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自考《英美文学选读》(美)浪漫主义时期(4)

2006-12-31 11:36   【 】【我要纠错

  IV. Walt Whitman

  Whitman is a giant of American letters. His Leaves of Grass has always been considered a monumental work which commands great attention because of its uniquely poetic embodiment of American democratic ideals. He is the poet of the common people and the prophet and singer of democracy.

  一。一般识记

  Whitman's life

  He was born in 1819 into a working-c1ass family and grew up in Brook1yn, New York. Son of a carpenter, Whitman left his schooling for good at eleven, and became an office boy. Later on he changed several jobs, one of which was in the printing office of a newspaper, which would be of great he1p in his literary career. By this early age he had a1ready shown his strong love for literature, reading a great deal on his own, especially the works of Shakespeare and Milton, and developed his potential for the writing career in the future. Before he was 17 years o1d he had already had his poems printed on a paper, although these early works were not comparable to his later and mature ones. However, Whitman did not become a professional writer directly henceforth, until an opportunity came up which sent him back to New York City, where he formal1y took up journalism and indulged himself in the excitement of the fast-growing metropolis. Feeling compe1led to speak up for something new and vital he found in the air of the nation, Whitman turned to the manual work of carpentry around 1851 or 1852, as an experiment to familiarize himself with the reality and essence of the life of the nation. At the same time, he widened his reading to a new scale and made it more systematic. After enriching himself simultaneously by these two very different, approaches, Whitman was ab1e to put forward his own set of aesthetic princip1es. Leaves of Grass was just the expression of these principles.

  二。识记

  Whitman's democratic ideals

  Whitman's democratic ideas govern his poetry-writing. In his famous poetry, openness, freedom, and above all, individua1ism (the belief that the rights and freedom of individual people are most important) are all that concerned him. Whitman brings the hard-working farmers and laborers into American literature ,attack the slavery system and racial discrimination. In this book he also extols nature ,democracy, labor and creation ,and sings of man's dignity and equality, and of the brightest future of mankind

  Whitman believed that poetry could play a vita1 part in the process of creating a new nation. It could enab1e Americans to celebrate their release from the Old World and the colonia1 rule. And it could also help them understand their new status and to define themse1ves in the new wor1d of possibi1ities.

  三。领会

  1. The themes in Whitman's poetry:

  His poetry is filled with optimistic expectation and enthusiasm about new things and new epoch.

  Whitman believed that poetry could play a vita1 part in the process of creating a new nation. It could enab1e Americans to celebrate their release from the Old World and the colonia1 rule. And it could also help them understand their new status and to define themse1ves in the new wor1d of possibi1ities. Hence, the abundance of themes in his poetry voices freshness.

  (1) He shows concern for the whole hard-working people and the burgeoning life of cities. To Whitman, the fast growth of industry and wealth in cities indicated a lively future of the nation, despite the crowded, noisy, and squalid conditions and the slackness in morality.

  (2) He advocates the realization of the individua1 value. Most of the poems in Leaves of Grass sing of the "en-masse" and the self as well.

  (3) Pursuit of love and happiness is approved of repeatedly and affectionately in his lines. Sexual 1ove, a rather taboo topic of the time, is displayed candidly as something adorable. The individual person and his desires must be respected.

  (4) Some of Whitman's poems are politically committed. Before and during the Civil War, Whitman expressed much mourning for the sufferings of the young lives in the battlefield and showed a determination to carry on the fighting dauntlessly until the final victory, as in poems like "Cavalry Crossing a Ford." Later, he wrote down a great many poems to air his sorrow over the death of Lincoln, and one of the famous is "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd."

  2.Leaves of Grass

  Walt Whitman is a poet with a strong sense of mission, having devoted all his life to the creation of the "single" poem, Leaves of Grass.

  (1) the title :It is significant that Whitman entitled his book Leaves of Grass . He said that where there is earth, where there is water, there is grass. Grass, the most common thing with the greatest vitality, is an image of the poet himself, a symbol of the then rising American nation and an embodiment of his ideals about democracy and freedom.

  (2) theme and the poet's essentia1 purpose

  (a) theme:

  In this giant work, openness, freedom, and above all, individua1ism(the belief that the rights and freedom of individual people are most important) are all that concerned him.Whitman brings the hard-working farmers and laborers into American literature ,attack the slavery system and racial discrimination. In this book he also extols nature,democracy, labor and creation ,and sings of man's dignity and equality, and of the brightest future of mankind . Most of the poems in Leaves of Grass sing of the "en-masse" and the self as well.

  (b) the poet's essentia1 purpose

  His aim was nothing less than to express some new poetica1 feelings and to initiate a poetic tradition in which difference shou1d be recognized. The genuine participation of a poet in a common cultural effort was, according to Whitman, to behave as a supreme individualist; however, the poet's essentia1 purpose was to identify his ego with the world, and more specifically with the democratic "en-masse" of America, which is established in the opening lines of "Song of Myself".

  3.Whitman's poetic style and language

  To dramatize the nature of these new poetical fee1ings, Whitman employed brand-new means in his poetry, which would first be discerned in his style and language.

  (1) Whitman's poetic style is marked, first of a1l, by the use of the poetic "I." Whitman becomes all those people in his poems and yet still remains "Walt Whitman", hence a discovery of the self in the other with such an identification. In such a manner, Whitman invites his readers to participate in the process of sympathetic identification.

  (2) Whitman is also radically innovative in terms of the form of his poetry. He adopted "free verse," that is, poetry without a fixed beat or regular rhyme scheme. A looser and more open-ended syntactical structure is frequently favored. Lines and sentences of different lengths are left lying side by side just as things are, undisturbed and separate. There are few compound sentences to draw objects and experiences into a system of hierarchy. Whitman was the first American to use free verse extensively. By means of "free verse," Whitman turned the poem into an open field, an area of vital possibility where the reader can allow his own imagination to play.

  (3) Whitman is conversational and casual, in the fluid, expansive, and unstructured style of talking. However, there is a strong sense of the poems being rhythmical. The reader can feel the rhythm of Whitman's thought and cadences of his feeling. Parallelism and phonetic recurrence at the beginning of the lines also contribute to the musicality of his poems.

  (4) Whitman's language

  Contrary to the rhetoric of traditional poetry, Whitman's is relatively simple and even rather crude.

  (a) Most of the pictures he painted with words are honest, undistorted images of different aspects of America of the day. The particularity about these images is that they are unconventional in the way they break down the social division based on religion, gender, class, and race. One of the most often-used methods in Whitman's poems is to make colors and images fleet past the mind's eye of the reader.

  (b) Another characteristic in Whitman's language is his strong tendency to use oral English.

  (c) Whitman's vocabulary is amazing. He would use powerfu1, colorful, as well as rarely-used words, words of foreign origin and sometimes even wrong words.

  Walt Whitman has proved a great figure in the literary history of the United States because he embodies a new ideal, a new world and a new life-style, and his influence over the following generations is significant and incredible.

  四。应用

  Selected Readings:

  1. There Was a Child Went Forth

  This poem describes the growth of a child who learned about the world around him and improved himself accordingly. In the poem Whitman's own early experience may well be identified with the childhood of a young, growing America. Young American nation were creating a new life with their own hands. We see Whitman in the process of absorbing the world into himself .He shows concern for the whole hard-working people and the growing life of cities.

  The poem describes the influence of environment on the child, and the poet divides these influences into the animal and vegetable world of nature and the human world of the home. It is interesting to reexamine the sequence of the items listed in this poem which "became part of the child." They reflect the natural process of a boy's growth. At first, his world was limited within the barnyard. Later, he sought into fields and streets. Then, he became interested in something more mysterious -his fellow human beings. Finally, he was on the symbolic threshold of the outside world, the sea. He had grown into a young man from a baby.

  2. Cavalry Crossing a Ford

  This poem is grouped under the Drum-Taps section in the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass, which reminds its readers of a picture, or a photo, of a scene of the American Civil War. All the movements described in this picture are frozen. And while sounds are depicted, it's more likely that they come out of the watcher's imagination, rather than from the picture itself. This poem incorporates his emotions and feelings during the war period.

  Not a lover of violence and bloodshed, Whitman expressed much mourning for the sufferings of the young lives in the battlefield and showed a determination to carry on the fighting dauntlessly until the final victory.

  Whitman uses colors and images.

  3. Song of Myself

  The two principal beliefs embodied in this poem:

  In this poem Whitman sets forth two principal beliefs: the theory of universality, which is illustrated by lengthy catalogues of people and things, and the belief in the singularity and equality of all beings in value. He extols whole universe and the world. He is thinking of the self as a powerful and sensitive instrument for receiving and expressing. He moves from himself to you to others, to all humanity all together about him.

  Ⅴ。 Herman Melville(1819-1891)

  Herman Melville is best-known as the author of his mighty book, Moby-Dick(1851), which is one of the world's greatest masterpieces.

  一。一般识记

  His life and his career as a writer

  Herman Melville was born in 1819 in Lansingburgh, New York. The early sailing experiences were rewarding, for they gave him a love of the sea, and aroused his desire for adventure. In 1841, Melvile went to the South Seas on a whaling ship, where he gained the first-hand information about whaling that he used later in Moby Dick. In the following three years, Melville served on three different whalers, finally served for a year in the regular navy. Working as a sailor, he had experienced the most brutalizing life in his time for a man, yet years of adventures also furnished him with abundant raw materials for most of his major fictions and his imaginative visions of life.

  In 1850, Melville and Hawthorne became very good friends. Hawthorne's black vision regarding the evil of human beings had in some way changed Melville's outlook on life and the world and his allegorical way of exposition had affected his writing technique. Shakespearean tragic vision and Emersonian Transcendentalism also produced some positive effects on his writing.

  二。识记

  The differences between Melville's early works and later ones:

  Melville's writings can be well divided into two groups, each with something in common in the light of the thematic concern and imaginative focus.

  (1) His early works were sea adventures, condidered to be the best. Among them are Typee(1846), Omoo(1847), and Mardi(1849)。 Redburn(1849) is a semi-autobiographical novel, concerning the sufferings of a genteel youth among brutal sailors; in White Jacket(1850) Melville relates his life on a United States man-of-war. Of all these sea adventure stories, Moby-Dick proves to be the best. By writing such a book Melville reached the most flourishing stage of his literary creativity.

  (2)Pierre is a popular romance intended for the feminine market but provoking an outrageous repudiation. A series of short stories or novellas which attracted public attention. Among them are "Bartleby, the Scrivener," a short story strikingly symbolizing the loneliness and anonymity and passivity of little men in big cities. Billy Budd again deals with the sea and sailors and the theme of a conflict between innocence and corruption. In the early works Melville is more enthusiastic about setting out on a quest for the meaning of the universe, hence they are more metaphysical and the main characters are ardent and self-dramatizing "I," defying God, as best reflected in Moby-Dick; while in the late works, Melville becomes more reconciled with the world of man, in which, he admits, one must live by the rules. However, the purpose of Melville's fictional tales, exotic or philosophical, is to penetrate as deeply as possible into the metaphysical, theological, moral, psychological, and social truths of human existence.

  三。领会

  1. Moby-dick

  Moby-dick is regarded as the Great American Novel, the first American prose epic(散文史诗: a long narrative poem telling of heroic deeds of reflecting the values of the society from which it originated), though it is presented in the form of a novel.

  (1)its surface and the deep meaning

  (a)its surface meaning: It is a whaling tale or sea adventure, dealing with Ahab, a man with an overwhelming obsession to kill the whale which has crippled him, on board his ship Pequod in the chase of the big whale. The dramatic description of the hazards of whaling makes the book a very exciting sea narrative and builds a literary monument to an era of whaling industry in the nineteenth century.

  The deep symbolic theme: Moby-Dick is not merely a whaling tale or sea adventure, considering that Melville is a great symbolist. It turns out to be a symbolic voyage of the mind in quest of the truth and knowledge of the universe, a spiritual exploration into man's deep reality and psychology. This is shown in Captain Ahab's rebellious struggle against the overwhelming mysterious vastness of the universe and its awesome sometimes merciless forces.

  In the perverted grandeur of Captain Ahab and in the beauties and terrors of the voyage of the "Pequod," however, Melville dramatized his bleak view of the world in which he lived. It is at once godless and purposeless. Man in this universe lives a meaningless and futile life, meaningless because futile. As some critics note, man can observe and even manipulate in a prudent way, but he cannot influence and overcome nature at its source. Once he attempts to seek power over it he is doomed. Here Melville expressed his deep concerns: the equivocal defeats and triumphs of the human spirit and its fusion of creative and murderous urges.

  (2)It is a mixture of romanticism and realism

  (a) romantic features: Ahab is a Byronic hero, a man with an overwhelming obsession or consuming desire to take revenge against the whale which has crippled him. His revenge ends in tragedy and he, who burns with a baleful fire, becomes evil himself in his thirst to destroy evil. Moby Dick, for the writer, symbolizes the unknown, mysterious natural force, an unreal world of speculation and mystery which is very hard for man to manipulate.

  (b) realistic features: The dramatic description of the hazards of whaling makes the book a very exciting sea narrative and builds a literary monument to an era of whaling industry in the nineteenth century.

  (3)Allegory and symbolism

  Moby-Dick is not merely a whaling tale or sea adventure, it is also a symbolic voyage of the mind in quest of the truth and knowledge of the universe, a spiritual exploration into man's deep reality and psychology.

  Like Hawthorne, Melville is a master of allegory and symbolism. He uses allegory and symbolism in Moby-Dick to present its mighty theme. Instead of putting the battle between Ahab and the big whale into simple statements, he used symbols, that is, objects or persons who represent something else. Different people on board the ship are representations of different ideas and different social and ethnic groups; facts become symbols and incidents acquire universal meanings; the Pequod is the microcosm of human society and the voyage becomes a search for truth. The white whale, Moby Dick, symbolizes nature for Melville, for it is complex, unfathomable, malignant, and beautiful as well. For the character Ahab, however, the whale represents only evil. Moby Dick is like a wall, hiding some unknown, mysterious things behind. Ahab wills the whole crew on the Pequod to join him in the pursuit of the big whale so as to pierce the wall, to root out the evil, but only to be destroyed by evil, in this case, by his own consuming desire, his madness. For the author, as well as for the reader and Ishmael, the narrator, Moby Dick is still a mystery, an ultimate mystery of the universe, inscrutable and ambivalent, and the voyage of the mind will forever remain a search, not a discovery, of the truth.

  (4)Other artistic devices in Moby-Dick

  Melville's great gifts of language, invention, psychological analysis, speculative agility, and narrative power are fused to make Moby-Dick a world classic. The skillful use of Ishmael both as a character and a narrator gives the novel a moral magnitude; the manipulation of the whaling chapters for some philosophical speculation makes the novel more than symbolic; different levels of language use and styles turn the whole book into a symphony with all the musical instruments going on to form a melody; and moreover, Melville's knowledge of epic and tragedy, the highest literary genres, helps him produce a great tragic epic, with Ahab at the center as a tragic hero, who burns with a baleful fire, becoming evil himself in his thirst to destroy evil.

  四。应用

  Selected Reading:

  An Excerpt from Moby-Dick

  (1) The image of the captain, Ahab: The captain, Ahab, is a monomaniac whose single purpose is to capture the fierce, cunning white whale, Moby Dick, which had torn away his leg during their last encounter. Ahab is a tragic hero with an overwhelming obsession or consuming desire to kill Moby Dick. He transforms himself into an evil in his thirst to destroy evil.

  (2)Interpretations of the different meanings of the story: Moby-Dick is one of the few books in American literature that has produced an exciting effect upon readers, of which its author could not have dreamed. (a) It is a mixture of fantasy and realism based upon the South Pacific whaling industry; (b) It might be read as an initiation story about Ishmael, the outcast, finding himself in a real world of hard work and danger and an unreal world of speculation and mystery; (c)It is a fabulous dramatization of Ahab's obsessed determination to revenge himself in the pursuit of one particular whale who has previously destroyed his boat and humiliated him by ripping off one of his legs.(d) The deep symbolic theme: Moby-Dick is not merely a whaling tale or sea adventure, but turns out to be a symbolic voyage of the mind in quest of the truth and knowledge of the universe, a spiritual exploration into man's deep reality and psychology. This is shown in Captain Ahab's rebellious struggle against the overwhelming mysterious vastness of the universe and its awesome sometimes merciless forces.

  Nevertheless, the book has been so often interpreted in so many ways, allegorically and symbolically, that now we can safely conclude that Moby-Dick "means" almost as many things as it has readers who are deeply involved in the conflicts of life and sensitive enough to become involved in the spirit of conflict expressed in a work of art.

  (3)The excerpt: The following excerpt is from the conclusion of the book, in which the great chase of the white whale is ending. The Pequod has finally sighted Moby-Dick. The boats have been lowered in chase of the whale, which has already demolished two of them. Though Ahab kills the white whale, yet all the human beings involved, except the narrator, die in the process. At the end only nature, symbolized by the sea, remains moving but unmoved.

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