Letteratura inglese

Victorian age (1837-1901)
Period of rapid expansion in every field.

Economy: manufacturing industry and International trade, increase competition, more colonies maxive expansion of the British Empire (India, SouthAfrica, Malasya and Oceania).
Technological innovation: railways and new machines=expansion of urban centre, more communications, British leadership in world economy.
Reforms: first Reform Act (1832) little representation to middle class. Chartist movement votes for all man, annually parliament, secret vote in 1884. After “communist manifesto” vote to working classes and in 1918 all man can vote (women in 1928). Corn Laws (increase corn’s price) in 1846 abolished. Poor Laws children had to work to survive.

Famine: emigration, children in workhouses, people in “slums” to work in industries=overcrowding and risk of epidemics.

Victorian novel

Golden age of novel
Linearity, “buildings roman” (life of protagonist), plots around theme of money, the narrator is omniscient and analysis the psychology (alienated from the world).
Dickens: describes the variety of life, squalor and vitality of London, hypocrisies of the rich.
Thackeray: “Vanity Fair” based on money.
In this period the role of woman regarded only the education of children, the duties of a wife and the managing of the house; girls’ education was very strictly and repressive against a series of natural instincts absolutely intrinsic in human nature. Young women weren’t free to live publically their sexuality not even in the domestic walls because there was an intense fear for the opinion of the society. When a girl was considered a “fallen woman”, a prostitute, automatically she lost the respect of the other and of her family.
Bronte sisters: most important novelists of the period, romantic stories full of passion and violence
George Eliot (Mary Evans): talk about social problems e explore the mind of characters.

Henry James(1843-1916)

In his early novels relationship between Europe(older civilization) and America(new). The second phase explore social issues(suffragettes and anarchism). In his last novels return in the “international theme”.
“Portrait of a Lady”: an American girl, Isabel Archer, attracted to the American artist Osmond who marries Isabel for her money but has a daughter with another woman and ruins her life, but Isabel remains loyal to him.

American characters are fresh and have integrity (Isabel) but are corrupted by the influence of Europe (Osmond).
In the Preface James compare the art of fiction to a house with infinite windows where is possible to see the human scene in each way and every writer choose a different window.
Henry James chose to show the psychological development of a character; external events aren’t important as internal events.
V.Wolf and Joyce will use this way to narrate the story.

Emily Bronte (1818-1848)

Wrote only a novel, “Wuthering Heights”(1846): the story is told by Loockwood a tenant oh Trushcross Grange who listen the story of the family of Heathcliff the landlord of W.H. by the old servant Nelly. Heathcliff was adopted by the owner of W.H. and fall in love with the daughter Catherine but is hated by the brother Hindley. When Heathcliff grew up became rich but when he return from the travel Cathterine had a child from Edgar and died so Heathcliff marries Isabella (Edgar’s sister) and ruins her life: they had a son, Linton who after some years marries Cathy (Catherine’s son) but Linton dies so she marries Hareton(Hindley’s son) so now W.H. has a owner and Heathcliff can to die to stay with Catherine.
His a gothic fiction: the love story is suited in the dark landscape of Yorkshire. The two houses symbolize the romantic world of destructive passions(W.H.) and the Augustan world of civility(T.G.).
There are influences of Blake (unity of contraries): the union between Cathy and Heathcliff is impossible but also necessary.
There’s a multi-level structure: the internal narrator is Nelly, the external narrator is Loockwood.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

She lived into a inner world so she stayed in her house all days.

Her poetry are full of solitude and reveal another face of America: the immobility of lonely people and the interior soul of the human.
Her language is cryptic and confused (her poetry were unpublished) but the incomplete represent the abyss of infinity and death. Her short verses reflect the poetic vision of silence.
“Good morning Midnight”: The poem has a series of inverted prospectives. Day and midnight are represented as people: Day is the life, a lover who rejected Emily, the Night is the symbol of death her true love. Dickinson inverted the normal idea of day and night, life and death.

The age of modernism
Period of social, political and cultural ferment.

- Suffragettes fighting for the right to vote (in 1928 all women over 21 can);
- the Labour party grew to represent middle-class interests;
- irish question: Catholic wanted an independent parliament but protestant wanted to stay with England civil war between Unionist(UK) and Republicans (IRL) in Easter 1916 a rebellion crushed became the symbol of Irish resistance. In 1919 IRA(Irish Republican Army) was created and begun the civil war but Ulster remain part of UK;
- world war I an international conflicts to gain total dominance in the commerce;
- russian revolution in October 1917 led by Lenin; after Stalin established a reign of terror;
- after the war many anti-war feelings and socialists movements expanded in the world;
- in India: important to commerce was governed by a viceroy(chosen by the Queen) and was a good place to have a lot of possibilities for British people while Indians were considerate inferior.
But started movement to independence: after some violent protest in 1855 had a parliament but after the war England didn’t to want India independent, so in ‘40 Gandhi initiated a protest movement based on civil disobedience and non-violence to give independence to India: after this passive revolution in 1947 India became independent;

- after the first war there was a dark period with a number of further reforms for an equal society;
- the War hadn't resolved nothing so the fear of communism and the Wall Street Crash provoked the birth of totalitarian regime= Hitler founded the Nazi party with racist ideas;
- world war II : Hitler invaded Poland on 3 September 1939 so this was considered a necessary war to safeguard the world to fascist tyranny. There were 2 fronts: Europe and Asia. In 1940 there was the “battle to England” where Germany suffer her first defeat. After the defeat in Russia in Stalingrad and the intervention of USA the war ended in May 1945. In August there were the disaster of Hiroshima and Nagasaki;
- the Holocaust was the black hole of the story: Hitler arrested and deported Jewish people in lager where they were killed;
- there were many technological innovation (radio, transport and cinema) that give leisure and more information.

Modern novel: wars shattered people’s faith in society, Victorian element collapsed because there’s the absence of values, novelist wanted to explore the inner world of the individual, character’s mind, feelings and memories, no important a linear plot and chronological order, so were elaborated many idea and lexis of Freud (an human unconsciousness with different levels of memory). The education reforms increases the literacy. The mass culture is contrasted by the avant-garde novels that are appreciated by a small elite of readers.


Master mariner, travelled a lot.

“Heart of Darkness”: a man Marlow is a trade who go in Congo river where indigenous people is exploited; than goes to Kurtz, a trader mad for the fever who now is a god to the natives. Marlow is assailed but he’s able to escape with Kurtz but he dies saying “the horror,the horror”(it refers maybe to the horror of society).
- The story is based on personal experience (Conrad had the fever in a travel in Congo).
He criticized the exploitation of natives from king Leopold II of Belgium, so he consider the imperialism a bad thing challenging many convention of imperialist travels.
The style is rich and vivid with personification of the nature and the first person narrator dilates our perception.
The story is a travel in Congo but also in human consciousness (Kurtz is the example of evil but also a good man); the darkness of Africa represent un unknown territory impenetrable to colonialists.

Forster (1879-1970)

Homosexual travelled a lot with the mother.
“A Passage to India”: a doctor called Aziz is accused by a woman to rape her but he’s innocent and his friend MrFielding is able to show his innocence to Adela who withdraws her accusation; but now MrFielding and Aziz can’t be friend until British rule is in India.
This story tracts a relationship between 2 people of different culture: Forster criticizes British people who does many injustices against Indian people, so he’s pessimistic and thinks that the gap between India and England is incommensurable.

James Joyce (1882-1941)

He study to Dublin and Paris and decides to write poems developing his revolutionary theories.
His style is evident in “A Portrait of the Artist” where he explain the importance of interior monologue and the invisibility of the narrator: the readers are in the character’s mind. He introduces “epiphanies” a sudden revelation where the commonest object seems to us radiant (“a spiritual manifestation that show the most delicate moments”).
In 1914 published “Dubliners” a collection where stories are in 4 groups that correspond to the periods of life: childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life.
The theme is the “paralysis” that many of the characters have limited by cultural and social traditions. The narrator is omniscient in the mind of character. Joyce introduces the narration in “Medias res”, monologue and flashback/flashforward.
“Eveline”: is a young woman who live in a inner conflict between her family ties and the love for a mariner called Frank. She wants to have a family with Frank but at the end decides to stay in Dublin in her family house; Eveline is unable to decide her future because had some “epiphanies” for ex the sound of the organ that remember her the promise she has done to her mother.
"Ulysses": In 1922 wrote this novel who talk about a day of life of Leopold Bloom a salesman who travel in Dublin to work while her wife Molly is unfaithful. This is a parody of Odissey: Bloom is Ulysses (a soldier who travel around the sea to return to home and a man who walk around Dublin in a series of inconclusive errands), Dedalus (the young friend of Leo) is like Telemachus (Ulysses’ son who wait his father seeking news of him and a young writer evicted from his house) and Molly is Penelope (a faithful wife who wait her husband and an adulterous wife). Is a parody also in the structure (18 episodes).
The problems of classical words are the same of modern world, the difference is that the modern man is imperfect, an “anti-hero”, but have a depth (profondità) who classical hero doesn’t have.
Interior monologue are incomprensible because simulating the working of mind’s characters (no ideas dominant).
He employs every rhetorical technique and style in English (in a episode uses the Old English, the Victorian English and the 20th century English).

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

Had a nervous breakdown and after the death of the father founded in London a circle of intellectuals: “The Bloomsbury group”.
Her principal element is the interior monologue to represent the interior time, the impression of the characters (impo the female subjectivity). As Joyce has “epiphanies”, Woolf has the innovative “moments of being”, moment of intensity or vision which illuminate our lives, a luminous halo where un unknown spirit show us consciousness. The story isn’t important, but the mind of characters.
“Mrs Dalloway” is the story of a woman Clarissa who organizes a party and during her commissions met a man (Septimus a former soldier) who that evening commits a suicide: after this event Clarissa comprends the importance of her life.
The story is based on mental tunnels in the mind of Clarissa and Septimus where interior time is in contrast with chronological time; both are dependent: both see the truth walking around the city, but Septimus is unable to hold all the sensation and kills himself illuminating Clarissa’s life.

George Orwell (1903-1950)

Pen name of Eric Blaire born in Bengal, a socialist criticized totalitarian regimes and supported freedom(disillusioned by the totalitarian communism of Stalin).
His most famous work was “1984”: the opera describes an imaginary totalitarian world divided in 3 superstates: Oceania ,Eurasia and Eastasia. The protagonist is Winston Smith a member of outer party who have to rewrite the history to control the mind of population. The Inner Party has the power and is represented by the “Big Brother” ; the Party control every aspect of people in their life (telescreen with cameras and transmission for the regime) with paradoxical slogans like “war is peace”, ”freedom is slavery”. But Winston want to rebel against the rules of his society and fall in love with a dissenter (Julia) but is arrested by O’Brien a party official; Winston goes in the Room101 and makes a confession.
In this novel Orwell wanted to worn the reader against the danger of the future: deprivation of freedom, death of culture and war for economic powers. There are a lot of parallels with the contemporary reality. The distorted presentation of reality show a doublethink: Win knows that slogans he receives are false, but he accept it because is under surveillance.

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Worked in England as a schoolmaster; when became an England citizen entered in Anglican Church and won the Nobel in 1948.
For him poetry is a representation of the complexities of modern civilization in language that results from the fragmentation of the western cultural and religious tradition. For Eliot modern men haven’t an ethical code, are immoral.
In 1922 published “The Waste Land” where explored the disintegration of values in the modern world. This poem represent a new type of poetry that express the past-war depression; there are many sources: The Bible,Dante, Shakespeare, Odyssey,etc… He Contrast the fragmentation of this images with the mythical past, in fact the “waste land” is the opposition between the sterility of modern world and the fertility of the past.
In “The Burial of the Dead” there’s the vision of a stream city workers crossing London Bridge where Eliot fuses an image from Dante’s Inferno with a scenes of Baudelaire juxtaposing 2 different periods; the church bells aren’t a call to pray but to work(a new religion).
The language is also innovative because there are a lot of juxtapositions between different registers of speech (from the highly to the colloquial language) and a lot of repetitions. Important is the myth that represent the contrast between past and present where they lost their meaning.
In the poetry “Journey of the Magi” the narrator is one of the Magi who remember in a monologue the spiritual awakening that the birth of Jesus brought upon him: his old life is lost forever, wants a “new death” to start a new way of life; there’s a pacific time and space while he describes the travel. The journey is an allegory of Christ’s birth.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973)

Auden was pessimistic about the spiritual conditions of modern man, however he welcomed the force and vitality of this man without refuge himself in a mythical past (so he criticizes Eliot). In the past he seeks the causes of the present condition in which he lived, because the past was no better than the present (there are the same problems - like Joyce). There are a variety of metrical forms that Eliot and Modernists declared dead: Auden refuses the idea of ironic use of past forms because past restriction could help to give more lucidity to ideas. Also the language is different to Eliot because is simple but with a lot of philosophical ideas.
Musèe des beaux Arts”(1938) is a poem that describes the Brueghel’s opera “The fall of Icarus” describing the world’s indifference to man suffering. Icarus tried to fly too close the sun but he fall down under the eyes of a ploughman and a ship but they ignore him. Icarus is a marginal figure in the picture(heroism hasn’t value) because all is relative: the importance depend on the prospective. In the first part of the opera Auden describes other Brueghel ‘s picture: “the nativity” where some children skate while there’s Jesus’ birth(“miraculous birth”), and “the Slaughter of innocence” where a horse scrubs his back while a lot of people are killed. In the second part Auden focuses on Icarus.
Refugee Blues”: in this poem a German Jew talk with his son maybe with a melanchonic tone in a colloquial language. The poem remember a blues song (invented by afro-americans to contemplate their sad situation) because there are a lot of repetitions that underline the sad situation of Jewish people. They are: homeless, can’t go in their country, haven’t an identity, haven’t a consideration from politicians, are considered less than animals or plants and are haunted by Hitler’s soldiers. Jewish are disumanisated.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

Was a member of the Red Cross in Italy and a journalist; he killed himself because was mad. In 1954 won Nobel after the short story “The Old Man and the Sea”: this is the story of Santiago, a fisherman who fight against a big fish (marlin)representing the battle between man and nature; is a dignity battle where you can’t be completely defeated if you have fight with dignity. The narrator is in third person but describes Santiago’s thoughts: he fears the marlin but also admire it.
His style was simple and journalistic and involves readers: Hemingway wanted that readers felt his same thing describing people and places.

John Fowles (1926-2005)

He introduces the psychological thriller and the innovative alternative endings. His most famous book was “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”: the story is setted in Lyme Regis in 1867 and the protagonists are Charles Smithson(paleontologist) and Sarah Woodruff who fall in love with Charles. But Sarah is the secretary of the bigoted Mrs Poultney who doesn’t want Sarah walk alone in the wood(a place of immorality): but here Sarah met Charles and their love story causes a scandal. In the double ending there’s a Victorian final where the couple can live together , and a modern ending where they will never see each other again.
The narrator is intrusive and use ironically the Victorian’s conventions saying “this story is all imagination….the characters never existed…” and remember to the reader his role: he can decide all the element of the story. He has are two roles:
1. the third person narrator of the 18th century who makes digressions and talks to the readers;
2. a narrator who show his distance to that world, without break the illusion of realism.
So the opera is a sort of parody of Victorian novels because imitates the style and the language but with some innovation: psychology, philosophy and morality. Also the characters are described in modern terms : there are a number of humans comparisons between Victorian and modern life.

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)

Wrote the Theatre of Absurd a revolutionary drama: his most famous opera is “Waiting for Godot”: the title refers to the absent plot: two man, Vladimir and Estragon, are waiting for a mysterious man called Godot who will not arrive so the protagonists are trapped on stage; they’re not sure what time or what day it is but stay near together because they can’t stay separated; than two other characters appeared (Pozzo and Lucky) but for a little moment; then appears a boy arrive with the message of Godot who arrive the next day.
The second act is equal to the first but the other characters say they didn’t meet the protagonists the previous day. Vladimir and Estragon say often “Well? Shall we go?" - "Yes, let's go" but don’t move to their place.
This story has no setting, no time and no language, is repetitive and symmetrical in both acts with a disorientating effect. Vladimir and Estragon haven’t a role, haven’t a real personality: they refers some philosophical and metaphysical issues in a tragicomical dialogue in a elaborated language game. Godot could be the absence of God but Beckett rejected this interpretation: is the central absence of the repetitively life of humans, the only reason for acting and the idea of a ending. The word mean Go+dot(point, stop) so “you go but you stay here”.


Born in Northern Ireland is the most important Irish poet since Yeats and won the Nobel in 1995.
He was a lyric poet that talk about politic. His poems often use the metaphor of digging in linguistic, cultural and historical treasures and also into his own inner consciousness and memory. A good example of this is Heaney’s series of “Bog poems”(poesie paludi): through a study of victims of tribal sacrifice discovered in the Irish’s bog, criticizes the political and social situation.
“Punishment”: in this poem talks about the discovery of a woman who was punished for adultery and criticizes the persecution of IRA against Catholic’s woman.
Heaney had ambivalent position: criticized on both side because there ‘isn’t a right or wrong but is important to remember the sadness of dead people.


Born in Mumbay to a Muslim family. He’s a post-colonial poet so he wrote in English but in a way which reappropriates it to preserve their own identity. He can do that by excavating his memory and the memories of other people transforming them in a blend (miscela) of imagination and history: the distance between classical and pop culture is annulled.
He wrote “Midnight’s Children”: is the story of Saleem one of the 1001 children born in 15 august 1947 (the day of India’s independence) who have a special power: Saleem can communicate telepathically so he know some event before his birth. In the life of Saleem we can see the evolution of India’s history and the protagonist do a metaphor: the chutney(piatto indiano) is like the memory because contain a mix of ingredients that must be preserved.
The story is full of contradictions and isn’t linear: his influences are Stern, “David Copperfield” and Forster’s “A passage to India”(Saleem’s grand father is called Aziz). Saleem is a “consumed multitudes” because his power give to him the thoughts of people around him.

Brani singoli

“Easter 1916” (W.B. Yeats): In the first room he remember the revolution leaders , he respect them, but he thinks they’ll lose their battle; in the 2nd room talks about some people he knew who organized the revolution, as a woman who was arrested, a young poet and a teacher and a another man who married his love but now are divorced; in the 3rd compares revolutionary’s hearts to a stone impassible to the nature; in the 4th says that the rebellion is unuseful because UK doesn’t want the independence of Ireland; at the end named all characters of his poem who are all changed: “A Terrible beauty is born”.

“Incident” (C.Cullen 1927): There are 3 rooms with rhyme in the 2nd and 4th line.
The language is simple and direct.
In the first room the narrator say he was happy in Baltimore, in the second the narrator say he was a child and met another kid who feels superior and calls him “nigger”(the narrator is a black man), in the third the narrator is shocked and hurt and remember only that.

“I Am not Tragically Colored” (Z.N.Hurston 1928): The narrator is Zora who doesn’t matter if she’s a black woman even if some black person does mind it, but she is indifferent. She’s happy for her condition because now there isn’t slavery. In the first part she’s objective maybe criticizes who hates his condition of “black person”; in the final part she’s sarcastic because “the operation is over”.

Contemporary times

- Irish questions two: after the civil war between Unionist and Republicans in 1948 the Irish Free State became Republic of Ireland became independent. But the new parliament give more power to protestant so started violent riots that flow(sfociarono) into the “Bloody Sunday” (1972) where many Christians were killed by protestant army.
So the IRA begun a campaign of terrorism (but many Ireland were arrested for nothing) until 1994 when the party Sinn Fein announced the cease-fire, even if violence didn’t stop really.
- The cold war: start after the second war when US wanted to consolidate its economy and military interest against URSS, so there was the danger of nuclear bombs, above all in ’50 with the Korea war and in ’60 with the Vietnam war. With Regan and Gorbachev there was the reduction of nuclear arms and in ’90 URSS dissolved.
- The end of British Empire: after the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947 starts the end of the colonialism because in the Suez crisis Egypt declare its independence (1956) and in ’60 also Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Jamaica declare that. But in India and Pakistan there were other religious conflict: from Pakistan broke Bangladesh and in India there were the “State of Emergency”. The cultural instability of this country provokes a migration that in some year build the foundation of a multicultural society in England.
- In this period there were the “welfare state”: working-class began to have access to goods and service thanks to technological advances and the employment of services now cheaper.
- But after the 1970 the crisis of Oil provokes numerous strikes( welfare was too costly).
- In 1979 Margaret Thatcher (Conservative Party) was elected prime minister of UK: she privatized company to make industry more competitive and did free market; the stock market boom makes a lot of people very rich and the Falklands war helped her to stay other years where she closed coal mines. But when she introduced the “poll tax” (calculated by the house and earn) there were riots so Major succeed to her dismantling all social structures.
- In 1997 Tony Blaire (Labourist) continues the privatization of Thatcher increasingly politic.

There were social and cultural transformation: women became a major force in workplace and emerge a new pop culture above all in music and art (a lot of experimentation).
After the Vietnam War began a lot of movement that reached its peak in 1968 in all the world with student and women.
Begun also the multi-ethnic integration thanks to some men as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X who fight against racism.

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