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English Literature

Compiled by Wu WeiLun

1. What is Literature?

Literature refers to the practice and profession of writing. It comes from human interest in telling a story, in arranging words in artistic forms, in describing in words some aspects of human experiences. Literature is characterized by beauty of expression and form and by university of intellectual and emotional appeal. Literature shows us not only what a society is like in a certain age, but also what individual feel about it, what they hope from it, and how they can change it or escape from it.

2. Why we read Literature?

a. read for pleasure Howells observed that the study of Literature should begin and end in pleasure. b. reading for relaxation Modern life is full of pressure. It is peoples common desire to seek temporally relaxation from the stress in life. c. reading to acquire knowledge. Literature gives readers an insight into the tradition, custom, beliefs, attitudes, folklore, values of the age in which it is written.

3. How to study Literature?

a. analytical approach The elements of fiction include plot, character, setting, point of view, theme, symbol, allegory, style, and tone. b.thematic approach What is the story, the poem, the play, or the essay about?

c. historical approach

It aims at illustrating the historical development of literature. All the Literature exists in time and as such bears the unmistakable imprint of the period and culture in which it is written

d. Other approaches

Marxist/sociological criticism psychoanalytical criticism feminist/gender criticism mythic and archetypal criticism reader-response criticism formalist /new criticism structuralism

Other approaches(2)

post- structuralism Decostructuralism Our textbook is arranged in chronological order, but we deal with each period analytically with emphasis on theme.

II: the Anglo-Saxon period (449-1066)

1. historical background Three conquests: Roman conquest in 43 AD; Anglo-Saxon conquest in 449; Norman conquest in 1066 43 AD, Roman conquered Britain ,making the latter a province of Roman Empire; the withdrawal of Roman troops ,the Teutonic tribes, esp., the Anglos conquered the island and called it Angle-land, then England, their language is Anglo-Saxon old English.

2. literature

1): pagan: oral sagas: the Song of Beowulf 2): Christian: copied by the monk. The influence of the Christianity upon language and culture. Two ecclesiastic poets: Caedmon and Cynewulf 3. the Song of Beowulf----Englands national epic 1) creation time: written in 10-th century

2).plot and theme:

fight with Grendel fight with Grendels mother fight with firedrake death and funeral

3). Characteristics of Beowulf

3). Characteristics of Beowulf a. the mixture of pagan elements with Christian coloring. The most outstanding example is the frequent reference in the epic to Wyrd (fate) as the decisive factor in human affaires, while on other occasions God or Lord is also mentioned as the omniscient and omnipotent being that rules over the whole universe.

Characteristics of Beowulf(2)

b. the frequent use of metaphors and understatements. Ring giver is used for king, Swan road, whale-path or seal bath for the sea, wave-traveler or sea-wood for ship, shield-bearer, battle-hero or spear-fighter for soldier. c. Beowulf is written in alliterative verse. Its rhythm depends upon accent and alliteration. That is, the beginning of two or more words in the same line with the same sound or letter. The lines are made up of two short halves, separated by a pause. No rhyme is used; but a musical effect is produced by giving each half line two strongly accented syllables. Each full line, therefore, has four accents, three of which usually begin with the same sound or letter.

Characteristics of Beowulf(3)

Beowulf towers above all other AngloSaxon literature, not only because it is a powerful poem about peoples hero written in true epic style, but also because it tells in artistic form the tale in a leisurely way, full of elaborations in legendary details, and the verse rises at places to heights of poetic grandeur.

The significance of Beowulf

4).The significance of Beowulf a. This glorious epic presents us a vivid picture of the life of Anglo-Saxon people and highly praises the brave and courageous spirit of the fighting against the elemental forces. b. The epic reflects the situations the epoch of pagan tribalism and of the era of the Christianized feudal society. c. The epic gives the vivid portrayal of a great national hero, strong and courageous people and his kinfolk.

Part II: the Anglo-Norman period (10661350)

1. historical background Norman Conquest of Anglo-Saxon England, under William, Duke of Normandy after the battle of Hastings in 1066, accelerated the development of feudalism in England. The middle ages: the dark age (449-16-th century)


1). three chief effects of the Conquest. 2). Four kinds. a. Geoffreys history: a source book of literature b. the work of the French Writers: Arthurian legends c. Riming/rhythmic chronicles: history in doggerel verse d. metrical romances, or tales in verse.

Three major themes

a. the matter of France: about Charlemagne and his peers/knights b. the matter of Greece and Rome: about Alexander the great and the Trojan War and the fall of Troy c. the matter of Britain: king Arthur and his Round Table knight

3.Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

a. the plot 1). Feast in the palace 2) journey for the green chapel 3) test in the castle 4). blow in the chapel

b. characteristics and theme

the bravest of knights a test of his virtue and truth one of the best told stories in all the medieval literature of Europe Motif: the tests of faith, courage and purity---nobility of hero the human weakness for self-preservation----humanness romance: the heroic adventure for adventures sake Beowulf: to help the heros kinsfolk out of the distress or to protect them from disaster

Part III: Geoffrey Chaucer (13401400)

1.his life born in a wine merchant family,page to Elizabeth he had broad and intimate acquaintance with persons high and low in all walks of life and knew well the whole social life of his time.

His literary career

a. French period(1360-1372) in French Romance of the rose b. Italian period(1372-1385) in Latin the legend of Good Women English period(1386-1400) in English The Canterbury Tales

3. The Canterbury Tales

It is one of the most famous works in all literature. It begins with a general prologue that explains the occasion for the narration of the tales and gives a description of the pilgrims who narrate the tales, and then follow the twenty-four tales that make up the bulk of the book, plus the separate prologues and the links that accompany some of the tales.

5. Chaucers contributions to English Literature and Language

a. a master of realism b.founder of English literary language c.Chaucers English: London dialect d.Father of English poetry : heroic couplet(The heroic couplet is an iambic pentameter heaving the lines rhyming in pairs. e. the first occupant of the Poets Corner

Popular Ballads

1. Definition: anonymous narrative songs that have been preserved by oral transmission. 2. Classification of Popular Ballads a. the reflection of the historical events b. the reflection of myths and legends c. the adaptation of some literary works. Another classification: a.border ballads: age-long struggle between Scots and English b. the ballads of Robin Hood c. the humorous ballads

the characteristics of Robin Hood

a. his hatred for the cruel oppressors and his love for the poor and down-trodden b.strong, brave and clever c.tender-hearted and affectionate for the poor and down-trodden d.his pure love for Marian e.his simple loyalty to the monarchy

4.Varieties of themes:

a. matters of class struggle b.the border wars between England and Scotland c.conflict between love and wealth d.the cruel effect of jealousy and treachery e.the struggle of young lovers against their feudal families f.of humors g.some about supernatural ghost and spirits

.The characteristic features of the popular ballads

a. the extensive use of dialogue b.the refrain c.the ballad meter d.the repetition of words or phrase

Part IV. The Renaissance

This is a greatest and most advanced revolution in the human history. This is the age the giants are needed and produced. ------F. Engles

1.the renaissance in the world(1)

It originated in Italy in the 14-th century when the art, literature and ideas of ancient Greece and Rome were discovered and widely studied and came to a flowery in the 15-th century and later spread to France, Germany, Spain, Holland and Belgium and England in the 16-th century. The Renaissance period is markedly by the rediscovery and study of the classics of ancient Greece and Rome, by challenge feudal obscurantism and religious dogmas, by opposing the tyranny of feudal rules.

1.the renaissance in the world(2)

It is characterized with the growth of a more scientific outlook, major development in art and literature, new invention and overseas discoveries and a general assertion of human value and emancipation of the human intellect and power. Humanism was the keynote of the renaissance, reflecting the new outlook of the rising bourgeois class. The humanists advocated the emancipation of man, and they tried to have the new evaluation of man and his powers and fought for equality and justice, opposed feudal tyranny and obscurantism and religious obstinacy.

2. The renaissance in England

1). Some major historic events: a.The War of Roses (1455-1488) and the establishment of the dynasties of Henry VII and VIIIthe centralized monarchy. b. The Enclosure movement sheep devoured Men c.The religious reformation, establishment of the Anglican Church d. Flourishing in the Elizabethan Age (1558-1603) e.defeating the Spanish Invincible fleet Armada in 1588 and the establishment of the hegemony on the seas. f. The geographical exploration and trade expansion brought about the growth of the cities and the development of the capitalist textile industry.

2). The division of the English renaissance

a. Beginning: the last years of the 15-th century---first half of the 16-th century b. Flourishing: the Elizabethan Age (15581603) c.Declining: the period of James I (1603-1625) early 17-th century

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving, how express and admirable in action, how like an angle in apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world; the paragon of animals; and yet to me what is this quintessence of dust? ---- William Shakespeare

1.his life 2.divisions of his literary career. a. the first period(1590-1600) b. the second period(1601-1608) c. the third period(1609-1612) 3.analysis of hamlet and the Merchant of Venice

Main features of Shakespeare

a. one of the founders of realism in world literature as well as in English literature; b. the great successes in character creations in vividness and intensity in emotional and psychological depth; c. the psychological probing of the characters inner conflict; d. the adroit plot construction conflict; e. skilled in many poetic forms; f. a great master of English language; g. the summit of the English Renaissance and one of the great writers the world over

Online resources
Mr. Shakespeare and the Internet Shakespeare Classroom (Shakespeare Classroom)

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

1.his life 2.classification of his works a. The philosophical works: the Advancement of Learning b. Literary works: Essays c. Professional works: Marxims of the law

3.Of studies

a. five parts: purpose of reading attitudes towards study principles of studies study method study develop your character/effect of study on human character Style: a.. The arguments are well arranged in unity and coherence in one paragraph. b. the conciseness of expressions and phrases presents a plain style as well as his simple language. c. The simple metaphors have deep implications. d. The omission makes the essay concise, clear and coherent. e. The natural flow of parallels makes his logic and philosophical argument convincingly and forceful. E.g. To spend too much time in study Crafty man simple man.

Part V: the 17-th century

1.Historical background the contradictions between the feudal system and bourgeoisie a. Elizabeth: 1558-1603 b. James I: 1603-1625 political and religious tyranny c. Charles I: 1625-1649 d. Cromwell: 1649-1660 commonwealth protector: 16531658 e. Charles II: 1660-1688 restoration f. James II: 1685-1688 g. William of Orange: 1688-1702 1689

2. Literary characteristics

1). the puritan age/influence: gloom age Poem: John Milton, metaphysical poets Prose: john Bunyan 2). Restoration/French influence drama: rimed couplet literature: witty and clever, immoral and cynical on the whole

John Donne (1572-1631)

1. his life 2. his literary career conceits\conceitful writing Religious poems, magnificent sermons 3. his writing style---Death be not proud prose style: involuted and ornate, cumulative and lineronian

John Milton(1608-1674)

1. his life: totally blind in 1652 the child of Renaissance 2. his literary career: 1): early writing 2)writing for the revolutionpamphlets 3) writing poetry: paradise Lost: plot, theme, characters esp. Santa

Features of Miltons Poetry:

He dedicated himself by choice to a noble political cause, and turned poet only because that cause had failed. Though his genius is essentially poetic, he is epic poet only by circumstance. In the discharge of both duties, we see in him a loftiness of mind, which only his own name can designate. It is Miltonic. Shakespeare commands our wonder and admiration, but Milton our respect and awe. His Biblical and classical allusions and his epic similes are often obscure, and their beauty is not easily caught, even with the help of explanatory notes. The effect of resonant syllables that roll with the sound of rumbling thunder can hardly be appreciated when the reader is busy figuring out the

grammatical structure of his numerous Latinism

a great master of the blank verse

John Bunyan91628-1688)

1. his life the most popular preacher and imprisoned for that 2. The Pilgrims progress: Christian The most popular writer Allegory

his style

Bunyan wrote in a simple but lively and vivid prose style. Everyday idiomatic expressions were used naturally and forcefully, and his knowledge of the translations of the Bible also helped him to introduce the biblical language into his own direct and uninvolved way of expression. In The Pilgrims Progress, his narrative method is a straightforward one, but the detail chosen are usually very commonplace yet extremely colorful, and his skill in picking out the right words and phrases adds to the artistic effect of the descriptive and narrative passages in the story. His simple, unaffected language of the common people, and his details taken from ordinary circumstances of ordinary life are largely responsible for the moderns of his prose as we read it today.

Its significance

The most significant thing is that the satires in the book are centered upon the ruling class. Especially well-known are the descriptions of Vanity Fair and of the experience of Christian and Faithful in it, for here Bunyan not only gives us a symbolic picture of London at the time of the restoration but of feudalbourgeois society in general where all things are bought and sold(including honors, titles, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures and lives) and where cheating and roguery, murders and adultery are normal.

Part VI: the 18-th century

The Glorious Revolution brought into power, along with William of Orange, the landlord and capitalist appropriators of surplus value. ----- Marx


historical background

1): the glorious revolution in 1688 a. the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy ruled the country together b. Enclosure movementcommercial expansion colonial expansiona big industrial and colonial capitalist power 2) American war of Independence (1775-1783) 3) French bourgeoisie revolution in 1789 clear the mind of man for the coming revolution

2.The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment was a progressive intellectual movement throughout Western Europe in the 18th century and in Russia in the 19th century. It was a European movement as if prevailed not only over England but also over Russia and Germany and esp. France where there were such giants as Montesquieu, Pidero, Voltaire and Rousseau, writing on the eve of the French Revolution in 1789. The Enlightenment in England was different from that in other European countries. Appeared in an epoch not preceding but after the bourgeois revolution. They did not call for the launching of a revolution but urged the carrying on of the revolution to system, at the foundation of which was the compromise between the upper strata of the old ruling class the aristocrats and upper strata of the new ruling class the bourgeoisie and the English Enlightenment come after this compromise. The enlighteners considered the chief means for the betterment of the society was enlightenment or education for the people. They believed in the power of reason. Reason served as the yardstick for the measure of all human activities and social relations. Superstition and injustice; Privilege and oppression were to yield place to eternal truth, eternal justice natural equality and inalienable sight of man. But this right of reason is nothing other than the idealized reign of the bourgeoisie.

Preceding the bourgeois revolution esp. France while in English, after it, in Russia,19-th century the 18-th century was called the age of reason, which served as the yardstick for the measure of all human activities and social relations. 3. Enlightenment in England 1): moderate group and radical group 2): three major periods: 1688-1730s, 1740s-1750s, 1760s-1790s 4. Sentimentalism: Lawrence, Sterne 5. Preromanticism: gothic novel

Daniel Defoe

1.his life a legendary man 2. Robinson Crusoe a. plot


Character analysis

The character Robinson is not common sailor. He is a businessman who takes overseas business as his cause. Robinson is a bourgeoisie with adventurous spirit Robinson is a bourgeoisie of practical spirit. Robinson is bourgeoisie of colonizing character. A. The artistic character of the novel: the concreters of the description and vividness. The author does not express the character with his words but let the character show himself in his own action. The complements of comments and diaries, C. Limitation: 1. simple structure b. loose and repletion c. minor characters lack much impression

. Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

1. his life the most powerful satirist of the age(his pamphlets) have no equal at pamphlet writing

Gullivers Travel

1): plot a. in Lilliput b. in Brobdingnag c. in flying island of laputa d. Houyhnhnms (horses) Yahoos 2): its theme

Joseph Addison(1672-1719)

1. his life coffee house life and his friendships with Dick Steele 1. The Tatler and the Spectator: periodical The character of Sir Roger 2. his writing style Dr. Johnsons comment

Henry Fielding (1707-1754)

1. his life 2. the history of Tom Jones, a Foundling plot and characters

Thomas Gray (1716-1771)

1. his life unhappy childhood, shy and scholarly life, the early romantic poet. 2. Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard Literature of melancholy The theme of death

Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774)

1. his life essayist, poet,dramatist 2. The Vicar of Wakefield

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816)

1. the drama of the 18-th century Oliver Goldsmith The Good-natured Man, She Strops to Conquer 2. his life 3. the Rival the School for Scandal the Critic

William Blake (1757-1827)

The most independent and original romantic poet of 18-th century 1. his life 2. his works London, The Tiger, The Song of Experience The Chimney Sweeper

Robert Burns (1759-1796)

The greatest of Scottish poet 1. his life 2. his works Poems Chiefly in Scottish Dialect