The eighteenth century in Britain, as well as outside the island nation, was a time of great change. Educated Britons read transformative texts from key Enlightenment figures, such as Voltaire, Newton, Jefferson, Wollstonecraft, Hume, Paine, and others. Many of these same readers enjoyed novels and satiric works, which were authored by the likes of Jonathan Swift, Samuel Richardson, Fanny Burney, and many more. One of the new literary trends of this period was the Gothic narrative, made fashionable by Horace Walpole, Maria Edgeworth, William Beckford, Matthew Lewis, and others. One of the most influential Gothic fiction writers and pioneers was Ann Radcliffe. Her Gothic novels include The Romance of the Forest (1791), The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), and The Italian (1797). The latter work, set in central Italy, takes place in 1758. It is a familiar tale of forbidden love, between Vincentio di Vivaldi, son of nobles, and Ellena Rosalba, an orphan with mysterious parentage. Yet, it is also a tale—composed from Protestant England—of Catholic Italy, which is cast in a foreboding atmosphere during the Roman Inquisition. Radcliffe includes numerous priests and church officials in the novel, and they are attached to institutional deceit and corruption. Continue Reading
It is well known that some establishment scientists believe in God or gods, but that doesn’t mean that they believe in Creationism. Many ancient astronaut theorists have non-traditional beliefs, but they don’t all discount the possibility of the existence of a supreme being. In fact, for both groups, there’s no rule that says one has to have any particular religious beliefs. Yet, members of both groups may sometimes seem like they’re acting on a religious-like ideology. Essentially, this stems from stubbornness to accept either new or old/established ideas.
In 1968, Erich von Daniken’s book “Chariots of the Gods?” forever altered preconceived notions about human history. He claimed that our civilization has been influenced by past visits from ‘gods,’ who were actually extraterrestrials. Obviously, this did not sit well with most scholars of history and religion. But from Daniken’s point of view, establishment critics were inflexible and had a collective mindset.Continue Reading
In Frances Burney’s Evelina (1778), a masterful tale of love and discovery, the novel’s namesake character takes center stage. Among a truly diverse set of characters, her authenticity and innocence stand out. Throughout her many adventures, she deals with people who are strong, polite, ill-mannered, rude, scheming, playful, honorable, trustworthy, self-centered, gracious, and jealous. While she is an outsider, she is not the only one. There is one fellow outsider who holds many of these qualities, less the positive ones: Captain Mirvan. Evelina is sent to stay with the Mirvan at Howard Grove. She soon finds out that the merchant captain, who has been ship-bound for seven years, is coming back home—possibly for good. Much to her dismay, Mirvan is rude and troublesome. He puts down others and finds ways to entertain himself. He greatly dislikes Evelina’s grandmother, Madame Duval, and enjoys making her life miserable. The only thing that seems to really make him happy is playing cruel tricks on Madame Duval. The Captain doesn’t seem to care about anyone, except for himself. He finds pleasure in other people’s misery. It appears that he fits the classic model of a hedonist. However, Captain Mirvan’s behavior is not ultimately due to hedonism, but is because he is a man out of his element.
Sparkling so bright, almost like love,
Reflecting in eyes.
Their power, like the sun above,
Beaming out only lies.Continue Reading
The U.S. Civil War is a topic that all Americans are aware of, at least in some sense. The fact that slaves played a pivotal role in this time is well known. Yet, for thousands of black men that fought for the Union, oftentimes dying, their story was largely forgotten. In her 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry book, Native Guard, Natasha Trethewey – the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States – gave life to the story of an all-black regiment that kept an eye on captured white Confederate soldiers. They were stationed on Ship Island in the Gulf Coast, and were not treated the same way as their white comrades. Through the writing of a literate, but nameless, guard, the toils of war are told through his eyes. In the multi-part poem, which mirrors the book’s title, Trethewey’s fictional character, a former slave, composes journal entries over a more than two year period. Although the soldier was born nearby and is considered a free man, he feels the tight grip of his past still holding him. Guarding white prisoners, the role of the jailer now seems reversed; he imprisons men who would have no qualms about owning him. This intelligent and literate soldier shows that the power of the written word is an equalizer, which frees the mind from bondage.Continue Reading