XX Century Literature


Иностранные языки, филология и лингвистика

The lecture introduces the student to British modernism, beginning in the late nineteenth century, and ending with the third decade of the twentieth. We do this by reading fiction, poetry, and some manifestos. Second, we will focus on embodiment: how are body, self, and psyche distinguished for these authors?



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English literature

lecture 10

XX Century Literature

1. Oscar Wilde

2. Rudyard Kipling

3. H.G. Wells

The lecture introduces the student to British modernism, beginning in the late nineteenth century, and ending with the third decade of the twentieth. We do this by reading fiction, poetry, and some manifestos. Second, we will focus on embodiment: how are body, self, and psyche distinguished for these authors? Modernism is often associated with new ways of depicting mental states and bodily activity, and it is important to grasp the variant means by which writers employed, abstained from, and/or took as provocation this theme. In addition to individual bodies, we will focus on renderings of modern crowds; sexuality and the role of the New Woman; the impact of the Great War; and finally-a key to modernism-the way that art is represented in these texts. Writers include David Herbert Lawrence; James Joyce; Virginia Woolf; Agatha Christie; John Ronald Reuel Tolkien;  William Golding;  Iris Murdoch.

1. Oscar Wilde

Wilde, Oscar (1854-1900), Irish-born writer and wit, who was the chief proponent of the aesthetic movement, based on the principle of art for art’s sake. Wilde was a novelist, playwright, poet, and critic.

He was born Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde on October 16, 1854, in Dublin, and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. As a youngster he was exposed to the brilliant literary talk of the day at his mother’s Dublin salon. Later, as a student at the University of Oxford, he excelled in classics, wrote poetry, and incorporated the Bohemian life-style of his youth into a unique way of life. At Oxford Wilde came under the influence of aesthetic innovators such as English writers Walter Pater and John Ruskin. As an aesthete, the eccentric young Wilde wore long hair and velvet knee breeches. His rooms were filled with various objets d’art such as sunflowers, peacock feathers, and blue china; Wilde claimed to aspire to the perfection of the china. His attitudes and manners were ridiculed in the comic periodical Punch and satirized in the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera Patience (1881). Nonetheless, his wit, brilliance, and flair won him many devotees.

Wilde’s first book was Poems (1881). His first play, Vera, or the Nihilists (1882), was produced in New York City, where he saw it performed while he was on a highly successful lecture tour. Upon returning to England he settled in London and married in 1884 a wealthy Irish woman, with whom he had two sons. Thereafter he devoted himself exclusively to writing.

In 1895, at the peak of his career, Wilde became the central figure in one of the most sensational court trials of the century. The results scandalized the Victorian middle class; Wilde, who had been a close friend of the young Lord Alfred Douglas, was convicted of homosexual offenses. Sentenced in 1895 to two years of hard labor in prison, he emerged financially bankrupt and spiritually downcast. He spent the rest of his life in Paris, using the pseudonym Sebastian Melmoth. He was converted to Roman Catholicism before he died of meningitis in Paris on November 30, 1900.

Wilde’s early works included two collections of fairy stories, which he wrote for his sons, The Happy Prince (1888) and A House of Pomegranates (1892), and a group of short stories, Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime (1891). His only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), is a melodramatic tale of moral decadence, distinguished for its brilliant, epigrammatic style. Although the author fully describes the process of corruption, the shocking conclusion of the story frankly commits him to a moral stand against self-debasement.

Wilde’s most distinctive and engaging plays are the four comedies Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892), A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895), and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), all characterized by adroitly contrived plots and remarkably witty dialogue. Wilde, with little dramatic training, proved he had a natural talent for stagecraft and theatrical effects and a true gift for farce. The plays sparkle with his clever paradoxes, among them such famous inverted proverbs as “Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes” and “What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”

In contrast, Wilde’s Salomé is a serious drama about obsessive passion. Originally written in French, it was produced in Paris in 1894 with the celebrated actor Sarah Bernhardt. It was subsequently made into an opera by the German composer Richard Strauss. Salomé was also translated into English by Lord Alfred Douglas and illustrated by English artist Aubrey Beardsley in 1894.

While in prison Wilde composed De Profundis (From the Depths; 1905), an apology for his life. Some critics consider it a serious revelation; others, a sentimental and insincere work. The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), written at Berneval-le-Grand, France, just after his release and published anonymously in England, is the most powerful of all his poems. The starkness of prison life and the desperation of people interned are revealed in beautifully cadenced language. For years after his death the name of Oscar Wilde bore the stigma attached to it by Victorian prudery. Wilde, the artist, now is recognized as a brilliant social commentator, whose best work remains worthwhile and relevant.

2. Rudyard Kipling

Kipling, (Joseph) Rudyard (1865-1936), English writer and Nobel laureate, who wrote novels, poems, and short stories, mostly set in India and Burma (now known as Myanmar) during the time of British rule.

Kipling was born December 30, 1865, in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, and at age six, was sent to be educated in England. From 1882 to 1889 he edited and wrote short stories for the Civil and Military Gazette of Lahore, India. He then published Departmental Ditties (1886), satirical verse dealing with civil and military barracks life in British colonial India, and a collection of his magazine stories called Plain Tales from the Hills (1887). Kipling’s literary reputation was established by six stories of English life in India, published in India between 1888 and 1889, that revealed his profound identification with, and appreciation for, the land and people of India. Thereafter he traveled extensively in Asia and the United States, married Caroline Balestier, an American, in 1892, lived briefly in Vermont, and finally settled in England in 1903. He was a prolific writer; most of his work attained wide popularity. He received the 1907 Nobel Prize in literature, the first English author to be so honored. Kipling died January 18, 1936, in London.

Kipling is regarded as one of the greatest English short-story writers. As a poet he is remarkable for rhymed verse written in the slang used by the ordinary British soldier. His writings consistently project three ideas: intense patriotism, the duty of the English to lead lives of strenuous activity, and England’s destiny to become a great empire. His insistent imperialism was an echo of the Victorian past of England.

Among Kipling’s important short fictional works are Many Inventions (1893), The Jungle Book (1894), and The Second Jungle Book (1895), collections of animal stories, which many consider his finest writing; Just So Stories for Little Children (1902); and Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906). The highly popular novels or long narratives include The Light That Failed (1891), about a blind artist; Captains Courageous (1897), a sea story; Stalky & Co. (1899), based on his boyhood experiences at the United Services College; and Kim (1901), a picaresque tale of Indian life that is generally regarded as his best long narrative. Among his collections of verse are Barrack-Room Ballads (1892), which contains the popular poems “Danny Deever,” “Mandalay,” and “Gunga Din”; and The Five Nations (1903), with the well-known poem “Recessional.” Something of Myself, published posthumously (1937), is an unfinished account of his unhappy childhood in an English foster home and at school.

3. H.G. Wells

Wells, H(erbert) G(eorge) (1866-1946), English author and political philosopher, most famous for his science-fantasy novels with their prophetic depictions of the triumphs of technology as well as the horrors of 20th-century warfare.

Wells was born September 21, 1866, in Bromley, Kent, and educated at the Normal School of Science in London, to which he won a scholarship. He worked as a draper’s apprentice, bookkeeper, tutor, and journalist until 1895, when he became a full-time writer. Wells’s 10-year relationship with Rebecca West produced a son, Anthony West, in 1914. In the next 50 years he produced more than 80 books. His novel The Time Machine (1895) mingled science, adventure, and political comment. Later works in this genre are The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), and The Shape of Things to Come (1933); each of these fantasies was made into a motion picture.

Wells also wrote novels devoted to character delineation. Among these are Kipps (1905) and The History of Mr. Polly (1910), which depict members of the lower middle class and their aspirations. Both recall the world of Wells’s youth; the first tells the story of a struggling teacher, the second portrays a draper’s assistant. Many of Wells’s other books can be categorized as thesis novels. Among these are Ann Veronica (1909), promoting women’s rights; Tono-Bungay (1909), attacking irresponsible capitalists; and Mr. Britling Sees It Through (1916), depicting the average Englishman’s reaction to war. After World War I (1914-1918) Wells wrote an immensely popular historical work, The Outline of History (2 volumes, 1920).

Throughout his long life Wells was deeply concerned with and wrote voluminously about the survival of contemporary society. For a time he was a member of the Fabian Society. He envisioned a utopia in which the vast and frightening material forces available to modern men and women would be rationally controlled for progress and for the equal good of all. His later works were increasingly pessimistic. ‘42 to ‘44 (1944) castigated most world leaders of the period; Mind at the End of Its Tether (1945) expressed the author’s doubts about the ability of humankind to survive. He also wrote An Experiment in Autobiography (1934). Wells died August 13, 1946, in London.


If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or being hated don't give way to hating,

And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;

If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same:

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings,

And never breathe a word about your loss:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

О, если...

О, если ты спокоен, не растерян,

Когда теряют головы вокруг,

И если ты себе остался верен,

Когда в тебя не верит лучший друг.

И если ждать умеешь без волненья,

Не станешь ложью отвечать на ложь,

Не будешь злобен, став для всех мишенью,

Но и святым тебя не назовешь.

И если ты своей владеешь страстью,

А не тобою властвует она,

И будешь твёрд в удаче и несчастье,

Которым, в сущности, одна цена.

И если ты готов к тому, что слово

Твое в ловушку превращает плут,

И, потерпев крушенье, можешь снова,

Без прежних сил, возобновить свой труд.

И если можешь всё, что стало

Тебе привычным, выложить на стол,

Всё проиграть и вновь начать сначала,

Не пожалев того, что приобрёл.

И если можешь сердце, нервы, жилы

Так завести, чтобы вперед нестись,

Когда с годами изменяют силы

И только воля говорит: "Держись!"

И если можешь быть в толпе собою,

При короле с народом связь хранить,

И, уважая мнение любое,

Главы перед молвою не клонить.

И если будешь мерить расстоянье

Секундами, пускаясь в дальний бег,

Тогда Земля

                      - твоё, мой мальчик, достоянье.

И более того, ты - Человек!

Перевод С.Маршака


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