Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fall Schedule 2011

Fall is finally here! Our summer reading session has come to a close and we are ready to tackle some new books for the next study period. On tap are several wonderful choices selected the very end of the period, 1400-1599.

Once again, we are going to allow readers to choose which books they would like to read over the next few months.

William Shakespeare
Option 1:  William Shakespeare's Plays and Sonnets

Any good reading program must contain it's fair share of Shakespeare, and our group is not to be left out. Therefore, this fall, readers who are not familiar with the plays of Shakespeare may want to read one or more of the following choices:

All other plays can be accessed via's Oxford Shakespeare webpages.

In addition to the above plays, readers may want to also read through the Sonnets, which can be found here as well.

John Donne
Option 2: John Donne, Poems and Sermons

Readers may wish to read from a selection of John Donne's poems as well as his most famous sermons. A nice selection of poems can be accessed via Luminarium's website.

Izzak Walton's brief biography of John Donne is a nice compliment to reading the poems and sermons. You can find it here:

Thomas Hobbes
Option 3: Thomas Hobbes "The Leviathan"

For readers interested in reading Hobbes, consider "The Leviathan" as an alternative to our other selections. You can find a very nice HTML formatted version via Oregon State's website.

Discussion questions as well as some general background information and study notes can be accessed via Sparknotes. General biographical information can be found via Wikipedia or another online encyclopedia.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Summer Courses, 2011

Well, summer has finally arrived here in Phoenix, and we are experiencing daily high temperatures in the upper 90's to low 100's (F and not C). It is a good time to stay indoors and read, so here is the summer schedule.

I have decided to offer this summer as an elective, and allow readers several books to read instead of just one. Perhaps this will generate more interest in the courses offered.
  • Option 1: Miguel de Cervantes, "Don Quixote"
  • Option 2: Edmund Spenser's, "The Faerie Queene"
  • Option 3: Christopher Marlowe's, "Doctor Faustus"
All three book choices span our period, 1400-1599, and are well-known novels.

Readers are free to choose to read one of the above books or they can choose to read them all. I will provide links and textual information for easy reading online as well as for finding hard copies at libraries or used book sources. Questions and other background information will be available here and in the Yahoo Group files section.

Updated Fall 2011 Schedule

For now, the following schedule seems doable. Fall readings will begin in September and run through December 2011.
  • William Shakespeare
  • John Donne
Updated Spring 2012 Schedule

For Spring 2011, the following selections will be scheduled:
  • Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels"
  • Alexander Pope's "Rape of the Lock"
  • William Wordsworth
More details will follow, so stay tuned.

Option 1: Miguel Cervante's "Don Quixote"

For readers who would like to attempt this book, my suggestion is to read this over the entire summer. It is a long book, and will require two months of consistent daily (or weekly reading) to finish it.

Online HTML Text can be found here:
Audio Book at Librivox:
Book notes:
Study questions:

Option 2: Edmund Spenser's "Faerie Queene"

For readers who want to read this book in Middle English, the following links are available.

Online version:
PDF Format:
Audio at Librivox:
Book notes:
Canto by Canto reading guide:

Option 3: Christopher Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus"

Online Text:
Audio Book at Librivox:
Book Notes:
Study Questions:

If you would like to join us this summer and read some great classical books, please feel free to visit our Yahoo Group here:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

2011 Reading Schedule

We are still reading through the Renaissance, focusing now on the latter portion of the 16th century.  Continuing on through the 16th and into the 17-18th centuries, we will focus on the following literature, philosophy, religion, and poetry:
  • Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes (1547-1616)
  • The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)
  • Essays by Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
  • Doctor Faustus by Christoper Marlowe (1564-1593)
  • William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
  • Sermons by John Donne (1572-1631)
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton (1608-1674)
  • The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan (1628-1688)
  • Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
  • Essays by Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
Book links, backgound information, study notes, and other important information will be posted as soon as we finish up Sir Thomas More's, Utopia.

Utopia by Sir Thomas More

Utopia (in full: Libellus vere aureus, nec minus salutaris quam festivus, de optimo rei publicae statu deque nova insula Utopia) is a work of fiction by Thomas More published in 1516. English translations of the title include A Truly Golden Little Book, No Less Beneficial Than Entertaining, of the Best State of a Republic, and of the New Island Utopia (literal) and A Fruitful and Pleasant Work of the Best State of a Public Weal, and of the New Isle Called Utopia (traditional).[1] (See "title" below.) The book, written in Latin, is a frame narrative primarily depicting a fictional island society and its religious, social and political customs.

Background on Sir Thomas More
Sir Thomas More (pronounced /ˈmɔr/; February 7, 1478[1] – July 6, 1535), also known as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist. He was an important counsellor to Henry VIII of England and for three years toward the end of his life he was Lord Chancellor. He is also recognised as a saint within the Catholic Church and in the Anglican Communion.[2] He was an opponent of the Protestant Reformation and of Martin Luther and William Tyndale.

More coined the word "utopia" - a name he gave to the ideal, imaginary island nation whose political system he described in Utopia, published in 1516. He opposed the king's separation from the papal church and denied that the king was the Supreme Head of the Church of England, a status the king had been given by a compliant parliament through the Act of Supremacy of 1534. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1534 for his refusal to take the oath required by the First Succession Act, because the act disparaged the power of the Pope and Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. In 1535 he was tried and executed for treason by beheading. More was beatified by the Catholic Church in 1886 and canonised, with John Fisher, in 1935. In 1980, he was added to the Church of England's calendar of saints.

Articles from Luminarium

Links to Online Texts

Utopia at Oregon State

Utopia at Online Literature

Utopia at Project Gutenberg

Study Notes and Guides for Utopia

Sparknotes for Utopia

Study Guide with Detailed Information

Schedule of Readings

This is a fairly short book, and could be read in a few weeks (depending on your own schedule). I would suggest reading it at your leisure and taking the time to think about what Sir Thomas More might be suggesting in this story. You might want to spend a little time and review some British History so that you can understand better why this book is so important. Thomas More lived during the reign of Henry the VIII. It was his stand against Henry's wish to divorce that eventually led to More's execution (a must see -- watch Paul Scofield's dramatization of More in the movie, "A Man for All Seasons").