English poetry historical overview

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English poetry historical overview

  1. 1. ENGLISH POETRY Historical Overview
  2. 2. ANGLO-SAXON (OLD ENGLISH) ERA 450 - 1066 <ul><li>much of poetry was intended to be chanted by the scop </li></ul><ul><li>bold, strong, elegiac in spirit, emphasizes sorrow and ultimate futility of life and helplessness of humans before the power of fate </li></ul><ul><li>composed without rhyme </li></ul><ul><li>verse has four stressed syllables alternating with an indeterminate number of unstressed syllables </li></ul><ul><li>Structural alliteration </li></ul>
  3. 3. BEOWULF (8 th -10 th century) <ul><li>Begins and ends with the funeral of a great king </li></ul><ul><li>Composed against background of impending disaster </li></ul><ul><li>Describes exploits of Scandinavian cultural hero in destroying the monster Grendel, Grendel’s mother and a fire-breathing dragon </li></ul><ul><li>Beowulf is shown both as glorious hero and savior of the people </li></ul><ul><li>Old Germanic virtue of mutual loyalty between leader and followers </li></ul><ul><li>Weakening of the sense of the ultimate power of arbitrary fate </li></ul><ul><li>Injection of Christian idea of dependence on a just God </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>A PERILOUS path, it proved, he trod who heinously hid, that hall within, wealth under wall! Its watcher had killed one of a few, and the feud was avenged in woful fashion. Wondrous seems it, what manner a man of might and valor oft ends his life, when the earl no longer in mead-hall may live with loving friends. So Beowulf, when that barrow's warden he sought, and the struggle; himself knew not in what wise he should wend from the world at last. </li></ul><ul><li>Excerpt from Chapter XLII, Beowulf </li></ul>
  5. 5. MIDDLE ENGLISH PERIOD 1066-1485 <ul><li>Poems continued to be written in forms like the Old English alliterative, four-stress lines. </li></ul><ul><li>Poetry expressing a mystical longing for, and union with, the deity </li></ul><ul><li>Allegory; tales of chivalry and adventure, chivalric idealization of love in medieval romance </li></ul><ul><li>Chaucer’s nonalliterative verse </li></ul>
  6. 6. The Knight’s Tale (lines 1-16) <ul><li>Once on a time, as old stories tell to us, </li></ul><ul><li>There was a duke whose name was Theseus: </li></ul><ul><li>Of Athens he was lord and governor, </li></ul><ul><li>And in his time was such a conqueror </li></ul><ul><li>That greater was there not beneath the sun. </li></ul><ul><li>Very many rich countries had he won; </li></ul><ul><li>What with his wisdom and his chivalry </li></ul><ul><li>He gained the realm of Femininity, </li></ul><ul><li>That was of old time known as Scythia. </li></ul><ul><li>There he married the queen, Hippolyta, </li></ul><ul><li>And brought her home with him to his country. </li></ul><ul><li>In glory great and with great ceremony, </li></ul><ul><li>And, too, her younger sister, Emily. </li></ul><ul><li>And thus, in victory and with melody, </li></ul><ul><li>Let I this noble duke to Athens ride </li></ul><ul><li>With all his armed host marching at his side. </li></ul><ul><li>     Whilom, as olde stories tellen us, </li></ul><ul><li>Ther was a duc that highte Theseus; </li></ul><ul><li>Of Atthenes he was lord and governour, </li></ul><ul><li>And in his tyme swich a conquerour, </li></ul><ul><li>That gretter was ther noon under the sonne. </li></ul><ul><li>Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne, </li></ul><ul><li>What with his wysdom and his chivalrie; </li></ul><ul><li>He conquered al the regne of Femenye, </li></ul><ul><li>That whilom was ycleped Scithia, </li></ul><ul><li>And weddede the queene Ypolita, </li></ul><ul><li>And broghte hir hoom with hym in his contree, </li></ul><ul><li>With muchel glorie and greet solempnytee, </li></ul><ul><li>And eek hir yonge suster Emelye. </li></ul><ul><li>And thus with victorie and with melodye </li></ul><ul><li>Lete I this noble duc to Atthenes ryde, </li></ul><ul><li>And al his hoost, in armes hym bisyde. </li></ul>
  7. 7. THE RENAISSANCE 1485-1660 <ul><li>Poetry was generally less important (earlier part of 16 th century) </li></ul><ul><li>Sir Philip Sidney inaugurated the vogue of the sonnet </li></ul><ul><li>Motif of poetry: the idealization of the beloved </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>2 poetic tendencies toward end of 16 th and in early part of 17 th centuries: </li></ul><ul><li>a. Metaphysical poets </li></ul><ul><li>b. Cavalier poets </li></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>Metaphysical poets </li></ul><ul><li>wit, inventiveness, and a love of elaborate stylistic maneuvers, subtle argumentations, paradoxical style </li></ul><ul><li>Metaphysical concerns are the common subject of their poetry, which investigates the world by rational discussion of its phenomena rather than by intuition or mysticism. </li></ul><ul><li>rigorous verse appeals to the reader’s intellect rather than emotions </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>Cavalier poets </li></ul><ul><li>much of their poetry is light in style, and generally secular in subject; avoid the subject of religion </li></ul><ul><li>attempt no plumbing of the depths of the soul </li></ul><ul><li>treat life cavalierly and sometimes they treat poetic convention cavalierly too </li></ul><ul><li>life is far too enjoyable for much of it to be spent sweating over verses in a study </li></ul><ul><li>They use direct and colloquial language expressive of a highly individual personality, and they enjoy the casual, the amateur, the affectionate poem. </li></ul>
  11. 11. RESTORATION & 18 TH CENTURY 1660-1789 <ul><li>Writers reacted against the imaginative flights and the ornate or startling styles and forms of previous era </li></ul><ul><li>Admiration for Ben Jonson and his disciples </li></ul><ul><li>Literature in general was characterized by reason, moderation, good taste, simplicity </li></ul><ul><li>Literary period was divided into three: ages of Dryden, Pope, Johnson </li></ul>
  12. 12. Age of Dryden <ul><li>Poetry was characterized by easy, sociable style. </li></ul><ul><li>John Dryden’s poetry set the tone of the new age in achieving new clarity and establishing a self-limiting, somewhat impersonal canon of moderation and good taste. </li></ul><ul><li>Satire became the dominant poetic genre of the age </li></ul><ul><li>His polished heroic couplet became the dominant form in longer poems </li></ul><ul><li>* Heroic couplet - refers to poems constructed from a sequence of rhyming pairs of iambic pentameter lines. The rhyme is always masculine. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Age of Pope <ul><li>Deeply conservative but also playful; developed classicism and literary conservativism </li></ul><ul><li>The works cast a strange light on modern times by viewing them through the screen of classical myths and forms </li></ul><ul><li>Pope’s poetic lines reflect ease, harmony, grace and the quality of precise but never labored expression of thought </li></ul>
  14. 14. Age of Johnson <ul><li>A respect for the good judgment of ordinary people and for standards of taste and behavior independent of social status </li></ul><ul><li>Poets most tried to see and represent nature , understood as the universal and permanent elements in human experience.  </li></ul>
  15. 15. THE ROMANTIC AGE 1789-1837 <ul><li>Romantic age stressed emotion over reason; subordination of reason to intuition and passion , the primacy of the individual will over social norms of behavior; the preference for the illusion of immediate experience as opposed to generalized and typical experience </li></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>Theme: world of simple, natural things, in the countryside or among people; preference for ordinary, everyday language (Wordsworth) </li></ul><ul><li>Bent on the strange, the exotic, the mysterious (Coleridge) </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>Second generation of Romantic poets was revolutionary: </li></ul><ul><li>Satirical spirit and sense of social realism (Byron) </li></ul><ul><li>Shelley’s poetry expresses his 2 main ideas: </li></ul><ul><li>1. external tyranny of rulers, customs or superstitions is the main enemy </li></ul><ul><li>2. inherent human goodness will, sooner or later, eliminate evil from the world and usher in an eternal reign of transcendent love </li></ul><ul><li>Keats’ poetry is a response to sensuous impressions, an awareness of immediate sensation </li></ul>
  18. 18. THE VICTORIAN ERA 1837-1901 <ul><li>Notable poets were absorbed in social issues </li></ul><ul><li>Tennyson’s poetry: problems of religious faith, social change and political power </li></ul><ul><li>Browning’s poetry: intellectuality and bracing harshness </li></ul><ul><li>Arnold’s poetry: sorrowful, disillusioned pessimism over the human plight in rapidly changing times </li></ul>
  19. 19. 20 th century to the present <ul><li>Two notable poets of the modern period combined tradition and experiment: </li></ul><ul><li>Yeats - more traditional; developed an honest, profound and rich poetic idiom. </li></ul><ul><li>Eliot – expressed despair over the sterility of modern life through a mass of symbolic associations with legendary and historical events </li></ul>
  20. 20. <ul><li>Successive generations of poets: </li></ul><ul><li>Used private or esoteric symbolism (poetry was barely intelligible to any but a small group of readers) </li></ul><ul><li>Characterized by experimentalism </li></ul><ul><li>The Movement: poets sought to appeal to the common reader with a nonsentimental poetry of the everyday, written in colloquial language </li></ul>

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