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Have you ever been given a reading list that’s written, translated, and selected exclusively by and for men? Odds are you’ve rarely seen any that aren’t. If you want to appreciate the cannon while also living in a world where women exist, this is the list for you. These books and translations are some of the best and most lauded of all time, and yes, they’re by women.
It was, I must confess, a little hard to compile. The Odyssey was first translated by a woman only in 2017! But don’t despair. It’s all here for the taking.
The Iliad and the Odyssey
Homer’s epics have been translated MANY times, but these, by Caroline Alexander and Emily Wilson, respectively, set an incredible standard.
Close as can be to the ancient Greek, this translations has garnered heaping praise. “[T]he guard has changed, and a new gold standard has appeared”, said New Criterion at the volume’s publication. This edition even manages to retain the original line numbers from the Greek.
This work, too, matches the original Greek as closely as possible. “A staggeringly superior translation―true, poetic, lively and readable, and always closely engaged with the original Greek”, said Harvard classics professor Richard F. Thomas. Iambic pentameter imitates the lyricism of the original Greek, and the volume also includes translation guides and maps.
Antigonik and An Oresteia
For both of these it is possible to turn to Anne Carson, a Canadian translator and classics professor. Carson’s translations are modern, elegant, and never condescending. In stead of translated, the works seem brought into the light, with all their strangeness and fierceness intact.
How is it that Jane Austen, often the only woman on a reading list, is still under hyped? I had a guy in a bar tell me once that if people like Austen it’s because they haven’t read a lot of books. He really said that. Family conflict, human stories, and scathing humor makes Austen worth reading, with characters you really will love, and hate.
It’s a staple for a reason, and if you’re not sure you’ll relate to these people’s problems, you’re wrong. Fuckboys, impending poverty, poor decisions, and character growth you can get behind. Plus, it may be a period piece, but people still love their sisters. You’ll relate.
Another classic people want to avoid, but it has everything: deaths, fire, lies, weddings, blindness. I wouldn’t exactly call Jane a relateable character, but she’s understandable, I think, when you see everything she’s been through. And she’s incredibly decisive.
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Jane Eyre is a wonderful, compelling book. It’s also silly, competitive, and bonkers insulting. Let’s make it even sillier with the best the nonsense internet has to offer.
So you get this job in the middle of nowhere. Sure, they didn’t give you a lot of details, but at least nothing else is weird about it, and your new boss is super nice. Your name is not Jane Eyre.
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Life’s hard for an orphan, but Jane isn’t really one to complain, she kind of just takes it as it comes. It’s just as well, because even aside from her aunt hating her, people don’t seem to feel the need to be very nice to her, even our ‘hero’ and the rest of the people she meets at work.
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But boy do they. And she does too. Get some self confidence, girl! Sure, Rochester might not flirt like a normal person, but that’s no reflection on you. Being constantly downtrodden doesn’t mean you can’t live your best life! Why, when I was your age, I hadn’t received any proposals of marriage, and you have two! Sure, one is your cousin, and the other is already married, but ‘plain’ is either false or irrelevant. Mostly.
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We need a spin off. Did anyone else have about a million questions about Blanche? She’s pretty and popular, sure, and Rochester nearly marries her, but from Jane’s perspective, she’s sort of a force of nature. Personally, I want to know more.
It’s like things can never be easy for Jane. Even when she gets what she wants it goes sideways.
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So fun! Sure, it’s a bit of a rocky start, but marriage is complicated. I think those crazy kids can make it. Probably. If there’s something crazy that brings them back together. But what are the chances of that?
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We’re talking ARSON. We’re talking FALSE IMPRISONMENT. We’re talking BLINDNESS. How does Rochester feel so guilty but also act so cold? The man’s an enigma. Guilty as he may feel about Bertha, though, he moves on fast. You didn’t have to be so weird this whole time, man! You could’ve been happy!
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I’d love to know what’s going on in that guy’s head. I sort of picture it like beauty and the beast where he’s just angry in some room alone, slamming doors.
Lot’s of ups and downs, but all’s well that ends well (is this a happy ending?), I guess.
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Everyone likes an adaptation, and sometimes the best adaptations are underground. Here are seven picks from YouTube, perfect for marathoning, all based on classic novels and set in the modern era. No matter whether you’re a fan of Jane Austin, William Shakespeare, or Charlotte Bronte, there’s something for every classic book lover. Watch away!
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If you like Much Ado About Nothing, get ready for Nothing Much to Do, an adaptation from New Zealand in vlog format, this time set at Messina High. All the accusations, the threats, and a few serenades on ukulele, this modern adaptation has all the humor and hatred you love, while also featuring a plastic flamingo. A must watch.
Based on Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare
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Fans of Jane Eyre will appreciate the tragedy and measured pace of Autobiography of Jane Eyre. Filmed as a video diary, this series follows nursing student Jane as she leaves school, becomes a governess, and falls for the master of the house. Covering all the original beats of the story with inventiveness and heart, it has all the Gothic appeal of the original. Plus Adele is cute.
Based on Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
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A classic, and for good reason. Thorough plotting, well paced character development, and silly costumes make this series compulsively watchable. Elizabeth is very much herself, lovable, judgmental, caring—Jane is sweet and decisive, Kitty is an actual cat, and Lydia is gleeful and wild. Set in California, Lizzie is a grad student with no interest in marriage—much to her mother’s chagrin.
Based on Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austin
4. In Earnest
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Seriously, this web series is good. I’m not joking. You might say I’m Earnest, but honestly, who isn’t? Oscar Wilde’s classic is reimagined probably exactly as he would have wanted it—with everyone confused and overdressed. At just fifty episodes, it’s an excellent binge watch, and relatable, at least if you’ve ever wondered how to propose to someone you’ve given a false name.
Based on The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
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In this adaptation, Emma runs a PR firm with her brother-in-law, George Knightly. Some great parties, some terrible decisions, and outrageous confidence make this a fun and lighthearted series, despite any low moments. Fans of Austin will be thrilled, and if you’re not yet obsessed, you will be.
Based on Emma by Jane Austin
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If you can’t wait to return to Green Gables—or visit for the first time—Green Gables Fables is a delightful and heartwarming take on the classic story. Never discouraged, Anne’s passion and creativity make this series sing, and even at one-hundred-fifty episodes (the longest on this list), it seems too short.
Based on Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
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This adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy may have slightly less murder, but it has just as much tragedy as the original. The clash between two warring fraternities reaches new heights. Even with a lower mortality rate, this is still a tear jerker, so be warned. It’s also the shortest series on this list, with only twenty-one episodes.
Based on Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
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Celebrity hair collectors are in mourning today; leather jacket-clad professors, archeologists, and overzealous superfans bow their heads. Yet another treasure has been taken off the strand search list—none other than the long-sought-after braided lock of English novelist and poet, Charlotte Brontë. This news comes via an episode of Antiques Roadshow where a woman appeared on the show with a ring inscribed with the words “C. Brontë” on it (along with the date the writer died).
The show’s appraiser, Geoffrey Munn spoke with a woman who found the ring in her late father in law’s attic hidden inside a mysterious box. Clearly, the man was harboring something valuable—quest worthy. One can only imagine the adventure he experienced in search of hidden treasure. After rummaging through the attic and besting its Indiana Jones-esque booby traps, the unidentified woman found the key. Upon opening a hinge on the side of Brontë’s ring the referenced treasure was found.
“Yess,” Munn whispers as she describes the hair, clearly awed. “Yes!”
Munn found no reason to question its credibility given the fact that hair collecting was an even more acceptable tradition back in the day (19th century).
“There was a sort of terror of not being able to remember the face and the character of people who had died, and so this is part of a tradition of making a true souvenir, an incorruptible fragment of the person that has died and to wear it. It wasn’t uncommon.”
The eldest of the Brontë sisters (all writers of the highest standard), Charlotte is best known for classic novels like Jane Eyre, Shirley, and Villette. Tragically, Charlotte never made it past the age of forty—she died in 1855. Although one never expects to have their hair or any other accessories to be sold centuries after they pass; the good fortune surrounding this discovery is a pleasant reminder that no one’s story is ever really over.
Geoffrey Munn put the ring at £20,000, or around $26,000. Hmm, I thought the going rate for Brontë hair was more…
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