Harold Bloom

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Harold Bloom: He was born in 1930 and is likely the most knowledgeable Shakespeare Scholar on the planet.(See Shakespeare Literary Favorite Click Here) He is an American literary critic and Sterling Professor of Humanities and English at Yale University. He has written more than forty books, including twenty books of literary criticism, several books discussing religion, and a novel.  

Bloom considers Shakespeare to be the ultimate center of the Western canon and even said of himself that he was only a parody of Falstaff.” (See Falstaff Review Click Here) The pictures used to portray Falstaff do seem to resemble Bloom.  

Bloom's theory is that people tend ultimately to be either more Hamlet (see Hamlet review Click Here), “an abyss, a chaos of virtual nothingness”, or Falstaff, overflowing with vitality and perpetual laughter, for whom “the self is everything“.

His book "Shakespeare The Invention of the Human" (see review click here) says that Shakespeare's vocabulary of 22,000 words is so infinite that it proves he knew pretty much everything there is to know about humankind. That he therefore “invented the human”.

 

 In an interview published in 1995, Bloom reflected on the great authors of the Western world, stating, "We have to read Shakespeare, and we have to study Shakespeare. We have to study Dante. We have to read Chaucer. We have to read Cervantes. We have to read the Bible, at least the King James Bible. We have to read certain authors.…They provide an intellectual, I dare say, a spiritual value which has nothing to do with organized religion or the history of institutional belief. They remind us in every sense of re-minding us. They not only tell us things that we have forgotten, but they tell us things we couldn’t possibly know without them, and they reform our minds. They make our minds stronger. They make us more vital."

 

Harold Bloom's list of books that can teach you to read well.

Harold Bloom in How to Read and Why sets out the following list of books, books which he believes have the power to instill in one a life-long love of aesthetically and intellectually great literature. 

Click here to see list

 

Maya Angelou

"Marguerite Annie Johnson Angelou (April 4, 1928 to May 28, 2014), known as Maya Angelou, was an American author, actress, screenwriter, dancer, poet and civil rights activist best known for her 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,* which made literary history as the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman."

*Click  Caged Bird Sings to see Review   

She used her skills to leave people feeling different because of what she wrote. Her writing approach has been sometimes labeled "autobiographical fiction" because it went beyond some traditional bounds. She wrote speaking often in the first person singular using the word "I" when what she meant was "we". This approach is also considered the "slave narrative tradition" and it is a way to buffer a claim intended to be meant for everyone not just the author. Similar to the oral tradition she followed in her poetry her message came in the more expressive language of the street or ghetto.  Her autobiographies carried a message beyond just her life. She wanted to correct negative stereotype of black culture. 

President Obama gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. The good news is you don’t have to be famous to leave people remembering how you made them feel. It happens whether you intended it or not. If you care about someone, they will know. If you don’t really care, they will know.

Her quotes were more than feel good platitudes but hard truths that you could feel.

“People will forget what you have said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel”. 

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” 

"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."


C.S. Lewis

Click covers of Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity to see reviews

C.S. Lewis's breadth of impact and influence on the literature of our time is significant. His Oxford education, personal character and creativity is only a starting place.

He knowledge of important literature is deep, and his skills as a theologian, poet, fantasy and science fiction writer. He has brought the genre he works in together to bring his message and a good example is how his writings in fantasy stimulates creativity but also gives new meaning to core values.

His understanding of what he writes is deep and he draws from personal experience in his own religious and personal experiences. This connects him to those who also have struggled. .

C.S. Lewis many quotes teach deep lessons. An example is when he said "the good of literature is that we want to to be more than ourselves. We want to see with other eyes to imagine with other imagination, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own".

Chronicles of Narnia and his ample body of fantasy writings are examples of how we really do "imagine with other imagination".

In his writings on Christianity we really do learn to "feel with other hearts as well as our own"

"Screwtape letters" is just one example of how his works help us to "see ourselves with others eyes". It is a masterpiece of satire that enables you to   consider how you would look to the senior tempter of the devil represented by Screwtape, 

Clive Staples Lewis (1898–1963) "was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement."

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C.S. Lewis is an author that has had a impact over several genres of literature. 

 

Favorite Quotes

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.” Source: “Mere Christianity”

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

"When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world." Source: “Mere Christianity"

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
Source: The Magician's Nephew”

 

    

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But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do. (C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism)

Toni Morrison

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Toni Morrison at age 33 (1964) was jobless, divorced, with one child and one on the way. She had returned to her parents home in Ohio.

Today she is one of the most respected American writers as well as an editor, teacher, and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University.  She is the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. She is known for her plays "Desdemona" and "Dreaming Emmett" and her movies, "A Moment in Time", "Conversations with Legendary Women", and "African American Women of Achievement".

Her writing style is intended not to just tell people about African-American problems and issues but to show them.  She does this without losing the traditional language. 

She has written many books but three stood out for me. "Beloved", "The Bluest Eye", and "Song of Solomon". Beloved was a book that showed us how black Americans repress and deny the experience of slavery. It was inspired by a true story and is considered her most difficult book and one that some critics said they felt they actually experienced slavery.  

She said of her book that:

"In hindsight, I think what is important about it is the process by which we construct and deconstruct reality in order to be able to function in it".

This viewpoint of Morrison, intended for the book Beloved, has application for my own viewpoints. I have felt that we need to write our own life-stories and that by doing so we re-invent ourselves. Just telling your life story will cause you to connect events and suggest that one influenced another ones outcome. That is the reality changing and it will change who you think you are

Quotes by Toni Morrison

“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”

 “At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.”

 “Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.”

 “In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.” 

Beloved
By Toni Morrison
Tar Baby
By Toni Morrison
Song of Solomon
By Toni Morrison

Literary Favorites

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Thomas S. Monson, President & beloved Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, passed away on January 2nd 2018.  

"In addition to his deep love of scripture, Monson was also a lifelong reader of great literary works, often, over his 55 years of service, using themes and stories from novels, poetry and musicals to express his faith and offer counsel to members of the church". The value of looking at some of his favorites is clear, as is his observation that "we become like those whom we admire". 

He said of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic account, "The Great Stone Face," we adopt the mannerisms, the attitudes, even the conduct of those whom we admire — and they are usually our friends."

Some of President Monson's Favorites           used in many of his talks.

"My Kingdom," by Louisa May Alcott  

"I do not ask for any crown but that which all may win; Nor try to conquer any world except the one within."

King Author quoted from Camelot. 

"Do not let your passions destroy your dreams" 

"A Tale of Two Cities," by Charles Dickens  

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us."

President Monson suggested that this quote also refers to our own day saying: "This is your world. The future is in your hands. The outcome is up to you. The way to exaltation is not a freeway featuring unlimited vision, unrestricted speeds and untested skills."

Favorite Quote"It's Up to You,"                          by Clinton T. Howell

You are the one who has to decide                    Whether you’ll do it or toss it aside ...                Whether you’ll strive for the goal that’s afar          Or just be content to stay where you are.

*25 literary favorites President Thomas S. Monson quoted in talks, devotionals By Lottie Peterson Johnson  Published: January 3, 2018