English Lecture, October 19, 2010
“Modest Proposal” - Right Reason
“Irony involves a mode of speech that allows the listener to recognize that the meaning
is different than the words.” - Samuel Johnson
Structuralism: All the great patterns of literature emerge from a deep structure in the
human mind. All literature reflects the deep structure of the human mind.
- Giambattista Vico set up the Age of Gods, Age of Heroes and Age of Men. The
literature of the Age of Gods is the great mythology of the world’s religions like
Buddhism, Christianity, Islam; all have mythological bases to them.
- The Age of Heroes is the age of epics, sagas, romance literatures. Homer’s Iliad, etc.
Heroic over godly. People who perform extraordinary deeds, who are larger than life and
who we can call heroes.
- Age of Men is the literature of everyday life, ordinary people. The novel would be the
expression of this. People are like us - we don’t look up to them, but we look across to
them or down at them and can relate to them. All literature since the Renaissance is
literature of the Age of Men. Novels, shopping lists, etc. belong to this.
- Once each of these stages has been gone through there is a return to primitive
- Northrop Frye talks about literature in the High mimetic mode and low mimetic mode.
- High Mimetic Mode is literature that we look up to the characters - gods, kings,
- Low Mimetic Mode is literature that imitates people beneath us, people who we can
tend to feel superior to.
- When we look up to people, we idealize them or romanticize them. We imagine them
to be better than ourselves. If we look down on people we satirize them, ironicize them
- Literature in the Romance Mode (more in the sense of a romance novel here, not
romantic period) The main characters are gods, kings, queens, aristocracy.
- Tragic Pattern takes us from a Romantic Position to one in which irony exists. We go
from looking up at characters to looking down at them.
- Every tragedy ends in death, every comedy ends in marriage” - Lord Byron.
- Catharsis, according to Aristotle, is the expiation, getting rid of, pity and fear. When
tragedy works, we are held in suspension between pity (desire to go up on the stage and hug the characters) and fear (the desire to run out of the theatre for fear that
something like that could ever happen to you)
- At the end of the play, these feelings have dissolved. The feeling you get is completely
empty, as if you’ve been emotionally built up and then drained. You don’t want to talk to
anyone for at least an hour.
- Tragedy - Summer of Romance to Winter of Death
- A marriage symbolizes a new order that has come out of chaos (in comedies).
Comedies begin in chaos. Tempest is classic example of comic pattern.
- With the lower class of people - you can be indignant and angry and annoyed at them,
you could be a snob to them and ignore them, or you could help them.
- James Joyce was mad at the Irish in The Dead.
- Fundamental Desire of Satire: Identifying a human folly and going after it, hoping to
make people see the error and change it.
- 4 Theories of Humour