Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Modern Age Podcast Transcription


Hi my name is Beth Ritter-Guth. I teach English full time at at Lehigh Carbon Community College and this is a podcast on the new world writers.

We are going to cheat, we are going to start with Oscar Wilde who was actually a Victorian playwright but we are going to start with him because I think his ideas are revolutionary and I want to start out with two quotations that are attributed to him. The first one comes from "Lady Windermere's Fan" and in there it says
"I prefer women with a past, for they are so damned amusing to talk to." I just think that is great.

The second quotation that I have here that I like, that is really telling about his personality, is from "The Soul of a Man Under Socialism" and the quotation is
"The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing." And where is not that statement is true today as well?

Oscar Wilde, of course, is an extremely famous poet. He was writing at the head of the Victorian era, he wrote about the human condition, he wrote a lot of children's stories as well. You are going to be reading one in the "Happy Prince". He only wrote one novel in his lifetime, "Dorian Gray," and it was very controversial. It was considered very immoral by the Victorians because it had a homo-erotic theme. So here is this guy at the cutting edge you kind of see this romantic's heart coming back again.

He is most famous for his play you probably heard of or did at your high school called "The Importance of Being Ernest."

We go from him to talking about Rudyard Kipling. I have to say that I do not like anything that Kipling has written. I shouldn't say that, some of the stuff is alright to read. Personally I think the guy is a racist. He wrote "The White Mans Burden", and it is just completely racist to me. Some say that he redeems himself in the "Recessional." I do not know, I think he is a racist. He is there because he is part of the genre and I am supposed to teach him.

He is actually the first Englishman to receive the Nobel Prize in literature. And you probably know him for his most famous work called "The Jungle Book" which of course has been made famous - is not that ironic?

The next one we go on to is Joseph Conrad, he was actually born Polish but he is often considered English. His family was exiled to Russia because of his fathers political views. But his parents died of tuberculosis and he joined the navy, and he wrote "The Heart of Darkness", which is what he is most famous for - you probably read that in high school - which has a lot of elements of Dante's "Inferno" in it which of course is what makes it interesting to me because I am a huge Dante fan.

I will go from him to William Butler Yeats who was an Irish poet. We are going to talk about a few Irish poets here and Irish writers. He too won the Nobel Prize and he was very interested in his national heritage and so he is a champion by the Irish culture and he wrote of a Celtic festival in Bethlehem, and a lot of people talk about William Butler Yeats and he is a fascinating guy.

George Bernard Shaw who referred to himself as Bernard Shaw, who is also Irish. His mother left him and his father when he was - I think - a teenager, probably a late teenager, so a lot of his plays focus on the problematic parent-child relationship. He too won the Nobel Prize.

Then I want to talk about H. G. Wells. You probably know him as the author of "The War of the Worlds". He kind of handles life with a sort of pessimistic view of the nature of man and mans options. "The War of the Worlds" was an exciting spoof because people thought it was real and thought there was an alien invasion. They play it usually around Halloween time.

We move on from him to James Joyce, another Irish writer, who used an experimental form of language in "Ulysses" and "Finnegans Wake," which I am going to talk about a little bit in a second. He created his own language. He is famous for a few different works "Dubliners," "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," and he is quite famous and very, very popular. But there is two sides to that popularity. Some people really, really like him and think he is brilliant for creating this language, and other people, and I actually belong to this camp, think that "Ulysses" is just completely difficult to understand.

I have read it twice. Once as an undergrad and once as a graduate student, and I was very careful both times and honest to Pete, I do not understand it, I do not know, I think that language should be assessable to the reading public, but certainly his creativity should be noted.

D. H. Lawrence is the next one. He is a good interesting guy. He wrote "Lady Chatterley's Lover" that he is most famous for which has been banned, actually I think it is still banned in some places. It is about a wealthy woman who is having this huge affair with one of the guys who works for her husband's estate, you know, all that immorality going on it is a great story.

I follow it up with T. S. Eliot, I actually love T. S. Eliot. "The Waste Land" is just a brilliant, brilliant piece of work. I should love him because I was raised in the Anglican Church and so a lot of the Anglican imagery, a lot of the religious imagery, I am very familiar with because I was raised in the Anglican Church.

He was good friends with Bertrand Russell, a philosopher, you may have heard of him in philosophy class, until Russell had an affair with T. S. Eliot's wife, so that kind of ended that. But he is just a brilliant, brilliant guy, very, very well versed, very knowledgeable. He actually studied at Harvard in what became the golden age at Harvard, but he is still considered British. He is still lumped in with the British writers.

Graham Greene comes next. He was a headmaster. Since he was kind of shy as a kid I will lecture a lot about treachery and betrayal. He is actually - this is fabulous like stuff I did not know - this is something I learned doing some research about him, he was actually sued by 20th Century Fox for criticizing Shirley Temple. [laughs] I just think that is brilliant.

He was severely depressed and he had many, many extramarital affair kind of a wild kind of guy and he is the last writer that we study, he died in 1991. So you can see that we are kind of coming up to the modern age and the novels that you have in this period to read are actually in the next section, are some current stuff that is being written now.

Those are my notes.

Transcription by CastingWords


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