19 Sept 07

Literary Classics

Thank you to the individuals and prison-book programs who have sent books recently, including:

The Divine Comedy by Dante
Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
The Iliad of Homer
Stories of Anton by Chekhov
Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence

Reading the classics, it is interesting to note how earlier authors influenced later authors. For example, how Homer influenced Dante and James Joyce. How Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov influenced Franz Kafka. And less subtly, how William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald influenced Mario Puzo, Tom Wolfe, Joyce Carol Oates and Annie Proulx.

I’ve discovered an excellent resource for prisoner education: The Great Courses – lectures on tapes offered by the Teaching Company (www.TEACH12.com).

A kind reader recently sent (from the Teaching Company) Masterworks of Early 20th – Century Literature taught by Professor David Thornburn of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This course has transformed my understanding and appreciation of Modernist fiction, and introduced me to some authors I hadn’t read much of including Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, Rudyard Kipling, Ford Madox Ford, Joseph Conrad, and Isaac Babel. It’s enabled me to enjoy books I previously found awkward, including those by D.H. Lawrence and William Faulker. The Teaching Company provides a way to get top university lectures into prisons.

Some of you have asked whether it’s still OK to send books so near to my release. As I read the books immediately and donate them to the library, I’m going to keep the wish list running until the end of October, so people are welcome to send books until then. Over the last three years, thanks to your help, the prison library has received hundreds of books, books that shall continue to educate and entertain prisoners long after I’m gone.


Displacing Ivan Ilyich, Count Fedor Ivanych Turbin (from the story “Two Hussars”) is now my favourite Tolstoy character. The Count’s swashbuckling made me laugh hard. Anna Karenina pales in comparison.

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood

1 comment:

maplehouse said...

Fellow Teaching Company addicts can join my Yahoo groups and phpbb forums:

Some of my new Yahoo groups:


Teaching Company forum:

Robert Hazen's "Origins of Life" forum

Doug van Orsow