Harriet Beecher Stowe
(Two slaves struggle mightily: one for her liberty, the other for his integrity.)
Crop of A Group of Slaves leaving to Work in the Field on James Hopkinson’s Plantation in Edisto […]
(The Oklahoma land rush of 1889 gives Yancey Cravat an opportunity to rescue his wife from civilized mediocrity, and head west for the untamed life of the pioneer.)
Oklahoma Land Rush 1893, by […]
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Baroness Emmuska Orczy
(A master of disguise rescues French aristocrats from the guillotine and drops them safely into London society—until a sly French inspector tracks him down.)
Ian McKellen as the French inspector Chauvelin in the 1982 London Films production of The Scarlet Pimpernel, which also starred Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour. This and other stills can be found at the blog Of Trims and Frills and Furbelows.
Don’t let the title’s reference to a dainty flower and the femininity of the author fool you. This is no Austen or Brontë novel. It is a hearty adventure, more along the lines of the father of adventure stories Sir Walter Scott, or Dumas, or Stevenson. What a treat to have a woman join these illustrious ranks! Rugged oaths and swordfights may be lacking, but stories stocked with those can easily be found elsewhere. Instead Orczy proficiently places a “caped avenger”-style suspense drama (a genre some say she invented) against a backdrop of fashionable London society. The high manners, the social competition, the gossip, the dress, the flamboyant events… Orczy was a baroness herself, and this is undoubtedly part of the reason why she was able to present these ingredients with such freshness and authenticity. But all this is ancillary to the mystery and excitement that lend this tale its permanent appeal.
Hi Dan, I know what you mean– at first, it seems only modest and open-minded to allow for diversity of taste without imposing some independent or objective standard. But then if we wholeheartedly accept that view we find ourselves in the strange and isolated position of being unable to communicate with each other. Our initial intuition must…[Read more]
An art museum visitor observing a Jackson Pollock painting; from the blog Art Now and Then, by Jim Lane.
When we say […]
Hi Dan, I know what you mean– at first, it seems only modest and open-minded to allow for diversity of taste without imposing some independent or objective standard. But then if we wholeheartedly accept that view we find ourselves in the strange and isolated position of being unable to communicate with each other. Our initial intuition must therefore be an overreaction. Maybe what we really want is to appreciate personal differences but also recognize some ideal shared standards in principle, even though in practice we can never attain an ultimate objective “God’s eye” view. Oddly enough this perspective will prompt us to pay attention to others’ opinions much more than if we think we’re simply 8 billion people with thoroughly unassailable, incommensurable tastes.
(A sage in medieval Iceland attempts to restore order in the face of bloody vengeance and warrior’s honor)
Detail from Gunnar at Rangá, an illustration of an event in Njáls Saga […]
Yes, it certainly had some influence on me too, although later– in my 20s– and mostly because my psyche was already in tune with it somewhat. I felt like Turgenev had tapped into some emotional states that I hadn’t been able to articulate and barely even to recognize as such.
(A young man is thrown into the sweet agony of unrequited love for his beautiful new neighbor.)
Russian Beauty, by Konstantin Makovsky (1839-1915). This painting appears to be in a private collection. See Makovsky’s paintings at Wikiart.
Woldemar, a young man of sixteen, experiences the whirlwind of love descending on him for the first time, as he becomes acquainted with the beautiful and elegant Zinaida, the daughter of a princess, who has moved in next door. She enjoys a crop of suitors, and in her charming and carefree way pits them against each other. They make fools of themselves competing for her attention and smiles; but Woldemar is different, so awed he is in her presence. She is very kind towards him, and eventually gives him more attention than any other. He is enraptured, able to think of nothing else, obsessed with thoughts and dreams of her. He is overcome with the pain of his unrequited feelings, and is blissful when with her, sent into reverie with every careless touch or soft look. In this experience he realizes the power of love, and the strong—even dangerous—grip it can have on a person. Meanwhile, although he pays little attention to it, his home life is unsettled, with his parents often arguing.
To Uldis Roze: Thank you for your comment. I agree that Ron Engel is a great place to continue exploration of literature in the spirit of the Land Ethic. His *Ethics of Environment and Development* was one of […]
(An ecologist contemplates and celebrates the land, and recommends an expansion of our moral world.)
Aldo Leopold in Mexico, 1938. Courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Archives at the University of Wisconsin.
Today it is routine in courses on ecology, forestry, conservation, environmental philosophy or land use, to introduce three personalities as the fathers of modern concern for nature, the three voices that first and most strongly urged us to enlarge our conception of what in this world is a proper object of moral consideration: Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and Aldo Leopold. Contemporary American (and to some extent world) culture has been impacted by A Sand County Almanac, as by Thoreau’s Walden, to such an extent that we cannot yet begin to assess it. Nevertheless, I would argue that we as a culture have still not attended to the two main lessons A Sand County Almanac would teach us.
(After treating a needy friend superficially for years, Georg finally pays the price.)
Crop of Charles Bridge (2009), by Paul Cook. Charles Bridge (Karlův most) lies over the Vitava River in Kafka’s hometown of Prague.
This is an existentialist horror tale about a man Georg who treats a distant friend superficially, then pays for this crime with his life. The distant friend is sick, poor and unmarried. Georg cannot think of what to say to him, so he writes only trivial things. He offers no advice or heartfelt consolation. He conceals his own prosperity and even (for a while) his own engagement. His father, meanwhile, behind his back, has been revealing the truth about Georg to the friend, and has been lying in wait for Georg to raise the situation in conversation. When Georg finally does broach the subject, his father condemns him as a betrayer of his friend and a selfish cold-hearted bum, and orders him to drown himself. As elderly as the father is, he is stronger of will than his son, who feels himself urged out of the room and to a nearby bridge. Georg flings himself to his death.
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