Introduction to Literature
Let us firstly see some pleasures tried to communicate by the following work of a poem:
Heaven is what I cannot reach!
The apple on the tree,
Provided it do hopelss hang,
That “heaven” is, to me.
The color on the cruising cloud,
The interdicted ground
Behind the hill, the house behind, –
There Paradise is found!
(Emily Dickinson – Heaven Is What I Cannot Reach!)
Or, by story like below:
Wit and Learning were the children of Apollo, by different mothers; Wit was the offspring of Euphrosyne, and resembled her in cheerfulness and vivacity; Learning was born of Sophia, and retained her seriousness and caution. As their mothers were rivals, they were bred up by them from their birth in habitual opposition, and all means were
so incessantly employed to impress upon them a hatred and contempt of each other, that though Apollo, who foresaw the ill effects of their discord, endeavoured to soften them, by dividing his regard equally between them, yet his impartiality and kindness were without effect; the material animosity was deeply rooted, having been intermingled with their first ideas, and was confirmed every hour, as fresh opportunities occurred of exerting it. No sooner were they of age to be received into the apartments of the other celestials, than Wit began to entertain Venus at her toilet, by aping the solemnity of Learning, and Learning to divert Minerva at her loom, by exposing the blunders and ignorance of Wit.
Thus they grew up, with malice perpetually increasing, by the encouragement which each received from those whom their mother’s had persuaded to patronize and support them; and longed to be admitted to the table of Jupiter, not so much for the hope of gaining honour, as of excluding a rival from all pretensions to regard, and of putting an everlasting stop to the progress of that influence which either believed the other to have obtained by mean arts and false appearance.
At last the day came, when they were both, with the usual solemnities, received into the class of superior deities, and allowed to take nectar from the hand of Hebe. But from that hour Concord lost her authority at the table of Jupiter. The rivals, animated by their new dignity, and incited by the alternate applauses of the associate powers, harassad each other by incessant contests, with such a regular vicissitude of victory, that neither was depressed.
It was observable, that at the beginning of every debate, the advantage was on the side of Wit; and that, at the first sallies, the whole assembly sparkled, according to Homer’s expression, with unextinguishable merriment. But Learning would reserve her strength till the burst of applause was over, and the languor with which the violence of joy is always succeeded, began to promise more calm and patient attention. She then attempted her defence, and by comparing one part of her antagonist’s objections with another, commonly made him confute himself; or, by showing how small a part of the question he had taken into his view, proved that his opinion could have no weight. The audience began gradually to lay aside their prepossessions, and rose, at last, with greater veneration for Learning, but with greater kindness for Wit.
Their conduct was, whenever they desired to recommend themselves to distinction, entirely opposite. Wit was daring and adventurous; Learning cautious and deliberate. Wit thought nothing reproachful but dullness; Learning was afraid of no imputation, but that of error. Wit answered before he understood, lest his quickness of apprehension should be questioned; Learning paused, where there was no difficulty, lest any, insidious sophism should lie undiscovered. Wit perplexed every debate by rapidity and confusion; Learning tired the hearers with endless distinctions, and prolonged the dispute without advantage, by proving that which never was denied. Wit, in hopes of shining, would venture to produce what he had not considered, and often succeeded beyond his own expectation, by following the train of a lucky thought; Learning would reject every new notion, for fear of being entangled in consequences which she could not foresee, and was often hindered, by her caution, from pressing her advantages, and subduing her opponent.
Both had prejudices, which in some degree hindered their progress towards perfection, and left them open to attacks. Novelty was the darling of Wit, and antiquity of Learning. To Wit, all that was new was specious; to Learning, whatever was ancient was venerable. Wit, however, seldom failed to divert those whom he could not convince, and to convince was not often his ambition; Learning always supported her opinion with so many collateral truths, that, when the cause was decided against her, her arguments were remembered with admiration.
Nothing was more common, on either side, than to quit their proper characters, and to hope for a complete conquest by the use of the weapons which had been employed against them. Wit would sometimes labor a syllogism, and Learning distort her features with a jest; but they always suffered by the experiment, and betrayed themselves to confutation or contempt. The seriousness of Wit was without dignity, and the merriment of Learning without vivacity.
Their contests, by long continuance, grew at last important, and the divinities broke into parties. Wit was taken into protection of the laughter-loving Venus, had a retinue allowed him of Smiles and Jests, and was often permitted to dance among the Graces. Learning still continued the favorite of Minerva, and seldom went out of her palace, without a train of the severer virtues, Chastity, Temperance, Fortitude, and Labour. Wit, cohabiting with Malice, had a son named Satyr, who followed him, carrying a quiver filled with poisoned arrows, which, where they once drew blood, could by no skill ever be extracted. These arrows he frequently shot at Learning, when she was most earnestly or usefully employed, engaged in abstruse inquiries, or giving instructions to her followers. Minerva therefore deputed Criticism to her aid, who generally broke the point of Satyr’s arrows, turned them aside, or retorted them on himself.
Jupiter was at last angry that the peace of the heavenly regions should be in perpetual danger of violation, and resolved to dismiss these troublesome antagonists to the lower world. Hither therefore they came, and carried on their ancient quarrel among mortals, not was either long without zealous votaries. Wit, by his gayety, captivated the young; and Learning, by her authority, influenced the old. Their power quickly appeared by very eminent effects: theatres were built for the reception of Wit; and colleges endowed for the residence of Learning. Each party endeavoured to outvie the other in cost and magnificence, and to propagate an opinion, that it was necessary, from the first entrance into life, to enlist in one of the factions; and that none could hope for the regard of either divinity, who had once entered the temple of the rival power.
There were indeed a class of mortals, by whom Wit and Learning were equally disregarded; these were the devotees of Plutus, the God of riches; among these it seldom happened that the gayety of Wit could raise a smile, or the eloquence of Learning procure attention. In revenge of this contempt they agreed to incite their followers against them; but the forces that were sent on those expeditions frequently betrayed their trust; and, in contempt of the orders which they had received, flattered the rich in public, while they scorned them in their hearts; and when, by this treachery, they had obtained the favour of Plutus, affected to look with an air of superiority on those who still remained in the service of Wit and Learning.
Disgusted with these desertions, the two rivals, at the same time, petitioned Jupiter for re-admission to their native habitations. Jupiter thundered on the right hand, and they prepared to obey the happy summons. Wit readily spread his wings and soared loft, but not being able to see far, was bewildered in the pathless immensity of the ethereal spaces. Learning, who knew the way, shook her pinions; but for want of natural vigour, could only take short flights: so, after many efforts, they both sunk again to the ground, and learned from their mutual distress the necessity of union. They therefore joined their hands, and renewed their flight; Learning was borne up by the vigour of Wit, and Wit guided by the perspicacity of Learning. They soon reached the dwellings of Jupiter, and were so endeared to each other, that they lived afterwards in perpetual concord. Wit persuaded Learning to converse with the Graces, and Learning engaged Wit in the service of the Virtues. They were now the favorites of all the powers of heaven, and gladdened every banquet by their presence. They soon after married, at the command of Jupiter, and had a numerous progeny of Arts and Sciences.
(Samuel Johnson – ALLEGORY OF WIT AND LEARNING)
For many people, literary works have been used as mean of either mind or soul expression. When words are too small to carry intentions, poem appears as solutions. When mind is bounded by tenses, story comes out to release man’s thoughts.
Human is gifted by the affective domain that strongly affects their life and interactions. This existence of affective domain that includes how human responds to certain atmospheres makes things in their life more colorful. Interference of feelings, thoughts, deep and long contemplation in such response appears in some of works that man would express in order to release his burden, tensions, joys or to communicate things he endures. These works of man in some ways would be so much artistic that, to understand or get involved within certain atmospheres, we need to stand on particular view or to sit on the side of man’s contemplation chair. Of course, it may need extra work for our mind would sweat for arriving at similar things intended by the author.
If we trace back, human history shows that the oldest works are written by the Sumerian entitled Epic of Gilgamesh. The Epic of Gilgamesh was written in form of poem drawing courage, companionship, and everlasting life. It was found around 2700 B.C. Then works in literature develops and touched some area of religious things, nature, romance, nationalism, or other philosophical fields while nowadays nuances of literary works begin to cover symbolism or psychological aspects (from Wikipedia).
Literature has been taken into account as important subject for students who study English particularly in area of literary studies in English. This subject has been prepared systematically and gradually so that students would be at ease in reading, understanding, examining and producing any artistic work for their own interest. This course of Literature I will mostly come up with simple introduction of English literature. When it is about the introduction to literature, descriptions would touch only the surface of each literature genre discussed in this book. The details of each literature genre will be further designed for students at advanced level.
There are some objectives which are going to achieve by this book. Firstly, it aims at giving clear understanding to students about three genres in literature. Secondly, the book tries to explain the characteristics and elements of each genre, and finally some exercises are provided to examine students’ understanding on such explanations.
To achieve the above objective, this book is proposed to carry out five units. The first introduction begins by giving understanding on literary terms mostly used in this book. This is important to provide clear understanding of certain terms that would mostly appear in this book. In unit I, I would firstly describe the framework of this book that students could have the idea of what they would learn during the semester. It is notably skeleton of the book or in other terms would explain the book at a glance. Furthermore, unit 2 is about basic understanding. This unit would provide fundamental things students have to know before learn the following units.
In addition, unit 3, 4, and 5 is the cores of this book. It talks a lot about literature genre that initially begins by giving clear definition of each genre, type, characteristics, and elements conveyed by the genre, and is finally ended by exercises. The literature genre is flown gradually from the simple to the complicated one to examine. Unit 3 deals with prose that is specified into fiction-prose, unit 4 concerns about drama and the last unit 5 will talk about poetry.
There are things students have to focus on. Firstly, the operational terms which work on literature study. Secondly, understanding of genre types and its elements and thirdly, how to imply those elements in making evaluation of any literature work. In addition, studying literature in many occasions would examine some old works from certain human era. It may mean that such works would employ old dictions that nowadays are unusual or rare to use in daily communication. To avoid further learning obstacles, dictionary indeed is needed to find meaning of certain word based on its literal understanding and context as well.
Studying literature may not be so much easy as it requires active reading and deep understanding on certain diction, intentions, situation and context as well. However, it may be fun for we could find other bliss apart of our daily lives.
Happy studying, then.
(Taken from Herri Mulyono, Introduction to Literature)