ENGL203 Lecture Notes 2013.docx

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Published on 22 Apr 2013
School
McGill University
Department
English (Arts)
Course
ENGL 203
ENGL203: Departmental Survey of English Literature II Lecture Notes
Lecture 1: January 9th, 2013
1. Survey
- Command of something; comprehensive view. Surveys always leave us wanting
finer detail. Wealth of material. By definition, the approach of the survey can leave
us hungry for further depth.
2. Canon
- OED (2002): “A body of literary works traditionally regarded as the most important,
significant, and worthy of study; those works literature considered to be established
as being of the highest quality and most enduring value.”
- Authorities list of books, sanctioned section of books. Connotes, on the one hand, the
concept of measuring. Canon, in later times, used to signify list of books and authors.
In this context, Canon suggested worthy of texts and preservation over others.
- A collection of texts and authors, according to judgments of authors, critics, etc.…
that were thought of as being worthy of preservation.
- This group is always in flux, always can be revised.
- Various canons, over the notion of one canon of texts that are better than others.
3. Periods
- Romantic (c. 1785-1830)
o William Wordsworth, William Blake, Mary Shelly, Lord Byron,John Keats etc.
o Value of self-expression, communication of emotion, spontaneity,
naturalness.
o Romanticism in England was thought to be flowering specifically in the
mode of poetry. Until recently, it was thought that 6 poets captured the
essence of the Romantic Period best. They are often called “the six”:
Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Blake, Percy Shelly, John Keats, Lord Byron
- Victorian (c.1830-1900)
o High Victorian Period (1830-1880)
o Fin de siècle (c. 1880-1900)
Rebellion against Victorian
Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yates, etc.
Appreciating art for art sake, not for other purposes (i.e. for
education, etc.)
This period as a kind of return to Romanticism in some
respects. Other critics have said that this period could be
included within the Modernist period.
- Modernist (c.1900-1950): T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound
4. Debates about “Romanticism”
- A.O. Lovejoy vs. René Wellek
o René Wellek (earlier in the 20th century) who weighed in on period terms
and how to use them and how to use them well. He suggested that when we
are dealing with these terms, we don’t have to think of them as arbitrary or
metaphysical entities. He said that periods could be seen as names, which
have been normal to refer to throughout time. He emphasized that a period
in literature involves the dominance but not the rules of a “norm”.
o A debate about periods. Also a debate about the term “romanticism” and
how it should be used and if it should be used at all.
o Romantic is a posthumous term. It was denoted to those group of people
after they die. During their lifetime, they didn’t consider themselves as
romantic writers.
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ENGL203: Departmental Survey of English Literature II Lecture Notes
o The term romantic was first used by two brothers to describe writers of
earlier writers (from the middle ages to describe writers like
Shakespeare…etc.)
o They meant by romantic that which was modern, indifferent to form, and
opposed to formal restraint. Opposite to classical form. The brothers
suggested that works of this kind was in search for fullness of life.
o Arthur Lovejoy he suggested that the term “romantic” was associated
with such a wide range of phenomenon that now, it has become useless.
o Wellek asserted that there is no basis for this extreme nominalism. Although
there were certainly differences among different literary texts associated
with Romanticism, they still exhibit all of which that is under “Romanticism”.
o We’re going to work with Wellek’s concept, that there is a range of style,
philosophical topics, that is associated with “Romanticism”.
5. Projects and Values associated with British Romanticism
- Challenge to neo-classical aesthetics (Tom Stoppard, Arcadia)
o Though the writers did not believe that they were Romantic writers, they
did believe that they belong to this united group. As a united group to turn
away from neo-classical writers like Alexander Pope.
o Pushing away from the classical.
o Poetry is written differently than everyday language. Wordsworth is
suggesting a neo-classical idea in his preface: word choice in poetry has to
be specifically poetic, rise above the language of everyday life. He is going to
use language of men in his poetry. He wants to use a selection of language in
his poetry that is really used by men.
o He has assumption of poetry that it should come from a disciplined practice.
He suggested instead that poetry should be fashioned with naturalness,
spontaneity. In his view, poetry should be the “spontaneous overflow of
powerful feelings”. He is suggesting to what he himself what he wants to do
as a poet, but also that he is framing, gesturing to a large project that he
wants to signal and spearhead
o Wordsworth also rejects the idea that language and poetry should abide by
decorum. That is, language should be altered to suit the genre. He suggests
instead, that poetic language should be simple and unadorned. Language
should be proximate to the language that we use in everyday life.
o Wordsworth values emotion over reason. He will privilege that which is
natural over that which is artificial. He prefers spontaneous overflow of
powerful feelings. This is very different from Alexander Pope.
o Tom Stoppard: decline from neo-classical values. No longer domestic
gardens, its wild gardens now.
- Liberty and Revolution
o Artists of the romantic period saw themselves as freeing of restraints.
Restraints related to form, subject matter, and emotion. Romanticism comes
to be as superseding those limits, breaking those rules.
o This connection between romanticism and liberty has lead to literature
being linked to the revolutionary developments in the 18th and 19th century
in the British Aisle and North America of liberty.
o American Revolution and the French Revolution (of late 18thC), which
touched many of the British Writers fought for equality, liberty, etc.
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ENGL203: Departmental Survey of English Literature II Lecture Notes
o To alight political revolution of this period to the revolution of the arts at
this time. The revolutionary spirit of the age expressed itself both in the
sphere of the politics and the sphere of the arts.
o Late 18th and early 19thC in many cultural spheres expressed revolutionary
discontent of the status quo. Democratic impulse is expressed in the Lyrical
Ballads. He will focused on incidents of situations in common life. This was
thought to register a kind of politics that is revolutionary of his time.
o Marilyn Butler: We should be careful to align the political and literature
revolution because not everyone linked the two.
o 1790 became clear to many that French Revolution would be more violent
than original thought. Accordingly, many writers who had supported the
French Revolution initially (Wordsworth) turned away from it.
o Many were fearful that the French Revolution would affect England. This
affects the time we are considering right away, the general public sentiment
was against public revolution.
- Art/mind as “mirror” -> art/mind as “lamp” (M.H. Abrams, The Mirror & the lamp”)
o How creative process was conceptualized. Abrams argues that this change
can be traced through the process. Metaphors sensitively register the
feeling.
o Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. The material of the
poem comes from within, they do not contain actions, they contain feelings
from within the poet himself.
o He wants to work with what this implies in how creative process works.
Analogy between poet and work itself.
- Celebration of “Nature as Teacher”
o Shift of the metaphor of the word “mirror” – the poem can mirror the world,
imitation. He suggests that in the 19th century, art began to seem more
valuable in another way in expression and illumination. There was a shift
in how art was valued. The function of Art was to hold the mirror up to
nature, the supreme goal of art should reflect the world. Standards for the
aesthetic practice. But in the Romantic Period however, it’s not just
reflection of the outside world, but also of expression from within Poet’s
mind and Poet’s soul.
Spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings
Emphasis on feelings of the poet. What becomes important it
a combinatory effort to register what he/she is perceiving
and what he/she comes to bear with what he/she perceives
about himself/herself
o Mind is regarded not just as a mirror/reflector, but rather, as an interaction
as a creative producer. Regarded as a lamp that can bring illumination to the
external world. What powers this lamp is the imagination.
o Wordsworth mind as active. Mind of the poet should not be in subjection
but should exercise some active command with what he/she works with.
o Samuel Johnson Romanticism as improbable, fanciful, full of wild scenery
and false. These qualities were negatively valence.
- Elevation of Emotion, self-expression
o By the 19thC, romanticism came to take on a different set of connotations.
o Typical elevation of the poet as an outlaw character. Romanticism as the
valorization of feeling, of passion and feeling. Romantic celebration of
nature.
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Document Summary

By definition, the approach of the survey can leave us hungry for further depth: canon. Oed (2002): a body of literary works traditionally regarded as the most important, significant, and worthy of study; those works literature considered to be established as being of the highest quality and most enduring value. Authorities list of books, sanctioned section of books. Connotes, on the one hand, the concept of measuring. Canon, in later times, used to signify list of books and authors. In this context, canon suggested worthy of texts and preservation over others. A collection of texts and authors, according to judgments of authors, critics, etc. that were thought of as being worthy of preservation. This group is always in flux, always can be revised. Various canons, over the notion of one canon of texts that are better than others: periods.

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