Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! I expect most of you gentlemen are wooing more like Lucentio than Petruchio; I hope you ladies are receiving your gentleman’s attentions more like Bianca than Katharina!
Here are the readings for the upcoming week:
- “Mowgli’s Brothers” by Rudyard Kipling (GGB Vol. 2, pp. 126-141)
- “Learning the River” by Mark Twain (GGB Vol. 6, pp. 50-98; Chapters 1, 4, and 6-14 of Life on the Mississippi)
- “On Being the Right Size” by J.B.S. Haldane (GGB Vol. 8, pp. 149-154)
- “Contentment” by Plutarch (GGB Vol. 10, pp. 264-281)
- “Fingerprints” by Tobias Dantzig (GGB Vol. 9, pp. 165-177; Chapter 1 of Number–The Language of Science)
- Apology by Plato (GBWW Vol. 6, pp. 200-212)
The page count this week is a bit higher than usual, but only about a dozen are from GBWW, so maybe we won’t notice too much. The way I figure it, we’ll be caught up to our seven-year pace in another three or four weeks and can come back down to around 110 pages weekly.
Now for some comments on last week’s readings:
- The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare: I have seen some efforts by feminists to “rehabilitate” this play, but there’s no getting around its endorsement of a husband’s authority over his wife. Ladies, just accept it for what it is (a brilliant work with a message diametrically opposed to contemporary gender egalitarianism) and enjoy it if you can. Did you notice that this play’s narrative frame involving Sly corresponds exactly to Emerson’s reference last week to a “popular fable” in which a sot is treated like nobility and fooled into thinking he had been insane? Everything is connected, folks.
- Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen: All this benign-sounding talk about the rights of the people . . . who would have thought that it would turn into a Reign of Terror? Actually, some people predicted it.
- “Sketch of Abraham Lincoln” by Nathaniel Hawthorne: Funny that this description of Lincoln was originally deleted from Hawthorne’s manuscript by his publisher because it was considered too disrespectful; it looks pretty tame compared to the way people talk about presidents today. It seems clear to me that Hawthorne had a favorable impression of Lincoln overall.
- “The Discovery of Radium” by Eve Curie: I couldn’t get over the passage where Curie was working defiantly in an unheated lab with temperatures in the mid-40s. I remember once when the heat went out in my office and I was trying to work in similar conditions. I got to the point where I couldn’t type and had to leave because my hands were so cold. I guess I’m a weenie.
- The Life of Gnaeus Julius Agricola by Tacitus: I had always wondered where that speech of Scottish defiance against the Romans had come from, and now I know. I guess at many points during the Roman Empire’s history it was dangerous to display too much ability, otherwise the emperor would decide he needed your removal.
- On Friendship by Cicero: I assign this text to graduate students every year, but it was nice to read through it once without taking notes for class discussions. I love the statement that “friendship can exist only between good men.” I know many would disagree, but I think it’s true. Also the closing admonition: “Make up your minds to this: virtue (without which friendship is impossible) is first; but next to it, and to it alone, the greatest of all things is friendship.” Why Cicero isn’t assigned reading in every school in this country is beyond me.
It’s a sad Valentine’s Day for me; my wife is playing in a symphony concert, and I have to babysit. C’est la vie; I hope the rest of you are able to spend more time with your sweetie than I today. But don’t get so besotted with love that you forget to read this week!
[This post is part of my seven-year plan to read through the Gateway to the Great Books and Great Books of the Western World sets. The original post describing the plan is here.]