Reading Room Archives

Homer’s Iliad and the Causes of the Trojan War, Part. I

Many first-time readers of Homer’s Iliad are aghast at the fact that the “most famous” parts of the story do not even happen in the narrative of the Iliad. Achilleus never has his epic duel with Memnon, son of the Dawn. Achilleus is not struck down by Paris, the least worthy of the Trojans. The Trojan Horse is never devised nor seen. The sacking of Troy is left for a later and now lost epic. Also the first nine years of the war and even its initial causes were left as subjects to other, later, and minor epics. So, what is the background to Homer’s Iliad?

Immanuel Kant and the “Crisis of the Enlightenment”

I had to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith. —Immanuel Kant

Romantic Women Writers

Biography can be an excellent introduction to writers who have fallen into obscurity, and whose work is difficult to obtain or too slight to be a collected body of work. Kudos to Lucasta Miller and Frances Wilson for reconstructing the lives and careers of two women who deserve a place within the landscape of the Romantics.

Who Will Watch the Watchmen?

Will democracy survive? Recent years have not always brought encouragement. In Lincoln’s memorable phrase the possibility of “government of the people, by the people, for the people” was not a guarantee but a “proposition” yet to be determined. Lincoln acknowledged that such a political arrangement  might yet “perish from the earth. 

Oliver Wardrop and His “The Kingdom of Georgia” (1888)

British diplomat, translator and well-known Georgianist, Sir Oliver Wardrop (1864-1948) is among those foreigners who were well acquainted not only with the political and socio-economic situation in Georgian, but also with its history and culture. In 1919, he was appointed as the first British Chief Commissioner in Transcaucasia. He was a founder of Kartvelology (Georgian studies) at Oxford University. He sympathized with the Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918-1921) and tried in every way to help it join the League of Nations. 

The Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes “Puts the Century on Edge”

René Descartes had written: “I think, therefore I am.” Thomas Hobbes responded: “I think, therefore matter thinks.”

Jane Austen's Smackdown of the Cult of Sensibility

In Jane Austen's "Love and Freindship [sic]," a young man declares that he will not marry the lady his father has chosen: "No never exclaimed I. Lady Dorothea is lovely and Engaging; I prefer no woman to her; but know Sir, that I scorn to marry her in compliance with your Wishes. No! Never shall it be said that I obliged my Father.""Where, Edward in the name of Wonder," replies his father, "did you pick up this unmeaning Gibberish? You have been studying Novels I suspect."

Kalidasa and The Good Life

The Sanskrit poet Kalidasa lived and wrote in northern India during the Gupta dynasty (319-467 C.E.). Generally regarded as India’s greatest author, sometimes called the “Indian Shakespeare,” his work is known not only for its mastery of the Sanskrit language and the forms of classical Indian poetry and theater, but also for his penetrating and sensitive portrayals of his characters, and his beautiful and moving descriptions of nature. 

Nefarious Letters: the Rhetoric of the Diabolic in “Nefarious”

The comparison of the new movie “Nefarious” and the book it is based on, The Nefarious Plot, to C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters is hardly original. It is, however, largely superficial, by which I mean that most reviews do not really explain why this comparison is so obvious, beyond the majority of screentime in both being taken up by a demon indulging in villainous monologues.

Ancient Perspectives on the Value of Poetry

As one begins to read Homer’s Iliad, one might naturally wonder at who the thea, or goddess, from the first line of the poem really is. μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω ἈχιλῆοςRage, goddess, sing of the son of Peleus, Achilleus (Il.1.1)

The Flame and Cycle of Civilization in Robert E. Howard’s Weird Fiction

“His knowledge was a reeking blasphemy which would never let rest…He had looked on ultimate foulness, and his knowledge was a taint because of which he could never stand clean before men again or touch the flesh of any living thing without a shudder. If man, molded of divinity, could sink to such verminous obscenities, who could contemplate his eventual destiny unshaken?” (Howard, The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard, 288)

Loci Amoeni: Pleasant Places and the Golden Ages in Ancient Poetry: Part Two

In the second part of the study of loci amoeni, the pleasant places of the ancient world, we will continue to examine Homer’s Odyssey, now focusing on the location of one of its semi-divine antagonists. We will then conclude our study by returning to a golden age alongside Ovid in his Metamorphoses

Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland was born in New Jersey. Early in his life his family moved to New York. The death of his father prevented him from going to college after completing his primary education.

OLL's August Birthday: Francis Hutcheson (August 8, 1694- August 8, 1746)

August’s OLL Birthday Essay is in honor of Francis Hutcheson. Considered by some to be the Father of the Scottish Enlightenment, he influenced such famous figures as David Hume, Thomas Reid, and Adam Smith. His work was tremendously influential in Great Britain, Ireland, the American Colonies, and on the continent of Europe. 

Marlowe’s Machiavels and Malta’s Broken Markets

It is hard to think of a theorist more straw manned and vilified than Niccolò Machiavelli, though Adam Smith and Karl Marx might give him a run for his money. Machiavelli’s writings, published in 1532 Italy, quickly became the stuff of legend rather than legitimate political theory, spawning the great “stage machiavel,” in Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta.

Passion and Virtue in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martians

Of the most famous and influential of the early pulp writers, Edgar Rice Burroughs is now, sadly, probably the least known, despite his vast influence on major science-fiction pop culture figures such as George Lucas and Ray Bradbury. It is his ancient dusty Mars, covered in the ruins of dying alien civilizations whose remnants compete for limited resources, which directly inspired Bradbury’s own phenomenal Martian Chronicles, and it is his sword-clad wanderers, kidnapped princesses, and telepathic aliens which brought us the Star Wars franchise. 

Loci Amoeni: Pleasant Places and the Golden Ages in Ancient Poetry: Part One

A common motif throughout ancient poetry from the near-East to the West is that of the tranquil and sacred garden. In particular, gardens play a preeminent role in describing paradise for near-Eastern and Western cultures. In fact, so prevalent are gardens across ancient literature that we even have a term from Latin for a “pleasant place” or locus amoenus.

Culture Wars, Obscenity, and Censorship: Benjamin Tucker Today

In recent years, conservative lawmakers across the country have increasingly followed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in censoring or attempting to restrict race- or gender-related content in schools and public libraries.What would Benjamin Tucker say?

The Eighteenth Century’s Boundless Optimism Collides with David Hume

“Epicurus’s old questions are still unanswered: Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?” —David Hume

Virtue and Wealth in Pride and Prejudice

Although it is now an iconic title and story, Pride and Prejudice was originally supposed to be entitled “First Impressions”. Despite the name being scrapped, its implications are ever present throughout the novel. It is through Elizabeth’s initial impressions of the two grand estates Rosings Park and Pemberley that Austen is able to create a conversation about the relationship between virtue and wealth. 

Why Shakespeare Should Be Watched

Reading Shakespeare is hard. The syntax is unusual and archaic. The vocabulary is vast and unfamiliar. The characters and plots are complicated and muddy. All in all, Shakespeare is difficult to understand, much less enjoy. However, the bard is too important, his stories too significant to abandon. So, instead of struggling over difficult soliloquies all on your own or avoiding the works all together, go watch Shakespeare. 

Miltonheimer Two, The Sequel

In Paradise Lost, Raphael makes an account to Adam about the war between the good angels and the rebel angels that took place in Heaven prior to his and Eve’s creation. The archangel tells Adam that Satan, frustrated by his inability to defeat the good angels, begins working on a chemical concoction that might overturn the balance of heavenly power and swing the celestial war in his favor. What Satan ends up inventing, according to Raphael, is gunpowder. 

John Stuart Mill on Genius and AI Tools

In a short period of time, new, consumer-facing, generative AI tools have exploded in capabilities and applications. Anyone with an internet connection and some time to kill can now use these tools to produce realistic images, short summaries of online content, and even computer code with very little background knowledge. 

David Hume: Skepticism, Pessimism, Enlightenment

“The identity that we ascribe to things is only a fictitious one, established by the mind, not a peculiar nature belonging to what we’re talking about.”—David Hume