您的位置:自考365 > 复习指导 > 笔记串讲 > 文学 > 自考《英美文学选读》(美)现代文学时期(4)

自考《英美文学选读》(美)现代文学时期(4)

2006-12-31 13:08   【 】【我要纠错

  Ⅲ。 Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953)

  Eugene O'Neill is unquestionably America's greatest playwright. He won the Pulitzer Prize four times and was the only dramatist ever to win a Nobel Prize (1936)。 He is widely acclaimed "founder of the American drama."

  一。 一般识记

  His life and writing career: O'Neill was born in New York on October 16, 1888 into a theatrical family. He grew up in New London, Connecticut, and spent his early years with his parents on theatrica1 road tours. He received university education for one year and later traveled all over the world. He avidly read up on dramatic literature, and cultivated an interest in play writing. In 1914, he attended Professor George Pierce Baker's drama workshop at Harvard, where his career as a dramatist began. Since then, O'Neill had been wholly dedicated to the mission as a dramatist.

  二。 识记

  His major plays: During all his career as a dramatist, O'Neill wrote and pub-

  lished about forty-nine plays altogether of various lengths. He wrote some one-act melodramatic plays at first, including Bound East for Cardiff (1916), which describes the dying sailor Yank and his dream about the security and peace which could never exist. O'Neill's first full-length play, Beyond the Horizon, made a great hit and won him the first Pulitzer Prize. Its theme is the choice between life and death, the interaction of subjective and objective factors, and this theme is dramatized more explicitly in The Straw (1921) and Anna Christie (1921)。 Anna Christie is more of a success because it deploys the developing complexity of O'Neill's personal vision, showing us that life is a closed circle of possibi1ities from which it is impossible to escape.

  Between 1920 and 1924 came his prominent achievements in symbolic expressionism: The Emperor Jones (1920), The Hairy Ape (1922), All God's chillun Got Wings (1924), and Desire Under the Elms (1924)。 These plays are daring forays into race relations, class conflicts, sexual bondage, social critiques, and American tragedies on the Greek model. What is more, the expressionistic techniques are used in these plays to highlight the theatrical effect of the rupture between the two sides of an individual human being, the private and the public. Built on the success of these expressionistic experimentations, O'Neill reached out to extend his mastery of the stage and worked up to the summit of his career. He concerned himself with some non——realistic forms to contain his tragic vision in a

  number of his plays, such as The Great God Brown (l926), which fuses symbolism, poetry, and the affirmation of a pagan idea1ism to show how materialistic civilization denies the life——giving impulses and destroys the genuine artist, and Lazarus Laughed (1927), which makes full use of the Bible, Greek choruses, Elizabethan tirades, expressionist masks, populous crowd scenes, and orchestrate laughter. With the winning of the third Pulitzer Prize for Strange Interlude (l928), O'Neill consolidated his experience of two decades of playwriting and paved the way to the honor of the Nobel Prize in 1936.

  Late in his life, he produced the best and greatest plays of the modern American theater. The Iceman Cometh (l946) proves to be a masterpiece in the way it is a complex, ironic, deeply moving exploration of human existence, written out of a profound insight into human nature and constructed with tremendous skill and logic. Long Day's Journey Into Night (1956) can be read autobiographically. However, like most great works of literature, the play reaches beyond its immediate subject, dedicated not only to the life of the American family, but also "to the life of Man, to Life itself." As a product of hard-won art, Long Day's Journey Into Night has gained its status as a world classic and simultaneously marks the climax of O'Neill's literary career and the coming of age of American drama.

  三。 领会

  1.Themes: O'Neill is always remembered for his tragic view of life and most of his plays deal with the basic issues of human existence and predicament: life and death, illusion and disillusion, alienation and communication, dream and reality, self and society, desire and frustration, etc. His characters in the plays are described as seeking meaning and purpose in their lives in different ways, some through love, some through religion, others through revenge, but all meet disappointment and despair. As a playwright, O'Neill himself was constantly wrestling with these issues and struggling with the perplexity about the truth of life. He was searching for an answer both psychologically and artistically, and his dramatic thought fol1owed a tragic pattern running through all his plays, from a celebration and exaltation of "pipe dreams," the romantic dream so to speak, to the doubt about the reality of the dream or the inevitability of the defeat. So, his final dramas became" transcendental," in the way that the dramatization of man's effort in finding the secret of life results in a reconciliation with the tragic impossibility.

  2.O'Neill's experimentations in dramatic art: O'Neill's inventiveness seemingly knew no limits. He was constantly experimenting with new styles and forms for his plays.

  (1) He introduced the realistic or even the naturalistic aspect of life into the American theater. He borrowed freely grom the best traditions of European dramas, be it Greek tragedies, or the realism of Ibsen, or the expressionism of Stringberg, and fused them into the organic of his own. In those expressionistic plays, abstract and symbolic stage sets are used to set off against the emotional inner selves and subjective states of mind; lighting and music are employed to convey the changes of mood.

  (2) He borrowed freely from modern literary techniques such as the stream-of -consciousness device with the help of which he managed to reveal the emotional and psychological complexities of modern man. He made use of setting and state property to help in his dramatic representation

  (3) As to his language, O'Neill frequently wrote the lines in dialect, or spelled words in ways which indicate a particular accent or manner of speech. This, sometimes, makes his plays difficult to read, but when they are spoken aloud, the sense becomes clear and the meaning is amplified by the accent.

  O'Neill's ceaseless experimentation enriched American drama and influenced later playwrights.

  3.Expressionism: It is used to describe the works of art and literature in which the representation of reality is distorted to communicate an inner vision, transforming nature rather than imitating it. In literature it is often considered a revolt against realism and naturalism, a seeking to achieve a psychological or spiritual reality rather than to record external events.

  In drama, the expressionist work was characterized by a bizarre distortion of reality. Expressionist writers's concern was with general truths rather than with particular situations, hence they explored in their plays the predicaments of representative symbolic types rather than of fully developed individualized characters. Emphasis was laid on the internal, on an individual's mental state-the emotional content, the subjective reactions of characters, and symbolic or abstract representations of reality; hence the imitation of life is replaced in Expressionist drama by the ecstatic evocation of states of mind. In America, Eugene O'Neille's Emperor Jones, The Hairy Ape, etc. are typical plays that employ Expressionism to highlight the theatrical effect of the rupture between the two sides of an individual human being, the private and the public.

  The movement, though short-lived, gave impetus to a free form of writing and of theatrical production.

  四。应用Selected Reading:

  An Excerpt from Scene VⅢ of The Hairy Ape

  1.The theme of the play or the tragic vision in it:

  The tragic sense of modern man belonging nowhere, being helpless and impotent remained as the common theme of O'Neill's works.

  The Hairy Ape is a good illustration. The play concerns the problem of modern man's identity. Yank's sense of belonging nowhere, hence homelessness and rootlessness, is typical of the mood of isolation and alienation in the early twentieth century in the United States and the whole world as well.

  Yank was a stroker on a transatlantic liner. He was happy with life until the day when his brutality shocked and made faint Mildred Douglas. He was greatly insulted. Thus became gloomy, sullen and violent. He attempted to seek identity with the aristocratic class, the radical class. In the last scene of the play, rejected, Yank wandered to the zoo where he found affinity with the great ape there, only to be crushed to death. So, Yank's journey in quest of self-identity finished with his death, yet with the realization that he did belong nowhere. The general feeling is one of despairingly tragic. Man is homeless and rootless, alienated from the indifferent society.

  2. The expressionistic techniques in the play:

  (1) In this expressinistic play, abstract and symbolic stage sets are used to set off against the emotional inner selves and subjective states of mind. Take O'Neill's use of contrastive tones of remarks for example, Yank's friendliness and excitement contrasts the ape's anger, indifference and impatience and also contrasts his own bitterness, self-mocking and despair. So the emotional content, the subjective reactions of characters are emphasized, which symbolically represent the despairing reality.

  (2) externalization of human interior: O'Neill uses vision to reveal psychological reality. In this play, Yank was haunted by appearance of Mildred Douglas, which shows his pain and despair. Therefore, O'Neill does not record external events as realists do. He sought to portray the way in which hidden psychological processes impinge upon outward action. He brought psychological realism, philosophical depth, and poetic symbolism into American literature.

  3.Language: In this play O'Neill intentionally wrote the lines of Yank in dialect to show his social and economic status as an uneducated coal stoker. Many other examples could be found in this selection, for instance, "dat" for that, "yuh" for you, etc.

  IV. F. Scott Fitzgerald (l896-l940)

  一。 一般识记

  His life and writing:

  Francis Scott Fitzgerald was a most representative figure of the 1920s, who was mirror of the exciting age in almost every way. An active participant of his age, he never failed to remain detached and foresee the failure and tragedy of the "Dollar Decade." Thus he is often acc1aimed literary spokesman of the Jazz Age.

  F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota on September 24, l896. In his childhood, he admired his gentleman1y father who retained his upper-class manners but was always a little sensitive to the poor Irish beginnings on his mother's side. He had an expensive education in private schools at Princeton. But due to illness and neglect of academic study, he left the university in 1917 without graduation. He married Zelda Sayre, who exerted a strong influence on his literary career and his personal life. Zelda has been regarded as the prototype of a series of rich, beautiful women who figure so prominently in his fiction. The young couple frequently went abroad and lived extravagantly a luxurious life. To keep earning enough money, Fitzgerald wrote short stories and novels at a rapid speed. The l930s brought relentless decline for Fitzgerald with a series of misfortunes: his reputation declined, his wealth fell, his health failed, and what's more, Ze1da had suffered from some serious mental breakdowns which confined her in a sanitarium for the rest of her life. A1coholism, loneliness and despair combined to ruin Fitzgerald. He died in 1940 of a heart attack.

  二。 识记

  His major works:

  His novels and short stories chronicled changing social attitudes during the 1920s, a period dubbed "The Jazz Age". His first novel This Side of Paradise won for him wealth and fame. His second novel, The Beautiful and Damned increased his popularity, which also portrays the emotiona1 and spiritual collapse of a wealthy young man during an unstable marriage. The coup1e in the novel were undoubtedly modeled after Fitzgerald himself and Zelda. His masterpiece The Great Gatsby (1925) made him one of the greatest American novelists. Afterwards, Fitzgerald wrote one more important novel Tender is the Night (l934), in which he traces the decline of a young American psychiatrist whose marriage to a beautiful and wealthy patient drains his personal energies and corrodes his professional career. His last novel The Last Tycoon remains unfinished.

  Fitzgerald also wrote short stories of great popularity. His short story collections include Flappers and Philosophers (l92l), Tales of the Jazz Age (1922), All the Sad Young Man (l926) and Taps at Reveille (1935)。 One of his best short stories is "Babylon Revisited," which depicts an American's return to Paris in the 1930s and his regretful rea1ization that the past is beyond his reach, since he can neither alter it nor make any amends.

  三。 领会

  1. Fitzgerald and the Jazz Age:

  (1) The Jazz Age: It refers to the 1920s, a time marked by frivolity, carelessness, hedonism and excitement in the life of the flaming youth. Fitzgerald is largely responsible for the term and many of his literary works portray it. The Jazz Age is brought vividly to life in The Great Gatsby.

  (2) Most critics have agreed that Fitzgerald is both an insider and an outsider of the Jazz Age with a double vision of fascination and aloofness. He lived in his great moments and joined the big party in the l920s, partaking of the wealth, frivolity, temptations of the time, whi1e reproducing the drama of the age by standing aloof and keeping a cold eye on the performance of his contemporaries. He drank and did crazy things after he got drunk, whereas staying sober enough to see the corruptive nature of the society and the vanity fair that everyone, including himself, was infatuated with. This doubleness or irony is one of the distinguishing marks as a writer and helps Fitzgerald to present a panorama of the Jazz Age with a deep insight.

  (3) Fitzgerald's fictional world is the best embodiment of the spirit of the Jazz Age, in which he shows a particular interest in the upper——class society, especially the upper-class young people. Young men and women in the 1920s had a sense of reckless confidence not only about money but about 1ife in genera1. Since they grew up with the notion that the world would improve without their help, they felt excused from seeking the common good. Plunging into their persona1 adventures, engaging themselves in casual sex and heavy drinking, they took risks that did not impress them as being risks, and they spent money extravagant1y and enjoyed themselves to their hearts' content. But beneath their masks of relaxation and joviality there was only sterility, meaninglessness and futi1ity, and amid the grandeur and extravagance a spiritual waste1and and a hint of decadence and moral decay. This undeniable juxtaposition of appearance with reality, of the pretense of gaiety with the tension underneath, is easily recognizable in Fitzgerald's novels and stories.

  2. Fitzgerald and the American Dream:

  (1) Fitzgerald's fictions often deal with the bankruptcy of the American Dream, which is high1ighted by the disillusionment of the protagonists' personal dreams due to the clashes between their romantic vision of life and the sordid reality. American Dream is a popular belief that people can achieve success, whether it is wealth, fame or love through honest hard working in a new world of liberty, equality, chances and promises. Yet in the 1920s, the American Dream was bankrupt in the sense that the wealthy people were spiritually disorientated and morally corrupted. The fact that the rich people turned to be more indifferent and careless brought forth the disillusionment of American Dream.

  A great number of his stories started with the basic situation in which a rising young man of the middle class is in love with the daughter of a very rich family. The young man is not attracted by the fortune in itself; he is not seeking money so much as what money can bring to him; and he loves the girl not so much as he loves what the gir1 symbolizes. Money is only a convenient and inadequate symbol for what he dreams of earning, and love merely a vehicle that can transport him to a magic world of eternal happiness. The man's real dream, as Malcolm Cow1ey suggested, is that of achieving a new status and a new essence, of rising to a loftier place in the mysterious hierarchy of human worth.

  (2) Fitzgerald's own life was a mirror of the 1920s. He was the victim of his "American Dream." He was fascinated with material wealth on one hand by writing hard to accumulate wealth to live an extravagant life, yet was bewildered with the wealth on the other, fully aware of the underlying spiritual disorientation and moral decay. Finally in his life, alcoholism, loneliness and despair combined to ruin him. So his dream backfires him.

  3. Fitzgerald's style:

  He is a great stylist in American literature. His style, closely re1ated to his themes, is explicit and chilly. His accurate dialogues, his careful observation of mannerism, styles, models and attitudes provide the reader with a vivid sense of reality. He fol1ows the Jamesian tradition in using the scenic method in his chapters, each one of which consists of one or more dramatic scenes, sometimes with intervening passages of narration, leaving the tedious process of transition to the readers' imagination. He also skillfully employs the device of having events observed by a "central consciousness" to his great advantage. The accurate details, the completely original diction and metaphors, the bold impressionistic and colorful quality have all proved his consummate artistry.

  四。应用Selected Reading:

  An Excerpt from Chapter IlI of The Great Gatsby

  (1) The theme of the novel: The Great Gatsby, by summarizing the experiences and attitudes of the glamorous and wild 1920s, deals with the bankruptcy of the American Dream, which is high1ighted by the disillusionment of the protagonist's personal dream due to the clashes between his romantic vision of life and the relentless reality. American Dream is a popular belief that people can achieve success, whether it is wealth, fame or love through honest hard working in a new world of liberty, equality, chances and promises. Yet in the 1920s, the American Dream was bankrupt in the sense that the wealthy people were spiritually disorientated and morally corrupted. The fact that the rich people turned to be more indifferent and careless brought forth the disillusionment of American Dream.

  The story of The Great Gatsby is a good illustration. At the beginning of the story, Gatsby, a poor young man from the Midwest, is in love with but rejected by an upper-class woman, Daisy. He later attains the wealth by bootlegging and other criminal activities. Yet his fascination with and pursuit of money is but the means of recapturing the past and regaining his lost love. And for him, Daisy is the representation of a kind of idealized happiness. So Gatsby's real dream is that of achieving a new status and a new essence, of rising to a loftier place in the mysterious hierarchy of human worth. That is why Daisy Buchanan seems so charming to Gatsby and that is why Gatsby has directed his who1e life to winning back her love. Yet his dream ended up with Daisy's indifference and carelessness. Under this thematic design, the novel displays some modern motifs like the Waste-land theme as symbolized by the Valley of Ashes and boredom as reflected in Daisy and Tom.

  (2) Chapter Ⅲ of the novel, a vivid description of one of Gatsby's fabulous parties, presents a vivid atmosphere of paradox. Gatsby's party, characteristic of the roaring twenties in the U.S. evokes both the romance and the sadness of the Jazz Age. On the surface, the party is crowded, yet empty of warmth or friendship, with people coming to the party eagerly but appearing indifferent and contemptuous of their host. Gatsby himself as the host is a paradox —— exceedingly courteous but keeps himself detached from the noisy and confusing crowd, because he, though fascinated with the wealth, was fully aware of the corruptive nature of the society and the vanity fair.

  The charm and sweetness of the youth is spoiled by triviality and tawdriness; The splendid house and garden is purchased not for enjoyment but for impression. There is every sign of merriment, with guests eating, drinking, laughing, moving about and dancing, but people get dead drunk, break down in tears or quarrel over trivialities. So beneath the wealthy people's masks of relaxation and joviality there was only sterility, meaninglessness and futi1ity, and amid the grandeur and extravagance a spiritual waste1and and a hint of decadence and moral decay. This undeniable juxtaposition of appearance with reality, of the pretense of gaiety with the tension underneath, is easily recognizable in Fitzgerald's novels and stories.

本文转载链接:自考《英美文学选读》(美)现代文学时期(4)

分享到:
  • 站内搜索
  • 课程搜索
  • 试题搜索

热门搜索:教材 报名 查分 免考 考试计划