To hear other conversations with Joseph Pearce visit the Discerning Hearts “Joseph Pearce – Cultural Apologetics” page
Episode 1 – Great Works in Western Literature with Joseph Pearce – Introduction to the Series Based on the Ignatius Critical Edition, this series examines, from the Judeo-Christian perspective, the life, the times, and influence of authors of great works in literature . Joseph Pearce is currently the Writer-in-Residence and Visiting Fellow at Thomas More […]
Episode 2 – Great Works in Western Literature with Joseph Pearce – Emily Bronte Wuthering Heights is one of the classic novels of nineteenth century romanticism. As a major work of modern literature it retains its controversial status. What was Emily Brontë’s intention? Were her intentions iconoclastic? Were they feminist? Were they Christian or post-Christian? […]
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of the most influential and controversial novels of the nineteenth century; but has also become one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted. It has been vivisected critically by latter-day Victor Frankenstein’s who have transformed the meanings emergent from
GWML#6 Jonathan Swift and “Gulliver’s Travels” – Great Works in Western Literature with Joseph Pearce
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift is one of the greatest satirical works ever written. Through the misadventures of Lemuel Gulliver, his hopelessly “modern” protagonist, Swift exposes many of the follies of the English Enlightenment, from its worship of science to its neglect of traditional philosophy and theology.
GWML#5 Charles Dickens “Great Expectations” – Great Works in Western Literature with Joseph Pearce –
Pope John Paul II described Dickens’ books as “filled with love for the poor and a sense of social regeneration . . . warm with imagination and humanity”. Such true charity permeates Dickens’ novels and ultimately drives the characters either to choose regeneration or risk disintegration. In Great Expectations, Pip — symbolic of the pilgrim convert — gains both improved fortunes and a growth in wisdom, but as he acquires the latter, he must relinquish the former — ending with a wealth of profound goodness, not of worldly goods.
GWML#7 Harriet Beecher Stowe and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” – Great Works in Western Literature with Joseph Pearce
Harriet Beecher Stowe was appalled by slavery, and she took one of the few options open to nineteenth century women who wanted to affect public opinion: she wrote a novel, a huge, enthralling narrative that claimed the heart, soul, and politics of millions of her contemporaries. Uncle Tom’s Cabin paints pictures of three plantations, each worse than the other, where even the best plantation leaves a slave at the mercy of fate or debt. Her questions remain penetrating even today: “Can man ever be trusted with wholly irresponsible power?”
GWML#9 Nathaniel Hawthorne and “The Scarlet Letter” – Great Works in Western Literature with Joseph Pearce
A key figure in the development of American literature, Nathaniel Hawthorne was also profoundly influenced by his ancestors and the Christianity that underscored their Puritan heritage. A literary classic, The Scarlet Letter presents a profound meditation on the nature of sin, repentance, and redemption, and on how such Christian concepts may be integrated into American democracy.
GWML#10 William Shakespeare (Hamlet and Macbeth) – Great Works in Western Literature with Joseph Pearce
Arguably Shakespeare’s finest and most important play, Hamlet is also one of the most misunderstood masterpieces of world literature. “To be or not to be”, may be the question, but the answer has eluded many generations of critics. What does it mean “to be”? And is everything as it seems to be?
GWML#11 William Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice and King Lear) – Great Works in Western Literature with Joseph Pearce
Episode 11 – Great Works in Modern Literature with Joseph Pearce – William Shakespeare part 2
The Merchant of Venice is probably the most controversial of all Shakespeare’s plays. It is also one of the least understood. Is it a comedy or a tragedy? What is the meaning behind the test of the caskets? Who is the real villain of the trial scene? Is Shylock simply vicious and venomous, or is he more sinned against than sinning?
Episode 13 – Bram Stoker and “Dracula” on Great Works in Western Literature with Joseph Pearce
When solicitor’s clerk Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania on business to meet a mysterious Romanian count named Dracula, he little expects the horrors this strange meeting will unleash. Thus Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel of blood and passion begins, rapidly accelerating from Harker’s nightmarish experiences in Castle Dracula to a full-fledged vampiric assault on late-Victorian London itself. The story, narrated through a collection of documents-primarily journal entries and letters-chronicles the desperate efforts of a band of gentlemen to protect the virtue of their ladies and lay to rest the ancient threat once and for all.
Often vacillating wildly between the terrible and the comic, Dracula at the same time brings to life a host of compelling themes: tensions between antiquity and modernity; the powers and limitations of technology; the critical importance of feminine virtue; the difference between superstition and religion; the nature of evil; and, perhaps most compellingly, the complex relationship between ancient faith and scientific enlightenment. More vivid than any of its varied film adaptations, and over a century after its first publication, Dracula still retains its sharp bite.
Episode 14 – Herman Melville and “Moby Dick” on Great Works in Western Literature with Joseph Pearce
A sea adventure, a study of evil, and a cast of fascinating characters, including the crazed captain who is obsessed with hunting down the whale that maimed him — Moby-Dick is all of this and more.
Based on the author’s experiences as a sailor, Herman Melville’s probing look into the human heart has been read and analyzed from every angle, including the most absurd. The tragic tale is looked at afresh in this Ignatius Critical Edition, which examines the background and other writings of the author and provides his essay on a work by his literary friend Nathaniel Hawthorne.
GWML#8 Jane Austen “Pride & Prejuidice” and “Mansfield Park” – Great Works in Western Literature with Joseph Pearce –
Jane Austen is arguably the finest female novelist who ever lived and Pride and Prejudice is arguably the finest, and is certainly the most popular, of her novels. An undoubted classic of world literature, its profound Christian morality is all too often missed or willfully overlooked by today’s (post)modern critics.
Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is, according to many critics and fond readers, the great American novel. Full of vibrant American characters, intriguing regional dialects and folkways, and down-home good humor, it also hits Americans in one of their greatest and on-going sore spots: the fraught issue of racism.
As Huck and Jim float down the Mississippi and encounter all manner of people and situations, and as Huck struggles mightily with his conscience concerning Jim, the novel strongly invites a moral and religious perspective.
The Confessions of Saint Augustine is considered one of the greatest Christian classics of all time. It is an extended poetic, passionate, intimate prayer that Augustine wrote as an autobiography sometime after his conversion, to confess his sins and proclaim God’s goodness. Just as his first hearers were captivated by his powerful conversion story, so also have many millions been over the following sixteen centuries. His experience of God speaks to us across time with little need of transpositions.
GWML#16 Charles Dickens and “ATale of Two Cities” – Great Works in Western Literature with Joseph Pearce
In this exciting novel set during the French Revolution, Charles Dickens expresses sympathy for the downtrodden poor and their outrage at the self-indulgent aristocracy. But Dickens is no friend of the vengeful mob that storms the Bastille and cheers the guillotine. As with all of his stories, his passion is for the unforgettable and unrepeatable individuals he creates.
The sorrows of the suffering masses, their demands for justice, and the indiscriminate fury they unleash take flesh in Madame Defarge, while the self-sacrifice that is the truest means of atonement and rebirth manifests in the unlikely hero Sydney Carton. In A Tale of Two Cities, humanity does not show its best side in the mean streets of Paris or even London, but in the intimate circle of loyal friends that gathers around the honorable Doctor Manette and his lovely daughter, Lucie.
GWML#4 Oscar Wilde and “The Picture of Dorian Gray” – Great Works in Western Literature with Joseph Pearce
In true Faustian tradition The Picture of Dorian Gray tells the tale of a young man who sells his soul to the devil in return for youthful immortality, only to discover that the “devil’s bargain” is no bargain at all. “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?
GWML#20 G. K. Chesterton and “The Man Who Was Thursday” – Great Works in Western Literature with Joseph Pearce
G. K. Chesterton and “The Man Who Was Thursday” –
“A powerful picture of the loneliness and bewilderment which each of us encounters in his single-handed struggle with the universe.”
–C. S. Lewis –
Chesterton’s own response, and riposte, to the Decadence of the 1890s can be found in his novel “The Man Who Was Thursday”. Whereas the Decadents–taking their own perverse inspiration from the dark romanticism of Byron, Shelley and Keats-had stripped the masks off reality” and discovered darkness, Chesterton stripped the masks off reality” (from the “anarchists” in his novel) and discovered light — Joseph Pearce “Ignatius Insight” May 2005
“Eliot’s place as a poet of the highest stature is assured. The Waste Land is the quintessential debunking of modernity and is also, simultaneously, a potent antidote to the poison of postmodernism..”
–Joseph Pearce – St. Austin Review –
An excerpt from “The Wasteland” by T. S. Eliot
If there were water
And no rock
If there were rock
And also water
And water 350
A pool among the rock
If there were the sound of water only
Not the cicada
And dry grass singing
But sound of water over a rock
Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
But there is no water
Who is the third who walks always beside you? 360
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that on the other side of you?
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