Learn Latin, Old English, Sanskrit, Classical Greek & Other Ancient Languages in 10 Lessons

Germania-tacitusI receive weekly reminders of my linguistic ignorance whenever I read anything by authors fluent in Latin. How could I not, whenever Clive James starts to pontificate on the greatness of, say, Tacitus?

“For students acquiring Latin in adult life, the language is most easily approached through those historians who really wrote chronicles — Cornelius Nepos, Sallust, Suetonius and Livy — but with the Histories of Tacitus you get the best reason for approaching it at all… What Sainte-Beuve said of Montaigne — that his prose is like one continuous epigram — is even more true of Tacitus.”

Fantastic! So, which translation should I read?

“There are innumerable translations but the original gives you [Tacitus]’ unrivalled powers of compression.”

As with Latin classics, so with other Indo-European language texts, including Beowulf, originally in Old English, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, in Classical Greek, and the ancient Vedic hymns of the Rigveda, in Sanskrit.

For those willing to take up the challenge of reading these canonic texts in their original form, the University of Texas’ Linguistics Research Center provides an excellent resource. In addition to hosting a multitude of Indo-European volumes in their entirety, the LRC has made 10-lesson crash courses, developed by several UT-Austin academics. Lessons include a brief guide to the alphabet, background knowledge on the language’s development, and a grammar guide, all  available for the following languages:

Best of all, lessons are based on seminal texts from each language: Latin lessons rely on Tacitus’ Germania, Livy’s History of Rome, and Virgil’s Aeneid, while Homer, Hesiod’s Works and Days, and Plato’s Republic feature prominently in the Classical Greek classes. Students progress through each lesson by reading the original passages, and using the provided guides to translate them to English.

We’ll be adding these to our growing list of Free Language Lessons (and our list of Free Online Courses), where you can learn over 46 languages, from Arabic to Yiddish.

Note: These links will direct you to pages formatted in Unicode 2. If you’re having trouble reading the texts, head to the Early Indo-European Online lessons site and choose a different encoding in the sidebar.

Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman.

via Metafilter

Related Content:

What Shakespeare Sounded Like to Shakespeare: Reconstructing the Bard’s Original Pronunciation

What Ancient Greek Music Sounded Like: Hear a Reconstruction That is ‘100% Accurate’

Hear Homer’s Iliad Read in the Original Ancient Greek

Hear The Epic of Gilgamesh Read in the Original Akkadian, the Language of Mesopotamia

The Tom Waits Map: A Mapping of Every Place Waits Has Sung About, From L.A. to Africa’s Jungles

“And what becomes of all the little boys who never comb their hair? They’re lined up all around the block, on the Nickel over there.” So sings Tom Waits on 1980’s “On the Nickel,” which he originally composed for Ralph Waite’s eponymous feature film, a story of shame, degradation, and good times in the sketchiest part of downtown Los Angeles, through which runs 5th Street — the “Nickel” of the title. That part of town has managed an astonishing cleanup since 1980 (then again, most parts of town have, including the once-seething corner referenced by Heartattack and Vine, the title of Waits’ album from that year) to the point that you’ll now find, just off 5th, the new-wave retro, hipster-friendly Nickel Diner: a favorite eatery of mine, incidentally, but hardly one describable with Waits’ signature rasp, a forcefully resigned instrument tuned to evoke the classically, near-mythologically ragged American life.

Still, you can find the old Nickel on The Tom Waits Map, which marks out all the lyrically identifiable places in Waits’ America, from Minneapolis’ 9th Street (“Hey Charlie, I’m pregnant and living on the 9th street,” goes “Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis”) to the state of Idaho (“Danny says we gotta go, gotta go to Idaho, but we can’t go surfing ’cause it’s 20 below,” on “Danny Says”).

We may think of Waits’ artistic persona as a certain lower slice of America made song, but this map, when zoomed out to a global level, reveals references to many exotic lands, as when he sings about “a Hong Kong drizzle on Cuban heels,” from the perspective of a character who “drank with all the Chinamen, walked the sewers of Paris” and of “Radion the human torso, deep from the jungles of Africa.”

The Tom Waits map itself, in fact, comes from an obviously die-hard Swedish fan by the name of Jonas Nordström. As he and the rest of the Waits faithful know, the man doesn’t just speak to an askew sensibility in America; he speaks to askew sensibilities all throughout humanity.

via @sheerly

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.

If you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks!

Related Content:

Watch Big Time, the Concert Film Capturing Tom Waits on His Best Tour Ever (1988)

Tom Waits’ Classic Appearance on Australian TV, 1979

Tom Waits Reads Charles Bukowski

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, Asia, film, literature, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on his brand new Facebook page.

Quentin Tarantino & Steve Buscemi Rehearse Scenes for Reservoir Dogs in 1991 (NSFW)

Think about the actors and directors who stood as pillars of the 1990s “indiewood” movement, and the distinctive images of Quentin Tarantino and Steve Buscemi will surely cross your mind. Both delivered much of interest in that cinematically fruitful decade. Buscemi, whom Roger Ebert deemed “the house act of American independent films,” played highly memorable roles in movies like Alexandre Rockwell’s In the Soup, Tom DiCillo’s Living in Oblivion, and the Coen brothers’ Fargo and The Big Lebowski. Tarantino directed three features that need no introduction, the first of which, 1991’s Reservoir Dogs, brought them together. In the clip above, you can watch Tarantino and Buscemi’s videotaped rehearsal sessions, wherein, among other things, they work out their respective characters, the would-be diamond thieves Mr. Brown and Mr. Pink.

Before Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino had attempted only the incomplete My Best Friend‘s Birthday. Before shooting what would become his first finished movie for real, he put together mock-ups of these scenes at the Sundance Institute Director’s Workshop and Lab, which then subjected them to frank evaluations from a rotating panel of veteran filmmakers. As much as we enjoy his acting, let’s not forget his own contributions as a director; his 1996 debut Trees Lounge, in which he also stars, easily ranks among the finest products of that era’s independent cinema. And as for Tarantino’s own subsequent forays into acting… well, nobody can argue that they don’t entertain.

via Biblioklept

Related Content:

The Best of Quentin Tarantino: Celebrating the Director’s 50th Birthday with our Favorite Videos

My Best Friend’s Birthday, Quentin Tarantino’s 1987 Debut Film

Kansas City Confidential: Did This 1952 Noir Film Inspire Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs?

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, Asia, film, literature, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on his brand new Facebook page.

Watch Documentaries on the Making of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here

Pink Floyd had to find its way again after founding singer Syd Barrett had a mental breakdown and left the band in 1968. The new group became introspective, exploring a range of effects and soundscapes that increasingly trended toward (or invented) New Age music. For example the opening instrumental, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part 1)” from 1975’s Wish You Were Here sounds for all the world like Vangelis. At this point in their career, the band seemed like it would be perfectly at home scoring sci-fi films, which—given the golden age of far out space-glam futurism that was the 1970s—I consider a wonderful thing. What this also means however, is that Wish You Were Here is an album short on songs, featuring only five properly listed, though the first and last tracks are over ten minute long rock operettas.

Musically, it’s a tremendously accomplished piece of work, lush and expansive but curiously restrained. The centerpiece, “Have a Cigar”— surely a precursor of bitter showbiz rant disguised as double concept album, The Wall—is in fact sung by a ringer, Roy Harper. (The only other time the band featured a guest vocalist was on the soaring, wordless “Great Gig in the Sky” from the previous album, Dark Side of the Moon.) Though the collaboration was a fluke—Harper simply happened to be recording in the next studio over—his presence seems essential in hindsight. The band were big fans of Harper’s, an eccentric folk singer who has released 22 albums to date. It’s easy to see why. He’s like a psychedelic British Neil Young, an artist whom, I would argue, sometimes has a lot in common with Pink Floyd, such as a willingness to release albums almost fully composed of extended jams.

Wish You Were Here was written around the song “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” an extended jam broken into two extended sequences that bookend the album. The song is about their tragically befuddled former singer, and the album has some of the saddest lyrics in the band’s oeuvre, which I suppose says quite a lot (I attended many an adolescent party where someone—yes, sometimes that someone was me—picked up the acoustic guitar and led a maudlin singalong of the title track.) Fans of the band will need no further persuading to watch the above documentary about the making of Wish You Were Here, but if my touting doesn’t sway you, consider it then a rare opportunity to see some of the most talented musicians of the twentieth century at work, shining even into their very English older years (though rarely in the same room), with a dignity and dedication that is difficult to find in modern pop music. I say this with full awareness of how cranky it may sound, but so be it. They don’t make bands like this anymore.

People do still occasionally make records like Pink Floyd’s, especially like 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon—which more or less perfected the sound of space rock—but no one has ever made one so perfectly realized. And yet if asked to choose between that album and Wish You Were Here, I could not do it. They are far too different in their approaches. In the Making of Dark Side of the Moon documentary above, Roger Waters characteristically says that Dark Side was made at a time when the band “still had a common goal—that is to become rich and famous.” And for all its acid satire of wealth and fame and its often morbid themes, it’s the sound of a band full of youthful self-confidence and ambition, where the follow-up’s orchestral pieces speak of deeper and sadder realms.

The songs on Dark Side of the Moon were partly finished live as the band debuted experimental versions of the songs in a 1972 tour, and the album’s success the following year saw the band realize their dreams. Pink Floyd became a stadium act overnight. One can imagine the toll the Dark Side of the Moon touring took on the band, who—despite their renown for stage spectacles—have always seemed like very retiring individuals, except for the frequently grandiose Waters.

Waters has taken a lot of flack for his part in the longstanding animosity between himself and co-leader, guitarist David Gilmour, but seeing him mastermind Dark Side of the Moon—through retrospective interviews mainly—reminds us of what an enormous talent he had. Speaking of retiring personalities, Waters, for a time the band’s primary lyricist, penned the unforgettable line, “hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way” from “Time”—a line cribbed from Thoreau but that could have been written by Evelyn Waugh or Somerset Maugham, says guitarist Nigel Williamson. It’s a “description of the English character,” says Williamson, that “permeate[s] the whole record, and indeed the whole of Pink Floyd’s career.”

H/T and thanks goes to @BrainPicker for sending the top film our way.

Related Content:

Syd Barrett: Under Review, a Full Documentary About Pink Floyd’s Brilliant and Troubled Founder

Dark Side of the Rainbow: Pink Floyd Meets The Wizard of Oz in One of the Earliest Mash-Ups

Watch Pink Floyd Play Live in the Ruins of Pompeii (1972)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

A Brief History of Sampling: From the Beatles to the Beastie Boys

Jonny Wilson, otherwise known as Eclectic Method, has made an art of “splicing together music, TV and film and setting it to high-energy dance beats.” He has also become something of a digital curator of pop culture. In the video above, Wilson presents:

A video remix journey through the history of sampling taking in some of the most noted breaks and riffs of the decades. A chronological journey from the Beatles’ use of the Mellotron in the 60s to the sample dense hiphop and dance music of the 80s and 90s. Each break is represented by a vibrating vinyl soundwave exploding into various tracks that sampled it, each re-use another chapter in the modern narrative.

The audio track can be downloaded over at SoundCloud. If you dig this brief bit of musical history, you won’t want to miss some of the related items below.

Related Content:

Rick Wakeman Tells the Story of the Mellotron, the Oddball Proto-Synthesizer Pioneered by the Beatles

All Hail the Beat: How the 1980 Roland TR-808 Drum Machine Changed Pop Music

The “Amen Break”: The Most Famous 6-Second Drum Loop & How It Spawned a Sampling Revolution

David Foster Wallace Talks About Literature (and More) in an Internet Chatroom: Read the 1996 Transcript

dfw internet chat

Reddit’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) series, where users get the chance to pose questions to the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen King, and Bill Nye the Science Guy, provides a surprisingly simple way to interact with celebrities. Before Reddit’s arrival in 2005, however, real-time exchanges between your garden-variety Internet user and famous personalities were occasionally conducted in Internet chatrooms. One such early case appears to be a chat between the readers of WORD Magazine and David Foster Wallace (read 30 of his essays free online), which seems to have taken place in May of 1996.

If AMAs are an orderly, if vast, Q & A session, this chat is more like a boozy group meeting with your favorite English lit professor in a smoky bar. (Read the transcript here.) Wallace, using the handle “dfw,” is on a refreshingly level field with the other chat participants, and the conversation naturally drifts from one topic to another. Things, as they often do, begin with a bit of banter:

dfw: I’ve had some unpleasant nicknaames and monikers in my time, but nobody’s ever hung “fosty” on me before.

Keats: You know, I still think it should be spelled Fostie, or Fostey.
Keats: Fosty looks too much like “Frosty” and “sty” to me.

Keats: And makes me think of eyeballs packed in ice.

dfw: “Sty” as in an impacted eyelash or a pigpen, you mean?

Keats: Yeah. Is that what a sty as in “sty in your eye” is?

Marisa: I used to think the word “sty” was pronounced “stee”.

Keats: I had no idea exactly, just an unpleasant feeling about it.

dfw: Yes. Massively painful and embarrassing, too. Like a carbuncle on the exact tip of your nose — that sort of thing.

Keats: I used to think the word “trough” was pronounced “troff.”

Keats: You know, I happen to have a carbuncle on the tip of my nose right now.

Keats: Except it’s not a carbuncle, it’s more like a welt. It’s still embarrassing.

dfw: In my very first seminar in college, I pronounced facade “fakade.” The memory’s still fresh and raw.

Soon, things take a turn for the serious, and readers begin to ask Wallace about irony:

dfw: I don’t think irony’s meant to synergize with anything as heartfelt as sadness. I think the main function of contemporary irony is to protect the speaker from being interpreted as naive or sentimental.

Marisa: Why are people afraid to be seen as naive and sentimental?

dfw: Marisa: I think that’s a very deep, very hard question. One answer is that commercial comedy’s often set up to feature an ironist making devastating sport of someone who’s naive or sentimental or pretentious or pompous.

Keats: I’m starting to see a lot of irony in Hollywood and in advertising, but its function seems to be to let them talk out of both sides of their mouths.

dfw: Keats: advertising that makes fun of itself is so powerful because it implicitly congratulates both itself and the viewer (for making the joke and getting the joke, respectively).

Wallace also drops a few mentions of some of his favorite authors:

DaleK: Mr. Wallace, I’m curious…who among current novelists do you find the most interesting?

dfw: Dalek — DeLillo, Ozick, R. Powers, AM Homes, Denis Johnson, David Markson, (old) JA Phillips and Louise Erdrich.

While we can’t conclusively confirm that this was indeed the real DFW conducting the chat, it’s hard to deny that “dfw” sounds very much like the author. Certainly, the complete exchange is as much fun to read for its mid-90s internet chatroom nostalgia as it is for Wallace’s thoughts on irony, Infinite Jest, and the sound of one hand clapping. The whole transcript is available here.

Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman.

Related Content:

30 Free Essays & Stories by David Foster Wallace on the Web

David Foster Wallace’s Love of Language Revealed by the Books in His Personal Library

The David Foster Wallace Audio Archive: A Little Gift For the Novelist’s 50th Birthday

Pete Seeger Tells the Story Behind “We Shall Overcome”


Like nearly all folk songs, “We Shall Overcome” has a convoluted, obscure history that traces back to no single source. The Library of Congress locates the song’s origins in “African American hymns from the early 20th century” and an article on About.com dates the melody to an antebellum song called “No More Auction Block for Me” and the lyrics to a turn-of-the-century hymn written by the Reverend Charles Tindley of Philadelphia. The original lyric was one of personal salvation—“I’ll Overcome Someday”—but at least by 1945, when the song was taken up by striking tobacco workers in Charleston, S.C., it was transmuted into a statement of solidarity as “We Will Overcome.” Needless to say, in its final form, “We Shall Overcome” became the unofficial anthem of the labor and Civil Rights movements and eventually came to be sung “in North Korea, in Beirut, Tiananmen Square and in South Africa’s Soweto Township.

Pete Seeger—who passed away yesterday at the age of 94—has long been credited with the dissemination of “We Shall Overcome,” but he was always quick to cite his sources. Seeger heard the song in 1947 from folklorist Zilphia Horton, music director at Tennessee’s Highlander Folk Center who, Seeger said, “had a beautiful alto voice and sang it with no rhythm.” As he told NPR recently, his touches were also those of other singers:

I gave it kind of ump-chinka, ump-chinka, ump-chinka, ump-chinka, ump-chinka, ump. It was medium slow as I sang it, but the banjo kept a steady rhythm going. I remember teaching it to a gang in Carnegie Hall that year, and the following year I put it in a little music magazine called People’s Songs. Over the years, I remember singing it two different ways. I’m usually credited with changing [‘Will’] to ‘Shall,’ but there was a black woman who taught at Highlander Center, a wonderful person named Septima Clark. And she always liked shall, too, I’m told.

According to Seeger in the interview above—conducted by Josh Baron before a 2010 performance—the person most responsible for “making it the number one song back in those days” was the Music Director of the Highlander Folk Center, Guy Carawan, who “sent messages to the civil rights movement all through the South from Texas to Florida to Maryland.” Carawan “introduced this song with a new rhythm that I had never heard before.” Seeger goes on to describe the rhythm in detail, then says “it was the hit song of the weekend in February 1960…. It was not a song, it was the song all across the South. I’ve found out since then that the song started off as a union song in the 19th century.”

In this particular interview, Seeger takes full credit for changing the “will” to “shall.” Although it was “the only record [he] made which sold,” he didn’t seek to cash in on his changes (Seeger shared the copyright with Zilphia Horton, Carawan, and Frank Hamilton). As you can easily see from the numerous eulogies and tributes popping up all over (or a quick scan of the “Pete Seeger Appreciation Page”), Seeger deserves to be remembered for much more than his sixties folk singing, but he perhaps did more than anyone to make “We Shall Overcome” a song sung by a nation. And as he tells it, it was song he hoped would resonate worldwide:

I was singing for some young Lutheran church people in Sundance, Idaho, and there were some older people who were mistrustful of my lefty politics.  They said: ‘Who are you intending to overcome?’ I said: ‘Well, in Selma, Alabama they’re probably thinking of Chief Pritchett.; they will overcome. And I am sure Dr. King is thinking of the system of segregation across the whole country, not just the South. For me, it means the entire world. We’ll overcome our tendencies to solve our problems with killing and learn to work together to bring this world together.

Via Blank on Blank

Related Content:

Pete Seeger Dies at 94: Remember the American Folk Legend with a Priceless Film from 1947

94-Year-Old Pete Seeger Sings “This Land is Your Land” at Farm Aid

Willie Nelson, Pete Seeger, and Arlo Guthrie at Occupy Wall Street

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Harold Bloom Creates a Massive List of Works in The “Western Canon”: Read Many of the Books Free Online


I have little desire to rehash the politics, but the facts are plain: by the time I arrived in college as an undergraduate English major in the mid-90s, the idea of the “Western Canon” as a container of—in the words of a famous hymn—“all that’s good, and great, and true” was seriously on the wane, to put it mildly. And in many quarters of academia, mention of the name of Yale literary critic Harold Bloom provoked, at the very least, a raised eyebrow and pointed silence. Bloom’s reputation perhaps unfairly fell victim to the so-called “Canon Wars,” likely at times because of a misidentification with political philosopher Allan Bloom. That Bloom was himself no ideologue, writes Jim Sleeper; he was a close friend of Saul Bellow and “an eccentric interpreter of Enlightenment thought who led an Epicurean, quietly gay life.” Nonetheless, his fiery attack on changing academic values, The Closing of the American Mind, became a textbook of the neoconservative right.

Though Harold Bloom wished to distance himself from culture war polemics, he has unapologetically practiced what Allan Bloom preached, teaching the Canonical “great books” of literature and religion and opposing all manner of critics on the left, whom he lumps together in the phrase “the School of Resentment.” Bloom’s 1973 The Anxiety of Influence has itself exerted a major influence on literary studies, and best-selling popular works, like 1998’s Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, have kept Harold Bloom’s name in circulation even when scholarly citations of his work declined. In 1994, Bloom re-affirmed his commitment to the Canon with The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Agesa fierce sortie against his so-called “School of Resentment” adversaries and a work University of Minnesota professor Norman Fruman called a “heroically brave, formidably learned and often unbearably sad response to the present state of the humanities.” (Hear Bloom discuss the book with  Eleanor Wachtel in a 1995 CBC interview.)

The Western Canon is tightly focused on only 26 authors, but in a series of four appendices, Bloom lists the hundreds of other names he considers canonical. For all of Bloom’s ornery defensiveness, his list is surprisingly inclusive, as well as—for Fruman—surprisingly idiosyncratic. (Bloom later disavowed the list, claiming that his editor insisted on it.) Like a classical philologist, Bloom divides his Canon into four “ages” or periods: The Theocratic Age (2000 BCE-1321 CE); The Aristocratic Age (1321-1832); The Democratic Age: 1832-1900); and The Chaotic Age (20th Century). You can view the complete list here. Below, we’ve compiled a very partial, but still sizable, excerpt of texts from Bloom’s list that are available online through the University of Adelaide’s ebook library. For all of the unpopular positions he has taken over the past few decades, Bloom’s immense erudition, expansive intellect, and sincere commitment to the humanities have never been in question. As a distinguished exemplar of a fading tradition, he is an invaluable resource for students and lovers of literature.

A: “The Theocratic Age”

The Ancient Greeks

Homer (ca.800BC)
Iliad; Odyssey.
Hesiod (ca.700BC)
Works and Days; Theogony.
Sappho (ca.600BC)
Aeschylus (525 BC – 456 BC)
Oresteia; Seven Against Thebes; Prometheus Bound; Persians; Suppliant Women.
Sophocles (c. 496-c. 405 BC)
Oedipus the King; Oedipus at Colonus; Antigone; Electra; Ajax; Women of Trachis; Philoctetes.
Euripides (480 or 484-406 BC)
Cyclops; Heracles; Alcestis; Hecuba; Bacchae; Orestes; Andromache; Medea; Ion; Hippolytus; Helen; Iphigenia at Aulis.
Aristophanes (ca. 446 BC – 385 BC)
The Birds; The Clouds; The Frogs; Lysistrata; The Knights; The Wasps; The Assemblywomen.
Herodotus, 485–420BCE
The Histories.
Thucydides, ca.460 BCE
The Peloponnesian Wars.
Plato, c.427-c.347 BCE
Aristotle, 384–322 BCE
Poetics; Ethics.

Hellenistic Greeks

Menander, ca. 342–291 BC
The Girl from Samos.
Plutarch, 46–120
Lives; Moralia.
Aesop (620 – 560 BC)
Petronius, c.27-66

The Romans

Terence, 195/185–159 BC
The Girl from Andros; The Eunuch; The Mother-in-Law.
Lucretius, 98?–55 BCE
The Way Things Are.
Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106–43 BCE
On the Gods.
Horace, 65-8 BCE
Odes; Epistles; Satires.
Catullus (c.84 B.C. – c.54 B.C.)
Attis and Other Poems.
Virgil (70-19 BC)
Aeneid; Eclogues; Georgics.
Ovid (43 BC – 17 AD)
Metamorphoses; The Art of Love; Heroides.
Seneca, Lucius Annaeus, ca.4 BCE–65 CE
Tragedies, particularly Medea and Hercules Furens.
Petronius, c.27-66
Apuleius, c. 123/125-c. 180
The Golden Ass.

The Middle Ages: Latin, Arabic, and the Vernacular Before Dante

Augustine of Hippo, 354–430
City of God; Confessions.
Wolfram von Eschenbach, 1170–1220
Chrétien de Troyes, 12th cent
Yvain: The Knight of the Lion.
Beowulf (ca.800)

B: “The Aristocratic Age”


Dante (1265 – 1321)
The Divine Comedy; The New Life.
Petrarch, 1304-1374
Lyric Poems; Selections.
Giovanni Boccaccio, 1313-1375
The Decameron.
Matteo Maria Boiardo, 1440 or 41-1494.
Orlando Innamorato.
Lodovico Ariosto, 1474-1533
Orlando Furioso.
Machiavelli, Niccolò, 1469–1527
The Prince; The Mandrake, a Comedy.
Benvenuto Cellini, 1500–1571
Tommaso Campanella, 1568-1639
Poems; The City of the Sun.


Miguel de Cervantes, 1547-1616
Don Quixote; Exemplary Stories.
Pedro Calderon de la Barca, 1600–1681
Life is a Dream; The Mayor of Zalamea; The Mighty Magician; The Doctor of His Own Honor.

England and Scotland

Chaucer, Geoffrey (ca.1343-1400)
The Canterbury Tales; Troilus and Criseyde.
Thomas Malory, 1430-1471
Le Morte D’Arthur.
Thomas More, 1478-1535
Philip Sidney, 1554-1586.
The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia; Astrophel and Stella; An Apology for Poetry.
Edmund Spenser, 1552-1599
The Faerie Queene; The Minor Poems.
Christopher Marlowe, 1564-1593
Poems and Plays.
Thomas Nashe, 1567-1601
The Unfortunate Traveller.
William Shakespeare, 1564-1616
Plays and Poems.
John Donne, 1572-1631
Poems; Sermons.
Ben Jonson, 1573-1637
Poems, Plays, and Masques.
Francis Bacon, 1561–1626
Robert Burton, 1577–1640
The Anatomy of Melancholy.
Thomas Browne, 1605–1682
Religio Medici; Hydriotaphia, or Urne-Buriall; The Garden of Cyrus.
Thomas Hobbes, 1588–1679
Herrick, Robert, 1591-1674
Andrew Marvell, 1621-1678
John Ford, 1586-ca.1640
‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore.
John Webster, c.1580-c.1634
The White Devil; The Duchess of Malfi.
Izaak Walton, 1593-1683
The Compleat Angler.
John Milton, 1608-1674
Paradise Lost; Paradise Regained; Lycidas, Comus, and the Minor Poems; Samson Agonistes; Areopagitica.
John Aubrey, 1626–1697
Brief Lives.
Samuel Butler, 1612-1680
John Dryden, 1631-1700
Poetry and Plays; Critical Essays.
Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745
A Tale of a Tub; Gulliver’s Travels; Shorter Prose Works; Poems.
Alexander Pope, 1688-1744
John Gay, 1685-1732
The Beggar’s Opera.
James Boswell, 1740-1795
Life of Johnson; Journals.
Samuel Johnson, 1709–1784
Edward Gibbon, 1737–1794
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Edmund Burke, 1729–1797
A Philosophical Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful; Reflections on the Revolution in France
Oliver Goldsmith, 1728-1774
The Vicar of Wakefield; She Stoops to Conquer; The Traveller; The Deserted Village.
Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 1751–1816
The School of Scandal; The Rivals.
William Cowper, 1731-1800
Poetical Works.
Defoe, Daniel (1661?-1731)
Moll Flanders; Robinson Crusoe; A Journal of the Plague Year.
Samuel Richardson, 1689-1761.
Clarissa; Pamela; Sir Charles Grandison.
Henry Fielding, 1707-1754
Joseph Andrews; The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling.
Tobias Smollett, 1721-1771
The Expedition of Humphry Clinker; The Adventures of Roderick Random.
Laurence Sterne, 1713-1768
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman; A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy.
Fanny Burney, 1752-1840


Michel de Montaigne, 1533-1592
Francois Rabelais, 1494?-1553?
Gargantua and Pantagruel.
Marguerite de Navarre, 1492–1549
The Heptameron.
Jean de La Fontaine, 1621-1695
Molière, 1622-1673
The Misanthrope; Tartuffe; The School for Wives; The Learned Ladies; Don Juan; School for Husbands; Ridiculous Precieuses; The Would-Be Gentleman; The Miser; The Imaginary Invalid.
Blaise Pascal, 1623–1662
Rousseau, Jean–Jacques, 1712–1778
The Confessions; Émile; La Nouvelle Héloïse.
Voltaire, 1694-1778
Zadig; Candide; Letters on England; The Lisbon Earthquake.


Erasmus of Rotterdam, 1466–1536
In Praise of Folly.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749–1832
Faust, Parts One and Two; Dichtung und Wahrheit; Egmont; Elective Affinities; The Sorrows of Young Werther; Poems; Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship; Wilhelm Meister’s Years of Wandering; Italian Journey; Verse Plays; Hermann and Dorothea; Roman Elegies; Venetian Epigrams; West-Eastern Divan.
Friedrich Schiller, 1759-1805
The Robbers; Mary Stuart; Wallenstein; Don Carlos; On the Naïve and Sentimental in Literature.

C: “The Democratic Age”


Giovanni Verga, 1840-1922
Little Novels of Sicily; Mastro-Don Gesualdo; The House by the Medlar Tree; The She-Wolf and Other Stories.


Victor Hugo, 1802-1885
The Distance, the Shadows: Selected Poems; Les Misérables; Notre-Dame of Paris; William Shakespeare; The Toilers of the Sea; The End of Satan; God.
Gautier, Théophile, 1811–1872
Mademoiselle de Maupin; Enamels and Cameos.
Balzac, Honoré de, 1799-1850
The Girl with the Golden Eyes; Louis Lambert; The Wild Ass’s Skin; Old Goriot; Cousin Bette; A Harlot High and Low; Eugénie Grandet; Ursule Mirouet.
Stendhal, 1783-1842
On Love; The Red and the Black; The Charterhouse of Parma.
Gustave Flaubert, 1821-1880
Madame Bovary; Sentimental Education; Salammbô; A Simple Soul.
George Sand, 1804-1876
The Haunted Pool.
Charles Baudelaire, 1821-1867
Flowers of Evil; Paris Spleen.
Guy de Maupassant, 1850-1893
Selected Short Stories.
Emile Zola, 1840-1902
Germinal; L’Assommoir; Nana.


Henrik Ibsen, 1828-1906
Brand; Peer Gynt; Emperor and Galilean; Hedda Gabler; The Master Builder; The Lady from the Sea; When We Dead Awaken.

Great Britain

William Blake, 1757-1827
Complete Poetry and Prose.
William Wordsworth, 1770–1850
Poems; The Prelude.
Walter Scott, 1771-1832
Waverley; The Heart of Midlothian; Redgauntlet; Old Mortality.
Jane Austen, 1775-1817
Pride and Prejudice; Emma; Mansfield Park; Persuasion.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1772–1834
Poems and Prose.
Hazlitt, William, 1778-1830
Essays and Criticism.
George Byron, 1788-1824
Don Juan; P oems.
Thomas de Quincey, 1785–1859
Confessions of an English Opium Eater; Selected Prose.
Maria Edgeworth, 1767-1849
Castle Rackrent.
Elizabeth Gaskell, 1810-1865
Cranford; Mary Barton; North and South.
Charles Robert Maturin, 1782–1824
Melmoth the Wanderer.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792-1822
Poems; A Defence of Poetry.
Mary Shelley, 1797-1851
John Keats, 1795-1821
Poems and Letters.
Robert Browning, 1812–1889
Poems; The Ring and the Book.
Charles Dickens, 1812-1870
The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club; David Copperfield; The Adventures of Oliver Twist; A Tale of Two Cities; Bleak House; Hard Times; Nicholas Nickleby; Dombey and Son; Great Expectations; Martin Chuzzlewit; Christmas Stories; Little Dorrit; Our Mutual Friend; The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Alfred Tennyson, 1809-1892
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1828-1882
Poems and Translations.
Matthew Arnold, 1822-1888
Poems; Essays.
Christina Georgina Rossetti, 1830-1894.
Thomas Love Peacock, 1785–1866
Nightmare Abbey; Gryll Grange.
Thomas Carlyle, 1795–1881
Selected Prose; Sartor Resartus.
John Ruskin, 1819-1900
Modern Painters; The Stones of Venice; Unto This Last; The Queen of the Air.
John Stuart Mill, 1806–1873
On Liberty; Autobiography.
Anthony Trollope, 1815-1882
The Barsetshire Novels; The Palliser Novels; Orley Farm; The Way We Live Now.
Lewis Carroll, 1832-1898
Complete Works.
George Gissing, 1857-1903
New Grub Street.
Charlotte Bronte, 1816-1855
Jane Eyre; Villette.
Emily Bronte, 1818-1848
Poems; Wuthering Heights.
Anne Bronte, 1820-1849
William Makepeace Thackeray, 1811-1863
Vanity Fair; The History of Henry Esmond.
George Meredith, 1828-1909
Poems; The Egoist.
Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith), 1874-1936
Collected Poems; The Man Who Was Thursday.
Samuel Butler, 1835-1902
Erewhon; The Way of All Flesh.
Wilkie Collins, 1824-1889
The Moonstone; The Woman in White; No Name.
Thomson, James, 1834–1882
The City of the Dreadful Night.
Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900
Plays; The Picture of Dorian Gray; The Artist as Critic; Letters.
George Eliot, 1819-1880
Adam Bede; Silas Marner; The Mill on the Floss; Middlemarch; Daniel Deronda.
Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850-1894
Essays; Kidnapped; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Treasure Island; The New Arabian Nights; The Master of Ballantrae; Weir of Hermiston.
William Morris, 1834-1896
Early Romances; Poems; The Earthly Paradise; The Well at the World’s End; News from Nowhere.
Bram Stoker, 1847-1912
George MacDonald, 1824-1905
Lilith; At the Back of the North Wind.


Jakob Grimm, 1785–1863 and Grimm, Wilhelm, 1786–1859
Fairy Tales.
Hoffmann, E. T. A. (Ernst Theodor Amadeus), 1776-1822
The Devil’s Elixir; Tales.
Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844–1900
The Birth of Tragedy; Beyond Good and Evil; On the Genealogy of Morals; The Will to Power.


Aleksandr Pushkin, 1799-1837
Complete Prose Tales; Complete Poetry; Eugene Onegin; Narrative Poems; Boris Godunov.
Nikolai Gogol, 1809-1852
The Complete Tales; Dead Souls; The Government Inspector.
Mikhail Lermontov, 1814-1841
Narrative Poems; A Hero of Our Time.
Ivan Turgenev, 1818-1883
A Sportsman’s Notebook; A Month in the Country; Fathers and Sons; On the Eve; First Love.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1821-1881
Notes from the Underground; Crime and Punishment; The Idiot; The Possessed (The Devils); The Brothers Karamazov; Short Novels.
Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910
The Cossacks; War and Peace; Anna Karenina; A Confession; The Power of Darkness; Short Novels.
Anton Chekhov, 1860-1904
The Tales; The Major Plays.

The United States

Washington Irving, 1783-1859
The Sketch Book.
James Fenimore Cooper, 1789–1851.
The Deerslayers.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803–1882
Nature; Essays; Representative Men; The Conduct of Life; Journals; Poems.
Emily Dickinson, 1830–1886
Complete Poems.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1804-1864
The Scarlet Letter; Tales and Sketches; The Marble Faun; Notebooks.
Herman Melville, 1819-1891
Moby-Dick; The Piazza Tales; Billy Budd; Collected Poems; Clarel.
Edgar Allan Poe, 1809-1849
Poetry and Tales; Essays and Reviews; The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym; Eureka.
Henry David Thoreau, 1817–1862
Walden; Poems; Essays.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807–1882
Selected Poems.
Ambrose Bierce, 1842-1913
Collected Writings.
Louisa May Alcott, 1832–1888
Little Women.
Kate Chopin, 1850-1904
The Awakening.
William Dean Howells, 1837-1920
The Rise of Silas Lapham; A Modern Instance.
Henry James, 1843-1916
The Portrait of a Lady; The Bostonians; The Princess Casamassima; The Awkward Age; Short Novels and Tales; The Ambassadors; The Wings of the Dove; The Golden Bowl
Mark Twain, 1835-1910
Complete Short Stories; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; The Devil’s Racetrack; Number Forty-Four: The Mysterious Stranger; Pudd’nhead Wilson; A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
William James, 1842–1910
The Varieties of Religious Experience; Pragmatism.

D: “The Chaotic Age”


Anatole France, 1844-1924
Penguin Island; Thaïs.
Marcel Proust, 1871-1922
Remembrance of Things Past (In Search of Lost Time).
Albert Camus, 1913-1960
The Stranger; The Plague; The Fall; The Rebel.

Great Britain and Ireland.

Yeats, W. B. (William Butler), 1865-1939
The Collected Poems; Collected Plays; A Vision; Mythologies.
George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950
Major Critical Essays; Heartbreak House; Pygmalion; Saint Joan; Major Barbara; Back to Methuselah.
John Millington Synge, 1871-1909
Collected Plays.
George Douglas Brown, 1869-1902
The House with the Green Shutters.
Thomas Hardy, 1840-1928
The Well-Beloved; The Woodlanders; The Return of the Native; The Mayor of Casterbridge; Far From the Madding Crowd; Tess of the D’Urbervilles; Jude the Obscure; Collected Poems.
Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936
Kim; Collected Stories; Puck of Pook’s Hill; Complete Verse.
Housman, A. E., 1859-1936
Collected Poems.
Joseph Conrad, 1857-1924
Lord Jim; The Secret Agent; Nostromo; Under Western Eyes; Victory.
Ronald Firbank, 1886-1926
Five Novels.
Ford Madox Ford, 1873-1939
Parade’s End; The Good Soldier.
Saki, 1870-1916
The Short Stories.
Wells, H. G., 1866-1946
The Science Fiction Novels.
David Lindsay, 1876-1945
A Voyage to Arcturus.
Arnold Bennett, 1867–1931.
The Old Wives’ Tale.
John Galsworthy, 1867-1933
The Forsyth Saga.
Lawrence, D. H., 1885-1930
Complete Poems; Studies in Classic American Literature; Complete Short Stories; Sons and Lovers; The Rainbow; Women in Love.
Virginia Woolf, 1882-1941
Mrs. Dalloway; To the Lighthouse; Orlando: A Biography; The Waves; Between the Acts.
James Joyce, 1882-1941
Dubliners; Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Ulysses; Finnegans Wake.
George Orwell, 1903-1950
Collected Essays; 1984.


Franz Kafka, 1883–1924
Amerika; The Complete Stories; The Blue Octavo Notebook; The Trial; Diaries; The Castle; Parables, Fragments, Aphorisms.


Maksim Gorky, 1868-1936
Reminiscences of Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Andreev; Autobiography.


Knut Hamsun, 1859-1952
Hunger; Pan.


Karel Čapek, 1890-1938
War with the Newts; R.U.R.

Australia and New Zealand.

Miles Franklin, 1879-1954
My Brilliant Career.
Katherine Mansfield, 1888-1923
The Short Stories.

The United States.

Edith Wharton, 1862–1937
Collected Short Stories; The Age of Innocence; Ethan Frome; The House of Mirth; The Custom of the Country.
Willa Cather, 1873-1947
My Antonia; The Professor’s House; A Lost Lady.
Gertrude Stein, 1874–1946
Three Lives; The Geographical History of America; The Making of Americans; Tender Buttons.
Theodore Dreiser, 1871-1945
Sister Carrie; An American Tragedy.
Sinclair Lewis, 1885-1951
Babbitt; It Can’t Happen Here.
Eugene O’Neill, 1888-1953
Lazarus Laughed; The Iceman Cometh; Long Day’s Journey into Night.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott, 1896-1940
Babylon Revisited and Other Stories; The Great Gatsby; Tender is the Night.
Nathanael West, 1903-1940
Miss Lonelyhearts; A Cool Million; The Day of the Locust.

Of this last Appendix–which ends with Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and includes a great degree of diversity–Bloom writes: “I am not as confident about this list as the first three. Cultural prophecy is always a mug’s game. Not all of the works here can prove to be canonical . . . literary overpopulation is a hazard to many among them. But I have neither excluded nor included on the basis of cultural politics of any kind.” Again, the selections above are very limited. Before you ask, “what about x, y, or z!” see Bloom’s full list here. And if you still do not find authors you believe deserve inclusion in any version of the Western Canon, pick up a copy of Bloom’s book to learn more about his critical criteria.

A decent number of the texts above can also be found in our Free eBooks and Free Audio Books collections.

Related Content:

Harold Bloom Recites ‘Tea at the Palaz of Hoon’ by Wallace Stevens

Harold Bloom on the Ghastly Decline of the Humanities (and on Obama’s Poetry)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

« Go BackMore in this category... »
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.