Sunday, December 30, 2007

Preparatory Reading

For those of you who are getting started with the course reading, the first text -- Rudyard Kipling's Stalky & Co. -- is the foundation for our understanding of all the readings that follow. Read Stalky & Co. as a literary manifestation of the code of masculinity that was uniform in the British Empire to 1945.

Kipling is a very great author. The fact that he provokes intense emotional reactions from literati both for an against is a mark of his undeniable and peerless literary excellence. There is little worse than an author expressing views that you loathe with supreme literary genius -- and little better on the other side.

Be sure to engage the book on its own terms in the first reading, and try to gain sensibility for its aesthetic: Stalky & Co. had almost universal reach and its direct literary influence on English life & letters is practically impossible to overstate.

It is in many ways very contemporary: picaresque and crude, written in note-perfect sub-group vernacular, and a very rare inner-portrait of an under-culture by a legitimate member who happened also to possess the ability to express the reality in brilliant fiction.

4 comments:

Bella_by_Barlight said...

I never did get around to reading Rotten. I've found Stalky and Co. quite a good reference point for several of my subsequent history courses though. It is always wonderful to see how knowledge continues to be relevant beyond its expected usefulness.

Dr. S.A. Ogden said...

Hi "Bella":

Another of your fellow students said a similar thing about Stalky & Co., so that's great news. University really is great -- some things (you never know what!) stick with you & pop up helpfully in persistent places.
I hope you do read "rotten" - I bet you'll love it.

Adam Nowek said...

Will Stalky and Co. be coming into the bookstore any time soon? I've checked frequently; Amis' Success is finally in, but Stalky is not yet on the shelves.

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...

Dear Adam:

Says next week Monday at the BookStore: stay tuned....