Literature and History

It was just a few years ago that I was writing non-fiction every month for school. Throughout my college experience, I was enrolled in several high-level English classes which often required study and commentary on works of literature. One of my favorite assignments was the analytical research paper.

I enjoy arguing and a research paper is arguing in a controlled format. You make a point, and back it up with facts, anticipating criticism and opening debates. As an English student, I took a lot of literature classes, and my best arguments were on the writings of the English Renaissance.

Shakespeare, Spenser, and Marlowe were (and are) my favorite, along with a healthy appreciation for other noteworthy works like the King James Version of the Holy Bible or the plays of Ben Johnson. For some people, these are nearly in another language, nearly incomprehensible. I find that with a little bit of study, what looks nearly incomprehensible becomes beautiful, expressive verse that cannot be matched by anything else.

It’s my appreciation of this amazing use of the English language that gave my studies of Elizabethan literature such pleasure. I would much rather study and dissect a Shakespearean sonnet than anything modern.

So much has been written about these works of literature that when it comes time to craft a research project, it can be quite intimidating. What can you say that hasn’t been said before? As it turns out, quite a bit. It’s a testament to the richness and depth of Shakespeare and his contemporaries that new research and proposals continue 400 years later.

Whether it’s a new theory on a popular piece, or the study of an obscure work, or even discussions about the documents themselves, I am interested, if for no other reason than to argue against it. Reading other people’s opinions and studies about the works is almost as good as reading the literature itself. It doesn’t matter if I agree or disagree with it, I will have something to say one way or another.

Besides the literature and the critiques, the other aspect I enjoy learning and writing about is the history. The effects of the Royal Court on Spenser, the mysteries surrounding Marlowe, and even the mundane details about how many original versions of Hamlet are floating around (three, each of them very different) are just a few of the topics that are available to study and devour.

I find the era fascinating, and the literature of the era equally so. In an ideal world, I have a little office somewhere crammed full of Elizabethan texts and criticisms where I could go to relax. In the meantime, my three collections of the complete works of Shakespeare will have to do.

In his pretend life, August Baker is a retail monkey who channels anger and loathing into something vaguely resembling literature. In his real life, he is a Space Pirate.

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