Learning English Literature
Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by
logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering
views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’
yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless;
these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted &
carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter &
remain in them.”
Gautama Buddha [c. 623 – c.543BC]
Literature leads you to make inquiries as what it means to be human and exploration into fundamental human themes
What is the significance of the subject of Literature [*1] in the educational curriculum?
Learner Keener: Literature is the one and only item or subject or part of our educational curriculum that deals directly with the actual world of lived experience, the present reality. Unlike other subjects, where we are expected to provide the right answer, Literature serves on a platter the opportunity for us to express ourselves with our own arguments. So, we thank god for that.
Master: No, no thank me. [class roars with laughter]
Precisely, Literature gives credibility to your own personal perceptions, feelings, emotions expressed in your own words on the text -prose or verse content-you are reading and learning. French literary theorist, philosopher, linguist, ciritic, and semiotician Roland Barthes famously declared “Literature is the question minus the answer”–
See you are free to come up with your own answers. Nihil timendum est- Fear nothing.
I set you free.
Master: I wouldn’t even dream of withdrawing your god granted Free Will.
[class roars with laughter again]
Master: Once again, you are on the bull’s eye. We can put it figuratively… well, after all you do study Literature, so why don’t you make it more colourful. See, we need to practice what we learn.
Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. They are engines of change, windows on the world, lighthouses erected in the sea of time. – Barbara W. Tuchman (Think Exist)
Literary texts are often rich is multiple layers of meaning, and can be effectively mined for discussions and sharing feelings or opinions. One would Robinson Crusoe merely as an adventure story. But then again it can be interpreted as a conflict between Man and the Nature. Stillmore, it can be interpreted as Man Versus his faith in God: the book tells the story of how Robinson becomes closer to God, not through listening to sermons in a church but through spending time alone amongst nature with only a Bible to read.
Moby-Dick written by American Herman Melville [1819 –1891], on the face of it a whaling expedition, yet, infact is replete with many layers of meanings. Among them is the theme of obsession: Captain Ahab’s pitiful obsession in killing the great white whale, which had his leg ripped off in a previous whaling expedition, ultimately, resulted in his violent death in the sea.
Tell me what you see.
Numerous authors, critics and linguists, for centuries, if not millenniums, have puzzled over what literature is. One broader explanation of Literature says that literary texts are products that reflect different aspects of society. The works of Literature are cultural documents which offer a deeper understanding of a country or countries (Basnet & Mounfold 1993).
Then again, other linguists say that there is no inherent quality to a literary text that makes a literary text, rather it is the interpretation that the reader gives to the text (Eagleton 1983). Leo Tolstoy argued that all Literature, quality Literature revolves round two central issues: Who are we and how shall we live?
How shall we live? Should we love our family, relations? our neighbours? Our country? If so, why?
You develop the insight of an artist,
the analytical precision of a scientist,
and the persuasiveness of a lawyer
Prof. Maureen Moran, Brunel University
Master:Indeed. Enjoyment and appreciation of Literature will give you all the ability to develop an interest in books and reading. Then as you begin to move away from this syllabus of Literature and into your adult lives, you are already armed with ability to enjoy and appreciate text of other subjects. Having exposed to a range of Literature during their school days, you will have confidence to approach and tackle new forms of books and writing.
[b] Learner Britisher: We gain an opportunity learn more of English Culture.
Master: Provided they are cultured.
[Class roars in laughter]
Well, studying English Literature does not confine you guys to the traditions strictly of England. It also serves the possibility of introducing the traditions which inform English
Literature, such as the study of Ancient Greek Epic Poems “The Iliad” and “Odyssey“.
iterature written by the British showcasing the English lifestyle and culture literary work that covers all regions or countries of the world, written in English.
Now, since such is the subject, we are offered an opportunity to gain some knowledge of diverse cultures around the world. A good example is how we gather Nigerian traditions while reading the novel titled “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe.
Scheherezade: These people sit for hours, just listening.
Scheherezade: It’s a miracle.
Storyteller: People need stories, more than bread, itself.
Storyteller: They teach us how to live, and why.
Scheherazade: [narrating] The storyteller always said, “Stories can save us.” I guess what he meant was… they can save us! If we use our imagination.
Master: Indeed, after all, the fiction would ideally and closely follow the reality.
|In Sir Richard Burton‘s translation of The 1001 Arabian Nights, Scheherazade was described in this way:”[Scheherazade] had perused the books, annals and legends of preceding Kings, and the stories, examples and instances of bygone men and things; indeed it was said that she had collected a thousand books of histories relating to antique races and departed rulers. She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart; she had studied philosophy and the sciences, arts and accomplishments; and she was pleasant and polite, wise and witty. Well Scheherazade save her life from Sultan Schariar?|
|Amyra Dastur: Parsis [*10] in Bollywood have invariably been portrayed as either Bawa or Rustom. They have often come across as the most amiable people, with a distinct appearance, and manner of communicating.
Now, Don’t get confused Human Condition with Human Nature. How we live doesn’t correspond to human nature. Well, Human Nature is what we are and why we act the way do. Don’t ask me-I have no idea, only god knows of the nature of humans. I don’t understand the human nature and the rationale beyond it. Fools in a March of Folly. Literature is the leading light, the beacon, the north star, the compass that helps us to learn more about the Human Condition: how we follow, emulate and develop or worsen out human traits.
Literature, especially if they have no plans to study English at university. But, you see, English Literature can introduce students to a range of aspects as we discussed now.
Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become. – C.S Lewis (BBC 2012)
“Science gives us no answer to the question, how shall we live?” – Leo Tolstoy [1898– 1910]
The enigma of Hamlet had long fascinated Freud. Now he was able to apply the concept to both plays: From understanding the tragedy of destiny [Oedipus Rex] it was only a step further to understanding a tragedy of character—Hamlet, which had been admired for three hundred years without its meaning being discovered or its author’s motives guessed. It could scarcely be a chance that this neurotic creation of the poet should have come to grief . . . over the Oedipus complex. (Letter to W. Fliess, 15 October 1897, in Freud, 1985; qtd. in 1989: 38)
Literature expands language awareness. Asking learners to examine sophisticated or non standard examples of language (which can occur in literary texts) makes them more aware of the norms of language used (Widdowson, 1975 quoted by Lazar 1993).
In addition to learning the English language, this subject will also contribute insight into the way we live and how others live, and their views on life, values and cultures. Learning about the English-speaking world will provide a good basis for understanding the world around us and how English developed into a world language. Literature in English, from nursery rhymes to Shakespeare‘ sonnets, may instill a lifelong joy of reading and provide a deeper understanding of oneself and others. (Udir.no «Upper Secondary Education English Curriculum», 2012)
Yes, you are bound to become .
Communicative skills and cultural insight may encourage increased interactions, understanding and respect between humans with different cultural backgrounds. In this way the language and cultural competence preserve the generic cultivating perspective and strengthen democratic engagement and citizenship. (Udir.no, English Literature and Culture 2012, my translation)
How should we study English Literature?
Learner Pusher: Studying the text, the historical background of the text, or its relationship to the society of the author.
Master: That’s one critical approach termed Historical/Biographical Approach. This approach in literary criticism suits some of the works of Literature like those of Milton, Alexander Pope & John Drydon.
Criticism, Deconstunist Criticism [Deconstruction] and Reader-Response Criticism.
What’s Reader-response criticism?
Reader-response criticism removes the focus from the text and places it on the reader instead, by attempting to describe what goes on in the reader’s mind during the reading of a text. Reader response critics are interested in the reader’s individual experience with a text. Thus, there is no single definitive reading of a text, because the reader is creating, as opposed to discovering, absolute meanings in texts.
This approach is not a rationale for bizarre meanings or mistaken ones, but an exploration of the plurality of texts. This kind of strategy calls attention to how we read and what influences our readings, and what that reveals about ourselves.The readers and learners are free to appreciate a work of Literature with any one approach or with a cluster of approaches. It isn’t expected to see a text strictly in a single approach or another, ignoring all other views.
That is antithetical to what we are trying to do. We should always keep our focus on the text and use these critical approaches to clarify our understanding of a text and develop an interpretation of it. Now, look at our specific concern
Cambridge O Level Literature in English 
For examination in June and November 2017, 2018 and 2019
4.1 Cambridge OL Syllabus aims
• communicate accurately, appropriately and effectively in speech and writing
• understand and respond imaginatively to what they hear, read and experience
• enjoy literature and appreciate its contribution to aesthetic and imaginative growth
• explore areas of universal human concern, which will lead to a better understanding of themselves and others.
4.2 Cambridge OL Assessment objectives
AO1 Show detailed knowledge of the content of literary texts
AO2 Understand the ways literary texts can be interpreted from surface level to deeper awareness of ideas and attitudes and their contexts
AO3 Recognize and appreciate ways in which writers use language
AO4 Recognize and appreciate ways in which writers achieve their effects (e.g.
structure, plot, characterization, dramatic tension, imagery, rhythm, setting and mood)
AO5 Communicate a sensitive and informed personal response to what is read.
We call this The Dialectical Method:
[b]The reasoning or logical structure that holds together a continuous argument or exposition.
[c] The interplay of contradictory principals or opposed factors, as understood in the European tradition of philosophy influenced by G. W. Hagel and including Marx & Engles.
Some schematic versions of dialectical philosophy speak of a unification of opposites
in which the thesis is opposed by the antithesis but united with it in a higher synthesis.
learn in your life experiences to the text we study. This aspect that we are afforded in Literature, will make you see the work of literature in a better perspective. Furthermore, the expression getting closer to our lives, you will find the work of literature easier to remember.
’. (Annenberg Learner, 2013)
He said the world was an inferno full of
darkness and evil, and that there were only two ways of dealing with it. The
first was easy and wrong: to accept it and become part of it. The second way
was harder and right: you fight it, and recognize those who aren’t evil, and
help them endure. Scheherezade
The primary intention of Escape literature is to entertain the readers. But, of course, they too might have a theme. But then again the outcome is predictable: for eg. Two lovers get together and readers would feel satisfied; the antagonist losses the struggle and readers would have no reason to be sorrowful. Escape Literature features a thrilling, exciting, past paced plot and a hero to identify.
Escape Literature and Interpretive Literature are ends of a continuum: many books fall at different places in-between these cornerstones.
related languages such as Basque [language of an indigenous ethnic group living in north-central Spain and south-western France] and Hungarian. Western Literature is considered one of the defining elements of Western civilization. The best of Western literature [three genres of literature: Prose, Drama and Poetry] is considered to be the Western Canon.
But his initial reputation as a masterful teller of colourful adventures of the sea masked his fascination with the individual when faced with nature’s invariable unconcern, man’s frequent malevolence, and his inner battles with good and evil. To Conrad, the sea meant above all the tragedy of loneliness. A writer of complex skill and striking insight, but above all of an intensely personal vision, he has been increasingly regarded as one of the greatest English novelist.
[a] defined as “the characteristics, key events, and situations which compose the essentials of human existence, such as birth, growth, emotionality, aspiration, conflict, and mortality.”
[b] As a literary term, “the human condition” is typically used in the context of ambiguous subjects such as the meaning of life or moral concerns.
[c] is a very broad topic which has been and continues to be pondered and analyzed from many perspectives, including those of religion, philosophy, history, art, literature, sociology, biology, and psychology.
[d] is a phrase typically used with respect of the generality of the situations that humans face in getting along with each other and the world.
[a] the quality of education: Scandinavian education system gives higher importance to the integration of theory practice; class size: 12- 15 learners
[b] : Danish, Swedish and Norwegian are all Germanic languages, which is also the case for English.
English is difficult for East Asians to learn. Chinese languages (Mandarin, Wu, Cantonese…) and English are totally different.
So even though English does not act as a lingua franca in Sri Lanka, it would still be easier for us to learn because Sinhala, our language belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. Indo-European languages just like English.
[c] Consumption of Scandinavians watch a lot of movies and TV series from America in English, whereas other Europeans dub almost everything from America into their own language.
[*10] Parsi, also spelled Parsee, member of a group of followers in India of the Iranian prophet Zoroaster. The Parsis, whose name means “Persians”, are descended from Persian Zoroastrians who emigrated to India to avoid religious persecution by the Muslims. They live chiefly in Bombay and in a few towns and villages mostly to the north of Bombay, but also a few minorities near by in Karachi (Pakistan) and Bangalore (Karnataka, India). There is a sizeable Parsee population in Pune as well in Hyderbad.