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Lecture 1 (英国中世纪文学)

第一讲 中世纪英国文学

主讲人:刘立辉 (西南大学外国语学院)

How to Read English Literature 1. Information of historical and intellectual background is essential for understanding lit

erary works. For instance, John Donne’s short poem “Song: Go and Catch a Falling Star” has much to do with his times. Song Go and catch a falling star, Get with child a mandrake root, Tell me where all past years are, Or who cleft the Devil’s foot, Teach me to hear mermaids singing, And find What wind Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be’st born to strange sights, Things invisible to see, Ride ten thousands days and nights, Till age snow white hairs on thee, Thou, when thou return’st, wilt tell me All strange wonders that befell thee, And swear Nowhere Lives a woman true, and fair. If thou findst one, let me know, Such a pilgrimage were sweet. Yet do not; I would not go, Though at next door we might meet;

Though she were true, when you met her, And last, till you write your letter, Yet she Will be False, ere I come, to two, or three. Comments: John Donne lived in the 17th century when England witnessed a turbulent period. Everything was thought to be uncertain. This short poem elucidates the gloomy atmosphere of that transitional age.

2. Linguistic capacity is also necessary for students of literature Comments: The verbs of the present tense in the imperative mood are actions impossible to carry out; the verbs of the past tense in the conditional sentence are actions impossible to happen. What is more, from the Chinese explanations below, it can be seen that some particular words convey a sense of spacial uncertainty which has something to do John Donne’s transitional period.


涉及行为的诗歌叙述 陨落的星辰 曼德拉草怀孕 魔鬼的蹄子被劈开 美人鱼歌唱 人的迁升 朝圣 追求的女士

暗含的空间 天空 大地 过去的无名之地 海洋 宫廷 / 官府 无数地点 隔壁

《歌:去抓住那颗陨落的星辰》空间叙述的时代背 景: 十六世纪的哥白尼 (Nicolaus Copernicus, 1473-1543) “日心说”产生了重大的空间认知转向。“日心说” 出现之前,托勒密 (Claudius Ptolemy, about 85— about 165) “地心说”构成了西方传统宇宙论的核心 内容,宇宙空间被普遍认为是有限的,柏拉图认为 宇宙是八重天,中世纪神学家则认为是十重天。哥 白尼的“日心说”则揭示了宇宙空间的无限性,认 为人类目前认识的宇宙只是一个以太阳为中心的太 阳系空间,大宇宙还有无数个类似太阳系的宇宙空 间 。那个时候的许多视觉艺术的空间构建往往是 动态的、延伸的。

这样,哥白尼的“日心说”带来了17世纪视觉艺术 的空间革命,尤其体现在巴罗克艺术上。巴罗克视 觉艺术的空间构建往往是动态的、延伸的。豪泽 (Arnold Hauser, 1959: 182)曾指出,整个巴罗克 艺术“都表达了对无限性的强烈和热切的渴求” 。 表现空间无限性成为巴罗克视觉艺术的自觉追求, 巴罗克艺术家通过“伸向地平线的道路,展现无际 天空幻觉的壁画,运用变换透视效果使其变得扑塑 迷离的镜面手法”等,“力图表现或暗示无穷感”。

罗马圣彼得大教堂前广场(巴罗克艺术大师贝尔尼尼设计) 罗马圣彼得大教堂前广场(巴罗克艺术大师贝尔尼尼设计) 22

巴罗克空间风格教堂 入口

3. Knowledge of a particular writer is also important to understand his/her works. For instance, the beginning of T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” runs this way: Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherised upon a table; …. Comments: Eliot’s puritan sensibility is of great help to understand the time setting and the living but dying patient.

4. A good knowledge of masterpieces will definitely help you read literature. 5. A good of knowledge of western philosophies, Greek culture, and Hebrew-Christian culture will certainly remove the obstacles to the beautiful garden of literature (for instance, Robinson Crusoe and Exodus, Shakespeare’s sonnet 18 and the western traditional cosmology)

An Outline of English History from 6 Cent. B.C. to 1485 1. The Celts, the earliest settlers of the British Isles, migrated to the British isles at about 600 B.C. from the upper Rhineland. 2. About 400 to 300 B.C. the Brythons (Bretons), one branch of the Celts, came to the British isles and from them came the name Britain. 3. From 55 B. C. to 407 A.D. the British isles were under the rule of Roman empire. Julius Caesar (102-44 B.C.) crossed the Dover Strait in 55 B. C., but Caesar himself only stayed there for a few weeks. Though the Romans built temples, roads, walls, and military camps, they made little influence on the cultural life of Celts.

II Roman Conquest
? In 55 BC, Julius Caesar, the Roman Conqueror, occupied Britain. ? In 410, Roman Empire fell into decline.

Significance of Roman conquest
? left no deep impression on its national life 1) Roman mode of life: theatres and baths in the towns (the city of Bath) 2) Appearance of Roman streets and city

ancient London city

Bath, England’s world heritage city
? Founded in Roman Conquest ? Famous for its hot springs ? Jane Austins’ second home: Bath museum ? Wife of Bath

4. About 450 A.D., Angles, Saxons, and Jutes invaded the British Isles. They settled in England, and drove the Celts into Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. 5. From the late 8th century to the early 11th century, British isles were constantly invaded by the Danes. Alfred the Great of Wessex (849-899) led the AngloSaxon kings to defeat the invaders by uniting their forces. 6. Harold, the last Saxon king, with help from William, Duke of Normandy, expelled the Danes from England. As an expression of gratitude for protecting his kingdom, Harold promised William to give his kingdom to him. So, in 1066 Normans under the leadership of William from northern France conquered England. This is known as the Norman Conquest.

7. The Anglo-Saxons were heathens upon their arrival in Britain. In 597 Pope Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine to England to convert the Anglo-Saxons. Within a century all England was Christianized. Churches were established and monks became the most learned in the country. Heathen mythology was gradually replaced by Christian religion.

English literature of the Medieval Times is composed of Old English literature and Middle English literature. Old English literature refers to literature written in Germanic dialect, also called Anglo-Saxon, spoken by Jutes, Angles, and Saxons, who immigrated from the northern Europe into England in the fifth century. Middle English literature refers to literature of the years 1100—1500, written in Latin, French, and London dialect (middle English). 1066年的诺曼征服打通了英国和欧洲之间的通道, 文化融合和交流得以顺利进行,就中古英国文学而言, 十二、十三世纪英国最发达的是拉丁语文学,其次是 法语文学,英语诗歌则退居到了一个相对次要的地位, 只是到了十四、十五世纪,随着英国民族主义

情绪高涨,英语重新得到广泛地运用,以及乔叟、 兰格伦 (William Langland)、《高文爵士》诗人 (Gawain Poet)、高尔 (John Gower) 等用英语创作的 诗人不断涌现,英语诗歌才重新得以复兴。 Some important events in Middle English period: 1) 1360-1400: The summit of Middle English literature: Geoffrey Chaucer; Piers Plowman; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. 2) 1485: William Caxton’s printing of Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur, one of the first books printed in England.

Literature of the Anglo-Saxon period 1. Caedmon, the first Anglo-Saxon poet, lived in the 7th century and his works are all concerned with religious themes. He translated the stories of the Bible into a verse work, called Paraphrase. 2. Venerable Bede (673-735), wrote in Latin The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, which earned for him the title of “Father of English History.” 3. King Alfred , whose reign was 871-899 , began The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. It began with the story of Caesar’s conquest and annually recorded important events until 1154.

4. Beowulf: an Anglo-Saxon or England’s national epic of 3182 lines. An epic is a long narrative poem in elevated or dignified language, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating and celebrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the past history of a nation. Characterization in the epic: simple by deeds, faithful to his people, bravery in actions—call for grand heroes to fight against Nature. The epic reflects the features of the tribal society of ancient times.

The chief significance of the epic lies in the vivid portrayal of a great national hero, strong and courageous and selfless and ever helpful to his people and his kinsfolk. On the basis of the text, Beowulf is generally considered to be the work of an anonymous 8th-century Anglian poet who fused Scandinavian history and pagan mythology with Christian elements. It existed in oral form as early as the 6th century A. D. and was not written down till the 8th century (Some scholars believe to be the 10th century). The story is based on part-historical, part-legendary materials that must have been brought over to England by the AngloSaxons from their original homes on the European Continent. Beowulf the hero and his adventures are placed in Denmark and southern Sweden.

Stylistic features of Beowulf: 1) This epic is written in Old English. 2) The most striking difference between Old English poetry and later poetry is in the technical structure. Every line consists of two clearly separated half lines between which is a pause, called a caesura, which in Latin means a cutting, a break or pause in a line of poetry. The two parts of the line are united by alliteration, which is the repetition of the same sound or sounds at the beginning of two or more words. [Caesarean operation / section] 3) A kind of figurative language called kenning is applied in order to add beauty to ordinary objects. A kenning is a metaphor usually composed of two words, which becomes the formula for a special object. For example, “helmet bearer” stands for “warrior,” “swan road” for “the sea,”

“the world candle” for “the sun,” “ring-giver” for “king,” etc. 4) Repetition and variation: the same idea is expressed more than once by the use of different words which are more or less synonyms.

alliteration: the accented words in a line begin with the same consonant sound, generally 4 accents in a line, three of which show alliteration. Examples: Thus made their mourning the men of Geatland For their hero’s passing, his hearth-companions … Of men he was the mildest and most beloved, To his kin the kindest, keenest to praise. (from Beowulf) Spring, the sweet spring, is the year’s pleasant king Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing (from Thomas Nash’s poem in the 16th century)

? Beowulf was cannonized since the 15th century. During the 500 years, there are more than 60 versions of translation. ? In 2000, Seamus Heaney’s translation version Beowulf won Whitbread Prize and became the best seller in America. ? In 2007, film Beowulf was produced.

Beowulf on the screen

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1375—1400) is a romance, closely with Arthurian legends. The Arthurian legends are closely linked with the culture of chivalry in the Medieval Age, which produces great influence on western cultures and manners.

Chivalry is an idealization of virtue, a marriage of military prowess and courtesy, a sense of justice and honour. All of this is brought forward to us from a dark time in history, from days when men fought one another, fought the harsh world that had broken Roman order, fought against the plagues visited upon Europe, a troika of perils nearly destroying European culture. Chivalry simply means in its primitive sense: service on horseback. It is derived from the French word cheval, a word in itself derived from the Latin, and is of the same origin therefore as our more modern words cavalier and

cavalry. The word knight is derived from the Saxon for a servant, and gradually became applied to the immediate attendants of a feudal lord. The title “Sir,” which is prefixed to the Christian names of all knights, is said to be derived from Kyr, the abbreviation of the Greek word signifying Lord; though others affirm that it came through the Latin senior. Whichever may be the correct derivation, and it may well be that neither is, the fact remains that the title, whatever its original significance, has always been held in great honour, and is of high antiquity.

The knight swore to accomplish the duties of his station and live by his chivalric virtues, these virtues were a crystal distillation of what it meant to be a fine human being, a person in search of justice and humility.

The Ten Commandments of the Code of Chivalry from Chivalry by Leon Gautier 1. You shall believe all that the Church teaches, and shall observe all its directions. 2. You shall defend the Church. (Soldiers of God) 3. You shall respect all weaknesses, and shall constitute yourself the defender of them. 4. You shall love the country in which you were born. 5. You shall not recoil before your enemy. 6. You shall make war against the Infidel without cessation (stop/break), and without mercy. 7. You shall perform scrupulously (devoutly) your feudal duties, if they are not contrary to the laws of God.

8. You shall never lie, and shall remain faithful to the pledged word. 9. You shall be generous, and give largess to everyone. 10. You shall be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil. The Code of Chivalry from The Rifts: England Supplement 1. Live to serve King and Country. 2. Live to defend Crown and Country and all it holds dear. 3. Live one’s life so that it is worthy of respect and honor. 4. Live for freedom, justice and all that is good. 5. Never attack an unarmed foe. 6. Never use a weapon on an opponent not equal to the attack.

7. Never attack from behind. 8. Avoid lying to your fellow man. 9. Avoid cheating. 10. Avoid torture. 11. Obey the law of king, country, and chivalry. 12. Administer justice. 13. Protect the innocent. 14. Exhibit self control. 15. Show respect to authority. 16. Respect women. 17. Exhibit Courage in word and deed. 18. Defend the weak and innocent. 19. Destroy evil in all of its monstrous forms. 20. Crush the monsters that steal our land and rob our people.

21. Fight with honor. 22. Avenge the wronged. 23. Never abandon a friend, ally, or noble cause. 24. Fight for the ideals of king, country, and chivalry. 25. Die with valor. 26. Always keep one’s word of honor. 27. Always maintain one’s principles. 28. Never betray a confidence or comrade. 29. Avoid deception. 30. Respect life and freedom. 31. Die with honor. 32. Exhibit manners. 33. Be polite and attentive. 34. Be respectful of host, women, and honor.

35. Loyalty to country, King, honor, freedom, and the code of chivalry. 36. Loyalty to one’s friends and those who lay their trust in you.

IV Norman Conquest
? Since 1066, French-speaking Normans under Duke William of Normandy came to England. ? English society entered into feudalism. ? English society entered into Middle Ages or Medieval Age. ? A high-hand conquest: Black Death and the peasant’s rising of 1381 ? Henry VII, the first Tudor King of England in 1485, English history entered into Modern time

Henry VII and Tudor Dynasty

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

English French Latin time--------age--- -------epoch Rise--------mount-------ascend Ask--------question-----interrogate Goodness---virtue------probity Fast-------firm------------secure Fire--------flame-------conflagration Fear-------terror--------trepidation Holy-------sacred-------consecrated

Oral literature in Norman Time: Romance: King Arthur and his Knight of Round Table---to emphasize the loyalty to king and lords Ballads: Robin Hoods to show the fighting spirit, indomitable courage and revolutionary energy of the English peasantry.

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