Monthly Archives: November 2013

Spotlight: 19th Century Best Selling Novel – Uncle Tom’s Cabin – do you know what it was about?

UncleTom

Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly, is an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1852, the novel helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War, according to many.

Stowe, a Connecticut-born teacher at the Hartford Female Academy and an active abolitionist, featured the character of Uncle Tom, a long-suffering black slave around whom the stories of other characters revolve. The sentimental novel depicts the reality of slavery while also asserting that Christian love can overcome something as destructive as enslavement of fellow human beings.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th centuryand the second best-selling book of that century, following the Bible. It is credited with helping fuel the abolitionist cause in the 1850s. In the first year after it was published, 300,000 copies of the book were sold in the United States; one million copies were sold in Great Britain. In 1855, three years after it was published, it was called “the most popular novel of our day.”

The book and the plays it inspired helped popularize a number of stereotypes about black people. These include the affectionate, dark-skinned “mammy”; the “pickaninny” stereotype of black children; and the “Uncle Tom”, or dutiful, long-suffering servant faithful to his white master or mistress.

Uncle Tom, the title character, was initially seen as a noble, long-suffering Christian slave. In more recent years, however, his name has become an epithet directed towards African-Americans who are accused of selling out to whites. Stowe intended Tom to be a “noble hero” and praiseworthy person.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is dominated by a single theme: the evil and immorality of slavery. While Stowe weaves other subthemes throughout her text, such as the moral authority of motherhood and the redeeming possibilities offered by Christianity, she emphasizes the connections between these and the horrors of slavery.  One way Stowe showed the evil of slavery was how this “peculiar institution” forcibly separated families from each other.

Stowe’s puritanical religious beliefs show up in the novel’s final, overarching theme – the exploration of the nature of Christianity and how she feels Christian theology is fundamentally incompatible with slavery.  Because Christian themes play such a large role in Uncle Tom’s Cabin—and because of Stowe’s frequent use of direct authorial interjections on religion and faith—the novel often takes the “form of a sermon.”

Uncle Tom’s Cabin has exerted an influence equaled by few other novels in history. Upon publication, Uncle Tom’s Cabin ignited a firestorm of protest from defenders of slavery (who created a number of books in response to the novel) while the book elicited praise from abolitionists. As a best-seller, the novel heavily influenced later protest literature.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin outraged people in the American South. The novel was also roundly criticized by slavery supporters.

Acclaimed Southern novelist William Gilmore Simms declared the work utterly false, while others called the novel criminal and slanderous. Reactions ranged from a bookseller in Mobile, Alabama, who was forced to leave town for selling the novel to threatening letters sent to Stowe (including a package containing a slave’s severed ear). Many Southern writers, like Simms, soon wrote their own books in opposition to Stowe’s novel.

Literary significance and criticism

As the first widely read political novel in the United States, Uncle Tom’s Cabin greatly influenced development of not only American literature but also protest literature in general. Later books which owe a large debt to Uncle Tom’s Cabin include The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.

Despite this undisputed significance, Uncle Tom’s Cabin has been called “a blend of children’s fable and propaganda.” The novel has also been dismissed by a number of literary critics as “merely a sentimental novel.”

Modern scholars and readers have criticized the book for what are seen as condescending racist descriptions of the book’s black characters, especially with regard to the characters’ appearances, speech, and behavior, as well as the passive nature of Uncle Tom in accepting his fate.  As a result, the book (along with illustrations from the book and associated stage productions) played a major role in permanently ingraining these stereotypes into the American psyche.

Even though Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century, far more Americans of that time saw the story as a stage play or musical than read the book, Eric Lott, in his book Uncle Tomitudes: Racial Melodrama and Modes of Production, estimates that at least three million people saw these plays, ten times the book’s first-year sales.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin has been adapted several times as a film. Most of these movies were created during the silent film era (Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the most-filmed book of that time period). Because of the continuing popularity of both the book and “Tom” shows, audiences were already familiar with the characters and the plot, making it easier for the film to be understood without spoken words. There has been no Hollywood treatment since the end of the silent era.

For several decades after the end of the silent film era, the subject matter of Stowe’s novel was judged too sensitive for further film interpretation. In 1946, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer considered filming the story but ceased production after protests led by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The most recent film version was a television broadcast in 1987, directed by Stan Lathan and adapted by John Gay. It starred Avery Brooks,Phylicia Rashad, Edward Woodward, Jenny Lewis, Samuel L. Jackson and Endyia Kinney.

A number of animated cartoons were produced, including the Bugs Bunny cartoon Southern Fried Rabbit (1953), in which Bugs disguises himself as Uncle Tom and sings My Old Kentucky Home in order to cross the Mason-Dixon line; Uncle Tom’s Bungalow (1937), a Warner Brothers cartoon supervised by Tex Avery; Eliza on Ice (1944), one of the earliest Mighty Mouse cartoons produced by Paul Terry; and Uncle Tom’s Cabaña (1947), an eight-minute cartoon directed by Tex Avery.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin has influenced numerous movies, including Birth of a Nation. This controversial 1915 film set the dramatic climax in a slave cabin similar to that of Uncle Tom, where several white Southerners unite with their former enemy (Yankee soldiers) to defend, according to the film’s caption, their “Aryan birthright.”

Other movies influenced by or making use of Uncle Tom’s Cabin include Dimples (a 1936 Shirley Temple film), Uncle Tom’s Uncle, (a 1926 Our Gang episode),its 1932 remake Spanky, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I (in which a ballet called “Small House of Uncle Thomas” is performed in traditional Siamese style), and Gangs of New York (in which Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis’s characters attend an imagined wartime adaptation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin).

Thanks for following – the eventsfy team

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncle_Tom%27s_Cabin

Spotlight: Richard Wagner (1813-1883) – renowned German composer, theatre director, conductor, and truth-seeker

Richard Wagner

Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works in the romantic vein of Weber and Meyerbeer, Wagner revolutionized opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”), by which he sought to synthesize the poetic, visual, musical, and dramatic arts with music subsidiary to drama.  Wagner realized these ideas most fully in the first half of the four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).

His advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centres, greatly influenced the development of classical music. His Tristan und Isolde is sometimes described as marking the start of modern music.

Wagner had his own opera house built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which embodied many novel design features. It was here that the Ring and Parsifal received their premieres and where his most important stage works continue to be performed in an annual festival run by his descendants.

The effect of his ideas can be traced in many of the arts throughout the 20th century; their influence spread beyond composition into conducting, philosophy, literature, the visual arts and theatre.

Wagner’s influence on literature and philosophy is significant. Barry Millington has commented:

[Wagner’s] protean abundance meant that he could inspire the use of literary motif in many a novel employing interior monologue; … the Symbolists saw him as a mystic hierophant; the Decadents found many a frisson in his work.

Thanks for following—the eventsfy team

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Wagner

 

Spotlight: Pride and Prejudice – UK’s 2nd most-loved books ever – written by whom?

Pride-Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice is a novel by Jane Austen, first published in 1813. The story follows the main character, Elizabeth Bennet, as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of early 19th-century England. Elizabeth is the second of five daughters of a country gentleman living near the fictional town of Meryton in Hertfordshire, near London.

Though the story is set at the turn of the 19th century, it retains a fascination for modern readers continuing near the top of lists of “most loved books” such as The Big Read.  It has become one of the most popular novels in English literature and receives considerable attention from literary scholars. Modern interest in the book has resulted in a number of dramatic adaptations and an abundance of novels and stories imitating Austen’s memorable characters or themes. To date, the book has sold some 20 million copies worldwide.

As Anna Quindlen wrote,

Pride and Prejudice is also about that thing that all great novels consider—the search for self. And it is the first great novel that teaches us this search is as surely undertaken in the drawing room making small talk as in the pursuit of a great white whale or the public punishment of adultery.

Pride and Prejudice, like most of Jane Austen’s works, employs the narrative technique of free indirect speech. This has been defined as “the free representation of a character’s speech, by which one means, not words actually spoken by a character, but the words that typify the character’s thoughts, or the way the character would think or speak, if she thought or spoke”.  By using narrative that adopts the tone and vocabulary of a particular character (in this case, that of Elizabeth), Austen invites the reader to follow events from Elizabeth’s viewpoint, sharing her prejudices and misapprehensions. “The learning curve, while undergone by both protagonists, is disclosed to us solely through Elizabeth’s point of view and her free indirect speech is essential … for it is through it that we remain caught, if not stuck, within Elizabeth’s misprisions.”

The poet W. H. Auden wrote of Austen in 1937:

You could not shock her more than she shocks me,
Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass.
It makes me most uncomfortable to see
An English spinster of the middle class
Describe the amorous effects of ‘brass’,
Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety
The economic basis of society

Cultural Impact:

In 2003 the BBC conducted the largest ever poll for the “UK’s Best-Loved Book” in which Pride and Prejudice came second, behind The Lord of the Rings.

In a 2008 survey of more than 15,000 Australian readers, Pride and Prejudice came first in a list of the 101 best books ever written

Pride and Prejudice has engendered numerous adaptations. Some of the notable film versions include that of 1940 starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier (based in part on Helen Jerome’s 1936 stage adaptation) and that of 2005 starring Keira Knightley (in an Oscar-nominated performance) and Matthew Macfadyen. Notable television versions include two by the BBC: the popular 1995 version starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, and a 1980 version starring Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul. A 1936 stage version was created by Helen Jerome played at the St. James’s Theatre in London, starring Celia Johnson and Hugh Williams. First Impressions was a 1959 Broadway musical version starring Polly Bergen, Farley Granger, and Hermione Gingold. In 1995, a musical concept album was written by Bernard J. Taylor, with Peter Karrie in the role of Mr Darcy and Claire Moore in the role of Elizabeth Bennet. A new stage production, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, The New Musical, was presented in concert on 21 October 2008 in Rochester, New York, with Colin Donnell as Darcy. A web series created by Hank Green and Pemberly Digital, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, also ran from April 2012 until March 2013. The LBD won an Emmy in the 2013 awards ceremony for Original Interactive Program.

Thanks for following – eventsfy team

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pride_and_Prejudice