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Dec 18, 2010

John Updike

In 1966, when John Updike was first asked to do a Paris Review interview, he refused: “Perhaps I have written fiction because everything unambiguously expressed seems somehow crass to me; and when the subject is myself, I want to jeer and weep. Also, I really don't have a great deal to tell interviewers; the little I learned about life and the art of fiction I try to express in my work.”

John Steinbeck

[John Steinbeck had agreed to a Paris Review interview late in his life. He had earlier been coy about it but then wanted the interview very much. He was, unfortunately, too sick to work on the project, though it was at the end often in his thoughts. With this interest of his in mind, the editors of this magazine compiled a number of comments on the art of fiction that John Steinbeck made over the years. Some come from the East of Eden diaries, published in December 1969 by Viking Press under the title Journal of a Novel. Others are excerpted from letters, some of which have been collected under the title Steinbeck: A Life in Letters and published in October 1975 by Viking. The quotes have been organized under various topic headings rather than chronologically, as they are in the diaries and letters. Nathaniel Benchley, a close friend of the author, has provided the introduction.]

Boris Pasternak

Fragment of a letter from Boris Pasternak to a fellow poet:
“The melodic authenticity of most of your work is very dear to me, as is your faithfulness to the principle of melody and to “ascent” in the supreme sense that Alexander Blok gave that word.
"You will understand from a reading of my most recent works that I, too, am under the power of the same influence, but we must try to make sure that, as in Alexander Blok, this note works, reveals, incarnates, and expresses thoughts to their ultimate clarity, instead of being only a reminder of sounds which originally charmed us, an inconsequential echo dying in the air.”

Ezra Pound

Since his return to Italy, Ezra Pound has spent most of his time in the Tirol, staying at Castle Brunnenburg with his wife, his daughter Mary, his son-in-law Prince Boris de Rachewiltz, and his grandchildren. However, the mountains in this resort country near Merano are cold in the winter, and Mr. Pound likes the sun. The interviewer was about to leave England for Merano, at the end of February, when a telegram stopped him at the door: “Merano icebound. Come to Rome.”

Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov lives with his wife Véra in the Montreux Palace Hotel in Montreux, Switzerland, a resort city on Lake Geneva which was a favorite of Russian aristocrats of the last century. They dwell in a connected series of hotel rooms that, like their houses and apartments in the United States, seem impermanent, places of exile. Their rooms include one used for visits by their son Dmitri, and another, the chambre de debarras, where various items are deposited—Turkish and Japanese editions of Lolita, other books, sporting equipment, an American flag.


In 1934, Henry Miller, then aged forty-two and living in Paris, published his first book. In 1961 the book was finally published in his native land, where it promptly became a best-seller and a cause célèbre. By now the waters have been so muddied by controversy about censorship, pornography, and obscenity that one is likely to talk about anything but the book itself.


The interview took place in the living room of the apartment in Paris where Miss McCarthy was staying during the winter of 1961. It was a sunny, pleasant room, not too large, with long windows facing south toward the new buildings going up along the avenue Montaigne. A dining-cum-writing table stood in an alcove at one end; on it were a lamp, some books and papers, and a rather well-worn portable typewriter. At the other end of the room were several armchairs and a low sofa where Miss McCarthy sat while the interview was recorded. On this early-spring afternoon, the windows were open wide, letting in a warm breeze and the noise of construction work nearby. An enormous pink azalea plant bloomed on the balcony, and roses graced a small desk in one corner.

Aldous Huxley

Among serious novelists, Aldous Huxley is surely the wittiest and most irreverent. Ever since the early twenties, his name has been a byword for a particular kind of social satire; in fact, he has immortalized in satire a whole period and a way of life. In addition to his ten novels, Huxley has written, during the course of an extremely prolific career, poetry, drama, essays, travel, biography, and history.

Norman Mailer

The interview took place on the afternoon of Saturday, July 6, 1963. The setting was Norman Mailer's Brooklyn Heights apartment, whose living room commands a panoramic view of lower Manhattan, the East River, and the New York harbor. The living room is fitted out with nautical or maritime furnishings and decorations, and Mailer, his curls unshorn, seemed at odd moments during the afternoon the novelist-as-ship-captain, though less Ahab than Captain Vere, and less both than Captain Shotover in ripe middle age. Mailer had recently stopped smoking, and the absence of nicotine had caused him to put on weight, which he carries gracefully and with vigor; the new amplitude of flesh seems to have influenced his spirit in the direction of benignity.

Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg was elected King of the May by Czech students in Prague on May Day, 1965. Soon afterward, he was expelled by the Czech government. He had been traveling for several months—in Cuba, Russia, and Poland—and from Prague he flew to London to negotiate the English publication of his poems.  I didn’t know he was in the country, but one night in Bristol before a poetry reading I saw him in a bar.  He read that night; I hadn’t heard him read before and was struck that evening by the way he seemed to enter each of his poems emotionally while reading them, the performance was much a discovery for him as for his audience.

Robert Frost

Mr. Frost came into the front room of his house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, casually dressed, wearing high plaid slippers, offering greetings with a quiet, even diffident friendliness. But there was no mistaking the evidence of the enormous power of his personality. It makes you at once aware of the thick, compacted strength of his body, even now at eighty-six; it is apparent in his face, actually too alive and spontaneously expressive to be as ruggedly heroic as in his photographs.

Jorge Luis Borges

This interview was conducted in July 1966, in conversations I held with Borges at his office in the Biblioteca Nacional, of which he is the director. The room, recalling an older Buenos Aires, is not really an office at all but a large, ornate, high-ceilinged chamber in the newly renovated library. On the walls—but far too high to be easily read, as if hung with diffidence—are various academic certificates and literary citations. There are also several Piranesi etchings, bringing to mind the nightmarish Piranesi ruin in Borges's story, “The Immortal.” Over the fireplace is a large portrait; when I asked Borges's secretary, Miss Susana Quinteros, about the portrait, she responded in a fitting, if unintentional echo of a basic Borgesean theme: “No importa. It's a reproduction of another painting.”

Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir had introduced me to Jean Genet and Jean-Paul Sartre, whom I had interviewed. But she hesitated about being interviewed herself: “Why should we talk about me? Don't you think I've done enough in my three books of memoirs?” It took several letters and conversations to convince her otherwise, and then only on the condition “that it wouldn't be too long.”

Saul Bellow

The interview “took place” over a period of several weeks. Beginning with some exploratory discussions during May of 1965, it was shelved during the summer, and actually accomplished during September and October. Two recording sessions were held, totaling about an hour and a half, but this was only a small part of the effort Mr. Bellow gave to this interview. A series of meetings, for over five weeks, was devoted to the most careful revision of the original material. Recognizing at the outset the effort he would make for such an interview, he had real reluctance about beginning it at all. Once his decision had been reached, however, he gave a remarkable amount of his time freely to the task—up to two hours a day, at least twice and often three times a week throughout the entire five-week period. It had become an opportunity, as he put it, to say some things which were important but which weren't being said.

Edward Elbee

The interview happened on a scalding, soggy-aired Fourth of July in a sunny room in Albee's small, attractive country house in Montauk, Long Island. Keeping in mind his luxuriously appointed house in New York City's Greenwich Village, one finds the country place dramatically modest by comparison. With the exception of a handsome, newly built tennis court (in which the playwright takes a disarmingly childlike pleasure and pride) and an incongruously grand Henry Moore sculpture situated high on a landscaped terrace that commands a startling view of the sea, the simplicity of the place leaves one with the curious impression that the news of the personal wealth his work has brought him has not quite reached the playwright-in-residence at Montauk. Still, it is in his country house that he generally seems most at ease, natural, at home.

Ernest Hemingway

You go to the races?

Yes, occasionally.

Then you read the Racing Form . . . . There you have the true art of fiction.

—Conversation in a Madrid café, May 1954

Ernest Hemingway writes in the bedroom of his house in the Havana suburb of San Francisco de Paula. He has a special workroom prepared for him in a square tower at the southwest corner of the house, but prefers to work in his bedroom, climbing to the tower room only when “characters” drive him up there.
The bedroom is on the ground floor and connects with the main room of the house. The door between the two is kept ajar by a heavy volume listing and describing The World’s Aircraft Engines. The bedroom is large, sunny, the windows facing east and south letting in the day’s light on white walls and a yellow-tinged tile floor.

Graham Greene

The eighteenth century succeeds to the twentieth on the ground floors at the bottom of St. James's Street. The gloss and the cellophane of oyster bars and travel agencies are wrapped incongruously round the legs of the dignified houses. Graham Greene lives here at the commercial end of this thoroughfare in a flat on the first floor of a narrow house sandwiched between the clubs of the aristocracy and St. James's Palace. Above him, General Auchinleck, the soldier who was beaten by Rommel; below him, the smartest oyster bar in Europe; opposite, the second smartest.

Henry Green

Henry Green is a tall, gracious, and imposingly handsome man, with a warm, strong voice and very quick eyes. In speech he displays on occasion that hallmark of the English public school: the slight tilt of the head and closing of the eyes when pronouncing the first few words of some sentences—a manner most often in contrast to what he is saying, for his expressions tend toward parable and his wit may move from cozy to scorpion-dry in less than a twinkle. Many have remarked that his celebrated deafness will roar or falter according to his spirit and situation; at any rate he will not use a hearing aid, for reasons of his own, which are no doubt discernable to some.

EM Foster

“That is not all of Arctic Summer—there is almost half as much of it again—but that’s all I want to read because now it goes off, or at least I think so, and I do not want my voice to go out into the air while my heart is sinking. It will be more interesting to consider what the problems before me were, and why I was unlikely to solve them. I should like to do this, though it may involve us a little in fiction technicalities . . .”
So said E. M. Forster, addressing an audience at the Aldeburgh Festival of 1951. He had been reading part of an unfinished novel called Arctic Summer. At the end of the reading, he went on to explain why he had not finished the novel, which led him to mention what he called “fiction technicalities.”

William Faulkner

William Faulkner was born in 1897 in New Albany, Mississippi, where his father was then working as a conductor on the railroad built by the novelist's great-grandfather, Colonel William Falkner (without the “u”), author of The White Rose of Memphis. Soon the family moved to Oxford, thirty-five miles away, where young Faulkner, although he was a voracious reader, failed to earn enough credits to be graduated from the local high school. In 1918 he enlisted as a student flyer in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He spent a little more than a year as a special student at the state university, Ole Miss, and later worked as postmaster at the university station until he was fired for reading on the job.

Ralph Ellison

When Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison’s first novel, received the National Book Award for 1953, the author in his acceptance speech noted with dismay and gratification the conferring of the award to what he called an “attempt at a major novel.” His gratification was understandable, so too his dismay when one considers the amount of objectivity Mr. Ellison can display toward his own work. He felt the state of United States fiction to be so unhappy that it was an “attempt” rather than an achievement which received the important award.

Harold Pinter

Harold Pinter had recently moved into a five-story 1820 Nash house facing Regent's Park in London. The view from the floor-through top floor where he has installed his office overlooks a duck pond and a long stretch of wooded parkland; his desk faces this view, and in late October 1966, when the interview took place, the changing leaves and the hazy London sun constantly distracted him as he thought over questions or began to give answers. He speaks in a deep, theater-trained voice that comes rather surprisingly from him, and indeed is the most remarkable thing about him physically. When speaking he almost always tends to excessive qualification of any statement, as if coming to a final definition of things were obviously impossible. One gets the impression—as one does with many of the characters in his plays—of a man so deeply involved with what he's thinking that roughing it into speech is a painful necessity.

Dec 13, 2010

Jnanpith Award

The Jnanpith Award is the highest literary award in India. It is presented by the Bharatiya Jnanpith, a trust founded by the Sahu Jain family, the publishers of The Times of India Newspaper. The name of the award is taken from Sanskrit jnāna-pīha = "knowledge-seat". The award carries a check for Rs. 700,000, a citation plaque and a bronze replica of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, and the arts. The award was instituted in 1961, and its first recipient, in 1965, was the Malayalam writer G. Sankara Kurup. Any Indian citizen who writes in any of the official languages of India is eligible for the honor. Prior to 1982, the awards were given for a single work by a writer; since then, the award has been given for a lifetime contribution to Indian literature. Seven awards each have been awarded in Kannada and Hindi and followed by five in Bengali and Malayalam, four in and Urdu and three in Gujarati, Oriya and Marathi[3].The award announcements have lately been lagging behind the award-years. The awards for the years 2005 and 2006 were announced on November 22, 2008, and were awarded to the Hindi writer Kunwar Narayan for 2005 and jointly to Konkani writer Ravindra Kelekar and Sanskrit scholar Satya Vrat Shastri for 2006. Satya Vrat Shastri is the first Sanskrit poet to be conferred the award since its inception.

Nov 1, 2010

No damage to India from Arundhati Roy's remarks

How should the government respond to the remarks made by Arundhati Roy about Kashmir and about the behaviour of our armed forces in that state? So far, public opinion has been largely guided by two factors. The first of these is the public view of Roy. Many — if not most — educated Indians have no time for Roy. In a recent TV discussion, the actor Anupam Kher characterised her as a 'one-book wonder', as a woman who has shot her literary bolt and now keeps herself in the news by making increasingly outrageous anti-Indian statements for the benefit of the foreign media. Her caricature of India as some sort of neo-Nazi state where minorities are routinely persecuted and the poor cheerfully exploited offers foreign journos a useful counterpoint to the 'Indian success story' headlines and gives them a lazy way of adding dissenting notes to the usual India pieces.

Oct 26, 2010

David Mitchell

The early life of David Mitchell, spent in the town of Malvern in Worcestershire, England, was ordinary and uneventful—as he puts it, “white, straight, and middle-class.” Things got more exciting when, at twenty-four, he fell in love with a Japanese woman and moved to Hiroshima. Six years later he published his first novel, Ghostwritten (1999), which A. S. Byatt declared one of the best first novels she’d read. It was awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for the best work of literature by a British or Commonwealth author thirty-five or younger. Both his second novel, Number9Dream (2001), and his third, Cloud Atlas (2004), were short-listed for the Booker Prize; Granta picked him as one of the best young British novelists; and Time magazine, following the publication of his fourth novel, Black Swan Green (2006), chose him as the only literary novelist in their 2007 list of the one hundred most influential people in the world. His new book, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, is a rich and absorbing historical novel set in Japan at the very end of the eighteenth century, in Dejima, a walled artificial island in Nagasaki Harbor that was the only place in the country where Westerners were tolerated. All five novels are ambitious, formally complex, imaginatively powerful, and immaculately written. They zigzag across the globe, across centuries, skipping from genre to genre with a restless, openhearted intelligence.

IB Singer

Isaac Bashevis Singer lives with his second wife in a large, sunny five-room apartment in an Upper Broadway apartment house. In addition to hundreds of books and a large television set, it is furnished with the kind of pseudo-Victorian furniture typical of the comfortable homes of Brooklyn and the Bronx in the 1930s.  Singer works at a small, cluttered desk in the living room. He writes every day, but without special hours—in between interviews, visits, and phone calls. His name is still listed in the Manhattan telephone directory, and hardly a day goes by without his receiving several calls from strangers who have read something he has written and want to talk to him about it. Until recently, he would invite anyone who called for lunch, or at least coffee.

Oct 21, 2010

Salman Rushdie signs deal to publish memoir

Booker Prize-winning author Salman Rushdie - who was for many years in hiding after he was subject to a Fatwah - has signed a deal to publish his memoir, it was announced today. Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses writer Rushdie has signed a worldwide deal with Random House for the book, which will be published in 2012. His memoir will tackle his marriages, his experience as an "outsider" at public school and his years of internal exile.

Silence! The Court is in Session

The Trial between the humanists and the anti-humanists in Vijay Tendulkar's play
'Silence! The court is in Session'.

Vijay Tendulkar (1928-2008) emerged as a rebel against the established values of a fundamently orthodox society with the production of Shantata! court chalu Ahe (Silence! The court is in session) in 1967, he became the centre of controversy.

This drama presents a metaphorical trial between the humanists and the anti-humanists. 'Silence! The court is in Session' is in reality a mock trial of simple and straightforward school teacher Miss Leela Benare. She is cross-examined in the court with full mockery. She is charged with infanticide and having illicit relations with a married person Professor Damle and in this way her private life is exposed. All the other characters like witnesses Mr. Gopal Ponkshe. Mr. Karnik Rokde, Samant, counsel for the Defence and counsel for the crown Mr. Sukhatme and judge, Mr. Kashikar and his wife Mrs. Kashikar all behave in a way of mockery. 

Miss Leela Benare is summoned merely as a witness while Miss Benare remains the prime accused as the mother of an illegitimate child and having illicit relations with so many persons. As the trial go on all the witnesses and authorities become inimical towards Miss Leela Benare. On the charge of unmarried motherhood and having illicit relations with so many persons, the judge, Mr. Kashikar orders the school authorities to dismiss such an immoral woman. Miss Leela Benare tried to defend herself through a long soliloquy. "The parrot to the sparrow said, "Why, of why, are your eyes so red?" Oh, my dear friend, what shall I say/" Someone has stolen my nest away. Sparrow, sparrow, poor little sparrow 'oh brother crow, oh, brother crow. Were you there? Did you see it go?" No, I don't know I didn't see, what are you troubles to do with me? O sparrow, sparrow, poor little sparrow."

The jury of the Sangeet Natak Akademi refused to accept "Silence! The court is in session" as a play because they were stuffed with colonial hang ups and they considered themselves to be consumers in the entertainment market. Maharjas promoting Indian art and culture in their private dance, halls. Vijay Tendulkar, while refusing to conform to such norms of complacency, imposes his own authorial power which is accepted by themoney magnets as a trivial, non serious activity.

Tendulkar's this play is based on the theme of power, its sources and manifestation. The characters fight for authority and power and try to trap each other through a metaphorical mock-court. But peculiarly, the power, play that underscores the games operates more through the monologues rather than through the dialogues. The play oscillates between theatricalization of private life and privatization of theatrical performance. Leela's position within the game of the mock-trial is not steady she oscillates between reality and illussion and the imaginative and the mundane. While performing the role of a woman in the group, she transcends the limitations of verbal reasoning and tries to spy into the masculine strategies. The charges against Leela Benare are levelled by evidences of reality that mark out the boundaries what might be called the collective mindscape, the limits of same experience. 

Leela differs as to the best way to break loose from this enslavement to collective prejudice, but she believes that truth and reality are achieved only when reality is approached in nakedness of mind. Leela's argument against body and its mechanical connections and her discourse of emotion saves her from dehumanization. Her statement in the last monologue also reminds one of Theodre Rozak's observation quoted by charles Frankel, "Our proud, presumptuous head speaks one language our body another- a silent, arcane language. Our head experiences in the mode of number, logic, mechanical connection, our body in the process of fluid process intuitive adaptition, it says to an inner purposive rhythm--" (Frankel:70)

Vijay Tendulkar again and again mentions society and social customs by his characters. Miss Benare has the charge of infanticide. Mr. Kashikar, the judge enquires Sukhatme, "Did you notice also, Sukhatme, that this charge is important from the social point of view? The question of infanticide is one of great social significance. That is why I deliberately picked it. We consider society's best interests in all we do." Miss Benare, the heroime of the play, is a school teacher. She is totally devoted to her profession and her popularity has caused the envy of her colleagues at school and even the school management. Initially, when Leela Benare narrates her life in the school with children, she transforms the empty scenic space of the proscenium, stage into a school situation. 

Leela's acting changes the dialogic narration into live performance and with that the empty space transforms into a new mimetic space. The characters go back to a changed context and situation. Leela becomes the teacher and other performers become children: Benare: (suddenly expansive) shall I tell you a story? children be seated. There was once a wolf ---" (P9). As the game of transformation begins the other performers voluenteer to participate in the process. Balu Rokde, the youngest of the actors, says, "Rokde: (suddenly sitting down cross legged) Do tell it miss sit down, Mr. Sukhatme. Ponkshe, Sit down." (P-10)

In the court Miss Benare's crimes of infanticide and illegitimate motherhood is established by the prosecution as crimes against society. To Sukhatme Kashikar says "This case has great social significance, Sukhatme, No joking! I must put aside the practice of court and give evidence." (P92) The public prosecutor Sukhatme clarifies that motherhood is sacred and a mother bears the responsibility of bearing her child unmindful of her own difficulties and Miss Benare has brought shame to the holy mothershood by her conduct.

"The woman who is an accussed has made a heinous blot on the sacred brow of motherhood- which is purer than heaven itself. For that, any punishment, however great, that the law may give her, will be too mild by far. The character of the accused is appalling. It is bankrupt of morality. Not only that Her conduct has blackened all social and moral values. The accused is public enemy number one. If such socially destructive tendencies are encourraged to flourish, this country and its culture will be totally destroyed." (P-115)

Sukhatme further clarifies his point "Infanticide is a dreadful act, but buinging an illegetimate child is horrifying. If it is encouraged, there will no such thing as the institution of marriage. Immorality will flourish. Before, our eyes, our beautiful dream of a society, governed by tradition will crumble into dust." (P-115). It is through his characters that Vijay Tendulkar expresses his deep concern about motherhood, morality, society, traditions and our religion. The judge Mr. Kashikar defends social customs while giving judgement on Miss Benare's case "Prisoner Miss Benare, pay the closest attention. The crimes you have committed are most terrible. There is no forgiveness for them, your sin must be expiated. Irresponsibility must be chaimed down." (P-118). The judge expresses his views on motherhood thus.

"Motherhood must be sacred and pure. This court takes a serious view of your attempt to dynamite all this... The morality, which you have shown through your conduct is the morality you are planning to impart to the youth of tomorrow." (P-119)

The judge pronounce his final judgement thus, "Neither you nor anyone else should ever do anything like this again. No moments of your sin should remain for future generations. Therefore this court hereby sentences that you shall live. But the child in your womb shall be destroyed." (P-119). Although Miss Leela Benare says that society has no right to interfere with her private right liberties but inspite of that she can not totally shy away from her responsibility. Vijay Tendulkar has developed the central character of Miss Benare through the contents of a beautiful poem by Mrs. Shirish Pai. Miss Benare is very frank in giving a fitting reply to the charges levelled against her in the court. She tells the judge that life is a very dreadful thing and life must be hanged.

"Na jievan Jeevanmarhati 'Life is no worthy of life. Hold an enquiry against life. Sack it from its job, But why? Why? Was I slack in my work? Ijust put my whole life into working with children." (P-119).

To conclude Vijay Tendulkar has presented the trial between the humanists and the anti-humanists in his play "Silence! The court is in session".

1. Berne, Eric: Games People Play 1964 Grove Press Inc. New york rpt. 1983. Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi.
2. Hutchins on, Peter: Games Authors play 1983. Methuen. Lond on and Newyork.
3. Mehta, Kumud: "Introduction" Silence! The court is in session. Vijay Tendulkar, 1978 Oxford university press, Delhi.
4. Tendulkar, Vijay: Silence! The court is in session 1978 Oxford University Press, Delhi. All subsequent references are marked by page number only

Oct 13, 2010

Man Booker Prize 2010

Howard Jacobson is tonight (Tuesday 12 October) named the winner of the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for The Finkler Question, published by Bloomsbury. London author and columnist Howard Jacobson has been longlisted twice for the prize, in 2006 for Kalooki Nights and in 2002 for Who's Sorry Now, but has never before been shortlisted. The Finkler Question is a novel about love, loss and male friendship, and explores what it means to be Jewish today.

Oct 4, 2010

Nobel Prize Literature

Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa wins Nobel Prize in literature

Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian writer and literary giant in the Spanish-speaking world, was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy announced Thursday. Vargas Llosa, 74, whose body of work includes more than 30 novels, essays and plays is the first South American writer to win the coveted prize since Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian storyteller who is much better known than Vargas Llosa. Marquez won in 1982.  In part because of the spotlight Marquez drew to South American literature, Vargas Llosa's best-selling work has been widely translated in English, French, Swedish and German.

Sep 30, 2010

British Regency Era

The Regency era in the United Kingdom is the period between 1811 — when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son, the Prince of Wales, ruled as his proxy as Prince Regent — and 1820, when the Prince Regent became George IV on the death of his father. The term Regency era sometimes refers to a more extended time frame than the decade of the formal Regency. The period between 1795 and 1837 (the latter part of the reign of George III and the reigns of his sons George IV, as Prince Regent and King, and William IV) was characterized by distinctive trends in British architecture, literature, fashions, politics, and culture.


What’s that again?
I wondered which living writer you would say has served as the prime protector of the integrity of our English tongue . . . ?
Why, me, of course!
—Conversation, Autumn 1972

Sep 29, 2010

Kay Ryan: 16th Poet Laureate USA

Kay Ryan, who was named the sixteenth poet laureate of the United States in July, lives in Fairfax, California, where for more than thirty years she has taught remedial English part-time at the College of Marin at Kentfield. She is often referred to as a poetry “outsider” and underdog. She resists writing in the first person, preferring to write personal poems “in such a way that nobody has to know it.” In lieu of narrative and biography, she uses irony and humor to unravel the idiosyncrasies of language and the haplessness of human existence. She is fond of malapropisms and clichés, two linguistic devices that many poets consider taboo. She employs what she calls “recombinant rhyme”—hidden rhymes that appear in the middle, rather than at the end of her short lines. Her penchant for brevity has garnered her a reputation as a poet of “compression,” but Ryan disagrees. Although she says she likes to “squeeze things until they explode,” she insists “there’s a sense of air and ease in even the smallest of my poems.” 

V(idiadhar) S(urajprasad) Naipaul

Interview of VS Naipaul from THE PARIS REVIEW
Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul was born on August 17, 1932 in Chaguanas, Trinidad, where his ancestors had emigrated from India—his maternal grandfather, at the turn of the century, had traveled from that country as an indentured servant.

Sep 27, 2010

Rushdie terms Monarchy Stupid, Archaic

Rushdie terms Monarchy Stupid, Archaic:
LONDON: Indian-origin author Salman Rushdie has termed the British monarchy and its traditions “stupid” and “archaic.”
“The monarchy and its traditions are archaic… stupid... a British oddity,” the winner of the Booker of the Bookers said in an interview to The Sunday Times.
If so, why did he accept knighthood? Sir Salman Rushdie, 63, said he had received an honour from the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France, and it would have been extraordinary to accept something from the French state and “then refuse something from my own country.” — PTI

Sep 26, 2010

The Ring and the Book

The Ring and the Book is a long dramatic narrative poem, and, more specifically, a verse novel, of 21,000 lines written by Robert Browning. It was published in four installments from 1868 to 1869.

The book tells the story of a murder trial in Rome  in 1698, whereby an impoverished nobleman, Count Guido Franceschini, is found guilty of the murders of his young wife Pompilia Comparini and her parents, having suspected his wife was having an affair with a young cleric, Giuseppe Caponsacchi. Having been found guilty despite his protests and sentenced to death, Franceschini then appeals - unsuccessfully - to Pope Innocent XII to overturn the conviction. The poem comprises twelve books, each a dramatic monologue spoken by a different narrator involved in the case, usually giving a different account of the same events.

Synge's Aran Islands Journal

J. M. Synge was primarily a playwright, best known for his play The Playboy of the Western World, and one of the leading lights of the "Irish Revival" movement of the late 1800s-early 1900s. The Revival fixed on the Aran Islands as representing the pure, Irish-speaking world it sought to revive, and Synge, an Anglo-Irishman whose uncle had served as the Protestant clergyman to the islands almost fifty years before, went to Aran off and on during the years 1898-1902 to study the Irish language (his Irish is good). He was also an assiduous collector of stories, poems and other folklore, an activity greatly respected and eagerly supported by the islanders. He published The Aran Islands in 1907, the same year that Playboy was first produced at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

Sep 25, 2010

Achebe Wins $300,000 Prize

The Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe has won the $300,000 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, which recognizes artists who have had an extraordinary impact in their field. The award, named after the silent film stars, will be delivered at a ceremony on Oct. 27 in New York. Past winners include Robert Redford, Ornette Coleman, Merce Cunningham and Frank Gehry. Mr. Achebe’s books are among the most widely read in African literature. His 1958 novel, “Things Fall Apart,” has sold more than 10 million copies, and he has also won the Man Booker International Prize for Fiction and the Nigerian National Merit Award.

Poetic Justice

Published: September 24, 2010

Imagine Stephen Dedalus in a fiction workshop surrounded by 20-something neophytes. Better yet, picture Huck Finn, having lit out for the territory, handing sections of his new memoir to Tom and Aunt Sally. Though this may seem amusing, today thousands of hopeful authors distribute their self-portraits to other hopeful authors who sit around seminar tables in one of the hundreds of writing programs thriving nationwide.

Sep 22, 2010

Troubles: by Farrell

J. G. Farrell's Troubles (1970)is the first novel in his so-called "Empire Trilogy," followed by The Siege of Krishnapur (1973, Booker Prize winner) and The Singapore Grip (1978). Of course "Troubles" refers to the ongoing violence between Irish republicans and British security forces (the notorious "Black and Tans") in the early 20th century after the Easter Uprising of 1916 and during the subsequent Irish civil war, and then later between Protestant Unionists and the IRA in the middle decades of the century and sporadically until the present day.

The White Tiger: Aravind Adiga

I'm trying not to be influenced by the blurbs (seven pages of them?) festooning my Free Press trade paperback first edition copy, complete with "Reading Group Guide," of Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger, winner of the 2008 Booker Prize. The book, a first novel by an Indian-born writer who has lived in Australia, Britain and the US, was predictably hyped to the stars. (I still take the Booker seriously and I always check out the books. Sad to say I pay no attention to the Nobel. The Booker is also politicized, not to mention parochial, but neither of those flaws necessarily means the books aren't good.) The comparison to Russian literature is inevitable, the blurbs mention Dostoevsky, Gogol and Gorky but Gary Shteyngart's excellent Absurdistan, the subject of an earlier post, came to my mind. Both books illuminate the extravagant excesses of globalization in Asia with the kind of black comedy that comes from righteous rage. Then I noticed that Shteyngart wrote one of the blurbs on the back cover - so did I think of Shteyngart on my own?

Reconsidering Updike

Many stirring and provocative reactions to John Updike’s death yesterday at seventy-six. The best, of course, belongs to Patrick Kurp, who adopts a wise autobiographical strategy, laying out the course of his Updike reading. Kurp finally prefers Updike as a critic, describing him as an “indefatigable teacher.” He quotes from essays on Nabokov, Henry Green, Daniel Fuchs, and William Maxwell. One of my favorite passages is when Updike opens an essay on two avant-garde satirists by commenting on the way their books are printed:

Sep 21, 2010


        You that delight in with and mirth   
        and love to hear such news   
        as comes from all parts of the earth   
        I’ll send ye to a rendezvous    
        where it is smoking new:   
        Go, hear it at a Coffee House, (Jordan)”   
Restoration Period (1660-1700) takes its name from the Restoration of the Stuart or Charles II to the English throne in 1660, at the end of the Commonwealth; it is specified as lasting until 1700 (Abrams).

Sep 19, 2010

Harper's meeting with Murdoch-The Real story

Why would big-time global media tycoon Rupert Murdoch meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss how miniscule Canadian media tycoon Pierre-Karl Péladeau could set up a Quebecor Media television knock-off of Murdoch's Fox News channel?


The period which start with the French Revolution (1789) or the publication of Lyrical Ballads (1798) is known as the romantic movement—which Victor Hugo calls “liberalism in literature”—is simply the expression of life as seen by imagination, rather than by prosaic “common sense”, that is why Arnold says “Romanticism knows nothing”; and Hoxie N. Fairchild calls it “Devil’s Advocate”.

Caroline Age

The reign of Charles I, 1625-49 is called the Caroline Age; the name is derived from “Carolus,” the Latin version of “Charles.” This was the time of the England civil was fought between the supporters of the king (known as Cavaliers) and the supporters of the parliament (known as Roundheads, from their customs of wearing their hair cut short).

Post Modernism

Post Modernism emerged after the Second World War as a reaction against the “Modernist” and the “Anti-Modernist” tendencies. Historically, it can be traced back as far as the Deda Movement which began in Zurich in 1916, but as a significant force in Modern writing. “


“The immense success of Handel’s Messiah on its first London performance in  1743, may be taken as the another index of the coming change” —Hudson,  that, in literature, is called Bourgeois Classicism or Age of Sensibility which begins to associate itself with the need of imagination, and sympathy for the Middle Ages; a turn from Neo-Classical idea of reason. Thomas Gray’s Stanzas toMr. Bentley (1752) expressed this anti-neoclassicism:  


Victorian Age (1837-1900) is remarkable for the rapid development of the art, mechanical inventions, and for the human knowledge by the discoveries of the science. “Victorian Compromise” is a commonly used term which needs no comments. The period was marked by freedom from wars and internal strife.

Sep 18, 2010


The half century between 1625 and 1675 is called the Puritan Period because a Puritan standard pevailed for a time in England; and all the greatest literary figure were the Puritans, thus, historically the age was one of the remendous conflicts. The puritan struggled for righteousness and liberty, and  because he prevailed, the age is one of the moral and political revolutions.


It was in 1915 the old world ended- Lawrence
Moving from the realistic literature of the Victorian age into the modern literature of the early century is like moving from an arena of debate into a sea of trouble. For a number of literary movements (aestheticism, classicism, Imagism, etc) emerged in 20th century, that is why the critics are not sure to fix about fixing definite dates for the beginning and lasting of the age.

Neo-Classical or Augustan Age

The period we are studying is known to us by the name, the Age of Queen Anne; but, unlike Elizabeth, this “meekly stupid” queen had practically no influence upon English literature, so the name Classic or Augustan Age is more often heard  because the poets and critics of this age believed in the works of the Latin writers, as Pope writes in Essay in Criticism:   
        “Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem   
        To copy nature is to copy them.” 
Poetry of the Classical school is the product of the intelligence playing upon the surface of life. It is exclusively a ‘town’ poetry made out of the interests of ‘society’ in the great centres of culture,   which makes it an age of prose and reason. It was now a fashion with the poets to follow (human) Nature, and Pope was its greatest protagonist:
        “First follow Nature, and your judgement frame   
         By her just standard, which is still the same”.       
The qualities such as mystery, imagination, romanticism, came to be discounted and replaced those related to reason and logic. It was for the first time that theoretical as well as practical criticism of drama, poetry, essay, and novel appeared,   such as Pope’s Essay In Criticism (1711), Addison’s Spectators (1711-12-14), Johnson’s Preface To Shakespeare (1765). “The idea of the modern novel seems to have been worked out largely”, says Long, in Augustan Age, in which, the classic Heroic couplet was perfected by Pope {whose “ten thousand verses’ marvelously varied within their couplets, crown the experiments of a century,” (Tillotson)} in The Rape of the Lock and The Dunciad. However the percept and epigram, the satire and the Mock-heroic of the Age might have been discarded by the subsequent generations of the writers, but its gift of novel continued long after the Augustan Age had gone out of fashion.

Mock Epic
Another product of the age was Mock Epic. “The true genius of mock heroic lies in travestying the serious epic, in bringing all the leading features of the epic machinery, lofty incidents, character and the style to the exaltation of a trivial Subject; the subject must no doubt have a moral bearing; but the satire ought not to be too apparent” —Courthope Mock heroic poetry takes us back to the days of Homer who is credited with the authorship of Battle of Frog and Mice but Tassoni’s Rape of the Bucket was the first successful example of the true mock heroic poem. In a masterpiece of this type The Rape of the Lock (1714), Pope views through the grandiose epic perspective a quarrel between the belles and elegants of his day over the theft of a Lady’s curl, as he notes:   
         “slight is the subject but not so the praises   
         …    …    …    …    …    …    …       
         what dire offence from amorous causes springs   
         what might contests rise from trivial things.”   
This poem has the complete epic form: there is usual opening proposition and invocation—of the goddess of poetry   
         “say what strange motives, goddess could impel   
         a well-bred lord to assult a gentle belle,”;   
the conventional supernatural ‘machinery’, represented by all the spirits of earth, air, water and fore:   
         “whether the nymphs shall break Diana’s law   
        or some frail china jar receive-flaw.”   
The term mock epic is oft applied to other dignified poetic forms which are purposely mismatched to a lowly subject: for example, to Thomas Gary’s comic “Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat” (1748).

Emergence of Novel
“Other great types of literature, like epic, drama, the romance, and the drama were first produced by other nations; but the idea of the modern novel seems to have been worked out largely on English soil.” (Long). A novel (born with Defoe in 1819) is a long prose fiction having a plot, a number of characters, and the plot developing and coming to a logical conclusion through the characters’ interaction with one another. J.B. Priestley defines a novel “as a narrative in prose treating chiefly of imagery characters and events”. Many critics divided the novel into two classes: stories and romance; the story being a form of which relates certain incidents of life with as little complexity as possible; and the romance describes life as led by strong emotions in complex and unusual circumstances,  but the critics have divided the Neo-Classical novels in the following categories:The novel started with Travelogues; the stories relating the adventures of the travelers or voyagers in unknown and unchartered seas. The earliest of them is Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe; and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. The next is The Picaresque Novel in which the hero is rouge or a bad character who wanders from place to place and encounters many adversaries who are equally roguish, for example the heroine of Defoe’s Moll Flanders. The Epistolary Novel comes next in which plot develops and comes to an end through the medium of letters, i.e., Richardson’s Pamela; there is very little dialogue amongst the characters because they exchange their views and thoughts through their letters and replies. In Neo-Classical novel, the controversy between rules and taste continued because the novel had newly emerged and had no theory or rules of its own available in any ancient or Augustan period, but Fielding was only conscious artist who tried to forge a theory of the novel.

Age of Prose and Reason
“Our excellent and indispensable eighteenth century” (Johnson) was a classical age, an age of prose and reason. Actually, the ideas which developed in this age, had already taken roots in the seventeenth century, when the writers like Dryden, Waller and Denham had shown the new path. The Elizabethan age had been an age of romanticism, imaginative, and melodrama which lacked balance, but 18th century was marked by reason, good sense, refinement, wit and logicism with a fair amount of realism. It was now a fashion with the poets to follow Nature, and Pope was the greatest protagonist in this regard. By “Nature,” it was implied human Nature—a view taken by great Romanists like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats in the next two centuries. Pope advised writers to follow the Nature:   
        “First follow Nature, and your judgement frame   
          By her just standard, which is still the same”.   
Pope laid stress on the writers (poets’ in particular) following the rules set up by the ancient masters instead of carving out new grooves of writing for themselves.   
         “Who rules the old discover’d not devised,   
        Are Nature still, but Nature methodiz’d”.   
Thus, even Nature was to methodiz’d, it was too moulded within the rigid rules set by the ancients. Then Pope advises further—   
         “Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem,    
         To copy Nature is to copy them”.   
Thus, it was basically the age of prose and reason, dominated chiefly, apart from Pope, by such celebrated prose writers as Addison, Steele, swift, Gibson, Burke, etc. It is clear that new milieu wanted a different treatment which was argumentative in nature and could be expressed only through polished prose and the best and the most suitable vehicle.

Picaresque element in the Novel

“The picaresque novel is the tale of the hardworking travelling hero, suffering from vicissitude good or bad and enduring them all.”—Edwin Muir. The word picaresque comes from the Spanish word “Picaro” meaning a rogue or a villain. A picaresque novel is a work of art/fiction which deals with the adventures of rogues and the villains, who is the central figure, plays many roles and wears many masks. The novelist narrates these episodes one by one, and thus the whole plot becomes episodic and disjointed.Picaresque fiction is realistic in manner, episodic in structure (that is, composed of sequence of events held together largely because they happened to one person), and often satiric in aim. Carvantes’ great quasi-picaresque narrative Don Quixote (1605) was the single most important progenitor of the modern novel; in it, an engaging madman who tries to live by the ideals of chivalric romance in the everyday world is used to explore the relations of illusion and reality in human life. In 1719, Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe and in 1722, Moll Flanders: both of these are still picaresque in type, in sense that their structure is episodic rather than in the organized form of a plot; while Moll is herself a colourful female version of the old picaro: “Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own Brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia.” as title page resounding informs us. But Robinson Crusoe is given an enforced unity of action by its focus on the problem of surviving on an uninhabited island, and both stories present so convincing a central character, set in so solid and detailedly realized a world, that Defoe is often credited with the writing the first novel of incident.

Criticism of the Neo-Classical period, like its drama, poetry, essay and novel, takes off in the later seventeenth century where the Renaissance critics had left it. It was for the first time that theoretical as well as practical criticism appeared on such a large scale, such as, Pope’s Essay in Criticism (1711), Granville’s Essay on Unnatural Flights in Poetry (1701) Addison’s Spectators (1711-12-14), Fielding’s Preface to Joseph Andrews (1742), and Johnson’s Preface to Shakespeare (1765). In dramatic criticism, from Dryden to Johnson, the debate centered on the comparative assessment of the ancients and the modernistic approach. No doubt, Johnson continued to talk of the principle of unities and “nature” in place of “abstract rules.” In poetic criticism, the poets and critics alike showed greater confidence in classical rules. Hence the Neo-Classical mode of mock heroic, its love of satire and comic verse, flourished on an unprecedented scale—the only critical debate that found some favour during the period centered on the concept of “nature.” In case of novel, too, the controversy between rules and taste continued. Here, two factors made the controversy:  Firstly, the novel had newly emerged and had no theory or rules; Secondly, it emerged as literature of the middleclass, which was also new and without any tradition behind. Fielding tried to forge a theory: how to reconcile the rules of construction.

Four Wheels of Novel
The group of first four novelists of the Augustan Age—Richardson, Smollett, Fielding and Sterne—are called the four wheels of novel. The beginning of novel writing is made with an enthralling and mysterious figure, Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) who gives us travelogue novel Robinson Crusoe (1719). He regards the novel, not as a work of imagination, but as ‘a true relation,’ and even the element of fact decreases, he maintains the close realism of pseudo-fact. The combination of these qualities has given Robinson Crusoe its immediate and continuous appeal. The next development in the novel, and possibly the most important in its whole history in England, comes by the ancient, Samuel Richardson (1639-1761), who is famous for Epistolary Novel Pamela (1740-41) in which plot develops and comes to an end through the medium of letters. Richardson has suffered from the appearance of contemporary, who disliked his work, and who took an early opportunity of satirizing it, named Henry Fielding, who published Andrew Joseph (1742) to ridicule Richardson’s Pamela; he contrived this satire by revering the situation in Richardson’s novel. The next wheel, Tobias Smollett (1721-71) was Fielding’s contemporary, though he is not of equal stature. If he brought to the novel nothing that was new in form, he was able to introduce a new background, in accounts of sea in the livid days of the old Navy in Roderick Random (1748), which portrays the life of rogue hero until his marriage with the loyal, beautiful and incredible Narcissa. Of the eighteenth century novelists, the strangest, and the most variously judged, is Laurence Sterne (1713-68), who is known for Life and Opinion of Tristram Shandy (1759-67) in which the reader has to wait until the third book before the hero is born, and even then his future life remains undefined. After the work of these four masters, the stream of fiction broadens continually, until it reaches the flood with which no single intelligence and contended.

Heroic Couplet
Heroic couplet is the form in which the sense is ended with almost absolute regularity at the end of every second line, note for instance:   
        “Great wits are sure to madness near allied,   
        And thin partitions do their bounds divine.”    (Pope)
here, the sense is almost complete in the first line and the second line only gives an extension of the idea contained in the first line. This verse was introduced into English poetry by Geoffrey Chaucer (in The Legend of Good Women and most the Canterbury Tales), and has been constant use ever since. Later Shakespeare also used the couplet at the last two lines of his sonnets. Earlier, Surrey had done this. In the Neo-Classical Age, the heroic couplet was predominant English measure for all the poetic kinds; some poets, including Dryden, Pope, used it almost to the exclusion of other meters. In Restoration Age, Dryden wrote in closed couplets, in which the end of each couplet tends to coincide with the end either of a sentence or self-sufficient unit of syntax.    
        “In friendship false, implacable in hate,   
        resolve to ruin or to rule the state.”(Absalom & Achitophel)

in The Rape of the Lock and The Dunciad. In Romantic Age, Keats used couplets at the start of Endymion:   
        “A thing of beauty is a joy forever;   
        Its loveliness increase; it will never   
        Pass into nothingness, but still keep.”   
It is quite understandable that Keats’s couplets are not close ended, nor are his lines iambic pentameters. In sum, heroic couplet is suited mainly to satirical and narrative poetry but Prologues and epilogues were also written in couplets to create special effect.

Periodical Essay
The periodical essay was chiefly the invention of Steele (1672-1729) when on April 12, 1709 he started The Tatler, thrice in a week, the chief aim of which was “to expose the false arts of life, to pull off the disguises of cunning, vanity and affection, and to recommend a general simplicity in our dress, our discourse, and our behaviour.” The Spectator (1711), The Guardian (1712) The Free Holder (1715), The Old Whig (1719) are some periodical essays which appeared (and generally died) in the eighteenth century.  The Neo-Classical Age had seen in Addison, Steele and Johnson a prose in essay which was closer to common talk than any other species of writing in literature has ever been. The main reason for the popularity of the periodical was that it suited to the genius of the period, as much of the authors, as of the people who exhibited specific spirit and tasted in the period. An essay by Bacon consists of a few pages of concentrated wisdom, with little elaboration of the ideas expresses, but in an essay of Addison, the thought is thin and diluted, and the tendency is now towards light didacticism and now personal gossip: “it is said of Socrates, that he brought philosophy down from heaven to inhabit among men; and I shall be ambitious to have it said of me that I have brought philosophy out of closets and libraries, school and colleges, to dwell in clubs and  assemblies at tea-tables and in coffee-houses. The periodical essay was continued  in the later eighteenth century by no less a literary giant than Samuel Johnson (1709-84), whose twice weekly Rambler were a prestigious contribution to the literature of periodical essays.  After Johnson the English essay rather dwindled, and was redeemed later by the Romantic Hazlitt and Lamb, but the Romantic essay is quite different spices altogether. Addison’s collaborator in launching several periodicals of the time, Steele, not only originated periodical essays but also raised it to the status of literature.

Neo Classical Drama
In dramatic criticism from Dryden to Johnson the debate centered on the comparative assessment of the ancients and the moderns, on rules deprives from the foreign ancients and the actual practice by the native dramatists. The neoclassical dramatists were theoretically committed to the classical rules, but their reverence for Shakespeare’s plays always convinced them otherwise. They preferred the Elizabethan variety of ancient and characters, the Elizabethan mixing of tragedy and comedy, the Elizabethan poetic language. Thus, between the classical rules on one hand and the native tradition and taste on the other, the Neo-Classical critics continued their debates attacking and counterattacking.
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Edmund spenser is considered to be the chilf of the renaissance and the reformation. His poetic reputation was recognized with the publication of the shepherd’s calendar (1579). This poem was inspired by Virgil and Theocritus. It is known for its richness and warm pictorial beauty. Spenser fell in love with Elizabeth, an Irish girl and wrote Amaretti (1594),  sonnets, in her honour.


Renaissance (May 29, 1453)

Renaissance is a French word which means rebirth or revival.  In literature the term “Renaissance” is used to denote the revival of ancient, classical Latin literature and culture and reawakening human mind, after the long sleep in the Middle Ages, to the glory, wonders and beauty of men’s earthly life and nature. In the opinion of Lamartine “the Renaissance is man’s discovery of himself and the universe.” Taine opines that “with the Renaissance man so long blinded, suddenly opened his eyes and saw.”

“Rebirth” or “New Learning” or as Andrew Sanders calls “Renaissance is the feeling for virtu, the fascination with what man can achieve along a single line of endeavor if he sets his mind and heart to it with sufficient fervor and lyricism enthusiasm; the interest in pride, in lust for power, in man as the master of his own destiny, challenging and vying with the gods—
“How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties!      
In form and moving how expresses and admirable!  
In action how like and angel! An apprehension how like a god!”     
and imagining that by an effort of the will he can control Fortune’s Wheel—all these are in the plays of Tudor Dynasty. Dunton calls it “Renaissance of Wonder.” Geography, History and Romance come together in the Renaissance with power effect.

It may not quite tell us "how the Renaissance began?" The story begins at a monastery in central Germany – almost certainly the Benedictine abbey of Fulda. At its gates, in the first weeks of 1417, arrived an itinerant Florentine scholar by the name of Poggio Bracciolini. A slight, genial man in his mid-30s, he had served as a papal secretary but was currently unemployed owing to the deposition of Pope John XXIII. Today Poggio is best remembered for his vituperative controversy with Lorenzo Valla (a “war of wits” much savoured by Elizabethan comic writers such as Thomas Nashe). 

The Renaissance originated in Italy, and dates back to the Turkish Conquest Constantinople on May 29, 1453. Most of the Greek Scholars, fled for safety, come to Italy and started their studies of afresh. This is known as “New Learning” or “Renaissance. The movement spread to other European countries. England come came under the impact of Renaissance and a number of scholars held their own during the reign of Henry VII and Henry VIII. Important writers of the Renaissance were John Colet, More and Erasmus. The Renaissance movement broadened the outlook of the people and gave impetus to education. “The Renaissance was an era of striking accomplishment in painting, sculpture, music, architecture, literature, science, philosophy and technology,” Remarks Abrams. It was an age of change in the economic foundations and in the basic structure of European society and in the organization of states. And last bit not the least, the Renaissance affected to Christian church which for generation had pre-sided at the formation of civilization.

Difference Between Renaissance & Humanism
The term “Renaissance” and humanism which are often applied to the same movement have properly narrower significance. The term “Renaissance” though used by many writers to denote the whose transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern World, is more correctly applied to the Revival of Art resulting from the discovery and imitation of classic models in the 14th and 15th c. Humanism applied to the Revival of Classical literature, and was so called b its leaders, following the example Petrarch, because they held that the study of the classic “Litrae Humaniore” that is more human writings rather than the old theology was the best means of promoting the largest human interest. It was in the 16th century the word “Humanist” was going to signify one taught and worked in the “studia Humanitiates” that is grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry and moral philosophy.; and distinguished form fields less concerned with the moral and imaginative aspects and activities of man, such as mathematics, natural philosophy and theology. Scholarly, humanists devoted themselves to the rediscovery and intense study of first roman and then Greek literature and culture, in particular the works of Cicero, Aristotle and Plato. Humanists recovered edited, and expounded many ancient texts in Latin and Greeks and so contributed greatly to the store of materials and idea of the European Renaissance. Out of this, intellectual ferment there emerged a view of man and a philosophy quite different from medieval scholasticism in 19th c. this strand of Renaissance through was labeled humanism. Reason, balance and a proper dignity for man were the central ideals of humanists thought. Many humanists also stressed the need for a rounded development of men’s diverse powers, physical and mental, artistic and moral as opposed to merely technical or specialized training. Matthew Arnold opponent of humanism in the Victorian Period strongly defended the predominance of human studies in general education.

Famous Writers of Renaissance

    William Shakespeare

    Shakespeare, the prince of poets or the king of dramatist, is recognized all the world over as the greatest poet and dramatist. Paying a great tribute to him, Ben Jonson writes “He was not of an age, but for all time”. For more than three hundred years his reputation has remained constant and steadfast.

    Sep 17, 2010

    Elizabethan Age

    The publication of Spenser’s Shepherd Calendar in 1579 as marking the opening of the golden age of Elizabethan age.”—Hudson . The Elizabethan Age (1558-1625) is generally regarded as the greatest in the history of English literature. Historically, we note in this age the tremendous impetus received from the renaissance, reformation, and from the exploration of the new-world.

    Such an age of thought, feeling and vigorous action, finds its best expression in the development of drama which culminating in Shakespeare, Jonson and University Wits. Though the age produced some excellent prose works, it is essentially an age of poetry, but both poetry and drama were permeated by Italian influence, which was dominated in English literature from Chaucer to the Restoration. The literature of this age is often called the literature of the Renaissance.

    The age also gives the non-dramatic poets; the center of this group is Spenser, whose Shepherd Calendar and Fairy Queen marked the appearance of the first national poet since Chaucer’s death in 1400; then comes Chapman who is noted for his completion of Marlowe’s Hero and Leander, and for his translation of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Sidney, besides his poetry Astrophel and Stella, wrote his prose romance Arcadia and the Defense of the Possie, one of the earliest classical critical essay.

    The Elizabethan Age is the golden age of English drama. It was now that plays came to be divided into five acts and a number of scenes. Strictly speaking the drama has two divisions: comedy and tragedy, but in this age, a mixed mode of drama was developed called Tragicomedy, a type of drama which intermingled with the both standard of tragedy and comedy. 

    The second period of the Elizabethan Drama was dominated by "University Wits" {John Lyle, Thomas Kyd, George Peele, Thomas Lodge, Robert Greene, Christopher Marlowe, and Thomas Nash} for they all were university educated men. All of them began as actors, revised old plays and then became independent writers. In the Age of Elizabeth all the doubts seems to vanish from English history. The accession of popular sovereign was like sunrise after a long night, and in Milton’s words: “a noble and puissant nation, raising herself, like a strong man after sleep and shaking her invincible locks.”

    Characteristic of the age:
    The most characteristic feature of the age was the comparative religious tolerance. The frightful accesses of the religious was known as “The Thirty Years war.” The whole kingdom divided again itself—the north was largely Catholic, while the Southern counties were as strongly Protestants. It was in age of comparity social contentment. The rapid increase of the manufacturing towns gave employment to thousands who had before being idle and discounted. It was an age of dreams, of adventure, of unbounded enthusiasm. A new literature creates a new heaven to match men’s eyes. So, dreams and deeds increase side by side and the dream is ever greater than the deed. The age of Elizabeth was a time of intellectual liberty, of growing intelligence and comfort among all classes, of unbounded patriotism, and of peace at the home and abroad.

    Elizabethan Sonneteers
    Sonnet in England was imported from abroad. It was Wyatt who introduced the sonnet in England. Wyatt’s lead was accepted by Surrey whose sonnets were likewise published after his death, in the Miscellany. Wyatt was much under the spell of his model Petrarch, and out of his thirty-two sonnets, seventeen are but adaptation of Petrarch’s. surrey in a new form for his sonnets, which later was to be adopted by most of Elizabethan sonneteers, the most prominent of whom was Shakespeare. Surrey’s sonnets have a tenderness and grace, occasional lyrical melody, and genuine-looking sentiments which are absent from Wyatt’s. It was left for Thomas Watson to recall first the attention of the readers to the sonnet after Wyatt and Surrey.
    The Italian plan of writing sonnets in sequences was adopted by Spenser also. His Amoretti, a series of 88 sonnets describe the progress of his love for Elizabeth Boyle, whom he married in 1594. It is with Sidney’s work that the popular vogue of the sonnet began. The vogue remained in full swing till the end of the 16th C. Sidney’s most important was his sonnet sequence, Astrophel and Stella which appeared in 1591. It comprised one hundred and eight sonnets and eleven songs. It is Sidney told the story of his unrequited love for Penelope. Sidney’s sentiments in his sonnet sequence are partly real and partly conventional. A critic avers that “Sidney writes not because it a pleasant and accomplished thing to do but because he roust. His sonnets let out of the blood.”

    Formally considered, Sidney’s sonnets are different from both the Shakespearean and Petrarchan kind. He does not always adhere to the same pattern. Samuel Daniel was another poet who wrote sonnets to b in the fashion, without conviction and probably, without a real mistress to sing. His sonnets in Delia are merely chill appeals but the language of these sonnets is usually pure and their versification correct. Michael Drayton’s collection Idea hardly gives the impression of a true passion, shows the little delicacy, and is often vulgar yet he is versatile and more than once ingenious to the point of the fantastic. Constable’s sonnets have the charm of delicate fancy and scholarly elegance. Shakespeare’s sonnets are a class by themselves. The collection is unequal and some of sonnets are merely “clever,” being fashionable exercise in quibbles and conceits common to the generality of the sonneteers. But the best of them are worthy of the great poet, and in their high imaginative quality. Felicity of diction and lyrical music, are unequalled in Elizabethan poetry.

    Elizabethan Theatre
    There were not many theatres during the Elizabethan Age (1568-1625). At the time of Shakespeare there not probably more than public theatre in English, all in London and they were built according to the design of inn yards of the period which had been found marvelously convenient presentation of plays. The theatres of that time were circular and octagon in shape. The main part of the auditorium was the large round pit without a roof, in which the poor people stood. Such people were generally fir the common message at that time were called “Groundings” and Encircling this bit, round the walls, were three balconies covered on the top but not in the front and containing seats.

    In the Elizabethan theatres stage was large jutting for into the pit, and was without scenery but the most meager presentation. Hence, it made no difference that people stood at the side of the stage as well as in front. The scenery was created in the imagination of the audience by the words of the Characters on the play. In the absence of the curtains, the end of a scene was frequently shown by rhyming lines. Just as the scenery had to be put into the play, so had entrances and exists to be arranged as part of the play. The stage floor was generally equipped a trap door for the sudden appearance and disappearance of the ghost and spirits. At the back of the stage was a recess and this was curtained and would be shut off when desired. Above the recess was balcony which served for castle walls and upper room and other such scenes. It appears that this too could be curtained off.

    The young “bloods’ of the day actually hired stools round the stage itself. No women were allowed to act by law. Consequently, the women’s parts were taken by the boys with unbroken voices. Plays were not acted in the period costumes. Thus, all Shakespeare’s plays were first acted in Modern Dress. It must not be forgotten that the language of the plays fits in with the Elizabethan costumes worn by the actor’s originally. Although there was no scenery yet the costumes were quite lavish. On days when the theatre was open, a flag was shown from the torrents and when the play is about to begin, a trumpet was sounded.

    University Wits
    The Pre-Shakespearean university dramatists are known as “University wits”, they are so called because they were associated with the university of Cambridge or Oxford. The constellation consists minor stars like Kyd, Lyly, Peele, Greene, Lodge and Nash, all of whom revolved round the central son Marlowe. These university men usually actors as well as dramatists. They knew the stage and the audience and in writings their plays they remembered not only the actor’s part but also the audiences love for stories and brave spectacle. Their training begins as actors and then they revised old plays and finally become independent writers. They often worked together, as Shakespeare works with Marlowe and Fletcher either in revising old plays or in creating new ones they had a common score of material and characters and so we find frequent repetition of names in their plays.

    They were romantic in their attitude and represented the spirit of the Renaissance. They were Bohemian in characterization. They likes Bohemian life in the Grub Street of their day. Their contribution to the literature is as follows:
    1. They contributed to the formulation of the romantic comedy which blossomed forth in the hands of Shakespeare. However, the early comedies lacked humour.
    2. They, in spite of their lose plots, made some advance in plot construction and in harmonizing the different threads of their stories into a perfect whole.
    3. They prepared the ground for the historical plays.
    4. They had fondness for heroic themes like Tamberlaine.
    5. They prepared the way for the later tragedies.
    6. They added poetry to dramatic production
    7. They made definite improvement in the art of characterization. 
    Famous Writers of Elizabethan Age

      Age of Chaucer

      “Homilies, sermons in prose and verse, translation of the Psalms or parts of the Bible……fill the pages which form the  mass of what we may be called English literature until about the middle of the fourteenth century,” Rickett. And its first part is The Age of Chaucer (1340-1400), which “is the Age of unrest and transition, (Rickett).”

      The fourteenth century brightly opened for industrial England but the glory was overtaken by plague, the Black Death (1348-49), as a result most of the laborers escaped death, left the country. The prestige of the Church was, in truth, beginning to decline, and, then came the birth of parliament. The literary moment of the age clearly reflected by five famous poets, in which, Langland, voicing the social discontent, preaching the equality of men and the dignity of labor; Wyclif, giving the Gospel to the people in their own tongue; Gower criticizing the vigorous life and plainly afraid of its consequences; Mandeville romancing about the wonders to be seen abroad; and Chaucer, sharing in all the stirring life of the times, and reflecting it in literature as no other but Shakespeare had ever done.

      There is little to record about the prose which includes Chaucer’s Treatise on the Astrolabe; Wyclif’s Bible, but Mandeville’s Travels and Travellers keeps its place as the first English prose classic. The greatest gift of the age was “the heroic couplet Chaucer introduced into English verse, the rhyme royal he invented”, and its example is The Canterbury Tales which shows, Chaucer’s Age is still characteristically medieval, marked the persistence of chivalry.  In this Age, for the first time, the major poets wrote poetry in the native language, and make it a rival to the dominant French; as a result, literature came to be written which was read alike by all the classes of the literate.  Chaucer write
      Through me men gon into that blysful place
      Of hertes hele and dedly woundes cure;
      Through me men gon unto the welle of grace 

      “With Chaucer was born our real poetry” (Arnold) who has “a fondness for long speeches and pedantic digression…long explanation when none were necessary” (Albert). Chaucer was much occupied by divers official duties which all helped to increase his knowledge of humanity and of affairs, and gave him that intimate, sympathetic acquaintance with men and women which was the raw stuff of his final accomplishment—The Canterbury Tales, an immense work of one hundred and twenty-eight tales, which covers the whole life of England, through 32 characters. The Canterbury Tales (c.1387-1400) is a cycle of linked tales told by a group of pilgrims who meet in a London tavern before their pilgrimage to the shrine of St Thomas a Becket in Canterbury. The Canterbury Tales had been essentially romantic, and so had never attempted to the study of men and women as they are so that the reader recognizes them, not as ideal heroes, but as his own neighbours. The work ends with a kindly farewell form the poet to his reader, and so “here taketh the makere of this book his leve”  In The Canterbury Tales it appears that he did not have a very high opinion of woman, but we find a remark respectable to women when he says about the Squire, Knight’s son:   
      “and born him well, as of so litel space;
      in hope to standen in his lady grace.”

      The critics have found the seed of the novel in The Canterbury Tales which is famous for the ten syllable rhyming couplets, which makes him, as Ward points out, “the first painter of character” that is why “Chaucer is to be regarded as English first story-teller as well as first modern poet,” cries W.J. Long. The Canterbury Tales had been essentially romantic, and so had never attempted to the study of men and women as they are so that the reader recognizes them, not as ideal heroes, but as his own neighbours. The work ends with a kindly farewell form the poet to his reader, and so “here taketh the makere of this book his leve.”

      The most important thing that Chaucer did for English poetry was to bring a healthy realism to it. He brought poetry closer to nature, and or reality. He began as his contemporaries did, with dream visions and allegorical works. But gradually he reached the conclusion that nothing could be as nature herself. He comes to look upon the world of man. He set about reproducing it in his work. He became a painter of life in words. Chaucer’s broad and humane vision of life helped him in his portraiture of life. Sympathizing with the follies of men and women of average standards, he never riles and rants in his writings. He lets his character’s speak for themself. He is the pioneer of that set of people who look upon the world with indulgent, tolerant and amused eyes.

      Chaucer is by universal consent the first great English humorist. His is a healthy humour like that of Shakespeare and Fielding that depends for its effect on strong commonsense. Chaucer had a sound mind and was capable of playing with humanity. He had so much sorrow in his life that could get down in his heart and weaken his intelligence or dim is sight. Chaucer had a free and open mind. He was not afraid, on occasion, of questioning even the ways of God to men. In The Knights’s Tale, he shows his poignant awareness of the baffling problem of pain and evil in the world. Chaucer found English a dry, uncouth brick but left it marble—beautiful and full of liquid luster. He found it a dialect and made it a Standard English of his own day. In his works, he appears as a great picture painter, as an observer whose aim was to see and not to reform, and as a representative of his century.

      He was a great reformer and observer of men and had an extraordinary insight into human nature. “Chaucer sees things”, writes Legouis, “as they are, and paints them as he sees them.” He saw all sorts of men—rogues, hypocrites and posers—and had a soft corner in his heart for all of them. All of Chaucer’s characters are true to life and cause willing suspension of disbelief. Chaucer considered the first poet of English literature. In his poetry we find the great qualities of simplicity, clarity, melody and harmony which arouse fellow feeling and brotherly affection in the heart of the reader. Chaucer’s characters are a description of eternal principles” says Blake. They are not for one age but for all ages.

      The world which Chaucer had created in the geography of imagination is as fresh as ever or even more fresh than the world in which we live. There is no doubt about Chaucer’s help to dramatist. Shakespeare is borrowing of a plot for one of his complicated plays, Troilus and Cressida from Chaucer’s Troilus and Cressida. Chaucer’s The Prologue may be described as “a novel of miniature”. It ahs an unrivalled richness and variety in the characterization, an abundant fund of humour, and a full representation of real life. He had the sweetness of Goldsmith, the compassionate realism and humour of Fielding, and the high chivalrous tone of Scott. Thus we follow the point fro Chesterton, that “There was ever a man who was more of a Maker than Chaucer.” Shakespeare and Milton were the greatest sons of their country; but Chaucer was the father of his country.
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