Part V The 17th Century
1. Know the general features of this period;
2. Know the representative writers and their works in this period;
3. Understand the works of John Donne, John Milton, and John Bunyan.
1.The Period of Revolution and Restoration:
1.1. Historical background (see textbook p129-130)
1.2. Literary Characteristics: Much of the lit of this period was concerned with the
tremendous social upheavals of the time. Milton defended the English Commonwealth with his pen. Even after the Restoration;Milton and Bunyan continued to defend in their pen the ideas of Revolution. About at the beginning of the 17th century there appeared in England a school of poets called “Metaphysicals”. The works of the Metaphysical poets are characterized, generally
speaking, by mysticism, in content and fantasticality in form. In the Restoration period John
Dryden, the poet and playwright, was the most distinguished literary figure. (See textbook p130-131 for more details)
2. John Donne (1572-1631): the founder of Metaphysical school of poetry; lived and wrote
during the successive reigns of Elizabeth to Charles I. His poems are usu. divided into 2 categories:
A. the youthful love lyrics, published after his death as Songs and Sonnets in 1633. B. Sacred
verse, published in 1624 as Devotions Upon Emergent Occasion (which shows “the intense interest Donne took in the spectacle of morality under the shadow of death, a vision that haunted him perpetually and inspired the highest flights of eloquence”. Donne, the poet of peculiar
conceits, having his own way of reasoning and comparison, loves the extravagant. Sometimes he goes to preposterous dimensions. (See textbook, p132-134 for more details.) His poetry marked a sharp departure from the prevailing trend and had great influence among the poets of his time and of the 20th century, including T.S. Eliot.
2.1 His Poetry:
Characteristics: 1.Most of it purports to deal with life, descriptive or experimentally, and the first thing to strike the reader is Donne‟s extraordinary and penetrating realism.
2.The next is the cynicism which marks certain of the lighter poems and which represents a conscious reaction from the extreme idealization of woman encouraged by the Patrarchan tradition. Most poems contained either cynical comments on the inconstancy of women in love or fiery utterances of unruly passion mixed with coarse suggestions of sensual love and morbid thoughts
of death, and we may find in them almost always rather complicated reasoning through far-fetched comparisons or “conceits”, fantastic metaphors and extravagant hyperboles, and in strange imageries and obscure language. These poems were a sort of revolt to the tradition of love which had been adopted by many English poets of the late 16th century and which under the influence of Platonism idealized the women love. In such well-known poems as Go and Catch a Falling Star
and Now thou hast loved me one whole day, women are described as extremely fickle in love,
while the poet laid emphasis on physical or sensual love based on the classical tradition of the ancient Roman writer Ovid. (Refer to p134-137 for examples)
2.2. Analysis of Song and A Valediction: Forbidding Morning (page134-137) (For students to
read before class; See the teachers notes about the two poems in textbook, page134-137)
1. What are the features of Donne‟s poetry?
2. What is the poetic structure of his Song and what is its theme?
3. What is the poetic structure of his A Valediction: Forbidding Morning and what images did he
use? What is its theme? How did he express his point bout love and compare his love with the secular love?
4. From the poems in the textbook and other sources, generalize his ideas on love and death. 5. What are the themes of “Go and Catch a Falling Star” and “A Valediction: Forbidding
3. John Milton (1608-1774)
3.1. His life (see textbook p139-142)
1) Areopagitica: in 1644 the censorship of books before publication was re-established. This made Milton with great rage. He wrote and published is best-known prose work Areopagitica in the form of a speech addressed to the House of Parliament, in which he
appealed for the freedom of the press. Areopagitica as a declaration of people‟s freedom
of the press, therefore, has been a weapon in the later democratic revolutionary struggles. 2) Defense of the English People: Milton, the spokesman of the revolution, in answering the
critics from and having controversy with the anti-revolutionary side, wrote in 1651 the prose,
in which he asserts the undisputed sovereignty of the people over the divine right king. In fact, it is a defense of the commonwealth and revolution.
3.3 His great works: written after the Restoration and during the political persecution. Now he was bland, but he dictated his epic Paradise Lost, in an allegorical religious form.
Then Paradise Regained (published in 1671). Samson Agonistes marked the end of Milton‟s
3.4 The Paradise Lost: Milton‟s masterpiece, the greatest English epic in 12 books, in blank
verse. The stories were taken from the Old Testament: the creation, the rebellion in Heaven of
Saran and his fellows, their defeat and expulsion from Heaven, the creation of the earth and of Adam and Eve, Satan‟s temptation of Eve, and the departure of Adam And Eve from Eden.
3.4.1 The story: (see textbook page 142-143)
1) It represents the author‟s views in an allegorical religious form;
2) And the reader will easily discern its basic idea---the exposure of reactionary forces of this time and passionate appeal for freedom.
3) It is based on the biblical legend of the imaginary progenitors of the human
and Eve, and involves God and his eternal adversary, Satan in plot.
3.4.2 Theme and characterization: the main idea of the poem—the heroic revolt against
God‟s authority. In the poem God is no better than a selfish despot, seated upon a throne with a chorus of angles about his eternally singing his praises. His angles are silly while the rebel Satan who rises against God and, though defeated, still seeks for revenge, is by far the most striking character in the poem.
Adam and Eve embodies Milton‟s belief in the powers of man. Their craving/longing for
knowledge denied them by God, adds a particular significance to their character. It is this longing for knowledge that opens before mankind a wide road to intelligent and active life.
The picture of God surrounded by his angles resembles the court of an absolute monarch while Satan and his followers, who freely discuss all issues in council, bear close resemblance to a republic Parliament.
3.4.3 The Image of Satan: Satan, the real hero of the poem, though banished, he
remains obeyed and admired by those following him down to hell. He is firmer than the rest of the fallen angles. It is Satan who, passing through the guarded gates of hell and, amid so many dangers, overcoming so many obstacles, makes man revolt against God. Though feebler in force, he remains superior in nobleness, since he prefers independence to happy servility, and welcomes his defeat and his torments as a glory, a liberty, and a joy. Satan questions the authority of God. When he gets to the Garden of Eden, he can see no reason why Adam and Eve should not taste the fruit of the tree of knowledge. To Milton, the proud and somber Satan represented the spirit of rebellion against unjust authority.
Satan chooses the Garden of Eden for his battlefield because
1) The Garden of Eden is the most perfect of spots ever created by God; 2) There live in innocent bliss God‟s masterpiece, the first man and woman, Adam
and Eve, who are allowed by God to enjoy /revel in the supreme beauties of Paradise, provided they do not eat the fruit that grows on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil;
3) Satan desires to tear them away from the influence of God and to make them instrumental in his struggle against God‟s authority. (See textbook, p142-143)
3.4.4 Discussion of The Paradise Lost (For students to read before class; See the teacher’s
notes about the poem in textbook page144-146) (Optional)
1. What important pamphlets did Milton write?
2. What are his important poems?
3. What is the theme of Paradise Lost? How about the image of Satan?
4. Why does Satan choose the Garden of Eden as his battlefield?
4. John Bunyan (1628-1688)
4.1 The Pilgrim‟s Progress
A famous prose writer and novelist in English literature. He lived through the Restoration and was put into prison for his refusing to obey the law prohibiting religious meetings. In prison he read the Bible, which furnished his sensitive imagination with profound impressions and vivid images. He wrote them down. The result is his book, The Pilgrim’s Progress. It was published in
1678, after his release from prison, written in the form of religious allegory and dream. It tells of
the spiritual pilgrimage of Christian, who flies from the City of Destruction, meets with perils/dangers and temptations of the Slough of Despond, Vanity Fair, and Doubting Castle, faces and overcomes the demon Appollyon, and finally comes to Celestial City.
In reality, the Celestial City is the vision of an ideal happy society dreamed of by a poor tinker in the 17th century, through the veil of religious mist.
One of the most remarkable passages is that in which Vanity Fair and the persecution of Christian and his friend Faithful are described. As they refused to buy anything but Truth, they are beaten and put in a cage, and then taken out and led in chains up and down the fair; and at length brought before a court. Judge Hate-good summons 3 witnesses: Envy, Superstition, and Pickthank (i.e. flatterer), who testify against them. The case is submitted to the jury, composed of Mr. Badman, Mr. No-good, Mr. Malice, etc. Each gives a verdict against Faithful, who is presently condemned. Here, Bunyan intends to satirize the state trials in the reactionary reigns of Charles II and James II, which were merely forms of preliminary to hanging, drawing and quartering.
Bunyan cherished a deep hatred of both the king and his government. He saw and detested the injustice of laws, trials and the magistrates. This is why his Pilgrim‟s Progress had won immediately success among the lower classes and has become one of the most popular works in the English language.
(See textbook, p152-154 for the outline of the story)
4.2 Discussion of The Pilgrim‟s Progress (For students to read before class; See the teacher’s
notes about the extract in textbook on page 154-158) (Optional)
1. The story of The Pilgrim‟s Progress.
2. Why does Bunyan give the characters and the places in the book such names? Use examples to illustrate.
Part VI The 18th Century
1. Know the general features of this period;
2. Know the terms of enlightenment, sentimentalism, pre-romanticism;
3. Know the representative writers and their works in different divisions; 4. Know the works by William Blake and Robert Burns; analyze their works.
1. The Background (Refer to textbook, page 164-165 for the information of social background) 2. The Enlightenment in English Literature
1) At the beginning of the century.
2) On the whole an expression of the bourgeoisie against feudalism.
3) The enlighteners fought against class inequality, stagnation, prejudices and other survivals of feudalism.
4) Science was to answer the actual needs and requirements of the people.
5) The English enlighteners, different in some way from those of France, strove to bring their revolution to an end by clearing away the feudal survivals and replace them by bourgeois ideology.
6) Representatives: Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, the essayists; Alexander Pope, the poet. These writers in their works criticized different aspects of contemporary England, discussed social problems, and even touched upon morality and private conduct. (Page 165-167)
Details could be seen in the following table:
Nature An expression of struggle of the then progressive class of bourgeoisie against
Against Class inequality, stagnation, prejudice and other survival of feudalism
Repudiate the false religious doctrines about the viciousness of human nature
Accept Place all branches of science at the service of mankind by connecting them with the
actual deeds and requirements of the people
Accept bourgeois relationship as rightful and reasonable relations among people.
Compared revealed to the most progressive minds of the century the contradictions of new to France society instead of “cleared the minds of men for the coming revolution” of France
Common Though in their works they criticized different aspects of contemporary English, comment they never set themselves the task of struggling against the existing order of life,
but on the contrary, attempted to smooth over social contradictions by moralizing
and proclaiming, as Pope did, that “whatever is, is right”.
3. Steele, Addison, Pope:
1) Steele and Addison—the publishers of a moralistic journal The Spectator. The former
also started his paper The Tatler in 1709. Their essays and stories gave a great push to the
development of the 18th century novel.
2) Pope—having great influence on the18th century poetry, a man of extraordinary wit and extensive learning. Among his other contributions to the theory and practice of prosody are the following: elaborated certain regulations for the style of poetical works; made popular the so-called heroic couplets (five-foot iambic rhymed in couplets).
1) Addison, Steele and Pope all belonged to the classical school.
2) The classicists modeled themselves after the Greek and Latin authors, and tried to guide literary creation by some fixed laws and rules drawn from Greek and Latin works. 3) Rhymed couplets instead of blank verse, the 3 unities of time, place, and action, regularity in construction, the presentation of types rather than individuals—these were some of standards the
classicists required of drama. Poetry should be lyrical, epic, didactic, satiric or dramatic. Prose should be precise, direct, smooth, and flexible.
4) They upheld reason, law and order in literature instead of the free expression of man‟s individuality as in the Renaissance.
5) Dryden (John) was the forerunner of the English classical school of literature in the 18th century.
5. Sentimentalism in Poetry and Novel:
1) By the middle of the 18th century, as a result of a bitter discontent with social reality among the enlightened people.
2) The representatives continued to struggle against feudalism, but sensed at the same time the contradictions in the process of capitalist development.
3) Dissatisfied with reason, they appealed to sentiment, or sense, “to the human heart”.
4) Turned to the countryside (the nature) for their material.
5) The poetry is marked by a sincere sympathy for the poverty-stricken peasants. The appearance and development of sentimentalist poetry marks the midway in the transition from classicism to its opposite, romanticism.
6) Representatives: Oliver Goldsmith, the outstanding one, poet and novelist; Samuel
Richardson, novelist, famous for Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, a long story told in a series of
letters by the heroine, Pamela Andrews, written in the method of psychological analysis;
Laurence Sterne, novelist (famous for Tristram Shandy and Sentimental Journey
(used the antithesis). His motto is “to be free in the expression of your thoughts and emotions”. He described his characters from within, i.e. their inner life); Thomas Gray, poet, Famous for his
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1750. p249-256), the best known and one of the
greatest poems in English language and poetry.
(See textbook, p169 for other information about sentimentalism).
1. What is English Enlightenment? (Find information about American Enlightenment and compare
2. The information about Classicism and Steele, Addison, Pope.
3. What is sentimentalism? What literary functions does it have?
6. The Rise of the English Realistic Novel
The modern European novel began after the Renaissance with Cervantes‟ Don Quixote
1605-75) while the modern English novel began in the 18th century. The rise and growth of the
realistic novel is the most prominent achievement of the 18th century English literature. Among the greatest of the novelists are Defoe, Swift, Smollet, and Fielding. (P167) 6.1 Daniel Defoe (1661-1731): chiefly remembered as the author of, and famous for Robinson
Crusoe (1719) though he also wrote other interesting novels. Robinson Crusoe was one of the forerunners of the English realistic novel. It creates the image of an enterprising Englishman, typical the English bourgeoisie of the 18th century. (See textbook, p173)
6.2 Henry Fielding (1707-1754): the forerunner of the English realistic novel, “the father of
the English novel”
1) His works:
A. Joseph Andrews (1742) inspired by the success of Samuel Richardson‟s Pamela; a satire on the false sentimentality, the conventional virtues of Richardson‟s heroine (Pamela) (her determination to keep her chastity, in fact, is to get more by selling her chastity). B. Jonathan Wild (1743), a powerful political satire, exposing the English bourgeois society and mocking at its political system.
C. Tom Jones (1749), his masterpiece, showing a panorama of the 18th century English life. (See textbook p240-242).
D. Amelia (1751), his last novel, inferior to Tom Jones, devoted to exposing the various social evils of the time.
2) Theory of realism in literary creation:
A. “nature herself”—the exact observation and study of real life, was the basis of Fielding‟s work. The picture must be after Nature herself. By “nature” he meant the close and constant study and observation of men and women in real life.
B. The center of his working philosophy was Man, common earthly man with his earthly interests, needs, and passions, which should be studied and portrayed in action, in clashes, and in development. Thus he drew his characters from the living human nature which he observed in the people around him.
C. The profound knowledge of human nature was mainly acquired by what he called “conversation”, that is, by constant intercourse and association with all sorts and conditions of human beings.
D. Most of his characters are compounded of both observation and imagination, of both
experience and invention. He thought an artist should make a quick and sharp penetration into the true essence of all objects of our contemplation and not limit himself to any superficial perception of events and actions.
3) Ideas: He shared the contemporary view of the English enlightenment that the purpose of the novel was not just to amuse, but to instruct. The object of his novel was to present a faithful picture of life, “the just copies of human manners,” with sound teaching woven into their texture, so as to teach men to know themselves, their proper spheres and appropriate manners.
Fielding has been regarded by some as “Father of the English Novel,” for his contribution
to the establishment of the form of the modern novel. Of all the eighteenth-century novelists he
was the first to set out, both in theory and practice, to write specifically a „comic epic m prose,”
the first to give the modern novel its structure and style. Before him. the relating of a story in a novel was either in the epistolary form ( a series of letters), as in Richardson‟s Pamela, or the
picaresque form (adventurous wanderings) through the mouth of the principal character, as in Defoe‟s Robinson Crusoe, but Fielding adopted “the third-person narration” in which the author
becomes the “all-knowing God.” He “thinks the thought” of all his characters, so he is able to
present nor only their external behaviors but also the internal workings of their minds. In planning his stories, he tries to retain the grand epical form of the classical works but at the same time keeps faithful to his realistic presentation of common life as it is. Throughout, the ordinary and usually ridiculous life of the common people, from the middle-class to the under-world, is his major concern.
4) Fielding’s language is easy, unlabored and familiar, but extremely vivid and vigorous. His sentences are always distinguished by logic and rhythm, and his structure carefully planned towards an inevitable ending. His works are also noted for lively, dramatic dialogues and other theatrical devices such as suspense, coincidence and unexpectedness. (Zhang Bo-xiang) 5) Reading of Tom Jones (See textbook, p242) (For students to read after class)
6.3 Jonathan Swift (1667-1745):
A. Gulliver’s Travels (1726), his world-famous novel, which typifies the bourgeois world in the repellent image of man-like creatures, the Yahaos. (See textbook, p189-192 for the details.) B&C. A Tale of a Tub and Battle of the Books, both published together in 1704, made him
well-known as a satirist. The former is written in the form of a parable, a sharp attack on the
disputes among the different branches of Christian religion. An old man died and left a coat
(symbolizing the Christian doctrine) to each of his three sons, Peter (standing for Roman Catholics), Martin (for Anglicans), and Jack (for Puritans). They evaded their father‟s will,
interpreted it each in his own way, and changed the fashion of their garment. This is a satire upon all religious sects of Christian. The latter, a satirical dialogue on the comparative merit of
ancient and modern writers, is an attack on pedantry in the literary world of the time. It is a story of the Bee (typifying ancient writers, producing 2 noblest things: honey =sweetness and wax=light) and the (for modern authors, producing wrangling and satire).
D. Pamphlets on Ireland: a very important part of his works, now part of classical English literature. In a series of pamphlets Swift denounced the cruel and unjust treatment of Ireland by the English government. Two of the most famous ones are The Draper‟s Letters and A Modest
Proposal. He, in the latter, suggested, with biter irony, that the poverty of the Irish people should be relieved by the sale of their children “at a year old” as food for the rich. (See P212)
1. What is main idea of Robinson Crusoe?