Top 25 Christian Classics

Christian History surveyed 70 of its authors to compile the 25 most influential Christian writings, after the Bible.   Martin Luther had three titles, second only to St. Augustine, who had four.  See the list and links after the jump.

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More of the Epic of Gilgamesh discovered

Big news in world literature:  A new tablet containing additional lines for the ancient Babylonian poem The Epic of Gilgamesh has been discovered. [Read more…]

Tolkien’s new story & the impact of Finland

One of J. R. R. Tolkien’s earliest writings has been published this week in England.  (It will be released in the U.S.A. in April.)  It’s called The Story of Kullervo, a retelling of a dark episode from the Finnish national epic the Kalevala.  Hannah Sander of the BBC tells about the influence of this epic and of the Finnish language and mythology on Tolkien’s imagination.  In addition to direct parallels, Tolkien’s descriptions of Middle Earth owe much to the Finnish landscape and the Finnish language seems to have been a model for Elvish. [Read more…]

Why you shouldn’t get disillusioned over Atticus Finch

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most beloved novels in American literature, so its legions of fans were overjoyed to hear that its author, Harper Lee, was going to publish Go Set a Watchman, another novel featuring the same main characters.  But now that the new book has been released, many readers are disillusioned.  In Mockingbird, Atticus Finch comes across as an ideal father, as well as the idealistic lawyer who strikes a blow against racism in defending a falsely-accused black man in the segregated South.  But in Watchman, told from the point of view of his daughter Scout as an adult, we see her conflicts with her father, who is full of flaws, including racial prejudice.

But readers whose admiration for Atticus has been spoiled and who wish they never read the new book need not be dismayed.  According to the iron laws of literary scholarship, the author’s final intention is what counts.  Watchman gives us an earlier version of the story and of the characters.  Mockingbird is the later version, and the good Atticus represents Harper Lee’s final intention.  Let me, a literary scholar though recently retired, explain after the jump. [Read more…]

Why reading is good for you

Reading a lot, for pleasure, is associated with all kinds of physical and psychological benefits.  Details after the jump. [Read more…]

Yeats saw it coming

The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post both have pieces on W. B. Yeats’ great poem The Second Coming.

One of the defining poems of the 20th century, Yeats wrote it back in 1919, but it seems to predict the rise of Nazi Germany, the growth of Communism, and now postmodernism, the rise of radical Islam, current political trends in Europe, and–for columnist E. J. Dionne–Donald Trump!

The poem, famous for its lines “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”and “The center cannot hold,” is built both on Yeats’ theories of history and his take on the Christian notion that Christ will be followed by Antichrist.  After the jump, read an excellent unpacking of the poem by David Lehmann, and then see what Dionne does in applying it to today’s political situation. [Read more…]