English Literature. 郧阳师专英语系英美文学精品课程. The 18th Century The Age of Enlightenment in England. Historical Background. 1.The Revolution of 1688.
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The eighteenth-century England is also known as the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason. The Enlightenment Movement was a progressive movement which flourished in France and swept through the whole Western Europe at the time.
The Enlightenment was an expression of struggle of the then progressive class of bourgeoisie against feudalism. The movement was a furtherance of the Renaissance of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Its purpose was to enlighten the whole world with the light of modern philosophical and artistic ideas.
The enlighteners celebrated reason or rationality, equality and science. They held that rationality or reason should be the only, the final cause of any human thought and activities. They called for a reference to order, reason and rules.
They believed that when reason served as the yardstick for the measurement of all human activities and relations, every superstition, injustice and oppression was to yield place to "eternal truth", eternal justice" and "natural equality". The enlighteners advocated universal education. They believed that human beings were limited, dualistic, imperfect, and yet capable of rationality and perfection through education.
1.Neoclassicism: a revival in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of classical standards of order, balance, and harmony in literature. Alexander Pope, John Dryden and Samuel Johnson were major exponents of the neoclassical school.
It found its artistic models in the classical literature of the ancient Greek and Roman writers like Homer, Virgil, Horace, etc. and in the contemporary French writers such as Voltaire and Diderot. It put the stress on the classical artistic ideal of order, logic, proportion, restrained emotion, accuracy, good taste and decorum.
Homer: Greek epic poet. Two of the greatest works in Western literature, the Iliad 《伊利亚特》 and the Odyssey 《奥德赛》, are attributed to him.
Virgil: Roman poet. His greatest work is the epic poem Aeneid, 《埃涅阿斯纪》 which tells of the wanderings of Aeneas after the sack of Troy讲述了埃涅阿斯在特洛伊陷落后的流浪经历.
Horace: Roman lyric poet. His Odes and Satires 《颂歌》 和 《讽刺作品》 have exerted a major influence on English poetry.
Diderot: French philosopher and writer whose supreme accomplishment was his work on theEncyclopédie (1751-1772), which epitomized the spirit of Enlightenment thought. He also wrote novels, plays, critical essays, and brilliant letters to a wide circle of friends and colleagues.
2. Novel: a book-length fictional prose narrative, having many characters and often a complex plot.
Character: it is an individual within a literary work. Characters may be complex and well developed (round character) or undifferentiated and one-dimensional (flat character) .
Protagonist: the central character of a drama, novel, short story, or narrative poem. The protagonist is the character on whom the action centers and with whom the reader sympathizes most. Usually the protagonist strives against an opposing force, or antagonist, to accomplish something.
Plot: the sequence of events or actions in a short story, novel, play or narrative poem.
3. The Gothic novel: the novel which exploits the possibilities of mystery and terror in gloomy landscapes, decaying mansions with dark dungeons, secret passages, instruments of torture, ghostly visitations ghostly music behind which lurks no one knows what as the central story, the persecution of a beautiful maiden by an obsessed and haggard villain. The real originator of English Gothic novel was Horace Walpole, with his famous Castle of Otranto (1764) .
These novels rebel against the increasing commercialism and rationalism opened up to later fiction the dark, irrational side of human nature.
4. Epistolary novel: a type of nnovel in which the narrative is carried on by means of series of letters. Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740) and Clarissa Harlowe (1748) are among the best known epistolary novels.
It can be classified into two kinds: the monologue epistolary novel and the dialogue epistolary novel
5.Sentimentalism: is a literal movement in the middle of the 18th century in England which concentrates on the distressed of the poor unfortunate and virtuous people and demonstrates that effusive emotion was evidence of kindness and goodness. It reveals grief, pains and tears. The representatives are Laurence Sterne who wrote A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1768) and Oliver Goldsmith who wrote The Vicar of Wakefield (1766).
It came into being as a result of a better discontent on the part of certain enlighteners in social reality.
6.Pre-romanticism: a literal trend in the English literature of the latter half of the 18th century which composes the romance devoted to the medieval times. William Blake and Robert Burns are two representatives of pre-romanticists.
Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe" was one of the forerunners of the English realistic novel.
Adventures of Robinson Crusoe：The book is an expression of the bourgeois qualities of individualism and private enterprise. Robinson is a new man - a man sure of himself and sure of being able to establish himself anywhere in the world. He is a man of a new age, in which doubt and uncertainty are replaced by hope and confidence. Robinson is the enterpriser of his age. He is ready to command nature, his enemy, and to found his colony beyond the seas. He is a merchant-adventurer, interested in material profits. He is a colonist, the empire builder.
Other works：Captain Singleton, Moll Flanders, Colonel Jacque and Roxana. They clearly manifest Defoe's deep concern for the poor in his society. They are the first literary works devoted to the study of the problems of the lower-class people.
Defoe was a typical man of the eighteenth century English middle class, hardworking, ingenious, liberal in mind and advanced in opinion. He valued the Puritan ethic and belied in diligence and self-reliance. All his life, he was busy, speculative and active. He, like Robinson, is a man whose personal pride would never allow him to belie his own background and class. His works are reflections of the belief, strength, weakness, interest, and morals of the bourgeois middle class to which he belonged.
He was very sympathetic with those poor and less fortunate and did everything he could to reach them and help them. He was among the first writers ever to give concern to the problems of the social outcast.
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), wrote satires in verse and prose. He is best-known for the extended prose work Gulliver's Travels, in which a fantastic account of a series of travels is the vehicle for satirizing familiar English institutions, such as religion, politics and law.
Early life and early works :During the time he wrote two works, A Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books. They were published together in 1704 and made him well-known as a satirist. A Tale of a Tub is written in the form of a parable. The phrase " a tale of a tub" was a 17th century slang for a joke, a hoax, an idle discourse.
The Battle of Books is mainly an attack on pedantry in literary world of the time. The two works established his name as a satirist.
Swift's pamphlets on Ireland form a very important part of his works. They have now become part of classic English literature. Swift's life in Ireland gave him an intimate knowledge of the miserable condition of the Irish people. Two of the most famous ones are "The Draper's Letters“(1724) and "A Modest Proposal“(1730). Gulliver's Travels(1726), as a whole, is one of the most effective and devastating criticisms and satires of all aspects in the then English and European life - socially, politically, religiously, philosophically, scientifically, and morally. Its social significance is great and its exploration into human nature profound.
Swift is one of the greatest writers of satiric prose. No reader of his can escape being impressed by the great simplicity, directness and vigor of his style.
Easy, clear, simple and concrete diction, uncomplicated syntax, economy and conciseness of language mark all his writings. Seldom is there ornament or singularity of any kind. His simplicities, more often than not, as a camouflage for insidious intentions, for big serious matters,, and an outward earnestness, simplicity, innocence and an apparently cold impartial tone render his satire all the more powerful and effective.
It is a book simple enough for a child, and yet complex enough to carry an adult beyond his depth. It is a satire on the 18th century english society, touching upon the political, religious, legal, military, scientific, philosophical as well as literary institutions, about almost every aspect of the society. Bitterly satirical, the book take great pains to bring to light the wickedness of the then English society, with its tyranny, its political intrigues and corruption, its aggressive wars and colonialism, its religious disputes and persecution, and its ruthless oppression and exploitation of the common people.
The novel is a fantasy ad a realistic work of fiction. The language, as is typical of all Swift’s works, is very simple, unadorned, straightforward and effective. It is noted for its exceptionally tidy structural arrangement. The four seemingly independent parts are linked up by the central idea of social satire and make up an organic whole.
While social exposure and satire of the book is generally acknowledged, there have been great controversies over its deeper intention, especially with Part Four, What sort of thing is man? This is certainly the central question to the book. Some people are shocked by its open blunt “negativeness” towards human beings, others feel satisfied with its religious implication that, man in his development from primitive forms of life, has achieved only a very limited rationality and morality.
The accidental beginning of his literary career came in 1739 when, at the age of 51, Richardson was asked by two bookseller friends to compile a volume of model letters for people without much formal education to practice in their correspondence. Richardson intended that his manual should not only teach people how to write letters but also be morally instructive. He was duly rewarded for his kindness and the pain he had taken for the composition of such moving letters.
Fielding was a man of extraordinary vitality and capacity. He was a dramatist, an essayist and a novelist. His fame is established chiefly upon his success as a novelist. Joseph Andrews (1742), his first novel .
The History of Jonathan Wild the Great (1743)
The History of Tome Jones, A Foundling (1749) , his masterpiece.
In both theory and practice, Fielding establishes once and for all the from of the English novel. He has held a unique position in the history of English literature by being called the “father of the English novel”, for his contribution to the establishment of the form of modern novel. Fielding set up the theory of realism in literary creation. He wrote specifically "comic epic in prose", the first to give the modern novel its structure and style.
Before him, the relating of a story in a novel was either in the epistolary form (a series of letters) as in Richardson's Pamela, or the picaresque form (adventurous wanderings ) through the mouth of the principal character, as in Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, but Fielding adopted "the third-person narration". In planning his stories, he tries to retain the grand epical form of the classical works but at the same time keeps faithful to his realistic presentation of the common life as it is.
As one of the pioneers of English realistic literature, Fielding portrays the real life of men without disguise. He exposes the hypocrisy and depravity of the ruling class, and pictures the poverty of the working masses who are driven by want to crime. For a time, Tom became a national hero. People were fond of this young fellow with manly virtues and yet not without fault. The full-blooded characters are realistically depicted in brilliant, witty and highly artistic language.
Tom Jones is a handsome young man. He is frank and open. His outstanding quality is "good nature" and "goodness of heart". He is never an indifferent spectator of the misery or happiness of anyone. He would not willingly inflict even the most trifling harm on anybody. Yet Tom is very far from being a model character. He lives by impulse, not by reason. The most serious mistake that Tom commits is his liaison with Lady Bellaston after his arrival in London. A simple country boy thoroughly ignorant of the ways of the depraved high society in London, he is completely taken by surprise by a bad woman and becomes, for a short time , her paid lover. But as soon as he learns the true character of the woman , he immediately terminates the connection.
Sophia was Fielding's ideal of what an amiable English girl should be. But he did not make her "perfectly perfect'. Though very sweet-tempered, she can flame up into an angry passion on occasions. She has also a little vanity which causes her to toy with the idea of playing the part of a tragic heroine, sacrificing herself to her father's wishes.