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自考《英美文学选读》(英)现代文学时期(2)

2006-12-31 10:55   【 】【我要纠错

  三。应用:

  1. What is Modernism?

  Modernism was a complex and diverse international movement in all creative arts, originating about the end of the 19th century. It provided the greatest renaissance of the 20th century. After the First World War, all kinds of literary trends of modernism appeared: symbolism, expressionism, surrealism, cubism, futurism, Dadaism, imagism and stream of consciousness. Towards the 1920s, these trends converged into a mighty torrent of modernist movement, which swept across the whole Europe and America. It has also been called "the tradition of the new"-a conscious rejection of established rules, traditions and conventions, and "the dehumanization of art"-pushing into the background traditional notions of the individual and society. The major figures that were associated with Modernism were Kafka, Picasso, Pound, Webern, Eliot, Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Modernism was somewhat curbed in the 1930s. But after the Second World War, a variety of modernism, or post-modernism, like existentialist literature, theater of the absurd, new novels and black humor, rose with the spur of the existentialist idea that "the world was absurd, and the human life was an agony."

  Modernism takes the irrational philosophy and the theory of psycho-analysis as its theoretical base. The major themes of the modernist literature are the distorted, alienated and ill relationships between man and nature, man and society, man and man, and man and himself. The modernist writers concentrate more on the private than on the public, more on the subjective than on the objective. They are mainly concerned with the inner being of an individual. By advocating a free experimentation on new forms and new techniques in literary creation, Modernism casts away almost all the traditional elements in literature such as story, plot, character, chronological narration, etc., which are essential to realism. As a result, the works created by the modernist writers are often labeled as anti-novel, anti-poetry and anti-drama.

  2. The basic philosophy or characteristics of Modernism in literature:

  Modernism takes the irrational philosophy and the theory of psycho-analysis as its theoretical base. One characteristic of English Modernism is "the dehumanization of art". The major themes of the modernist literature are the distorted, alienated and ill relationships between man and nature, man and society, man and man, and man and himself. The modernist writers concentrate more on the private than on the public, more on the subjective than on the objective. They are mainly concerned with the inner being of an individual. Therefore, they pay more attention to the psychic time than the chronological one. In their writings, the past, the present and the future are mingled together and exist at the same time in the consciousness of an individual.

  Modernism is, in many aspects, a reaction against realism. It rejects rationalism, which is the theoretical base of realism; it excludes from its major concern the external, objective, material world, which is the only creative source of realism; by advocating a free experimentation on new forms and new techniques in literary creation, it casts away almost all the traditional elements in literature such as story, plot, character, chronological narration, etc., which are essential to realism. As a result, the works created by the modernist writers are often labeled as anti-novel, anti-poetry and anti-drama.

  I. George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

  一。一般识记:His life and writing:

  Bernard Shaw, a brilliant dramatist, was born in Dublin, Ireland, of English parentage. He once worked in a landagent's office where he had much contact with the poor people in Dublin and came to know their miserable life. This experience surely enriched his understanding of the society and the sufferings of the people. In 1876 Shaw gave up his job and went to London, where he devoted much of his time to self-education by wide reading. Shaw came under the influence of Henry George and William Morris and took an interest in socialist theories. He started to attend all kinds of public meetings and to read Karl Marx in the British Museum. In 1884 Shaw joined the Fabian Society and became one of its most influential members.

  二。识记

  1. Shaw's reform ideas:

  He regarded the establishment of socialism by the emancipation of land and industrial capital from individual and class ownership as the final goal. But on how to achieve it, he differed greatly from the Marxists. He was against the means of violent revolution or armed struggle in achieving the goal of socialism; he also had a distrust of the uneducated working class in fighting against capitalists. This reformist view of his caused him a painful, often conscious, inner conflict between his sincere desire for the new world and his inability to break out of the snobbish intellectual isolation throughout his life and work.

  2. His major works:

  Shaw wrote five novels in all the best of which is Cashel Byron's Profession (1886), which is about a world-famous prize fighter marrying a priggishly refined lady of property. His criticism is entitled Our Theaters in the Nineties (1931)。 In his long dramatic career, Shaw wrote more than 50 plays of a variety of subjects:

  (1) His early plays were mainly concerned with social problems and directed towards the criticism of the contemporary social, economic, moral and religious evils. Widowers' House is a grotesquely realistic exposure of slum landlordism; Mrs. Warren's Profession is a play about the economic oppression of women.

  (2) Shaw wrote quite a few history plays, in which he kept an eye on the contemporary society. The important plays of this group are Caesar and Cleopatra (1898) and St. Joan (1923)。

  (3) Shaw also produced several plays, exploring his idea of " Life Force," the power that would create superior beings to be equal to God and to solve all the social, moral, and metaphysical problems of human society. The typical examples of this group are Man and Superman (1904) and Back to Methuselah (1921)。

  (4) Besides, Shaw wrote plays on miscellaneous subjects: for instance. The Apple Cart (1929) is about politics; John Bull's Other Island (1904) is about racial problems; Pygmalion (1912) is about culture and art; Getting Married (1908), Misalliance (1910) and Fanny's First Play (1911) are about the problem of family and marriage; and The Doctor's Dilemma (1906) is about the ignorance, incompetence, arrogance and bigotry of the medical profession. Too True to Be Good (1932) is a better play of the later period, with the author's almost nihilistic bitterness on the subjects of the cruelty and madness of World War I and the aimlessness and disillusion of the young.

  三。领会

  1. Shaw's literary ideas:

  Shaw held that art should serve social purposes by reflecting human life, revealing social contradictions and educating the common people. Being a drama critic, Shaw directed his attacks on the Neo-Romantic tradition and the fashionable drawing-room drama. His criticism was witty, biting, and often brilliant. Shaw was strongly against the credo of "art for art's sake" held by those decadent aesthetic artists. In his critical essays, he vehemently condemned the "well made" but cheap, hollow plays which filled the English theater of the late 19th century to meet the low taste of the middle class.

  2. The main characteristics of Bernard Shaw's plays:

  (1) Structurally and thematically, Shaw followed the great traditions of realism. As a realistic dramatist, he took the modern social issues as his subjects with the aim of directing social reforms. Most of his plays, termed as problem plays, are concerned with political, economic, moral, or religious problems. And his plays have only one passion, i.e. indignation against oppression and exploitation, against hypocrisy and lying, against prostitution and slavery, against poverty, dirt and disorder.

  (2) One feature of Shaw's characterization is that he makes the trick of showing up one character vividly at the expense of another. Usually he would take an unconventional character, a person with the gift of insight and freedom, and impinge it upon a group of conventional social animals, so as to reveal at every turn stock notions, prejudices and dishonesties. Another feature is that Shaw's characters are the representatives of ideas, points of view, that shift and alter during the play, for Mr. Shaw is primarily interested in doctrines.

  (3) Much of Shavian drama is constructed around the inversion of a conventional theatrical situation. The inversion, a device found in Shaw from beginning to end, is an integral part of an interpretation of life. Inversion is also used in character portrayal to achieve comic effects.

  (4) Shaw's plays have plots, but they do not work by plots. The plot is usually the disregarded backbone to one long, unbroken conversation. It is the vitality of the talk that takes primacy over mere story. Action is reduced to a minimum, while the dialogue and the interplay of the minds of the characters maintain the interest of the audience. The forward motion consists not in the unrolling of plot but in the operation of the spirit of discourse.

  四。应用:

  Selected Reading: An Excerpt from Act II of Mrs. Warren's Profession:

  The outline and social significance of Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession:

  (1) The outline: Mrs. Warren's Profession is a play about the economic oppression of women. Mrs. Warren's profession is keeping brothels. Sir George Crofts, an old aristocrat, is her partner in this business. Vivie, Mrs. Warren's daughter, is educated in a very moral atmosphere at a boarding school. Upon graduation, she returns home and by accident discovers the source of her mother's income. Her conversations with Mrs. Warren and Sir George Crofts reveal the unscrupulousness of these members of the ruling class. It must be noted, however, that while protesting strongly against bourgeois exploitation and the immorality of the English ruling classes, Shaw points out no corrective. His heroine Vivie simply leaves her mother and, living independently, tries to earn her bread by honest work. Like Shaw, she is under the delusion that piecemeal, pretty and gradual reform will eventually do away with the evils of capitalism.

  (2) The social significance: The play tells an outrageous truth: in a moribund capitalist society, even prostitution can be made a means of exploitation by an ex-prostitution Mrs. Warren, and a sound investment by a respectable aristocrat Sir George Crofts. Here he exposes and satirizes the entire capitalist system, shows his infinite sympathy for the exploited, and therefore sharply and daringly touches on the most fundamental being of the capitalist system.

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