|Literature and life:
In the this regard Louise M. Rosenblatt contends that Much of value has been written in recent years to remind us that literature deals with human personalities and human problems…. And to be content with analyzing the particular problems or social conditions treated in specific books. He believes that through books, the reader may explore his own nature, become aware of potentialities for thought and feeling within himself, acquire clearer perspective, develop aims and a sense of direction. He may explore the outer world, other personalities, other ways of life (Rosenblatt Viii ). Rosenblatt believes that men of letters affect the student's sense of human personality and human society. … they foster general ideas or theories about human nature and conduct, definite moral attitudes, and habitual responses to people and situations. (Rosenblatt 4)
Furthermore; Rosenblatt gives us insightful details about the nature and mission of men of letters saying that: The lyric poet utters all that the human heart can feel, from joy in the '' cherry hung with snow'' to the poignant sense of this world'' where youth grows pale and spectre-thin and dies.'' The novelist displays the intricate web of human relationships with their hidden patterns of motive and emotion. He may paint the vast panorama of a society in a War and Peace or A Human Comedy. He may follow the fate of an entire family in a Buddenbrooks. He may show us a young man coming to understand himself and life, grappling with his own nature and the society about him, as in A Portrait of the artist as a Young Man and The way of All Flesh, or he may lead us to share in the subtle moods and insights of men and women, as in The Ambassador and the Remembrance of Things Past. The writer of stories catches some significant moment, some mood, some clarifying clash of wills in the life of an individual or a group. He may give us the humorous tale of Rip Van Winkle or the revelation of character in Chekov's The Darling or the harsh image of frustration in Ethan Frome. (Rosenblatt 5)
Rosenblatt goes on his clarification of the nature of the roles of men of letters saying: The dramatist builds a dynamic structure out of the tensions and conflicts of intermingled human lives. He may use the comic incongruities of social conventions and human affectation, as in the Rivals, or he may create a somber symphony out of man's inhumanity to man and the inscrutable whims of fate, as in King Lear. The joys of adventure, the delight in the beauty of the world, the intensities of triumph and defeat, the self –questioning and self-realizations, the pangs of love and hate- indeed as Henry James has said, '' all life, all feeling, all observation, all vision'' – these are the province of literature. Whatever the form: poem, novel, drama, biography, essay- literature makes comprehensible the myriad ways in which human beings meet the infinite possibilities that life offers. And always we seek some close contact with a mind uttering its sense of life. Always too, in greater or lesser degree, the author has written out of a scheme of values, a sense of a social framework or even perhaps, of a cosmic pattern. (Rosenblatt 6)
In compatibility with Rosenblatt's notions, mostly all men of letters believe in what he says about the social and human role of literature. Bahaa Taher (born 1935), one of the most renowned contemporary writers in Egypt and the Arab world reveals that ''World History and culture are part of our genes. We carry them with us, and we reflect on them every step of the way. We are born with an accumulative experience of our own country. In addition to that, my readings and visits to different parts of Egypt helped me develop my understanding of all the regions and its people” ( Ati Metwaly, Meeting Bahaa Taher 2). Ernest Hemingway stressed the need that ''When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature''(See ErnestHemingway quotes at www.brainyquote.com). Rudyard Kipling believes that ''If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten (see Rudyard Kipling quotes at http://www.brainyquote.com ). E.M Forester confirms that ''What is wonderful about great literature is that it transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote'' (See E.M Forester quotes at www.brainyquote.com ). When Mahmoud Darwish (the renowned Palestinian poet) was asked if his poetry can be used as a vehicle for change and if it contributed to the Palestinian national struggle, he answered saying:
In the beginning my poetry contributed to the development of the Palestinian identity. The poet can contribute to the development of a nation in language. He can empower people; make people more human and better able to tolerate life. My poetry is read during times of mourning and celebration. It has also given people joy. Some of my poetry that has been turned into song gives a sense of compensation for losses and defeats. (Interview with Mahmoud Darwish by Raja Shehadeh 4)
Drama & poetry
In Drama and poetry, Aristotle and Plato before him say that Epic poetry and Tragedy, Comedy also and Dithyrambic poetry, as also the music of the flute and the lyre in most of their forms, are in their general conception modes of imitation. This is because art was held to be an imitation of nature or reality during that time. Yet Plato and Aristotle’s theories on nature and reality were widely different, as were their ideas on the mechanism of imitation. Their differing views on mimesis, as outlined principally in The Republic and The Poetics, were thus partly a consequence of their differences in their ontological and epistemological views of the world.( see Julia Annas 3)
In Book II of The Republic, Plato begins a discussion of poetry which is concerned with gods and heroes. He condemns much of this poetry as lies, “and still further because their lies are not attractive” (Republic, II, p24). Many stories, Plato is saying, are not imitations of any reality but are outright falsities, on the grounds that since gods and heroes are by definition better than men, they cannot perform such atrocious acts as shown for example in Homer and Aeschylus (the examples in Republic 26-29). Such portrayals provide justification for men to commit such acts themselves, and therefore these misrepresentations of gods and heroes are harmful to a general populace. ( qtd in Julia Annas 4)
On the other hand Aristotle defines tragedy as an imitation, not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action, and its end is a mode of action, not a quality. According to Aristotle tragedy is:
an imitated action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions Tragedy is an imitation, not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action, and its end is a mode of action, not a quality. (Aristotle poetics VI. Definition of Tragedy)
The most important thing to note about Aristotle's definition of tragedy is its desired effect on audience. Aristotle needs this action to arouse fear and pity in the psyches of audience to reach a state of purgation and sympathy.
Aristotle did not invent the term but he breathed into it a new definite meaning. So poetic imitation is no longer considered mimicry, but is regarded as an act of imaginative creation by which the poet, drawing his material from the phenomenal world, makes something new out of it. Yet Aristotle knew nothing of the “realistic” or “fleshy” school of fiction Poetry may imitate men as better or worse than they are in real life or imitate as they really are. Tragedy and epic represent men on a heroic scale, better than they are, and comedy represents men of a lower type, worse than they are. Aristotle does not discuss the third possibility. It means that poetry does not aim at photographic realism. ( see Julia Annas 4)
Years later after the Greeks and Romans and during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, "drama became the ideal means to capture and convey the diverse interests of the time. Stories of various genres were enacted for audiences consisting of both the wealthy and educated and the poor and illiterate. Shakespeare served his dramatic apprenticeship at the height of the Elizabethan period, in the years following the defeat of the Spanish; he retired at the height of the Jacobean period, not long before the start of the Thirty Years' War. His verse style, his choice of subjects, and his stagecraft all bear the marks of both periods ( See Woodhuysen 34).
David Armitage contends that society and politics are at the core of Shakespeare's works. For example he says that modern criticism of Hamlet has, perhaps unsurprisingly, been dominated by the idea of Hamlet's modern subjectivity, expressed (or, unexpressed) through his interiority. But in this political context he argues that ''Shakespeare's contemporaries would have seen Hamlet not as a modern subject but as a man who withdraws from the corruption of political life. Hamlet is a play profoundly concerned with corruption and its impact upon self-understanding and political self-presentation'' (David Armitage11 ). Likewise; Armitage believes that Measure for Measure is decidedly about political issues of interest to James, and retrospectively it may be seen as bringing Shakespeare and the history of political thought into alignment ( David Armitage3 ).
Moreover; Armitage argues that active citizenship and political rhetoric in Coriolanus play a central part in the play; above all, the ars rhetorica helps us understand the conflict between the common people and the patricians in the play ( David Armitage7 ). This was the case with other major dramatists like Christopher Marlow, Bernard show, Samuel Bekette, Clifford Audits, Sean O'Casey and many others who were interested in depicting Man, his position in the universe, his relation with his fellow men in society and the sociopolitical and psychological factors affecting his life.
Novels as a genre provide a mode of discourse that resists many forms of restrictive boundaries. It appeals to the imagination and opens up possibilities that other modes of discourse seem unable to attain. Novels open vistas of communication, comprehension and interpretation that are otherwise impossible to exploit in other forms of writings. This was the case with almost all men of letters from all over the world. Novelists are interested in exploring and shedding light on diverse social topics, including religion, politics, history, trade, crime, and marriage and mostly every work of art has its origins in real life and reflects a corner of it. For Example Jane Austen was interested in reflecting social themes related to family, love and marriage. Her realism, biting irony and social commentary have gained her historical importance among scholars and critics. Chekhov's disappointment and failed ideals of human life. Tolstoy's realistic portraits of peasants and tsars, servants and emperors in War and Peace. Steinbeck's impossibility of American dream, Friendship and hardships .The a dark brilliance of the writing of Dostoevsky and his compassion for the poor and abused of this world.
Dickens shed light on the various social and economic passive traits of the English society during the Victorian era. Kipling and Forester were depicting societies under the colonial rule. He is chiefly remembered for his tales and poems of British soldiers in India and his tales for children. Orwell was indicting dictatorship and despotism of the Soviet Communistic rule. Defoe was depicting mostly all aspects of the English society and the English Character in the eighteenth century ahead of the the earliest stage of English Empire. Baldwin criticized very cleverly the problems of racism and discrimination that were plaguing the American Society in the first seven decades of the 20th century. Hemingway was interested in depicting Man and his dilemmas in modern age. As it is not the main focus of this study to provide details about the relationship between art and reality. In brief mostly all novelists are commentators and spokesmen of their societies.
American literature, the body of written works produced in the English language in the United States.
Like other national literatures, American literature was shaped by the history of the country that produced it. For almost a century and a half, America was merely a group of colonies scattered along the eastern seaboard of the North American continent—colonies from which a few hardy souls tentatively ventured westward. After a successful rebellion against the motherland, America became the United States, a nation. By the end of the 19th century this nation extended southward to the Gulf of Mexico, northward to the 49th parallel, ... (100 of 20,203 words)