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Introduction about the Course of English Literature


Questions
? 1. What is Literature? ? 2. Why do we read Literature? ? 3. The Object of Studying Literature ? 4. Approaches and models of studying Literature?

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Literature refers to the practice and profession of writing. It comes from human interest in telling a story, in arranging words in artistic forms, in describing in words some aspects of human experiences. Literature is characterized by beauty of expression and form and by university of intellectual and emotional appeal. Literature shows us not only what a society is like in a certain age, but also what individual feel about it, what they hope from it, and how they can change it or escape from it.

? Read for pleasure (Howells observed that the study of Literature should begin and end in pleasure. ) ? Read for relaxation (Modern life is full of pressure. It is people’s common desire to seek temporally relaxation from the stress in life.) ? Read to acquire knowledge. (Literature gives readers an insight into the tradition, custom, beliefs, attitudes, folklore, values of the age in which it is written.)

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To improve and develop students’ understanding and use of the language through reading and discussion of the literary texts; ? To awaken students’ appreciative and critical faculties and so encourage their development as readers of literature, aside from the pleasure of reading, of entering into a new world and having students’ imagination quickened. ? To know Man as well as yourself ? Man is ever a dual creature; he has an outward and inward nature; he is not only a doer of deeds, but a dreamer of dreams. Every great act springs from an ideal.

The analytical approach: It aims at illustrating the elements of fiction, including plot, character, setting, point of view, theme, symbol, allegory, style, and tone. ? The thematic approach: It tries to find out what the story, the poem, the play, or the essay is about. ? The historical approach: It aims at illustrating the historical development of literature. All the Literature exists in time and as such bears the unmistakable imprint of the period and culture in which it is written
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? d. The cultural model: It views a literary text as a product. This means that it is treated as a source of information about the target culture. It is the most traditional approach, often used in university courses on literature. The cultural model will examine the social, political and historical background to a text, literary movements and genres. There is no specific language work done on a text. This approach tends to be quite teacher-centered. ? e. The language model: It aims to be more learnercentered. As learners proceed through a text, they pay attention to the way language is used. They come to grips with the meaning and increase their general awareness of English. Within this model of studying literature, the teacher can choose to focus on general grammar and vocabulary or use stylistic analysis which involves the close study of the linguistic features of the text to enable students to make meaningful interpretations of the text.

History and Anthology of English Literature
-The 5th Semester

Analysis of the Textbook
In each unit: 1) Brief introduction of the historical background and literary characteristics of each period;

2) The biography of the best authors and their literary creations;
*3) The selection of representative works
( original flavor)

4) The exercises

The General Characteristics
English literature has a long history, rich legacy and great influence on the literature of the world. Its origin can be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon Period with the production of the famous Beowulf and covers a history of around 1400 years.

The Development of English Literature
From the academic angle, English literature can be divided into seven periods: 1.Early and Medieval English literature; 2.The English Renaissance; 3.The 17th Century – The Period of Revolution and Restoration; 4.The 18th Century –The Age of Enlightenment

5. The Romantic Period;
6. The Victorian Age;

7. The 20th Century Literature –Modernism and Post-Modernism.

1. Early and Medieval English literature (5th C.-1485)

1) Anglo-Saxon Period (449-1066) The main literary contribution of this period is the Epic, and its masterpiece is the national epic The Song of Beowulf, which is a long poem of 3182 lines about the deeds of the Teutonic (条顿)hero Beowulf in the 6th century. It is the oldest poem on the English language and the oldest surviving epic in Anglo-Saxon literature. Epic: A long narrative poem on the adventures and great deeds of heroes.

2) The Anglo-Norman Period

(1066-1485)

The literaturetalethisverse, embodying the life A of in period is greatly and adventures of knights. Romance influenced by the Norman conquest. After the was characteristic of known as chivalry conquest, the customs and ideals the early feudal age, as it reflected the spirit of chivalry, was introduced by the Normans ideal England and i.e., the quality and into of knightly can be reflected in literature, suchof Romance was conduct. The content as the knightly usually interest in women tenderness code, the romantic about love, chivalry ,and religion. and reverence paid to Virgin Mary etc.. The prevailing form of literature in the Feudal England was Romance (传奇,骑士文学). ? The most famous Romance was Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

2.The English Renaissance
The 16th century in England was a period of the breaking up of feudal relations and the establishing of the foundations of capitalism. The result is an intellectual movement(思想运 动) known as the Renaissance. It originated in the 14th c. in Italy and spread to the rest of Europe in the 15th c., later it culminated to the height in the 16th c.. The key-note of Renaissance is humanism and the greatest humanist is Thomas More, the author of Utopia. The representatives in literature are Shakespeare and Bacon. The former has the greatest contribution in drama and sonnets while the latter’s essays are condensed and witty. Note: Geoffrey Chaucer (the father of English poetry, Canterbury Tales)
(刘炳善,1990:32)

3.The 17th Century—The Period of Revolution and Restoration
The 17th-century literature was greatly influenced by the bourgeoisie revolution against monarchy. The politically tempestuous period made the literature one of confusion in the Puritan Age. The greatest representatives of this period are the ―Three Johns‖: John Milton, John Donne , the representative of the Metaphysical School and John Bunyan, a great prose writer.

4. The 18th C.—The Age of Enlightenment
In England, the 18th c. is called the Age of Enlightenment, which, on the whole, was an expression of struggle of the then progressive class of bourgeoisie against feudalism. In literature, Classicism, or Neoclassicism, dominated this century. The middle of this century in England sees the inception of a new literary current– sentimentalism . At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, PreRomanticism emerged.

5. The Romantic Period (1798—1832)

Romanticism in England came into being in the latter half of the 18th century with William Blake and Robert Burns representing the spirit of what is usually called Pre-Romanticism. With the publication of Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge in 1798, Romanticism began to bloom in the history of English literature. The trend ended at the death of Scott in 1832. This is an age of poetry.

6. The Victorian Age —Realism in England (1830s—1918)
Literary Current: The (Critical) Realism of the 19th century flourished in the forties and fifties. The task of the realists is criticizing capitalist society from a democratic viewpoint. In the fifties and sixties the realistic novel enters a stage of decline. The 2nd half of the 19th century in England produced a number of outstanding poets such as Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning etc. The greatest of them was Browning.

7.The 20th C. Literature —
Modernism(1918-45) and Post-Modernism(1945- )

The reaction against the values of Victorian society and the theme of its literature that began in the 1890’s, was manifested in the early decades of the 20th century by drastic changes in form, vocabulary and image. The movement has come to be called Modernism. The most important period for Modernism was between 1910 and 1925. After WWII , it faded into what has been termed Post-Modernism (Contemporary Literature ).

Anglo-Saxon literature

Historical background:
? The Britons—a tribe of Celts ? The Roman Conquest ? Anglo-Saxon conquest (the English Conquest): Angles, Saxons and Jutes are usually as the first English men. ? Language: Old English different from the English we know today

The Social Condition of the Anglo-Saxons
? Before the Anglo-Saxons settled in Britain, they lived in the tribal society. ? Each group of families united by kinship in a separate village. ? There were chiefs of the war-band. ? The chief had the power of life and death over his men.

? After the Conquest of Britain, the social condition went through rapid changes. ? The gentile constitution had to be transformed into organs of state— from military leadership to kingship. (Engels)

Anglo-Saxon Religious Belief and its Influence
? The Anglo-Saxons were heathen people— pagan, infidel, gentile. ? They believed in old mythology of Northen Europe, that is why the northen mythology has left its mark upon the english language. ? The Anglo-Saxons were christianized in the seventh century.

Characteristics of AngloSaxon Literature
? Most exclusively a verse literature in oral form. Its creators are unknown, for example, Beowulf. ? There were two groups of English poetry in this period. One was the pagan poetry represented by Beowulf, the other was the religious poetry represented by the works of Caedmon and Cynewulf. ? The prose writers of this period were Venerable Bede and Alfred the Great.

Anglo-Saxon Poetry
? Pagan poetry-Beowulf ? Plot Summary:

Analysis of its content
? People had to fight against beasts and struggle against the forces of nature. ? Beowulf is a grand hero, he is faithful to his people. He goes alone to rescue his people. He forgets himfelf in face of death, thinking only it profits others.

Writing Features of the Poem
? Old English Heroic Epic Poem (narrative poem) of unknown authorship ? The most striking feature in its poetical form is the use of alliteration.

? In alliterative verse, certain accented words in a line begin with the same constant sound. There are generally 4 accents in a line, there of which show alliteration. For example, in the funeral of the hero: to his kin

the kindest, keenest to praise.

Religious Poetry: Caedmon and Cynewulf
? The most colorful figure among the Christian poets of the period was Caedman. His life story is vividly described in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History. ? Cynewuf was even more of a mystical figure than Caedman. He produced 4 poems. The best known is Christ. The contents of the poem dealing with Christ’s Nativity, the Ascension, Crucifixion and Doomsday.

? Bede and The Ecclesiastical History of the

Anglo-Saxon Prose

English People ? Alfred and The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

? King of Wessex, Alfred’s contributions to English literature lies into three aspects: his numerous translations from Latin, the role he played in the launching of the Anglo-Saxon chronicle and free way of translating from Latin works.


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