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Flashcards in L Cards Deck (11):

“The Wife’s Lament,” (before 1072)

Genre: an “elegy” or lament for things and/or persons lost, often lost to death. The predominant features of Anglo-Saxon verse are produced by oral-formulaic composition, in which an illiterate but immensely learned bard sings, to his own instrumental accompaniment, a song he composes as he sings by following strict metrical rules and a huge array of thematic content strands.

The poem’s date is impossible to determine except that it must have been composed and written down before the Exeter Book, in which its sole surviving copy was found, was donated to the Exeter Cathedral library by Exeter’s first bishop, Leofric, upon his death in 1072. Scholars generally accept the conclusion that this, the largest surviving collection of Anglo-Saxon poetry (131 parchment leaves measuring roughly 12.5 by 8.6 inches), is the manuscript the bishop’s will calls “.i. mycel englisc boc be gehwilcum thingum on leoth-wisan geworht.” [“one great English book with many things written in verse.”]

Form: four-stress lines of varying syllable lengths, divided in halves by a caesura which often indicates a breath pause. The prose translation obscures many of the work’s poetic features, but Anglo-Saxon verse is notoriously difficult to translate into Modern English verse.

Characters: the narrator, a woman married to a man from a distant community which is hostile to her, and her husband as she characterizes him, also hostile–toward others, but also perhaps toward her (an interpretive crux).

Summary: The narrator makes the case that her grief deserves to be told in song because she is exiled from her own kin and from her husband, doomed to poverty amid a wilderness and surrounded by hostile neighbors, facing old age alone.


Richard Lovelace

an English poet and nobleman, born in Woolwich, today part of south-east London . He was one of the cavalier poets, and a noted royalist.
He was imprisoned briefly in 1648 for supporting the Royalists during the time of Oliver Cromwell. He was best known for his poems “To Althea,” “from Prison” and “To Lucasta, on Going to the Wars.”


The Monk

M. G. Lewis

The Monk

The Gothic novel is traditionally divided into two main branches, “terror” and ”horror”, and it is in the latter that The Monk is to be placed. It is one of the most extreme examples of horror Gothic, dealing as it does with such shocking topics as rape, matricide, and incest. In The Monk we see Gothic being taken to its limits – both in terms of subject matter and public acceptability. The storm of controversy the novel created on its publication in 1796 indicates that Lewis had gone well beyond the more sedate story-lines of his avowed inspiration, Anne Radcliffe, the major representative of terror Gothic. Where Radcliffe always provides a natural explanation for ostensibly supernatural phenomena, Lewis revels in the use of the supernatural as a plot device.

The Monk concerns itself with the career of the Capuchin monk Ambrosio, an apparent orphan who has been brought up under the care of his monastic order to become a charismatic preacher, idolised by the population of Madrid. At the start of the narrative Ambrosio is a model of piety, but he proves to be a very brittle character who only too easily succumbs to the temptations of the devil. The devil’s chosen instrument is the young monk Rosario, soon revealed to be a female in disguise (and then later a demon). As Matilda she seduces Ambrosio and becomes his accomplice in the career of sin that he proceeds to embark upon. Even before the seduction Ambrosio reveals himself to be motivated less by piety than pride and vanity, and in the first instance of the narrative’s obsession with perverted sexuality, expresses erotic longings towards a painting of the Virgin Mary (which turns out to be a likeness of Matilda).


D. H. Lawrence

My feeling is that Lawrence isn’t all that likely to appear on the exam. The short stories and the non-fiction is seem to me to be more likely to appear than the novels.

David Herbert Lawrence was one of the most important, prolific and certainly controversial English writers of the 20th century, whose output spans novels, short stories, poems, plays, essays, travel books, paintings, translations, literary criticism and personal letters. These works, taken together, represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation. In them Lawrence confronts issues relating to emotional health and vitality, spontaneity, sexuality, and instinctive behaviour, making him iconic in an age influenced by Freud and Nietzsche.

Lawrence’s unsettling opinions earned him many enemies and he endured hardships, official persecution, censorship and the misrepresentation of his creative work throughout the second half of his life, much of which he spent in voluntary exile, self defined as a ‘savage pilgrimage’. At the time of his death his public reputation was that of a pornographer who had wasted his considerable talents. E. M. Forster, in an obituary notice challenged this widely held view; describing him as ‘the greatest imaginative novelist of our generation’. Later the influential Cambridge critic F. R. Leavis championed both his artistic integrity and his moral seriousness, placing much of Lawrence’s fiction within the canonical ‘great tradition’ of the English novel. He is now valued as a visionary thinker and a significant representative of modernism in English literature, although some feminists have questioned the attitudes to women and sexuality to be found within his works.


Lawrence’s non-fiction

“Edgar Allen Poe” – This essay extensively describes Poe’s writing style, which he describes as mechanical and scientific. He says that Poe’s stories are not stories at all, but a series of cause and effect. He says the Poe does not look at the human side of characters and instead treats them as inanimate objects with human characteristics (but still human).

“Thomas Hardy” – Lawrence chastises writers such as Thomas Hardy and Leo Tolstoy, who, he argues, defile their own passionate impulses when in their emplotted judgments they side with social law against the primitive nature of their characters.

“Why the Novel Matters” – “The novel is the book of life. In this sense, the Bible is a great confused novel. You may say, it is about God. But it is really about man alive. Adam, Eve, Sarai, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Samuel, David, Bath-sheba, Ruth, Esther, Solomon, Job, Isaiah, Jesus, mark, Judas, Paul, Peter: what is it but man alive, from start to finish? Man alive, not mere bits. Even the Lord is another man alive, in a burning bush, throwing the tablets of stone at Moses’s head.” (from ‘Why the Novel Matters,’ 1956)


“The Horse Dealer’s Daughter”


This story is about a girl named Mabel who tries to commit suicide by drowning herself in a pond. A young doctor, Joe Ferguson, saves her. She then believes that he loves her. Although this idea never occurred to Joe, he begins to find that he indeed loves her. However, Mabel thinks she is “too awful” to be loved, and finds that when Joe declares over and over that he wants her and that he loves her, she is more scared about that than of Joe not wanting her.


Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov wrote many poems with religious themes throughout her career. These poems range from religious imagery to implied metaphors of religion. One particular theme was developed progressively throughout her poetry. This was the pilgrimage/spiritual journey of Levertov towards the deep spiritual understanding and truth in her last poems.

One of her earlier poems is "A Tree Telling of Orpheus", from her book Relearning the Alphabet. This poem uses the metaphor of a tree, which changes and grows when it hears the music of Orpheus. This is a metaphor of spiritual growth. The growth of the tree is like the growth of faith, and as the tree goes through life we also go through life on a spiritual journey. Much of Levertov's religious poetry was concerned with respect for nature and life. Also among her themes were nothingness and absence.


Philip Larkin

Larkin’s early work shows the influence of Yeats, but his later poetic identity was influenced mainly by Thomas Hardy. He is well-known for his use of slang and coarse language in his poetry, partly balanced by a similarly antique word choice. With fine use of enjambement and rhyme, his poetry is highly structured, but never rigid. Death was a recurring theme and subject of his poetry, Aubade being an example of this. The Less Deceived, published in 1955, marked Larkin as an up-and-coming poet. He was for a time associated with The Movement. 1964’s The Whitsun Weddings confirmed his reputation. The title poem is a masterly depiction of the sights seen by the poet from a train one Whitsun; though this description does the poem little justice. In 1972 he wrote the oft-quoted “Going, Going”, a poem which reveals his increasing streak of romantic fatalism in his view of England in his later years – prophesising a complete destruction of the countryside and of a certain idealised idea of national togetherness and identity, it ends with the doom-laden statement “I just think it will happen, soon”. High Windows, his last book, was released in 1974; for some critics it represents a falling-off from his previous two books into acrid self-parody; yet it contains a number of his most-loved pieces, including “This Be The Verse” and “The Explosion”, as well as the title poem.

Besides poetry, Larkin published two novels, Jill (1946) and A Girl in Winter (1947), and several essays. Larkin was also a major contributor to the re-evaluation of the poetry of Thomas Hardy, which had been ignored in comparison to his work as a novelist. Hardy received the longest selection in Larkin’s idiosyncratic and controversial anthology, The Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century English Verse (1973). Larkin was by contrast a notable critic of modernism in contemporary art and literature; his skepticism is at its most nuanced and illuminating in Required Writing, a collection of his book-reviews and essays; it is at its most enflamed and polemical in his introduction to his collected jazz reviews, All What Jazz.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet who wrote many poems that are still famous today, including The Song of Hiawatha, “Paul Revere’s Ride” and Evangeline. He also wrote the first American translation of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno. Longfellow is not a popular GRE poet, but his sonnet on Keats is a good one to know.


The young Endymion sleeps Endymion’s sleep;
The shepherd-boy whose tale was left half told!
The solemn grove uplifts its shield of gold
To the red rising moon, and loud and deep
The nightingale is singing from the steep;
It is midsummer, but the air is cold;
Can it be death? Alas, beside the fold
A shepherd’s pipe lies shattered near his sheep.
Lo! in the moonlight gleams a marble white,
On which I read: “Here lieth one whose name
Was writ in water.” And was this the meed
Of his sweet singing? Rather let me write
“The smoking flax before it burst to flame
Was quenched by death, and broken the bruised reed.”


“The Song of Hiawatha”

The Song of Hiawatha is an epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow based on the legends of the Ojibway Indians. Longfellow credited as his source the work of pioneering ethnographer Henry Rowe SchoolcraftA short extract of 94 lines from the poem was and still is frequently anthologized under the title Hiawatha’s Childhood (which is also the title of the longer 234-line section from which the extract is taken). This short extract is the most familiar portion of the poem. It is this short extract that begins with the famous lines:

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.


Robert Lowell (1917-1977)

An American Confessionalist poet known for inspiring and teaching several literary superstars of the 1950s and 1960s, including Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath.

With his 1959 volume Life Studies, however, he moved firmly into the confessionalist mode. Life Studies is best known for the oft-reprinted poem “Skunk Hour,” a poem that is primarily a description of a fading New England town, punctuated by two stanzas of what was, at the time, shocking personal confession, such as the declaration that “My mind’s not right.” Life Studies is widely viewed as one of the most influential and important books of poetry in the 20th century. The main theme of this work before publication was reputed by one wag to have centered around the uncommon behavior of inserting a wad of toilet paper into the groove of one’s anus after a particularly messy bowel movement and walking around the bathroom with underpants around the ankles making “quack-quack” sounds like a duck, although this may very well be an exaggeration.

He followed Life Studies with For the Union Dead, which was also widely praised, particularly for its title poem. Following this book, however, Lowell’s poetry became less and less popular and noticed. A minor controversy erupted when he incorporated private letters from his ex-wife into his poems. He was particularly criticized by his friend Elizabeth Bishop for this.