Literature (1)



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Literature (1)

  • Lecturer: Vinnichenko Oksana
  • Semester: Spring2011
  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007

What is literature?

  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007
  • Coming of the Word
  • The word "Literature" came into English from the 14th century in the sense of polite learning through reading. Thus a man of literature, or a man of letters, meant what we would now describe as a man of wide reading. So, this word corresponds mainly to the modern meaning of the word "literacy". From the mid-18th century, literature referred to the practice and profession of writing. This appears to be closely connected with the heightened self-consciousness of the profession of authorship. Since the 19th century, literature has been the high skills of writing in the special context of high imagination.
  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007

What is literature?

  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007
  • Origin of Literature
  • Whence comes literature? Literature comes from human interest in telling a story, in arranging words in artistic forms, in describing in words some aspects of our human experiences. This human activity embodies human desire to express and share experiences. At the beginning, the literary impulse exists only in one's mind. It is the writer who turns this impulse into literature:a story, a poem, a play, or an essay, with the medium of language. It is a writer's "performance in words" as Robert Frost (American poet) once said. In this way it can be appreciated by others. Therefore, we can define literature as language artistically used to achieve identifiable literary qualities and to convey meaningful messages.
  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007

Characteristics of Literature

  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007
  • Literature is characterized by beauty of expression and form and by universality of intellectual and emotional appeal. Literature as an art is the creation of individuals and it is experienced by individuals. Yet, creative artistic literature presents one of the essential sources for studying the relation between humanity and society. Great works of literature enables us to study the way in which people live out their social roles. Literature shows not only the socialized behavior of individuals, but also the process of their socialization as well; it speaks not only of individual experience, but also of the meaning of that experience. Therefore, a writer is a specialized thinker about the individual.
  • Literature shows us not only what a society is like in a certain age, but also what individuals feel about it, what they hope from it, and how they think they can change it or escape from it. The fictional characters see and record not only the reality around them, but their hopes, wishes, dreams, and fantacies as well. The social meanings of this inner life of the individual are related to the central problems of social change.
  • Literature is important in human life because the writer of literature is not bound to fact in quite the same way as the historian, the economist or the scientist, whose studies are absolutely based on what has actually happened, or on what actually does happen, in the world of reality. The writer of literature, being less bound to fact, has more hope to comment on the fact, to arrange it in unusual ways, and to speculate not only what is, but on what ought to be, or what might be (for better or for worse).

Who are the writers?

  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007
  • Writers are people with visionary or prophetic insight into human life. They help all of us who read literature broaden and deepen our knowledge of human affairs, whether in the individual, the social, the racial, or the international sphere; they enable us to understand the possibility of human life, both for good and evil.
  • As readers of their works, we are made to understand how we came to live at a particular time and place, with all its pleasures and vexations and problems;we are also facilitated to be aware of the ways onwards which are open to us, and that we shall perhaps be able to make right rather than wrong choices.
  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007

Why do people read literature?

  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007
  • Reading for Pleasure
  • Howells (American novelist, playwright and literary critic) observed that the study of literature should begin and end in pleasure. Apart from its role of protest, education, cognition and aesthetic appreciation, literature is primarily to give pleasure, to entertain those who voluntarily attend to it. There are, of course, many different ways of giving pleasure or entertainment, ranging from the most trivial and sensational to the most philosophical and profound. We discover that literature which entertain us best does not keep us for long in the other world of fantasy or unreality. The greatest pleasure and satisfaction to be found in literature occurs when (as it often does) it brings us back to the realities of human situations, problems, feelings, and relationships. This is because literature is more than a copy of what is apparent to every eye. It is imaginative and interpretative. It reflects a special view of reality.
  • Human interest in reading literature is universal, but different people may read different literature and for different purposes because of their different tastes, experience, and educational background. Individuals may change their reading tastes depending on the current moods, on certain occasions, and on the different stages of their lives. Books which are good to read in one's childhood may loose attraction in one's adulthood. Student may read Ernest Hemingway in the classroom by day and turn to a cloak-and-sword novel at home in the evening. There is nothing strange about it, for one may have many purposes in reading.
  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007

Why do people read literature?

  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007
  • Reading for Relaxation
  • Generally speaking, literature offers the reader an exciting narrative. It leads the way for readers to an exciting world of experience that is different from their own. Thus, literature succeeds in temporarily getting readers away from their own time and place and sending them to some imaginary world that they otherwise would never know. When readers are indulged in reading, they will put aside their problems and obligations of everyday life for the time being. Modern life is full of pressure. It is people's common desire to seek temporary relaxation from the stress in life. Reading serves the purpose well and conveniently. Literature flourishes, in part at least, because of such pleasant relaxation it affords the reader.
  • Reading to Acquire Knowledge
  • Literature gives readers not only pleasure but also knowledge and insight into the nature of reality. The readers' interest in reading lies partly in the fact that in the process of reading they acquire a good deal of information. Literature gives readers an insight into the tradition, custom, beliefs, attitudes, folklore, values of the age in which it is written. Whether it is in the form of a story, a poem, a play, or an essay, literature always offers readers some new piece of information that broadens their knowledge of the world. Certain other fundamental skills and capacities are also developed through the reading of literature. They are important to readers not only in their private pleasure or their personal philosophy, but also in the day-to-day exercise of the responsibilities which come to them in the modern world as a result of the educational qualifications they obtain. These skills include the capacities for discrimination, judgment, and decision.
  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007

Why do people read literature?

  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007
  • Reading to Confront Experience
  • Doris Lessing (contemporary British novelist) states:"Literature maps the world for us, fleshing out what we get from newspaper articles and television reports, giving us a parallel landscape infinitely rich and various where we may stroll any time we like, tourists in imaginary world that mirror real ones." Literature is appealing mainly because of its relationship to human experience. It sheds light on the complexity and ambiguity of human experiences and thus broadens readers' awareness of the possibilities of experiences. Readers get immediate access to a wide range of human experiences they otherwise might never know. As a reader, he or she observes the characters' private as well as public lives, their head thinking and heart feeling. An awareness of how other people feel is, after all, a way of expanding and enriching one's own personality. Literature not only gives readers a chance to participate in the experience of others', but also tries to influence their attitudes and expectations. For many, it is the only outlet to a large experience. For others, it is an indirect satisfaction of some need for a philosophical or moral guidance, not set out in rules, but work out, experimentally, in conduct.

Why do people read literature?

  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007
  • Reading for Artistic Appreciation
  • Under perfect discipline, literature can be studied for artistic appreciation. The well-structured language manifests good craftsmanship, and the beauty of expression and form enjoys immortality. A story, a poem, a play or an essay is a self-contained piece of art, with its unique structure and texture. It can be analyzed according to literary theories and criteria. When we approach literature in this way, we began to move in the direction of literary criticism. Literary criticism is by no means negative or fault finding. It is an attempt to clarify, explain and evaluate literature from an aesthetic point of view. In fact, the more we learn about how to analyze a story, a poem, a play, or an essay from an artistic point of view, the greater our understanding and appreciation of a literary work can be acquired , and greater still the pleasure and enjoyment we can draw from it.
  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007

How to improve reading skills?

  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007
  • Reading literature is different from reading texts of an average reading course. You will have to spend less time on actual reading and language development so that you can devote more time to gain a good understanding of literature. Therefore, it is important to improve the skills of reading literature. Here are a few tips for you:
  • 1. You should form the habit of intelligent guessing at the meaning of new words with the clues provided by the context. But for the key words in the sentence, students need not check each new word in the dictionary. You should gradually increase your reading speed in this way.
  • 2. You should learn to notice details, to get the main idea, and to skim to locate the most meaningful passages in a literary work.
  • 3. You should cherish a strong desire to extract greater meaning from a literary work by relating ideas found in your reading with your own experience.
  • Of course, there are many other ways to improve the reading skills which you yourself will discover in the process of your study. For example, you would be very attentive while reading and form a habit of note-taking to jot down your response to the literary text. You should better preview the text and have a revision of what you have read. Besides, it helps a lot sometimes if you compare notes or exchange ideas with someone else.
  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007

Lesson Plan

  • American Literature:
  • Literary Eras and Authors

The First Semester

  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007
  • Section A Introduction: National Beginnings
  • 1. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
  • – Selected Readings: Autobiography, Poor Richard’s Almanac
  • 2. Washington Irving (1783-1859) – Selected Readings: Rip Van Winkle
  • 3. James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) – Selected Readings: The Last of Mohicans
  • 4. Philip Freneau (1752-1832) – Selected Readings: The Wild Honey Suckle
  • 5. William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) – Selected Readings: To a Waterfrowl
  • 6. Edgar Allan Poe (1809- 1849)
  • – Selected Readings: Annabel Lee, The Tell-Tale Heart
  • 7. Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) – Selected Readings: The Scarlet Letter
  • Section B Introduction: Romanticism and Reason
  • 8. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) – Selected Readings: Nature, Self-Reliance
  • 9. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) – Selected Readings: Walden
  • 10. Herman Melville (1819-1891) – Selected Readings: Moby Dick
  • 11. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) – Selected Readings: A Psalm of Life
  • 12. Walt Whitman (1819-1892) – Selected Readings: Song of Myself
  • 13. Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) – Selected Readings: Selected poems
  • 14. Mark Twain (1835-1910)
  • – Selected Readings: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • 15. Stephen Crane (1871 -1900) – Selected Readings: The Red Badge of Courage
  • 16. Henry James (1843-1916) – Selected Readings: Daisy Miller

The Second Semester

  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007
  • Section C Introduction: Realism and Reaction
  • 17. Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945)
  • 18. Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935)
  • 19. Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)
  • 20. Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951)
  • 21. Henry L. Mencken (1880-1956)
  • 22. F. Scott Fitzgerald (1886-1940)
  • 23. John Steinback (1902-1968)
  • Section D Introduction: Modern Voices in Prose and Poetry
  • 24. Ernest Hemingway (1898-1961)
  • 25. William Faulkner (1897-1962)
  • 26. Robert Frost (1874-1963)
  • 27. Archibald MacLeish (1892-), William Carlos Williams (1884-1963),
  • Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
  • 28. Katherine Ann Porter (1890-1980)
  • 29. Saul Bellow (1915-2005)
  • 30. Ralph Ellison (1914-1994)
  • 31. Robert Lowell (1917-1977), Theodore Roethke (1908-1963),
  • Randall Jarrell (1914-1965), James Wright (1927-1980)

Why is there literature?

  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007
  • Wherever there are people there will be a literature.
  • A literature is the record of human experience, and people have always been impelled to write down their impressions of life.
  • They do so in diaries and letters, in pamphlets and books, and in essays, poems, plays, and stories.
  • In this respect American literature is like any other.
  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007
  • American literature is the written or literary work produced in the area of the United States and its preceding colonies. For more specific discussions of poetry and theater, see Poetry of the United States and Theater in the United States. During its early history, America was a series of British colonies on the eastern coast of the present-day United States. Therefore, its literary tradition begins as linked to the broader tradition of English literature. However, unique American characteristics and the breadth of its production usually now cause it to be considered a separate path and tradition.

Owing to the large immigration to Boston in the 1630s, the high articulation of Puritan cultural ideals, and the early establishment of a college and a printing press in Cambridge, the New England colonies have often been regarded as the center of early American literature. However, the first European settlements in North America had been founded elsewhere many years earlier. Towns older than Boston include the Spanish settlements at Saint Augustine and Santa Fe, the Dutch settlements at Albany and New Amsterdam, as well as the English colony of Jamestown in present-day Virginia. During the colonial period, the printing press was active in many areas, from Cambridge and Boston to New York, Philadelphia, and Annapolis.

  • Owing to the large immigration to Boston in the 1630s, the high articulation of Puritan cultural ideals, and the early establishment of a college and a printing press in Cambridge, the New England colonies have often been regarded as the center of early American literature. However, the first European settlements in North America had been founded elsewhere many years earlier. Towns older than Boston include the Spanish settlements at Saint Augustine and Santa Fe, the Dutch settlements at Albany and New Amsterdam, as well as the English colony of Jamestown in present-day Virginia. During the colonial period, the printing press was active in many areas, from Cambridge and Boston to New York, Philadelphia, and Annapolis.
  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007

The dominance of the English language was hardly inevitable.[1] The first item printed in Pennsylvania was in German and was the largest book printed in any of the colonies before the American Revolution.[1] Spanish and French had two of the strongest colonial literary traditions in the areas that now comprise the United States, and discussions of early American literature commonly include texts by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and Samuel de Champlain alongside English language texts by Thomas Harriot and John Smith. Moreover, we are now aware of the wealth of oral literary traditions already existing on the continent among the numerous different Native American groups. Political events, however, would eventually make English the lingua franca for the colonies at large as well as the literary language of choice. For instance, when the English conquered New Amsterdam in 1664, they renamed it New York and changed the administrative language from Dutch to English.

  • The dominance of the English language was hardly inevitable.[1] The first item printed in Pennsylvania was in German and was the largest book printed in any of the colonies before the American Revolution.[1] Spanish and French had two of the strongest colonial literary traditions in the areas that now comprise the United States, and discussions of early American literature commonly include texts by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and Samuel de Champlain alongside English language texts by Thomas Harriot and John Smith. Moreover, we are now aware of the wealth of oral literary traditions already existing on the continent among the numerous different Native American groups. Political events, however, would eventually make English the lingua franca for the colonies at large as well as the literary language of choice. For instance, when the English conquered New Amsterdam in 1664, they renamed it New York and changed the administrative language from Dutch to English.
  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007
  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007

From 1696 to 1700, only about 250 separate items were issued from the major printing presses in the American colonies. This is a small number compared to the output of the printers in London at the time. However, printing was established in the American colonies before it was allowed in most of England. In England restrictive laws had long confined printing to four locations: London, York, Oxford, and Cambridge. Because of this, the colonies ventured into the modern world earlier than their provincial English counterparts.[1]

  • From 1696 to 1700, only about 250 separate items were issued from the major printing presses in the American colonies. This is a small number compared to the output of the printers in London at the time. However, printing was established in the American colonies before it was allowed in most of England. In England restrictive laws had long confined printing to four locations: London, York, Oxford, and Cambridge. Because of this, the colonies ventured into the modern world earlier than their provincial English counterparts.[1]
  • Back then, some of the American literature were pamphlets and writings extolling the benefits of the colonies to both a European and colonist audience. Captain John Smith could be considered the first American author with his works: A True Relation of Such Occurrences and Accidents of Noate as Hath Happened in Virginia... (1608) and The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles (1624). Other writers of this manner included Daniel Denton, Thomas Ashe, William Penn, George Percy, William Strachey, Daniel Coxe, Gabriel Thomas, and John Lawson.
  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007

The religious disputes that prompted settlement in America were also topics of early writing. A journal written by John Winthrop, The History of New England, discussed the religious foundations of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Edward Winslow also recorded a diary of the first years after the Mayflower's arrival. Other religiously influenced writers included Increase Mather and William Bradford, author of the journal published as a History of Plymouth Plantation, 1620–47. Others like Roger Williams and Nathaniel Ward more fiercely argued state and church separation. And still others, like Thomas Morton, cared little for the church; Morton's The New English Canaan mocked the religious settlers and declared that the Native Americans were actually better people than the British.[2]

  • The religious disputes that prompted settlement in America were also topics of early writing. A journal written by John Winthrop, The History of New England, discussed the religious foundations of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Edward Winslow also recorded a diary of the first years after the Mayflower's arrival. Other religiously influenced writers included Increase Mather and William Bradford, author of the journal published as a History of Plymouth Plantation, 1620–47. Others like Roger Williams and Nathaniel Ward more fiercely argued state and church separation. And still others, like Thomas Morton, cared little for the church; Morton's The New English Canaan mocked the religious settlers and declared that the Native Americans were actually better people than the British.[2]
  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007

Puritan poetry was highly religious in nature, and one of the earliest books of poetry published was the Bay Psalm Book, a set of translations of the biblical Psalms; however, the translators' intention was not to create great literature but to create hymns that could be used in worship.[2] Among lyric poets, the most important figures are Anne Bradstreet, who wrote personal poems about her family and homelife; pastor Edward Taylor, whose best poems, the Preparatory Meditations, were written to help him prepare for leading worship; and Michael Wigglesworth, whose best-selling poem, The Day of Doom, describes the time of judgment. Nicholas Noyes was also known for his doggerel verse.

  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007
  • Puritan poetry was highly religious in nature, and one of the earliest books of poetry published was the Bay Psalm Book, a set of translations of the biblical Psalms; however, the translators' intention was not to create great literature but to create hymns that could be used in worship.[2] Among lyric poets, the most important figures are Anne Bradstreet, who wrote personal poems about her family and homelife; pastor Edward Taylor, whose best poems, the Preparatory Meditations, were written to help him prepare for leading worship; and Michael Wigglesworth, whose best-selling poem, The Day of Doom, describes the time of judgment. Nicholas Noyes was also known for his doggerel verse.
  • Lecture I, American Literature (1) Autumn 2007


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