- Literary Analysis

literary-analysis Category

Realism in Defoe and Swift

Does the eighteenth century witness the emergence of ‘realism’ in the English novel?
Literature Essay

  • Assessment: Essay
  • Mark: A
  • Year: 2006
  • Wordcount: 1629

George Levine (1981: 240) defines realism in the English novels “as a self-conscious effort, usually in the name of some moral enterprise of truth telling and extending the limits of human sympathy, to make literature appear to be describing directly […] reality itself”. In Roland Barthes (1986: 260) view “realism is only fragmentary, erratic, confined to ‘details’” and one has to bear in mind that even “the most realistic narrative imaginable develops along unrealistic lines”. Ian Watt defines realism in different ways. One definition is that realism portrays “all the varieties of human experience” (Watt 2000: 11) and identifies “a belief in the individual apprehension of reality through the senses” (Watt 2000: 14).
Hence, each approach focuses on a specific characteristic of the genre and identifies its link with realism. The text’s characters within their environment, the used language, a realistic plot and the author’s claim of truth, all attempt to reflect a “correspondence between life and literature” (Watt 2000: 12). In analysing Moll Flanders and Lemuel Gulliver within their “play between illusion and reality” (Davis 1983: 11) the emergence of realism in the 18th century is, on the one hand, examined and, on the other hand, questioned in this essay.

Swift frames Lemuel Gulliver as a simple and honest seaman, who is “neither a fool nor a genius; resourceful, energetic and brave, though not on the grand heroic scale;” (Ward 1973: 121-122). Yet, according to Ward (1973:125) Gulliver cannot be identified as a fully developed human personality because he is “representing some aspects of humanity, or ourselves, never the whole”. Despite of some biographical records the reader does not obtain “any sort of expression of Gulliverian personality in anything Gulliver says” (Rawson 2005: 23). Swift uses Gulliver as the observing and framing tool through which the satire develops. He equips Gulliver with curiosity and an obsession for travelling but he does not unfold Gulliver’s personal story and feelings or present an understandable mental development within his character (Rawson 2005: 22-23). As long as the reader is willing to identify with some aspects of Gulliver he has fulfilled his purpose.
Like Gulliver also Moll Flanders lacks attitude…

Full Text:
file: RiseNovel_Literature.pdf []
Category: Literature
download: 4747

History in Modernist Writing

What is the significance of the representation of history in modernist writing and/or visual arts?
Literature Essay

  • Assessment: essay
  • Mark: A
  • Year: 2006
  • Wordcount: 3274

In 1937, Pablo Picasso produced his famous Guernica. This cubist work is a response to the bombing of the Luftwaffe of the Basque town Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. Picasso embodies the brutality of war and emphasizes in various facets that civilians have become targets. (Goldman 2004: 221-222). Another clear response to history can be found in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Between the Acts. In these texts, Woolf analyses the “meaning and value of history for the present” (Moody 1963: 115) and attempts to portray the spirit of a time “poised unhappily between a past which has lost its significance and a future whose only hope is that ‘a new life might be born’” (Basham 1970: 114).

These forms of representation of historical events in art evolved over the course of time and requested a serious analysis of the idea of history itself. The theory of history as a cyclic pattern, Bergson’s reflections on time as flux and unstable, and the understanding of transience and speed replaced the Edwardian concept of history as progressive and linear (Williams 2002: 2). Such revaluations have been inspired by the urgency of the political and historical events during the first half of the 20th Century and find an expression in the techniques, forms and contents of modernist writing.

This paper attempts to examine the significance of historical theories and events in Virginia Woolf’s and Franz Kafka’s work. In analysing Mrs. Dalloway and Between the Acts, this essay will demonstrate Woolf’s perceptions of history and her representation of World War I and World War II. Woolf’s texts will then be contrasted by Kafka’s Metamorphosis, which critics read either as an escapist text or as a radical rejection of any form of history (David 1978: 66-80).

According to De Man (1996: 478) modernism and modernity challenge history in a fundamental way. Nietzsche (cited in De Man 1996: 478), for example, focuses in his Unzeitgemässe Betrachtung on modernity and life as opposed to history and tradition. Many modernists perceive that “modernity exists in the form of a desire to wipe out whatever came earlier, in the hope of reaching at last a point that could be called a true present” (De Man 1996: 480). In Mrs. Dalloway…

Full text:
file: HistoryMod_Lit.pdf []
Category: Literature
download: 1371

Poetry after Auschwitz

More Light! More Light!
Composed in the Tower before his execution
These moving verses, and being brought at that time
Painfully to the stake, submitted, declaring thus:
“I implore my God to witness that I have made no crime.”

Nor was he forsaken of courage, but the death was horrible,
The sack of gunpowder failing to ignite.
His legs were blistered sticks on which the black sap
Bubbled and burst as he howled for the Kindly Light.

And that was but one, and by no means one of the worst;
Permitted at least his pitiful dignity;
And such as were by made prayers in the name of Christ,
That shall judge all men, for his soul’s tranquillity.

We move now to ouside a German wood.
Three men are there commanded to dig a hole
In which the two Jews are ordered to lie down
And be buried alive by the third, who is a Pole.

Not light from the shrine at Weimar beyond the hill
Nor light from heaven appeared. But he did refuse.
A Lüger settled back deeply in its glove.
He was ordered to change places with the Jews.

Much casual death had drained away their souls.
The thick dirt mounted toward the quivering chin.
When only the head was exposed the order came
To dig him out again and to get back in.

No light, no light in the blue Polish eye.
When he finished a riding book packed down the earth.
The Lüger hovered lightly in its glove.
He was shot in the belly and in three hours bled to death.

No prayers or incense rose up in those hours
Which grew to be years, and every day came mute
Ghosts from the ovens, sifting through crisp air,
And settled upon his eyes in a black soot.
(Anthony Hecht)

in a way
“to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric” (T.W. Adorno)

“surrender to silence would be a surrender to cynicism, and thus by implication a concession to the forces that had created Auschwitz in the first place” (H. M. Enzensberger)

“Art, in a sense, is a revolt against everything fleeting and unfinished in the world. Consequently, its only aim is to give another form to a reality that it is nevertheless forced to preserve as the source of its emotion. In this regard we are all realistic, and no one is.” (A. Camus)

Langer L.L. (1975), The Holocaust and the literary Imagination, New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 1-5.

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