Colegio Villa Maria La Planicie
In memory of
Friend of friends,
Teacher of teachers.
You gave yourself to us
Warmth, joy, concern.
An open hand always ready
To caress, to share—
Your ready laugh raised our spirits
When the road was rough.
Your brilliant wit
Sharpened our minds.
Wisdom clad in humility.
Fire in the classroom—
Your light shines on the path we shall follow
To meet you.
Colegio Villa María La Planicie
Introduction to the course
This course will give you a quick view of the outstanding characteristics of each major cultural
period in Europe, starting with the Greek civilization. You will also become familiar with some of
their most representative works of Literature, which reflect the society and ideas of their times. It
will also give you an opportunity to strengthen your ability to understand, analyze, critique,
compare and contrast, and explain these texts.
In order to perform successfully in this course, it is important that you come prepared to class, i.e.,
that you read the texts reflectively at least once before analyzing them in class. It is also your
responsibility to solve any doubts you may have regarding vocabulary, ahead of time.
Another indispensable skill is note-taking. You must be permanently active during class, taking
notes of what is being commented. This will help you enormously for your tests, and it will also
prepare you for all the learning years you have ahead of you, at university and in training courses
during your professional career. Avoid sitting in class passively simply letting time go by.
Finally, control how often you raise your hand to participate. Make sure you do it frequently.
Review of Basic Concepts
Words have two meanings:
Denotation It is the dictionary meaning.
Connotation It is the special meaning that a person gives in a particular moment. It is not obvious. It
Levels of interpretation
Literal It is given by the denotation. It is necessary.
Figurative It is given by the connotation of the words. It makes literature beautiful. It is there,
hidden, waiting to be discovered. It is the hidden meaning that the author is trying to give to his
Figures of speech
These are necessary for figurative language.
Simile It is a comparison that uses the comparative words AS or LIKE. She is as tall as a giraffe.
Metaphor It is a comparison without the comparative words. The black night of her hair.
Personification Human qualities are given to objects. The wind spoke to me.
Hyperbole It is an obvious over-exaggeration. He gave me three million kisses.
Symbol It is a word that stands for something else. This meaning is usually accepted by a large
group of people. Heart symbolizes love. Dove symbolizes peace.
WESTERN EUROPEAN LITERATURE
5Th Secondary - Villa Maria La Planicie
Goal of the Course:
The goal of the course is to get students acquainted with Western European Literature
through the reading and analysis of representative masterpieces of each of the
different periods and literary movements that cover from the Middle Ages to the 20th
Century. Students will have the opportunity to read prose and poetry; they will
analyze both within the social and cultural background in which they were produced.
Students will also evaluate critically the importance of Literature as a manifestation
of the human spirit.
1. Contrast between the Judaeo-Christian tradition and Greek Classical culture.
2. Introduction to the Middle Ages and Dante`s Divine Comedy.
3. Dante’s Inferno, Chants I, II and V.
4. Renaissance in Italy and England: Sonnets by Francesco Petrarca and William
5. Neoclassicism in France: Fables by Jean de la Fontaine.
6. English Romanticism: Poetry by Robert Burns, William Blake, William
7. Victorian Period: Poetry by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning,
Elizabeth B. Browning and Mathew Arnold.
8. Realism in Russia: Short stories by Feodor Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy.
9. Naturalism in France: Short stories by Guy de Maupassant.
10. Symbolism in France: Poetry by Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine and Arthur
11. 20th Century Contemporary European Narrative: Short stories by James Joyce,
Virginia Woolf and August Strindberg. 3
Cultural Background of the Literature of the Western World: the contrast
between the Greek Classical culture and the Judaeo-Christian Tradition.
These two cultures are the main roots of Western civilization. Here is a brief look at both.
Greece and Rome
These cultures are basically similar. Roman art was greatly influenced by the Greeks. Even though
the Greek civilization began in very ancient times, there are two important Greek periods. During
the Hellenic one (approx... 700-400 B.C.), the city of Athens was supreme. Then the Hellenistic
period took place (approx. 400-100 B.C.). It was more cosmopolitan. Civilization was influenced by
other city states.
The Greeks, contrary to the Hebrews or the Christians, lived only for this world. They only worried
about the present. They did not care about a future life. Their values were purely natural. They had
no ideas regarding a personal responsibility towards neither a Creator, nor a personal relationship
with a Creator. An afterlife was something undefined. Eternity was never a real factor in their life.
The Greeks only sleeked personal perfection: the harmonious development of mind and body.
The intellect or REASON was above anything else. It was a source of man’s dignity. Through
reason man could achieve ―balance‖ and harmony and find every answer you needed. But there are
fallacies in this mentality because the Greeks expected too much from reason. For example,
Socrates and Plato believed that an adequate knowledge of what goodness meant led to goodness
itself. Knowledge and reason were the only steps to morality, which is an exaggeration.
Literature was intellectual rather than emotional. Writers tried to make better men of their
audience. They presented universal ideas or types to teach a lesson, which means literature was
The greatest Greek representatives of these areas of culture are as follows:
Dramatists: Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides. (Drama was invented in Greece. Sophocles is
known as the Father of Tragedy. He wrote Oedipus Rex, Antigone, etc.)
Great thinkers: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle.
Poets: Pindarus, who wrote odes. Homer, who wrote epic poems (The Odyssey).
Historians: Herodotus, Thucydides.
Regarding ethics and moral, the Greeks were Stoics in the way they looked at the world. They lived
a comfortable life, but faced misfortune with severity. They thought and believed in Fate or Destiny.
Your fate was determined when you were born and you could not change it. And as far as the
objectives of Art and Literature were concerned, moderation was a basic criterion because balance
and harmony were the foundations of Greek life.
The Judaeo-Christian Tradition
While the Greeks were flourishing in Europe, another people in Asia, to the south of Greece, were
developing their ancient culture. These were the Jews. They were in Palestine (on the East coast of
the Mediterranean Sea), maintaining their THEOCENTRIC society. God was the center their life.
They were faithful to ONE GOD, who was their judge and protector. They were also waiting for the
The Jews and the Greeks were completely different. The most important difference was the belief
the Jews had in a POWERFUL, always PRESENT GOD. This idea ruled their lives. The Hebrews
of the Pre-Christian times felt no need for human philosophy, because their God had revealed all
truths in the Scriptures. They had a DIVINE CODE (law) that was given to Moses. They were the
―Chosen People‖ and lived permanently aware of God.
When the Romans conquered the Jews, they were allowed some religious freedom because for the
Jews religion was part of their national heritage. The coming of Christ changed the Hebrew
Tradition. Christ commanded his apostles to carry his message. So now it was NOT a question of
national heritage but of missionary work to be carried out. Then the Romans persecuted the
Christians until Christianity was adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire around 400
The new religion was different from its original form:
1. Universal. It was for all men, not only for Jews.
2. Love, the basic idea, united all people, including traditional enemies. You no longer feared, but
loved your God.
3. Salvation was a reality, no longer a promise.
4. Christianity taught people with clarity about ETERNITY. The old Hebrew tradition had not been
clear about this. The new religion said that life was a preparation for eternal life.
5. Suffering was not only seen as a punishment for sins, but also as a trial and an opportunity to
share with Christ and to exercise one’s priestly nature.
All these ideas were carried to Europe as Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire.
A Very Brief Overview of the Following Periods
The Middle Ages
Medieval times developed at different times in different places approximately from the 9th Century
to the 13th Century.
Everything was oriented to God in this period. Society was THEOCENTRIC. People were willing
to ignore everything which did not lead to God. Intelligence, art, everything was directed to GOD.
During these DARK AGES there were no inventions and no evident material progress. Not all agree
with the expression Dark Ages or its explanation.
The Early Renaissance (14th – 16th Century)
Scholars started to think that the ways of the Middle Ages were not the only road to God and that
they could broaden their horizons without losing sight of God. They started to discover and review
the works of pagan Classical writers, but they still preserved the God oriented outlook of the
Christian culture. Nature, art and material things were good for they were provided by God.
SALVATION is still the goal. The degree of love for God is more important than the path used or
chosen to live this life and reach God.
The Late Renaissance (16th Century) and the Enlightenment (18th Century) 1660-1789
The Late Renaissance
Gradually, thinkers grew away from the Christian tradition. At first, Humanism appeared in a
Christian context during the Renaissance, as a celebration of man, the coronation of Creation, made
in God’s image, and sharing in God´s creative power. There was an extreme preoccupation of the
world of Nature. Galileo (1564-1642) belonged to this period.
Then thinkers continued to apply logic, a discipline of thinking, and made new discoveries in
Science. But they also reached new ideas, probably based on false premises and intellectual pride.
There is a break with the God-oriented vision of the world. Thinkers thought that an
ENLIGHTENED or more educated minority had to enlighten the rest of humanity.
The Enlightenment is the age of science, invention, discoveries. Art and philosophy reached back to
Greece and Rome. The Carpe Diem (live for today) philosophy or mentality was common.
This period is called the Neoclassical Period (17th-1/2 of 18th Century) of Art. FORM and UNITY
were important in Neoclassical writing. The artists turned to Classical (ancient Greek and Roman)
for models and inspiration. Art was mostly copying ancient art. The artist did not use his
There was a strong pagan influence. Philosophers believed that scientific achievements would be a
path to social progress. Through REASON, man could understand MAN and the world. Revelation
was not needed.
Literature appealed to the mind, to reason, and not to feelings. What is rational is good. This
preoccupation about the natural world, form and Reason is known as the Enlightenment or the Age
of Reason. During the 18th Century Aristotle became like a God to the Neoclassical artists, the
Poetics. This is the time of the breaking up or divisions of churches.
Some influential thinkers of this period were Montaigne (1533-1592), Descartes (1596-1650) and
Voltaire (1694-1778) in France, Locke and Hume in Britain, and Jefferson, Washington, and
Jefferson, Washington, Franklin and Paine in the United States.
Romanticism (2nd half of the 18th C. – 1st half of the 19th C.)
There was a revolt against intellectualism, formalism and rules of Classicism. It was a movement of
emotional and personal tendencies and its representatives were opposed to rules, were spontaneous,
imaginative and lyrical (musical). They sought freedom through breaking away from the old rules
and models. They turned with illusion to the Middle Ages. Nature was supreme—almost a god.
Love was what mattered. They were individualistic and non-conformists.
They present life and social reality as it is. There was a philosophical revolt against the
IMAGINATIVE and EMOTIONAL outlook of the Romantics. What was good and bad, what was
beautiful and ugly was depicted exactly as it was perceived. Man was thought to be free. Realists
were interested in problems of motivation, of why people do things.
It is a movement of extreme Realism. Nothing that can not be verified by the senses is valid. Man is
considered a PUPPET moved by heredity or environment. Emphasis is placed on what is ugly,
abnormal, and morbid and deformed. New forms appeared in Literature. There was experimentation
both in style and content.
The Medieval Period
As the new Christian ideas spread over Europe and other events took place, history changed from
the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations to the next stage, the Middle Ages, which developed
between the 9th and 13th centuries.
The Medieval Period was the great age of Christianity. God was the center. Painting, music,
architecture, sculpture, etc. was theocentric. Life in the world was a preparation for an after life.
Faith was very important. They didn’t give importance to anything but religion, so there were not
discoveries or inventions. That is why The Dark Ages is another name for this period. Also, WAR
was important for Medieval man. God was first for him, then his king (loyalty) and then his lady.
Most of the literature of this period in existence today comes mainly from the 12th Century, when
they started to write it down. Before that time Literature was mostly oral, and it is this oral
Literature, transmitted from generation to generation, that became the foundation of Medieval
Literature was mainly
1. Narrative in genre
3. Based on legends
One of the most important forms was the Epic. The Medieval epics of all nationalities have certain
1. Long narrative
2. Impersonal and objective point of view
3. Celebration of the past
4. Presence of a hero of great strength, bravery, loyalty and willingness to self-sacrifice
5. Solemn and exalted tone
These epics were part of the oral tradition that was later written down. Although they described the
life of an earlier pagan time, they often reflected the influence of Christianity. In Christian Medieval
society, the view of man was different to that of the more primitive people described in the Epics.
His energies were devoted to maintaining his temporal life and working for his eternal salvation.
These beliefs became part of Literature, and although the Epics are extremely fatalistic because of
the pagan influence, they also reveal Christian influence. FAITH was a unifying force, a social and
The Romance, a type of text, was also popular during the Middle Ages. It was in verse or prose
form. It was similar to the Epic in describing the marvelous deeds of a hero, but it included elements
of Chivalry, courtly love tradition, magic and religion. It had an elevated tone.
There was very little lyrical poetry, which was found mostly in France.
The Song of Roland – Oldest French epic.
El Cid – Spanish epic.
The Nibelungenlied - German epic poem.
Tristan and Ysolt - French Romance.
Medieval Literature was
Orally transmitted from generation to generation
Based on legends related to ancient pagan histories (Epic poems)
Finally, in the 12th century, literature is written, containing Christian and pagan elements.
The Epic poem was
A long narrative poem
Based on legends that talked about great heroes with supernatural characteristics, who fought for
their king, God, Lord or Lady
A celebration of the past
Serious and solemn
A mixture of pagan and Christian ideas.
They talked of a distant past, and contained fatalistic ideas related to unchangeable destiny, both
pagan elements. But the Christian element of ―faith‖ is present because the writers were Christian.
Each country produced an epic poem:
England – Beowolf
France – The Song of Roland
Germany – The Song of the Niebelungs (Siegfried is the hero)
Spain – The Mio Cid
The Romance is another form of literature, similar to the epic, narrating the adventures of heroes,
but it includes new elements: magic, religion and chivalry (the traditions of the knights in armor).
They were related to knights and courtly love tradition, (referring to the royal court). They are
tragic, very sentimental and originally transmitted orally. The most famous one is ―Tristan and
Isolt‖ from France.
It is a story of fateful love you can not fight against. The protagonists are puppets of destiny.
Dante Alighieri (1265 – 1321)
He was born in Florence in the late Middle Ages. He is a transitional figure.
His real name was ―Durante‖.
He received a careful education and had a happy childhood.
He was familiar with both the city and the country lifestyle.
His life was marked by his closest friend, the poet Guido Cavalcanti, and by his teacher, Brunetto
Latini, who wrote ―Il Tessoretto‖, a philosophical book in Latin, which influenced Dante’s Comedy.
He married Gema Donati.
He loved politics and in 1295 he joined a political party called the Guelphs (The White party),
which struggled for the independence of Florence and opposed the Pope. The opposing party was
the Ghibellines (the Black party). Since his party lost, he was exiled in 1302. He never returned. He
lived in other Italian cities and in France. He died in Ravena.
He wrote lyrical poetry that was subjective and personal. He was inspired by Beatrice Portinari,
whom he only saw twice when she was young, at the age of 9 and 18. He wrote a collection of 31
sonnets named ―Vita Nuova‖ to ―Beatrice viva‖. Beatrice was his platonic (idealized) love. When
she died at the age of 24, Beatrice ―morta‖ inspired him to write ―The Divine Comedy‖, in a dream
in which she appeared. He wrote it between 1313 and 1321.
As a result of the cult to the Virgin Mary, the chivalric amorous service to ladies developed in Italy
in the late 13th Century. The Florentine school of poets transformed this into a mixture of sentiment
and passion. Women became the visible symbol of an ―angelic nature‖.
Dante thought that it should be dedicated to one single lady, who was the ―angelic‖ representation
of the Virgin Mary on earth and that ―Only the noble of heart can love and be loved, is capable of
love.‖ He also thought that ―only a worthy object can inspire love‖. This love is a deeply felt
emotion—real love. Beatrice was this ―heavenly creature on earth‖. He created the concept of
―nobility of heart‖. These ideas were applied to his poetry and ―il Dolce Stil Nuovo‖ (the sweet
new style) appeared. For Dante the most important element was love. ―Love moved all. Love held
the Universe together.‖
These are some of his characteristics that reflect the Middle Ages:
He accepted authority.
He accepted Christian beliefs and dogmas without questioning them.
Man was not seen as an individual but as a part of humanity.
He was mystical and spiritual. The world of Fact and reality is a pale reflection of the world
of the spirit.
He had a hopeful view of life. God’s kingdom is to come. There is life after death.
He believed that man has ―free will‖ (an idea of the Catholic religion).
He believed that all man experienced revelation, but in different degrees. Some are ―the
He also had some characteristics of the Renaissance.
His style, i.e., the characterization of his characters is revealed through their dialogues.
He wrote ―The Divine Comedy‖ in Italian, the common language of the people, instead of
using Latin, which was customary in his times.
He believed that through Philosophy and Reason you could reach Divine revelation.
Some works of Literature that influenced Dante in his writings are:
Pagan works: The Aeneid. It was written by Virgil, a Roman, who was pagan. He admired
Virgil and named him his guide in ―The Divine Comedy‖. Works by Plato and Aristotle.
Christian works: The Bible, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St Agustin.
The Divine Comedy
What is it?
These are some opinions. All can be true simultaneously.
An auto-biography of a soul—Dante’s.
An epic poem, written in verse, of the following sequence: remorse, repentance, purification
and final uplifting or salvation. It points out the depravity of the world and points the way to
A monument to Beatrice—to remember her.
Levels of interpretation of ―The Divine Comedy‖
A. Literal Level
The story of a dream. The narration of a journey through three different places or stages. Beatrice
and Virgil help him.
B. Allegorical Level (symbolic point of view) 9
A struggle against sin. If you fight against sin with the Celestial help of Revelation, symbolized by
Beatrice, and with the help of human reason, symbolized by Virgil, you can be saved.
C. Moral Level
A guide for life and a warning against sin.
D. Anagogical Level
(The level which leads you to interpret the higher, mysterious and mystical aspects)
The three places can be compared with the following:
Hell –The wicked world.
Purgatory – The place were the rescued elected are.
Paradise – The Kingdom to come, Heaven.
Symmetry in ―The Divine Comedy‖
Its elements are based on the number 3, because of the Holy Trinity. It is a ―mystical‖ number.
There are one hundred cantos in all. He divided it in three parts, and each part has thirty-three
cantos. All of these, plus the first introductory Canto, add up to one hundred, a perfect number,
which reflects all the other numbers.
Also, he made it a point to place the word ―stelle‖ at the end of Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradise.
This word means stars, which could symbolize your ideals.
He wrote it in verse and invented a rhyme scheme called ―terza rima‖ (tercets). The meter is the
hendecasyllable (eleven syllables).
______________ ita a
______________ ura b
______________ ita a
______________ ura b
______________ arte c
______________ ura b
______________ arte c
______________ ai d
______________ arte c
As you can see, each tercet is tied to the next one by its middle verse.
A Brief Description of the Three Parts of ―The Divine Comedy‖
As the Comedia advances, things become less concrete.
In the Inferno, things are concrete, like in the world. They are rough, ugly, and hard and disgusting,
In Purgatory, things become more abstract and less disgusting—even the punishments. You can see
things, but not touch them.
In Paradise, everything is completely abstract. There are brilliant lights and angelical ethereal
beings. You can hear heavenly music.
Medieval Concept of the World
During the Middle Ages, people believed in the Ptolomeic description of the universe. The planet
Earth was the motionless center, and everything (the stars, the sun, and the planets) moved around it
in nine spheres. The movement of the spheres was controlled by angels. There was music too.
Hell was created when Luzbel was expelled from Paradise. When he fell on Earth, he made that
hole, in the shape of an inverted cone.
This funnel had nine levels, steps, or circles. On each circle a type of sin is punished.
City of Dis or Upper Hell 1.Incontinence – she-wolf
Lower Hell 2. Violence – the lion
of sin 3. Fraud, malice– the leopard
The lower you descend, the narrower, darker and colder it gets. You are farther and farther away
from God, who is light and love.
Hell is an eternal punishment. No one can leave. It is for those who die unrepentant.
Sinners who did not repent before dying where sent to Hell.
The heavier your sin, the heavier your body. It therefore pulls you to the end of the funnel.
The punishment (―contrapasso‖) represents the sin. That is, it is designed accordingly. So, you can
deduce which sin it is by observing the punishment.
At the bottom of the funnel, there is a lake of ice where the winged Devil is. Satan is chained and
produces cold wind when he moves.
Once again, following the idea of symmetry, Satan has three heads and is chewing three heads,
which represent the three groups of sins. They are the worst betrayers. One head is Judas’s, and the
others are Cassius and Brutus’s, who betrayed Julius Caesar.
Outside Hell itself, but still in Hell is Limbo. It is the place in hell where unbaptized children went.
Also, virtuous pagans were there.
Hell ends at the earth´s center. From there Dante emerges on the shore of an island. There is a high
Hill. It is Purgatory.
It is a mountain of Joy, located at the back of the Earth, with nine steps you must ascend. As you
climb, you become cleansed of a sin. Your body becomes lighter. You can see persons, but no touch
them. Those who have repented before dying are punished here. At the top, you find the River
Lethe of forgetfulness. It represents a new baptism. You need to forget you were a sinner. You
become a new man.
Nine steps to
There are nine concentric spheres moved by the angels, and Celestial music can be heard. These are
places of life and light. Some virtuous souls shine more than others.
Christ is in the central sphere, which shines the brightest. The closer
you are to Christ, the brighter you shine. Above the spheres is the
Empyrean, where God is.
Dante invented this. It is a poem of memory. Dante tells it after he returns from Hell, Purgatory and
He said that he was special and chosen. As a matter of fact, he reminds it to the reader every time he
can in his work.
The trip lasted three days, and took place during Easter week. He emerged during Easter, in a
The message is ―Be careful! Don’t do anything that will make you a sinner‖.
You need two things for salvation: hope and faith. Cowardice is the absence of hope.
Virgil symbolizes human reason and Beatrice symbolizes divine love.
It is the introduction. Dante is thirty-five years old. He is in the Selva (forest), the world of sin.
There are three bests. The she-wolf represents incontinence, the lion, violence and the leopard, fraud
and malice. Virgil, representing human reason, offers to help and guide him. The idea that it is
Easter Week gives this experience a meaning of Salvation.
He is going up a hill. Virgil tells Dante about ―tre donne‖ (three ladies), who asked him to help
One is the Virgin Mary, representing compassion or pity, the second is Lucia, representing Grace,
and the third is Beatrice, representing Divine Revelation.
Dante appears here as a poet, a man and a reformer.
―Vestibule of Hell‖ (Entrance)
1. Here are the first sinners that Dante sees: the Lukewarm of Spirit. They are not good and they are
not bad. They are half alive and half dead.
They are all running naked in a line, behind a banner. The wind changes and they change direction
too. They are indecisive, they go from one place to another, and they constantly change direction,
like their weak willpower. They are in constant lamentation.
2. River Acheron
There is a boatman called ―Charon‖ (Caronte). He transports souls from one side to another. But he
refuses to take Dante because he is alive, since he is the elected one. Dante takes a literary pose—he
faints, and when he wakes up, he is on the other side.
3. Entrance to Hell itself
Inscription above the door: ―All that pass through this door leave all hope behind‖. It is a hopeless
world. Who enters never leaves it. The punishment or damnation is eternal.
The unbaptized people go here. It is a dark place. You hear eternal sighs, which express the hope of
the Pagan people who are waiting to be saved by Christ when he comes the second time. They still
He finds Plato, Socrates, Horace, Homer etc. Christ has already taken those who believed in God
and the Messiah (the ancient Jews) to Heaven when he ―descended into Hell‖.
Dante feels sad for Virgil because he is here. He has conflicting feelings. On one hand he feels
doubly sorry because he admires him as a man and a poet, but he himself, as a moral man, places
There are some rocks, ―Ruina‖ that fell during the earthquake that took place when Christ died.
They are a constant reminder to all people in Limbo that Christ had gone there once. Every time the
sinners see the ruins, they remember darkness falling.
At the back there is a light and a castle ―Nobille Castello‖ (the Noble Castle). It is the Castle of
Wisdom. The light symbolizes human knowledge and the pagan thinkers and philosophers who
used Reason (Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, etc.). But, in spite of this knowledge, they did not come to
the knowledge of ONE GOD (Ref: Romans, Ch. 1). The castle has seven doors, which mean the
seven liberal arts and studies studied during pagan Classical times to achieve higher knowledge.
There is darkness and a continuous storm with strong winds and noise (―buffere infernale”). This is
the punishment for incontinence. The punishment must exemplify the sin, in this case, of Lust and
The guardian is MINOS, the Cretan king, a symbol of the guilty conscience. He is the JUDGE that
decides who goes where in Hell. With his tail, he sends sinners to the circle they belong to.
Complete darkness and strong winds represent the blind fury of passion. Reason was blinded by
desire and passion.
The wild wind pushes them strength while they cry and pass by. They do not stop flying by. There
is no peace. Among the sinners are Achilles, Helen of Troy, Tristan, etc.
Dante feels sad because “amore” was the cause of their torment. He sees a couple, comparing them
to ―doves‖, a symbol of love. They are Francesca de Rimini and Paolo. Dante, the man, feels sad
when Francesca narrates their story. The ―buffera” (noise) stops so that Dante can listen. When
Francesca tells her story, she talks about Dante’s views on ―il dolce amore”¸ ―the noble of heart‖
and ―the worthy object of love.
Only the noble of heart can love and be loved. Love was the cause. She still feels love and tells
Dante that they, ―lovers‖, fell in love by together reading the beautiful love story of Lancelot and
Guinevere, King Arthur’s wife. The book was the pander. They are punished here because
Francesca’s husband killed them together while sleeping, so they did not have a chance to repent.
Only Francesca, the feminine character, is described, through her dialogue. Paolo only cries. The
characterization is limited. There is only a dialogue between two people, Dante and Francesca.
Dante, the man, feels so anguished with sadness and compassion that he faints and is mysteriously
transported to the next circle.
In the third circle we find those punished for the next sin of incontinence: Gluttony. The guardian is
a monster: Cerberus. He is offered a handful of mud to be distracted. Dante and Virgil take
advantage of this and go in. It is a cold, filthy, smelly place.
Dante talks to a sinner. He is so distorted by sin that he can not be recognized. The character is
They are immersed in eternal rain water up to their necks. They scream like dogs.
Ciaco talks about the political and social problems in Florence. He says there are only three virtuous
men there, but does not say their names. He also foretells Dante’s salvation.
The idea that sins weigh sinners down and that the worse the sin, the lower they go is presented.
The sin punished is Avarice or Greed. The guardian is Pluto, a monster of wealth. The sinners are
money lovers, and there are more here than in other parts of Hell. Misers are on the left, and have
clenched fists. Spendthrifts are on the right, and have cropped hair. They are deformed and can only
be recognized by the coat of arms on the moneybags hanging from their necks. Many religious men
are among the sinners.
They all roll heavily weighted, in line, towards the center, clash against each other and say nasty
things to each other. They return and this is repeated over and over. This is an eternal punishment
for the futile desire to transport worldly possessions to the next life. Fortune moves them. On Earth,
there is the same idea. The wheel of fortune goes up and down.
There is dark water, which means unhappiness. Then there comes the second river, the River Styx,
which separates upper Hell from the punished wrathful (angry) people. The River Styx is like a
In the next Cantos different types of wrath are punished.
The sin of Wrath is punished here. The guardian is Phlegyas, who burned Apollo’s temple when
Apollo raped his daughter. He is a symbol of wrath, furor, and rancor. He is the boatman of the Styx
and carries wrathful sinners to the other side.
When Dante and Virgil arrive, some demons stop them from going on. Dante fears that Virgil,
human reason, may forsake him by abandoning him. The demons prevent them from passing the
wall that surrounds the City of Dis, where sinners are punished. These sins are not due to
incontinence, but to a permanent evil disposition. Dante is afraid. He thinks Human Reason (Virgil)
can not guide him any longer. Later on Divine Help comes; an angel opens the door. This
symbolizes that there is always a way out, or salvation, if you seek for it.
A soul speaks to Dante. It is Philippo Algenti. Dante shows anger and answers him nastily. His
wrath is righteous in contrast to sinful wrath. There are fallen angels, which indicate the gravity of
The sin of Pride is punished here. Three Furies appear: Aletto, Megela and Tesifon. They attack
each other with their claws, showing violence. They oppose Dante’s entrance. He is scared. The
furies want to call Medusa, who will turn him into stone if he looks at her. He is in risk of ―losing
Hope‖. Virgil helps him by closing Dante’s eyes.
Symbolism Medusa symbolizes terror and despair. Despair is dangerous because to be hopeless14 to
The sin of Pride is committed by the heretics who denied the afterlife. The sin and the punishment
go together. They are living dead. Both their soul and body are buried in tombs, because they
denied the existence of the soul.
These heretics, especially Epicureans, only cared for material pleasure and denied the existence of
the soul and its immortality. The sinners are punished by being eternally buried. The spirit dies with
the body here.
The sinners Farmata, who died before Dante´s time, and Guido Cavalcanti´s father, are buried up to
their waist. They ignore the present. They only know about the past and future.
Farmata scorns hell and sits erect. He is too proud. He recognizes Dante because of his Florentine
speech. Cavalcanti is surprised to see Dante alive here. He asks about his son. Dante says that
Guido´s pride did not allow him to follow true reason. Guido is dead and past repentance. Guido
died in 1300, at the beginning of Dante’s trip.
The father feels sad and so does Dante. Dante shows respect for these two men. He uses the polite
form of address: ―voi” (Ud.). The only other one addressed with ―voi” is Bruno Latini, Dante´s
teacher. He admires Guido´s father more. His figure is taller than Farmata’s.
Dante wants to know more about the trip, but Virgil tells him Beatrice will let him know all about it.
The rebirth (re-naissance) of the Greek and Roman cultures takes place in Italy in the 14th Century.
These had been forgotten because of the Barbarian times. It spreads from there to the rest of Europe.
It arrived to France and Spain in the 15th Century and to England in the 16th Century.
Humanism, a way of seeing the world, appeared. Man became important. Thinkers studied man. It
was a great time of development: reason was developed, inventions were made and the discoveries
of the New World took place. The idea of the body and nature was renewed in Painting.
It is considered a transitional period between the Middle Ages and Modern Mimes.
Early Renaissance (14th-16th C.)
People rediscovered the ancient cultures.
God was still important, but man was too.
Humanism, a new mentality or point of view, appears. Man becomes important. They studied man.
Religion was not the only way to God. Science and Culture also led to Him.
Classical Art was rediscovered.
The Late Renaissance (16th-17th C.)
Humanism becomes extreme. Man was the measure of everything. God and religion were no longer
People were influenced by pagan philosophies. E.g.: carpe diem, which means enjoy the moment
now, because tomorrow may be too late. Don’t worry about an afterlife. It was very materialistic
They gave importance to reason, mind, and intellect. There was desire for beauty and perfection.
Classical Art was copied.
This was the best time for Art: Literature, Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. Ex: Leonardo Da
Vinci, Michael Angelo.
Leonardo Da Vinci was the man who best represented the Renaissance man, who was interested in
discoveries, art and new things.
The most important representatives in Literature
Spain – Miguel de Cervantes
France – Pierre Ronsard (1524-1585)
England – William Shakespeare
He is known as the father of t
He Italian Renaissance and lived in the 14th C.
His poetry was inspired by a lady called Laura. He met her in France when in exile.
He wrote sonnets, poems with fourteen verses and no stanza division. Only the ideas divided it. He
did not invent the form, but he used it and perfected it. It is called the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet.
He wrote 331 poems (Canzonieri) and 287 sonnets.
The sonnet presents an idea or problem in the first eight verses—in an octave. Then he presents the
solution in the last six lines—the sextet.
The rhyme scheme of the Petrarchan sonnet is as follows:
d sextet d
c or e
The Renaissance in Italy
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) wrote prose works. He was an intellectual and politician.
He dedicated his life to study the nature and origin of power, and how to obtain and keep it.
He is the ―father of Political Science‖, because of his analysis. He had diplomatic missions in
different cities and countries.
He proposed that ―the end justifies the means‖, no matter how unscrupulous, mean and disgusting.
In other words, ―if you want something, it does not matter what you do to get it‖. Everything is
He had the dream of uniting Italy into one nation. He also believed that the best type of government
is the Democratic Republic, another of his dreams.
He wrote ―The Prince‖, which gives hints of what a governor or ruler should be like.
He dedicated it to Lorenzo de Medici with the hope that he would be the ruler that would unify
Italy. But Lorenzo rejected the work.
This work was inspired in Cesare Borgia, who was his model for a prince. Crime, corruption and
ambition were common in the Borgia family.
His political ideas were rejected for until about the 19th Century. Eventually Mussollini and Hitler
read ―The Prince‖ and followed some advice.
Machiavelli also wrote drama and comedies.
The Renaissance in England (16th C.)
It arrived during the Elizabethan period. It was the great age of drama and art. (The Golden Age of
The Renaissance movement brought the Italian sonnet form of poetry to England. It became the
most common and accepted form.
Shakespeare adapted its form, and created the Shakespearean or English Sonnet. This form has three
quatrains (twelve verses) and one couplet (two verses), which makes a total of fourteen verses.
He dedicated his sonnets, or love poetry, to the Dark Lady.
The rhyme scheme of the Shakespearean sonnet is as follows:
c Three quatrains
g One couplet
A comparison of the poems by Shakespeare and Petrarch
Both talk about their lover.
The Dark Lady Laura
Relates her to God.
She is the solution to every thing. She is not the solution to everything.
He does not comment on her perfection. He talks about her perfection.
Happy endings. Usually unhappy endings.
The 17th Century in Europe
Man becomes the center of everything. Humanism comes to an extreme.
God is no longer the center.
Nations are formed.
Many people become materialistic: physical materialism.
Cities grew and city life became important.
The mind, reason and the intellect became very important: rationalism.
Christianity is shattered (broken into many pieces, like a dish). There were two groups in
permanent enmity: the Protestants (Puritans, Lutherans, Calvinists, etc.) and the Catholics.
The important countries in Literature were England, Spain, and France.
During the 17th Century in England there were two opposite movements in poetry: the Cavalier or
―court poets‖ and the Metaphysical poets.
The Cavalier or court poets
They were pagan-like poets influenced by the Classical Greek and Roman ideas.
They followed the carpe diem mentality (―Enjoy life now before it is too late‖). There is a
sense of urgency to live life now. The present is what matters.
What is superficial and material and what are brief matters—contrary to Shakespeare’s
Their poetry was extremely sensuous. Their images appeal (speak) to the senses: sight,
hearing, touch, etc.
They frequently used the image of flowers to convey (communicate) that everything is
temporal and ends or dies: life, beauty. The rose became a symbol for what is fresh and
beautiful but fragile and which dies or ends soon.
The metaphysical poets
They are religious poets, Puritans, who oppose pagan ideas.
They gave importance to the mind, reason, intellect.
The worried about afterlife and salvation.
Their poetry was religious, spiritual.
It is difficult to understand their poetry. The reader can not ―get it‖ through the senses. He
must use his intellect.
The Golden Age of Drama takes place. Lope de Vega and Calderon de la Barca (El Gran Teatro del
Mundo) are representative of this age.
Neoclassicism is a new tradition or movement that starts in this century. It is a new Classical period
that is a reaction to the Baroque and the Rococo style, which are very ornamental. It favors
moderation and balance.
The Neoclassical Period (2nd half of the 18th C.)
This period of art began in France during the Age of Reason or Enlightenment.
Art was achieved by exactly copying the Greek and Roman Classical models.
The closer the copy, the better your work.
Art was a complete imitation.
Nothing was created. Freedom in art disappeared.
You were correct if you followed the rules of Art.
Reason was supreme. Everything had to be balanced, studied, disciplined and understood through
Drama became the most important literary form. 31
A new form appeared in Literature: the Heroic Drama. These tragedies copied Greek drama
(Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides).
The most important writers of Heroic Drama were Corneille and Racine.
They criticized man and society, and they tried to teach a lesson.
Moliere wrote satires in which he made fun of people.
Peopled rediscovered Aristotle, a philosopher of the Classical times who wrote ―The Poetics‖.
Everything he said became a creed, as if he were a god.
Jean de la Fontaine
One of the most important French writers.
He imitated the fables that Aesop, a famous Greek writer of tales, wrote in Classical times.
A short story.
The characters are animals.
Created to teach a lesson.
A satirical (making fun of something) observation of human behavior.
A difference: Aesop wrote in prose. De la Fontaine wrote in verse.
According to De la Fontaine, a fable has two parts:
The body (the story itself)
The soul (the message or the lesson)
Some of his poems are:
The Crow and the Fox
The Fox and the Grapes
At the end of this movement people got tired of copying. There was a reaction against this lack of
freedom, which contributed to the beginning of the next movement: Romanticism.
Romanticism (2nd half of the 18th C-1st half of the 19rh C.)
It appeared as a reaction to everything established during the Renaissance and Enlightenment,
presenting a new way of looking at life and art.
It began in Germany
It was a reaction against:
Balance and proportion.
The Neoclassical appeal to the mind.
The lack of creativity, imagination and freedom.
It started to explore new places: the countryside and the mysteries of nature.
There is an interest in anything different, strange, and exotic: state of health, culture, country.
It praised simplicity.
It showed concern for the poor.
It placed emphasis on feelings and love.
It gave importance to subjectivity and introspection.
The exceptional individual and his inner struggles become relevant.
The artist is a creative individual who does not give such importance to rules and tradition.
Jean Jacques Rousseau, a thinker, is a precursor of Romanticism in France.
He said that ―Man is born good, but is corrupted by society‖, an attractive revolutionary idea, but
false. Man is born corruptible.
He also presented the ―noble savage‖ theory, which appears in his work ―The Social Contract‖. His
idea here is that ―the less you know, the happier you are‖. Ignorance is happiness.
Rousseau’s ideas, the American Revolution (1776) and the French Revolution (1789), which gave
emphasis to Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, contributed to make Romanticism a reality.
Characteristics of the Romantic writer:
They loved nature, especially nature that has not been corrupted by man.
They opposed the city, considering it to be corrupt.
They were patriotic, nationalistic.
Their characters and they themselves were paradoxical or contradictory.
They went to extremes and were unbalanced and over-exaggerated.
Their characters were half angels and half demons. Ex: Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.
They appealed to feelings, (the heart and emotions) and were extremely emotional and
The ―I‖ was important. They were personal, subjective and individualistic.
They felt no one loved nor understood them.
Escaped the present and reality, which they considered ugly.
They admired and escaped to the past. They idealized their childhood as the happiest time or
recreated the Medieval Age with great imagination.
They are poets of ―memory‖. The not only recreate the past through their memory, but their
past feelings too.
They were nostalgic.
They were mystical or spiritual, and symbolic rather than practical.
They expressed the ―death love wish‖. You wish to die in order to continue together in the
afterlife, because you can not be happy when you are alive.
They believed in supernatural elements and were attracted by them.
They were attracted by what was strange and mysterious.
They were creative and used their imagination
They were spontaneous and sensuous.
They rebelled against social and literary conventions or rules.
British Romantic Writers
William Blake (1757-1927)
An early Romantic
He had the capacity for wonder and to be imaginative, typical of children.
Two collections of poems:
Songs of Innocence: His child-like language implies innocence. The lamb is a symbol of joy, purity.
Songs of Experience: There is a loss of innocence. Fear and awareness of betrayal is discovered.
This is symbolized by the tiger.
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
Poem: My Heart’s in the Highlands
An early Romantic.
Personal and spontaneous. His poems are lyrical.
Great love for his country-nationalistic poems.
Interested in the countryside and the poor common man.
Extremely sensuous poetry.
Sometimes uses Scottish language. Very patriotic.
William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
Poems: My Heart Leaps Up, She Dwelt among Untrodden Ways, I Travelled among Unknown
Men, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.
We recognize two different voices in his work:
When he is writing about the simple country life.
When he expresses his philosophical and moralistic point of views.
He really believes that man can only be happy if he is in close contact with nature.
He adores nature. He’s called ―The High Priest of Nature‖.
But he is also the man of sensitivity who wrote for the simple man.
He uses sensuous images with elements from nature.
His language is simple and understandable.
When he wrote in the sonnet form he turned to a more elevated language obtaining magnificent
He is a poet of memory, recalling his experiences. He not only recreates the past moment. When he
is writing with tranquility, he also recreates the feelings and emotions he experienced at that
A theme of his poems is Lucy, a girl from the countryside whom he loved.
The Victorian Period
Realism began in this period in England.
It took place during Queen Victoria’s reign: 1837-1901.
She was married to and loved Prince Albert.
The Industrial Revolution took place during her reign. The ―machine‖ was invented, and this
brought about changes in society.
After the creativity and fantasy of the Romantics, a more realistic movement takes place.
England was a politically and economically powerful nation.
Nationalism was in vogue.
There was material progress, money and communication.
Advances took place in science and industry.
But there were social and economic problems too, because of the exploitation of the poor and
The Industrial Revolution took place.
Machines replaced man. People moved from the country to the city to find jobs.
Workers, including women and children, were exploited 14 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The salaries were poor and work conditions were infra-human. So factories were called
Slum areas, where the poor lived, appeared in the cities.
City life became important. Gardens were given precise shapes, contrary to the wild-like gardens of
the Romantic style.
The new rich had the money. They formed the bourgeoisie, or middle class. They had money, but
no class. They were flashy.
People tried to imitate the life of Queen Victoria, who rejected excess, and the court life. They
became very sober, strict, closed-minded and puritan. They tried to appear respectable. It was a time
of appearances and hypocrisy.
The new class struggled with the working class and the old aristocracy.
Writers became very didactic. They tried to teach these new rich to have manners and class.
Prose was a very important mean to reach people. The essay and the novel were common.
There were three important writers, each with his specific viewpoint of the Victorian social reality.
Thomas B. Macaulay
He wrote essays.
He thought he was living in the best of times.
He was proud of his time, and thought it was a success, and that life was better than in the past.
He had a myopic view of reality. He refused to see it as it was, denying the existence of problems.
He favored the new class.
He was an aristocrat.
In his essays he opposed the new rich, the industrial middle class that had reached power, and did
not agree with the reigning hypocrisy.
He said that England should be governed or ruled by an aristocrat or noble—by someone like
These aristocrats should be like the captains of industry and should hold all the power.
John Henry Newman
He was a Protestant who belonged to the Anglican Church.
He studied religions, became a Catholic priest and later a Cardinal, known as Henry, Cardinal
He believed and said society could be improved by using two elements: education and the practice
of Christian values.
His essays were published.
In his times the ―coffee houses‖ were like pubs or clubs were men got together and discussed the
important decisions that were taken and what they were reading.
Thomas Hardy wrote ―Vanity Fair‖.
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about adventures. Ex: ―Treasure Island‖, and
Rudyard Kipling about far outposts of the empire. Ex: ―The Jungle Book‖
Charles Dickens clearly presented the Victorian period, including the poor conditions of the
workers. Ex: ―A Christmas Carol‖, ―Great Expectations‖, ―David Copperfield‖, ―Oliver Twist‖, etc.
His novels were published by parts. That is why people joined in coffee houses –to discuss the latest
chapters of the novels.
There were also novels written by women.
They focused on the conflicts of the age. People considered the poet a prophet that could guide
However, there was a lack of communication between the poets and the people.
At the beginning some Romantic characteristics appear in their works.
The religious problem that aroused with Charles Darwin’s ideas about the evolution of the species is
reflected in the poetry of the second half of the Victorian period. They felt that his ideas challenged
the Church’s idea of the process of Creation.
Victorian poems transmitted scientific and religious problems, and social crisis.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
He is the most balanced of the Victorian poets.
He believes in God and was a religious man. He had few doubts.
He has hope, faith, and believes in the after life.
He tried to solve the problems of his age, the Victorian Period.
He was the most optimistic of them.
He was aware of the problems.
But he was positive and enthusiastic. He believed God protected man.
He believed in an afterlife.
He was a very unhappy, negative, desperate person.
He had the most pessimistic voice, and was a disappointed person.
He did not see anything good.
There was no sense in this cruel world.
Mankind is lost.
According to him the only way to survive in this world was by being self dependent, to care only for
yourself, to be selfish.
―Do not count on or depend on anyone.‖ One should be like an island.0
People should be like the stars, which shine without knowing what is happening on earth.
Elizabeth Barret Browning
She was Robert Browning’s wife. 42
Her poetry is totally different. She is not concerned with the problems of the Victorian Period.
She wrote private love poetry.
Her poems were published when she died.
They were dedicated to her husband.
They were called ―Sonnets from the Portuguese‖.
Conservative people called her ―the hysterical voice of the Victorian Period‖.
This movement starts in France in the second half of the 19th Century.
It appears as a reaction to Romanticism. Realists were against the fantasy, imagination, symbolism
and freedom that the Romantics made use of.
It presented the elements of its subjects as if a photograph had been taken, showing reality as it was.
The Realistic writer was:
Objective-He only describes what he perceives.
Impersonal-The writer does not appear in the picture, nor do his opinions seem to appear.
Detailed-They wanted to be precise. The more detailed, the more realistic they were.
Everything they mentioned had a particular meaning or purpose.
The analysis of the relationship between man and his environment is important.
Honoré de Balzac is considered the Father of French Realism. His work has both Romantic and
Realistic characteristics. He wrote ―Eugenie Grandet‖ and ―Father Goriot‖.
He observed and reproduced what he saw in French society of his days in a detailed manner. His
characters had exaggerated traits.
Feodor Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy are its main representatives.
In both cases they are more interested in studying the real inner part of man, his spiritual live and
his relationship with values.
A touch of Romanticism is found. He is not completely objective. We can discover a touch of the
feeling the author has towards his characters.
All his characters are taken from the lower classes of society: thieves, prostitutes, criminals,
desperate women, etc. But he still feels compassion for them. In the end, they emerge as true
human beings. No matter how disgusting and desperate the character is, the true human being, who
is capable of feeling and suffering, emerges.
His criminal characters follow the same pattern along the plot:
1. A sin is committed.
2. Punishment takes place. The character is suffering.
3. Repentance takes place, as a type of resurrection.
4. Forgiveness finally appears. It comes through love.
He is very concerned about religion.
He talks about the upper classes, contrary to Dostoyevsky.
A key to understand his work is that he ―believed that every man had within him the power to
understand what is good, and should strive to be just to himself and to others.
He searched for truth.
His style is powerful and simple.
He also believed that ―society would only be improved when men and women tried to become
better human beings in their personal lives and learned to love each other‖.
It is an excess of Realism. It is ―ultra Realism‖ and appears at about the same time as Realism.
Contrary to Realistic writers, who also described what was positive, Naturalistic writers focus on
what is ugly, disgusting, sick, bad, negative or disturbing.
It appeared in France.
Gustave Flaubert is the ―Father of Naturalism‖. He wrote ―Madame du Bovary‖.
His followers Emile Zola and Guy de Maupassant continued with his movement.
Emile Zola wrote ―Nana‖, a story about a very famous prostitute who caught smallpox and became
very ill. He seemed to find pleasure in describing how her physical beauty decayed. Through his
description of her physical decay he revealed the moral decay of the character.
Guy de Maupassant conveys a depressive and brutal representation of man and society. He mostly
used satire, making fun of society. He showed the disgusting side of society and men.
This movement originated in France in the late 19th Century.
Symbolism was a reaction to the exact representation of things.
What was important was not what was real in the exterior, objectively.
What was important was the author’s inner, subjective experience as a reaction to the exterior
elements. This inner experience was considered just as real and more important.
The personal impression of things is important.
They give their own meaning to reality, searching for a mystery hidden behind the everyday world,
which is perceived through the senses.
Symbols and musicality (rhythm and rhyme) were important tools for the Symbolist poets.
These were known as the ―Ivory Tower Poets‖ because they wrote for themselves and did not care
if the public understood them. They formed elite among themselves.
They created their own personal symbols that were not necessarily understood by the public. They
were only interested in expressing themselves and their inner world.
They used synesthesia. Through this technique they describe one sense with terms or words that
pertain to another sense. Ex: red heat, blue music, stinky vision, etc. They did this because they
believed that in some mysterious way all the senses were interconnected. This may have to do with
the fact that many of these writers smoked opium which affects the brain with sensual
hallucinations, and that they were all extremely—almost exaggeratedly— sensitive at the sense
They also juxtaposed images. They put together two or more images that apparently have no logical
relation between them, or nothing to do with each other, especially Rimbaud. Ex:
They were preoccupied with city life.
They expressed ―ennui”, a spiritual tiredness and boredom with life.
They used private and new symbols.
They used free verse—verse that neither necessarily rhymed nor followed strict rules regarding
Characteristics of the poetry
Imprecise and vague. Instead of objective description, they believe suggesting something and using
shades of tonality of colors instead of pure colors is a better way to communicate the inner
It has a lot of color and music.
It appeals to the senses.
The initial poems had traditional patterns. But the poets gradually moved away from them towards
more experimental forms, like free verse, ignoring traditional rules.
There were no taboo topics for the poems.
Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
He is known as the ―Father of French Symbolism‖.
He rejected both Bourgeois and Romantic ideas.
City life inspired him.
One of his most important and influential works is ―Les Fleurs du Mal‖ or ―The Flowers of Evil‖.
He was a socially disadapted and tormented person.
He was obsessed with physical decay and spiritual tiredness or weariness (―ennui”).
His poems are very sensuous.
He believed that art and poetry in particular had a function: to unify the senses with the spirit (the
intellectual part of man).
He discovered and translated Edgar Allan Poe, a very influential author.
Paul Verlaine (1844-1896)
He was the most lyrical or musical of the symbolist poets.
He was very technical, wanting to produce perfect poems.
His language was precise and simple.
Like Baudelaire, he still maintained some Romantic characteristics and traditional forms of poetry.
But he gave poetry great fluidity, and very subtle and elusive sensations and emotions.
Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)
He was resentful.
The genial poetry we read today was written during his youth. He stopped writing at a young age.
He put emphasis on dreams and the unconscious, which had been ―discovered‖ by Freud.
He tried to reach the ―Absolute‖ by distorting the senses. The results were brilliant images presented
in a dream-like fashion without apparent logic.
These poets, who had disorderly lives, shocked people with their ideas and contents.
20th Century Fiction
Discoveries made by thinkers in the area of Psychology influenced the style of modern writers.
Techniques that are now common were a novelty, and sometimes a shocking novelty, when they
were first used. Most important writers have used them since the 1930’s.
Stream of consciousness
This term was first used by William James in his Principles of Psychology (1890).
As a narrative technique, it developed toward the end of the 19th century, and is often confused with
It is employed to evoke the psychic life of a character and depict (present, describe) subjective as
well as objective reality.
In Literature it generally refers to the presentation of a character’s thoughts, feelings, reactions, etc.,
on an approximated preverbal level and with little or no direct comment or explanation by the
author. It describes mental life at the borderline of conscious thought, and is characterized by:
Devices of association
Reiteration of word-motifs or symbol-motifs
The reduction or elimination of normal syntax (sentence structure) and punctuation to simulate the
free flow of the characters mental processes.
The underlying concept is that ideas and consciousness are fluid and shifting, rather than fixed.
It contributed to a new approach to the novel.
It refers to a presentation of thoughts more consciously controlled and on a level closer to direct
Freudian theories of the conscious and unconscious mind and the Bergsonian concept of time as
duration and of consciousness as an indivisible flux also gave impetus to this new approach to the
Henri Bergson (1859-1941) was a French philosopher who influenced modern literature
significantly. He basically had faith that direct intuition is a means of attaining knowledge. He
opposed experimental and rationalistic methods of science with an antirational and mystical
approach to understanding. He believed time should not be measured scientifically or mechanically.
Because for the human being time does not operate in segments but in a continuous flow in which
past and present are inseparable to the consciousness of the memory.
James Joyce (Ireland, 1882-1941)
Irish novelist, short story writer, and poet.
One of the greatest literary talents of the 20th Century.
Known for his revolutionary innovations in the art of the novel:
Narrative techniques, like the use of interior monologue
Use of unique language (invented words, puns and complex allusions)
Sue of a complex network of symbolic parallels drawn from mythology, history and literature.
Described life in Dublin in great detail
Presented organic functions (body functions) with objectivity
Sensitive to auditory impressions
Initially, before being imitated, his work was denounced as obscure, unintelligible, nonsensical and
He rejected his background as an Irish Catholic, but paradoxically, this was the inspiration for most
of his writing and marked his style.
In his mature work he expressed his inner world through a network of complex internal echoes and
He wrote Ulysses in seven years and Finnegan’s Wake in seventeen years because of his
Virginia Woolf (England, 1882-1941)
English novelist, critic, essayist who belonged to the Bloomsbury Group (gatherings of former
Experimenter and innovator in novel writing, especially in her use of the interior monologue and
stream of consciousness.
A contemporary of James Joyce.
Characteristics of her novels:
Poetic and symbolic quality
Delicate and sensitive style
Evocation of place and mood
Background of historical and literary reference.
Concerned with time, its passage, and the difference between external and inner time.
Characters reflect her own leisured, intellectual, upper-middle class.
Many are set in London, where she lived.
She had a nervous breakdown.
Virginia Woolf was probably influenced by Henri Bergson.
August Strindberg (Sweden, 1849-1912)
Three phases which reflect different moment of his difficult life:
Modern Swedish realism, even naturalism, which reflect the disappointment and bitterness
he felt about his personal life.
After a nervous breakdown, a beginning of modern expressionism (represented by his
surrealistic ―dream-plays‖) in which the ―inner world has as much, if not more, claim to
reality than the external experience. Even his nearly naturalistic works have a tender
Historical dramas, inspired in Shakespeare’s historical plays, but about Swedish history.
His writings, which include plays, fairy tales, poems, short stories, prose sketches, essays,
autobiographical writings, novels, fill 55 volumes.
The information in the 20th Century Fiction section is taken from The Reader’s Encyclopedia, by
William Rose Benet, Thomas Y. Crowell Co., Second Edition, New York, 1964
The rest of the information in this booklet is taken from the personal notes of Nevenka Gjivanovic
and from the notebooks of two of her outstanding students: Angie Ferrero (’02) and Lorena
N.B. We would greatly appreciate if any additional notes dictated by Miss Nevenka are shared with
us in order to enrich and complete this booklet.