1History and Anthology of English Literature(Book 1)

By Wesley Knight,2014-06-25 02:01
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1History and Anthology of English Literature

    History and Anthology of

    English Literature

    Book I


    Teaching Notes

    Lecture One

1. What is literature?

     In English, we use the word in at least two

    different senses:

    Very often it simply means anything that

    is written: timetables, catalogues, text-books,

    travel brochures (booklet/ pamphlet). In this

    broad sense, an account of yesterdays

    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 ones 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 ones 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, lets 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, ones pound of flesh, and to wear ones heart on ones

    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 ones thinking.

    (4)Fostering ones connoisseursip (the

    ability to appreciate a work of art)

    (5) Exerting a favorable influence on a

    persons feeling or character (or making us be better people; in other words, English

    literature is something from which we get

    moral education)

    (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

    English literature;

     (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

    supplementary readings:

    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

    Press, 1984.










    王守仁主编Selected Readings in British

    Literature, 高等教育出版社,2001




     (2) Read the untaught texts in the

    textbooks by yourself. (for we have only two

    periods of class for this course each week , its


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