Picking a Book for the Group Project

At the end of class today, I gave you the difficult task of picking a single book from before 1923 on which to focus your group project. This will be a challenge for your group, that is likely to involve negotiation, productive disagreement, and managing of each group member’s tastes and preferences.

If you’re at a loss, you might flip through the Tables of Contents of the Norton Anthology of English Literature or the Norton Anthology of American Literature, which might help you think of more possibilities. You are welcome to work on novels, plays, poems, or non-fiction texts–but I’d like you to start your investigations with a specific edition of that book. If, for example, your group wanted to work on one of Shakespeare’s plays, think about the edition of that play you wanted to begin your explorations with.  If you’re really into an Emily Dickinson poem, you might figure out when/how that poem was first published.

I am sincere in my desire for you to choose any book that your group shares an interest in. Keep in mind that various members of the group are likely to be happy with different levels of difficulty, subject matter, etc.

If asked to name a bunch of books I’m interested in from before 1923 (and with dates quickly checked using Wikipedia), I’d say:

    • William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads (1798)
    • Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock (1712)
    • Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodgson, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There
    • Emily Dickinson, Poems (1890)
    • Robert Browning, Dramatic Lyrics (1842)
    • Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813) (and lots of others)
    • Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam A.H.H. (1849)
    • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
    • Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons (1914) or Three Lives (1909)
    • J.M. Barrie, Peter and Wendy (play 1904, novel 1911)
    • Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (first edition, 1855)
    • Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
    • Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
    • Harriett Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)
    • Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843) (and lots of others)
    • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet (1887) (and lots of other Sherlock Holmes stories, most of which, but not all of which, are pre-1923)
    • Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850)
    • Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)
    • Edward Lear, A Book of Nonsense (1846)
    • Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)
    • H.G. Wells, The Time Machine (1895)
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic’s Word-Book (later, The Devil’s Dictionary) (1906)
    • G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)
    • Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899)
    • Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book (1894)
    • Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology (1915)
    • T.S. Eliot, Prufrock and Other Observations (1917)
    • Henry James, Turn of the Screw (1898)
    • Charles Chestnutt, The Conjure Woman (1899)
    • James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912)
    • W.E.B. Dubois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
    • Louisa May Alcott, Little Women (1868)
    • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Song of Hiawatha (1855)
    • Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (1906)
    • Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854)
    • Harriett Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)
    • Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850)
    • Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre (1847)
    • Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1789)
    • Herman Melville, Moby Dick (1851) or Benito Cereno (1855)

But this could go on and on. We read a couple stories about vast bodies of information, space, and time today. “Literature before 1923” also represents a vastness, and I know that it will be a challenge to settle on one work as a group.  But hopefully these lists and the Norton Tables of Contents help you get started.

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