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Ballads

Parallels in Old and Contemporary Narratives
When we consider the ballad, we imagine slick-haired crooners wooing concert attendees as the spotlight shines brightly about their performances. From historic pop sensations like The Beatles and Elvis Presley to more contemporary artists like Whitney Houston and Celine Dion, the ballad transfixes audiences as it bares the souls of the singers, lyricists, and musicians who share them.

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Swimming

Recreations and Competitions
From picturesque white sand beaches and their crystal waters to the Olympic pools used by some of the world’s top athletes, swimming combines elegant recreation with demanding competition. 

Stone Age pictures from 10,000 years ago depict swimming as do early literary texts, including The Odyssey, written by Homer and Beowulf, in which the protagonist disputes claims that he was bested in a swimming match by his friend Breca. 

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Odes to Sexuality

Erotic Literature
Author E. L. James’ now-ubiquitous 50 Shades of Grey brought erotica and sexual kink into the mainstream; however, that by no means indicates that erotic literature is a 20th or 21st century phenomenon. Odes to sexuality and human sexual relationships date back thousands of years, even occupying the highest rungs of poetic verse.

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Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls o’ Fire!

Historic Fires
Jerry Lee Lewis’ rollicking tune notwithstanding, fire shapes human history. Having learned to create and control fire over 400,000 years ago, humankind embarked upon the painstaking process of building civilizations and all the wonders and ills that attend human gatherings. We still use fire to distill water, melt and solder metals, produce steam to run turbines for electricity, incinerate trash, and heat our homes.

Fire is unpredictable, both master and slave to human demand. Nature, however, has played with fire for longer than humankind: Discover Magazine noted in its October 7, 2011, issue that “A coal seam about 140 miles north of Sydney, Australia, has been burning by some estimates for 500,000 years.” When fire burns out of control, the event inspires terror and awe and it changes lives for a long, long time. Following are some of the most memorable fires in history.

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Literature for Adolescents

Coming of Age
Articles discussing children’s literature tend to focus on the under-12 crowd, which leaves a vast swath of teenagers searching for something suitable to read. Writing literature that caters to a teenager’s growing independence yet doesn’t cross the line into adult literature involves a tricky balancing act for authors and those who recommend literature. Treat teens as naive or innocent and they’ll think you’re patronizing and out of touch; however, in most instances those same teens aren’t yet ready for the burdens and complex moral quandaries of adulthood.

Nineteenth century Western society saw a shift away from a tradition of marrying off girls in their early teen years, giving those girls a chance to mature. The burgeoning field of psychology and observant physicians eventually recognized mental and emotional differences between adolescent and mature bodies and brains in both boys and girls. These new discoveries precipitated adolescent literature.

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Pumpkins Sweet & Savory

The Quintessential Fall Flavor
Immigrants to the New World brought with them an ancient Irish tradition of carving turnips and transferred it to a uniquely American fruit: the pumpkin. In modern times, society’s fascination with all things pumpkin goes beyond jack-o-lanterns to coffee, ice cream, and just about everything else flavored with “pumpkin spice” (a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves) which is used to flavor pumpkin pie.

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Scent of Decadence

Perfume and The Decadence Movement
"Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul," Lord Henry says to Dorian Gray (p. 30, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde) as he drinks in the perfume of a lilac blossom. Perhaps too dramatic a sentiment for some people, Wilde was a Decadence writer through and through. The Decadents meant to experience life through all the senses with discriminate, hully-gully passion, reaching for the maximalist versions of art for art’s sake, artificiality, satire, sexuality, and ennui. 

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Metaphysical Hot Air Balloons

Baroque Poets
The Metaphysical poets were a loose group of poets coined as a movement after the fact by their common love for analyzing feeling rather than expressing it, their use of irony, paradox, obliqueness that forces the reader to confront consciousness itself, and the use of conceits through sometimes strained, extended metaphors.

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Making Up for Lost Time

Julian to Gregorian Calendar
In 46 BC, Julius Caesar proposed reforms to the Roman calendar, which took effect the beginning of 45 BC, and became the predominant calendar throughout the Roman world, Europe, and European settlements including the Americas.

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Cuban Missile Crisis

Escalation
On October 22, 1962, American President John F. Kennedy addressed the world with beginning remarks: 

Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on [Cuba]. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the western hemisphere. 
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Speak, Memory

The Orality of Epic Poetry
Long before the visual epics of our time and the written epics before that, stories were passed from mouth to ear to mouth again. It was the time of oral epics, products of oral history traditions and preliterate times, where culture and cultural truths were preserved and passed down through epics.

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World Library Foundation Communism Collection

Top 100 Communism Books
Communism is the ideology and socioeconomic structure of common ownership of the means of production and the absence of state, money, and social classes. The umbrella of communism covers various schools of thought--including Marxism, Christian Communism, and Trotskyism to name a few--but they all share the same idea that the root of all of society’s problems is the conflict between the working class proletariat and the capitalist bourgeoisie. 

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Silence

John Cage
“Everything is music.” How do we reconcile this often quoted philosophy of composer John Cage with his most famous work, 4'33", a 4-minute and 33-second song of silence?

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Jewish Holidays

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur
The month of September has several Jewish holidays, including Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, which are referred to as High Holy Days or High Holidays. In Judaism, they are known as Yamim Noraim or “Days of Awe.” These are also the only Jewish holidays not based on historical events.

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All Aboard

The Mayflower’s Passengers
In 1620, English Puritans set sail from Plymouth, England to the New World on the Mayflower. Commonly known today as the Pilgrims, they were part of a group of English Protestants who separated from the Church of England to seek a new home where they would be free from religious persecution. 

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Taj Mahal

A Tribute to Love
When loved ones pass, spouses, family, and friends yearn to honor them. Traditionally, this may include having a tomb to visit or an urn filled with ashes following cremation. 

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Superstitions

by Culture
Superstitions vary from culture to culture. Each has its own beliefs about what ushers in good fortune and what must be avoided to ward off  evil. 

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Manners and Civility

From Wisdom Literature to Novels of Manners
The old, English proverb “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” testifiest to the codes of etiquette established and re-established over millenia. 

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The Three B’s

Entrenched in Musical Tradition
The fundamental components in learning or experiencing classical music begin with The Three B’s. Though composers Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Johannes Brahms have been gone for more than a century, students, scholars, and classical music aficionados analyze their works and recordings to better understand the creation of these masterful compositions.

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Big Dreams, Little Leagues

Little League Baseball
Baseball, the famed American pastime, has developed into an international sport that has garnered millions of fans. Fanatics rattle off the statistics of their favorite players, track historical batting averages and home runs, and are left in awe when witnessing the speed, power, agility, and awareness these heroes possess. 

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