PhD Exams: Overview

Between now and March I will be reading for my PhD exams. Partly as a way to keep myself accountable, and partly because others might find it interesting to get a glimpse into this strange time of the PhD experience, I’ve decided that each week, I will list what I’ve read since the last post, and choose one of those texts and do a short review/analysis/discussion of it. This will also be great for anyone curious about eighteenth century British and American literature; we’re covering it alllll.

But before that, what even are PhD exams? Consider this the “info dump,” overview, explainy post. Don’t really care? Come back this weekend for the literature. (Or check out the archive if you’re from the future. Hi there! How are things?)

—-

Have you ever wondered what it entails when someone in a PhD program says they have exams? Or are you considering a PhD program yourself and wondering about the experience? Or do you just want to know why I’m reading a bajillion books* in six months? This is the post for you.

A caveat: this explanation is specific to the program (*school redacted*) and field (literature) I’m in. How this works varies from school to school and program to program, so your experience (or your friend’s) may be different. And by “may” I mean “definitely will.”

So you start a PhD program in literature. Here in the US, that usually means you take a few years of classes, then have your oral or comprehensive exams, then write a dissertation (a book-length scholarly project). This semester, I’m beginning the “exam” phase.

The purpose of the exam is twofold: to prepare you to teach by giving you the chance to read and study all the major literature of your chosen period, and to help you explore the ideas and questions that you hope to work on in your dissertation through a list of secondary (scholarly) books and articles.

The first thing you do is put together your exam committee. This involves identifying 3 professors who do work in or adjacent to your proposed field of study, and asking them to be your committee. They will help you develop your reading lists, and provide the exam questions. Typically, one of these professors is the chair, or head, of the committee. They are the one you work most closely with, and the one that has the final say in your lists, etc. (And they’re responsible for the administrative paperwork.)

I did this last fall. I met with the professor I wanted to be my chair (Professor C, for chair), and asked him if he would. We discussed the (very vague) research direction I’d like to go in for my future dissertation, and he agreed that our interests overlapped enough that he would be a good choice. I picked this professor first because his interests align with mine, in terms of period (the literal time period, which for me is 1700-1830 British and American literature), method (the way you approach analysis: print culture and historiography) and specific interests (the reading and writing practices of ordinary people of this time). I also picked him because I’ve taken several of his classes and know we work well together. This is best-case scenario; sometimes the professor you need hasn’t taught during your “take classes phase.” In this case, I strongly recommend trying to get to know them by meeting with them a few times to chat about your interests.

After meeting with Professor C, I asked the other two profs, Professor 2 and Professor 3. I chose these professors to help fill in ‘gaps’ in Professor C’s expertise, to help give me a more rounded exam list. For example Professor 2 does work with 18th century British literature, while Professor C is more focused on American, so they balance each other out.

In the spring, I started writing my lists. I did this by looking at lists written by other students in my program, googling and finding lists from students at other schools who were doing similar work, and by asking my professors for suggestions. After a few rounds of back and forth with each, I finalized the lists. They will still fluctuate as I do my reading; I’ll run out of time to get to *everything*, and I may find books that are more relevant than others on my list currently and switch them, things like that. But they are on the books as “officially approved,” which is what matters.

The exam list has three parts: primary literature, secondary literature, and scholarship. For a lot of people, the primary list is the books in the genre or sub-field they most want to work in, and the secondary list is more of a survey. For example, you might have list one be “American postmodern encyclopedic novels,” and list two be “general American lit from 1860.”** I’ve arranged things a little differently, as I’m essentially “double majoring” in British and American literature, so the subordination of “primary” and “secondary” doesn’t really matter. The primary list is primary because Professor C. is an Americanist, not because it’s most important. So you see, within the general practice there is a lot of individualized variation, at least at my school.

My first list is major works of American literature 1700-1830. You might recognize names like Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, Washington Irving, Thomas Jefferson, and James Fenimore Cooper. Also, while 1700-1830 is a pretty typical time frame that scholars use (there were some big shifts in the 1830s after a lot of continuity), most American lit I courses in college go to 1860, so I’ve added some of the big hits to prepare me to teach–books like The Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick, and the poetry of Walt Whitman show up for that reason.

My second list is major works of British literature 1700-1830. Did I say 1830 so I could get Jane Austen on this list? I’ll never tell ūüėá. Since I’m focusing on novels in my research, I have a lot of novels on this list (and the other one, too, but there are far fewer American novels published in this time frame). Robinson Crusoe, Pamela, Tom Jones, Tristram Shandy; Maria Edgeworth, Fanny Burney, Anne Radcliffe, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley (there were a LOT of female authors in the second half of the 18th century). It also includes poetry and prose, from writers like Samuel Johnson and Alexander Pope.

My third list is secondary scholarship about reading and print culture. I’m looking at general scholarly takes on print culture, on books about reading specifically, and also books about the relationship between reading and education. For the curious, “print culture” is the study of printed things — books, pamphlets, broadsides, newspapers, etc.–and the way people interacted with them as objects.

I was actually supposed to begin reading in the spring, through the summer, and take my exams late this fall. But between the chaos of the world and getting married in March, I got to May and was staring burnout in the face, and so arranged to push things back and take the summer off. I’m so thankful that my department is willing to work with us to arrange things like that when we need them.

So! Tune in this weekend for some thoughts on the first books I’ve been reading.

  • *It’s actually something in the neighborhood of 130; this includes long books like Tom Jones (almost 900 pages), parts of nonfiction books, essays, average-sized books, collections of poetry, and single poems. So it’s a lot of things, but at least some of those things are short.

**This is a real example.

Advertisement

Classics Club Spin #22/I’m Back?

Hello, friends, It’s been a while. This semester has been a long and hard one for several reasons, but things are settling down now, school is out, and I’m feeling ready to start digging into some classics again.

Conveniently, the Classics Club is doing another spin! You know how it goes: I post a list of 20 books here, the Classics Club announces a number on Sunday, Dec 22, and then I have to read that book by the end of January!

This is super perfect timing, because I don’t really know what I want to read next. I’m just listing 20 books from my Classics Club list that sound interesting at the moment, and hopefully I’ll get a good one!

The list:

  1. Romola by George Eliot
  2. The Mabinogion
  3. The Aeneid Virgil
  4. Pamela by Samuel Richardson
  5. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  6. The Pioneers by James Fenimore Cooper
  7. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  8. Aurora Leigh Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  9. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Writings by Washington Irving
  10. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
  11. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
  12. The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
  13. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  14. Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees
  15. The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsinay
  16. Histories by Heroditus
  17. Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown
  18. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
  19. Revelations of Divine Love Julian of Norwich
  20. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

 

Tristram Shandy: Review

IMG_3367.jpegI’ve been feeling like my review for Tristram Shandy is going to have to go one of two ways: I share what I liked about the book, or I write a 7,000 word academic essay. Fortunately for you, I don’t have time for the latter. So this might be a bit more casual of a review than normal.

Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is a tricky book to review, anyway, because it doesn’t really have a plot. It was published as nine volumes over nine years, between 1758 and 1767, but this publication doesn’t have much to do with the meandering, digressive, and episodic form; plenty of books were published over multiple years, and they all had plots.

Okay, I admit, I’m still a little salty about the lack of plot. (Is salty still slang? Or have kids these days moved on?)

That’s my own fault, though, because I knew next to nothing going into the novel. In fact, I picked it up because last spring I worked on an early 19th-century diary written by a young American man who happened to love Tristram, and I was curious as to why he liked it so much.

Like my young diarist discovered more than two hundred years ago, it’s the novel’s very absurdity that makes it so charming. It invites us to laugh at the world, to see its comic aspects, to recognize that life is far too complex and random and strange to portray accurately in a traditional novel. And yet, it also refrains from descending into bitterness, instead remaining cheerful (but not saccharine) throughout. And once I realized that the plot was not simply forestalled but never arriving (and on purpose), I was able to enjoy Tristram much more. So don’t expect a plot. Just enjoy the journey.

The novel is not actually about Tristram, despite the very misleading title. While Tristram, as the vocal and active narrator, is kind of a character, we see very little of his life or opinions in the novel, and he almost never appears in the narrative. He isn’t even born until volume iv!

46201c899bc0e45596f544a6667444341514141.jpgInstead, the main  characters are Walter Shandy, Tristram’s father, Toby Shandy, Tristram’s uncle, and Trim, Toby’s butler/valet.  These three men are delightfully quirky characters, and are drawn with wonderful complexity. Walter has strange opinions about noses and names, Toby was invalided out of the army and now researches battles by building models in his garden, and Trim is a kind, loyal, soft-hearted former subordinate officer and valet and friend who also happens to know more about the world than surprisingly innocent Toby. For example, Toby (my favorite character), despite his near-obsession with military campaigns, cannot bear to kill even a fly.

I should note that while the characters are complex, they are not necessarily realisticTristram is a comic, even satiric novel, belonging to the same family tree as Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and, later, Alice in Wonderland. Don’t expect Dickens or Richardson.

So, the characters are delightful, and if you let the narrator take you on a journey, you will find yourself delighted. Just don’t look for a plot.

Despite the seeming nonsense of the book, even a little contemplation of it will reveal that it has been very deliberately written and that Sterne knew full well what he was doing, even if Tristram doesn’t. It is bristling with literary allusions, allusions to (and quotations from) Sterne’s sermons, and a sharp awareness that this is a novel. Indeed, a lot of the book’s absurdity comes from Sterne showing us the limits of the novel form, which, it must be remembered, was still just a few decades old in the English tradition. One can try, like Henry Fielding does in Tom Jones, to be as realistic as possible, but a novel is still a written thing; its plot and characters imaginary.

Hepburn7_tp.jpg

Tied to this awareness of the limitations of the novel is a parallel awareness of the novel as an object. Sterne constantly reminds us that we are reading a book. His book is filled with quotations and paraphrases and copies of parts of books (real and made up). And Sterne will often use creative textual methods to make a point. When somebody dies, early in the book, there are two black pages following, which serve as mourning. Later, Tristram rips out a chapter he has written, and there is a corresponding blank page in the book. The font changes in the chapter headings to make a point. I found all of this fascinating, and would like to dig more deeply into that aspect of the book (but not here).

So, while I struggled a bit at the beginning, simply because Tristram was a creature I was not expecting, I ended up really loving it. I’ve used “delight” several times in this review already, but I’ll use it one more time, because that’s what Tristram Shandy is: delightful. It ended up being a pleasure to read, and left me with some rich material to ponder in the days to come. What more could you want?

Video review, in which I explore some of these ideas in more detail, here: https://youtu.be/JnClOiiIM7Y

 

 

Oresteia: Review

51C7XYdMalL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgI’ve been meaning to read this trilogy of ancient Greek plays, by Aeschylus, for ages, and I was delighted when one of my classes this semester forced me to actually do it. This is one of the books on my Classics Club list; the first one I’ve completed! Click the link to see the whole list of classics I’ve committed to read in the next five years.

Aeschylus is the oldest example of Greek drama (and therefore western drama) that we have. His plays are quite different from contemporary ones, or even early modern ones, so I recommend finding an edition that has an introduction which discusses the ancient Greek theatrical tradition. Basically, these plays were written for a festival in honor of Dionysus.

The Oresteia is about the death of Agamemnon at his return from the Trojan War and the events that follow. Is it spoilery if I summarize the whole plot of a 2500 year old story based on an even older myth? Actually, I think this is one of those cases where knowing the story beforehand is helpful. If you don’t want to know anything, skip to below the line for my thoughts.

On his way to Troy, Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter to ensure safe passage and his wife, Clytemnestra, is understandably angry. While Agamemnon is gone for ten years, she starts an affair, and when Agamemnon returns, she murders him. Play 1, Agamemnon, focuses on Agamemnon and Clytemenestra’s, erm, marital problems, and ends with his murder.

6917129-M.jpgIn play 2, The Libation Bearers, Orestes, Agamemnon’s son, comes home from the foreign country where he’d been for a while, and meets his sister, Electra, at their father’s funeral and decides to avenge his father’s murder by killing his mother, even though this will bring the Furies, the ancient goddesses of justice, on his head for killing blood. Apollo has commanded him to do so, and promised protection. [side note, Orestes is where the name of the trilogy comes from]

In play 3, The Furies, Orestes flees to Athens and asks for a trial, defended by Apollo and arbitrated by Athena herself. Athena wins (of course) and the Furies become the Erinyes, the Kindly Ones, protectors of Athens.

On the surface, this play can seem very sparse. Each installment is short, about 40 pages of verse in my edition, and there’s a lot of talking and not a lot of action. Digging deeper, with the help of footnotes and good introductions, shows that there’s a lot of complex questions about justice, politics, and religion being discussed. The “eye-for-an-eye” revenge cycle represented by Clytemnestra and the Furies is the “old way,” which is remade into the new way of justice by fair trial.

9780199537815.jpegSomething else I found very interesting was the way Aeschylus used his chorus. If you’ve ever studied ancient Greek drama, you probably learned that the chorus is ¬†supposed to be some anomalous group like “the people” or “the elders,” and this is how Sophocles (Oedipus Rex¬†and¬†Antigone) uses them. But Aeschylus uses his chorus much more complexly. They are the “elders” in play 1, but in play 2 they become the Libation Bearers of the title, and in play 3 they become the Furies. This shift from old men to old women to goddesses is very interesting to follow, especially when you factor in that these plays were performed on the same day, with the same group of people (all men, probably). Essentially, the chorus moves from being that more traditional group of commentators to being a major group of characters by the last play. It is also interesting to see how much power, both good and bad, women are afforded in this trilogy. While Agamemnon and Orestes are the main characters, their lives are both intensely shaped and influenced by the women around them.

Like a lot of Greek drama, the¬†Oresteia has a lot to say about big topics that makes it still feel relevant today. It’s a pretty quick read for an ancient classic, and I definitely recommend it.

Recommended editions: Penguin Classics, Oxford World’s Classics, Hackett

Update 5/29: I now have a video review up, where I go more in-depth into the history and backstory of the trilogy. Check it out at https://youtu.be/RSoZJDU9MAU

Classic Re-Reads: Sense and Sensibility

Even though I’m a pretty fast reader, reading classics takes time, (especially when one decides to tackle¬†a beast like¬†Anna Karenina). So here begins an occasional series of classics I’ve not only read and enjoyed, but re-read. These works are comfort novels for me; stories I revisit as comfort food.

When I decided to begin this series, the first novel that sprang to mind was Jane Austen’s¬†Sense and Sensibility. Less famous than¬†Pride and Prejudice, I think I prefer it. (Not that I don’t love P&P!). Oddly, I only have one copy of this, unless you count the kindle version. I guess I spent many years borrowing from one library or another.

IMG_0059.jpgSense and Sensibility¬†was Austen’s first published novel. It follows the Dashwood sisters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret. At the beginning of the story, their father dies, and their half brother John inherits everything. Thanks to his greedy, selfish, social-climbing wife Fanny, the Dashwood women, which include their mother Mrs. Dashwood, find themselves unwelcome in their own home. John is convinced by his wife, in a scene that is equal parts hilarious and depressing, that his deathbed promise to his father to provide for his sisters and stepmother really just amounts to giving them a Christmas present now and again. So the women now face a future of relative poverty.

They move to a cottage owned by Mrs. Dashwood’s distant relative Sir John, although not before Fanny’s brother, Edward Ferrars, comes to stay at their old home and makes an impression on steady, responsible Elinor. At their new home, Marianne makes an impression on Colonel Brandon, a steady, responsible, honorable man she sees as old and boring. She prefers Willoughby, the dashing nephew and heir of a nearby estate owner.

Despite being romantic (obviously, it’s Jane Austen), the novel focuses on the relationship between the sisters. Elinor is the POV character; our impressions and observations are filtered through her. Both she and Marianne experience heartache and – almost – tragedy, and grow up a lot over the year or so the novel follows, learning not only to understand themselves better, but also to understand each other. Despite challenges, they grow closer and gain a deeper and more relationship as sisters. Of course, they get a happy ending with the guys, too. It¬†IS¬†Austen, after all.

The Sense and Sensibility of the title are, of course, Elinor and Marianne, and Austen examines the advantages and disadvantages of both attitudes. Marianne, dramatic and romantic to the extreme, thinks that nothing could be better than dying tragically of a broken heart. Her actions are modeled on the (then) new Romanticism, valuing emotion and feeling about rationality, and she eventually must learn to temper her wild emotion. But Elinor doesn’t escape growth either. She is quiet, steady, rational and hides her emotions as much as her sister shares them. But this nearly causes her to miss out on love. Thus Elinor must learn to be more demonstrative, to let others in, to share her feelings.

215px-Sense_and_sensibility

This novel also holds a special place in my heart because it’s the first¬†real introduction I had to Austen’s work, through the 1996 film starring Emma Thompson as Elinor. Although personally I like the early 2000s BBC adaptation for most of the characters (Alan Rickman will always be Colonel Brandon to me), it is still a beautifully and carefully made adaptation, and I’ll always be grateful for the introduction to Austen that it provided.

But ultimately, despite the great plot and the history, Sense and Sensibility¬†is a comfort re-read for me because of all of Austen’s heroines, it is Elinor with whom I most identify. She has helped me understand myself better. As a heroine, she is not as witty as Lizzy or as vibrant as Emma, and the heroes of this book, too, are quiet, even shy. But it’s nice to read about people that aren’t extroverts, or smoldering, fabulously rich gentlemen (I’m looking at¬†you, Darcy). I like that Elinor is strong without being pushy or aggressive; she shows introvert me a quiet strength I feel like I can aspire to.

 


Film poster from wikipedia page; other image is mine.

Classics Revisited: Romeo and Juliet

One of my goals this year is to revisit a few books that I developed strong feelings towards in high school and give them a second chance. Last fall, after avoiding¬†Huckleberry Finn like the plague for years, I had to read it, and actually enjoyed it. This made me wonder how many other once-despised classics I might actually like.¬†I’m beginning with that one Shakespeare play I have avoided teaching like the plague:

covers-romeo-and-juliet.jpg

Book: Shakespeare’s¬†Romeo and Juliet¬†
Edition: Pelican Classics
Bought: Used
Verdict: Still not my favorite, though for more complex reasons.

Shakespeare’s verse is always great, even in his early plays like¬†R&J. Some of the speeches, especially Juliet’s, are stunning. The meeting between Romeo and Juliet in 1.5 is beautiful. ¬†And I actually liked Juliet, as a character. She seems like a neat young woman, strong and passionate, if a little unguided. Here’s her reaction to her Nurse’s monumentally bad advice (see below):

Ancient damnation, O most wicked fiend!
Is it more sin to wish me thus forsworn
Or to dispraise my lord with that same tongue
Which she hath praised him with above compare
So many thousand times? Go, counselor.
Thou and my bosom henceforth shall be twain. (3.5.248-253)
It reminds me of some of Lady Macbeth’s speeches in Act 1 of¬†Macbeth.

Speaking of guidance, the four main adults in this play, Lord and Lady Capulet, the Nurse and Friar Lawrence, are pretty awful. Lord Capulet demands that Juliet marries Paris in three days, or he will disown her. It is apropos of nothing, and he comes across as a major jerk. Lady Capulet seems rather ignorant regarding what goes on in the mind of her daughter.

The Nurse and Friar Lawrence aren’t much better. They go along with the infatuation of two teenagers, for one. Also, the Nurse, on hearing Juliet is supposed to marry Paris, responds by pointing out that Paris is better looking than Romeo and since Romeo is banished, why not just marry Paris? It was a shame; I liked her until that point.

Also poison. Seriously? How about when Juliet needs to get out of town you just send her out of town, Friar Lawrence? At least he ought to have had a slightly better backup plan romeoj.jpgfor the undelivered note. He knew Romeo was quick to jump to self-harm as a solution.

And Romeo is a whiny, over-dramatic, impulsive young man. And there are far too many sex jokes.

BOTH Romeo AND Juliet threaten to kill themselves at one point in the play. It makes the ending feel a lot less romantic and a lot more tragic.

On further reflection, I think this is actually the problem I have with the play: ¬†it is treated like a dramatic romance. It’s not.

It’s a tragedy, one every bit as tragic as¬†King Lear.¬†By the end of the play there are no more young people left (except Rosaline and Benvolio. I hope they got married and got out of Verona). The play seems like it shows the harm unexamined prejudice and poor 220px-Romeoandjuliet1597.jpgruling (I’m looking at you, Prince) can do to a community. At the end, the feud between the Montagues and Capulets is healed, but what future do either of the families have? None. Tybalt, Mercutio, Paris, Romeo and Juliet are all dead.

 

I think I would appreciate it if we stopped being all misty-eyed about¬†Romeo and Juliet. There is nothing admirable about most of these characters, or their actions. If we are going to keep teaching it to teenagers, let’s use it to show them what¬†not¬†to do; to brainstorm ways Romeo and Juliet could have solved their problems without killing themselves. There is already a problem with teenage suicide – let’s not add any fuel to the fire.


Update 2/19: I just revisited this because reasons, and although I do stand by my assessment, past me could have worded it a little better. Live and learn.

I wanted to point out two additional things I’ve since learned, that further complicate the “romantic love story” reading. First, the Nurse is a stock character who is meant to be not just funny but highly problematic – a dispenser of awful advice, though good intentioned.

And second, Romeo is the classic Petrarchan lover, the Elizabethan lover-ideal, to a fault. This makes me suspicious of his sincerity. Shakespeare played with this ideal throughout his career (see also Berowne in¬†Love’s Labors Lost and Claudio in¬†Much Ado about Nothing). One significant aspect of the Petrarchan lover is a devotion to an unattainable lady (see: everything Romeo says about Rosaline). Would Romeo and Juliet have had a happy marriage? I’m unsure.

Quotation from: http://www.folgerdigitaltexts.org/?chapter=5&play=Rom&loc=p7
Images:
enotes.com
anathemacinema.com
Wikipedia

Mildly Epic List of Classics

old-books.png.jpeg

My last list¬†was a bit of a beginner’s list; books to help you dip your toe in the ocean of classics. This week, I want to write (much) longer list of mostly novels and plays, with some short stories, long poems and essays, organized by time period. Lyric poetry will get its own list (someday).

 

 

Notes about the list:

  • Instead of literary period I’m just going to go in half-centuries.
  • These are all books I’ve read (and liked) or want to read, and isn’t meant to be exhaustive (that would be a¬†really¬†long list). If I miss your favorite book or author, put it in the comments!
  • A * denotes a book that some might find challenging, due to style usually.
  • I’ve just listed one book by each author, usually my favorite one, or the best known.
  • I’ve tried to include authors that get overlooked, and avoid super-well-known books that are recentish and still commonly read (like¬†1984¬†or¬†To Kill a Mockingbird)
  • Within the time range I haven’t gone in any particular order.

1900-1950s

  • Mrs. Dalloway¬†Virginia Woolf
  • Tender is the Night¬†F Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Sun Also Rises¬†Earnest Hemingway
  • The Quiet American¬†Graham Greene
  • Wise Blood¬†Flannery O’Connor
  • Howard’s End¬†D. H. Lawrence
  • The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck
  • Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man¬†James Joyce*
  • Father Brown Stories G.K. Chesterton
  • Till We Have Faces¬†C.S. Lewis

1850s – 1900

  • Our Mutual Friend¬†Charles Dickens
  • North and South¬†Elizabeth Gaskell
  • The Moonstone¬†Wilkie Collins
  • The Bostonians¬†Henry James
  • My Antonia¬†Willa Cather
  • The Scarlet Letter¬†Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • The Brothers Karamazov¬†Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Anna Karenina¬†Leo Tolstoy
  • Huckleberry Finn¬†Mark Twain
  • Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll
  • Lilith¬†George MacDonald
  • Walden Henry David Thoreau35_1hb.jpg

1800s-1850s

  • Sense and Sensibility¬†Jane Austen
  • Frankenstein¬†Mary Shelley
  • Jane Eyre¬†Charlotte Bronte
  • Silas Marner¬†George Eliot
  • Ivanhoe¬†Sir Walter Scott
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Writings Washington Irving
  • Any collection of short stories by Edgar Allen Poe
  • The Scarlet Letter¬†Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Moby Dick¬†Herman Melville* (or, for a taste, try a collection of his short stories)
  • Faust I¬†Goethe

1700s

  • Robinson Crusoe¬†Daniel Defoe
  • Gulliver’s Travels¬†Jonathan Swift
  • Pamela¬†Samuel Richardson
  • Life of Johnson James Boswell
  • Essays by¬†Thomas Paine
  • Rape of the Lock¬†Alexander Pope

1600s

  • Paradise Lost¬†John Milton
  • Tartuffe¬†Moliere
  • Revenger’s Tragedy¬†Thomas Middleton
  • Pilgrim’s Progress¬†John Bunyan
  • Don Quixote¬†Miguel de Cervantes
  • The Diary of Samuel Pepys
  • Of Plymouth Plantation¬†William Bradford

1500s

  • Macbeth¬†William Shakespeare
  • Doctor Faustus¬†Christopher Marlowe
  • Utopia¬†Thomas More

1400s

  • The Morte d’ Arthur¬†Thomas Malory
  • Decameron¬†Boccaccio

1300s and earlier

  • The Canterbury Tales¬†Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • Beowulf¬†
  • The Divine Comedy¬†Dante Alighieri

Myths and Folktales (oral traditions, collected at various times) images.jpeg

  • Brothers Grimm
  • Mabinogean¬†(Welsh)
  • Icelandic Sagas
  • Perrault’sFairy Tales
  • Andrew Lang’s colored Fairy Books (i.e.¬†The Blue Fairy Book, The Green Fairy Book)

 

____________

This post was published accidentally incomplete; I’ve deleted the original, updated it, and am re-publishing it now.
Image sources:
  1. http://www.businessinsider.com/25-america-classic-books-to-read-2014-1
  2. http://bookriot.com/2014/01/01/illustrated-guide-buying-classics/
  3. http://www.patriotinstitute.org/great-books-classic-literature-101/