The renaissance 1485 – 1625 The English Renaissance was a cultural and artistic movement



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THEMES

1.Love

Pride and Prejudice contains one of the most cherished love stories in English literature: the courtship between Darcy and Elizabeth. As in any good love story, the lovers must elude and overcome numerous stumbling blocks, beginning with the tensions caused by the lovers’ own personal qualities. Elizabeth’s pride makes her misjudge Darcy on the basis of a poor first impression, while Darcy’s prejudice against Elizabeth’s poor social standing blinds him, for a time, to her many virtues. 

 Darcy and Elizabeth’s realization of a mutual and tender love seems to imply that Austen views love as something independent of these social forces, as something that can be captured if only an individual is able to escape the warping effects of hierarchical society. Austen does sound some more realist (or, one could say, cynical) notes about love, using the character of Charlotte Lucas, who marries the buffoon Mr. Collins for his money, to demonstrate that the heart does not always dictate marriage. Yet with her central characters, Austen suggests that true love is a force separate from society and one that can conquer even the most difficult of circumstances.



2.Reputation

Pride and Prejudice depicts a society in which a woman’s reputation is of the utmost importance. A woman is expected to behave in certain ways. Stepping outside the social norms makes her vulnerable to ostracism. This theme appears in the novel, when Elizabeth walks to Netherfield and arrives with muddy skirts, to the shock of the reputation-conscious Miss Bingley and her friends. The happy ending of Pride and Prejudice is certainly emotionally satisfying, but in many ways it leaves the theme of reputation, and the importance placed on reputation, unexplored. One can ask ofPride and Prejudice, to what extent does it critique social structures, and to what extent does it simply accept their inevitability?

3.Class

The theme of class is related to reputation, in that both reflect the strictly regimented nature of life for the middle and upper classes in Regency England. The lines of class are strictly drawn. While the Bennets, who are middle class, may socialize with the upper-class Bingleys and Darcys, they are clearly their social inferiors and are treated as such. Austen satirizes this kind of class-consciousness, particularly in the character of Mr. Collins, who spends most of his time toadying to his upper-class patron, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. 

Through the Darcy-Elizabeth and Bingley-Jane marriages, Austen shows the power of love and happiness to overcome class boundaries and prejudices, thereby implying that such prejudices are hollow, unfeeling, and unproductive. Austen does criticize class structure but only a limited slice of that structure.

MOTIFS

1.Courtship

In a sense, Pride and Prejudice is the story of two courtships—those between Darcy and Elizabeth and between Bingley and Jane.  Courtship therefore takes on a profound, if often unspoken, importance in the novel. Marriage is the ultimate goal, courtship constitutes the real working-out of love. Courtship becomes a sort of forge of a person’s personality, and each courtship becomes a microcosm for different sorts of love (or different ways to abuse love as a means to social advancement).



2.Journeys

Nearly every scene in Pride and Prejudice takes place indoors, and the action centers around the Bennet home in the small village of Longbourn. Nevertheless, journeys—even short ones—function repeatedly as catalysts for change in the novel. Elizabeth’s first journey, by which she intends simply to visit Charlotte and Mr. Collins, brings her into contact with Mr. Darcy, and leads to his first proposal. Her second journey takes her to Derby and Pemberley, where she fans the growing flame of her affection for Darcy. The third journey, meanwhile, sends various people in pursuit of Wickham and Lydia, and the journey ends with Darcy tracking them down and saving the Bennet family honor, in the process demonstrating his continued devotion to Elizabeth.



SYMBOLS

1.Pemberley

Pride and Prejudice is remarkably free of explicit symbolism, which perhaps has something to do with the novel’s reliance on dialogue over description. Nevertheless, Pemberley, Darcy’s estate, sits at the center of the novel, literally and figuratively, as a geographic symbol of the man who owns it. Elizabeth visits it at a time when her feelings toward Darcy are beginning to warm; she is enchanted by its beauty and charm, and by the picturesque countryside, just as she will be charmed, increasingly, by the gifts of its owner.

Pemberley even offers a symbol-within-a-symbol for their budding romance: when Elizabeth encounters Darcy on the estate, she is crossing a small bridge, suggesting the broad gulf of misunderstanding and class prejudice that lies between them—and the bridge that their love will build across it.



THE VICTORIAN AGE 1837 – 1901

The early part of the 19th century had seen Britain consolidate its position as a world power following the defeat of Napoleon. The rest of the 19th century was to see Britain reach heights of wealth, power and prestige that were unmatched at any other time in its history. This golden age is often referred to as the VICTORIAN ERA because it corresponded with the reign of one of the country’s best-loved queens, Victoria.

One of the great achievements of the century was the gradual construction of a system of parliamentary democracy that was backed up by a permanent civil service which took care of the day-to-day running the state. The system was much admired abroad because it provided stability and social cohesion at a time of rapid economic expansion.

VICTORIAN LITERATURE

The Victorian period was an age of powerful contrasts and paradoxes. Scientific and technological advances paved the way for a better future as traditional religious beliefs began to crumble under the weight of new scientific discovery.



THE VICTORIAN NOVEL

As the Renaissance is identified with drama and Romanticism with poetry, the Victorian age is identified with the NOVEL.



SERIALISATION

The Victorian age also abounded in journals, periodicals and pamphlets. Many early Victorian novels first appeared in serialized form in periodicals.



REALISM

Victorian realism observed and documented everyday life, drew its characters from all social classes and explored areas of life usually ignored by the arts. The writer who is most representative of the Victorian period is CHARLES DICKENS. Although they were contemporaries of Dickens, THE BRONTE SISTERS belong to an earlier literary tradition. Their works, which contain Gothic elements and explores the extremes of passion and violence, are distinctly Romantic in temperament.



LATER VICTORIANS

This term is used to refer to writers in the last two decades of Victoria’s reign. A spirit of rebellion developed against Victorian materialism, optimism and self-confidence. Unlike Dickens and other early Victorian writers who criticized society, but believed in the possibility of finding solutions, an air of gloomy pessimism pervaded the work of later Victorian writers. Perhaps the writer who best represents the period is THOMAS HARDY. His stories are so closely linked to this rural setting that they are referred to as REGIONAL NOVELS.



AESTHETICISM

The crises of faith and morality which characterized the latter half of the Victorian period gave rise in the 1880s and 1890s to an artistic movement known as AESTHETICISM – a term which comes from the Greek word meaning to perceive or to feel. Aesthetes believed that sensation should be the source of art, and that the role of the artist was to make the public share his feelings.

It is now, in the 19th century, that we witness the manifestation of industrialization, England being the first industrialized country in the world. Basically, industrialization refers to the substitution of man by the machine in the economic process and the mass production of consumption goods.

Industrialization represents the engine of the capitalist society and the premise of a long series of social, cultural, economic and psychological transformations of the human community.



1.THE HISTORICAL EFFECT OF THE INDUSTRIALIZATION. The traditional English society can be imagined in the form of a pyramid which concentrates its absolute power at the top in the symbolic persona of the king or queen. The dominant class is the aristocracy. Authority is inherited and not conquered by personal merits and the king represents God on earth and his unnatural, violent elimination from the top may push the whole pyramid into chaos (this happens in Hamlet and Macbeth).

Industrialization brings competition among the rules of socio-economic organization of the system. Authority is no more inherited by birth, bur conquered through personal merits. The pyramid is transformed into a circle where margins can have access to the center.



2.THE POLITICAL EFFECT OF INDUSTRIALIZATION. Politically, this huge transformation in the life of the English society should be linked to the beginnings of the modern democracy in Europe. The Parliament becomes more democratic and opens its door to other social categories. The monarchy is no longer absolute and authoritarian, but liberal and subject to the Parliament.

3.THE ECONOMIC EFFECT OF THE INDUSTRIALIZATION. Economically speaking, Great Britain develops tremendously as a result of the industrialization. Colonialism expands and England gets supremacy in the world.

4.THE SOCIAL EFFECT OF THE INDUSTRIALIZATION. Socially, industrialization represents a turning point in the life of England and Europe generally speaking. It marks the birth of a new and powerful class – the BURGEOISIE. The representatives of this social category are the direct beneficiaries of the industrial progress and they use their financial power to substitute the TRADITIONAL ARISTOCRACY from its positions of authority. The STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE BURGEOISIE AND THE ARISTOCRACY represents a favourite topic in the Victorian novel.

5.THE CULTURAL EFFECT OF INDUSTRIALIZATION. Many philosophers are preoccupied now with the mental effects of the clash between THE MARGIN and THE CENTER. HEGEL introduces two philosophical categories in order to explain the tension between the margin and the center – THE SERVANT and THE MASTER. They are the margin of the system and the center respectively. The Servant is dominated, never dominates, recognizes the Master, is never recognized, and is defined by work for the Master and fear of the Master. The Master is recognized and never recognizes, dominates and is never dominated. The Servant develops a SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS and this is the beginning of the revolution, since he realizes his condition and will want to change it with that of the Master. The Servant begins thus his migration from margin to center. In Victorian terms, the Servant is the bourgeoisie and the Master is the traditional aristocracy.

6.THE AESTHETIC EFFECT OF INDUSTRIALIZATION. The main effect of industrialization in literature is MODERNIZATION. In a sense, industrialization marks aesthetically the beginning of MODERNISM. The traditional pyramid loses its authority and turns gradually into a circle ruled by competition. In a way, this is generated by the ALIENATION OF THE INDIVIDUAL inflicted on the community by industrialization. The same alienation can be noted in the epic and should be translated not as a loss of authority, but rather as a loss of authorship. In other words, THE TRADITIONAL OMNISCIENT AUTHOR (the God-like creator who plays with the destinies of his characters as if they were puppets, the one who knows all about everything and whose will is wish in the novel) dies out – THE DEATH OF THE AUTHOR – and is substituted by NARRATORS, actual characters, autonomous from the caprices of the writer.

NARRATORS have their own subjectivities, sensitivity, sensibility, emotional structure and level of knowledge. They cannot be objective, and frequently distort reality. So, Realism no longer consists of the IMITATION OF A GIVEN WORLD, but the TRANSFORMATION OF A CERTAIN UNIVERSE ACCORDING TO THE SUBJECTIVITY OF A NARRATOR.

The Victorian narrator (in Dickens, Brontes or in James) is an observer of a metaphorical cube, being unable in spite of his efforts to give us the overall picture of the reality he comes to be confronted with. This situation also creates the premises of an IMPERSONALITY OF WRITING, in the sense that the auctorial voice disappears.

The Victorian novel will confront us, too, with the BEGINNING OF PSYCHOLOGICAL REALISM, the BEGINNING OF FEMINISM and the BEGINNING OF THE MODERN TRAGEDY. These can also be considered the aesthetic consequences of industrialization.

ALICES’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND – LEWIS CAROLL

CONTEXT

Lewis Carroll was the pseudonym of Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a lecturer in mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford, who lived from 1832 to 1898. Carroll’s physical deformities, partial deafness, and irrepressible stammer made him an unlikely candidate for producing one of the most popular and enduring children’s fantasies in the English language. Carroll’s keen grasp of mathematics and logic inspired the linguistic humor and witty wordplay in his stories. Additionally, his unique understanding of children’s minds allowed him to compose imaginative fiction that appealed to young people.



ANALYSIS OF MAJOR CHARACTERS

Alice

Alice is a sensible prepubescent girl from a wealthy English family who finds herself in a strange world ruled by imagination and fantasy. Alice feels comfortable with her identity and has a strong sense that her environment is comprised of clear, logical, and consistent rules and features. Alice’s familiarity with the world has led one critic to describe her as a “disembodied intellect.” Alice displays great curiosity and attempts to fit her diverse experiences into a clear understanding of the world. Alice approaches Wonderland as an anthropologist, but maintains a strong sense of noblesse oblige that comes with her class status. She has confidence in her social position, education, and the Victorian virtue of good manners.

The tension of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland emerges when Alice’s fixed perspective of the world comes into contact with the mad, illogical world of Wonderland. Alice’s fixed sense of order clashes with the madness she finds in Wonderland.

Most significantly, Wonderland challenges her perceptions of good manners by constantly assaulting her with dismissive rudeness. Alice’s fundamental beliefs face challenges at every turn, and as a result Alice suffers an identity crisis. She persists in her way of life as she perceives her sense of order collapsing all around her. Alice must choose between retaining her notions of order and assimilating into Wonderland’s nonsensical rules.



THEMES

1.The tragic and inevitable loss of childhood innocence

Throughout the course of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice goes through a variety of absurd physical changes. The discomfort she feels at never being the right size acts as a symbol for the changes that occur during puberty. Alice finds these changes to be traumatic, and feels discomfort, frustration, and sadness when she goes through them. She struggles to maintain a comfortable physical size. 



2.Life as a meaningless puzzle

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice encounters a series of puzzles that seem to have no clear solutions, which imitates the ways that life frustrates expectations. Alice expects that the situations she encounters will make a certain kind of sense, but they repeatedly frustrate her ability to figure out Wonderland.

In every instance, the riddles and challenges presented to Alice have no purpose or answer. Even though Lewis Carroll was a logician, in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland he makes a farce out of jokes, riddles, and games of logic. Alice learns that she cannot expect to find logic or meaning in the situations that she encounters, even when they appear to be problems, riddles, or games that would normally have solutions that Alice would be able to figure out. Carroll makes a broader point about the ways that life frustrates expectations and resists interpretation, even when problems seem familiar or solvable.

3.Death as a constant and underlying menace

Alice continually finds herself in situations in which she risks death, and while these threats never materialize, they suggest that death lurks just behind the ridiculous events of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a present and possible outcome. 

Alice takes risks that could possibly kill her, but she never considers death as a possible outcome. Over time, she starts to realize that her experiences in Wonderland are far more threatening than they appear to be. As the Queen screams “Off with its head!” she understands that Wonderland may not merely be a ridiculous realm where expectations are repeatedly frustrated. Death may be a real threat, and Alice starts to understand that the risks she faces may not be ridiculous and absurd after all.

MOTIFS

1.Dream

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland takes place in Alice’s dream, so that the characters and phenomena of the real world mix with elements of Alice’s unconscious state. The dream motif explains the abundance of nonsensical and disparate events in the story. As in a dream, the narrative follows the dreamer as she encounters various episodes in which she attempts to interpret her experiences in relationship to herself and her world.

2.Subversion

Alice quickly discovers during her travels that the only reliable aspect of Wonderland that she can count on is that it will frustrate her expectations and challenge her understanding of the natural order of the world. In Wonderland, Alice finds that her lessons no longer mean what she thought, as she botches her multiplication tables and incorrectly recites poems she had memorized while in Wonderland. Even Alice’s physical dimensions become warped as she grows and shrinks erratically throughout the story. Wonderland frustrates Alice’s desires to fit her experiences in a logical framework where she can make sense of the relationship between cause and effect.



3.Language

Carroll plays with linguistic conventions in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, making use of puns and playing on multiple meanings of words throughout the text. Carroll invents words and expressions and develops new meanings for words. Alice’s exclamation “Curious and curiouser!” suggests that both her surroundings and the language she uses to describe them expand beyond expectation and convention. Anything is possible in Wonderland, and Carroll’s manipulation of language reflects this sense of unlimited possibility.



4.Curious, nonsense and confusing

Alice uses these words throughout her journey to describe phenomena she has trouble explaining. Though the words are generally interchangeable, she usually assigns curious and confusing to experiences or encounters that she tolerates. She endures is the experiences that are curious or confusing, hoping to gain a clearer picture of how that individual or experience functions in the world. When Alice declares something to be nonsense, as she does with the trial in Chapter 12, she rejects or criticizes the experience or encounter.



SYMBOLS

1.The garden

Nearly every object in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland functions as a symbol, but nothing clearly represents one particular thing. The garden may symbolize the Garden of Eden, an idyllic space of beauty and innocence that Alice is not permitted to access. On a more abstract level, the garden may simply represent the experience of desire, in that Alice focuses her energy and emotion on trying to attain it. The two symbolic meanings work together to underscore Alice’s desire to hold onto her feelings of childlike innocence that she must relinquish as she matures.



2.The Caterpillar’s mushroom

Like the garden, the Caterpillar’s mushroom also has multiple symbolic meanings. Some readers and critics view the Caterpillar as a sexual threat, its phallic shape a symbol of sexual virility. The Caterpillar’s mushroom connects to this symbolic meaning. Alice must master the properties of the mushroom to gain control over her fluctuating size, which represents the bodily frustrations that accompany puberty. Others view the mushroom as a psychedelic hallucinogen that compounds Alice’s surreal and distorted perception of Wonderland.



GREAT EXPECTATIONS – CHARLES DICKENS

Dickens is the first 19th century English writer who visibly moves from the social phase, in the development of the novel, to the more sophisticated psychological and phenomenological phases. His originality derives at least from three major innovations of his epic:



  1. The investigation of human nature – he breaks up with the classical prejudice according to which characters should embody principles, and therefore be unidirectional (either good or evil). In the traditional novel and drama, characters are either heroes or villains, displaying constantly either virtues or vices. Life forces us to accept the fact that the human nature is contradictory, being impossible to fit in one unidirectional typology only. In reality, people are morally ambiguous, psychologically unpredictable and structurally dual, swinging between good and evil.

  2. The perception of reality in the novel – the author gives up entirely the use of an omniscient perspective in favour of the first person narrative (the use of a narrator who sees reality through his own eyes, according to his subjectivity, degree of knowledge, sensitivity, sensibility and strategies). This represents a revolution in the English novel, marking the beginning of Modernism. It is a new type of Realism which doesn’t focus much on the imitation of nature and society, but rather in being true-to-life itself.

  3. The ironic constructions of his dramatic plots – irony can be defined as a conflict between what is said and what is meant, between appearance and reality. Dickens’s major novels should be regarded as essentially ironic constructs, since they illustrate a permanent oscillation between appearance and realities. His dramatic plots rely fundamentally on an ironic design. Consequences of his irony are the humour, the satirical critique, the grotesque charaacters.

Dickens’s work has two phases:

  1. A phase of formation

  2. A phase of maturity

The distinction between these two moments of Dickens’s artistic evolution is stylistic and psychological. If, in the former period of creation, the author’s style is much indebted to his journalistic beginnings and his heroes seem to be tributary to the tradition, in the latter, his style is more elaborate, announcing one of the greatest prose writers in the history of world literature. Both periods influence crucially the development of Victorian culture.

The absolute masterpiece is Great Expectations. This is the novel in which – by means of a first person narrator – Dickens announces the beginning of a new form of epic that can be easily characterized as modernist. The text is partly autobiographic and has the elements of a Bildungsroman. Although similar to Dickens himself (he is an orphan), Pip – the only autobiographical suggestion of the novel – should not be mistaken, however, for the author. Pip behaves exactly like a narrator, displaying an acute subjectivity. He filters reality through his own consciousness and everything we see in the novel consists of what he actually sees and interprets for us. Nothing is properly objective, since it is adapted to Pip’s subjectivity. The narrative strategy becomes obvious at the very outset of the story when the reader gets introduced to the narrator of the text: Pip. Pip is just a five year old boy in this introductory scene and he observes things according to his age. There are moments when we – the readers – seem to know more than the narrator, as our experience is, evidently, much wider. He confesses he sees the church turning upside down. This remains a highly metaphorical scene. It has a double significance. On the one hand, it anticipates the evolution of facts in the novel (Magwitch will turn Pip’s life at one point upside down). On the other hand and more importantly, it suggests to us the Pip is the independent narrator of the novel. We are going to see reality through his eyes only.


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