lengthy, complex lyric; has a serious subject; elevated diction.
Invented by Pindar, a Greek poet, modeled on choral songs of Greek drama; encomiums (written to give public praise), usually to successful Olympic athletes; developed in England, Romantic poets, Keats and Wordsworth, modified Pindaric form to suit their own purposes; modeled after Roman poet Horace, Horatian ode: more personal, meditative, restrained; Romantic form of ode: outdoor natural scene, extended meditation about private problem and/or universal situation, and an insight, resolution, decision, new perspective.
Romantic poets ignored the "emotional restraint" part of the Horatian ode formula; got all sappy about it.
Examples: Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," Coleridge's "Dejection: An Ode," and Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind."
popular in US in late 70s; concerned with the representation of women in literature; examine how female characters are portrayed in literature to expose the patriarchal ideology implicit in the literary canon; increase awareness of sexual politics in language; uncover female tradition of writing (which may include rediscovering old texts); study writings by women to find out how women writers across the ages have perceived themselves; women are members of different societies, they have different concerns; women are not defined solely by the fact that they are female; Isobel Armstrong, Nancy Armstrong, Barbara Bowen, Jennifer DeVere Brody, Laura Brown, Margaret Anne Doody, Eva Figes, Sandra Gilbert, Susan Gubar, Gavatri Spivak, Judith Butler, Toril Moi, Lisa Tuttle - Greek and Roman; 1200 BC - 455 AD
- The Iliad: tragedy about the Trojan War, centers on Achilles, who embodied the Greek heroic ideal
- The Odyssey: tragedy and comedy, story of Odysseus, returning from Troy to his homeland, during 10 year voyage, he loses his comrades and ships and makes his way home disguised as beggar.
- Forms: Poetry, drama (tragedies, comedies)
- Epic Poem: poem using formal verse, celebrating the achievements of heroes and gods.
- Themes: life/death, morality, seasonal change, political commentary, satire.
- Greek drama was rooted in Athenian festivals of the 7th century, honoring the Greek god Dionysius.
- Greek Authors: Homer, Virgil, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Aesop.
- Latin Authors: Virgil, Horace (Ars Poetica), Ovid (Metamorphoses).
- Philosophers: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle
- Saint Jerome translates the Bible into Latin in the 4th century; this version is called the Vulgate.
455 AD - 1485 AD
- Themes: religious devotion, chivalric code/honor
- Epic poetry: important form for recording legends that had been handed down by word of mouth.
- Romances: narrative stories of adventure, fantasy, chivalry, knightly love.
- Lyric poetry: wandering minstrels composed songs of love to entertain noblemen.
- Beowulf: author unknown, around 10th century; first major work in Old English, heroic poem; set in Scandinavia, the epic hero Beowulf defeats the monster Grendel to become king of the Geats; possibly the product of oral tradition because of its inconsistent mix of pagan and Christian imagery.
- Marie de France: 12th century; introduced a new genre, the narrative lay; her Breton lais are 12 short narrative poems about love, individuality, and chivalry written in Anglo-Norman; intended to be entertaining and morall instructive, a few mention King Arthur and inspired later Arthurian tales.
- Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales: 14th century; first work in English vernacular; collection of stories by 12 pilgrims traveling to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket; painted a picture of English society through estates satire.
- Dante Alighieri: Divine Comedy: 14th century; epic poem; tour of heaven and hell, made up of three books; Inferno (with Virgil as guide), Purgatorio, Paradiso.
- Boccaccio: The Decameron; 14th century; Frame story; the plague comes to Florence so 10 young people flee to the country and kill time by telling stories; the 100 tales range from naughty (lusty peasant girl is seduced by lusty monk) to tragic (graphic description of the effects of the plague on the city) and paint a picture of 14th century Italy.
- Petrarch: 14th century; known as the "father of Humanism"; he perfected the sonnet form; mostly remembered for Il Canzoniere; a series of poems in Italian about his unrequited love for "Laura," a married woman he loved afar; these (stalker) poems became the standard for Western love poetry for the next 300 years; in Secretum, a book published after his death, he chides himself for pursuit of fame (through poetry) and love of a woman (Laura) and not devoting himself fully to God; he also discusses humanist ideas, e.g., the study of human thought and action (ideas that will inspire the Renaissance).
1485 - 1660
- Themes: universe as an orderly whole where every element has its proper role; order among people, Church and nation; symmetry and proportion.
- Martin Luther: led the Reformation; wrote 95 Theses in 1517: sparked the Protestant Reformation, an era of religious questioning; criticized the Catholic Church, particularly its sale of indulgences, forgiveness of sins.
- Edmund Spenser: The Fairie Queen (1590), allegorical epic poem honoring Queen Elizabeth I and flattering the Tudor family by connecting it to King Arthur; one of the longest poems in the English language; created the Spenserian Sonnet (combining the Petrarchan and Shakespearean forms).
- Sir Thomas More: lawyer, philosopher, humanist, Lord Chancellor of England; opponent of the Reformation; wrote Utopia in 1516, a social satire of England; publicly criticized King Henry VIII for making himself head of the church, and Henry had him beheaded for treason; More was canonized in 1935.
- John Donne: 16th century; English metaphysical poet, satirist, Protestant priest; best known for erotic poetry and metaphysical conceits (comparison of something physical to something spiritual, e.g. love); The Flea, speaker tries to convince a woman to have premarital sex through the metaphor of a flea, in which their blood is already mingled; A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, separated lovers are compared to the legs of a compass.
- Cervantes: Don Quixote (1605), a novel satirizing Spanish chivalric romances as the hero attacks imaginary enemies (windmills).
- John Milton: 1608 - 1674; Areopagitica, a prose pamphlet criticizing censorship; Paradise Lost, epic poem in blank verse about the biblical story of the fall of man.
- Andrew Marvell: 1621 - 1678; "To His Coy Mistress," metaphysical carpe diem poem.
- William Shakespeare: 1564 - 1616; most famous plays: Hamlet, King Lear, MacBeth (tragedies); Richard II, King Henry IV (histories); A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing (comedies); most famous of his 154 sonnets: #18, Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day; #130, My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun.
- Shakespeare's contemporary playwrights:
- Christopher Marlowe: 1564 - 1593; poet and playwright; wrote Dr. Faustus, play about a man who sells his soul to the devil; The Passionate Shepherd to His Love, one of the most famous poems in the English language, about a shepherd pleading for sex.
- Ben Jonson: 1572 - 1637; most famous play was The Comedy of Humors; he also wrote lyric poetry, and was imitated by The Cavalier Poets (Robert Herrick, Richard Lovelace, Sir John Suckling, and Thomas Carew) who called themselves "The Tribe of Ben," wrote smutty poems, and were sympathetic to Charles I.
1660 - 1790 (18th century)
- Reaction to religious battleground of 16th and 17th centuries; the world would be a better place if people were guided by reason.
- Development of natural science.
- Newton: worked out motion of the planets and gravity; God increasingly unnecessary.
- Themes: reason, logic, harmony, stability, wisdom, rational order in the universe demonstrates God's design.
- Philosophers: Rousseau ("noble savage" Passion over Reason); Voltaire (Reason over Passion).
- Dryden: Wrote poetry, prose, criticism, and drama; considered the greatest English poet of the 17th century and 3rd greatest playwright after Shakespeare and Ben Johnson; many of Dryden's poems are occasional, commemorating formal, public events; wrote Dramatic Poesy in 1668, essay defending drama against criticism that it's not a legitimate art form.
- Alexander Pope: wrote poetry, prose, criticism, and satire; The Rape of the Lock, satirized materialism of the upper classes.
- Dr. Samuel Johnson: A Dictionary of the English Language (1755); called "one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship."
- James Boswell: Life of Samuel Johnson (1791), called the "greatest biography ever written"; changed the genre with more personal and vivid details about his subject.
- Robert Burns: ("the Ploughman Poet"); best known Scottish poet, also wrote folksongs, e.g. Auld Lang Syne; he wrote in plain, direct language about politics, class inequalities, and the benefits of Scotch whiskey; his poem Comin' Through the Rye (1782) inspired the title of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.
1600 - 1800; explorers and colonists wrote about their experiences, both as advertisements for prospective pilgrims and as journalistic therapy, to ward off intense boredom of life in the New World.
- Rise of Puritanism: humans are "corrupt and prone to evil," original sin, predestination (Puritans are God's chosen people).
- American idealism; tradition of preaching.
- John Smith: one of the Pilgrim Fathers, leader of the Virginia Colony, soldier, explorer, author; his books and maps helped colonize the New World; wrote The Generall Historie of Virginia in 1624, heroic accounts of colonists and native Americans, e.g. Pocahontas; themes: strong work ethic, compromise with the Indians.
- John Calvin: wrote Bay Psalm Book in 1640, first book printed in North America, contained psalms the Pilgrim Fathers brought with them to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
- Jonathan Edwards: Puritan theologian, wrote about metaphysical theological determinism, inspired thousands of missionaries; his sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (1741), about the horrors of Hell, is a classic of early American literature; his writings helped inspire The First Great Awakening, a Christian revitalization movement in the 1730s and 1740s emphasizing the need for salvation through Christ.
- Cotton Mather: Puritan minister, author, most influential minister in Salem Witch Trials; wrote Pillars of Salt in 1686, an execution sermon (printed as a pamphlet), is an early form of true-crime literature; most notable books are Wonders of the Invisible World (1693), contained his sermons, described Salem witch trials; Magnalia Christi Americana (1702), biographies of saints and described progress of colonists; also wrote about promoting inoculation against smallpox.
- Thomas Jefferson; wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776; 3rd U.S. president.
- Thomas Paine: like Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers of the U.S., author, inventor, revolutionary; wrote in a new clear, simple style, to bring politics to the people; wrote Rights of Man in 1791, a book defending the French Revolution, attacking aristocracy (wisdom to govern cannot be inherited); influenced by John Locke's social contract, natural rights theories; wrote The Age of Reason in 1793, a pamphlet, challenges religion and the Bible, promotes deism (reason, not religion); British government prosecuted its printer; edited The Pennsylvania Magazine (1775), helped promote the revolution.
18th century; the revived interest in classical forms and ideas (order, simplicity, clarity, and reason) that influenced British thinkers (Dryden, Pope); moved across the Atlantic to the New World.
- Movement from poetry to non-fiction, from religious idealism to pragmatism (nonfiction written in plain language).
- Politics and religion move away from theism of Jonathan Edwards (God involved in our everyday lives) to deism of Jefferson and Paine (God as watchmaker: creates the universe then retreats); common man now master of his own fate.
- Benjamin Franklin: inventor, great neoclassical thinker; wrote Poor Richard's Almanack (1732 - 1758), best selling pamphlet published yearly in the American colonies, included weather forecasts, household tips, puzzles, written in contemporary American vernacular.
- Phillip Freneau: "Poet of the American Revolution"; his poetry and political writings helped inspire American independence; appointed editor by Jefferson of The National Gazette (1790s), a partisan Democratic-Republican newspaper aimed at attacking the Federalists (Hamilton and Washington).
- Alexander Hamilton: although he admire Plutarch, Hamilton thought classical antiquity, especially Rome, was an inappropriate example for the new United States; he said, "Neither the manners nor the genius of Rome are suited to the republic or to the age we live in. All her maxims and habits were military; her government was constituted for war. Ours is unfit for it; and our situation still less than our Constitution, invites us to attempt a display of unprofitable heroism."
1785 - 1830; influenced by French Revolution.
- Emotional reaction to rational, neo-classical standards of 18th century Augustan poetry and prose.
- Rejection of 18th century rigidity.
- Themes: imagination, magic, nature, chivalry, adventure, intuition, idealistic love.
- This period also included Gothic writings (precursor to horror novels) which continued into the Victorian Period.
- Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Emma (1815); subtle complexities of the lives of England's gentry.
- Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre (1847), intense personal integrity.
- Emily Bronte: Wuthering Heights (1847), gothic love story.
- Blake: Songs of Innocence, mystical beauty, biblical imagery
- Keats: poetry about sensuality, conflict between life and art.
- Percy Shelley: revolutionary poet; Prometheus Unbound (1820).
- Wordsworth: the sublime, good in nature and man; Lyrical Ballads (1800).
- Bram Stoker: Irish novelist, focused on violence, terror, aberrant psychological states; Dracula (1897), Gothic novel; themes: role of women in Victorian culture, sexual norms, immigration, colonialism and post-colonialism.
- Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1818), epistolary novel (written as a series of documents); themes: galvanism (the bringing to life of organisms using electricity), a warning against the industrial revolution; one of the earliest examples of science fiction.
19th century; later called Transcendentalism, which began in Far East, movement centered on mysticism and pantheism (God in nature), man's relation to the natural world; these ideas were incorporated in the writings of young intellectuals in the Boston area, involved the Unitarian church.
- Primitivism: sub-branch of Romanticism: natural or early conditions of society are best; living close to nature, idea of noble savage; reaction to industrial revolution and evil influences on urban society; primitive life becomes the theme of many romantic fictions, e.g., Melville's Typee; children are closer to perfection, e.g. Pearl in Scarlet Letter.
- Themes: belief that God is in each person and in nature, idealization of nature, mysticism, childhood, innocence, the Gothic, exotic settings.
- Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1852, anti slavery novel, idealization of childhood.
- Emerson: essayist, poet, leader of Transcendentalist movement; wrote, lectured about: individuality, freedom, mysticism, nature; wrote Self Reliance (essay, 1841), romantic individualism, avoid the human tendency to conform.
- Thoreau: author, poet, abolitionist, leading Transcendentalist; wrote about individual rights, self-education; Walden (book, 1854), social experiment in simple, natural living; Civil Disobedience (essay, 1849), motivated by his disgust for slavery, argument that individuals should resist unjust government.
- Poe: poet, one of the earliest short-story writers, inventor of detective fiction; best known works: The Pit and the Pendulum (short story, 1842), fear created through sense imagery; The Raven (narrative poem, 1845), stylized language, supernatural atmosphere.
- Hawthorne: novelist, short story writer, transcendentalist; The Scarlet Letter (novel, 1850), historical setting, themes of sin, guilt, law, repentance; The House of the Seven Gables (novel, 1851), Gothic novel set in haunted mansion, themes of guilt, atonement, witchcraft.
1830 - mid 19th century; began and ended with reign of Queen Victoria; inspired by the Industrial Revolution; swift social/economic changes, rise of middle class, industrialization, urbanization, pseudoscience, the rise of the novel, newspapers.
- Temperament usually associated with prudishness and concern with manners, but also a romantic, erotic undercurrent leftover from the Romantic Era.
- Literature examined relationship between people and society; idea of the "self" influence by Freud's 1890s research.
- Themes: working conditions in sweatshops and urban areas, country vs. city life, conflicts between those in power and working poor; realistic portrayal of social life; lots of characters, realistic description, thick plots.
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning: poet, wrote about the position of women in society.
- Lewis Carroll: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, children's books which, beneath the surface, satirize celebrities and morals of the time.
- Charles Dickens: psycho-social aspects of Victorian society, dark side of industrialization; David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations (novels, 1850 - 1860).
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes (1890s), detective fiction; dark, dangerous city setting reflects mindset of Victorian England.
First half of 20th century; extreme form of realism; denies the supernatural or miraculous; pessimistic; humans are victims of instincts, passions, economic, social environment; inspired by Darwin (survival of the fittest); foreshadows existentialism.
- Ernest Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises (1926), decadent "Lost Generation"
- Jack London: The Call of the Wild (1903), survival of the fittest
- Stephen Crane: Maggie, A Girl of the Streets (1893), slums of New York
- Steinbeck: Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath (1937, 1939), working poor.
- Frank Norris: McTeague (1899), greed, poverty, violence in urban America.
- Theodore Dreiser: Sister Carrie (1900), urban immorality, corrupted American Dream.
1900 - 1950; inspired by WWI; movement away from Realism and Naturalism; rejection of immediate past, tradition, 19th century optimism, Victorian morality.
- Experiments with narrative structure (stream of consciousness, multiple points of view); concerned with sound rather than meaning, how readers will react to text (foreshadows "reader-response" movement years later).
- Characters confront ethical problems, alienation, isolation.
- Theme: isolation of the individual
- Dylan Thomas: Welsh poet; hybrid forms, imagery from the Bible, folklore, dreams/Freud; Under Milk Wood (radio play, 1953); Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (villanelle, 1951), death is close, unavoidable.
- Virginia Woolf: Bloomsbury Group member; To the Lighthouse, 1927, stream of consciousness, no action.
- James Joyce: Irish novelist, poet; Ulysses (1922), stream of consciousness, allusions to classical mythology, varied literary styles.
- Robert Frost: poetry containing ambiguities, hidden meanings.
- Flannery O'Connor: southern Gothic, the grotesque.
- The "Lost Generation" writers: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury, 1929, stream of consciousness).
- "Harlem Renaissance" writers: Hughes, Dunbar, Ellison.
1960s - Present; concepts introduced during Modernism are pushed to extreme; poets and playwrights experiment with fragmented poetry; rejection of plot and character; meaning itself is illusory.
- In Modernism, fragmentation of human experience is lamented; in Postmodernism, fragmentation and incoherence of modern life is made fun of as nonsensical.
- Thomas Pynchon: The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), postmodern novel with convoluted plot that depends on understanding of cultural references, including allusions to The Beatles, Nabokov, and the California Gold Rush.
- T.S. Eliot: Nobel Prize-winning poet, playwright, social critic; considered one of the most important English-language poets of the 20th century; The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915), Modernist stream of consciousness poem; the internal monologue of a middle-aged male narrator who wants to say something, but is afraid, and so ultimately doesn't. Themes: regret, weariness, longing, sexual frustration, mortality. The Waste Land (1922), poem often interpreted as representing the disillusionment of the post-war generation; contains sudden changes of speaker, location, and time.
- Samuel Beckett: Irish avant-garde playwright; considered one of the last modernists; Waiting for Godot (1948), absurdist "tragicomedy" play (part of the Theatre of the Absurd movement, deriving from philosophies of Camus and Kierkegaard, humans are incapable of finding meaning in the universe). Two characters wait for the arrival of someone named Godot, who never shows; because of its sparseness, open to many interpretations; contains references to religion, psychology, war, philosophy; often interpreted as existential, in that it seems to question the meaning of human existence and the existence of God.
1960s - present; increasing acceptance and canonization of non-Caucasian writers; post-colonial literature.
- Sandra Cisneros: Mexican-American writer; The House on Mango Street (1984), young adult novel about Latina culture, quest for better life.
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Columbian Pulitzer Prize winner; style: magical, realism (Postmodern, mixes fantastic elements with realism- more realistic than surrealism, which is more concerned with the unconscious). Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), themes: solitude, love as illness, aging, hatred, death; also notable: One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967).
- Salman Rushdie: British Indian novelist, combines magical realism with historical fiction; Satanic Verses (1988), inspired by the life of Muhammad, outraged Muslims believed it blasphemous and issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie's death.
- Gunter Grass: German Nobel Prize-winning novelist, poet, artist; uses magical realism to create "frolicsome black fables." Themes: left-wing German politics, i.e., opposition to the reunification of Germany; best known work: The Danzig Trilogy (1959), three works about the rise of Nazism.
- Forms: picture books, chapter books, middle grade and young adult novels.
- Strong teen character, often narrated in first person.
- Exploration of societal issues: family life, conflict, ethical decisions, violence, ecological issues.
- Emphasis on promoting sensitivity to cultural, economic, and class diversity.
- J.D. Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye (1951), first person teen anti hero, colloquial (sometimes profane) diction; themes: teen angst, rebellion, identity, sexuality.
- E.B. White: Charlotte's Web (1952), first person female child narrator. Themes: compassion, equality; other books: Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan.
- Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), Pulitzer Prize winner; first-person female child narrator; themes: rape, racial inequality, class, gender roles, integrity.
- Madeleine L'Engle: A Wrinkle in Time (1962), science fantasy, Biblical references; Themes: good vs. evil, conformity, oppression.
- S.E. Hinton: The Outsiders (1967), themes: gang violence, peer pressure.
- Judy Blume: author of many teen novels; themes include teen sex, divorce, bullying, masturbation, racism; Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret (1970), first person female 6th grader deals with religious affiliation, menstruation, jealousy, conformity; other novels: Tiger Eyes and Forever.
- Gary Paulsen: Hatchet (1987), 13 year old boy survives in the wilderness for 52 days. Themes: power of rational thinking and optimism, man vs. nature, independence, nature as rejuvenating.
- Lois Lowry: author of more than 30 children's books. Themes: racism, murder. The Giver (1993), dystopian trilogy. Number the Stars (1987), the Holocaust and Danish Resistance.
- Ancient Greek literature refers to literature written in the Greek language until the 4th century CE.
- Greeks invented the epic and lyric forms; also invented drama and produced plays that are still considered masterpieces.
- Plays were first performed in Athens for the religious festival of Dionysus; of the hundreds of dramas written during the classical age, only a limited number of plays have survived.
- Tragedy: there are only three tragic writers known to us today: Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.
- Aeschylus: earliest of the three tragic writers, born in 525 BC; wrote between 70 and 90 plays, of which only seven remain. His play, Prometheus Bound, is a retelling of the legend of the Titan Prometheus, a superhuman who stole fire from heaven, gave it to mankind, and was punished by Zeus. Many of his dramas were arranged as trilogies, groups of three plays on a single theme. The only surviving trilogy is called The Oresteia.
- Sophocles: in 468, Aeschylus was replaced as Greece's favorite by Sophocles. Antigone is typical of his work: its heroine is a model of female self-sacrifice. He is better known for Oedipus Rex and its sequel, Oedipus at Colonus.
- Euripides: the third of the great tragic writers; wrote at least 92 plays, but only 19 still exist in full; his tragedies are about real men and women instead of idealized figures. The philosopher Aristotle called Euripides the most tragic of the poets because his plays were the most moving. His best known works are Medea, Hippolytus, Orestes, and Electra.
- Like tragedy, comedy arose from a ritual in honor of Dionysus; as with the tragedians, few works still remain of the great comedic writers.
- Three great comic poets in the 5th and early 4th century were Cratinus, Eupolis, and Aristophanes. No plays by the first two have survived, but eleven of approximately 40 comedies by Aristophanes survive as the only examples of the genre called Old Comedy.
- Old Comedy: the early stage of Greek comedy, became popular around the 5th century BC and is known through the works of the playwright Aristophanes. His plays from this period were full of song, dance, slapstick action, sexual jokes, obscenity, abuse, buffoonery, and insult. Political and social satire were also typical of Old Comedy. These plays often included commentary on political and philosophical topics or public figures.
- The Athenian people themselves are sometimes the objects of criticism. For example, in Aristophanes' Lysistrata, in which a group of Athenian women try to persuade their husbands to make a truce with Sparta by refusing to have sex with them.
- Old Comedy plays generally contained farcical scenes and usually ended with a banquet or wedding. The chorus often were dressed as animals, and the characters wore street clothes or masks with grotesque features.
- Parabasis and Debate: there are two elements which are regular structural features of Old Comedy: the parabasis and the debate. The parabasis, a long choral passage representing the views of the author, is both recited and sung in a direct address to the audience while the action of the play is suspended.
- In debate, dialogue often takes the form of a debate between two characters, in a combination of speech and song.
- Old Comedy has the typical pattern of action: in the beginning of the play the main character decides on an outrageous solution to some problem- the parabasis. Opposition to his plan is presented and overcome- the debate. The plan then is put into action and the results are played out.
- Aristophanes: Old Comedy is sometimes called Aristophanic comedy, because of its most popular writer. Aristophanes poked fun at every institution. The Birds made fun of Athenian democracy. The Clouds ridiculed the philosopher Socrates, and Lysistrata criticized war. Only 11 of his plays have survived.
- Did not deal with public themes, like Aristophanes, but had a narrower focus. He depicted fictional characters from everyday life, e.g., stern fathers, young lovers, and slaves.
- The plays of Menander influenced later generations and were adapted by Roman poets.
- Of the three stages of Athenian Comedy, New Comedy has had the greatest influence on modern comedy.
- The universality of human relationships which formed the subject matter of New Comedy allowed it to translate well- to Rome, and then to Renaissance Italy and England and eventually to our stages and television screens.
- Old Comedy was tied to the political and social conditions of the 5th century Athens and therefore could not be as easily transplanted.
- But the spirit of Old Comedy still survives in modern political cartoons, musical comedies, and comedy skits that satirize political figures and institutions.
- Aristotle's The Poetics (4th century BC) set out the elements of a tragedy. For Aristotle, the most important element of tragic drama was the experience of catharsis, the arousing of pity and fear so these emotions can be purged in the spectator. Thus tragedy is defined by its emotional effect on the audience. According to Aristotle, the ideal plot of a traged should contain the following elements:
1. Unity of time, place, and action: action extends over no more than a day or two; occurs in no more than one city and its surrounding countryside. The concentration of action within a small location and short time period produced a stronger emotional response, according to Aristotle.
2. Reversal (change of fortune): the plot is structured to strengthen the emotions of pity and fear; this occurs through reversal, which can be: Simple (the hero experiences a turn of fortune from happiness to misery or vice versa); OR: Complex (the hero, seeking happiness, brings about his own destruction, ironic reversal).
3. Discovery (or recognition): of someone's identity or true nature (Lear's children); of one's own identity or true character (Cordelia, Edgar, Edmund, etc.); of the nature of the gods and the universe (Lear's belief that the gods "kill us for their sport").
4. Climax: the ideal climax (turning point) combines ironic reversal and discovery in a single action.
5. Tragic Hero: the tragic hero should have the following characteristics:
- of noble blood, this provides the story with dignity and generates the feeling in the audience that if tragedy can happen to the advantaged, it can happen to anyone, this is how tragedy produces fear.
- Identifiable: the hero should be no better or worse than most people. This produces fear because if the hero is imperfect like us, and we can identify with him; it also produces pity because if the hero were totally good, we would be outraged by his fate; if he were completely evil, we would feel like he had gotten what he deserved.
- Meets his fate because of a tragic flaw: the tragic flaw is not a defect in character (as with Shakespeare's heroes), but an error in judgment of the kind we all make; this generates pity because we do not blame the hero for his tragic fate.
6. Catharsis, or purgation: pity is aroused as the hero meets his fate; fear is aroused since we might meet a similar fate. We sympathize with the hero and his tragic circumstances and feel pity or fear for him. We learn a lesson from the story, our pity and fear disappear, and that is cathartic.
- Socrates (470 - 399) was the son of a sculptor, and served with distinction in the Athenian army. He married, but tended to fall in love with handsome young men. He was short and plump, not particularly well-groomed, and loved wine and conversation. His student, Plato, called him "the wisest, and justest, and best of all men whom I have ever known."
- The Socratic Method: Socrates believed that the soul contained all knowledge; he also believed in reincarnation and that we lost touch of that knowledge at every birth; we're never learning anything new; we only need to be reminded of what we already know. He said that he did not teach, but served as a midwife to truth already in his students. He used questions and answers to remind his students of knowledge. This is called maieutics (midwifery), or the Socratic method.
- Socrates never wrote any of his ideas down. Instead, he engaged his students (wealthy young men of Athens) in endless conversations. In exchange for his teaching, they made sure that he was taken care of.
- Plato divides reality into two: The idea (or form) is ultimate reality, permanent, eternal, spiritual. The law of gravity, 1+1=2, E=mc2, is a universal, true forever and everywhere. It is an idea, unchanging and perfect.
- On the other hand is phenomena, which is appearance, things as they seem to us. Phenomena involve matter, time, and space. They are illusions which decay and die, and are inferior.
- Plato applied this theory to human beings. The body, which is material, mortal = phenomena. The soul is immortal = idea.
- Rationalist: ideas are available to us through thought, while phenomena are available to us through our senses. So, naturally, thought is a vastly superior means to the truth. This is what makes Plato a rationalist.
- Religion: Plato identifies the ideal with God; God creates the world out of matter and shapes it according to his ideas. The world is not perfect, not because God's ideas are flawed, but because the raw materials were not perfect. Because of this belief, the early Christian church retroactively made Plato an honorary Christian, even though he died three and a half centuries before Christ.
- Ethics: Plato said the soul will always choose to do good if it recognizes what is good. This is a Buddhist-like conception of good and bad; being bad is a result of ignorance; someone who does something bad requires education, not punishment.
- Aristotle (384 - 322) was Plato's student, even though he disagreed with him on many points. Aristotle was as much a scientist as a philosopher. He was fascinated with nature, and classified the plants and animals in Greece. He was also interested in studying the animals, their anatomies and their behavior in the wild.
- De Anima: Aristotle invented modern logic and wrote the first book on psychology. It was called, Para Psyche, Greek for "about the mind or soul," but it's better known in the Latin form, De Anima. This book foreshadows many of the ideas that are fundamental to psychology today, such as the laws of association.
- Desire and Reason: Aristotle also foreshadowed many of the psychological concepts that would become popular only two thousand years later. Libido, for example: "In all animals, it is the most natural function to beget another being similar to itself." He also wrote about the struggle between what we now call id and ego. He called them desire and reason: "There are two powers in the soul which appear to be moving forces- desire and reason. But desire prompts actions in violation of reason... desire... may be wrong."
1. Virgil: Publius Vergilius Marco (70 - 19 BCE), is the author of The Aeneid, an epic poem of twelve books that became the Roman Empire's national epic.
- Composition of the Aeneid: the first six books of the epic are modeled on Homer's Odyssey.
The Trojan war hero Aeneas escapes the ruins of his native Troy, after its defeat by the Greeks, and leads the surviving Trojans to make a new home in Italy. On the voyage, a storm forces him to the coast of Carthage. There, he falls in love with the queen, Dido. When Jupiter reminds Aeneas of his duty he leaves Carthage, Dido commits suicide, cursing Aeneas.
Having reached Italy, Aeneas consults a Sibyl, who takes him through the Underworld and reveals his destiny to him. Aeneas is reborn as the creator of Imperial Rome.
The last six books of the Aeneid are the Roman equivalent of the Iliad. Aeneas marries Lavinia, daughter of King Latinus, but Lavinia had already been promised to Turnus, the king of the Rutulians. Aeneas combats and kills Turnus, ignoring his plea for mercy.
Aeneas exemplifies the virtue of pietas (piety) - duty to one's gods, family, and homeland. Aeneas struggles between doing what he wants to do as a man, and doing what he must as a virtuous hero. This struggle makes him a more realistic character than the heroes of older poems, such as Odysseus.
- Dante made Virgil his guide to Hell and Purgatory in The Divine Comedy. Virgil is still considered one of the greatest of the Latin poets, and the Aeneid is a staple of most classical studies programs.
- Quinus Horatius Flaccus (65 - 8 BCE), lyric poet and satirist, is generally considered to be, along with Virgil, the greatest of the Latin poets. many of his Latin phrases remain in use, including carpe diem, "seize the day." Themes in Horace's odes: love, friendship, the simple life, and the art of poetry.
- In Ars Poetica (17 - 13 BCE), Horace discusses decorum (appropriate language, style, and subject matter for writers) with directness, informality and humor. A writer needs both innate ability and training, he says. Ars Poetica had a great influence on Western poetry, as did much of his work, which was copied throughout the Middle Ages and quoted by early Christian writers, including St. Jerome.
The Canterbury Tales, a collection of 24 stories in a frame story, was written by Geoffrey Chaucer around 1400.
The frame: a group of thirty people travel to Canterbury (England) to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The pilgrims, who come from all layers of society, tell stories to each other while they travel. According to the General Prologue, Chaucer intended that each pilgrim should tell two tales on the way to Canterbury and two tales on the way back (120 total). However, he never finished his project. Since the printing press had not yet been invented when Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, it was passed down in the form of handwritten manuscripts. The Canterbury Tales were written in Middle English.
Themes of the tales include courtly love, gender roles, religious corruption, and greed. The genres also vary, including romance, sermon, and fable. Poet form also varies by tale; Chaucer uses a variety of rhyme schemes and metrical patterns, and there are two prose tales.
Some of the tales are serious and some humorous. All describe the habits and imperfections of human nature. Class difference is evident in the tales. In much of medieval Europe the "estates of the realm" divided society into nobility, clergy, and commoners. This division is one of the themes of the work. Some of the tales are linked by theme while others are told in response to others, as an argument.
Written in the vernacular (spoken language of the region). Until the 17th century, most scholarly works were written in Latin.
The Tales include: The General Prologue, The Knight's Tale, The Miller's Tale, The Cook's Tale, The Man of Law's Tale, The Wife of Bath's Tale, The Friar's Tale, The Summoner's Tale, The Clerk's Tale, The Merchant's Tale, The Squire's Tale, The Pardoner's Tale, The Shipman's Tale, The Monk's Tale.
Ben Jonson (1572 - 1637): if William Shakespeare had never lived, playwright, actor, and Cavalier Poet Ben Jonson would probably be regarded as the master dramatist of his age.
The Cavalier Poets: were so named because most were either members of the court of King Charles I or his supporters during the Civil War (1642 - 1651) between Royalists (Cavaliers) and Parliamentarians. Unlike their contemporaries, the metaphysical poets (John Donne, Andrew Marvell) who wrote about love and religion and relied heavily on conceits (exaggerated metaphors or similes), the Cavaliers wrote lighter, more secular poetry.
In 1616, Jonson published Works, a collection of plays and poems. The title was controversial, as "works" had been a title traditionally reserved for "intellectual" subjects, such as history and theology. But Jonson believed that plays were serious works of art.
Sons of Ben: despite his arrogant, blunt manner, Jonson was admired and imitated by many young writers (also Cavalier Poets) who called themselves the "Sons of Ben" (alternately "The Tribe of Ben").
Epigram: a poem (or saying) that is witty, brief, and pointed. Jonson wrote an epigram about his son, Benjamin, who died of the plague on his 7th birthday. In Elizabethan times, loans had a term of 7 years, so through metaphor, Jonson compares his son to a loan from God that came due after seven years.
- The 18th century in English literature has been called the Augustan Age, the Neoclassical Age, and the Age of Reason. Specifically, the Augustan Age was the period after the Restoration era to the death of Alexander Pope (1700 - 1750). The term Augustan Age comes from the imitation of the original Augustan writers, Virgil and Horace, by many 18th century writers.
- The popular genres of this period were adaptations of classical forms: mock epic and translation, and the literature is distinguished by the goals of harmony and precision. In poetry, tight verse and heroic couplets were popular, and major poets were Alexander Pope and John Dryden. In prose, essays and satire were the predominant forms, and the prose writers of the age were Jonathan Swift and Joseph Addison.
- The works of Dryden, Pope, Swift, Addison, and John Gay, demonstrate the Neoclassical striving for order, clarity, and decorum. Dryden's An Essay of Dramatic Poesy (1668), and Pope's Essay on Criticism (1711) became the basis for modern English literary criticism. Both argue that the model for writing should be "nature" as interpreted by the classical writers: a rational moral order in the universe.
- The Rape of the Lock (1712): Pope's satire about the battle between the sexes tells the story of Belinda, a flirtatious and superficial young woman who is preoccupied with exotic cosmetics and beauty aids. When an admiring young man steals a lock of her hair, she becomes hysterical: "From the fair head, forever, and forever! / Then flashed the living lightning from her eyes, / And screams of horror rend th' affrighted skies." By giving this minor event a mock heroic treatment, he criticizes the petty preoccupations of high-society preoccupations.
- Gulliver's Travels (1726): Although not a mock epic, satire is also the force behind Jonathan Swift's novel. Its four parts describe the different journeys of Lemuel Gulliver; to Lilliput, where tiny inhabitants act pompously; to a land of giants who laugh at tales of the greatness of England; and to a land where horses are civilized and men (Yahoos) behave like beasts. Swift's understated irony inspired a type of satire in which outrageous statements are given in a straight-faced manner.
- Robinson Crusoe (1719): Daniel Defoe's novel had the most lasting literary influence of any work written during the Augustan Age. Many literary historians consider Robinson Crusoe to be the first successful English novel and credit Defoe with inspiring realistic fiction and the "rise of the novel." Robinson Crusoe did not follow in the tradition of satire in the Augustan Age, but was instead influenced by the early narratives by women, e.g., Aphra Behn, Mary Delariviere Manley, and Jane Barker. These female writers created an audience for the novel which allowed Defoe to succeed with both Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders.
"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."
Francois Marie Arouet (1694 - 1778), whose pen name was Voltaire, was born in Paris; one of France's greatest writers and philosophers; outspoken critic of religious intolerance and persecution.
Educated at a Jesuit school in Parish, but dropped out at 17; witty poems made him friends among Parisian aristocrats; became favorite in society circles; in 1717, he was imprisoned in the Bastille for 11 months for writing a satire of the French gov't; while in prison he wrote "Oedipe" which became his first theatrical success.
In 1726, he insulted a powerful nobleman, and he was exiled and lived in England from 1726 to 1729; there he read the philosophy of John Locke, the ideas of scientist Sir Isaac Newton, and studied the natural sciences. He was impressed by England's religious tolerance and became interested in the philosophy of rationalism.
After returning to Paris, he wrote a book praising English customs and institutions, but it was interpreted as a criticism of the French gov't and in 1734, Voltaire was forced to leave Parish again.
He worked continuously throughout the years, books, plays, and other publications. He wrote hundreds of letters to his circle of friends; he was the voice of reason.
None of the other literary movements can compare to the popularity and staying power of Romanticism. Beginning in the last decades of the 18th century, it changed poetry, prose, drama, painting, music, opera, and ballet. Inspired by revolution, Romanticism was connected to the politics of the time and gave a voice to the fears and fantasies of the people.
Origins: the Romantic movement can be traced back to the mid-18th century interest in folklore which arose in Germany and the belief that works of imagination could equal those of educated poets and composers. Although education and aristocracy were favored in the 17th and 18th centuries, a new taste arose for the simplicity and naturalness of the uneducated common people.
Shakespeare: this interest in the folk arts helped make William Shakespeare popular. Shakespeare was not college-educated, and although his company had the sponsorship of King James, his work was not entirely respectable.
In fact, academic critics at first scorned his works as they broke the rules of ancient Greek and Roman dramas. A play should not mix comedy with tragedy, have multiple plots, subplots, and settings, or carry the story out over months or years of dramatic time. In doing all of these things, Shakespeare violated Aristotle's theory of the unity of time and place.
Because of the popularity of the folk arts, the Romantics exaggerated Shakespeare's simple origins. In fact, he had received an excellent education which, although it fell short of a university degree, went far beyond what the typical college student learns today about the classics. To the Romantics, however, he represented folk poetry, and he validated their belief in untutored creativity.
The Gothic Romance: during the Romantic age, readers sought escapism in adventures in which terrified heroes and heroines fought (and prevailed over) horrible monsters and mysterious forces. One of the first Gothic romances was Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto (1764), set in a haunted castle. This formula was popularized by writers like Ann Radcliffe, M.G. Lewis (The Monk), Eugene Sue (France), and Edgar Allan Poe, in the U.S. The modern horror and romance novels both descend from the Gothic romance. Some of the most popular of these were Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, her sister Emily's Wuthering Heights, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which foreshadowed modern science fiction.
Medievalism: the Gothic novel embraced the medieval culture which had been disdained in the early 18th century. While the Augustan Age had celebrated and imitated the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Romantics celebrated the wilder aspects of European history, the Middle Ages. The influence of the 12th - 14th centuries became evident in the stained glass art of soaring cathedrals, and tales of Robin Hood and his merry men, and King Arthur and his knights of the round table. The fantastic creatures of medieval tales like Beowulf's Grendel found their way back into 19th century Romantic literature, and fairies, witches, and angels populated the writing and art of the Romantic period.
Emotion: evocation of strong, irrational emotions, including terror. Whereas Voltaire and Enlightenment writers avoided the irrational, sentimental, and superstitious, Gothic romance writers embraced it, creating other-worldly settings and irrational events to horrify and amaze.
The proponents of Romanticism argued that readers could be morally uplifted through a greater sensitivity to feelings. The cultivation of empathy for the sufferings of others, as in the works of Charles Dickens, might lead to social change.
Exoticism: Romantics responded to the longing of 19th century readers for a distant past by creating images of distant and exotic places. Unfamiliar mattered more than distant; Spain was a favorite "exotic" setting for French Romantics. Unfortunately, exoticism tended to reinforce stereotypes; most natives were depicted as lazy and unable to govern themselves; women of almost any foreign land were depicted as more sexually desirable than the women at home.
Religion: some Romantic writers were drawn to religious imagery in the same way that they were attracted to Arthurian legends, they didn't believe in either. Romantics borrowed Biblical themes just as their Neoclassical predecessors had borrowed classical mythology.
Individualism: before the 18th century, Europeans were too busy trying to survive war and the plague to explore or develop their individual identities. People stayed what they had been born: nobles, peasants, or merchants. But as industrialization and capitalism came to Europe, they changed these patterns. The new industrialists built large fortunes, and upward mobility destabilized the idea of aristocracy. Individuality became important, and this was reflected in literature which stressed personal achievement and choice.
Nature: as the industrial revolution was destroying woods and fields and creating an artificial, urban environment, Europeans began to romanticize nature. They are attracted to it precisely because they were no longer part of it.
Victorianism: the Victorian Age can be seen as a later stage of Romanticism. Although prudish, conservative attitudes are usually associated with Queen Victoria's reign, during the Victorian period the passionate and erotic aspects of Romanticism continued.
Began in France as early as the 18th century, but became popular as a worldwide movement in reaction against Romanticism in the early 20th century.
Balzac: 1799 - 1850, is considered the grandfather of literary Realism. In his series of novels, La Comedie Humaine (The Human Comedy), he portrayed France with obsessive detail, from the lowest classes to the highest aristocrats. The title was a response to Dante's Divine Comedy, which had portrayed everything except the earthly human realm.
Long descriptions of settings were a feature of Balzac's. Although today's writers avoid such descriptive writing, before films and television, readers enjoyed reading about worlds they had no other access to.
While Balzac's settings were realistic, his plots were not. His novels were filled with sensational crimes, unbelievable conspiracies, and improbable coincidences. Basically, his works were Romantic, but with realistic detail.
Flaubert: in 1857, Gustave Flaubert produced the seminal work of literary Realism: Madame Bovary. The story of a woman who cheats on her country physician husband, it shocked readers and led to an obscenity. Although 19th century readers had read about adultery in Romantic novels, the subject had never before been treated in such a detailed, realistic, unsensational manner. Worse, Madame Bovary was unrepentant and unpunished (by Flaubert) for her sins.
Flaubert's lawyer successfully argued that her death made the novel into a moral tale (although she does not die because she is an adulterer but because she is a shopaholic).
The novel does more than break with the conventions of Romanticism; it criticizes them. Flaubert portrays Emma as deluded for trying to model her life after Romantic fiction, and so the novel becomes an anti-Romantic manifesto.
Realism and Naturalism had a lasting effect on fiction, particularly in America. Late 19th - early 20th century American writers who wrote novels of realism and/or naturalism include: Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, Kate Chopin, Stephen Crane, Jack London, Theodore Dreiser, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, and Frank Norris.
The novel, which arose from the romantic tradition of a fantastic narrative, has settled into the more realistic mode. Today, aside fro genre fiction such as fantasy and horror, the novel is generally based in our own world, with everyday characters doing everyday things.
Modernism is the movement in visual arts, music, literature, and drama which rejected the old Victorian standards of how art should be made and what is should mean. In the period of "high modernism," from 1910 - 1930, the major figures of modernist literature redefined what fiction could be. Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, Marcel Proust, Stephane Mallarme, Franz Kafka, and Rainer Maria Rilke are considered the founders of 20th century modernism.
- Emphasis on HOW writing takes place, example is stream-of-consciousness writing.
- Movement away from the objective omniscient third-person narrators, fixed points of view, and clear cut moral positions. EX: Faulkner's multiple-narrated stories.
- Blurring of distinctions between genres; ex: poetry that seems more documentary (T.S. Eliot, E.E. Cummings) and prose that seems more poetic (Woolf, Joyce).
- Emphasis on fragmented forms, discontinuous narratives, and random collages of materials.
- Self-consciousness about the production of the work; the piece calls attention to its own status as a production.
Follows most of these same ideas, replacing traditional genre rules with fragmentation, ambiguity, and self-consciousness, but postmodernism is more playful, emphasizing parody and irony.
It differs from modernism in its attitude. Modernism presents a fragmented world (Eliot's The Wasteland, or Woolf's To the Lighthouse), as something tragic, something to be lamented, and mourned as a loss. Postmodernism, in contrast, recognizes the fragmentation, or incoherence, but celebrates it. The world is meaningless? Let's not pretend that art can make meaning, then. Let's just play with nonsense.
Acknowledges the instability of institutions and in language itself. It recognizes that with every attempt at "order" comes an equal amount of "disorder."
Postmodernism favors mini narratives, stories that explain small, local events or concepts rather than large-scale universal or global concepts. These mini narratives are situational and temporary, making no claim to universality, truth, logic, or stability.
How Postmodernism relates to Deconstruction: Deconstruction refers to the application of post-modern ideas of criticism to a text; it attempts to uncover the assumptions of a text.
Postcolonial Literature is a hot commodity these days. Writers like Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy are best-selling authors, and no college English department worth its salt wants to be without a scholar who can knowledgeably discourse about postcolonial theory. Postcolonial theory functions as a subdivision within the field of "cultural studies."
People who call themselves postcolonial scholars generally see themselves as part of a large movement to expose and struggle against the influence of large, rich nations (mostly European, plus the U.S.) on poorer nations (mostly in the southern hemisphere).
Taken literally, the term postcolonial literature is a label for literature written by people living in countries formerly colonized by other nations.
Literal colonization is not the exclusive object of postcolonial study. Also relevant is "hegemony" which refers to dominance through ideas and culture (what many critics of American influence call the "Coca-Colanization" of the world). Sixties thinkers developed the concept neo-imperialism to label relationships like that between the U.S. and many Latin American countries which, while nominally independent, had economies dominated by American business interests, often backed up by American military forces.
Among the works commonly studied under this label are novels like Claude McKay's Banjo and Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart which were written while the nations in question (Jamaica and Nigeria) were still colonies.
Nigerian writers Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, after writing powerful indictments of the British in their country, turned to exposing the deeds of native-born dictators and corrupt officials within their independent homeland. Postcolonial scholars would explain this corruption as a by-product of colonialism.
Postcolonial writers often move to England or North America (because they have been exiled, or because they find a more receptive audience there, or simply in search of a more comfortable mode of living) and even sometimes-like Soyinka-call upon the governments of these "neocolonialist" nations to come to the aid of freedom movements seeking to overthrow native tyrants.
Although postcolonial theory generally confines itself to the past half-century, it can be argued that everyone has been colonized at some time or other. Rushdie likes to point out that England itself is a postcolonial nation, having been conquered by Romans and Normans, among others.
Postcolonial is also a troublesome term because it draws some very arbitrary lines. South African writers Athol Fugard and Nadine Gordimer are often excluded from postcolonial courses, although their works were powerful protests against apartheid and they have lived and worked far more in Africa than, say, Buchi Emicheta, who emigrated to England as a very young woman and has done all of her writing there-because they are white.
Many Caribbean-born writers living in England are now classed as "Black British." What determines when you are too acculturated to be counted as postcolonial: where you were born? how long you've lived abroad? your subject matter? These questions are the object of constant debate.
It can even be asked whether the entire premise of postcolonial studies is valid. This is the question asked by Gayatri Spivak in her famous essay, "Can the Subaltern Speak?" She points out that anyone who has achieved enough literacy and sophistication to produce a widely-read piece of fiction is by that very fact disqualified from speaking for the people he or she is supposed to represent. Whenever writers from the postcolonial world like Soyinka, Derek Walcott, or Rushdie receive wide recognition they are denounced as unrepresentative and inferior to other, more obscure but more "legitimate" spokespeople.
However, those unwilling to adopt the label "postcolonial" are hard put to find an appropriate term. "Third-World" makes no sense since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Communist "second world." "Literature of developing nations" buys into an economic label which most postcolonial scholars reject.
The more it is examined, the more the postcolonial sphere crumbles. Though Jamaican, Nigerian, and Indian writers have much to say to each other; it is not clear that they should be lumped together. The term postcolonial continues to be used until something better comes along.
Things Fall Apart, published in 1958, is the seminal African novel in English; creates a complex and sympathetic portrait of a traditional village culture in Africa; trying to inform the world about Igbo cultural traditions, remind his own people of their past and its value; too many Africans were ready to accept the European judgment that Africa had no history or culture worth considering.
He resents the stereotype of Africa as undifferentiated primitive land, the heart of darkness, as Conrad calls it; shows how African cultures vary among themselves and how they change over time.
As a young boy, the African Literature he was taught consisted of works by Europeans about Africa, such as Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Joyce Cary's Mister Johnson, which portrays a comic African who slavishly adores his white colonist boss, to the point of gladly being shot to death by him. Achebe has said that it was his indignation at this latter novel that inspired the writing of Things Fall Apart.
The language of the novel is simple but dignified; characters use an elevated diction which is meant to convey the sense of Igbo speech; this choice of language was a brilliant and innovative stroke, given that most earlier writers had relegated African characters to pidgin or inarticulate gibberish.
Achebe wrote two sequels to Things Fall Apart; in The Arrow of God (1964), he further explores the failure of the British to understand traditional beliefs and values, and in No Longer at Ease (1967), he shows how postcolonial Nigeria became corrupted by a government which was not the organic creation of its people, but an alien structure imposed upon them. Also published several other novels, a volume of short stories, and many poems and essays; currently teaches at Bard College in NY; like many Nigerian authors, he as an exile from his homeland where a military dictatorship was in power until he was able to return for a brief visit in 1998.
Born in Nigeria in 1930; one of the most well known African authors of his generation; religious Christian parents.
His first novel, Things Fall Apart (1958) has received wide acclaim; it deals with the colonial impact on Igbo culture; Igbo society, as well as the book's main character, Okonkwo, are unable to adapt to the arrival of the British, who impose a cash economy and Christianity on them; eventually, this vibrant, functioning society collapses and disintegrates under these new pressures, as does Okonkwo.
A later novel, A Man of the People (1966), describes an unnamed post-colonial African country; it deals with the problems of political representation in a corrupt nation; deals with the problems of finding a collective will in an ethnically diverse, economically stratified nation.
His most recent novel, Anthills of the Savannah (1987), deals with the problem of military regimes in contemporary Africa; centers on a dictator, Sam, the ruler of this fictional African country; as Sam becomes more megalomaniacal, his limited ability to rule diminishes even further; he eventually destroys even his boyhood friends, and is finally overthrown.
Much of Achebe's work is politicized; his novels are not art for its own sake; he has written numerous essays, and several children's stories.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1944; when she was 16, she married a student, and moved to London with him; they had five children before she left hi in 1966. In 1970, she enrolled at the University of London, where she received an honors degree in sociology in 1974.
She began writing after her marriage ended; most of her fiction is autobiographical, The Rape of Shavi (1983) being the most notable exception. Her first book, In the Ditch (1972), and her second book, Second-Class Citizen (1974), describe the life of Adah, a woman from Nigeria who has emigrated to England with her student husband, Francis. Francis is a dreadful husband who is lazy and selfish, and considerably less intelligent than the woman he mistreats; she struggles in her marriage, both financially and sexually, and gains the will to leave her husband only after he burns the manuscript she has been writing. After she leaves him, she discovers the depth of her own intelligence and character, and begins to climb out of the ditch she had been confined to.
Emecheta's most critically acclaimed work is remarkably different from her earlier work. The Rape of Shavi (1983), is a philosophical novel about the encounter between Africa and the West. In it, residents of Shavi, a fictional African country, are visited by a group of whites who survive a plane crash. The passengers were fleeing what they believed as an imminent nuclear holocaust. When they arrive in Shavi, they discover a world which is undisturbed by external political disputes or Western influence. Initially, the Shavians are not convinced that these crash victims are human; however, they give them food, shelter, and medical attention; most of the new arrivals gain respect for their hosts; things take a bad turn when one of the Europeans rapes Ayoko, a girl who is betrothed to the king, and gives her syphilis. Later, one of the Shavians named Asogba goes to Europe with the whites after they repair their plane. He returns power-hungry and intent on conquering nearby tribes using technology he acquired while abroad. He marries Ayoko, who unknowingly gives him syphilis; he passes it on to his other wives, and dies childless. Shavi is initially devastated by this encounter, but its residents ultimately come away from it with an ability to understand the implications of westernization and technological advances.
Her most recent book, Gwendolen (1989), describes the life of a young West Indian girl, who emigrates to London with her family. It is thematically similar to her earlier novels; some readers hoped that The Rape of Shavi had signaled a new direction in her writing, and greeted this novel with little enthusiasm.
Born in Nigeria in 1934, the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986; has established himself as one of the most compelling literary forces; often regarded as a universal man: poet, playwright, novelist, critic, lecturer, teacher, actor, translator, politician, and publisher.
His writing blends African with European cultural traditions, the high seriousness of modernist elite literature, and the topicality of African popular theater. His early poetry resulted from his imprisonment during the Nigerian Civil War. His powerful prison diary, The Man Died (1972) was published after his release.
He is actively committed to social justice and he as been an outspoken, daring public figure deeply engaged in the main political issues of his country and Africa, and he has become a symbol for humane values throughout the continent.
His hallmark is his dramatic work; his plays are shaped by myth and imagery and the narratives move back and forth in time; the events are powerful, the language filled with puns and witty wordplay, references, and allusions.
Born in South Africa in 1923; a novelist, short story writer, critic, essayist, and editor; one of South Africa's preeminent authors, winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991; she was raised in a segregated town outside Johannesburg and has remained in South Africa throughout her career.
Drawing on South African political conditions for her works' themes, Gordimer focuses principally on the complex human tensions that resulted from apartheid. Praised for her authentic portrayals of black African culture, she is also recognized for using precise details to evoke both the physical landscape of South Africa and the human predicaments of a racially polarized society. One of her most compelling achievements has been to give the world an understanding of the terrible cost and effect of racism in her country, going beyond what journalism and the media can relate.
In 1987, she helped found the Congress of South African Writers, 90% of whose members are black. Three of her books were banned in South Africa. A Guest of Honour (1970), perhaps her finest work, received the James Toit Black Memorial Prize, while The Conservationist (1974), was awarded the Booker McConnell Prize for Fiction. More recent works include the critically acclaimed A Sport of Nature (1987) and My Son's Story (1990).
Her short stories, of equal merit, portray individuals who struggle to avoid, confront, or change the conditions under which they live. Not for Publication and Other Stories (1965) and Livingstone's Companions (1971) portray common people defying apartheid in their everyday lives. In her most recent, Jump and Other Stories (1991), Gordimer continues her exploration of how apartheid insulates the daily lives of ordinary blacks and whites.
Born in 1930; poet, playwright, critic, and historian, who has examined in his works the complex Caribbean heritage and its African roots. Brathwaite has been a major proponent of the use of "nation language" which is closely allied to the African experience in the Caribbean: the kind of English spoken by the people who were brought to the Caribbean, not the official English, but the language of slaves and laborers, the servants who were brought in.
In his poetry, he has infused European and African influences. He combines spoken word with modernist techniques, and new spellings, and uses rhythms from jazz and folk music. His poetry is part of the collective search of Caribbean identity and racial wholeness. Feelings of rootlessness emerge from Brathwaite's poems. He normally uses the computer in his writing. In the poem "Stone" from Middle Passages, dedicated to Mickey Smith, who was stoned to death on Stony Hill, Kingston, he combined basic word processing techniques with deliberate mispellings, onomatopeia, graphic rendition of the rhythm and syntax of agitated everyday speech.
Group of thinkers, artists, and writers living in the district of London known as Bloomsbury, near the British Museum in the 1920s and 30s. The group began meeting in 1907 and were a powerful force in British literary and intellectual life. Members: Virginia Woolf, Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry, E.M. Forster, Duncan Grant, David Garnett. Style, attitudes, and ideas in art and literature inspired by, and including, the culture of classical antiquity (ancient Greece and Rome). The values of classicism are harmony, proportion, clarity, elegance, simplicity, restraint, ideality, and universality. Term referring to art, literature, and music of the late 19th and 20th centuries. Characterized by: protest against industrialized, bureaucratic nature of the modern world, breaking away from rules and conventions, experimenting with form and style, interest in subjectivity and the internal life of characters. Movements associated with modernism: Surrealism, Existentialism, Formalism, Symbolism, Dadaism, Expressionism, Impressionism. Movement of the 18th and 19th centuries in literature, philosophy, religion, art, and politics. A reaction against Neoclassicism; values: freedom from restraints and rules, individualism, creativity, revolutionary political ideas, imagination over reason, reverence for nature, interest in the Middle Ages, mystery, transcendence, universality.