Stephanie Meyer Ripped Edward Cullen Off from George Eliot

On this Great Books Monday, I’m happy to announce that we’re about to pass another milestone: 1,000 pages of science and mathematics readings. I’m particularly excited about this number, even though it is the genre from which we’ve read the least, because these fields are outside my daily experience more so than the others, and approaching them has been more challenging for me.

Here are the readings for the upcoming week:

  1. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare  (GBWW Vol. 24, pp. 406-433)
  2. Fabius” by Plutarch (GBWW Vol. 13, pp. 141-154)
  3. The Study of Mathematics” by Bertrand Russell (GGB Vol. 9, pp. 84-94; Chapter IV of Mysticism and Logic, and Other Essays)
  4. Federalist #70-74 (GBWW Vol. 40, pp. 210-222; Antifederalist responses are here)
  5. An Anatomical Disquisition on the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals by William Harvey, Chapters XII-XVII (GBWW Vol. 26, pp. 292-304)
  6. Protagoras by Plato (GBWW Vol. 6, pp. 38-64)

I just realized we are reading a lot of one-shot works this week, so this is a great week to jump into the readings if you haven’t been keeping up since January. We will wrap up Harvey this week and start a few more longer works next Monday.

Here are some observations on last week’s readings:

  1. “The Lifted Veil” by George Eliot: I am not a Twilight fan, but I have seen the films at my wife’s behest, and apparently the heroine is immune to the mind-reading abilities of the smoldering vampire guy. Where on earth could Stephanie Meyer have gotten this idea? I have a notion after reading this story. (And even if I’m wrong, I’ll bet this post gets an unusually large number of hits because “Edward Cullen” appears in the title.) Mortimer Adler called the narrator of “The Lifted Veil” one of the most exasperating figures in English literature. The guy can see the future and read minds, and instead of making millions from his abilities and becoming world famous, he “pulls a Bartleby,” in words of one iTunes reviewer.
  2. “Pericles” by Plutarch: It seems odd that someone so frugal and upright in his personal life could be so extravagant when holding the reins of power. Plutarch clearly favors him, but he started the practice of buying influence with public money, so I suppose we can blame 21st-century Greece’s financial crisis on him.
  3. “A Letter Concerning Toleration” by John Locke: I had so many thoughts bouncing around in my head after reading this that I think I’ll do a separate blog post on it tomorrow.
  4. Federalist #67-69: I find it so ironic that Hamilton notes the praise accorded to the Electoral College process created by the Constitution when, as it turned out, the institution never really functioned according to the Founders’ intentions. I had to laugh at Hamilton’s assertion that the process guaranteed that no unsuitable person would ever be elected president.
  5. An Anatomical Disquisition on the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals by William Harvey, Chapters VI-XI: “You guys are going to think I’m crazy, but I think the flow of blood is circular!” What would medicine be without this discovery? Again, I had to get past some unfamiliar diction here, but the statement of the theory and the evidence for it is straightforward enough.
  6. The Way Things Are (or On the Nature of Things) by Lucretius, Book VI: It seems here that Lucretius is simply doing whatever he can to come up with naturalistic explanations of dramatic phenomena that will pass the laugh test in the hopes of swaying people who have always considered these things to be acts of the gods. Most of them would be rejected by scientist today. I was expecting some stirring restatement of the central doctrine to close out the work, but instead what we got was a pile of carcasses in Athens. I could have done without that.

Still no baby as of Monday morning, but the official due date is Thursday. Perhaps I’ll be able to share a name with you next Monday. I expect, though, that I’ll make a separate announcement on the blog before then. Happy reading this week!

About Dr. J

I am Professor of Humanities at Faulkner University, where I chair the Department of Humanities and direct online M.A. and Ph.D. programs based on the Great Books of Western Civilization. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy and a member of the faculty at Liberty Classroom.
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1 Response to Stephanie Meyer Ripped Edward Cullen Off from George Eliot

  1. Jane says:

    Eliot, The Lifted Veil: This story is bizarre and uncomfortable to read. Inadvertently or not, it says something about the restrictions of gendered roles; e.g., the way the mind-reading narrator is scorned for his sensitivity and physical frailty while his macho older brother is revered, and the mean young wife is valued for her beauty. I appreciated some of the existential nuggets sprinkled in, like the observation that future unknowns keep us interested and striving onward, and after witnessing a loved one die, “every other relation to the living is merged, in our feeling, in the great relation of a common nature and a common destiny.”

    Plutarch, Pericles: I am still hoping to get to Greece and see in person the remains of the great public works realized by Pericles and Phidias. I didn’t know Phidias died either while imprisoned (Plutarch) or was killed by the Eleans after completing the statue of Zeus for them (Philochorus). Pericles sounds like a man who tried to reign morally and improve the quality of life for his citizens. Unfortunately a bout of plague took many of his loved ones before finally claiming him as well.

    Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, VI: Speaking of the plague, Lucretius gives us a lurid description as he attempts to scientifically explain natural phenomena that were attributed to divine machinations and normalize other disastrous occurrences as “nothing to the whole sum of the universal sum.” “In these matters you must look far and deep and make a wide survey in all directions, in order to bear in mind that the sum of things is unfathomable and to perceive how very small, how inconceivably minute a fraction of the whole sum one heaven is, not so large a fraction of it as one man is of the whole earth. If you should clearly comprehend, clearly see this point well put, you would cease to wonder at many things.”

    Harvey, The Motion of the Heart & Blood: I enjoyed supplementing the reading with anatomical charts and thinking about the parallels between Harvey and Galileo: the former proving the closed, repeating circle of blood flow and disputing notions of “spirit” occupying part of the venous system, while the latter challenged the earth’s position at the center of the universe by proving it circled the sun. It was also cool to finally understand the functions of tourniquets and how their placements and relative tightness varies depending on the purpose (e.g., stemming blood flow from a wound, preventing the infiltration of venom, or facilitating blood collection/phlebotomy).

    Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration: Cogent arguments for the separation of church and state and against individuals and churches “prejudic[ing] another person in his civil enjoyments because he is of another church or religion.” While this respect should be afforded even to pagans, atheists better lay low: “Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all; besides also, those that by their atheism undermine and destroy all religion, can have no pretence of religion whereupon to challenge the privilege of a toleration.”

    Federalist Papers, 67-69: Hamilton counters fears that the Presidential role will become monarchial. I agree that the electoral college idea sounded good on paper but has been really bad in practice.

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