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  III. Alfred Tennyson

  1.一般识记 His Life & Literary Career

  Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) is certainly the most representative Victorian poet. His poetry voices the doubt & the faith, the grief & the joy of the English people in an age of fast social changes.

  He was born at Somersby, Linconshire, the fourth son of a rather learned clergyman. In 1827, he & his elder brother published Poems by Two Brothers. In this juvenile work the influence of Byron & an attraction to oriental themes were shown. He was educated at the Trinity College, Cambridge & published his first signed work Poems, Chiefly Lyrical (1830) there. In 1832, one year after he left Cambridge, he published Poems, which contained a variety of poems, beautiful in melody & rich in imagery. In 1842, his next issue of Poems came out, collected in the book are the dramatic monologue "Ulysses", the epic narrative " Morte d''Arthur," the exquisite idylls "Dora" & " The Gardener''s Daughter," etc. In 1847, The Princess was published. Written in blank verse, it deals with the theme of women''s rights & position. In 1850, Tennyson was appointed the Poet Laureate & he published his greatest work In Memoriam. The rest years of Tennyson''s life was comfortable & peaceful, but he never stopped writing. In 1855, Tennyson published a monodrama Maud, a collection of short lyrics. Among the other works of his later period, "Rizpah," "Enoch Arden," " Merlin & the Gleam" & " Crossing the Bar" are worthy of note.

  2.识记 His major poetic works & their theme

  1) In Memoriam

  Presumably it is an elegy on the death of Hallam, yet less than half of its l00 pieces are directly connected with him. The poet here does not merely dwell on the personal bereavement. As a poetic diary, the poem is also an elaborate & powerful expression of the poet''s philosophical & religious thoughts - his doubts about the meaning of life, the existence of the soul & the afterlife, & his faith in the power of love & the soul''s instinct & immortality. Such doubts & beliefs were shared by most people in an age when the old Christian belief was challenged by new scientific discoveries, though to most readers today, the real attraction of the poem lies more in its profound feeling & artistic beauty than in the philosophical & religious reflections. The familiar trance-like experience, mellifluous rhythm & pictorial descriptions make it one of the best elegies in English literature.

  2) Idylls of the Kin g (1842-1885)

  It is his most ambitious work which took him over 30 years to complete. It is made up of 12 books of narrative poems, based on the Celtic legends of King Arthur & his Knights of the Round Table. But it is not a mere reproduction of the old legend, though. It is a modern interpretation of the classic myth. For one thing, the moral standards & sentiments reflected in the poem belong to the Victorians rather than to the medieval royal people. For another, the story of the rise & fall of King Arthur is, in fact, meant to represent a cyclic history of western civilization, which , in Tennyson''s mind , is going on a spiritual decline & will end in destruction.

  3.领会Artistic Features of His Poetry

  Tennyson is a real artist. He has the natural power of linking visual pictures with musical expressions, & these two with the feelings. He has perfect control of the sound of English, & a sensitive ear, an excellent choice & taste of words. His poetry is rich in poetic images & melodious language, & noted for its lyrical beauty & metrical charm. His works are not only the products of the creative imagination of a poetic genius but also products of a long & rich English heritage. His wonderful works manifest all the qualities of England''s great poets. The dreaminess of Spenser, the majesty of Milton, the natural simplicity of Wordsworth, the fantasy of Blake & Coleridge, the melody of Keats & Shelley, & the narrative vigor of Scott & Byron, —— all these striking qualities are evident on successive pages of Tennyson''s poetry.

  4. 应用 Selected Readings

  (1) Break

  This short lyric is written in memory of Tennyson''s best friend, Arthur Hallam, whose death has a lifelong influence on the poet. Here, the poet''s own feelings of sadness are contrasted with the carefree, innocent joys of the children & the unfeeling movement of the ship & the sea waves. The beauty of the lyric is to be found in the musical language & in the association of sound & images with feelings & emotions. The poem contains 4 quatrains, with combined iambic & anapaestic feet. Most lines have three feet & some four. The rhyme scheme is a b c b.

  (2) Crossing the Bar

  This poem was written in the later years of Tennyson''s life. Although not the last poem written by Tennyson in his long creative career, this poem appears, at his request, as the final poem in all collections of his works. The scene is sketched with a few strokes: sunset & the evening star, the twilight and the evening bell, & then the dark. The ship is ready to go out of the harbor. It will cross the bar & reach the vast open sea for the long voyage that it is to make. The allegory of the poem is clear. Tennyson is in the evening of life, & the "clear call" of death will come soon. But when he has crossed the border between life & death to go on that voyage beyond the bound of Time & Place, he hopes then to see his "Pilot," God, face to face. From the moving imagery & the pleasant sound of the poem, we can feel his fearlessness towards death, his faith in God & an afterlife.

  (3) Ulysses

  In Greek mythology, Ulysses is the king of the Ithaca Island. He is the hero in many literary classics. In Homer''s Odessey (the Greek name for Ulysses), Ulysses eventually arrives home after the ten-year Trojan war & another ten-year''s adventures at sea. However, according to Dante, Ulysses never returns to his home place Ithaca, but urges his men to go on exploring westward. Tennyson combines these two versions. In this poem, Ulysses is now three years back in his homeland, reunited with his wife Penelope & his son Telemachus, & resumes his rule over the land. But he will not endure the peaceful commonplace everyday life. Old as he is, he persuades his old followers to go with him & to sail again to pursue a new world & new knowledge. Written in the form of dramatic monologue, the poem not only expresses, through the mouth of the heroic Ulysses, Tennyson''s own determination & courage to brave the struggle of life but also reflects the restlessness & aspiration of the age.

  IV. Robert Browning

  1.一般识记His life &Literary Career

  Robert Browning (1812-1889) was born in a well-off family & received his education mainly from his private tutor, & from his father, who gave him the freedom to follow his own interest. In 1833, he published his first poetic work Pauline, which brought great embarrassment upon him. But in his second attempt Sordello (1840), he went too far in self-correction that the poem became so obscure as to be hardly readable. He even tried play writing but failed. All these frustrating experiences forced the poet to develop a literary form that suited him best & actually give full swing to this genius, i.e. the dramatic monologue.

  In 1846, Browning married Elizabeth Barrett, a famous poetess whose famous book of love poetry was Sonnets from the Portuguese. In 1869 Browing''s masterpiece, The Ring & the Book, came out. In 1889, Browning died & was buried in the Poet''s Corner, Westminster Abbey, beside Tennyson.

  2.识记His major works

  Dramatic Lyrics (1842), Dramatic Romances & Lyrics (1845), Bells & Pomegranates (1846), Men & Women (1855), Dramatic Personae (1864), The Ring & the Book (1868-1869) & Dramatic Idylls (1880)

  3.领会Characteristic of The Ring & the Book: Dramatic M onologue

  In this poem, Browning chooses a dramatic moment or a crisis, in which his characters are made to talk about their lives, & about their minds & hearts. In "listening" to those one-sided talks, readers can form their own opinions & judgments about the speaker''s personality & about what has really happened.

  4.领会Robert Browning''s artistic characteristics

  (1) The name of Browning is often associated with the term "dramatic monologue." Although it is not his invention, it is in his hands that this poetic form reaches its maturity& perfection.

  (2) Browning''s poetry is not easy to read. His rhythms are often too fast, too rough & unmusical

  (3) The syntax is usually clipped & highly compressed. The similes & illustrations appear too profusely. The allusions & implications are sometimes odd & far-fetched. All this makes up his obscurity.

  On the whole, Browning''s style is very different from that of any other Victorian poets. He is like a weather-beaten pioneer, bravely & vigorously trying to beat a track through the jungle. His poetic style belongs to the 20th-century rather than to the Victorian age.

  5. 应用 Selected Readings:

  1) My Last Duchess

  "My Last Duchess" is Browning''s best-known dramatic monologue. The poem takes its sources from the life of Alfonso II, duke of Ferrara of the 16th-century Italy, whose young wife died suspiciously after three years of marriage. Not long after her death, the duke managed to arrange a marriage with the niece of another noble man. This dramatic monologue is the duke''s speech addressed to the agent who comes to negotiate the marriage. In his talk about his "last duchess," the duke reveals himself as a self-conceited, cruel & tyrannical man. The poem is written in heroic couplets, but with no regular metrical system. In reading, it sounds like blank verse.

  2) Meeting at Night

  Meeting at Night, together with Parting at Morning, appeared originally under the single title Night & Morning. Browning made them separate poems in a late edition of his work. The speaker in both is a man. In this poem, the man, a lover, describes the whereabouts of their meeting place. The journey to love is dominated by moon, shadows, softness, & sexual imagery.

  3) Parting at Morning

  Here in the description of sunrise, the poet unconsciously expresses his helplessness in having to face up his duty as a man. The journey back is from the nighttime woman''s world of love to the daytime world of reality.

  V. George Eliot

  1. 一般识记 Her life & Literary Career

  George Eliot (1819-1880), pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans, was born on Nov. 22, 1819 into an estate agent''s family in Warwickshire, England. Though brought up under strict religious influences, she early abandoned religious beliefs, adopted agnostic opinions about Christian doctrine, & showed a great interest in social & philosophical problems.

  At the age of 39, she started he literary career. Being a woman of intelligence & versatility, she quickly found herself ranking high among the great writers. In 1857, she wrote her first three stories which were later published in book form under the title of Scenes of Clerical Life. Then there came successively her three most popular novels, Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860) & Silas Marner (1861), all drawn from her lifelong knowledge of English country life & notable for their realistic details, pungent characterization & high moral tone. In 1863, she published Romola, a full elaborately documented story of Florence in the time of Savornarola. Then followed Felix Holt, the Radical, her only novel on English politics. In 1872, Middlemarch, a panoramic book considered today by many to be George Eliot''s greatest achievement, come out. In 1876, she published her last novel, Daniel Deronda. These novels, together with a number of poems & a collection of satirical essays, The Impressions of Theophrastus Such, constitute a formidable body of work from a woman frail in health & working constantly under the apprehension of failure or worthlessness.

  2. 识记Her Literary Achievements

  Writing at the latter half of the 19th century & closely following the critical realist writers, George Eliot was working at something new. By joining the worlds of inward propensity & outward circumstances & showing them in the lives of her characters, she starts a new type of realism & sets into motion a variety of developments, leading in the direction of both the naturalistic & psychological novel. In her works, she seeks to present the inner struggle of a person & to reveal the motives, impulses & hereditary influences which govern human action. She is interested in the development of a soul, the slow growth or decline of moral power of the character. Eliot holds the belief that a certain act in daily life will produce a definite moral effect on the individual. Most of her novels are characterized by two features: moral teaching & psychological realism.

  3. 领会 The theme of her works

  As a woman of exceptional intelligence & life experience, George Eliot shows a particular concern for the destiny of women, especially those with great intelligence, potential & social aspirations. In her mind, the pathetic tragedy of women lies in their very birth. Their inferior education & limited social life determine that they must depend on men for sustenance & realization of their goals, & they have only to fulfill the domestic duties expected of them by the society. Their opportunities of success are not even increased by wealth.

  4. 应用 Selected Reading:

  An Excerpt from Chapter XXVIII of Middlemarch

  Middlemarch, a study of provincial life, has been known as one of the most mature works in English literary history. The book provides a panoramic view of life in a small English town, Middlemarch, &its surrounding countryside in the mid-nineteenth century. It is mainly centered on the lives of Dorotea Brooke & Tertius Lydgate, both of whom are shown have great potentials & ambitions, but both fail in achieving their goals owing to the social environment as well as their own vulnerabilities.

  The excerpt below begins from Drothea & Casoubon''s return from their honeymoon in Rome, where Mr. Casaubon buries himself in the library, ignoring the bride & leaving her very much alone. This is but the first taste of bitterness & disappointment for the youthful & hopeful Dorothea. Now back at home, she finds herself shut up in the cold, lifeless Lowick Manor & begins to see the impossibility of hope.

  VI. Thomas Hardy

  1. 一般识记 His Life & Literary Career

  Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was born near Dorchester, the area that later became the famous "Wessex" in many of his novels. He first worked for a famous architect. Then in 1871, his first novel Desperate Remedies was published & well received. However, the real success came with Under the Greenwood Tree (1872)。 In 1874, he published Far from the Madding Crowd. In the following twenty-three years he produced over ten local colored novels until 1896 when he was tired if all those hostile criticisms against his last two novels, Tess of the D''Urbervilles (1891) & Jude the Obscure (1896)。 From then on, he began to write poetry again. Of the eight volumes by Hardy-918 poems in all-the most famous is The Dynasts, a long epic-drama about the Napoleonic Wars. He died on January 11. 1928 & was buried in the Poet''s Corner in Westminster Abbey.

  2. 识记Features of His Writings

  1) Past & Modern

  Living at the turn of the century, Hardy is often regarded as a transitional writer. In him we see the influence from both the past &the modern. As some people put it, he is intellectually advanced& emotionally traditional. In his Wessex novels, there is an apparent nostalgic touch in his description of the simple & beautiful though primitive rural life, which was gradually declining & disappearing as England marched into an industrial country. And with these traditional characters he is always sympathetic. On the other hand, the immense impact of scientific discoveries & modern philosophic thoughts upon the man is quite obvious, too.

  2) Determinism

  In his works, man is shown inevitably bound by his own inherent nature & hereditary traits which prompt him to go & search for some specific happiness or success & set him in conflict with the environment. The outside nature-the natural environment or Nature herself-is shown as some mysterious supernatural force, very powerful but half-blind, impulsive & uncaring to the individual''s will, hope, passion or suffering. It likes to play practical jokes upon human beings by producing a series of mistimed actions & unfortunate coincidences. Man proves impotent before Fate, however he tries, & he seldom-escapes his ordained destiny.

  3) Critical realism

  Though Naturalism seems to have an important part in Hardy''s works, there is also bitter & sharp criticism & even open challenge of the irrational, hypocritical unfair Victorian institutions, conventions & morals which strangle the individual will & destroy natural human emotions & relationships. The conflicts between the traditional & the modern, between the old rural value of respectability & honesty & the new utilitarian commercialism, between the old, false social moral & the natural human passion, etc. are all closely set in a realistic background true to the very time & the very place.

  3. 领会His Major Works

  Hardy himself divided his novels into three groups:

  1) Romances & Fantasies

  A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873); The Trumpet Major (1880)etc.

  2) Novels of Ingenuity

  Desperate Remedies (1871); The Hand of Ethelberta(1876)etc

  3) Novels of Character & Environment

  Under the Greenwood Tree (1872); Far Form the Madding Crowd (1874); The Return of the Native (1878); The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886); Tess of the D''Urbervilles (1891); Jude the Obscure (1895)

  4. 应用Selected Reading:

  An Excerpt from Chapter XIX of Tess of the D''Urbervilles

  This novel is one of the best & most popular work by Hardy. It is a fierce attack on the hypocritical morality of the bourgeois society & the capitalist invasion into the country & destruction of the English peasantry towards the end of the century. Tess, as a pure woman brought up with the traditional idea of womanly virtues, is abused & destroyed by both Alec & Angel, agents of the destructive force of the society. And the misery, the poverty & the heartfelt pain she suffers & her final tragedy give rise to a most bitter cry of protest & denunciation of the society. Of course, naturalistic tendency is also strong in the novel. In a way, Tess seems to be led to her final destruction step by step by Fate. Coincidence adds on "wrong" to another until she is caught up in a dead-end. As Hardy says at the end of the novel: "Justice was done, & the President of the Immortals had ended his sport with Tess."

  The excerpt here is taken from Chapter XIX, phase 3, The Rally. Now some time after she leaves her home to work as a dairymaid at Talbothays Dairy, Tess gradually rides off her recent misfortune & unconsciously gives herself up to attraction of Angel Clare.


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