There’s a new definition of literature in town. It has been slouching toward us for some time now but may have arrived officially in 2009, with the publication of Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors’s A New Literary History of America. Alongside essays on Twain, Fitzgerald, Frost, and Henry James, there are pieces about Jackson Pollock, Chuck Berry, the telephone, the Winchester rifle, and Linda Lovelace. Apparently, “literary means not only what is written but what is voiced, what is expressed, what is invented, in whatever form” — in which case maps, sermons, comic strips, cartoons, speeches, photographs, movies, war memorials, and music all huddle beneath the literary umbrella. Books continue to matter, of course, but not in the way that earlier generations took for granted. In 2004, “the most influential cultural figure now alive,” according to Newsweek, wasn’t a novelist or historian; it was Bob Dylan. Not incidentally, the index to A New Literary History contains more references to Dylan than to Stephen Crane and Hart Crane combined. Dylan may have described himself as “a song-and-dance man,” but Marcus and Sollors and such critics as Christopher Ricks beg to differ. Dylan, they contend, is one of the greatest poets this nation has ever produced (in point of fact, he has been nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature every year since 1996).
The idea that literature contains multitudes is not new. For the greater part of its history, lit(t)eratura referred to any writing formed with letters. Up until the eighteenth century, the only true makers of creative work were poets, and what they aspired to was not literature but poesy. A piece of writing was “literary” only if enough learned readers spoke well of it; but as Thomas Rymer observed in 1674, “till of late years England was as free from Criticks, as it is from Wolves.”
So when did literature in the modern sense begin? According to Trevor Ross’s The Making of the English Literary Canon, that would have been on February 22, 1774. Ross is citing with theatrical flair the case of Donaldson v. Beckett, which did away with the notion of “perpetual copyright” and, as one contemporary onlooker put it, allowed “the Works of Shakespeare, of Addison, Pope, Swift, Gay, and many other excellent Authors of the present Century . . . to be the Property of any Person.” It was at this point, Ross claims, that “the canon became a set of commodities to be consumed. It became literature rather than poetry.” What Ross and other historians of literature credibly maintain is that the literary canon was largely an Augustan invention evolving from la querelle des Anciens et des Modernes, which pitted cutting-edge seventeenth-century authors against the Greek and Latin poets. Because a canon of vastly superior ancient writers — Homer, Virgil, Cicero — already existed, a modern canon had been slow to develop. One way around this dilemma was to create new ancients closer to one’s own time, which is precisely what John Dryden did in 1700, when he translated Chaucer into Modern English. Dryden not only made Chaucer’s work a classic; he helped canonize English literature itself.
The word canon, from the Greek, originally meant “measuring stick” or “rule” and was used by early Christian theologians to differentiate the genuine, or canonical, books of the Bible from the apocryphal ones. Canonization, of course, also referred to the Catholic practice of designating saints, but the term was not applied to secular writings until 1768, when the Dutch classicist David Ruhnken spoke of a canon of ancient orators and poets.
The usage may have been novel, but the idea of a literary canon was already in the air, as evidenced by a Cambridge don’s proposal in 1595 that universities “take the course to canonize [their] owne writers, that not every bold ballader . . . may pass current with a Poet’s name.” A similar nod toward hierarchies appeared in Daniel Defoe’s A Vindication of the Press (1718) and Joseph Spence’s plan for a dictionary of British poets. Writing in 1730, Spence suggested that the “known marks for ye different magnitudes of the Stars” could be used to establish rankings such as “great Genius & fine writer,” “fine writer,” “middling Poet,” and “one never to be read.” In 1756, Joseph Warton’s essay on Pope designated “four different classes and degrees” of poets, with Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton comfortably leading the field. By 1781, Samuel Johnson’s Lives of the English Poets had confirmed the canon’s constituents — fifty-two of them — but also fine-tuned standards of literary merit so that the common reader, “uncorrupted with literary prejudice,” would know what to look for.
In effect, the canon formalized modern literature as a select body of imaginative writings that could stand up to the Greek and Latin texts. Although exclusionary by nature, it was originally intended to impart a sense of unity; critics hoped that a tradition of great writers would help create a national literature. What was the apotheosis of Shakespeare and Milton if not an attempt to show the world that England and not France — especially not France — had produced such geniuses? The canon anointed the worthy and, by implication, the unworthy, functioning as a set of commandments that saved people the trouble of deciding what to read.
The canon — later the canon of Great Books — endured without real opposition for nearly two centuries before antinomian forces concluded that enough was enough. I refer, of course, to that mixed bag of politicized professors and theory-happy revisionists of the 1970s and 1980s — feminists, ethnicists, Marxists, semioticians, deconstructionists, new historicists, and cultural materialists — all of whom took exception to the canon while not necessarily seeing eye to eye about much else. Essentially, the postmodernists were against — well, essentialism. While books were conceived in private, they reflected the ideological makeup of their host culture; and the criticism that gave them legitimacy served only to justify the prevailing social order. The implication could not be plainer: If books simply reinforced the cultural values that helped shape them, then any old book or any new book was worthy of consideration. Literature with a capital L was nothing more than a bossy construct, and the canon, instead of being genuine and beneficial, was unreal and oppressive.
Traditionalists, naturally, were aghast. The canon, they argued, represented the best that had been thought and said, and its contents were an expression of the human condition: the joy of love, the sorrow of death, the pain of duty, the horror of war, and the recognition of self and soul. Some canonical writers conveyed this with linguistic brio, others through a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of experience; and their books were part of an ongoing conversation, whose changing sum was nothing less than the history of ideas. To mess with the canon was to mess with civilization itself.
By Arthur Krystal
Literature in English Programme (LEP) was integrated into the Malaysian School System in the year 1992 to assist in the move to develop a reading culture among Malaysians students. Literature is even introduced into the education system as early as year four in the primary school level. It is one of the ongoing efforts to re-establish the importance of English language in the Malaysian school setting over the past few years. As expected, diverse feedbacks were received from educators and teachers in Malaysia as some see the benefits of this programme whilst others consider it as challenging for the students to cope with Literature in a second language. The Literature curriculum in the secondary school consists of a wide range of literary works by Malaysian authors alongside foreign literary works by famous writers such as Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. It is hoped that the variety of literary texts will instill in the students the interest toward reading literature while simultaneously provide opportunities for improving the students’ language proficiency in English.
I know a funny little man,
As quiet as a mouse,
Who does the mischief that is done
In everybody’s house!
There’s no one ever sees his face,
And yet we all agree
That every plate we break was cracked
By Mr. Nobody
`Tis he who always tears our books,
Who leaves the door ajar,
He pulls the buttons from our shirts,
And scatters pine afar;
That squeaking door will always squeak,
For, prithee, don’t you see,
We leave the oiling to be done
By Mr. Nobody
The finger marked upon the door
By none of us are made;
We never leave the blind unclosed,
To let the curtains fade.
The ink we never spill; the boots
That lying round you. See
Are not our boots they all belong
To Mr. Nobody.
TYPE OF POEM
A poem on life.
Behaving badly and not owning up.
A suitable title because the purpose is to blame nobody. Nobody is a non-person so he is the best person to push the blame to.
The poem is set in the house as the persona talks about the situation in the house. Things get broken, misplaced and thrown around by an unseen person. His behavior messes up the house.
It is the poet’s voice. The poet is also the persona. There is one voice but several character are involved – I, we, Mr. Nobody
- Responsiblibility for one’s action. Very few people own up when they create a problem. They tend to put the blame on others.
- Truth and honesty.
- Respect for family members.
- Cultivate a good habit.
Introduction The River is one of the new literature components for the English subject. The poem is written by Valerie Bloom. The Form One students in the year 2010 have started exploring and learning this new poem.
Synopsis of the poem
The River is about the many faces of a river. The river is a wanderer where he moves all over the place. He does not sit still and is always in motion. He is also a winder where he twists and turns. He meanders. He is also a hoarder where he keeps things deep down in his river bed. Sometimes, he is a baby when he is happily flowing along. At times, he is a singer as seen through the happy sounds of the water. Finally, he is also a monster and can devour trees (most probably referring to a flood).
THE RIVER BY VALERIE BLOOM
The river’s a wanderer, A nomad, a tramp.
He doesn’t choose any one place
To set up his camp.
The river’s a winder,
Through valley and hill
He twists and he turns,
He just cannot be still.
The river’s a hoarder,
And he buries down deep
Those little treasures
That he wants to keep.
The river’s a baby,
He gurgles and hums,
And sounds like he’s happily
Sucking his thumbs.
The river’s a singer,
As he dances along,
The countryside echoes
The notes of his song.
The river’s a monster,
Hungry and vexed,
He’s gobbled up trees
And he’ll swallow you next.
CLICK ON THE VIDEO
Good Day there!!! This is my blog and I am Rina….This blog come into existence upon me enrolling in the ICT classroom here in one of the varsities. I have put some contents about me and things and issues that evolving around me. Hope it will benefit whoever happen drop by here………. 🙂
Thus, this website will have a combination of information about me and some useful resources for teachers and students.