Milton’s Shakespearean Marginalia

Marginalia is hallowed ground for many readers, and over at the Guardian, Alison Flood writes about a case that brings two great Western writers together. In a discovered copy of Shakespeare’s first folio, researchers found a hand-written annotation by none other than Paradise Lost author John Milton. “The astonishing find, which academics say could be one of the most important literary discoveries of modern times, was made by Cambridge University fellow Jason Scott-Warren when he was reading an article about the anonymous annotator by Pennsylvania State University English professor Claire Bourne. Bourne’s study of this copy, which has been housed in the Free Library of Philadelphia since 1944, dated the annotator to the mid-17th century, finding them alive to ‘the sense, accuracy, and interpretative possibility of the dialogue.'”

Image Credit: First Folio in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA.

Reading with Augmented Reality

Books can open up new worlds to readers, but according to biochemist Michael D. Shaw, we’re missing out when it comes to reading about the grandeur of space. But thanks to advances being made with augmented reality, which provides immersive ways to learn about space, readers can access a much more enhanced experience. “A book that augments reality and immerses readers in a story by physically engaging the senses is a new way to educate and entertain readers,” Shaw writes. “For children who spend more time looking at screens than books, and for readers who sometimes find it hard to maintain their attention with a traditional book, augmented reality (AR) is a way to make books more interactive and accessible.”

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

Jacqueline Woodson on the Joys of Reading Slowly

We’ve all been guilty of speed reading an article or skimming through headlines, and author Jacqueline Woodson is calling for us to slow down our reading. In a TED talk dedicated to taking the time to appreciate stories, she extols the virtues of slow reading. “Remember that story, regardless of the format, has always taken us to places we never thought we’d go, introduced us to people we never thought we’d meet and shown us worlds that we might have missed,” she says. “So as technology keeps moving faster and faster, I am good with something slower. My finger beneath the words has led me to a life of writing books for people of all ages, books meant to be read slowly, to be savored.”

Image credit: Woodson at the 2018 U.S. National Book Festival, Fuzheado

Emily Dickinson, Harvard-Bound

Madeleine Olneck’s new film, Wild Nights with Emily, explores Emily Dickinson’s romance with Susan Gilbert Dickinson, her sister-in-law and neighbor. Olneck was able to use Dickinson’s poems in the film with the permission of Harvard University Press, something that seems strange to Seth Perlow at the Los Angeles Review of Books. “One ought not expect a single institution to unilaterally change the norms of intellectual property,” Perlow writes, “but in the case of a poet as famous as Dickinson, one might wish that Harvard would relax its grip. As it stands, the wealthiest university in the world claims the rights to a body of poems that were unpublished when their author died, over 130 years ago, and many of whose source manuscripts this institution has never possessed.”

Image credit: Todd-Bingham Picture Collection and Family Papers, Yale University

Undine Spragg: Edith Wharton’s Best Antiheroine

Few classic and contemporary author pairings seem as apt as Edith Wharton and Jia Tolentino. Thanks to Modern Library, the two are finally together in a new edition of The Custom of the Country, Wharton’s novel of manners set in New York’s high society. In her introduction, Tolentino paints the novel’s heroine, Undine Spragg, as an easily relatable figure for today’s readers: “For my money, no literary antiheroine can best Undine—a dazzling monster with rose-gold hair, creamy skin, and a gaping spiritual maw that could swallow New York City. People like her have been abundant in American culture for some time, but I never feel invested in their success; more often, I idly hope for their failure. With Undine, however—thanks to the alchemical mix of sympathy and disdain that animates Wharton’s language in the novel and allows her to match Undine’s savagery with plenty of her own—I find myself wanting her to get everything she desires.”

Daniel Mallory Ortberg’s Book of Genesis

With his upcoming book, Something That May Shock and Discredit You, coming out in January, Daniel Mallory Ortberg talks to Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore at The Guardian about the wide array of subjects addressed in the book. He covers everything from William Shatner and HGTV’s House Hunters to the Book of Genesis, particularly one story: “I think there’s so much in the story with Jacob wrestling with the angel of Penuel. I wrote that story from the angel’s perspective. So much of that story feels like it has a lot of trans-resonance. There’s no explanation about what the figure—the angel—comes for. It ends with this strange touch where afterwards he never walks the same way again. He has a new name. He is no longer called Jacob.”

The Return of Binge Reading

When’s the last time you binged a book in one sitting? It was probably not as recent as your last Netflix binge. For The New York Times, novelist Ben Dolnick says it’s time we indulge more in binge reading and reap its benefits: “Little jokes and echoes, separated by dozens or even hundreds of pages, come rustling out of the text forest. A writer’s voice—Grace Paley at her slangy best, Nicholson Baker at his hypomanic craziest—starts to seep into and color the voice of your innermost thoughts.”

Image credit: “Reading by the Window,” Charles James Lewis

The Road Trip Novel in the Modern Age

The road trip novel was a part of the literary canon long before On the Road. Over at City Lab, Andrew Small interviews history professor Allen Pietrobon, who discusses the need for updating the canon to include women and people of color. “Historically, a woman who had the money to embark on a solo road trip still couldn’t, because she would have been constrained by her social class,” says Pietrobon. “[For people of color,] travel is not the fun, lovely, free-flowing, discover-yourself journey. Even the simple things—getting to stop at a gas station or eat at a restaurant—are much more difficult.”

Image credit: Arfan Uddin

What Would Jane Read?

Thanks to the Burney Centre at McGill University in Montreal, readers can now browse a virtual version of Jane Austen’s library. “Reading with Austen” allows users to page through antique books and even read marginalia. Rebecca Rego Barry at Lapham’s Quarterly dives into the new project, noting that “there are books of history, travel, religion, literature, and agriculture, as one would expect from a country-house library a couple of centuries in the making. There are surprises, too, mainly in the amount of contemporary fiction, which was largely disdained at the time. Even more noteworthy, perhaps, are the novels by women, such as Maria Edgeworth and Charlotte Turner Smith, that signal the family’s broad-minded reading practices.”

Image credit: Cassandra Austen

The Animated ‘Aeneid’

Though it’s still taught in classrooms and studied by scholars to this day, Virgil’s Aeneid is less popular among readers than Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Mark Robinson makes a case for the Roman epic in a vivid animated video featured in Open Culture. “The Aeneid is a foundational epic in the Western literary tradition because of Virgil’s undeniable poetic skill in adapting classical Greek forms into Latin, and because of its influence on hundreds of poets and writers for hundreds of years after. […] Maybe the poem has also ‘survived to ask questions about the nature of power and authority ever since’ it was first published, to instant acclaim, in 19 BC.”