History and Anthology of
1. What is literature?
In English, we use the word in at least two
Very often it simply means anything that
is written: timetables, catalogues, text-books,
travel brochures (booklet/ pamphlet). In this
broad sense, an account of yesterday‘s
football match or an advertisement of soap
powder, is as much literature as the Dialogues
of Plato or the novels of D. H. Lawrence.
But when we talk about English literature
as we do in this course, we are using the
word in a different, and perhaps more serious
sense. Here we may agree that literature is
writing which expresses & communicates
thoughts, feelings & attitudes towards life.
But someone may ask: what about
advertisements, travel booklets, etc? They
certainly seem to be expressing thoughts &
feelings & attitudes, yet they are not
literature in the sense in which we have now
decided to use the word. This is because they
lack one of the qualities that make serious
literature so different from advertising or
journalism. The quality, I have in mind, is
permanence. Such things as journalism,
advertising, & even works of information are
―here today & gone tomorrow‖, but literature
is intended to last.
To summarize what has been said, we may
now say that literature is a permanent expression in words of some thoughts or
feelings or ideas about life & the world.
2. What is the usefulness of studying (English)
(1) Increasing one‘s knowledge
English literature is a mirror to the social
life at different stages of English history. It is
a general expression of the ideas, feelings &
aesthetic judgments of writers from different
social classes. It is also a direct or indirect &
vivid expression of the relationship among
people of different social classes, between
people & society, people & nature, and the
spirit & psychological state of people
Therefore studying English literature, is
one of the best ways for us to get a good
command of English knowledge.
(2) Improving one‘s language ability.
Generally speaking, all that is best in a language finds expression in its literature.
Dictionaries tell us about the spellings,
pronunciations & definitions of words. The commonest way to learn the meaning of a word is to look it up in a dictionary. But dictionaries cannot show all the subtle shades of meaning of a word. The best way to study the meaning of a word is that of learning it between the lines in the works of major writers. For an intimate understanding of the language, we need to read literary works and to think about what we read.
An author may contribute in various ways to the enrichment of the language he writes. He may do so directly by introducing new words or new usages of words, or indirectly by bringing those existing forms of expression into a general use among people.
Now, let‘s take a few examples to show
what English writers do for the language.
First, the English Bible. Among the literary works that have contributed to the formation of modern English, an important place must be given to the English Bible. The
translation of the English Bible lasted for 300
years & resulted in the monumental work of
the Authorized Version (A.V.) or King James
Version in 1611. The translators of the Bible
have given to the English language many
beautiful words or word-combinations, such
as ―helpmate‖, ―peace-maker‖, ―tender mercy‖, ―loving kindness‖ & ―long suffering‖, even the indispensable word ―beautiful‖ is brought into general use by a translator of the
Bible in the early 16 century. Many Bible
phrases have become English idioms which
are often used with no knowledge of their
origin, such as ―to cast pearls before swine‖, ―a labor of love‖, ―the shadow of death‖, ―an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth‖, ―(at) the eleventh hour‖, etc..
William Shakespeare also has had a very
great influence on the English language. He
has not only added a large number of new
words to the literary vocabulary of the English
language, but also woven a great amount of
phrases into the texture of the whole English
literature & daily speech. A multitude of
Shakespearean usages & expressions, such as
―a heaven-kissing hill‖, ―one‘s pound of flesh‖, and ―to wear one‘s heart on one‘s
sleeve‖, etc. may be regarded as ―household words‖ of the English language. One
Shakespearean phrase, ―to out-Herod Herod‖,
has not only become the model after which a
large number of other expressions have been
formed to express the notion of surpassing or
exceeding somebody in something.‖ To out-Milton Milton‖ and ―to out-Darwin Darwin‖ are two of the well-known examples.
The English Bible & Shakespeare are the
two most notable examples to show the great
influence of English literature on the English
language. Almost the same thing has been
done by such great writers as Milton, Swift,
Defoe, Dickens, & Bernard Shaw. That is why
we cannot study the English language without
learning English literature which has woven
itself into the whole texture of the English
tongue. The literature of a nation always
shows best what its language can do when it is
well used. In learning a language, we should
cultivate a feeling for good language. Such a
feeling can best be trained by the reading of
literature that matters.
(3) Training one‘s thinking.
(4)Fostering one‘s connoisseursip (the
ability to appreciate a work of art)
(5) Exerting a favorable influence on a
person‘s feeling or character (or making us be better people; in other words, English
literature is something from which we get
(6) Enjoying oneself.
(7) Enabling one to get more education or to
appear well educated. etc.
3. The Objectives of this course
(1) Enable the students to get a general
idea about the development or history of
(2) Enable the students to get a general
idea about the major genres of English
literature in different times, and also the major
works of major authors;
(3) Cultivate the literary taste of the
(4) Enrich the students‘ knowledge.
(5) Foster the students‘ abilities of study. 4. Requirements for the students to take this
(1) Get the following books as your
刘炳善编著：A Short History of English
Literature (New Revised Edition),
Chen Jia: Selected Reading in English
Literature(In Three Volumes), The
Commercial Press, 1984.
Chen Jia: A History of English Literature
(In Four Volumes), The Commercial
王守仁主编Selected Readings in British
(2) Read the untaught texts in the
textbooks by yourself. (for we have only two
periods of class for this course each week , it‘s