Category Archives: Reference Materials

This category includes materials excerpted from a variety of reference books, as well as other material used as reference sources such as learning supports and style sheets.

Beloved

(1987) A novel by Toni Morrison, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. It is the story of a runaway slave whose desperation forces her to slash her infant daughter’s throat with a handsaw rather than see the child in chains. But eighteen years after the child’s death, a young woman appears and the characters believe she is the slain infant returned to earth. Set in the pre- and post-Civil War era outside Cincinnati, Beloved is developed through a series of flashbacks to the Sweet Home Plantation. The main characters are Sethe, the heroine who is literally haunted by the baby daughter she killed; Beloved, the ghost of Sethe’s child; Paul D., a former slave who knew Sethe when they were together at Sweet Home; and Denver, one of Sethe’s other three children.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

The Algonquin Wits: Beatrice Kaufman

“George Oppenheimer, while an editor at Viking Press, was once assigned to collect material for a question-book called Ask Me Another. As a promotional gimmick the editors were advised to first test the questions on various celebrities. Covering the ‘famous authors’ section, Oppenheimer asked Beatrice Kaufman: ‘Who wrote The Virginian?’

‘Owen Wister,’ Beatrice answered.

Oppenheimer’s next question read: ‘Who wrote The Virginians?’

Reacting against the gimmicky pattern of the questions, Beatrice answered, ‘Owens Wisters.’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.

Annie Besant

“Annie Besant (born Wood, 1847-1933) English author, theosophist, and political radical. Besant separated from her clergyman husband and became associated with Charles Bradlaugh in the free-thought movement. And advocated of socialism and social reform, she was a member of the Fabian Society, an organizer of labor unions, and a worker among impoverished and delinquent children. Later, after meeting Mme. Blavatsky, she became a leading theosophist in England. Interest in occult theology took her to India (1889), where she founded the Central Hindu College at Benares, and began to agitate for home rule in India. She wrote many religious works as well as her Autobiography (1893), How India Wrought for Freedom (1915), and India, Bond or Free (1926).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Hannah Arendt on Thought

“Thought…is still possible, and no doubt actual, wherever men live under the conditions of political freedom. Unfortunately…no other human capacity is so vulnerable, and it is in fact far easier to act under conditions of tyranny than it is to think.”

The Human Condition ch. 45 (1958)

Excerpted from: Shapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Elizabeth Bishop

(1911-1979) American poet. Bishop’s first book of poems was North and South (1946). In 1955 she reissued that book with A Cold Spring; the double volume was awarded the 1956 Pulitizer Prize for poetry. Bishop had close friendships with Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell; her work shares precision with the former and personal warmth with the latter. Her poems are written in a modern idiom with great stylistic subtlety. While she knew many of the confessional poets, she wrote about her own life with irony, humor, and detachment. Her Complete Poems (1969) won the National Book Award in 1970. Geography III (1977), a ten-poem picture of her life, seen through places she remembers, is meditative, but vivid, spare almost to the point of austerity. Bishop was an avid traveler, living in many parts of the world, including Brazil, where she lived with Lota de Macedo Soares for almost two decades. Bishop returned to the U.S. after Soares’ suicide. The end of Bishop’s life was darkened by ill health and alcoholism, which had long plagued her. Bishop was considered by many a “poet’s poet,” but her deceptively simple style carries with it an undercurrent of tenderness that also touches less-sophisticated readers. Bishop also wrote a number of travel books, including Questions of Travel (1965) and Brazil (1967). One Art: Selected Letters (1993) is a large selection of an ever more voluminous and interesting correspondence.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Rotten Reviews: Wise Blood

“A gloomy tale. The author tries to lighten it with humor, but unfortunately her idea of humor is almost exclusively variations on the pratfall…Neither satire not humor is achieved.”

Saturday Review of Literature

Excerpted from: Bernard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.

Djuna Barnes

(1892-1982) American novelist and short-story writer. For many years a resident of Europe, Barnes was the author of three experimental plays produced in 1919-1920 by the Provincetown Players: Three from the Earth, An Irish Triangle, and Kurzy from the Sea. Ryder (1928) and Nightwood (1936) are her best-known books. The latter, with an introduction by T.S. Eliot, is an experimental novel dealing with the Parisian artistic underground. After the publication of Nightwood, however, Barnes became a recluse. She published only one play and two poems after this, the main reason for her lack of fame today; in her time, she was extremely influential. The Antiphon (1958) is a surrealistic play in blank verse. Her Selected Works appeared in 1962. In 1983, soon after her death, Smoke and Other Early Stories was published for the first time. Interviews (1985), a collection of newspaper and magazine conversations with celebrities presents forty portraits of varied people and is illustrated by Barnes’s own drawings.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.