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Oct 30, 2011

The Metamorphosis: Kafka

“When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.” With this startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first sentence, Kafka begins his masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. It is the story of a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetlelike insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. A harrowing — though absurdly comic — meditation on human feelings of inadequecy, guilt, and isolation, The Metamorphosis has taken its place as one of the mosst widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction. As W.H. Auden wrote, “Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man.” A novel about a man who finds himself transformed into a huge insect, and the effects of this change upon his life.

Oct 28, 2011

Sartre: Existentialism

A lecture by Jean-Paul Sartre given at The Club Maintenant in Paris, on October 29, 1945.

My purpose here is to defend existentialism against several reproaches that have been laid against it.

Existentialism has been criticised for inviting people to remain in a quietism of despair, to fall back into a the middle-class luxury of a merely contemplative philosophy. We are reproached for underlining human nastiness, and forgetting, as the Catholic Mme. Mercier has it, the smile of the child. All and sundry reproach us for treating men as isolated beings, largely because we begin with the 'I think' of Descartes. Christians especially reproach us for denying the reality and seriousness of human society, since, if we ignore God's eternal values, no-one is able to condemn anyone else.

Oct 21, 2011

Realism in Kafka

“The terror of art is that the dream reveals the reality”—The Metamorphosis

Kafka's writing attracted little attention until after his death. Critics have interpreted Kafka's works in the context of a variety of literary schools, such as modernism, magic realism and so on. The Metamorphsis is a story begins with a travelling salesman, Gregor Samse, walking to find himself transformed into a monstrous insect like creature. He finds tat he enjoys climbing the walls. Later as he loses consciousness, his mother begs husband to spare her son’s life. For this metamorphosis how family members react and finally how he dies is the story of the novel. The change of form of Gregor in to an insect is the magical element and change of nature of the other characters of the story is realistic element. The way Gregor’s father change is the most realistic part of the novella. 

Towards the end of the second part, the infuriated father starts throwing apples at Gregor. One apple gets stuck to his back and causes great pain to Gregor and ultimately causes his death at the end. Finally at the end of the story, Gregor realizes how much his family members hate him and with hat king of disgust his father sees him. So he wishes to disappear or die immediately. That too after the scene with the roomers his sister shouts, “It has to go”. These words cause great pain to him than the rotting apple at his back.

He thought back on his family with deep emotion and love.
His conviction that he would have to disappear was if 
possible, even firmer than that of his sister’s

At the end when he dies, his father’s words are,” Will now we can thank God” And the family hopes for a better future. “Animals are closer to us than human beings…We find relations easier with animals than with men”- Franz Kafka

Gregor’s portrayal is truly a typical example for magical realism. He becomes an enormous bug with a human mind. After changing in to a bug he acts and behaves as an insect but he thinks emotionally and sentimentally like a human being. Most of the insects prefer to hide in holed and crevices and dark places. Gregor prefers that. And very importantly his repulsion for normal food must be mentioned. Hen he was a normal human being he liked milk. Having this in mind his sister brings milk for him because that was his favorite drink. But it is not tasteful to him anymore.

Themes of alienation and persecution are repeatedly emphasized. His work is not a written reflection of any of his own struggles, but a reflection of how people invent struggles. Franz Kafka's The Trial (1925) is magic realism. it tells the story of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor the reader. A true classic of alienation with its famous opening: 'Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning,' The Trial is always sinister and often nightmarish. K. is never told what he's supposed to have done but is guilty by dint of his very existence. Human life is an insoluble enigma, the world absurd and menacing, existence pointless. Kafka's description in The Trial is completely metaphysical and absurd.

Similarly, the requirement for the traveller to register with the authorities in The Castle to stay a night seems repressive and odd to Britons and Americans. In it a protagonist known only as K, struggles to gain access to the mysterious authorities of a castle who govern the village for unknown reasons. The castle is locked and closed to K and the town’s people neither can access. Mainstream studies of Kafka's works normally present his fiction as an engagement with absurdity, a critique of bureaucracy or a search for redemption, failing to account for the images of law and legality which constitute an important part of "the horizon of meaning" in his fiction.

The apparent hopelessness and absurdity that seem to permeate his works are considered emblematic of existentialism. Many critics have tried to locate a Marxist influence in his satirization of bureaucracy, in pieces such as In the Penal Colony, The Trial and The Castle; whereas others point to anarchism as an inspiration for Kafka's anti-bureaucratic viewpoint. Still others have interpreted his works through the lens of Judaism (Borges), through Freudianism (because of his familial struggles), or as allegories of a metaphysical quest for God (Thomas Mann).

Oct 19, 2011

Theory of Tragedy: Aristotle

All the discussion on the nature, function and the effect of the tragedy begins with Aristotle’s definition of tragedy. Aristotle had before him the great tragedies written by three Greek dramatists: Sophocles’ Oedipus the Rex, Electra and Antigone; Euripides’ Alcestis and Medea; and Aeschylus’ The Seven against Thebes and Eumenides—Aristotle drew some common characteristic from these great tragedies and on their basis evolved his own definition and theory of the tragedy which says:

Oct 17, 2011

Rushdie


From a novel by Salman Rushdie published in 1989 to an American civil protest called "Everyone Draw Muhammad Day" in 2010, a familiar pattern has evolved. It begins when Westerners say or do something critical of Islam. Islamists respond with name-calling and outrage, demands for retraction, threats of lawsuits and violence, and actual violence. In turn, Westerners hem and haw, prevaricate, and finally fold. Along the way, each controversy prompts a debate focusing on the issue of free speech. 

Paul Heyse


Many famous writers from several countries have been proposed for this year's Nobel Prize in Literature. The Swedish Academy has awarded it to a writer whose nomination has been supported by more than sixty German experts on art, literature, and philosophy. His name is Paul Heyse. The name revives the memory of our youth and manhood; we still remember the literary pleasure that his novellas, in particular, gave to us. Now an old but still active man, he is a figure that the jury could not pass over if it was to express its admiration by awarding the high distinction to the most significant literary work. Nor was the jury to be swayed by considerations of age or, indeed, anything other than true merit.

Age of Innocence


Edith Wharton was fifty-eight when she published her masterpiece, although she was about ten years old when the events of The Age of Innocence start up—not much older than the little girl in Sir Joshua Reynolds’s portrait from which the novel takes its title—and had nearly finished her first novel, The Valley of Decision, when Newland Archer arrives outside Ellen Olenska’s apartment in Paris thirty years later.

So Big: Edna Ferber

Source: http://classiclit.about.com/od/sobig/fr/aafpr_sobig.htm
Article bEsther Lombardi

Edna Ferber's So Big received the Pulitzer Prize in 1924, and is considered by many to be the author's most popular work. She created the work for herself. She said, "I wrote my book because I wanted to write it more than anything in the world." Other works by Ferber include: Showboat and Giant, along with nine plays, two autobiographies, eleven short story collections, and thirteen novels. Of these works, So Big is memorable because of Selina Peake DeJong and her son, Dirk "SoBig" DeJong. In a juxtaposition of city and farm life, Ferber offers an exploration of the journey of life, with all the realities of love, death, failure and success.

Frankenstein: Marry Shelley


Texas astronomers have used the light of the moon to highlight the hour of creation for Victor Frankenstein and his notorious monster – and defend the memory of their teenage creator, Mary Shelley.
The inspiration came in a waking dream between 2am and 3am on the morning of 16 June, 1816, during a stormy summer on Lake Geneva, they explain in the November issue of Sky and Telescope.
In the preface to the third edition of Frankenstein Shelley described a villa party: Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, herself and Byron's physician Polidori, and the famous challenge by Byron that each of them should begin a ghost story. She also described her repeated inability to come up with an idea until a moment of inspiration during a sleepless night in her dark room, behind closed shutters "with the moonlight struggling to get through".
And then, she continued: "I saw with shut eyes, but acute mental vision – I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life …"
The two poets soon lost interest. Polidori picked up an idea of Byron's and much later launched another genre with a Gothic thriller called The Vampyre. He also kept a diary of his days with Byron and some enigmatic entries have prompted scholars and biographers to suggest that to enhance sales Mary Shelley might have composed yet another fictionabout the chronology of literary creation. Did Byron make his famous challenge on 16 June? Was Mary Shelley, only 18 at the time, writing the next day?
Or did she spend several days agonising and think of her tale on 22 June?
"Our calculations show that can't be right, because there wouldn't be any moonlight," says Donald Olson, from Texas State University in San Marcos. Just as astronomers can predict sunrise, lunar cycles and tides decades ahead, they can say when they happened centuries in the past. Prof Olson has already used astronomical tables and geographic reference points to fix the time, date and location of paintings by Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh; to propose revised timings for the Battle of Marathon in 490BC and Caesar's invasion of Britain in 55BC; and even to confirm a freak Breton tide mentioned in Chaucer's The Franklin's Tale.
In August 2010, Professor Olson, two colleagues and two students went to Lake Geneva to discover when moonlight would have hit the windows, and penetrated the shutters, of Mary Shelley's bedroom. The answer required a visit to the villa, still in private ownership, a study of the terrain, and perusal of weather records.
Shelley reports that she stayed up beyond the "witching hour" of midnight. By 22 June, the moon would then have been a waning crescent, masked by a hillside. But a bright, gibbous moon would have cleared the hillside to shine into Mary Shelley's bedroom window just before 2am on 16 June.
So Shelley's version of events is supported by evidence. Byron probably made his famous ghost story challenge somewhere between 10 and 13 June, 1816. On 15 June, according to both Polidori and Mary Shelley, the party talked about the "principle" of life. The monster and the tormented scientist were dreamed up in the small hours of that night.
"Mary Shelley wrote about moonlight shining through her window, and for 15 years I wondered if we could recreate that night," says Prof Olson. "We did recreate it. We see no reason to doubt her account."

Great Expectations

According to George Orwell, the biggest problem with Dickens is that he simply doesn't know when to stop. Every sentence seems to be on the point of curling into a joke; characters are forever spawning a host of eccentric offspring. "His imagination overwhelms everything," Orwell sniffed, "like a kind of weed."

That's hardly an accusation that could be levelled against Great Expectations. If some of Dickens's novels sprawl luxuriously across the page, this one is as trim as a whippet. Touch any part of it and the whole structure quivers into life. In Chapter 1, for example, Pip recalls watching Magwitch pick his way through the graveyard brambles, "as if he were eluding the hands of the dead people, stretching up cautiously out of their graves, to get a twist upon his ankle and pull him in". Not until the final chapters do we realise why Pip is so haunted by the convict's apparent reluctance to stay above ground, but already the novel's key narrative method has been established. To open Great Expectations is to enter a world in which events are often caught only out of the corner of the narrator's eye. It is a world of hints and glimpses, of bodies disappearing behind corners and leaving only their shadows behind. Whichever of Dickens's two endings is chosen, it's hard to finish the last page without thinking of how much remains to be said. Of course, none of this occurred to me when I first read Great Expectations as a child. In the 1980s this story of class mobility and get-rich-quick ambition resonated with all the force of a modern parable. The revelation that there was another story behind the one I was enjoying was as much a shock to me as it is to Pip, but that only increased my admiration for a novelist who treats his plot rather as Jaggers treats Miss Havisham in her wheelchair, using one hand to push her ahead while putting "the other in his trousers-pocket as if the pocket were full of secrets".

I suspect that's one reason why Great Expectations is such a popular novel. Readers grow up with it. It's probably also why so many of them sympathise with Pip, whose narrative voice involves the perspective of a wide-eyed child coming up against that of his wiser, sadder adult self. Anyone who first reads the story as a child and returns to it in later years is likely to feel a similar mixture of nostalgia and relief. But it isn't only individual readers who have grown up with Great Expectations. Our culture has too. Dickens once claimed that David Copperfield was his "favourite child" and that Great Expectations was a close second. It's no coincidence that both novels are about how easily children can be warped or damaged, but of the two it is the shorter, sharper Great Expectations that has aged better.

Few works of fiction have enjoyed such a lively creative aftermath. Peter Carey has rewritten it in Jack Maggs. Television shows from The Twilight Zone to South Park have echoed it in ways that range from loving homage to finger-poking parody. Even the title has settled in the public consciousness, with shops such as "Grape Expectations" (wine) and "Baked Expectations" (cakes). It's hard not to be fond of a novel that so perfectly reflects its author's restless, rummaging imagination.

Hard Times


Facts and figures. In 1978, when I was 17 and in my first year at university, I read approximately 3,500 pages of Dickens. I've not revisited any of his novels in the 34 years since, except A Christmas Carol andHard TimesA Christmas Carol because I wrote a foreword for it, andHard Times because there was something unDickensian about it that intrigued me. Set in a northern mill-town rather than Dickens's usual London, Hard Times tackles politics in an uncharacteristically rigorous fashion, bringing it closer to Disraeli's Sybil than Pickwick Papers. Dickens seizes on utilitarianism – a philosophy most of us recognise as benign and socially progressive – and vilifies it as a great evil that poisons the human spirit. He expresses his loathing for trade unions, too. It's all rather problematic, but Dickens just about pulls it off through sheer force of will, creating those unforgettable (and weirdly Kafkaesque) schoolroom scenes in which zombie-like pupils spout verbiage like "Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive."
My affinity, as a novelist, with Dickens has been overstated. I relish the way everything in his prose pulsates with life force, and I'm in debt to him every time I invest inanimate objects with uncanny animism. But his female characters annoy me. Not the grotesque ones – Miss Havisham, Mrs Micawber and other delicious monsters. It's the nubile, noble heroines I find irksome. Their vapidity and sexlessness is often attributed, by pundits whose acquaintance with Victorian literature is scant, to the moral climate of the era. Yet other Victorian authors managed to sneak eroticism into their work, and if Dickens had put his titanic talents to the challenge of sublimated sex prose, he could easily have out-porned Bram Stoker. He just didn't want to.
Which brings me to another reason for recommending Hard Times: it contains the closest thing to a real, complex woman in Dickens' s fiction. Louisa Gradgrind may be as neutered as the rest of his heroines, but she's aware of her passionlessness, and blames it on the repressed upbringing she's been subjected to. In Great Expectations, Dickens created a femme fatale, but Estella is icily secure in her fataleness. Louisa remains achingly vulnerable, a cold fish who longs to be a warm mammal.

Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

In 1836, Charles Dickens, aged 24, married Catherine Hogarth. It was a rare venture for him into the south-west of the city – though Chelsea was effectively a village suburb in those days – as Dickens was resolutely a north London man, his "manor" running from Somers Town and Camden south to the City, down to the Strand and Waterloo bridge, taking in Marylebone and Covent Garden. In later life, the northern edge of Hyde Park was about as far west as he would venture and once, when he rented a house on the south side of the park in Knightsbridge, he felt decidedly uncomfortable. The year 1836 was also significant for another reason: Dickens not only married but he began to be rich. He was writing for four publishers and that year earned a bonus of £500 for The Pickwick Papers. Three years earlier, as a journalist, he had been producing sketches of urban life for a magazine called The Monthly, unpaid.
Dickens lived well – in his pomp, he calculated that he needed around £9,000 a year (£630,000) to provide for his extended family and dependents, and to keep him in the style he was accustomed to. Among one of the last things he did before he died was carry out an inventory of his extensive cellars at his big house, Gad's Hill, in Kent, noting entries for sherry, brandy, rum and one "cask very fine Scotch whisky, 30 gallons". Dickens, in addition, was a heavy drinker, though probably not an alcoholic.
That "probably" is key. Leon Edel, biographer of Henry James, defined a biographer as "a novelist, on oath". It's a valid aphorism and worth bearing in mind, particularly when dealing with a writer as famous and as shrouded with legend and anecdote as Dickens. One of the reasons why it's so intriguing to learn how much money he made is that it strips away some mythic veils – Dickens was a great artist, but he was also a very human being. Tomalin's biography – always scrupulous about what we can know, what we can deduce and what is mere speculation – paints a portrait of a complex and exacting man. He was at once vivacious and charming, charismatic and altruistic and possessed of superabundant energies – "Dickens kept going," Tomalin notes, "by taking on too much" (for example, in 1838 he was writing Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nicklebysimultaneously). But he was also, equally – to an almost schizoid degree – tormented, imperious, vindictive and implacable, once wronged.
These matters are particularly focused when it comes to the story of Dickens's marriage and his long affair with the young actress Nelly Ternan. Dickens, aged 45, fell for Ellen Ternan when she was 18. It was simply – like Pip's love for Estella in Great Expectations – because she was "irresistible", he claimed. Dickens had long been unhappy in his marriage – a union that had produced 10 children by this time – and his infatuation with Nelly brought out the worst in him. He publicly separated from Catherine, humiliating her in the cruellest manner, and, after a form of courtship with Nelly – who did not yield to his importuning immediately – set her up as his mistress in a series of houses on the outskirts of London. This was done in the greatest secrecy, and it's something of a miracle that we know about this side of Dickens's life at all.
However, by the time he had succeeded in finally establishing this new menage to his satisfaction, Dickens was ageing and ailing. Perhaps the strain of living this lie in Victorian England provoked undue stress – we must never forget how internationally famous he was – but by his early 50s Dickens was prematurely aged, suffering from terrible gout (he could often hardly walk), piles, neuralgia and, later, the effects of a minor stroke. George Eliot described him in 1870 as "dreadfully shattered". He had been an enthusiastic cigar smoker since the age of 15 and the late photographs show a raddled, smoker's face with grizzled beard and deep lines. Probably the worst thing he could do as his health gave way was to embark on a punishing series of tours giving public readings from his novels. He was so weak he sometimes had to be helped on and off the stage, but he fed off the adoration of the thousands of his readers who turned out to hear him at home and in America. Yet, while the relentless schedule may have hastened his death, it was also a great succour to his ego and his bank balance – "Think of it," he once said gleefully to his manager, "£190 a night [£14,000]." He died in 1870 from a cerebral haemorrhage, aged 58, with his last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished.
The work remains and endures – and Tomalin analyses the novels with great acuity – but what is so valuable about this biography is the palpable sense of the man himself that emerges. Tomalin doesn't hesitate to condemn Dickens when his behaviour demands it, yet she writes throughout with great sympathy and unrivalled knowledge in the most limpid and stylish prose. She has the gift of being able to set a scene and a time with compelling vividness. This is a superb biography of a great writer – and is a beautifully produced book, it should be said, with copious illustrations. It is worthy to stand beside Richard Ellmann on Joyce, Donald Rayfield on Chekhov and Jean-Yves Tadie on Proust – all three writers who deserve that rarest of accolades, genius. Like Dickens, they were complicated and often extremely difficult and demanding individuals. The more we learn about them as people – paradoxically – the greater their art resonates with us.

Booker prize divides quality from readability, says Andrew Motion


The former poet laureate Andrew Motion has hit out at this year's judges of the Man Booker prize for creating what he calls a "false divide" between highbrow literature and accessible books.
The judges' focus on "readability" has provoked strong criticism from Motion, a trustee of the prize and former chair of judges, who said it "opens up a completely false divide between what is high end and what is readable, as if they are somehow in opposition to one other, which is patently not true".

Oct 16, 2011

BEDE (673-735)

The Venerable Bede, as he is generally called, our first great scholar and "the father of our English learning," wrote almost exclusively in Latin, his last work, the translation of the Gospel of John into Anglo-Saxon, having been unfortunately lost. Much to our regret, therefore, his books and the story of his gentle, heroic life must be excluded from this history of our literature. His works, over forty in number, covered the whole field of human knowledge in his day, and were so admirably written that they were widely copied as text-books, or rather manuscripts, in nearly all the monastery schools of Europe.

The work most important to us is the Ecclesiastical History of the English People. It is a fascinating history to read even now, with its curious combination of accurate scholarship and immense credulity. In all strictly historical matters Bede is a model. Every known authority on the subject, from Pliny to Gildas, was carefully considered; every learned pilgrim to Rome was commissioned by Bede to ransack the archives and to make copies of papal decrees and royal letters; and to these were added the testimony of abbots who could speak from personal knowledge of events or repeat the traditions of their several monasteries.

Side by side with this historical exactness are marvelous stories of saints and missionaries. It was an age of credulity, and miracles were in men's minds continually. The men of whom he wrote lived lives more wonderful than any romance, and their courage and gentleness made a tremendous impression on the rough, warlike people to whom they came with open hands and hearts. It is the natural way of all primitive peoples to magnify the works of their heroes, and so deeds of heroism and kindness, which were part of the daily life of the Irish missionaries, were soon transformed into the miracles of the saints. Bede believed these things, as all other men did, and records them with charming simplicity, just as he received them from bishop or abbot. Notwithstanding its errors, we owe to this work nearly all our knowledge of the eight centuries of our history following the landing of Caesar in Britain.

ALFRED (848-901)

"Every craft and every power soon grows
old and is passed over and forgotten, if it
be without wisdom.... This is now to be
said, that whilst I live I wish to live nobly,
and after life to leave to the men who come
after me a memory of good works."

So wrote the great Alfred, looking back over his heroic life. That he lived nobly none can doubt who reads the history of the greatest of Anglo-Saxon kings; and his good works include, among others, the education of half a country, the salvage of a noble native literature, and the creation of the first English prose.

LIFE AND TIMES OF ALFRED
For the history of Alfred's times, and details of the terrific struggle with the Northmen, the reader must be referred to the histories. The struggle ended with the Treaty of Wedmore, in 878, with the establishment of Alfred not only as king of Wessex, but as overlord of the whole northern country. Then the hero laid down his sword, and set himself as a little child to learn to read and write Latin, so that he might lead his people in peace as he had led them in war. It is then that Alfred began to be the heroic figure in literature that he had formerly been in the wars against the Northmen.

With the same patience and heroism that had marked the long struggle for freedom, Alfred set himself to the task of educating his people. First he gave them laws, beginning with the Ten Commandments and ending with the Golden Rule, and then established courts where laws could be faithfully administered. Safe from the Danes by land, he created a navy, almost the first of the English fleets, to drive them from the coast. Then, with peace and justice established within his borders, he sent to Europe for scholars and teachers, and set them over schools that he established. Hitherto all education had been in Latin; now he set himself the task, first, of teaching every free-born Englishman to read and write his own language, and second, of translating into English the best books for their instruction. Every poor scholar was honored at his court and was speedily set to work at teaching or translating; every wanderer bringing a book or a leaf of manuscript from the pillaged monasteries of Northumbria was sure of his reward. In this way the few fragments of native Northumbrian literature, which we have been studying, were saved to the world. Alfred and his scholars treasured the rare fragments and copied them in the West-Saxon dialect. With the exception of Caedmon's Hymn, we have hardly a single leaf from the great literature of Northumbria in the dialect in which it was first written.

WORKS OF ALFRED
Aside from his educational work, Alfred is known chiefly as a translator. After fighting his country's battles, and at a time when most men were content with military honor, he began to learn Latin, that he might translate the works that would be most helpful to his people. His important translations are four in number: Orosius's Universal History and Geography, the leading work in general history for several centuries; Bede's History, the first great historical work written on English soil; Pope Gregory's Shepherds' Book, intended especially for the clergy; and Boethius's Consolations of Philosophy, the favorite philosophical work of the Middle Ages.

More important than any translation is the English or Saxon Chronicle. This was probably at first a dry record, especially of important births and deaths in the West-Saxon kingdom. Alfred enlarged this scant record, beginning the story with Caesar's conquest. When it touches his own reign the dry chronicle becomes an interesting and connected story, the oldest history belonging to any modern nation in its own language. The record of Alfred's reign, probably by himself, is a splendid bit of writing and shows clearly his claim to a place in literature as well as in history. The Chronicle was continued after Alfred's death, and is the best monument of early English prose that is left to us. Here and there stirring songs are included in the narrative, like "The Battle of Brunanburh" and "The Battle of Maldon." The last, entered 991, seventy-five years before the Norman Conquest, is the swan song of Anglo-Saxon poetry. The Chronicle was continued for a century after the Norman Conquest, and is extremely valuable not only as a record of events but as a literary monument showing the development of English language.

Cynewulf

 Of Cynewulf, greatest of the Anglo-Saxon poets, excepting only the unknown author of Beowulf, we know very little. Indeed, it was not till 1840, more than a thousand years after his death, that even his name became known. Though he is the only one of our early poets who signed his works, the name was never plainly written, but woven into the verses in the form of secret runes, suggesting a modern charade, but more difficult of interpretation until one has found the key to the poet's signature.

Oct 15, 2011

Myth of Sisyphus: Camus

The Myth of Sisyphus   
by Albert Camus
Albert Camus takes as the starting point of this essay a familiar feeling of losing your bearings.  At times the social, intellectual, philosophical, and religious constructs that we have which give the world meaning and coherence fall away and we are plunged into confusion.  As Camus poetically describes it:

“It happens that the stage sets collapse.  Rising, streetcar, four hours in the office or the factory, meal, streetcar, four hours of work, meal, sleep, and Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday and Saturday according to the same rhythm – this path is easily followed most of the time.  But one day the “why” arises and everything begins in that weariness tinged with amazement.”

Martin Esslin: Absurd Drama

Absurd Drama - Martin Esslin

Introduction to "Absurd Drama" (Penguin Books, 1965)

'The Theatre of the Absurd' has become a catch-phrase, much used and much abused. What does it stand for? And how can such a label be justified? Perhaps it will be best to attempt to answer the second question first. There is no organised movement, no school of artists, who claim the label for themselves. A good many playwrights who have been classed under this label, when asked if they belong to the Theatre of the Absurd, will indigniantly reply that they belong to no such movement - and quite rightly so. For each of the playwrights concerned seeks to express no more and no less his own personal vision of the world.

Oct 14, 2011

Philip Roth and the politics of literary prizes

The American novelist Philip Roth has won the Man Booker International Prize, a British award handed out every other year for a writer’s entire body of work. Now, literary prizes are nothing more than a means to sell books; only fools confuse them with the recognition of literary merit. There is no shortage of fools in the Republic of Letters, however.

Kidnapped: Robert Louis Stevenson

There is a very good reason why Robert Louis Stevenson's books are still made into movies. Take, for example, the Disney animated hit Treasure Planet, which was based on Stevenson's Treasure Island. The book is just as rousing an adventure now as it was more than a hundred years ago, and has therefore been the subject of many movie adaptations and the inspiration for countless other children's novels since then.
Although somewhat lesser known, Stevenson's Kidnapped is no less timeless. Following the death of his father, David Balfour finds that he has wealthy kinsmen in a nearby town, and that his father's wish was that he would seek them out. Upon his arrival at his uncle's house, David discovers that he is unwelcome, and slowly the truth of his identity begins to unravel.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Mark Twain is often thought of as the great cynic in American literature. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is perhaps one of the most cynical of his works. In this amusing story, Twain takes an American entrepreneur from his own day and age, and thrusts him back through time to King Arthur's reign.

The Golden Age Gone Medieval: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
The novel is therefore about how a nineteen-century American--blinded by the Industrial Age and what Mark Twain himself called the Golden Age--might act if he found himself in medieval England. Mark Twain sees the Golden Age as a rabid attempt to exploit everyone and everything. And, that's exactly what Hank Morgan, also known as the Boss, does when he gets to Camelot.

Oct 13, 2011

Death & Rebirth in The Waste Land

The waste land is composed of many cities and the poem is built upon the remains of many poems. In order to give it a form and order, Eliot has taken recourse to anthropology and exploration of ancient myths. Anthropology and psychology out together have produced themost fundamental revolutions in controversary thought and belief.

“The Golden Bough” has greatlu assisted him in finding a unifying factor for his poem. In 1920s also appeared Jessie Weston’s “From Ritual to Romace” abd a reading of this could help Eliot to give shape to his intricate material. He had learnt from this book the concept of “rebirth” of the year. From the fertility myths if the rebirth of the poetency of man, the christian story of resurrection and the Grail Legend of purification.

The course sourse of all these myths lies in the fundamental rhythm of nature: the season, that of death and rebirth of the year. Such knowledge and knowledge of psychology point to the close union in all these myths of the physical and spiritual, to the fact that their symbolism is basically sexual. It indicates the fundamental relation between sex and religion.

These are surface differences only which tend to mask profound resemblances and the reslut is both a feeling and sanctions wither. The purity if the Grails Legend loses itself in the symbols of generative significance. He could shape his material when he come to read Jessie weston’s work and of the mystery of death and rebirth by the story of the kingdom where the ruler has become weak and impotent by sickness, war and old age, the land becomes the waste and the task of the hero iis to dedicate himself to the uplift of the country and the nation. He must sacrifice his whole self for the regeneration of the people and the country: “Da” standing for Datta.

Wycliff and Lollard Movment

The most famous and important of the anti-clerical agitators was John Wycliff who originally began his career as a doctor of divinity at Oxford in the 1360's and speculated on such abstruse questions as the nature of universals. He soon, however, developed strong critiques of the church and eventually assumed in the late 1370's a revolutionary stance towards the church. He rejected all church hierarchy and declared that the Christian consisted of the people who had faith but did not consist of the church hierarchy (this would eventually become the "priesthood of all believers" in Martin Luther). He rejected transubstantiation as a legitimate doctrine (the idea that the bread and wine of the Eucharist actually change into the body and blood of Christ), arguing that there is no Scriptural authority for this. He also argued that the Bible should be translated into vernacular languages, that it does no good to read from the Bible in a language that most Christians can't understand. To this end, he produced the first English Bible. 

Oct 10, 2011

Death Be Not Proud

In Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther explores the process of death: discovery, fighting, living on, and then dying. The process becomes just a little bit easier, as humor, human kindness and courage all are woven in. More than just about dying, this memoir becomes a study of living. Gunther asked himself the larger questions: "Why was Johnny being subjected to this merciless experience?" And, then he says, "suffering is an inevitable part of most lives." He wanted to believe there was some greater purpose, like the works of art that came out of Milton's blindness and Beethoven's deafness. He says, "perhaps the entire harrowing episode would make his brain even finer, subtler, and more sensitive than it was."

The Invisible Man: Ralph Ellison

There are many great writers whose reputations rest on one superlative masterpiece, whether they’ve written several works or whether they’ve produced just one unforgettable and unavoidable magnum opus. Because it’s the only book that he was able to spend any serious time on, The Great Gatsby puts F. Scott Fitzgerald in the former category, which makes readers and critics wonder what else he’d have been capable of had he not led such a chaotic life. 
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