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H.P. Lovecraft

Born in 1890, Howard Phillips Lovecraft was somewhat of a child prodigy reciting poetry by age two, reading avidly by age three, and writing his own stories by seven. As an adult, Lovecraft's writings became increasingly dark. The Dreams in the Witch House explores the unknown dimensions inhabited by the night and a mysterious witch named Keziah Mason. A story of witchcraft, childe sacrifice, and the struggle between good and evil, it is a timeless horror fiction classic.To read more, click here.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797)

As a schoolmistress (and headmaster) at an all-girls school, Mary Wollstonecraft discovered that the girls she was trying to teach had already been enslaved, through social training, into subordination to men. Her ensuing frustration resulted in a proposal that the ideals of the Enlightenment be expanded to include education for women. Wollstonecraft died in 1797, shortly after giving birth to a daughter—Mary, who would go on to become Mary Shelley, wrote Frankenstein —but her views on feminism and equal rights live on.  To read more, click here.

Walt Whitman (1819–1892)

Born, in 1819, to a family of Quakers, Walt Whitman was a poet of the people. Largely self-taught—he quit school at the age of eleven to help support his family—Whitman consumed the works of Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare voraciously, and knew the bible by heart, but it was music which most infused his work. Many of his four hundred poems contain musical terms and allusions. To read more, click here.

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863)

Though a gentleman by birth, William Thackeray, born in Calcutta, India, was forced to write for a living having lost his fortune in a financial crash. Anxious to increase both his wealth (in order to support his daughters and wife) and his stature (journalism having had a negative effect on his status as a gentleman), Thackeray was very happy to find that the serialization and subsequent publication in book form of Vanity Fair made him both financially secure and admired. Widely considered his greatest book, Vanity Fair, and in turn Thackeray, found fans in Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot. Today, this exciting novel is being brought to life in a new movie from director Mira Nair. Starring Jim Broadbent, Bob Hoskins, Gabriel Byrne, and Reese Witherspoon, Vanity Fair opens in theatres September 1, 2004. To read more, click here.

Saul Bellow (1915– )

Saul Bellow, born in 1915, is considered one of the most important post-WWII American writers. He has won several awards including, most notably, a Nobel Prize for his 1960s novel Herzog. At the beginning of his career, Bellow eschewed the traditional "tough-guy" model used so effectively by Hemmingway, choosing instead to find influence in a variety of sources: Nietzche, Oedipal conflicts, popular culture, and his own Russian-Jewish heritage. Indicative of Bellow's mid-life Conservatism, More Die of Heartbreak tells the story of two men trying to resolve their quest for intellectual development with personal happiness. To read more, click here.

Anatole France (1844–1924)

Anatole France, pseudonym for Jacques Anatole Francois Thibault, was the son of a Paris book dealer. Though primarily a storyteller and novelist, France dabbled in many literary genres and was considered a major figure of French literature in both the 19th and 20th centuries. His work often dealt, directly and otherwise, with his political disillusionment, which led him to lean, increasingly, to the left, sympathizing with Socialism and, closer to his death, with Communism. The Gods Will Have Blood, originally Les Dieux on Soif, was written in 1912 and is considered one of his last important works. He won a Nobel Prize in 1921 and died in 1924. To read more, click here.

Jacobean Revenge Tragedies

Where Elizabethan literature exuded the self-confidence of a nation expanding its powers, disillusionment and pessimism marked the seventeenth century and the literary reflection of the reign of King James I (1603–25). The King, though well-read and enthusiastic, was not considered highly by the people of England: he had been the King of Scotland—England's rival—for almost thirty years before his cousin, Queen Elizabeth, announced him as her successor. The cynical and horrific views on humanity popular with the lead writers of the time—Thomas Middleton, Cyril Tourneur, and John Webster—was a reflection of this great upheaval. To read more, click here.

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