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British Literature

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27 – BRITISH LITERATURE The old germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons and Jutes) were of Danish ancestry and spoke Old English. The main representants of that age were poets and bards who created songs and lullybys. An important example would be the Song of Beowulf, which is a heroic epic poem. It is alliterated and unrhymed, 3182 lines long. The story is about a hero called Beowulf, who travels to a Danish kingdom and slays the monster Grendel and his mother. Victorious, Beowulf returns to his country and later becomes a king. After 50 years he fights and defeats a dragon, but is mortally wounded in the process. The main themes are: heroism, valor in battle, honor and fame among descendants. There is also a clash between pagan mythology and Christian culture. Another great personality of that period was the king Alfred the Great who wrote the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Geoffrey of Monmouth who created the first version of the Legend of King Arthur. An important historical figure isGeoffrey Chaucer (15th century), also called the Father of English Literature. His father was a wine merchant, which brought them wealth and prestige. Chaucer was a page and later a knight, diplomat and customs officer. He fought in the 100 years war between France and England. He was mostly influenced by Boccaccio and Dante.Hispoetry popularized the use of Middle English at a time when people mostly used French or Latin. Chaucer’s work includes The book of Duchess, Troilus and Criseyde and The Canterbury Tales. Canterbury tales is a collection of stories, which uses a frame narrative. A group of people are on a pilgrimage to the Canterbury cathedral. They spent time at a Pub called Tabard Inn. To entertain each other, the pilgrims share stories. The characters are from all social levels. Thomas More was acouncillor to Henry VIII. His most important work is Utopia, written in Latin, which describes a perfect society (no private ownership, x there is slavery…). It was named after Queen Elizabeth I., but it includes James I. and Charles I.. The plays were performed in inn yards, amphitheatres or in front of churches. At this time, the first permanent theaters were established, for example The Theatre, The Rose or The Globe. Most plays were inspired by humanism and the renaissance. Costumes and props hat an important symbolic value. Certaincolours and materials represented certain groups. The plays were performed only by males.The most famous playwrights were Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare. Marlowe inspired Shakespeare and wrote in blank verse. (Unrhymed iambic pentameter) His plays include the Jew of Malta (Merchant of Venice) and Doctor Faustus. William Shakespeare (1564-1616)He is regarded the greatest writer of English literature. Shakespeare is called England’s national poet. He was born in Stratford upon Avon. In 1582 he married Anne Hathaway and had 3 children with her, only one daughter survived. His plays are divided into historic plays (King John, Henry VI), tragedies (Titus Andronicus, Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet), comedies (Merchant of Venice, Taming of a Shrew) and romances (late comedies; the Winter’s tale, the Tempest). 17th CenturyJohn Milton wrote Paradise lost and later Paradise regained - epic poems written in blank verse. John Milton was a supporter of Oliver Cromwell. 18thLiterature became popular among the middle class, thanks to the rising level of education. Daniel Defoe was a journalist, trader and spy, he is considered to be the creator of the novels. He wrote Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders. Jonathan Swiftwas an Irish satirist, essayist and critic born in Dublin. Jonathan Swift used satire to criticize society. For example Gulliver’s Travels, the Battle of The Books or A modest Proposal. Henry Fielding, a lawyer and a journalist, Henry Fielding wrote The History of Tom Jones, which depicted life in 18th century England. Romanticism’s main point is a revolt against reason and a using nature as a source of inspiration. It used many myths and symbols, gothic themes. Many authors looked back in history or used outlaws as their characters. It was caused partly by the industrial revolution and the resulting destruction of nature and the French revolution, which indicated political and social change. Lake Poetswere situated in Lake District. Samuel TaylorColeridge (The rime of the Ancient Mariner – supernatural events that happen during a boring sea trip) and George Gordon Byron whowas known as the satanic poet and coined the term: Byronic Hero, which is a proud, mysterious rebel. He based the character on himself. His works include Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Don Juan. Other authors were Percy Bysshe Shelley – Prometheus Unbound, Mary Shelley – Frankenstein, Walter Scott – Historic novels: Waverley, Ivanhoe, and Rob Roy. Social Novels (18th – 19thJane Austenwrote social novels, which criticized contemporary society and the position of women. Her works include Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion. Brontë sisters: Emily Brontë – Wuthering Heights, Charlotte Brontë – Jane Eyre. At this time, the novels became the leading genre in England. They tend to show difficult lives in which hard work, perseverance and love win at the end. It is quite optimistic and believes that human nature is fundamentally good.Charles Dickenshad to work at a factory after his father got thrown into debtors’ prison. He later worked at publishing house and started to write his own work. For example Pickwick papers, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Christmas carol. Other writers of that period: Robert Luis Stevenson – The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Treasure Island, Oscar Wilde who was a homosexual Irish writer and poet. His only novel is the picture of Dorian Gray and his most famous play is The importance of being Earnest. Arthur Conan DoyleIt lamented the senselessness of WW1. Many people harbored feelings of betrayal, they believed in the institutions bu

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