They express strong personal feeling: sorrow and grief for pleasures once enjoyed.
The person in the poem speaks to us directly – often in the first person, using pronouns like: I, my, and mine.
The lyrics were anonymous.
For example: The Call of the Sea (from The Seafarer), Exile (from The Wife’s Lament)
Beowulf (a long poem that combines several stories). This epic tells about a warrior, Beowulf in fighting against a monster called Grendel. The lines of the poem follow an elaborate traditional pattern: the basic four-beat line breaks up into two half-lines. The poem uses alliteration – similar sound of three of stressed syllables at the beginning of each line.
Week II The Middle Ages – The Age of Chivalry
Folk poetry/lyrics – a ballad (a brief and sad story told in song); anonymous
The ballads focus on a single memorable or frightening event.
Most ballads use the simple familiar ballad stanza – four lines, of which the 2nd and 4th rhyme.
For example: Where Are They Now?, Sir Patrick Spence (Scottish Folk Ballad), Benny Barbara Allan (Scottish Folk Ballad)
The Era of Geoffrey Chaucer
One of Chaucer’s famous work is the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. This work tells about English pilgrims who are travelling to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket. The group of pilgrims includes all kinds of people: religious and worldly, refined and coarse, such as knight, squire, monk, friar, etc.
Some of his other works are Chantecleer and the Fox, the Pardoner’s Tale, etc.
Week III The English Renaissance
The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in England were the time of the Renaissance (or “rebirth” of classical learning) and of the Protestant Reformation
The sixteenth century in England was a period of growing nationalism – a growing sense of national identity and national pride.
This was the time of a great rebirth of Greek and Roman civilization in architecture, fine arts, literature, and others.
English poetry and drama of the Renaissance represented a high tide of imaginative creation, not to be easily equaled or surpassed in future times.
The English Renaissance
Two Petrarchan Sonnets (Sir Thomas Wyatt)
A Poem About Love (Queen Elizabeth I)
A Sonnet on Beauty (Edmund Spenser)
Sonnet 18 (William Shakespeare)
Sonnet 30 (William Shakespeare)
William Shakespeare wrote over thirty plays of tragedy and comedy. The list of his plays based on the years are: The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, The Tempest
The first half of the seventeenth century was a golden age for English poetry. Some of the poems were simple lyrics; some others were intense, challenging poems of great complexity.
Many of the poems are songlike poems of love. Many of these were written by aristocrats and others who supported the king against the Puritans. These courtiers are called the Cavalier poets. At the same time, a different kind of poetry flourished: poems of great emotional intensity, with a grand dramatic or rhetorical sweep. These poems are often difficult and challenging in thought and argument. They came to be called metaphysical poetry – poetry using abstract ideas and bold, difficult images.
The English Renaissance The Seventeenth Century
The Cavalier Poetry
The lyrics echo the ancient Latin motto carpe diem – “make use of the day”; “enjoy the passing hour”
Gather Ye Rosebuds (Robert Herrick)
To Lucasta, On Going to the Wars (Richard Lovelace)
The Metaphysical Poetry
Metaphysical poetry uses devices called conceit (sustained metaphor), antithesis (word or expression that provides the opposite ideas), hyperbole (extremely heightened or exaggerated statements used to express strong feelings or striking ideas).
The Pulley (George Herbert)
To His Coy Mistress (Andrew Marvell)
Paradise Lost (John Milton)
Week VI The Later 17th and the 18th Century The Age of Reason
Most educated people during this century believed that it was the task of education and literature to help spread civilization and enlightened ideas.
The spirit of the age was a spirit of optimism – of wanting to believe in the best in humanity.
The most vigorous literary form of the age was satire: it thrives on the ways people fall short of ideal standards. It holds their shortcomings and imperfections up to ridicule.
The literature of the Age of Reason often mirrored the social and political history of the time.
The Later 17th and the 18th Century The Age of Reason
A short nonfiction work in which an author presents his or her point of view on a particular topic. A French writer Michel de Montaigne published several short works stating his ideas about such topics as personal responsibility and self-knowledge. He called these works essais, the French word for “attempts”, to distinguish them from the more methodical writings known as treatises. There are two distinct essay forms, formal and informal. A formal essay is a short prose composition in which an author writes as an impersonal, objective authority on a particular subject, with the purpose of instructing or persuading the audience. An informal or personal essay has a lighter tone, is less structured (almost conversational), and typically includes personal details and references as well as humor.
The Later 17th and the 18th Century The Age of Reason
Some major essayists during this period were Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, and John Dryden. The Tatler and The Spectator were essays on such topics as marriage, education, and “the folly and extravagance” of the times. Dryden’s famous essay was An Essay of Dramatic Poesy.
Some famous novels written during this period were Tom Jones by Henry Fielding; Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne; Pamela by Samuel Richardson; Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; Gulliver’s Travel by Jonathan Swift; Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Week VIII The Romantic Period (The 19th Century)
The Romantic movement in art and literature was a break with established tradition of the past.
It began as a rebellion against conventional styles that had become too smooth, too artificial, or too well-bred of the 18th century classicism.
It was inspired by the slogan of the French revolution, Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood.
The word ‘romantic’ may be described as the temperament of people who were impatient with ordinary dull reality and who dreamed of a more beautiful and more exciting world.
A central theme of the Romantic poets and artists was the discovery of the self – of the individual’s own sincere feelings and imagination.
The Romantics asked people to find in unspoiled nature the answer to the artificial restraints of civilization.
The Romantic Period (The 19th Century)
One major Romantic poet, William Wordsworth together with his friend, Samuel Taylor Coleridge published a small volume of poems called Lyrical Ballads. Some of the major ideas that Wordsworth spelled out in his work are:
(1) The discovery of the self – increased awareness of one’s own thoughts and feelings. Part of the Romantic temperament is tendency toward turning inward and looking inward.
(2) Kinship with nature – the feeling that human being and nature are “essentially adapted to each other”.
(3) A new ideal of naturalness and simplicity – the avoidance of everything artificial and merely conventional.
(4) The beauty of the commonplace – the beauty could be found in “incidents and situations from common life”.
The Victorian era encompassed years of unprecedented economic, technological, and political expansion and dramatic social change.
Britain peaked in influence as a world power. The British Empire covered about a quarter of the world’s area and population, reaching into Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and Asia.
Britain was becoming the world’s first great modern industrial nation. As a result of the Industrial Revolution, the great factory towns like Manchester brought together many thousand of unskilled workers.
The Victorian period was a time of vigorous political debate and intellectual controversy, ex.: Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution in his work On the Origin of Species.
The keynote of much of the literature of the second half of the century is intellectual and spiritual doubt.
The Victorian Period
Some woman writers of this period were Emily Bronte in Often Rebuked, Yet Always Back Returning (poem); Christina Rossetti in Uphill (poem); Elizabeth Barrett Browning – Sonnet 14, Sonnet 43
While male writers were Alfred, Lord Tennyson – Break, Break, Break; The Splendor Falls; Ulysses; Robert Browning – My Last Duchess (a poetry anthology); Matthew Arnold – Dover Beach
Week X The Victorian Period
Novel & Drama
Charles Dickens was reigned as the most popular writer of this era. He was the model of a Victorian writer, for his work combined realistic social criticism with comedy and romantic sentiment. Some of his major works were David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Hard Times, A Tale of Two Cities, etc.
Other writers include George Eliot in Middlemarch, Silas Marner, The Mill on the Floss, Adam Bede; Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre; Emily Bronte in Wuthering Heights; Oscar Wilde in The Importance of Being Earnest (drama)
Week XI The Twentieth Century The Modern Period
Imaginative literature in the 20th century has often held up the mirror to the paradoxes of the modern world. It has often mirrored a world in which progress and barbarism, civilization and savagery, seemed to exist side by side.
In the countries of the West, modern technology gradually put an end to the endless cycle of backbreaking labor.
The modern age in literature and art has been called the “Age of Anxiety” – of fear for the future, of helplessness in the face of powerful destructive forces.
The term ‘modernism’ covers a variety of movements united by the desire to break with the past, to change the structure and content of the arts.
The modern writers were spurred by new ideas in anthropology, psychology, and philosophy in creating their works.
The Twentieth Century The Modern Period
Poems of the first half of the 20th century were found as voices of protest and alienation. Most of the poems depict the “sorrowful dark hell” of the Great War – World War I. Some of modern poets who wrote poems about war were Wilfred Owen in Dulce et Decorum Est, Arms and the Boy; Siegfried Sassoon.
Other major modern poets were T.S. Eliot in The Waste Land, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock; William Butler Yeats in Sailing to Byzantium, To a Child Dancing in the Wind, etc.
Week XII The Twentieth Century The Modern Period
The novels of the modern period reflect the authors’ continued interest in social-science theories of psychology and philosophy. Some of the major novelists during this period were:
Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness, Nostromo, Chance, etc.
James Joyce – Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, etc.
E. M. Forster – A Passage to India, A Room with a View, etc
Week XIII The Twentieth Century The Modern Period
Many dramatic works of the modern period were influenced by works written by playwrights from outside Britain such as Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Russia. Some major playwrights of Anglo-Irish descents were:
George Bernard Shaw – Major Barbara, Arms and the Man, Saint Joan, Caesar and Cleopatra, Pygmalion, etc.
Sean O’Casey – The Shadow of a Gunman, Juno and the Paycock, The Plough and the Stars, etc.
Week XIV The Twentieth Century The Modern Period (1945 – Present)
The era after World War II or often called “drum-rolling Forties” introduced a new-master poet, Dylan Thomas as well as other poets such as W.H. Auden, etc. Some of Thomas’ works are a collection of poems such as 18 Poems, Twenty-five Poems; whereas, Auden’s works are About For the Time Being, Homage to Clio, etc.
Modern novels tend to be restrictive rather than extensive, and to retain many of the technical developments of the major moderns such as Joyce or Conrad. Some major novelists are George Orwell in Animal Farm and 1984. Orwell had been a famous writer during the war with his works such as The Road to Wigan Pier, Homage to Catalonia, A Clergyman’s Daughter, Coming Up For Air, etc.
Week XV The Twentieth Century The Modern Period (1945 – Present)
Modern drama had a new genre influenced by philosophy of existentialism as shown by Samuel Beckett, an Irish playwright in his works such as Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Krapp’s Last Tape, Footfalls, etc.
John Arden (a playwright) – The Waters of Babylon, The Business of Good Government, Island of the Mighty, The Manchester Enthusiasts, etc.
Harold Pinter (a playwright), his works are often called comedy of menace characterized with less or minimum dialogues – The Birthday Party, The Caretaker, Mountain Language, etc.
References: Beckoff, Ph.D., Samuel. English Literature I. New York : Monarch Press, 1971. Beckoff, Ph.D., Samuel. English Literature II. New York : Monarch Press, 1972. Chin, Beverly Ann; Wolfe, Denny, et al. (eds). Glencoe Literature – The Reader’s Choice. New York : Glencoe McGraw-Hill, 2000. Guth, Hans P. The Literary Heritage. Massachusetts : D.C. Heath and Co., 1981. Williams, Linda R. (ed). Bloomsbury Guides to English Literature – The Twentieth Century. London : Bloomsbury, 1992.