Wednesday, August 5, 2009


The Rise of English

15-16 During 18C, and by the Romantic period (19C), lit began to refer only to imaginitive works.

17 Utilitarianism and early industrial capitalism are dominant in England. State reacts to working class protests with “brutal political repressiveness”. The literary work is seen as spontaneous and creative, unlike society, and ‘poetry’ as an idea has political force.

18 But the creative artist and his ideals were isolated from society, and it was only at the time of William Morris “that the gap between poetic vision and political practice was significantly narrowed”.

18 Art/lit past and present began to be seen as an unchanging object, the ‘aesthetic’, ‘art’, no purpose but an end in itself above ordinary life.

19 The Symbol was at the centre of aesthetic theory at turn of 18C. Conflicts in ordinary life were resolved within it, away from the middle-class’s crass empiricism. It was irrational and couldn’t be explained — you saw it or you didn’t — and it brought together the concrete and universal, motion and stillness. [Examples of what this means would have been good.]

21 By mid-Victorian period religion was ceasing to be the unifying and pacifying form it had been. Eng lit was seen as something that could “heal the State”. Matthew Arnold saw the middle class as harsh and unintelligent and unable to lead and educate the working class in order to prevent anarchy. They needed to be shown “the best culture of their nation”.

22-4 Lit could impart universal ideals, putting its readers’ “petty” concerns in perspective, and let them experience lives they couldn’t afford. Arnold, Henry James and FR Leavis are exponents of the idea that lit is an imparter of morality — or “is moral ideology for the modern age”.

24-26 Eng lit was seen as feminine and an amatuerish subject Oxbridge tried to avoid, but also a way of promoting English values in an imperial age. WW I created a “spiritual hungering” and Eng lit provided the answer.

26-27 Eng lit was transformed at Cambridge after WW I under FR Leavis, QR Leavis and IA Richards, as the offspring of the provincial petty bourgeoisie entered universities for the first time. Leavises launched Scrutiny in 1932 and Eng lit became the important subject and established how it is discussed today.

29-30 Scrutiny was “the focus of a moral and cultural crusade”. But it didn’t seek to change (apart from through education) mechanized society and its withered culture, just to withstand it. Closely reading lit would not turn Eng into an organic and moral country. They disapproved of those who didn’t have their knowledge. But if lit made you better how, after WW II, to explain away educated Nazis? Scrutiny became an isolated elite.

31-2 “Organic societies are just convenient myths for belabouring the mechanized life of modern industrial capitalism.” The organic society lived on in good lit for the Leavisites, “rich, complex, sensuous and particular”. “Dramatically concrete” writers like Donne and Hopkins manifested the essence of Englishness unlike the “latinate or verbally disembodied” Milton and Shelley.

33 In 1915 TS Eliot came to London from St Louis and

began to carry out a wholesale salvage and demolition job on [England’s] literary traditions. The Metaphysical poets and Jacobean dramatists were suddenly upgraded; Milton and the Romantics were rudely toppled; selected European products, including the French Symbolists, were imported.

He thought Eng lit was on the right track in early 17C but “language drifted loose from experience” resulting in the “literary disaster” of Milton.

34 Liberalism, Romanticism, protestantism, economic individualism were perverted dogmas and a right-wing authoritarianism was Eliot’s solution. Literary works were only acceptable if they were part of the Tradition, or the “European mind”, which was a largely arbitrary definition.

35 “Poetry was not to engage the reader’s mind: it did not really matter what it actually meant.” “A language closely wedded to experience.” Meaning was just to distract the reader while the poem worked on him “in more physical and unconcsious ways”. Maybe there are deep roots that poetry can reach, going beyond history and the crisis of European society.

36 Eliot’s ideas about the need for language to become more primal was shared by Ezra Pound, TE Hulme and the Imagist movement. Middle class liberalism was finished — like Eliot, they were more right wing.

37-8 Leavis is associated with “practical criticism” (assessing the qualities of passages and ignoring historical context) and “close reading”.

38-40 Cambridge critic IA Richards was a major link between Leavis and the American New Criticism. He thought that modern science was the model of true knowledge [unlike Leavis’s technophobia] but that poetry was needed to balance the human psyche, something religion could no longer do.

40-42 New Criticism, 1930s-50s: Eliot, Richards, maybe Leavis and Empson, with American movement of John Crowe Ransom, WK Wimsatt, Cleanth Brooks, Allen Tate, Monroe Beardsley and RP Blackmur. Roots in a US South that was being industrialised. A poem was internally coherent but not cut off from reality; reality was somehow included within it making the poem a self-sufficient object in itself. New Critics broke with the Great Man theory (works are ways to access the author’s soul): “the poem meant what it meant, regardless of the poet’s intentions or the subjective feelings the reader derived from it”.

42-43 New Critical methods offered a method of dissecting poetry. These critical instruments were a way of competing with hard sciences on their own terms and by 1940s and 1950s New Criticism was part of the Establishment, perfectly natural.

44-46 Empson seems like a New Critic because of his analysis and unravelling of meaning but he has an old-fashioned liberal rationalism. Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930), Some Versions of Pastoral (1935), The Structure of Complex Words (1951), Milton’s God (1961). He treats poetry as something that can be paraphrased, and takes into account what the author probably meant. The reader brings social context and assumptions to the work.


Shru Rao said...

Hey, give a label for this's hard to find it other wise.....and II think we should reduce the number of labels....and put everything un lit. theory, then industrial and so's easier that way.....just a thought....

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