Joseph Brodsky’s Reading List for Essential Conversations

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Nobel Prize-winning poet, essayist, and professor Joseph Brodsky

In 1972, poet Joseph Brodsky angered government officials in his native Russia and was expelled from the country.  With the help of fellow poet W.H. Auden, Brodsky settled in the United States, found a position at Yale and taught classes at Mount Holyoke as well.  Later, he accepted professorships at both Cambridge and the University of Michigan.  (Not bad for an autodidact!)

Of the many opinions Brodsky espoused to his students was that they could not carry on intelligent conversations unless they had done fundamental reading in what he considered influential texts. He passed out a list of these works to everyone in his classes.

Monica Partridge, a former student at Mount Holyoke recalls an early class meeting with Brodsky.  On the Brodsky Reading Group blog, Partridge wrote that

“Shortly after the class began, he passed out a handwritten list of books that he said every person should have read in order to have a basic conversation.  At the time I was thinking, ‘Conversation about what?’ I knew I’d never be able to have a conversation with him, because I never thought I’d ever get through the list. Now that I’ve had a little living, I understand what he was talking about. Intelligent conversation is good. In fact, maybe we all need a little more.”

Here are the books or works on that list. I’m proud to say that unless the conversation turns to “Icelandic Sagas” I could pretty well hold my own at a Brodsky cocktail party…

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New to eNotes: Annotated eTexts!

For a long time at eNotes, we’ve displayed eTexts on the site–entire works that anyone can access for free. But recently we’ve worked to make them even better. Welcome to our all new Annotated eTexts!

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What’s an Annotated eText?

Have you ever underlined words or made notes in the margins of your books while reading them? These notes help to re-familiarize you with a passage of text when you flip back through it, or draw out evidence that points to a novel’s main themes. Well, now those notes are made for you, and by the very same teachers who expertly answer your questions in eNotes Homework Help.

With real teachers and professors helping you with your homework, how can you go wrong?

How do I find them?

All of eNotes’ eTexts can be accessed by clicking the eText header link via any page of the site:

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Pick a work from over 120 Annotated eTexts on this list. A full list of all of our eTexts can be found here. Both lists are alphabetical.

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Check Out eNotes’ Top TAs!

eNotes’ TAs have been busy answering questions for the past month. And now you can see just how many on the brand new TA Leaderboard here.

Simply click on the far right tab labeled “TA Leaderboard” to see who’s at the top.

TA Leaderboard

The TA with the most answers of the month receives a $50 bonus on top of the rewards they receive for answering questions. And the TA with the best answers of the month gets a bonus, too!

Interested? Email us at ta@enotes.com for more info. This job opening is for high school and college students only please.

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We look forward to hearing from you!


Top Ten Strangest Questions I’ve Been Asked While Working at a University Library Front Desk

10. Patron: If I was feeling particularly existentialist, what book would you recommend for me?

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9. Patron: Hi. I’m looking for a book called Bay Wolves. Can you help me find it?

Me: Sure, let me look it up for you… Hmmm, sorry we don’t have any books by that name. Do you know the author’s name, maybe?

Patron: No, but I think it’s spelled kind of weird, like B-E-O… wolves.

Me: …Do you mean Beowulf?

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8. Patron: Can you help me find the Law Library?

Me: [pulls out a map] The Law Library is right here. You just walk down this street, turn this corner, and you’ll be there.

Patron: Thanks, hopefully they’ll have a book about Newton’s Laws.

Me: Uh, maybe you’re looking for the Physics Library instead…?

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Why We Love the New eNotes Study Guide Pages

eNotes’ study guides have a new look! Check out our top 3 reasons why they’re new and improved:

1. Quick and easy access to the information you need most

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2. Homework Help on the study guide page

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3. Find what’s trending in every subject

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But enough gushing from us! Why not check them out for yourself and let us know what you think? Browse eNotes’ 40,000+ Literature study guides at this link. With eNotes, you can trust that all of our content is unique, expert, and in-depth, making our study guides your best resource for all of your class assignments!

Contact us on Twitter or Facebook today for your free pass.


Become an eNotes TA!

Are you a high school or undergraduate student interested in helping your fellow peers? Perhaps you tutor on the side, or go out of your way to help friends with their homework? Well, now there’s a place at eNotes just for you!

eNotes is looking to enlist a small team of student contributors that we’re calling our eNotes TAs.

keep-calm-i-m-a-teaching-assistantWhat’s a TA?

A TA (Teaching Assistant) is somewhere between a student and a teacher; they have the required knowledge to help others with the subject matter at hand, but can explain it all in a way that their fellow students will understand. eNotes TAs will work in our Homework Help section, writing original answers to eNoters’ questions from around the world. Along with our team of real-life Educators, eNotes TAs will help to make Homework Help your top choice for expert answers and instruction provided in the clearest way!

To join this team you must be enrolled in school (high school or undergraduate) and possess an enthusiasm for learning and sharing what you’ve learnt.

In return, eNotes TAs will receive:

  • free premium membership to eNotes (unlimited access to our 250,000+ study guides, plus up to 5 Homework Help questions per day)
  • valuable resume or college application experience
  • special gift card rewards based on the attainment of pre-set goals

How to apply:

If you’re interested in becoming a part of the eNotes team, please submit your application to become a TA to jgardner@enotes.com. Make sure to include a little bit about yourself, your grade level, and what makes you a strong candidate for the TA program. We look forward to hearing from you!

Check back at eNotes.com later this Fall term to see our TAs in action!


See what your friends are up to on eNotes!

We’ve just installed a new addition to eNotes to help keep you better updated on your account activity. Check out the new social header at the top of our pages!

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With this new alert system, you’ll find new messages, friend requests, and updates from your friends much easier than before. Simply click on the bell at the top right of your page to access any new correspondence.

We also want to make sure you find your way to all the new questions and answers coming in to Homework Help all the time. Spend a bit of time on a Homework Help page, and we’ll show you the number of new items that have been submitted since you arrived there:

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Check out all those new answers popping up in the Answered queue!

If you’re not already an eNotes member, find out how signing up for a free account can help you study smarter, with free daily Q&A, quizzes, and study guides to over 30,000 works in Literature alone. You can also chat to us on Facebook or Twitter for more info and trial passes.


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