Posts Tagged ‘books’

Title: James Joyce. From Ulysses, Lestrygonians.

Speaker: Professor John Bishop

Provider: UC Berkeley

On my final exam from a course on “Ulysses” my first question was whether I would recommend this book to someone else. Well, I would. With caution. It is truly a masterpiece, but one difficult to understand. I must admit that once I grew so frustrated with the book that I hurled it across the room (and this is not a norm for me, far from it). After finishing the novel I can honestly say that everyone should read it. It is very complex – there are many references within the book, recurring themes. Sometimes a veiled reference comes before the explanation itself. Joyce did not particularly bother with the reader’s comfort. However, having said all that, “Ulysses” is a masterpiece. The many narration techniques show the story from different angles. The first time reading you will be frustrated beyond belief and sometimes lost. I was lucky enough to be reading it under the guidance of prof. Oramus, who made the process easier on our class, telling us what to look for in the text and explaining references. So, the second, (and third, and fourth – you won’t resist) time you read the book you will come to appreciate it more and more.

The podcast is a little like this. It focuses on a part from the middle of the book – “Lestrygonians”. It is a good representation of what you might expect from “Ulysses”. It is seemingly chaotic, branching into many digressions. And yet it has an inner structure, making it a pleasant listening material. I have just one warning – the episode selected is focused on food – so don’t listen on an empty stomach. There is not much more I can say – I’m afraid nothing can prepare you for Joyce.

As always, listen, enjoy and please comment. Pretty please?

by Izabela

P.S. I’m sorry that the link provided is on iTunes – I know not everyone uses this program, but I can’t find anything else.


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Title: Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner

Speaker: Professor Wai Chee Dimock

Provider: Yale University

A little something for American majors in our Institute and for everyone who likes American literature. I admit, that I mostly read books by British authors (and Russian curiously – if you have not read “Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov yet, go and read) but it does not stop me from being in love with Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”. It was this novel that drew me to the podcast – I enjoyed the book, I enjoyed the movie (who doesn’t like Robert Redford), but I wanted to know more – to understand more. I guess this curiosity is one of the main reasons why I decided to study English Philology.

Hence this podcast. To be honest I did not listen to many tracks – only those that interest me – about “The Great Gatsby”, and Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying”. Both were enjoyable and informative – I wouldn’t be recommending it otherwise. However there are certain drawbacks. The content of the lectures is brilliant but there is no performance in them – they are pure knowledge. With some podcasts you can allow your mind to drift but this is not the case. I couldn’t listen  while cooking or tidying – it was just to distracting. I had to sit down and focus. With that said there is plenty of interesting information – for example I’ve never thought about technology as being a big part of “The Great Gatsby”. In the lecture I found out, that it in fact is – an enormous part of the story. The huge advantage of this course is that you can download the materials – and as I wrote in one of my previous posts – it is sometimes difficult to follow the lecture when the professor says something like “and now please look at your handouts”. In this case this is not an issue – you have all the materials.

All in all, I did enjoy the podcast – and I did listen to the lectures about the books I’ve read. I plan to listen to other tracks, once I manage to find time to read the books. So, as always, go listen and then tell me your thoughts. I’d be especially interested if someone listened to the parts i did not – for instance about Hemingway. And… Anyone?

by Izabela

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Title: Shakespeare’s Restless World

Provider: BBC Radio 4

Have you ever read a book and thought that, somehow, not everything is clear to you? I’ve felt that way whenever reading Shakespeare – and I’m not talking about the language itself, mind you. I mean I did not understand all the implications of the text that would have been obvious in Elizabethan England. This podcasts helps you with that. It is made around objects relevant to the period – things of everyday use. Through them many interesting questions about the Shakespearean world are answered: Do the same things shocked people back then that shock us now, like for example torture? How was the question of Queen Elisabeth’s heir raised in the plays? What kind of people went to the theatre and how did that affect the writing of the plays?, and many, many others. It really is splendid (I use superlatives so much that I finally have the opportunity to use the exercise from my high school – the persistent questions of my English teacher – name as many superlatives as you can). It is useful for me in my studies as well – I’m currently taking a course in Shakespeare and it is much easier to read the plays now – especially “The Taming of The Shrew”. As I wrote in a previous post, I’m a feminist so seeing a women being subdued is difficult for me (If you don’t know what I’m talking about – go read the play). Now it is a bit easier – I found out from the podcasts that there were other plays about ‘training’ women that were much more cruel – to the point of physical abuse. In that sense Shakespeare’s version can be seen as kind.

The podcast is truly delightful (see – another superlative) – and I’m going to listen to the broader version – “A History of The World in 100 Objects”, so wait for my review of that too. And, by the way, I found this podcast thanks to a recommendation – the broader one, I mean. I felt like listening to something about Shakespeare this week, but fear not I shall write about the other one – see? I do listen to recommendations, so keep them coming :-).

by Izabela

P.S. Best wishes and many thanks to YETI

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Title: Literary Criticism: Key Terms and Concepts

Speaker: Each talk is delivered by a different speaker

Provider: Cambridge University

Finally a podcast from Cambridge – so far It could look like I’m favouring Oxford (or Warwick for the matter) but I can promise I’m not.

I’m back with literary criticism – it is one of my favourite subjects and I know that many students at my home University have problems with grasping just how many ways can a text be read. This series is a little different then Modes of reading I’ve written about before. It is more about the tools used by writers then the way a text is then read. For instance one track (by Alex Houen ) deals with the sublime – a concept that too is difficult to grasp by many students (maybe it’s is not familiar because we are not native speakers of English?). I’ve felt the sense of the sublime before – for example in a grand gothic cathedral, but never had a name to put with the feeling – there is no such word in Polish. The podcast explains everything there is to know about it and analyses it on the example of various literary works.

I really recommend listening to this podcast, especially to my fellow students – it will be useful not only in literary criticism classes (and on the final) but also in the history of English Literature – the word appeared on the midterm test and, as not many people gave the correct answer, it will probably appear on the final exam. So don’t leave it for later, download the podcast and listen to it while in the bus, or underground, or walking or … (name your favourite method of commuting here). Go listen!  (and then come back and comment :-P)

by Izabela

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Title: Great Writers Inspire

Speakers: each talk is delivered by a different speaker

Provider: Oxford University

Absolutely fascinating series of lectures. So far I’ve listened to four -(while running, might I add – sorry couldn’t resist sharing the personal achievement to start exercising again after a too-long break). Anyway they held my attention completely allowing me to run longer then I thought I could – I simply was to lost in the lectures to notice the passing time. The podcasts provide interesting insight I would have never thought about myself – how the life situation and the environment of the writers influenced their work. At first I was afraid the analysis would be very psychoanalytical – and I’m not a fan. Fortunately I was wrong. For example in the lecture about Shakespeare, Tiffany Stern talks about how being an actor and writing for a specific group of people affected the plays. To elaborate – in the earlier plays the fool is often silly, not to say stupid, but then a new actor was engaged and the roles changed completely – the jester became the wisest person in the whole play – like Touchstone in “As you like it”.

For someone who does not necessarily enjoy Shakespeare you may still like the series as each talk is about a different author Here is the list of the tracks:

  • Shakespeare and the Stage by Tiffany Stern
  • Beowulf by Francis Leneghan
  • Jonathan Swift and the Art of Undressing by Abigail Williams
  • 18th Century Labouring Class Poetry by Jennifer Batt
  • William Blake by David Fallon
  • George Eliot – A Very Large Brain by Catherine Brown
  • Katherine Mansfield and Rhythm Magazine by Faith Binckes
  • Olive Schreiner by Elleke Boehmer
  • J.M. Coetzee by Peter McDonald
  • Why Dickens? by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
  • Only Collect: An Introduction to the World of the Poetic Miscellany by Abigail Williams
  • The Lure of the East: the Oriental and Philosophical State in Eighteenth-Century England by Ros Ballaster
  • John Milton by Anna Beer
  • Mary Leapor by Jenny Batt
  • Ezra Pound by Rebecca Beasley
  • Chaucer by Daniel Wakelin

I can wholeheartedly recommend the series. The lectures are available both as audio and video and the quality is very good – some podcasts too are too quite to listen in a bus, or anywhere noisy – but this is not the case. So go listen and tell me your thoughts…. I know I’ve said this before, but … Anyone?

by Izabela

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Title: ”Jane Austen’s Equations”
”Irony in Jane Austen’s Novels”
Speaker: Sandie Byrne

It is the high time for the third author of this blog to reveal herself at last – and to invite you to the world of the author of my favourite books!
Jane Austen’s novels are absolutely unique, full of charm and elegance. Unfortunately, we often cannot admire them fully and appreciate all the details which are hidden on the pages of “Pride and Prejudice” or “Emma”, because we simply lack the knowledge of Austen’s times. These two very short podcasts provide the essential background for reading her works.
“Jane Austen’s Equations” presents things which every man and every woman in England of that time had to take into consideration while arranging marriages – it touches ticklish problem of money and the position in social hierarchy. I am glad that today we do not have to do our equations and worry about our potential income…
”Irony in Jane Austen’s Novels” is a great introduction to the analysis of the narrator in Austen’s works. After listening to this podcast I am quite convinced that the significant element of these books, which makes them so special, is this fantastic sense of humour allowing the reader not to treat some situations or characters too seriously. I think it is inherent part of Jane Austen’s style and I agree that it is in fact impossible to transfer the narrator’s irony into the adaptations of the novels (which does not mean, of course, that the attempts to achieve it should not be made). I hope these small pieces will help you to enjoy Austen’s novels even more.

by Alicja

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For all Tolkien maniacs

Title: “The Tolkien Professor”
Speaker: Corey Olsen
Provider: Washington University
This is the first series of lectures I have ever listened to and I’m happy to say that they convinced me to seek other podcasts. As a Tolkien fan (not quite a fanatic but close) I can say that the lectures I’ve listened to – the ones about “Hobbit” – have led me to a whole new understanding of the first book Tolkien published. The Tolkien professor, as Professor Olsen calls himself, introduced me to new ways of reading “The Hobbit”, increasing my Fascination and appreciation of Tolkien’s craft.
Not everything is worth listening to. Though I am a fan of Tolkien, I’m not really involved in any fan sites. The lectures are all very interesting, but there are podcasts that are all news and that does not interest me. Especially since I’m listening to the material long after it was published so for me all of the announcements are boring and irrelevant. I recommend skipping that part and simply enjoying the knowledge inside other tracks.
For me the most interesting was “The Ridiculous and the Sublime”. It showed me how clever Tolkien was in the constructing the story as not to scare children. One example that professor Olsen used was that of the trolls – it is only when that are frozen in the sun and the whole company is safe, that we learn how truly dangerous they were. After all they had an elf sword in their cave – and one does not simply find elf swords lying around – it must have been taken by force from the owner.

One of the drawbacks of the series is that they require quite a bit of attention and time – some concepts are easier to understand if you read the books in time with the podcasts – they are usually divided by chapters. In addition it is a lot of listening material – and it draws you in, so it’s better not to have a test or two in your future when you start listening – the results of those test may be quite disappointing.

With that said there is only one thing left for me to say: enjoy and please share your thoughts with me. And if you’d like me to search for good podcast on a particular subject leave a comment and I’ll do my best. Anyone?

by Izabela

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