 views

What does this quote from the Roman imperial poet Rutilius mean?

Reading about the little Italian isle of Capraia, I've seen a quote attributed to Claudio Rutilio Namaziano, from his De Reditu, that in Latin goes: "Processu pelagi iam se Capraria tollit; squalet ...
5
votes
1answer
264 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)?
5
votes
1answer
4k 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
346 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.
5
votes
0answers
79 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
209 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
316 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
698 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 ?
3
votes
2answers
352 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 : ...
3
votes
1answer
271 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?...
3
votes
2answers
467 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 - ...
3
votes
1answer
249 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
568 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
401 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
92 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" ...