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Lecture I

The literature of England (America)

Plan:
I Short survey to the literature of England (America) II Directions of the literature: Romanticism. Realism. Naturalism. III Romanticism. Romanticism in literature. Romanticism and society. IV The theory of naturalism. Naturalism in fiction.

V Realism.Realism in fiction.

American and English literature begins with the orally transmitted myths, legends, tales and lyrics (always songs) of Indian cultures. There was no written literature among the more than 500 different Indian languages and tribal cultures that existed in North America before the first Europeans arrived. As a result, Native American oral literature is quite diverse. Narratives from quasi-nomadic hunting cultures like the Navajo are different from stories of settled agricultural tribes such as the pueblo-dwelling Acoma. The stories of northern lakeside dwellers such as the Ojibwa often differ radically from stories of desert tribes like the Hopi. Tribes maintained their own religions – worshipping gods, animals, plants or sacred persons. Systems of government ranged from democracies to councils of elders to theocracies. These tribal variations enter into the oral literature as well. Examples of almost every oral genre can be found in American Indian literature: lyrics, myths, fairy tales, humorous anecdotes, riddles, proverbs, epics, and legendary histories. Romanticism arose as a reaction against the Age of Reason. It dominated European literature from the second half of the 1700’s through the mid 1800’s. It also had important echoes in the US. The romantics praised natural human instincts and wrote about their own emotions and sentiments. Romanticism is a style in the fine arts and literature. It emphasizes passion rather than reason, and imagination and intuition rather than logic. Romanticism favours full expression of the emotions, and free, spontaneous action rather than restraint and order. In all these ways, romanticism contrasts with another style called classicism. Periods of romanticism often develop as a revolt against classicism. Artist and writers throughout history have shown romantic tendencies. But the term romantic movement usually refers to the period from the late 1700’s to the mid 1800’s.

Romanticism in literature: During the romantic movement, most writers were discontented with their world. It schemed commercial, in-human and standardized. To escape from modern life, the romantics turned their interests to remote and faraway places, the medieval past, folklore, and legends, and nature and the common people. They were also drawn to the supernatural. Many romantic characteristics were united in the Gothic novel. This was a type of horror story, filled with violence and supernatural effects, and set against a background of gloomy medieval Gothic castles. The Gothic novel influenced the American writers Nathaniel Hathworne and Edgar Allan Poe. The novels of Sir Walter Scott of Scotland and James Fenimore Cooper of the US reveal the typically romantic interest in the past. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, collected by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, are famous examples of the romantic interest in legends and folklore. Many typically romantic characteristics appear in the poetry of William Wordsworth of England. Wordsworth preferred a reflective “vacant and pensive mood” to a restless search for scientific knowledge. He believed we learn more by communing with nature or talking to country people than by reading books. He also believed that harmony with nature is the source of all goodness and truth.

Romanticism and society.
The French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau taught that people are naturally good, but have been corrupted by the institutions of civilization. He idealized the noble savage, an individual unspoiled by luxury and sophistication, and he argued that in a vituons society children would grow up honest and free. Influenced by...
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