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George Eliot (1819 – 1880)

George Eliot is the pen name of Mary Ann Evans, who was an English novelist. She was one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. Her novels, largely set in provincial England, are well known for their realism and psychological perspicacity.

Major novels include: Middlemarch, Silas Marner, Adam Bede (1859)


Jonathan Edwards

If there is a colonial American man worth knowing anything about, it’s Edwards. His own words probably won’t come up on the test, but Robert Lowell’s “Mr. Edwards and the Spider,” might, so it’s worth knowing the biographical info.

Edwards was a colonial American Congregational preacher and theologian. He is known as one of the greatest and most profound American evangelical theologians. His work is very broad in scope, but he is often associated with his defense of Calvinist theology and the Puritan heritage.

His Personal Narrative is a Puritan autobiography that recounts his spiritual conversion.

“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you and is dreadfully provoked.”


T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Eliot was another American who lived in exile in Europe during the first half of the 20th century. He is important as both a poet and a critic. His “The Waste Land” is considered the poem of the Modernist canon, and his work as a New Historicist critic is no less noteworthy.


Eliot’s criticism

Objective Correlative (1919): A term introduced by T.S Eliot in his essay “Hamlet and His Problems” and defined as the set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which will set of a specific emotion in the reader.

Another important essay of Eliot’s is “Tradition and the Individual Talent.”


“Four Quartets”

Four Quartets is the name given to four related poems by T. S. Eliot, collected and republished in book form in 1943. They had been published individually from 1935 to 1942. Their titles are Burnt Norton, East Coker, The Dry Salvages, and Little Gidding.

The Four Quartets is considered by Eliot himself to be his masterpiece. It draws upon his study, over three decades, of mysticism and philosophy. Christian imagery and symbolism in the poems is abundant: he had converted to Anglicanism in 1927, and was a devout Christian. There are also numerous references to Hindu symbols and traditions, with which he had been familiar since his student days.

The first verses are the best summary of the poem:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.


“Journey of the Maji”

The poem was written after Eliot’s conversion to Christianity and confirmation in the Church of England in 1927 and published in Ariel Poems in 1930. The poem is an account of the journey from the point of view of one of the magi. It picks up Eliot’s consistent theme of alienation and a feeling of powerlessness in a world that has changed. In this regard, with a speaker who laments outliving his world, the poem recalls Arnold’s “Dover Beach”, as well as a number of Eliot’s own works. The poem is, instead of a celebration of the wonders of the journey, largely a complaint about a journey that was painful, tedious, and seemingly pointless. The speaker says that a voice was always whispering in their ears as they went that “this was all folly”. The magus seems generally unimpressed by the infant, and yet he realizes that the incarnation has changed everything.

The birth of the Christ was the death of his world of magic, astrology, and paganism. The speaker, recalling his journey in old age, says that after that birth his world had died, and he had little left to do but wait for his own end.

dramatic monologue

the poem has a number of symbolist elements, where an entire philosophical position is summed up by the manifestation of a single image. For example, the narrator says that on the journey they saw “three trees against a low sky”; the single image of the three trees implies the historical future (the crucifixion) and the spiritual truth of the future

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.



Euripides is known primarily for having reshaped the formal structure of traditional Attic tragedy by showing strong women characters and smart slaves, and by satirizing many heroes of Greek mythology. His plays seem modern by comparison with those of his contemporaries, focusing on the inner lives and motives of his characters in a way previously unknown to Greek audiences.


Iphigenia at Aulis

At the start of the play, Agamemnon is having second thoughts about whether he can go through with the sacrifice of his daughter, and he sends a second message to his wife, telling her to ignore the first missive. However, Clytemnestra never receives this message because it is intercepted by Menelaus, Agamemnon’s brother, who is enraged that his brother has changed his mind.

To Menelaus, this is not only a personal blow (it is his wife, Helen , with whom the Trojan prince Paris ran off, and retrieving her is a main pretext for the war), but it also may lead to mutiny and the downfall of the Greek leaders if the rank and file discover Calchas’ prophecy and realize that their general put his family above their pride as soldiers.


Clytemnestra and Iphigeneia try in vain to persuade Agamemnon to change his mind, but the general believes he has no choice. But as Achilles prepares to defend the young woman by force, Iphigeneia has a sudden change of heart and decides that the heroic thing to do is to let herself be sacrificed. She is led off to die, with her mother Clytemnestra distraught over the decision.



Medea is a tragedy written by Euripides, based on the myth of Jason and Medea and first produced in 431 BC. Along with the plays Philoctetes, Dictys and Theristai, which were all entered as a group, it won the third prize at the Dionysia festival. The plot largely centres on the protagonist in a struggle with the world, rendering it the most Sophoclean of Euripides’ extant plays. Euripides breaks with tradition, having a female lead with what in Greek drama were very male characteristics and by having a female chorus, the chorus was usually city elders. The play is notable in that either Medea or Jason can be viewed as the tragic hero.

The play tells the story of the jealousy and revenge of a woman betrayed by her husband. The concentrated action of the play is at Corinth, where Jason has brought Medea after the adventures of the Golden Fleece but has now left her to marry the daughter of King Creon (elsewhere known as Glauce, and also known in Latin works as Creusa – see Seneca the Younger’s Medea and Propertius 2.16.30). The play opens with Medea grieving over her loss, and her elderly nurse fearing what she might do to herself or her children.



Everyman, Anonymous

Everyman is the best surviving example of the type of Medieval drama known as the morality play. Moralities evolved side by side with the mystery plays, although they were composed individually and not in cycles. The moralities employed allegory to dramatize the moral struggle Christianity envisions universal in every individual.
Everyman, a short play of some 900 lines, portrays a complacent Everyman who is informed by Death of his approaching end. The play shows the hero's progression from despair and fear of death to a "Christian resignation that is the prelude to redemption."1 First, Everyman is deserted by his false friends: his casual companions, his kin, and his wealth. He falls back on his Good Deeds, his Strength, his Beauty, his Intelligence, and his Knowledge. These assist him in making his Book of Accounts, but at the end, when he must go to the grave, all desert him save his Good Deeds alone. The play makes its grim point that we can take with us from this world nothing that we have received, only what we have given.


George Etheridge, The Man of Mode or Sir Fopling Flutter

Two interwoven plots:
Dorimant rids himself of his mistress Mrs. Loveitt with the aid of Bellinda (whom he seduces in the process). In doing this he meets the wise Harriet Woodvil, whom he appears to fall in love with but she is having none of his games. Even when he proposes marriage she makes him follow her into the country to hear her answer.
Young Bellair has been ordered by his father to marry Harriet, but he loves Emilia. With the help of lady Townely, he outwits his father who has also fallen for Emilia. In the end, the man blesses his sons choice.
Dorimant is said to be drawn from John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester.


Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882) American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society, and he disseminated his thoughts through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States.
"Nature" (1836)
"Self-Reliance" (Essays: First Series)
"Compensation" (First Series)
"The Over-Soul" (First Series)
"Circles" (First Series)
"The Poet" (Essays: Second Series)
"Experience" (Essays: Second Series)
"Concord Hymn"



Nature (1836) Emerson. It is in this essay that the foundation of transcendentalism is put forth, a belief system that espouses a non-traditional appreciation of nature. Transcendentalism suggests that divinity diffuses all nature, and speaks to the notion that we can only understand reality through studying nature. Within this essay, Emerson divides nature into four usages; Commodity, Beauty, Language and Discipline. These distinctions define the ways by which humans use nature for their basic needs, their desire for delight, their communication with one another and their understanding of the world.
NB the key idea of the "transparent eyeball"--the capacity to see through Nature to the divine, to see God in everything absent layers of historical and social meaning. Deeply influenced Thoreau's thought and the project that became Walden



Self-Reliance (1841) Emerson. In the essay he formulates his philosophy of self-reliance an essential part of which is to trust in one's present thoughts and impressions rather than those of other people or of one's past self. This culminates in the quote: "A foolish consistency is the hobgobHe stresses originality, believing in one's own genius and living from within. From this springs the quote: "Envy is ignorance, imitation is suicide."