Tuesday, July 31, 2007

British Lit: Only the Beginning

The one thing I like about taking a class in the summer is, by the time you begin to get burned out, the class is over. I began this British Literature class feeling a little intimidated, wondering if there would be anything that would command my attention without leaving me feeling, well, a little inadequate. I mean, come on, let's face it, the thought of trying to decipher Chaucer's Middle English or the courtly love poetry of Thomas Wyatt can seem as daunting and unattainable as Sir Phillip Sidney's Stella is for Astrophil. But, fortunately I had a really cool professor who allowed for many silly misinterpretations in an effort to get us to relax about the whole Brit-Lit thing. The result for me is a hard-earned A in the class, and a healthy appreciation for our British, literary predecessors. Of all the works we read, the ones I enjoyed the most were Twelfth Night or What You Will by William Shakespeare, Paradise Lost by John Milton and a really surprising story that was saved for last. It's called Oroonoko or The Royal Slave. It was published in 1688 by Aphra Behn; a woman. She tells the story of Oroonoko, an African Prince, his love for the beautiful, and strong, black woman, Imoinda, and how they were kidnapped and sold into slavery in Surinam. It was surprising to read this story among the usual line-up of dead, white men normally resurrected for such a class. Behn is a genre bender, writing at once a memoir, a biography and travel narrative, which is credited for being possibly the first novel. It is beautifully written, engaging, and I imagine, it had roughly the same effect on British women of the time as did Harriette Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin just before the Civil War. Try it on for size. It's not very long, and hey look...here's a free copy! For me, this is only the beginning; for I intend to take British Lit after 1800 in the fall. And, you know what that means...Virginia Woolf, baby, yeah!

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home