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A Field Guide to Literary References in Monty Python's Flying Circus

While it's better known for dead parrots and crossdressing lumberjacks, Monty Python has a surprisingly academic background. Five of the six members of the group (Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, John Cleese, and Eric Idle) attended either Oxford or Cambridge. Cutting their teeth writing for other BBC series, the five eventually joined up, along with American Terry Gilliam, to create Monty Python's Flying Circus. While experimenting with the bounds of sketch comedy, the group also flexed their academic muscle throughout the course of the show, making reference to many works of classic literature in the process. Here's a compendium of many of these references, excluding the ones I couldn't find on YouTube.

The Semaphore Version of Wuthering Heights

What Episode: 15
Authors/Works Referenced: Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë & Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare
Don't Miss: The extent of the semaphore, from Catherine and Heathcliff to the baby, nurse, and old man.

Poet Inspection

Episode: 17
Authors/Works Referenced: "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," William Wordsworth, "The Splendor Falls on Castle Walls," Alfred Lord Tennyson
Don't Miss: "There's Alfred Lord Tennyson in the Bathroom!"

A Tale of Two Cities for Parrots

Episode: 20
Authors/Works Referenced: A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Don't Miss: The first line of the "special adaptation," which quickly informs how the rest will follow

Mrs. Premise and Mrs. Conclusion visit Jean-Paul Satre

Episode: 27
Authors/Works Referenced: The Roads to Freedom series, Jean-Paul Satre
Don't Miss: "Four hours to bury a cat?"

All-England Summarize Proust Competition

Episode: 31
Authors/Works Referenced: The epic 7-volume novel Rememberance of Things Past, Marcel Proust
Don't Miss: The choral adaptation

Ant Poetry Reading

Episode: 41
Authors/Works Referenced: Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," Shelley's "Ozymandias," Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade"
Don't Miss: Graham Chapman's increasingly drunk hostess

Hamlet Psychoanalysis

Episode: 43
Authors/Works Referenced: Hamlet, William Shakespeare
Don't Miss: The use of computers in modern psychiatry

Little Red Riding Hood

Episode: German Episode 1 or Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl
Authors/Works Referenced: Little Red Riding Hood, The Brothers Grimm (amongst others)
Don't Miss: John Cleese in Bavarian Drag

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Dedicated Middle School Teacher Transforms His Classroom Into Hogwarts
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Kyle Ely

It would be hard to dread back-to-school season with Kyle Ely as your teacher. As ABC News reports, the instructor brought a piece of Hogwarts to Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon by plastering his classroom with Harry Potter-themed decor.

The journey into the school's makeshift wizarding world started at his door, which was decorated with red brick wall paper and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign above the entrance. Inside, students found a convincing Hogwarts classroom complete with floating candles, a sorting hat, owl statues, and house crests. He even managed to recreate the starry night sky effect of the school’s Great Hall by covering the ceiling with black garbage bags and splattering them with white paint.

The whole project cost the teacher around $300 to $400 and took him 70 hours to build. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, he said that being able to share his love of the book series with his students made it all pay off it. He wrote in a Facebook post, "Seeing their faces light up made all the time and effort put into this totally worth it."

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Though wildly creative, the Hogwarts-themed classroom at Evergreen Middle School isn't the first of its kind. Back in 2015, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma City outfitted her classroom with a potions station and a stuffed version of Fluffy to make the new school year a little more magical. Here are some more unique classroom themes teachers have used to transport their kids without leaving school.

[h/t ABC News]

Images courtesy of Kyle Ely.

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How the Rise of Paperback Books Turned To Kill a Mockingbird Into a Literary Classic
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Tim Boyle/Getty Images

If you went to middle or high school in the U.S. in the last few decades, chances are you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's now-classic novel (which was adapted into a now-classic film) about racial injustice in the South. Even if you grew up far-removed from Jim Crow laws, you probably still understand its significance; in 2006, British librarians voted it the one book every adult should read before they die. And yet the novel, while considered an instant success, wasn’t always destined for its immense fame, as we learned from the Vox video series Overrated. In fact, its status in the American literary canon has a lot to do with the format in which it was printed.

To Kill a Mockingbird came out in paperback at a time when literary houses were just starting to invest in the format. After its publication in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was reviewed favorably in The New York Times, but it wasn’t the bestselling novel that year. It was the evolution of paperbacks that helped put it into more hands.

Prior to the 1960s, paperbacks were often kind of trashy, and when literary novels were published in the format, they still featured what Vox calls “sexy covers,” like a softcover edition of The Great Gatsby that featured a shirtless Jay Gatsby on the cover. According to a 1961 article in The New York Times, back in the 1950s, paperbacks were described as “a showcase for the ‘three S’s—sex, sadism, and the smoking gun.’” But then, paperbacks came to schools.

The mass-market paperback for To Kill a Mockingbird came out in 1962. It was cheap, but had stellar credentials, which appealed to teachers. It was a popular, well-reviewed book that earned Lee the Pulitzer Prize. Suddenly, it was in virtually every school and, even half a century later, it still is.

Learn the whole story in the video below from Vox.

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