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PRE-ROMANTICISM
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT: During the 18th century there was a growing population due to the disappearance of the plague, the more productive use of the land and the enclosures which transformed the old rural world forever. This population was used as a source of labour during industrial revolution. So the gap between rich and poor increased and the nation was divided into two main classes: the wage-payers and the wage-earners. New small towns, “mush-room towns” were constructed near the coalfields to house the workers who withstood long working hours and appaling living conditions. In fact industrial cities lacked elementary public services and workers’ life was determined by the mechanized regularity of the machine and rational division of labour; besides the wages were so low as to hardly keep them alive.
FEATURES AND THEMES: The last thirty years of the 18th century are referred to as the pre-romantic age because the new which became dominant. Reason seemed power less to correct the evil of society brought about by industrialization, so it turned into a sort of mental prison. There was a growing interest in humble and every day life in opposition to the lofty subjects of classicism and a greater attention to the country as the ideal place for meditation, away from the industrial town. Besides there was a new taste for the desolate, the love of ruins, graveyards, ancient castles abbeys, and a rediscovery of the art, architecture, legends and popular traditions of the middle ages.
Also the concept of nature changed: it was seen as a real and living being to be described as it really was. A new sensibility revealed it self in poetry: pre-romantic poets showed the tendency to use subjective, autobiographical material; so the poetry was essentially reflective. These poets reacted to the social changes taking place in the country with a sense of melancholy and sadness. Besides new sources were found in Celtic and Scandinavian legends and mythology but also in the choice of cemeteries, ruins, stormy landscapes as the setting for poems.
ROBERT BURNS: Burns was quite often impudent in his works, but also capable of lyrical emotion and pathos. His sense of nature was quite different from that of his contemporaries, since for him it was neither a distant, abstract landscape, nor the mirror of his feelings. He looked at nature with the eye of a tenant farmer, who knew hard work and suffering. His poetry appeals to ordinary people for its simplicity and immediacy, and yet it speaks of intense emotion. The theme of love is proposed again and again in the eternal game of kisses and quarrels and passions. He expresses the will to return to simplicity and to use really spoken language together with his sense of nature, show how he carries out Wordsworth’s poetical theories. Burns expressed his belief in a new social order and stressed freedom and justice as dynamic values. He was a satirist who reserved his scepticism for hypocrisy , cruelty and superstition. He employed the real language spoken by his fellow-countrymen, the Scots dialect. A red red rose: in the use of similes associates the freshness of the flower and the sweetness of the melody with the qualities of poet’s love; qualities wich appeal to his physical sense, to his sight, smell and hearing. The poem conveys not only what the girl looks like but the strength of the poet’s feelings as well.
WILLIAM BLAKE: Blake was a great mystical and visionary poet, who found himself in opposition to the prevailing beliefs and attitudes of the 18th century. He hated the rationalism and materialism of Locke and Newton, the atheism of the enlightenment philosophers, the conformity of respectable middle-class society and the realistic art and literature of the 18th century, which regarded art as “imitation”. His philosophy was a visionary exaltation of the spirit over the body, of instinct and intuition over education, and of spiritual vision over the impressions of the physical senses. Blake expressed his ideas mainly in two kinds of poems. The poems of the first type are usually short, written in simple and popular metres. Of this kind are the poems in the songs of innocence and experience, which are all short lyrical poems of great intensity. Songs of innocence dealing with childhood as the symbol of innocence, a state of the soul connected with happiness, freedom and imagination. Songs of experience express a more pessimistic view of life: experience, identified with adulthood, coexists with and completes innocence, providing another point of view on reality. The poem of the second type are long, complex and obscure works, full of arcane allegory and difficult to interpret, they are usually written in blank verse. In many ways Blake anticipates the themes of romanticism, for example, in his exaltation of art; in his social conscience and sympathy with the sufferings of the poor; in his belief that art is creative vision and in his attack on the values of the 18th century. Blake was a man who lived all the contradictions of his time, he rebelled against any form of oppression and slavery, either social, political or religious. His love for justice and democracy led him to oppose any type of institution, including church and state. He focused also his attention on the evil consequences and in justices of the industrial revolution: in his poems he sympathized with the victims of industrial society such as children and prostitutes as well as with the victims of institutional oppression such as orphans and soldiers. The possibility of progress, of achieving the knowledge of what we are, lies in the tension between opposite states of mind. The two states coexist not only in the human being but also in the figure of the creator who can be at the same time the God of love and innocence and the God of energy and violence: although deeply religious Blake was not orthodox. He denied the existence of God separated from man, since God to him was the imagination Blake dismissed materialistic science dominated by reason and always tried to discover the reality beyond the visible world. So the poet becomes a sort of prophet, whose task is to awaken his generation to the world of the imagination his poems present a very simple structure and a highly use of symbols such as the child, the father and Christ, representing the states of innocence, experience and a higher innocence. Song of innocence and experience: each one of the two sets of the collection contains from twenty to twenty-five short poems, sometimes different in form and content, but united by a common inspiration and a single design. The lamb and the tiger: on a first superficial reading the two poems may seem to evoke two real animals, each with its own features and set in its natural habitat. But it is soon clear that they hold a deeper meaning and that the lamb and the tyger are symbols open to many interpretations.
The lamb may, in fact, represent the perfect innocence of childhood, while the tyger symbolizes the evil that comes from experience. In the first poem that “childhood “ assumes a wider meaning than “infancy”, and symbolizes a state of soul which may also be present in an adult. In the second poem, the symbolism becomes even more complex, since each word should be analyzed first in itself and then in relation to those surrounding it. If the lamb represents the sweetness of Christ, the tyger represent the “other” Christ, who descended among men offering them a revolutionary and violent message of love which is hard to understand and accept. LONDON: it is one of Blake’s greatest poems, which shows his interest for social problems and industrial revolutions negative aspects. The poet wanders through the streets of London and comments on his observations. He sees despair in the faces of the people he meets and hears fear and repression in their voices. We are in the suffocating atmosphere of the city and not in the archetypal locales in which many of other songs are set. Unlike dickens here the description isn’t realistic but very symbolic and emphasizes the prevalence of the horrors the poet sees.
NURSE’SONGS: Blake wrote these two poems as companion poems linked an identical title and the same first line but soon they move in opposite directions: in fact there is a difference in the tone of both poems: one conveys a carefree approach to life, while the other examines more the advent of sexuality and a darker, much less innocent image. The nurse also changes from being the adult who is included in all of the children’s play to being an example of what not to become. Besides the children in the song of innocence have a distinct voice and exchange in dialogue with the nurse, whereas the nurse is the only speaker in the experience poem. So the contrasting elements in each poem serve as the different ways the children view life as they age.
THE ROMANTIC PERIOD: Romanticism was a European phenomenon which developed in different ways and times. It can be seen as a creative period in which the cultural view of the world had to be reconstructed or totally readjusted. In this time, several means were explored to penetrate “subconscious” and a serious concern was about the experience of childhood which was considered a temporary state, a necessary stage in the process leading to adulthood. Child was purer than an adult because he was unspoilt by civilisation so he was closer to god. For that reason childhood was a state to be admired and cultivated. During this age there was a “cult of the exotic”, of what is far away both in space and in time, and a new emphasis on the significance of the individual: the romantics saw man in the solitary state, and stressed the special qualities of each individual’s mind. In fact they exacted the atypical, the outcast, the rebel. Poetry had seen as best suited to expressing emotional experience and individual feelings. Imagination gained a primary role in the process of poetic composition because it allowed the poet to see beyond the powers of reason and to re-create and modify the external world of experience. The poet was considered a “visionary prophet” or a teacher who try to mediate between man and nature, to point out the evil of society and to give voice to the ideals of beauty, truth and freedom. The romantic poets appreciated the natural world described as a mirror of their moods and feelings. Nature was considered “a living force” but also the expression of god in the universe and a source of inspiration, comfort and joy. The English romantic poets are usually grouped into two generation: the first often called “the lake poets” included Wordsworth and Coleridge who supported the French revolution with its ideals of freedom and equality. The poets of the second generation were Byron, Shelley and John Keats, who experienced political disillusionment which is reflected in their poetry, in the clash between the ideal and real.
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH: Wordsworth was interested in the interaction between man and nature, in the influences, emotions and sensations which arise from this contact. According to W. man and nature are inseparable: man exists not outside the natural world but as an active participant in it. In fact “nature” includes both inanimate and human nature, each is a part of the same whole. It was a friend and comforter to man, the only great teacher from which, by penetrating into her divine essence, man could learn to act in a moral way: it is the seat of the spirit of the universe. W. think that the moral character develops during childhood as a result of the pleasure and pain caused by physical experiences so the three stages of the development of the mind correspond to the three ages of man: childhood, youth and adulthood. W. regarded childhood as the most important stage in man’s life. In fact what the child sees is both more imaginative and more vivid than the perceptions of the adult. Another important element in W’s poetry is memory, a major force in the process of growth of the poet’s mind, which allows W. to give poetry its life and power. Through memory, the emotion is reproduced and purified in poetic form. The power of imagination enables the poet to who shows men how to understand their feelings and improve their moral being. A certain colouring of imagination: in this preface to the second edition of lyrical ballads, he stated what the subject matter and the language of poetry should be. Poetry should deal with every day situations or incidents and with ordinary people, especially humble, rural people. Even the language should be simple, the objects mentioned homely and called by their ordinary names. W. made this choice because in low and rustic life man is more direct, nearer to his own purer passions. Therefore the poet is not a man in a Wory tower, but a man among men, writing about what interests mankind. His task is to perceive and see things which the ordinary mind was usually blind to, in fact the eyes of the soul seeing deeper than the eyes of the mind. This is possible with imagination identified with the capacity of “colouring”, that is to say of modifying the objects observed, so as to present them “in a unusual aspect”. Daffodils: the poem derives from a real poet’s experience: W. records a walk with his sister dorom in the lake district. The poem opens with the poet wondering in a state of loneliness: he is a walking in a countryside near a lake without any particular destination when he saw a large quantity of daffodils that provokes some sentiments in him. In first two lines W. compares himself to a cloud which symbolises his integration with the natural world and expresses feelings for nature through symbolic images like the dancing flowers, the lake, the breeze and the continuous stars associated with solitude which, in this poem, is a positive element. The second stanza starts with a simily: the poet shows the daffodils as a part of universal order; he compares their number with that of stars, so the finity of nature is connected with the infinity of universe.
Here the poet useses the personification, because he describes the flowers using worlds normally using for people. In the third stanza, daffodils are then compared with the waves on the lake, which also dance but not with so much joy as the flowers. The poet is gay because, being in contact with the nature, he is in a “jocund company” that give himself wealth. In the last stanza, the poet wants to underline a faculty of men, memory: he is working through memory when he returns to the beautiful vision of daffodils through the inward eye. The imagination which permits to see again what he can’t realistically see. The solitary reaper: the poet describes a “solitary highland lass” reaping and singing by herself in a field. The song of the young girl is incomprehensible to him, and what he appreciates is its tone, its expressive beauty and the mood it creates within him, the beauty that W. identified at the heart of poetry the poem’s structure is simple: the first stanza sets the scene the second offers two bird comparisons for the music, the third wonders about the content the content of the song and the fourth describes the effect of the song on the speaker.
The final two lines of the poem return its focus to the familiar theme of memory and the effect of beautiful memories on human thoughts and feelings. Tintern abbey: this poem records W’s walking tour with his sister Doroty along the route of the Wye River, which he had visited five years earlier. Tintern abbey is a development of the 18th century tradition of the meditative observation of the countryside. It can be divided into sections which shows the progression of the poet’s feelings through the different kinds of experience he has with nature. It is presented as monologue imaginatively spoken by a single speaker to himself. In the first part the poet describes what he sees: such words as “secluded”, “silence” are used to underline how no sound disturbs the calm of the moment except the “soft in land murmur” of the water. In the second part W. tells what this countryside has meant in him during his 5 year’s absence. The emotions he had felt 5 years before when he had first visited these places remained deeply impressed in his heart: they brought him “sweet sensation and tranquil restoration”. Through the power of imagination we can penetrate into the life of the things.
S.TAYLOR COLERIDGE: the small number of poems he wrote have become an essential part of English literary history. Nature plays an important part in his poems but, unlike W., Coleridge does not find happiness and consolation in it. His contemplation of nature was always accompanied by awareness of the presence of the ideal in the real. In fact he saw the material world in a sort of neo platonic interpretation, as the reflection of the perfect world of “ideas”.
C. used archaic language, connected to the old ballads, rich in alliterations, repetition and onomatopoeia. Genesys of the lyrical ballads: ( from biographia letteraria) in the first part of the passage there is a definition of the key concept of C. poetry: imagination. According to C., the imagination is divided into two types: primary and secondary. Primary imagination is the faculty by which we perceive the world around us: it works through our senses and is common to all human beings. Secondary imagination is the poetic vision, the faculty that a poet has “to idealize and unify”. For C. the imagination transcends the data of experience and “creates” in the true sense of the word. It is contrasted with fancy, which is inferior to imagination, since it is a kind of mechanical and logical faculty which enables a poet to aggregate and associate metaphors, similes and other poetical devices. In the second part there is a sort of narration of the origin of the lyrical ballads and of the cooperation between two such diverse writers as W. and C., whose different approach to poetry are underlined. The rime of the ancient mariner: this strange ballad was composed between 1798 and 1798, and first published in the lyrical ballads as the opening poem. It is the story of a crime and its punishment, told by the protagonist himself, an old mariner condemned to expiate his crime by travelling constantly from land to land telling his story and teaching, through hi example, love and reverence for all god’s creatures. The poem is divided into seven sections, each ending with a hint at the crime and each constituting a new stage in the progress from crime to punishment. Though concerned with the supernatural.
The rime is well organized in a progression of events resulting from a sequence of causes and effects and leading to an acceptable conclusion. The result was a poem in which the alternation of real and unreal elements confers a degree of credibility on the narrative, without reducing the sense of horror and supernatural mystery it conveys to the reader. What is interesting is the fact that C. makes the protagonist spectator as well as actor in the drama, so that he can recount even his worst terrors with the calm of lucid retrospection. The extraordinary events narrated and the obscure symbols they contain, leave the poem open to many interpretation. It can be read as an allegory of life, where the crew represents mankind, the albatross the pact of love that should unite all god’s creatures, and the ship a microcosm, in which the evil of a single person has repercussions on others. It also might symbolize the contrast between rationality, the power of reason and the power of the imagination, but also an allegory of the life of the soul in its passage from crime, through punishment, to redemption.
KUBLA KHAN: is one of the most famous poems by C. and has received a lot of critical attention because of the circumstances of its composition. Being in ill health, one day, he happened to have been prescribed some opium. From its effects he feel asleep in his chair while reading a book of travels on K.K. and the wonderful palace he commanded to be built. He slept for about three hours, during which time he was aware of having written more or less three hundred lines. When he awoke, he immediately set to work to write down these lines, but was interrupted by a visitor. When he resumed his work he was no able to complete the poem. The preface, which presents the work as a dream-like vision, remains important because it can be read as a kind of manifesto on the working of the poetic mind according to C.; he thought that poetry was the product of the unconscious, inducing a kind of ecstasy which could then be reproduced through memory.
JOHN KEATS: His lyrical poems are not fragments of a continual spiritual autobiography but his experience is “behind” the odes, not their substance. Moreover, the poetical personal pronoun “I” stand for a universal one. According to K., poetry should spring naturally from his inner soul, and it was not contain a message or convey a philosophical theory, but only to reproduce what own imagination suggested to him. What struck his imagination most was beauty, not the “intellectual beauty”, but that beauty which reveals itself to the senses.
Beauty, in fact, became the central theme of all K.’s poems, since it was the only consolation he found in a life of sadness besides the memory of something beautiful was to him a source of joy. Beauty could be either physical or spiritual, but these two aspects were closely interwoven: an artist can, in fact, die, but the beauty he has created lives on.
K. believed in the supreme value of the imagination which recognizes beauty in existing things, but also creates beauty. In fact a great deal of his work is a vision of what he would like human life to be like, stimulated by his own experience of pain and misery.
K. also formulated a theory of “negative capability”. The idea is that the poet has no identity; but he must have the capability to negate his own personality and thus open himself to the complex reality around him. K. identifies beauty and truth as the only type of knowledge.
It is mainly the classical Greek world that inspires K. :he turned to this distant classical world for inspiration, but he recreated and re-interpreted it through the eyes of a romantic ode on a Grecian urn : the poem is about an imaginary marble Greek urn, with figures carved in relief, probably inspired by a vase which K. saw in the British museum in London.
The ode celebrates the immortality of the urn, seen as a perfect work of art, and the immortality to be acquired through art. In the first stanza, the vision of the beauty of the urn provokes in the poet some questions: what men or Gods are these? ….
In the second stanza the poet imagines to hear sweet melodies and the addressee changed: first the piper, then a bold lover, to whom the poet expresses his belief that his love will remain beautiful forever. In the third stanza the poet expresses all his happiness: the piper will play forever but her play is every time new because he imagines the music. In the fourth stanza the poet continues to imagine the young man and the young woman will be forever perfectly happy, because they are above human passions.
Then there is the conclusion: the poet addresses the urn saying that if something is beautiful, it is also true, but it is beautiful and true forever and for every body.
THE VICTORIAN AGE
When William IV died, he was succeeded by his young niece Victorian (1837- 1901), who reigned until her death. This was the longest reign in the history of England, destined to be a period of material progress, imperial expansion and one of political and constitutional developments.
Britain came out of the Victorian era with a consolidated democracy and efficient system of government.
Queen Victoria reigned constitutionally avoiding the storm of revolution which spread all over Europe in 1848.
In this age there was a rise in population: the British had become a nation of town dwellers and most of them lived in small towns. Victorian cities worse was their massive size, their industries, and the density of their population.
The expansion of the industrial system and of international trade brought many material benefits and much wealth to the upper and middle classes. The most noticeable change was the growth of a very large lower middle class.
Instead the lives of a Victorian working people remained hard, and made a contrast to the more benefits enjoyed by their middle and upper class contemporaries.
The Victorians were great moralisers: the values they promoted reflected the world as they would have liked it to be, like the need to work hard, the faith in progress, the sense of duty .
Diligence, good time-keeping and good behaviour were rewarded, the idea of respectability distinguished the middle from the lower class. It was a mixture of both morality and hypocrisy, severity and conformity to social standards as we can see in the phenomenon of philanthropy.
In fact respectability implyed the possession of good manners, a comfortable house, regular attendance at church and charitable activity. Bourgeois ideals also dominated Victorian family life. The family was a patriarchal unit were the position of the husband was dominant. The subservience of women was clearly underlined by the enormous difficulties they faced it they didn’t respect their roles: single women with a child suffered the worst of society’s punishments.
Sexuality was repressed in its public and private forms with for example, the denunciation of nudity in art and the rejection of worlds with sexual connotation; it was, after all, an age with much contradictions and doubts.
CHARLES DICKENS: D.’s plots are well-planned even if at times they sound a bit artificial and sentimental. London was the setting of most of his novels. He showed a great knowledge of it. He gives us a minute account of British home life, of school systems, of the procedure followed in the law courts of the domestic life of lower or middle-class people, with every detail of manner appearance and dress. D. succeeded in drawing popular attention public abuses, evils and wrongs by mingling terrible descriptions of London misery and crime. D. was interested in describing the character’s habits, and language of the middle and lower, often the very lowest, classes in modern London. He was always on the side of the pour, the outcast and also the walking class. His characters may be roughty divided into good and evil. D. is not concerned with the inner side of his characters; he is an observer of the external qualities of people. He used fiction to the nounce the vices and evils of his age. Some have called him a social reformer, although he did not advocate any foundamental change in the system of Victorian’s society, or a revolutionary struggle between social classes. He tried to educate the wealthier classes to have a knowledge of their pourer neighbours. His style is fluent and effective: he is always very precise and detailed in his description of places, so as to convay images as faithfull to reality as possible, juxtaposition of images and ideas.
OLIVER TWIST: Is a child of unknown parentage, burn in a workhouse where, like the other pour children his companions, he experiences brutality and starvation. After running away to London, he falls into the hands of a gang of criminals who try to turn him into a thief. After many vicissitudes, he is finally adopted by a gentleman, while the criminals are caught and punished.
HARD TIMES: it denounces the wrongs of society and the terrible conditions of industrial workers.
DAVID COPPERLFIELD: it is his best known work full of autobiographical reminiscences. It is the story of David’ adventures as a child and as a man.
BLEAK HOUSE: it is a story against abuses and procrastinations of the law. In his story the heroine, Esther Summerson, discovers the truth about her birth.
EMILY BRONTE: she was the author of only one novel, but this novel was a masterpiece, the most poetic, mystic and romantic novel of the Victorian age. She gave a romantic voice to the Victorian novel, but the voice of a mystic romanticism, in which the poet is a link between human nature and a transcendental world.
WUTHERING HEIGHTS: In a series of flashbacks and time shifts, Brontë draws a powerful picture of the enigmatic Heathcliff, who is brought to Heights from the streets of Liverpool by Mr Earnshaw. Heathcliff is treated as Earnshaw's own children, Catherine and Hindley. After his death Heathcliff is bullied by Hindley, who loves Catherine, but she marries Edgar Linton. Heathcliff 's destructive force is unleashed, and his first victim is Catherine, who dies giving birth to a girl, another Catherine. Isabella Linton, Edgar's sister, whom he had married, flees to the south. Their son Linton and Catherine are married, but always sickly Linton dies. Hareton, Hindley's son, and the young widow became close. Increasingly isolated and alienated from daily life, Heathcliff experiences visions, and he longs for the death that will reunite him with Catherine. W.H. explores human passions at different levels. The spirit of romanticism is still present in the correspondence between the violent passions of the character and the wild natural landscape. The hero, Heathcliff is described as a sort of “Byronic Hero”, moved by irresistible passion, domed to the despair of a solitary life and finally tending to a total identity with his love Catherine. There are some gothic elements in the novel, such as the sinister atmosphere of W.H, surrounded by the wilderness, C ghost, the dreams and superstitions often mentioned. W.H. as a complex narrative structure which employs to narrators: Mr Lockwood is the outsider who simple writers down what Nelly tells him; Nelly is the second narrator, closely involved in the story. The narration does not proceed according to chronological time; it’s stars almost at the end of the story and the develops a narrative within the narrative, including the use of flashbacks. W.H. represents a unique achievement in Victorian literature and anticipates the novelists of the early 20th century in narrative technique.

THE GOTHIC NOVEL
The adjective “gothic” had three important connotations:
• medieval, related to the architectural style of the middle ages
• irregular and barbarous as opposed to classicism
• wild and supernatural, in the sense of mysterious and fearful.
The most important features of gothic novels were:
Terrifying descriptions, ancient settings, the choice of thing, the use of supernatural being, terrifying male characters, exaggerated reactions of the characters to mysterious situations or events, very complicated plots associated with mysterious elements.
The gothic symbols of the wanderer, the vampire and the overreacher reflect the wish to go beyond God, nature and human limits: they are all individualists who are not satisfied with their own society.
EDGAR ALLAN POE: He drew material for his poems from his own nightmares and allucinations. He rejected the material world and chose to explore the world of fantasy and dream, asserting that poetry was “the rhythmical creation of beauty”.
Poe was influenced by Coleridge and Byron, in spite of his decadent mannerism and artificial grotesquerie.
Although poetry remained his main interest throughout his life, it was into his tales that poet actually transferred the dualism of his complex personality. In fact in Poe’s works the world of imagination co-exists with the analytical spirit of reason.
His tales can be divided into two groups:
The “tales of ratiocination or detection”, (that exerted great influence on the development of the detective story) in which reason always triumphs and Poe goes so far as to deny the existence of the supernatural.
The “tales of imagination”, where, though using some conventional gothic elements, he went beyond the gothic tradition to write stories where the “horror” does not come from the outside , but from inside the self. The themes of Poe’s works are: cruelty, often present in the form of perverseness caused by the madness of the characters who lose contact with reality, the double and the fusion of beauty and death of creation and destruction.
ALFRED TENNISON: he expressed the Victorian’s national pride and love of order, the conventional sentimentality of the middle class, and the optimistic beliefs in the progress of mankind. But he doubted about God, nature, the meaning of life and science. What worried T. was the picture of a nature indifferent to human sufferings and the absence of a special immortal destiny for man, who according to him, was gradually evolving towards something more perfect.
As for his style he was a true Victorian, for he felt the need for balance and regularity.
ULYSSES: is a personal version of the legend of U. and it has come in part from Dante, who supplied the story, not to be found in Homer, of the last adventure of the Greek hero. U. is an overreacher who follows knowledge, at any cost, beyond the pillars of Hercules into dangerous waters. This dramatic monologue celebrates man’s obstinate attempt to give purpose to his own even if he is approaching death.
ROBERT BROWNING: he was an experimental poet and his verse seemed to open new possibilities. B. is the acknowledged master of dramatic monologue, and he explored its possibilities to the full. As matter of fact, in his monologues every detail of the setting is revealed, and the stage is peopled with round figures though only the main character has the speaking part and utters his thoughts. His chief interest is always in human psychology; his themes are music, painting, love and religion, generally set against the historical background of the Italian Renaissance, he believed in progress, but he differed from his contemporaries because of his optimistic faith in the usefulness of everything, be it good or evil, offered to men. He used rough colloquial diction and word order, unusual rhymes and hard rhythms. Prepositions are sometimes omitted, there are frequent digressions and unfinished sentences.
RED RED ROSE: what makes Porphyria’s Lover a particularly interesting poem is the detailed confession of the lover, who obsessively reports every particular of his crime. We can divided it into three parts. The first is a kind of prologue, with a description of the time of day and the weather conditions. The gloomy weather reflects the psychological lability of the man, who listens to the noises of the external storm with a similar tempest in his heart. He is waiting for Porphyria, the woman he passionately loves, but of whose love he is never sure. The second part sees Porhyria glide in, she murmurs she loves him. He knows she is too proud and at the same time too weak to exchange her glittering world for a poor life with him for ever. But now her passion prevails, and she is, for the moment, adoring and happy. The third part is devoted to the lover, to his joyful surprise and happiness when he realizes that P. does love him. In his madness, lest the possession should ever be lost, he winds her hair three times around her throat and strangles her, with P.’s dead body in his arms.
OSCAR WILDE: He adopted the aesthetic ideal, in fact he said that his life is like a work of art. The precept of “ART FOR ART’S SAKE” was for him basically a moral as well as an aesthetic imperative. This is why, in his famous preface – manifesto he stressed the integrity and coherence of the artist, who must always be “in accord with himself”, he was a rebel who uses his wit to shock but also a dandy because in spite of his uneasiness, he did not isolate himself from the world but he remained a member of his class and besides did his best to be popular and successful. For Wilde life was meant of pleasure which was an indulgence in beauty, so Wilde’s main interest were beautiful clothes, good conversation, delicious food and handsome boys.
THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY: it tells of beautiful young man, who manages to remain young and beautiful, while the signs of the passing years and dissipations appear on his portrait (which turns into the symbol of his bad life). The face in the portrait becomes so hideous that Dorian finally stabs it and himself dies. But at the moment of death, while the painting regains its original beauty, all the hidden evil is revealed on the face of Dorian, who is found dead with a knife in his heart. The point of view is third person, omniscient. Dorian is the tipical dandy who thinks man should live his life realising his wishes and his dreams. The story is profoundly allegorical. The horrible picture could be seen as a symbol of the immorality of the Victorian middle class, while Dorian with his innocent appearance is symbol of bourgeois hypocrisy. Finally the picture, restored to its original beauty, illustrates Wilde’s theories of art: the idea that there is no moralism in art, only beauty and the idea that art survives people, is eternal.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST: it is the more brilliant and unconventional drama of Wilde. The play focuses on Jack and Algernon, two young men in love with girls both determined to marry someone named earnest. It is full of frivolous and somewhat absurd situations. No moral judgment ever intrudes, but only a gente, unobtrusive satire of upper-class English people. The characters are not compromised by what others know about them but by what they discover about themselves Wilde inverts the traditional values of the serious Victorian morality, criticizing the hypocrisy of his own society, what is important to them is not what they say, but how they say it.
JOSEPH CONRAD: he thought that no English word is simply a word, but an instrument for exciting blurred emotions, offered him the ideal expression for his complex vision life, and it explains Conrad’s assertion that it was the language that adopted him, not he the language. He write about the Belgian Congo or the China Seas because these were the places he knew well and because they enabled him to isolate his characters so that their problems and inner conflicts stood out with particular force. His setting is the ship, which becomes a sort of microcosm in its isolation, or an African river, the forest, the mountain or the sea. The most obvious feature of his stories is that they deal with extreme situations and often with violence and mystery. C.’s main characters are “central” in the same way as the heroes of tragedy. They are all solitary figures, rooted in no past, committed to an uncertain future. In general they are viewed externally, through the mind of others or through their actions. Conrad’s impersonal approach leaves the reader to decide for himself, and also shows him the relativism of moral values. He found chronological sequence inadequate, and preferred using of time shifts to create the illusion of life being lived all at once by a great number of very different people. The dialogue is idiomatic, characterized by question and exclamation marks.
HEART OF DARKNESS: The novel is based on Conrad’s personal experience of a voyage as a riverboat pilot on the Congo in 1889-1890; but it is at the same time a spiritual voyage into a knowledge of the inner self. The narrator is Marlow who, on board the “Nellie” anchored in the Thames, tells the four other men sitting with him on the deck of the ship of an upsetting experience he had had years before. As captain of a little steamer, he sailed up and down the Congo, visiting trading posts of an any ivory company. At one of these posts, in an environment of greed and degeneration, one day he heard of a Mr. Kurtz, a mysterious ivory trader strangely adored but also feared by some tribes. Before leaving Europe for Africa, Kurtz was a gifted man, rich in ideals, believing in civilization and progress; but in the heart of Africa, in complete isolation, he is defeated by the dark power of the wilderness. He enslaves the natives, he commits all sorts of crimes, driven by ambition and the lust for power. When Marlow finally meets him, Kurtz is a “hollow man”, little more than a voice, at the moment of death, however, he discovers the truth about his emptiness, his moral degeneration. The novel presents a series of stories, one embedded within the other: Marlow’s narration encloses Kurtz’s story of his exploits; it is “a story within a story within a story”. The complex structure of the novel. Psychological realism is reinforced by the language which is characterized by idiomatic speech, by irony, and often by Marlow’s difficulty in explaining his experiences. The novel is rich in imagery and symbolism. It is interesting to notice that the traditional meaning of light and darkness, given by the frame-narrator, is gradually subverted: as Marlow penetrates into the darkness of Africa, black acquires positive connotations. It is the colour of the jungle, of a primitive, noble environment and of its people. White, instead, is associated with the negative aspects of colonialism: violence, exploitation, hypocrisy, indifference. Marlow’s journey is first of all geographical discovery. However, Conrad’s story is also a journey into the self: can be interpreted as the quest of the mythic hero. The modernity of the novel lies in the impossibility of penetrating the surface of reality in any meaningful way.
WAR POETS: With the term war poets we point out a number of english poets who were soldiers and who wrote about their experiences of war. The most famous are: Rupert Brooke, Isaac Rosenberg, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, the only who survived.
In the early months of the great war, most of them regarded the conflict as an adventure undertaken for noble ends, in a sort of romantic exaltation, supported by propaganda and by a deep sense of patriotic duty.
But this enthusiasm and idealism were eventually replaced by disillusionment and psychological breakdown. Confronted with the actual face of warfare, the poets turned to a more realistic sort of poetry, describing the horror of battles and hell’s life in the trenches because of the rain and mud, the repeated bombings and the use of poison gas.
What is interesting about these poets is the fact that they were not writing from “without” but from “within” the war, inspired by their own experiences.
Rupert Brooke : he wrote his war sonnets, in which he presented the idea that war is clean and cleansing, in which the only thing that can suffer is the body and death is exactated as noble sacrifice. He expressed idealistic patriotism also because he didn’t live the horrors of trench warfare. Besides his good-looking and his legendary death, turned him into the symbol of the “young romantic hero”.
Siegfried Sassoon: his reaction to the realities of the war was the more bitter and violent, he wrote satirical anti-war poems, full of disgust and hatred of war, and shocking and realistic detail which recreated the physical horror of the conflict.
Wilfred Owen : he is now considered the most important of the war poets. His poems, unlike those of Sassoon, expressed “positive emotion” like compassion or admiration, and a moral force which make them applicable to any situation in which people must suffer and die.
In particular he had an attention for men who have gone mad or who were clinically alive even if their bodies have been destroyed.
Isaac Rosenberg: his poetry is more intimate and symbolic than that of other war poets, full of apocalyptic visions and less concerned with the pity of things.
THOMAS STEARNS ELIOT: Eliot was at the same time “the most modern and the most traditional, the most influential and the most influenced of poets”. In fact he revalued the importance of tradition since, he said, past and present coexist in man and the past is an active of the present. A poet should turn to the past and write a sort of universal poetry.
This is why Eliot’s poetry is so rich in quotations from works of European literary tradition and in references to ancient rituals, mythical events and religious allusions. In particular Eliot praised Dante for his “clear visual images” and the “lucidity” of his style. But for Eliot poetry is an instrument to express not the poet’s own sentiments, but other people’s feelings so he advocated the complete objective impersonality and privileged dramatic monologues and dialogues or interior monologues, for that reason Eliot adopted the technique of juxtaposition: squalid elements are juxtaposed with poetic ones, trivial elements with sublime ones. Finally Eliot thought that poetry had to change and find new expressions to describe the emptiness, pessimism, degradation and complexity of the contemporary world. His works can be divided into two periods: before and after his conversion to Anglicanism. The works of the first period are characterised by a pessimistic vision of the world, in which there are spiritual aridity and lack of love, without any hope or values (the love song of J. Alfred Prufrock, the waste land). The works of the second period instead are characterised by the themes of purification, hope and joy ( the journey of the Magi, and four quartets).
THE LOVE SONG OF J. ALFRED PRUFROCK: it deals with spiritually exhausted people who exist in the impersonal modern city. Prufrock is a representative character who cannot reconcile his thoughts and understanding with his feelings and will. In fact all the characters are passive and aimless. They perceive the world around them but they are powerless to act. In particular the speaker of this ironic monologue is a modern urban man who feels isolated and incapable of decisive action. Irony is apparent from the title, for this is not a conventional love song: Prufrock would like to declare his love to a woman but he does not dare. The poem opens with a quoted passage from Dante’s inferno suggesting that Prufrock is one of the damned and that he speaks only because he is sure no one will listen. For many readers in the 1920s, Prufrock seemed to epitomize the frustration and impotence of the modern individual.
THE WASTE LAND: it is the most significant and original poem written by Eliot with the decisive intervention of Ezra pound who gave advice and suggested cuts. The poem is an hallucinating description of a vast “waste” landscape, both physical and symbolic, in which myth and reality overlap. In this poem present and past exist simultaneously and the continuous shifts of time and space are caused by the free associations of ideas and thoughts as in Ulysses by Joyce. Eliot wants to go back to myths and legends of the past, which he considered very important even if they have lost their importance. He tried to found in all myths their meanings, what is usefull for modern man. There is no plot in the poem but only a sequence of images, sometimes ambiguous, apparently unconnected and open to various interpretations but linked to each other by the technique of ” associations of ideas”. The poem is divided into five sections of various length: the burial of the dead, a game of chess, the five sermon, death by water, and what the thunder said. The style is fragmentary because of the mixture of different poetic styles, such as blank verse, the ode, the quatrain, the heroic couplet and free verse thus reproducing the chaos of present civilisation.
THE JOURNEY OF THE MAGI: it is not simply a recreation of biblical story but it symbolises the beginning of a process of inner awareness towards a transformation and a regeneration.
THE FOUR QUARTETS: it is a sequence of four compositions ( burnt Norton, east Coker, the dry salveges and little Giddin) that Eliot collected and republished in book form in 1943. Each quartet is dived into five parts, alternating lyricism and conversational style. Although they resist easy characterization, they have many things in common, in fact each meditates on the nature of time in some important respect and each is associated with one of the four classical elements: air, earth, water and fire. The poem is a complex work that focuses on the single main theme of time and eternity, convey in a “mystical” view of life: man must learn to disregard the temporal and look beyond this life to eternity.

JAMES JOYCE: Joyce is a modernist writer. In his works he tried to give a realistic portrait of the life of ordinary Dubliners, representing, thus, the whole of man’s mental, emotional and biological reality and fused it whit the reality of the natural world around him. Through his works we can notice a sort of rebellion against the church that is, in reality, the struggle between an aesthete- heretic artist and a provincial church which had taken possession of Irish minds. But what it is interesting and original in Joyce is that the facts become confused, they are explored from different points of view. Simultaneously and are presented as “clues” and not through an omniscient narrator.
In fact Joyce thought that the artist ought to be “invisible” in his works in the sense that he must not express the thoughts and experiences of other men. Joyce advocated the total objectivity of the artist and his independence from all moral, religious or political pressures. Besides Joyce’s stories and novels opens in medias res with the analysis of a particular moment because time is not perceived as objective but as subjective. Joyce was able to penetrate into the conscious ness of his characters and express their thought and feelings through the use of free direct speech and epiphany, a peculiar technique that is sudden spiritual manifestation caused by an external object or a banal situation that lead a character to a sudden self-realisation. Joyce’s language breaks down into a succession of words without punctuation or grammar connections and reality becomes the place of our psychological projections or our symbolical archetypes.
THE DUBLINERS: it is a collection of fifteen short stories which were meant to be a frank and satirical portrait of the Irish middle classes living in and around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century. The stories disclose human situations, moments of intensity and move to a moral, social, or spiritual revelation. In fact through them Joyce reveals the historical, social and psychological forces that conditioned the life of Dubliners leading them to a moral and psychological paralysis. The stories are arranged into four group: the first deal with childhood and youth in Dublin, the others concern the middle years of characters and their social , political or religious affairs. The paralysis of Dublin is both physical, resulting from external forces, and moral, linked to religion, politics and culture. Joyce’s Dubliners accept their conditions, because they are not aware of it or they lack the courage to free themselves. They are spiritually weak and tearful often slaves of their familiar, moral, cultural, religious and political life. They are also paralysed in their relationships with others and with the world. Another important theme is the “escape”, which is the opposite of paralysis, linked to its consequent failure. The abundance of external details makes the style of Dubliners realistic; but these details often have a deeper meaning. Each story is told from the perspective o a character in the form of free direct speech. So the linguistic register is varied since the language used in all the stories suits the age, the social class and the role of the characters.
THE ULYSSES: It is an immense, complex work that takes as its material a single day, June 16 1904, in the life of three Dubliners and it is divided into three corresponding parts( “telemachiad”, “odyssey” and “nostos”). The central character in the first part is Stephen Dedalus a young ma with intellectual ambition who represents Ulysses’ son Telemachus. The second part of Ulysses is dominated by the figure of Leopold Bloom, a middle aged man, who wanders around Dublin as Ulysses wandered around the Mediterranean.
The third part is dominated by his wife, Molly bloom, who corresponds to Ulysses’ wife, Penelope.
Through the events of the day, Joyce has tried to suggest the whole range of human experience, both realistically and symbolically. Joyce’s Ulysses was a new form of prose based “mythical method” which allowed the author to make a parallel with the odyssey. In fact Homer’s myth was used to give the actions of Dubliners another dimension and to express the universal in the particular. The theme of the novel is moral: human life means suffering and failing but also struggling to rise. The technique Joyce adopts is to present a sequence of thoughts and feelings as they crop up, in the individual mind, uncensored by rational control. So the language used is rich in puns, images, contrasts, paradoxes, juxtapositions, interruptions, false clues and symbols but also foreign words, literary quotations and allusions.

ALDOUS HUXLEY: his works can be divided in three phases, progressing from a purely aesthetic interest, through a politico-ethical commitment regarding scientific progress and the negative aspects of modern civilisation, to a predominantly religious point of view.
In the works of the first phase Huxley expressed his refusal to accept the “modern civilisation”, its mechanisation and corrupted rationalism. These novels mock the intellectual mood of the 1920s and express H’s bitterly satirical attitude, his pessimism and scepticism.
While the novels of the first phase could be defined “novels of ideas”, those of the second phase, instead, “novels of exploration” like the anti- utopian novel brave new world. In these works Huxley expressed his concern about the humanistic dream of a well-regulated society, where the democratic synthesis between equality and freedom might be replaced by the psychological contrast between equality and happiness. In the third phase of H. literary production seems that his pessimism as regards the future of modern man has led him to explore metaphysics and mysticism.
Finally we can say that, although this division, in all Huxley’s works the main themes expressed are: the effects of scientific progress on the individual, the conception of mass conformism and the danger of any sort of totalitarianism and authoritarianism. Huxley’s language is highly ironic and allusive, rich in references, quotations and specific words drawn from various fields of culture.
(THE) BRAVE NEW WORLD: It is generally regarded as Huxley’s most significant work. It is a study of life in the distant future, in a technologically perfect and paternalistic world-state. The novel deals with a sort of new world setting in a. f.(after ford) 632 (a.d.2540). the plot is simple: after nine years of terrible wars a new world has been created, where the state controls everything, in fact private property has been abolished. People are classified and selected according to their future role in society; besides they are artificially produced in conditioning centres where they are brainwashed into a happy state. As a result, nobody complains or is dissatisfied and any problems are solved by (eating) a synthetic drug, soma. However there is a place where people continue to live naturally. It is the “wild reservation” in new Mexico, in which children are born, grow up, have desires, fall in love marry and die. In this novel, whose title is taken from Shakespeare’s the tempest, Huxley describes a futuristic society that has alarming effect of dehumanization: the government controls every stage of people development, from embryo to maturity and can condition each person to accept his role in the world around him. This creates a society full of human clones, completely devoid or personality. The main character, John, is a “natural man”. At first he is attracted by the new world, but later, disgusted by almost everything he has seen in the Fordian society, starts a riot. I the end John becomes a victim of scientific experiments and finally he commits suicide. His death symbolises H.’s pessimistic vision about the future of western civilisation. This novel is deeply pessimistic and even alarmist in tone, but also clever, packed with a large quantity of fairly authentic scientific information. The tone used is ironic, allusive, full of references quotations and flashbacks.
GEORGE ORWELL: He was one of the most remarkable writers of the 20th century. He choiced social themes and used a realist and factual language. He often conveyed a vision of human misery caused by poverty and deprivation and insisted on tolerance, justice and decency in human relationship warninct against the artificiality of urban civilization. Above all he presented a critique of totalitarianism, warning against the violation of liberty and all forms of tyranny. Orweell’s works are also characterized by the unresolved conflict between his bourgeois background and education and his emotional identification with the working class. This is why subjective feelings pervade the critical and documentary work and his most successful novels express political themes.
However Orwell believed that the writer have the responsibility to observe and record his age, for that reason he should be independent, free from the party line.
THE ROAD TO WIGAN PIER: it is a study of the conditions of life among the working classes in the north of England, at a time of economic depression. The book can be divided into two parts: the first part is a series of essays dealing with the conditions of the miners; the second part reveals the Orwell’s attitude to socialism. What is interesting is the sense of participation, immediacy and honesty in Orwell’s approach: he argued that socialism is not an economic creed but a philosophy of life, so it must be seen in terms of justice, liberty and decency , not Marxist slogans. The narrator don’t present himself but there is simply an anonymous “I” describing the squalor of industrial setting. There is an attention for details and the effects of amplification, besides the frequent use of vivid similes, metaphors and the striking phrase.
THE NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR: It is a anti-utopian novel about the society of the future. Orwell imagines Britain in the future as a totalitarian dictatorship with omniscient police-state and based on terror. The ruler is known as “big brother”, at home, every citizen is spied on by a telecamera and the “thought police” may punish voluntary or involuntary inpringements of the totalitarian system. The novel is divided in three parts which present the story of Winston Smith, an “intellectual” and a member of the party, who eventually rebels against this degrading work. He joins a secret society plotting against tolitarianism, but in the end the thought police arrest him and he is brainwashed into conformity again. In this kind of world there isn’t place for the individual every aspect is subordinated to the state, and communication, propaganda, language, history and thought are controlled by the party. The impression of nineteen eighty-four is a sense of loss of feelings, beauty, truth and all the finer emotions and values. Orwell combined various genres and styles in an original way: realism, parody and satire. The novel reveals the author’s acute sense of history and his sympathy with people persecuted and murdered in the name of totalitarian ideologies.
WILLIAM GOLDING: He had little to do with other literary movements in England or else where, choosing rather to follow his own ideas and express his concern with violence and illusion, and in his experiments with novel technique.
Golding provides an analysis of what is permanent in human nature, looking at man in relation to his cosmic situation. He insists on the spiritual and his view of man is essentially religious, full of mystery and darkness; so his world is often remote and dreadful. Golding tries in his works, to create a structure that serves as an emblem of the spiritual life in order to help man to survive. So he uses two narrative moments and two different perspectives of the same situation.
Golding writes in an apparently realistic style on a theme that is essentially a metaphysical allegory. The language is quite varied, it ranges from colloquial speech to slang, and it is rich in imagery, metaphors, similes, symbols and personifications.
LORD OF THE FLIES: It is Golding’s most important novel, which contains an attack on the liberal optimism of the 20th century. Set during world war II, the story describes the plight of a group of British schoolboys evacuated from an atomic war land up on a pacific island after their plane crash. At first the children enjoy their freedom and consider the island a sort of paradise. They choose Ralph as their leader and agree to keep a fire burning, to hold assemblies by blowing a conch and to respect the rules of a democratic community. Yet almost immediately the society disintegrates in part under two pressures, aggression and superstition, but mainly through their inner corruption.
So they gradually revert to a state of savagery. They divide themselves into two groups ruled respectively by Ralph and by Jack, who creates a warrior caste of hunters. At Ralph’s side remain only Piggy, physically unattractive but intelligent, and Simon, a young boy possessed of a strange power of insight and spiritual courage. One night, unseen by the children, a parachutist, killed in aerial combat, falls onto the mountains and is eventually mistaken by the boys for a “beast”.
Only Simon, during one of his solitary trips, discovers the truth. Then he return to the beach to inform his friends that there is actually no “beast”, but in the dark, he is mistaken for the “beast” itself and killed. Piggy also is eventually killed and Ralph is only saved from similar death by the arrival of “civilisation” in the form of an English naval officer from a cruiser.
The novel ends with the pathetic image of Ralph crying for “the end of innocence and the darkness of man’s hearth”. All the characters exist on two levels: as individuals and as symbols of aspects of human nature. Ralph stands for reason, democracy and civilisation.
Jack, Ralph’s antagonist, represent savagery, violence, instinct and the aggressive force of evil. Piggy, Ralph’s most loyal supporter, is the voice of rationalism and low. He is the only who believes in the values of civilisation. His death symbolizes the triumph of Jack’s irrationality and evil over rationality. Simon symbolizes the power of insight and of spiritual courage: he is the only one of the boys who comes close enough to understand what they fear. Finally the fire becomes the symbol of destruction, while a white shining conch, used to call assembly, stands for democracy.
About the structure, we can notice that, in the first part, the story is seen from the point of view of the protagonist, Ralph, in the last part, events are told from the naval officer’s point of view.
Golding’s language is, at the same time, abstract, symbolic and concrete.
SYLVIA PLATH: Daddy: the following poem was written on 12 October 1962,in the year before Sylvia Plath committed suicide, and was published in 1963 in the collection Ariel. Daddy, the most terrible of her “confessional poems”, in which the poet deals with two crucial male figures in her life: her father, who died when she was eight, and her husband, who abandoned he shortly before her death. In Daddy she represents the dominant, savage male figure as a Nazi and herself as a Jew. Her father, though of German originy, was certainly not a Nazi and Plath herself had no Jewish blood; through the “public” history of the Holocaust, however, she finds expression for her private history of pain and love connected with male dominance, a theme that has led to Plath’s “adoption” by American feminists.
POPPIES IN OCTOBER: the speaker is striked by the splendour of the red poppies on a frosty October morning. The unexpected gift of nature arouses by contrast images of death and deterioration dormant in her mind. These visions are deeply personal and take shape through startling image which derive from her own experiences, feelings and thoughts.
TED HUGHES: He is one of those writers who cannot be classified according to any of the literary currents that have developed since the fifties. His imagination is influenced by the first world war which is the subject of some poems.
Hughes rejected the simple poetry embodied by Larkin and chose verses centred on the rough and violent life of animals as well as men, besides me, especially in his early works, revealed a continuing preoccupation, a sense of inner tensions. All animals are described from within, not without, and, in their perfect adaptation to their environment, they generally prevail over man, since they are pure instinct and have no conscience or rational thinking capacity.
Their acts of animal violence are not identified with any specific historical or social reality, but are perceived as universal, natural forces.
According Hughes nature is not a refuge from the corrupted, civilised world of industrialism but a violent background reflecting the violence of modern life.
Any from of violence, described as a natural instinct, evokes the bigger energy should be controlled by religion, but as Christianity is disintegrating so fast man must creates or ri-creates new beliefs and “myths”.
Other important themes are: the war, with its tragic implications, the death, often violent but also heroic, the universe, chaotic and totally indifferent to man’s lot, the love, presented as a physical vital force, man’s sterility, because his lack of vital energy and finally the search of identity, which seems to be the sad condition of modern man.
According to Hughes, man has neglected his inner world of feelings, instinct, imagination, separating himself from the universal energy. Therefore the poet’s task is to solve the conflict between instinct and rationality by going back to primeval myths, which he can recreate through the use of symbols and imagination, the creative and divine faculty without which humanity cannot really exist.
Hughes’s poems are not restrained within fixed forms or metrical rhythms. They are rich in imagery, symbols, hyperbole and exaggerations and marked by energy and sometimes even excessive vitality but even if his cater ones are characterised by a more controlled and less exuberant style.
HAWK ROOSTING: the poem comes from the collection of Lupercal (1960). It is the poem that best exemplifies what Hughes feels about animals and what he means by “elemental energy”. It is also provides an example of his particular technique and ability.
From the beginning Hughes recreates the Hawk’s state of mind for us: the bird, in fact, is described from within. The language the poet provides the hawk with, though all human attributes, do not humanize the bird, which is instead shown in all its animal essence. In fact it has no scruples about revealing its cruel, arrogant and domineering nature, and does not try to hide it in some “falsifying dreams”
It controls all the universe, which seems to have been created for his own sake; actually the hawk sees itself as a sort of God, at whose command the whole of creation “revolves”.
In fact, in the final stanza, the hawk expresses the eternity of its own being: nothing has changed since it was created and nothing will change in the future, since is the arbiter of its world.
The hawk can be seen as a symbol of man’s cruelty or as a metaphor for violence and tyranny, but its cruelty and violence are a part of that natural world that allows the bird to be what it is.
So it is indeed the symbol of nature which has nothing to do with morality, compassion or justice and which makes man feel more powerless and limited.
18 RUGBY STREET: the following poem belongs to Ted H.’s last work. This is the first time that the poet has given his personal account of his first meeting with the American poetess Sylvia Plath.
PERFECT LIGHT: based on 1962 photo of Plath in a field of daffodils holding their two children, “perfect light” describes the physical scene and ends with an ominous metaphor suggesting the mother’s inescapable fate. With atypical softness and sentimentality, H. addresses Plath directly as the “you” in the poem, portraying her in angelic terms and comparing her innocence to that of children, before concluding that such a blissful moment was doomed to fade into a “perfect light”.

CHINUA ACHEBE:
Things Fall Apart: it is an early narrative about the European colonization of Africa told from the point of view of the colonized people. Published in 1958, the novel recounts the life of the warrior and village hero Okonkwo, and describes the arrival of white missionaries to his Igbo village and their impact on African life and society at the end of the nineteenth century. Through his writing, Achebe counters images of African societies and peoples as they are represented within the Western literary tradition and reclaims his own and his people's history.
The themes is double: the personal tragedy of Okonkwo, and the public one of the eclipse of one culture by another. Achebe’s artistic commitment is to communicate the essence and the values of the traditional native way of life, but he must use the tools of the alien invader, form and language, to createthis vision of life.

HAROLD PINTER:Although Pinter tried his hand at poetry, he wrote also for the stage, the radio and television as well.
His plays start always from a common place situation which gradually becomes full of mystery and fear with the introduction of symbolic or even supernatural elements. His characters are afraid they may be driven from their refuges by the arrival of an intruder who upsets the balance of their life.
The result can be blindness, madness and sometimes death. Pinter’s plays belong essentially to the theatre of the absurd and contained some recurrent themes: the menace, the room, the intruder, the blindness, the inability to communicate and the solitude, mainly caused by the character’s failure of communication. The menace, is a very important element in Pinter’s plays (which have also been called “comedies of menace”) and it can be a physical violence, a problem set by the outside world.
The room symbolizes a sort of womb protecting from the outer world but also a status symbol or a kind of prison. The intruder is a person or a thing which disturbs tranquillity and brings about tension, fear, chaos and sometimes violence. Finally the blindness may stand for inadequacy, fear of life and death. At the centre of Pinter’s plays is the existential meaninglessness of life, in fact characters’ actions are inconsistent and their statements contradictory.
His plays do not follow a logical pattern, besides the audience is not given any information about the character’s past, their social background or they physical appearance. Thus the author does not give a solution to the mystery, nor does he expect his audience to solve it. Pinter never destroys the normal syntactic structure of the sentences but manages to create ambiguity through the character’s answers, the imprecision of their memories and the contradictions of their statements. His dialogues borrow from everyday life a realistic language as close as possible to actual spoken language, with syntactic mistakes and repetitions. Silence is an essential part which Pinter divides into two types: one when no word is spoken, the other when a character speaks fluently. In conclusion, we can say that Pinter’s ability is above all that to turn ordinary lower-class people and events into a poetic vision of universal validity.
A SLIGHT ACHE: it is one-act play centred around a middle-class couple, Edward and Flora. The play starts with a commonplace situation: the two characters having breakfast and talking about flowers, wasps and the slight ache which Edward feels in his eyes. Their conversation then shifts to the mysterious match-seller who has been standing by their back-gate for many weeks. Somehow his presence intimidates them, particularly Edward, whose ache becomes aggravated as they discuss who the match-seller may really be and they resolve to call him in for a direct confrontation.
Flora goes out to invite him to come into the house, and when he appears he proves to be an old man so feeble that it is doubtful whether he can see or hear. So Edward’s attempt at conversation turns into a nervous monologue which exposes the weakness of the speaker.
The effect of the match-seller’s silence on Flora is different: she is attracted to him and, in the end, she hands Edward the match-seller’s tray and leaves the room with the old man. This play contains many typical features of Pinter’s works: the arrival of a mysterious intruder, the symbol of blindness which may stand for loss of identity and final disintegration, the existential problems of love, fear, solitude, incommunicability and the atmosphere of mystery and ambiguity.
But in this play the real menace does not seem to be outside but inside the individual, in fact the match-seller is meant as a sort of mirror reflecting the different sides of characters’ personalities. The play shows how Pinter knows the absurdities of middle-class speech and also his careful attention for the dramatic potentials of silence.
THE ROOM: it is the first play written by P.. It takes place in run-down buildings claiming to be a “boarding house” which become the scene of a visitation by apparent strangers. After one of the two main characters, Rose Hudd, is visited by a young couple, Mr. and Mrs, Sands, who are looking for a flat, a blind black man, named Riley, who has been waiting in the basement, suddenly arrives upstairs to Rose’s room, to deliver a mysterious message to Rose. The play ends in violence
after
Rose’s husband, Bert, returns.

JEROME DAVID SALINGER:
THE CATCHER IN THE RYE: the narrator of his novel is an unhappy and sensitive sixteen-year-old American boy, Holden Caulfield. He talks about his last day at school, from which he has been expelled because of his bad marks, and the few days he spends in New York. He tries to come to terms with his dissatisfaction with the middle-class values and the model of success his older brother, a Hollywood scriptwriter, represents. Feeling more and more depressed he goes back home where his little sister, Phoebe, saves him from despair. They dream of a simple country life together. Holden is intelligent, but also sensitive and vulnerable so that he struggles against the society which he considers extremely false, corrupt, hypocritical, in other words “phoney”, and looks for authentic values and true friends. However, a rebel after his escape he expresses his wish to become “a catcher in the rye”, that is, somebody who catches children, playing in a field of rye on the edge of a cliff, and prevents them from falling over; this ”catcher” has often been interpreted as Holden’s projection of his ideal father figure. Holden adopts a conversational style; he uses slang words, like “gonna” swear words, hyperbole, and meaning-less expressions.

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  1. Francesca

    Sto cercando degli appunti di inglese per il compito in lingua Sostengo l'esame di letteratura ionglese Università Bologna


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