You are on page 1of 51

Literature Survey I

Dr. phil. Dieter Fuchs, M.A.

powerpoint slides

some of the texts to be read in pdf

some extra material

Compulsory Reading
Buy your own copy:
Shakespeare, A Midsummer Nights
Shakespeare, Hamlet

Study on Moodle:
Texts on ppt. slides or in pdf. format
Written final exam (final regular
session + three extra sittings)

The exam questions / tasks are based

What has been done in the lecture
On the compulsory reading material
History of British Literature

The Dark and Middle Ages until 1485

The Renaissance / Early Modern Period 1485-1660

Restoration to Romanticism / The Long 18th ct.1660-1789

The Romantic Period 1789-1837

The Victorian Age 1837-1901

The 20th ct. I: Modernism 1901-1945

The 20th ct. II: The Contemporary Period 1945-present

Survey I: Topic

history of British literature and culture of

the early modern / Renaissance period

the time span between 1485 until 1660

plus a very short survey of pre-

medieval / Old English & medieval /
Middle English literature

socio-cultural contexts

literary texts: the literary system:

poetry, drama, fiction

history and literature interact with and

shape each other: thats what makes the
study of literature interesting!
no sound division: fact :: fiction
Problem I: How to Define a
Like history as such, the history of literature doesnt
exist per se: it is constructed by scholars

The dating of each period is contingent: the dates

may refer to the reigns of kings and queens, political
key events, revolutions, important socio-cultural
events or aesthetic movements

different literary history books list slightly different

years or period names to define a historical period

the dating of periods called by one and the same

name may differ from country to country
The Romantic Period:
England 1789/98 1832/7
USA 1828 1865

The Periods are named after:

Kings & Queens (Elizabethan, Victorian Age)
Political Events (Restoration Period)
Centuries (Long Eighteenth Century)
Aesthetic / Philosophical Movements
(Romanticism, Renaissance)
Problem II: the Literary
The canon: technical term which defines the
selection of texts which count as good / serious
pieces of literature

Example: is literature written by social outcasts as

relevant for scholarly study as the texts written by

The literary canon doesnt exist per se like the

history of literature, it is constructed by scholars

For centuries the field of scholarship and the literary

canon was dominated by men: women writers were
excluded from the literary canon
Example I: Mary Shelley,
first published anonymously in 1818 with a preface
written by the authors husband Percy Bysshe Shelley:
Example II: Double
A play attributed to the 18th century
playwright Lewis Theobald

Since its publication there was the rumour

that the play may be an adaptation of a lost
play co-written by Shakespeare: Cardenio

2010 Double Falsehood entered the

Shakespeare canon as it was included into
the prestigious Arden Shakespeare edition
History of British Literature

The Dark and Middle Ages until 1485

The Renaissance / Early Modern Period 1485-1660

Restoration to Romanticism / The Long 18th ct.1660-1789

The Romantic Period 1789-1837

The Victorian Age 1837-1901

The 20th ct. I: Modernism 1901-1945

The 20th ct. II: The Contemporary Period 1945-present

Periods of Medieval English Literature

Old English / Anglo-Saxon Period: 450-1066

The Middle
Middle English Period: 1066-1485
The Middle Ages
The Reality of Medieval Everyday
The Christian Middle Ages
The Roman Catholic Church has:

Immense landed property ( 30% of medieval England)

The monopoly of education

The monopoly of literacy (clerk :: *clericus)

The power to decide which knowledge is right or wrong

(i.e. if the world is flat or round; if the sun moves
around the earth or vice versa)
The Old English Period: Some
in the Dark Ages, Germanic / Anglo-Saxon tribes seize the
power vacuum left by the decline and fall of the Roman Empire

Christianization of the pagan culture of ancient Rome

the legendary King Arthur and his table round (500 A.D.)

Viking invasion (8th/9th ct.): Skandinavian influence

King Alfred the Great (871-900) stops the Vikings, literature

and art flourish

1066 Battle of Hastings: Norman conquest by William the

Conqueror (Billy the Conk): French influence (after 1066)
The Literary System of the Old
English Period

Prose Epic

heroic poems such as The Battle of


elegiac poems (sad, lonely speaker):

The Seafarer
Verse Epic

heroic epos (a long story [i.e. epos]

told in verse): Beowulf
King Alfred commissioned old English
translations of Latin works in the field of
religion, philosophy, history

Vogue of homilies (religious sermons) and

saints lives

Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum

Example of Old English:
lfric's 'Life of King Oswald'

1st sentence:

fter an e Augustinus to Engla lande becom,

ws sum ele cyning, Oswold gehaten, on
Norhymbra lande, gelyfed swye on God.

The Bayeux Tapestry Represents the
1066 Battle of Hastings
The Middle English Period

1066 Norman Conquest: shift from Germanic Anglo-Saxon

to French Culture [the Normans come from Normandy in
Northern France]

New upper class: French aristocratic court culture

London becomes the capital and a centre of commerce

foundation of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge

Catholic monasteries as centres of culture and education

(literacy: clerk [*clericus]!)
Cultural Change :: Linguistic Change

the countrys new elite spoke French, which was

considered the more prestigious language

only from the second half of the fourteenth century

onwards, Middle English emerges as a standard
language in its own right in the London region

Old English :: words of Germanic origin [+

Scandinavian borrowings from the Vikings such as

Middle English :: words of Romanic [French derived

from Latin] origin
This hybrid heritage of a Germanic and a more recent
Romanic / French linguistic tradition can be still

freedom :: liberty
haven :: port
speed :: velocity
holy :: sacred
safe :: secure
to ask :: to question
to sell :: to vend

Although England used to be a colony of the Roman

Empire, there is not really a direct impact of Latin:
Middle English was shaped by French: i.e. a vernacular /
Romanic language derived from Latin (indirect impact)
this Romanic influence is reinforced
when the Humanists rediscover the
Latin tradition of ancient Rome in the
Renaissance period (i.e. the 15th /16th
/ 17th ct.)

rather than borrow from the French

vernacular, they invent new English
words derived from classical Latin

Indirect impact of Latin

The Literary System of the Middle
English Period
Poetry: mainly narrative poetry such
as the verse epic
Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte DArthur ( 1470; 1st
printed in 1485)

a compilation of French and English legends about

the reign of the old English King Arthur, his table
round and the myth of the Holy Grail

these heroic tales belong to the stock inventory of

European medieval literature

popular imagination
rewritings and adaptations until the present
Narrative Poetry (Epics etc.)
Popular songs and ballads (narrative poems)

Layamon, Brut ( 1200): first national epic in English about

the foundation of Britain

John Gower (1330-1408), Mirour de lOmme (in Anglo-

Norman), Vox Clamantis (Latin), Confessio Amantis (English)

William Langland (1330-87), Piers Plowman (allegorical

quest for a good Christian life + social satire)

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), The House of Fame, Troilus

and Criseyde, The Canterbury Tales, The Legend of Good
Women (unfinished)
Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-
Rich London merchant family (middle class!)
Career at the royal court
Diplomatic missions to France and Italy:

1368 Milan? Meeting with Francesco Petrarca???

1372/3 Florence: in contrast to Medieval England,

the Renaissance is already in full swing in Italy and
Florence is one of its hotspots!!!

Gets to know the works of Dante and Boccaccio!!!

Middle Ages Renaissance
Italian Renaissance Culture: * 1410

English Renaissance Culture: *1510

It takes at least 100 years until

Renaissance culture crosses the Alps
and travels to the north
French and Italian Influence
Petrarca was the poet who introduced the Italian
vernacular rather than Latin as a language suited for
literature: Italian enters the literary canon!
Chaucer introduced the local idiom of Middle English into
a literary field which was then dominated by French: the
language spoken by the Norman invaders since 1066
becomes the father of (Middle) English literature:
Middle English enters the literary canon!

Boccaccio, Il Decamerone: a framed collection of naughty

erotic tales / novellae
Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales: a collection of tales
(mainly in verse) held together by the narrative
framework of a pilgrimage; some of the tales are
decidedly naughty and erotic such as Boccaccios
The Canterbury Tales
a monumental collection of tales mostly told
in verse
frame narrative ( Boccaccio): a pilgrimage
to Canterbury
Pilgrimage: ritual re-enactment of the
human souls journey to /quest of God)
Sacred journey :: worldly reasons
Apart from the high nobility, the whole
spectrum of medieval society comes
Some of the Tales
The General Prologue
The Knight's Tale
The Miller's Tale
The Reeve's Tale
The Cook's Tale
The Wife of Bath's Tale
The Friar's Tale
The Man of Law's Tale
The Parson's Tale
The Nun's Priest's Tale
The Pardoner's Tale
The Prioress's Tale
Example: The Millers Tale
Fabliau: an obscene short narrative such as
the ones collected by Boccaccio:

amour courtois / courtly love : unattainable

chaste married woman wooed by a knight
worldly love: sex and adultery!

The tale read aloud:
Social Satire

Like society in general, the church turns out

to be an all-too worldly institution

Rather than the afterlife of their souls, the

pilgrims enjoy the here and now


medieval world picture: contemptus mundi

represented by the wheel of fortune and
medieval religious drama
Medieval / Christian World View

the danse macabre: vanity of the here & now

( the plague / black death)
the wheel of fortune
Drama: Medieval English Religious

shapes the worldly drama of the the

Renaissance Period:

Miracle Plays

Mystery Plays

Morality Plays

Miracle Plays:

Staging of Biblical miracles, saints & martyrs

10th/11th ct.: staged in church during the

liturgical offices on holidays

gradual secularization: the performance

moves out of the church and is filled with
highly popular comic elements
source material for the development of
early modern comedy
Mystery Plays (15th ct.):

the local guilds of craftsmen re-enact Biblical key-episodes

in the streets and on the marketplace of their hometown

like in the case of the miracle plays: religion fused with

farce-like entertainment (esp. Noah- and Herod-episode)

Dramatized history of the world:

Creation Last Judgement

Fixed stages or movable pageants

Well-known mystery cycles: York, Coventry, Townley,

Medieval England
Mystery plays: the local guilds stage Biblical key-
scenes on wagons placed throughout the city the
spectators move from stage to stage
Example: Noah and the Flood

ucers The Millers Tale also plays with the comic potential of Noahs unruly wif
wn from the Mystery Play tradition
Morality Plays:

Everyman (i.e. allegorical figure representing

Mankind) is seduced by Vice (Satan) falls,
repents and is finally saved by Gods mercy

15th ct.: The Castle of Perseverance, Mankynd

Early 16th ct.: Everyman

Hofmannsthals Jedermann staged at the

annual Salzburg Festival is a rewriting of the
fifteenth-century English morality play The
Somonynge of Everyman
The Medieval Morality Play:
Theatre in the Round

hristian Morality Play :: similarity to classical amphitheatres

Interludes (15th / 16th ct.)
Secularized follow-up genre of Christian drama:
church royal court

Courtly entertainment between the courses of a

banquet, etc. (i.e. inter-lude)

Ethical humanist debate: what makes a good

ruler / politician?

Heywood, The Play of the Weather (1533),

Pikeryng, Horestes (1567)
Ruling Dynasties of the Middle-
English Period
The Plantagenets 1154-1399

House of Lancaster 1399-1461

Wwars of the Roses 1455-85
House of York 1461-1485

Both Houses claim to be the legitimate successor of the

Plantagenet line they fight each other (York symbolized by
a white rose, Lancaster by a red one)
During this civil war, the old high nobility more or less dies out
The actual winner is an outsider: Henry Tudor who becomes
King Henry VII in 1485 this marks the beginning of a new
era: the Renaissance, or early modern period