Literary periods movements


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Literary periods movements

  1. 1. Lecture Notes Composite File Al-Malki, Noora 2014 LANE 341 1 1 What is Literature? “Literature is the question minus the answer” (Roland Barthes, New York Times, 1978) As a concept in need of clarification and definition, “literature” received great attention from philosophers, literary critics and theorists, and men of letters. Since the time of Greeks, for example, we find philosophers like Plato and Aristotle contemplate the nature of literary writing (albeit in its dramatic form). What complicates matters is that views of what might be considered literary in one age changes drastically in another. The philosophical writing of Plato, for instance, condemns poetry as an unhealthy and ultimately corrupting genre. But ever since then, many philosophers and literary scholars defended the status of poetry. Another paramount example is literary critics’ rejection of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851), a novel written by a nineteenth-century American writer about the hunting of wales and the heroism of one unheroic man, Captain Ahab. Currently, this same novel is studied and researched as a masterpiece that no writer can surpass. In our Arabic culture, one can think of how the Mu'allaqāt were not well-known during the time they were actually composed by their authors, but later decades witnessed the transformation of these poems into a hallmark of poetic perfection which later poets strove to emulate and imitate. So, before defining “literature,” it seems that we need criteria (or a set of norms) that will help us identify a work as literary. The different judgments on the nature of literature stem from the fact that such norms or standards
  2. 2. Lecture Notes Composite File Al-Malki, Noora 2014 LANE 341 2 are not well fixed. Therefore, a unified definition for literature cannot be found and we have to be content with different views and philosophies that attempt to explain the nature of literature. In this lecture, we are going to review some of these views and ideas. Our main aim would be to consider the possibility of developing our own interpretation of literature which is based on these various perspectives we are going to discuss. One of the fundamental philosophical works written about the nature of literature is Jean-Paul Sartre’s (1905-1980) What is Literature? (1947), which investigates the nature of literary writing and how it is very much connected to language and words. Sartre draws a line between poetry and other types of literature. According to him, poems are like paintings: a faithful, and concise representation of the world as is without being affected by language. Why? Because poetry is not intended to provide the reader with information about the world. Literary prose, alternatively, invests in and controls the richness and diversity of language to communicate information. The words of a prose work “designate, demonstrate, order, refuse, interpolate, beg, insult, persuade, insinuate.” Sartre concludes that whereas the poet is outside language, the prose writer composes from within language itself. He insists as well that literature (poetry or prose) cannot be extricated from history or society. It is a product of its time and culture. We can say then that Sartre’s definition of literature is based on the intricate relation between literature, language, history and society. What decides a work to be literary is these qualities together as found in a poem or a piece of prose.
  3. 3. Lecture Notes Composite File Al-Malki, Noora 2014 LANE 341 3 Concepts of what is literature change over time. What may be considered ordinary and not worthy of comment in one time period may be considered literary genius in another. Initial reviews of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights in 1847 were less than spectacular, however, Wuthering Heightsis now considered one of the greatest literary achievements of all time. The same can be said for Herman Melville's Moby-Dick(1851). Literature then, is a form of demarcation, however fuzzy, based on the premise that all texts are not created equal. Some have or are given more value than others. Most forays into the question of “what is literature” go into how literature works with the reader, rather than how the author set about writing it. It is the reception, rather than the writing, which is the object of enquiry. Largely, what we call “literature” is often a subjective value judgment, and naturally, value judgments, like literary tastes, will change. Etymologically, literature has to do with letters, the written as opposed to the spoken word, though not everything that is written down is literature. There is also general agreement that literature foregrounds language, and uses it in artistic ways. Terry Eagleton goes some way towards a definition of literature and its relationship to language: “Literature transforms and intensifies ordinary language, deviates systematically from everyday speech”. The common definition of literature, particularly for university courses, is that it covers the major genres of poetry, drama, and novel/fiction. The term also implies
  4. 4. Lecture Notes Composite File Al-Malki, Noora 2014 LANE 341 4 literary quality and distinction. This is a fairly basic view of literature because, as mentioned in the introduction, the meaning of the term has undergone changes, and will no doubt continue to do so. In exploring ideas about what literature is, it is useful to look at some of the things that literature does. Literature is something that reflects society, makes us think about ourselves and our society, allows us to enjoy language and beauty, it can be didactic, and it reflects on “the human condition”. It both reflects ideology and changes ideology, just like it follows generic conventions as well as changing them. The first significant thing is the essentially artistic quality of all literature. All art is the expression of life in forms of truth and beauty; or rather, it is the reflection of some truth and beauty which are in the world, but which remain unnoticed until brought to our attention by some sensitive human soul. In the broadest sense, perhaps, literature means simply the written records of the race, including all its history and sciences, as well as its poems and novels; in the narrower sense literature is the artistic record of life, and most of our writing is excluded from it, just as the mass of our buildings, mere shelters from storm and from cold, are excluded from architecture. A history or a work of science may be and sometimes is literature, but only as we forget the subject-matter and the presentation of facts in the simple beauty of its expression. The second quality of literature is its suggestiveness, its appeal to our emotions and imagination rather than to our intellect. It is not so much what it says as what it awakens in us that constitutes its charm.
  5. 5. Lecture Notes Composite File Al-Malki, Noora 2014 LANE 341 5 The third characteristic of literature, arising directly from the other two, is its permanence. The world does not live by bread alone. Notwithstanding its hurry and bustle and apparent absorption in material things, it does not willingly let any beautiful thing perish. This is even more true of its songs than of its painting and sculpture; though permanence is a quality we should hardly expect in the present deluge of books and magazines pouring day and night and to know him, the man of any age, we must search deeper than his history. History records his deeds, his outward acts largely; but every great act springs from an ideal, and to understand this we must read his literature, where we find his ideals recorded. When we read a history of the Anglo-Saxons, for instance, we learn that they were sea rovers, pirates, explorers, great eaters and drinkers; and we know something of their hovels and habits, and the lands which they harried and plundered. All that is interesting; but it does not tell us what most we want to know about these old ancestors,--not only what they did, but what they thought and felt; how they looked on life and death; what they loved, what they feared, and what they reverenced in God and man. Then we turn from history to the literature which they themselves produced, and instantly we become acquainted. These hardy people were not simply fighters and freebooters; they were men like ourselves; their emotions awaken instant response in the souls of their descendants. It is so with any age or people. To understand them we must read not simply their history, which records their deeds, but their literature, which records the dreams that made their deeds possible. So Aristotle was profoundly right when he said that "poetry is more serious and philosophical than history"; and Goethe, when he explained literature as "the humanization of the whole world."
  6. 6. Lecture Notes Composite File Al-Malki, Noora 2014 LANE 341 6 Importance of Literature. It is a curious and prevalent opinion that literature, like all art, is a mere play of imagination, pleasing enough, like a new novel, but without any serious or practical importance. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Literature preserves the ideals of a people; and ideals--love, faith, duty, friendship, freedom, reverence--are the part of human life most worthy of preservation. The Greeks were a marvelous people; yet of all their mighty works we cherish only a few ideals,--ideals of beauty in perishable stone, and ideals of truth in imperishable prose and poetry. Summary We are now ready, if not to define, at least to understand a little more clearly the object of our present study. Literature is the expression of life in words of truth and beauty; it is the written record of man's spirit, of his thoughts, emotions, aspirations; it is the history, and the only history, of the human soul. It is characterized by its artistic, its suggestive, its permanent qualities. Its two tests are its universal interest and its personal style. Its object, aside from the delight it gives us, is to know man, that is, the soul of man rather than his actions; and since it preserves to the race the ideals upon which all our civilization is founded, it is one of the most important and delightful subjects that can occupy the human mind.
  7. 7. Lecture Notes Composite File Al-Malki, Noora 2014 LANE 341 7 2 Literary Periods and Movements 2. 1. Introduction When literary scholars discuss the development of literature, they often do so after classifying literary works into groups which fit under umbrella terms like “literary Periods” or “Literary Movements”. This classification became the identifying feature of almost all historical surveys written about literature up to date. One thing that we have to consider, nevertheless: Some literary periods overlap and certain movements give birth to other movements so that a clear-cut distinction between successive eras or concurrent movements is not possible. However, we must acknowledge that historical and social change affect the evolution of literature. Therefore, such classifications are not just categories invented by literary scholars. They are real historical and social manifestations which influenced a group of writers who identified with these developments and saw them as outlets for self-expression rather than mere pre-determined molds which shape their literary voices. 2. 2. What are we going to do in this lecture? Tracing the development of English literature throughout the ages cannot be done in a few pages. Therefore, we are going to construct an outline for those literary periods; focusing on the main literary developments which took place. We will mention the major literary figures, discuss their contribution, and sum up the literary
  8. 8. Lecture Notes Composite File Al-Malki, Noora 2014 LANE 341 8 trends that characterized the era. Sometimes, we will refer to other literatures (European, Eastern..etc,) that might have contributed to the development of English literature, but we will do so only in passing. 2. 3. Key Terms and Concepts a. English literature: English literature denotes literature which is written in English by authors who are not necessarily British. So, we might speak of Indian, American, or French authors who write poetry, fiction, or drama in English. And later in this course, we are going to study some of these English works that are written by non-English men of letters. But, in this lecture, we are only going to concentrate on the development of English literature that is written by British authors. b. Literary Periods and Movements: The term refers to groupings of literary works which share among themselves certain features or literary aspects, styles, themes, or conventions which differentiate them from other works produced during a previous or a later era. Therefore, when we speak about the Renaissance Age, for example, we expect that most of the literary works produced during that era, share particular philosophes or ideas, which we might not find in the literature of other ages. The poets of the Romantic Movement (18th C.), to cite another example, write a different type of poetry from that written by the Imagist poets (20th C.). We can refer to an example from our culture which might illustrate this point further: Poetry written during the pre-Islamic era is characterized by certain stylistic and thematic features which we do not find in modern Arabic poetry. Just try to compare two poems written by Tarffa Ibn Al-Abd
  9. 9. Lecture Notes Composite File Al-Malki, Noora 2014 LANE 341 9 and Nizar Qabani. We have to remember that literary works are individual creations which represent the writer’s vision of himself and the world, so you should not expect that all the literary aspects of an age or a movement can be present in all works written by every author who lived during a particular era, or claimed to belong to a specific movement. That being said, it is fair to say that variations, and differences abound. The concept of “literary periods/movements” works best, I think, with distant literary eras: like in the case of the Renaissance age and the Twentieth century, where prominent distinctions can be identified and described adequately. - OLD ENGLISH PERIOD: The Old English Period or the Anglo-Saxon Period refers to the literature produced from the invasion of Celtic England by Germanic tribes in the first half of the fifth century to the conquest of England in 1066 by William the Conqueror. During the Old English Period, written literature began to develop from oral tradition, and in the eighth century poetry written in the vernacular Anglo-Saxon (also known as Old English) appeared. One of the most well-known eighth century Old English pieces of literature is Beowulf, a great Germanic epic poem. Two poets of the Old English Period who wrote on biblical and religious themes were Caedmon and Cynewulf. - MIDDLE ENGLISH PERIOD: This period produced literature which was written in the four and a half centuries between the Norman Conquest of 1066 and about 1500, when the standard literary
  10. 10. Lecture Notes Composite File Al-Malki, Noora 2014 LANE 341 10 language, derived from the dialect of the London area, became recognizable as "modern English." Prior to the second half of the fourteenth century, vernacular literature consisted primarily of religious writings. The second half of the fourteenth century produced the first great age of secular literature. The most widely known of these writings are Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, the anonymous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur. - THE RENAISSANCE: While the English Renaissnace began with the ascent of the House of Tudor to the English throne in 1485, the English Literary Renaissance began with English humanists such as Sir Thomas More and Sir Thomas Wyatt. In addition, the English Literary Renaissance consists of four subsets: The Elizabethan Age, the Jacobean Age, the Caroline Age, and the Commonwealth Period (which is also known as the Puritan Interregnum). The Elizabethan Age of English Literature coincides with the reign of Elizabeth I, 1558 - 1603. During this time, medieval tradition was blended with Renaissance optimism. Lyric poetry, prose, and drama were the major styles of literature that flowered during the Elizabethan Age. Some important writers of the Elizabethan Age include William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Ben Jonson. The Jacobean Age of English Literature coincides with the reign of James I, 1603 - 1625. During this time the literature became sophisticated, sombre, and
  11. 11. Lecture Notes Composite File Al-Malki, Noora 2014 LANE 341 11 conscious of social abuse and rivalry. The Jacobean Age produced rich prose and drama as well as the King James translation of the Bible. Shakespeare and Jonson wrote during the Jacobean Age, as well as John Donne, Francis Bacon, and Thomas Middleton. The Caroline Age of English Literature coincides with the reign of Charles I, 1625 - 1649. The writers of this age wrote with refinement and elegance. This era produced a circle of poets known as the "Cavalier Poets" and the dramatists of this age were the last to write in the Elizabethan tradition. The Commonwealth Period, also known as the Puritan Interregnum, of English Literature includes the literature produced during the time of Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell. This period produced the political writings of John Milton, Thomas Hobbes' political treatise Leviathan, and the prose of Andrew Marvell. In September of 1642, the Puritans closed theatres on moral and religious grounds. For the next eighteen years the theatres remained closed, accounting for the lack of drama produced during this time period. - NEOCLASSICAL PERIOD: The Neoclassical Period of English literature (1660 - 1785) was much influenced by contemporary French literature, which was in the midst of its greatest age. The literature of this time is known for its use of philosophy, reason, skepticism, wit, and refinement. The Neoclassical Period also marks the first great age of English literary criticism.
  12. 12. Lecture Notes Composite File Al-Malki, Noora 2014 LANE 341 12 Much like the English Literary Renaissance, the Neoclassical Period can be divided into three subsets: the Restoration, the Augustan Age, and the Age of Sensibility. The Restoration, 1660 - 1700, is marked by the restoration of the monarchy and the triumph of reason and tolerance over religious and political passion. The Restoration produced an abundance of prose and poetry and the distinctive comedy of manners known as Restoration comedy. It was during the Restoration that John Milton published Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. Other major writers of the era include John Dryden, John Wilmot 2nd Earl of Rochester, and John Locke. The English Augustan Age derives its name from the brilliant literary period of Vergil and Ovid under the Roman emperor Augustus (27 B.C. - A.D. 14). In English literature, the Augustan Age, 1700 - 1745, refers to literature with the predominant characteristics of refinement, clarity, elegance, and balance of judgement. Well-known writers of the Augustan Age include Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, and Daniel Defoe. A significant contribution of this time period included the release of the first English novels by Defoe, and the "novel of character," Pamela, by Samuel Richardson in 1740. During the Age of Sensibility, literature reflected the worldview of Enlightenment and began to emphasize instict and feeling, rather than judgment and restraint. A growing sympathy for the Middle Ages during the Age of Sensibility sparked an interest in medieval ballads and folk literature. Another name for this period is the Age of Johnson because the dominant authors of this period were Samuel Johnson and his literary and intellectual circle. This period also produced
  13. 13. Lecture Notes Composite File Al-Malki, Noora 2014 LANE 341 13 some of the greatest early novels of the English language, including Richardson's Clarissa (1748) and Henry Fielding's Tom Jones (1749). - ROMANTICISM: The Romantic Period of English literature began in the late 18th century and lasted until approximately 1832. In general, Romantic literature can be characterized by its personal nature, its stong use of feeling, its abundant use of symbolism, and its exploration of nature and the supernatural. In addition, the writings of the Romantics were considered innovative based on their belief that literature should be spontaneous, imaginative, personal, and free. The Romantic Period produced a wealth of authors including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Jane Austen, and Lord Byron. It was during the Romantic Period that Gothic literature was born. Traits of Gothic literature are dark and gloomy settings and characters and situations that are fantasic, grotesque, wild, savage, mysterious, and often melodramatic. Two of the most famous Gothic novelists are Anne Radcliffe and Mary Shelley. - VICTORIANISM: The Victorian Period of English literature began with the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne in 1837, and lasted until her death in 1901. Because the Victorian Period of English literature spans over six decades, the year 1870 is often used to divide the era into "early Victorian" and "late Victorian." In general, Victorian literature deals with the issues and problems of the day. Some contemporary issues that the Victorians dealt with include the social, economic,
  14. 14. Lecture Notes Composite File Al-Malki, Noora 2014 LANE 341 14 religious, and intellectual issues and problems surrounding the Industrial Revolution, growing class tensions, the early feminist movement, pressures toward political and social reform, and the impact of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution on philosophy and religion. Some of the most recognized authors of the Victorian era include Alfred Lord Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, her husband Robert, Matthew Arnold, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy. - EDWARDIAN PERIOD: It is named for King Edward VII and spans the time from Queen Victoria's death (1901) to the beginning of World War I (1914). During this time, the British Empire was at its height and the wealthy lived lives of materialistic luxury. However, four fifths of the English population lived in squalor. The writings of the Edwardian Period reflect and comment on these social conditions. For example, writers such as George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells attacked social injustice and the selfishness of the upper classes. Other writers of the time include William Butler Yeats, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, Henry James, and E.M. Forster. - GEORGIAN PERIOD: It refers to the period of British Literature that is named for the reign of George V (1910-36). Many writers of the Edwardian Period continued to write during the Georgian Period. This era also produced a group of poets known as the Georgian poets. These writers, now regarded as minor poets, were publihed in four anthologies entitled Georgian Poetry, published by Edward Marsh between 1912 and 1922.
  15. 15. Lecture Notes Composite File Al-Malki, Noora 2014 LANE 341 15 Georgian poetry tends to focus on rural subject matter and is traditional in technique and form. - MODERNISM: The Modern Period applies to British literature written since the beginning of World War I in 1914. The authors of the Modern Period have experimented with subject matter, form, and style and have produced achievements in all literary genres. Poets of the period include Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, and Seamus Heaney. Novelists include James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, and Virginia Woolf. Dramatists include Noel Coward and Samuel Beckett. Following World War II (1939-1945), the Postmodern Period of British Literature developed. Postmodernism blends literary genres and styles and attempts to break free of modernist forms. While the British literary scene at the turn of the new millenium is crowded and varied, the authors still fall into the categories of modernism and postmodernism. However, with the passage of time the Modern era may be reorganized and expanded.