November 27, 2009

“Text” is a broad concept: it can be long or short, written or spoken. A text has an independent meaning in context. It has a purpose that makes sense to the recipients. ”A text has texture and this is what distinguishes it from something that is not a text… The texture is provided by the cohesive relation”


Cohesive relationships in texts are indicated by cohesive devices, which are used to tie pieces of text together in specific ways. These markers are known as cohesive ties. Also cohesion is dependent on register, i.e. appropriateness depends on the context of situation. There are two types of cohesive ties:

1. Explicit

1. Additive: something added to something else to alter or improve it in some way. For example: and, however, in addition, etc.

2. Adversative: a word, phrase, or clause that expresses opposition or contrast. For example: but, on the contrary, on the otherhand, nevertheless, etc.

3. Causal: a word or other grammatical element that expresses the reason or cause of something, or a relationship of cause and effect. For example: so, for this reason, because, due to, etc.

4. Temporal: relating to grammatical tenses or the expression of time in a language. For example: firstly, secondly, recently, at last, then after, etc.

2. Implicit

1. Reference: Reference cohesion occurs when one item in a text points to another element for its interpretation. (Another way of tying sentences and paragraphs together involves using reference words that point back to an idea mentioned previously.) Among the many reference words that can be used to tie one sentence to another or one paragraph to another are pronouns like: he, it, this, these, those, that, etc.

These reference words should not be used by themselves but should be combined with the important words and phrases from previous sentences or paragraphs. In the following paragraphs, we can see how reference words are used not only to tie sentences and paragraphs together, but also to emphasize the main idea. For example:

“At home, my father is himself. He relaxes and acts in his usual manner.”

a. Exophora: The reference to a word or phrase, usually a pronoun, which remains outside of the text and plays no part in textual cohesion, is called exophoric reference. We can see that the pronoun ‘that” refers to something which is not present in the text below:

“Look at that ”

b. Endpohora: The reference to a word or phrase, which remains within the text and forms cohesive ties within the text, is called endophoric referece. There are two types of enophora:

i. Anaphora/ Anaphoric pronoun: The reference to a word or phrase used earlier, especially to avoid repeating the word or phrase by replacing it with something else such as a pronoun. We can see that ‘he’ refers back to ‘my father’ in the excerpt below:

John has resigned from his job. He is now looking for a new job.”

ii. Cataphora/ Cataphoric pronoun: The use of a word or phrase, usually a pronoun, that refers to something mentioned later. We can see that the anaphoric pronoun ‘he’ refers forward to ‘Poor john’ in the excerpt below.

He has forgotten to take preparation for the examination. Poor john now realizes that he is going to fail the exam for sure.”

2. Repetition: We can tie sentences or paragraphs together by repeating certain key words from one sentence to the next or from one paragraph to the next. This repetition of key words also helps to emphasize the main idea of a piece of writing. For example, in the following paragraph, notice how many times the words "Sunsilk" is repeated:

Sunsilk is mild to your hair – so mild that you can wash your hair as often as you like. Sunsilk cleans your hair gently, leaving it soft and shiny, with a fresh smell of summer meadows.”

3. Partial repetition: We can tie sentences or paragraphs together by partially repeating certain key words from one sentence to the next or from one paragraph to the next:

Henry Fielding is one of the greatest novelists in the history of English literature. Fielding has created a wide number of characters from different social positions. Mr. Fielding gives a comprehensive picture of the lifestyle and custom of the 18th century England through his characters.”

4. Lexical Substitution: When we replace a word with a completely new word then it is known as lexical substitution. For example:

“John has a white cat .The pet is very cute.”

5. Substitution: Substitution replaces one element with another which is not a personal pronoun. For example:

A. Did you ever find a micro-oven?
B. Yes, I borrowed one from my neighbor.

6. Ellipsis: Ellipsis involves a deletion of a word, phrase, or clause. We can think of ellipsis as a zero tie because it is not actually said in the text. For example:

A. Do you want to go with me to the store?
B. Yes, I do.


Brown, Gillian and George Yule. Discourse Analysis Cambridge: CUP, 1983.

NB: This article was last updated on 24 January, 2018

November 26, 2009


A Structural Syllabus (also known as Grammatical Syllabus, Formal Syllabus, Traditional Syllabus, Synthetic Syllabus) is one in which grammatical structures form the central organizing feature. The Structural or Grammatical Syllabus is one of the most common type of syllabus and still today we can see the contents pages of many course books set out according to grammatical items. The Structural Syllabus derives its content largely from the structural linguists. It is a product oriented content based syllabus. Here the focus is on the knowledge and skills which learners should gain as a result of instruction, not on how they can attain them. The synthetic teaching strategy is essential to produce such a syllabus. The Structural Syllabus happens to be the best known example of a Synthetic Syllabus. The synthetic approach to syllabus design, according to Wilkins is:

A synthetic language teaching strategy is one in which the different parts of a language are taught separately and step by step so that acquisition is a process of gradual accumulation of the parts until the whole structure of the language has been built up.


The major characteristics of the Structural Syllabus are as follows:

Theoretical Bases: The underlying assumptions behind the  Structural Syllabus are that:
  • Language is a system which consists of a set of grammatical rules; learning language means learning these rules and then applying them to practical language use.
  • The syllabus input is selected and graded according to grammatical notions of simplicity and complexity. These syllabuses introduce one item at a time and require mastery of that item before moving on to the next.
  • This type of syllabus maintains that it is easier for students to learn a language if they are exposed to one part of the grammatical system at a time.
Content: The content of the syllabus is determined by giving top priority to teaching the grammar or structure of the target language. The Structural Syllabus generally consists of two components:
  1. A list of linguistic structures, that is, the grammar to be taught, and
  2. A list of words, that is, the lexicon to be taught.
Sequencing and Grading: Very often the items on each list are arranged in order showing which are to be taught in the first course, which in the second, and so on. The criteria for sequencing are various. The teacher regards the items from the point of view of levels or stages. For example, beginning, intermediate, advanced, or grades, 1,2,3, etc.

Objectives: Grammar makes up the core of the syllabus. Whatever rules are followed, learning a language means learning to master the grammar rules of the target language. In addition it also expected that the students will learn adequate basic vocabulary.

The teacher in following the syllabus may use either Audio-lingual Method or Grammar Translation Method, or a combination of the two or an eclectic approach. Whichever he uses, the content of the syllabus is determined by giving top priority to teaching the grammar or structure of the language.

Procedure: In the initial stage of teaching, the linguistic components of the type of performance desired are analyzed. Next the language is broken down into small grammatical components and presented in a strictly controlled sequence. The sequence is arranged in accordance with increasing complexity, from simple grammatical structure to more complex grammatical structure. The learners are exposed at one time to a limited sample of the target language. The teacher moves progressively through the syllabus until, theoretically, all the structures of the target language have been taught. The learner’s job is to re-synthesize language that has been taken apart, and presented to him in small parts. This synthesis takes place only in the final stage of leaning, the so called the advanced stage.


Many learning principles implicit in a structural approach are sound. The merits of a Structural Syllabus are as follows:
  • The learner moves from simpler to more complex grammatical structures and may grasp the grammatical system more easily.
  • Teaching and testing are relatively simple, because teachers deal with discrete-point knowledge and skills. The teachers need not be fluent in the language they teach, since grammatical explanations and drills do not require a high level of language proficiency.
  • It is very much helpful to develop writing skills.
  • It enriches student’s basic vocabulary.
  • Sequencing and selection of teaching items is not as difficult as it with other syllabuses.


Despite its numerous advantages it has few shortcomings too. The drawbacks of a Structural Syllabus are as follows:
  • The potential disadvantage of the Structural Syllabus is that it over-emphasizes language structure and neglects communicative competence. It does not address the immediate communication needs of the learner who is learning a language within the context of a community where the language is spoken. In fact, the sociolinguistic aspects of communicative competence are not in focus at all in a strictly structural syllabus. It is therefore more useful in a context where the language learner does not have immediately communication needs.
  • It hampers the student’s creative sides because it confines him/her within the walls of some specific rules.
  • Here the role of the student is passive, since it is the teacher who is deciding what to teach in which stage. It is, thus, a teacher dominated syllabus.


Despite its drawbacks it is still the most accepted model for designing course plans. As a result, we can neither reject nor discriminate this type of syllabus entirely. There is no existence of a perfect syllabus type, and the Structural Syllabus is no exception in this respect. So, it is wise to select a combined or integrative syllabus, rather than a particular one. And the Structural Syllabus is eligible enough to provide some important guidelines for the combined syllabus.

The Structural Syllabus


“Approach, Design and Procedure.” English School for Busy Bees.2008.ESOBB. 22 August 2008
< >.

“Approaches to Foreign Language Syllabus Design.” Eric Digests. 2007. Eric Digests. 22 August
2008 <>.

Barman, Dr. Binoy, Zakia Sultana, and Bijoy Lal Basu. ELT: Theory and Practice. Dhaka:
FBC, 2006. 27-36.

“Current Trends in Syllabus Design and Materials Development.” Cheng Xiaotang's English
Language Teaching Website.2004. Chengxiaotang. 22 August 2008

“Examples of Synthetic Syllabuses”. Intensive English Institute.2008.Intensive English Institute.
22 August 2008< >.

Harmer, Jeremy. The Practice of English Language Teaching. 3rd ed. England: Longman-Pearson,

“How to design a structural-lexical syllabus.” SIL International. 1999. SIL International.
22 August 2008 <
/MangngYrLnggLrnngPrgrm/HowToDesignAStructuralLexicalS.htm >.

“Language Acquisition and Syllabus Design: The Need for a Broad Perspective.” ADFL Bulletin.
1984. Association of Departments of Foreign Languages. 22 August 2008

“Syllabus Writing.” English Academy Orleans Tours.2008. English Academy Orleans Tours. 22
August 2008 <

November 25, 2009

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

Elizabethan playwright, poet, and actor [Author Detail]
  • Born: April 23, 1564
  • Died: April 23, 1616
  • Birthplace: Stratford-upon-Avon, England
  • Wrote 38 plays
  • Wrote 154 Sonnets
  • Writing Style: Blank Verse composed in Iambic Pentameter
  • Influence on Others: Influenced romantic writers like Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Coleridge
  • His performance company was called The Lord Chamberlain's Men
  • His plays were performed at The Globe Theatre
  • Allegation: Rumoured to be homosexual
  • Known for:
  1. Producing perhaps the most varied and powerful body of work any author has ever written
  2. Exploring elemental themes of power, justice, love, and death in his tragedies, comedies, histories, romances, and sonnets
  3. Creating realistic stage characters whose appeal comes in their truly human motives, actions, and flaws
  4. Achieving widespread and lasting recognition for his work, which continues to be taught and performed worldwide

Plays By Shakespeare

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • All's Well That Ends Well
  • As You Like It
  • Cymbeline
  • Love's Labour's Lost
  • Measure for Measure
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Pericles, Prince of Tyre
  • The Comedy of Errors
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor
  • The Taming of the Shrew
  • The Tempest
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona
  • The Two Noble Kinsmen
  • The Winter's Tale
  • Twelfth Night, or What You Will
  • Henry IV, Part 1
  • Henry IV, Part 2
  • Henry V
  • Henry VI, Part 1
  • Henry VI, Part 2
  • Henry VI, Part 3
  • Henry VIII
  • King John
  • Richard II
  • Richard III
  • Antony and Cleopatra
  • Coriolanus
  • Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
  • Julius Caesar
  • King Lear
  • Macbeth
  • Othello, The Moor of Venice
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Timon of Athens
  • Titus Andronicus
  • Troilus and Cressida


"To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?—To die,—to sleep,—
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to,—’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die,—to sleep;—
To sleep: perchance to dream:—ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despis’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,—
The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns,—puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought;
And enterprises of great pith and moment,
With this regard, their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action."
" Hamlet" (1601)

Did You Know?

  • Shakespeare is believed to have  invented many modern English words and phrases that are taken for granted.
  • Shakespeare had no involvement in the publication of  any of his plays. Only 16 plays were published before his demise. Almost all the plays of Shakespeare were printed posthumously by his fellow actors.
  • At the age of 18 Shakespeare espoused 26-year-old Anne Hathaway. They had a daughter, Susanna, and twins, Hamnet and Judith.
  • In the mid-19th century, some scholars believed that Shakespeare's plays were actually written by Sir Francis Bacon or a or a group of playwrights using  Shakespeare's name.


Long, William J. English Literature: Its History and its Significance for the Life of the English
Speaking World. Delhi:AITBS, 2002

Watt, Homer A. and William W. Watt. A Handbook of English Literature. New York: Barnes &
Noble, 1946

"William Shakespeare Quick Facts". Microsoft Encarta. DVD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft, 2005.

November 24, 2009

Wordsworth, William (1770-1850), 19th century English romantic poet and poet laureate of England (1843–50).

"Poetry is the image of man and nature."
~William Wordsworth, Preface to the Lyrical Ballads

"Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge : it is the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all science."
~William Wordsworth, Preface to the Lyrical Ballads

"Poetry is first and last of all knowledge: it is as immortal as the heart of man."
~William Wordsworth, Preface to the Lyrical Ballads

"For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: and though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man who, being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also though long and deeply."
~William Wordsworth, Preface to the Lyrical Ballads

"That best portion of a good man's life, His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love."
~William Wordsworth

"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of grory do we come
From God, who is our home:"
~William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

"The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!"
~William Wordsworth, The World is Too Much With Us

"She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleam'd upon my sight;
A lovely apparition, sent
To be a moment's ornament."
~William Wordsworth

"What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be not forever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
Grief not, rather find,
Strength in what remains behind,
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be,
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of Human suffering,
In the faith that looks through death
In years that bring philophic mind."
~William Wordsworth

"Wisdom and spirit of the Universe!
Thou soul is the eternity of thought!
That giv'st to forms and images a breath
And everlasting motion! Not in vain
By day or star-light thus from by first dawn
Of childhood didst thou intertwine for me
The passions that build up our human soul,
Not with the mean and vulgar works of man,
But with high objects, with enduring things,
With life and nature, purifying thus
The elements of feeling and of thought,
And sanctifying, by such discipline
Both pain and fear, until we recognize
A grandeur in the beatings of the heart."
~William Wordsworth

"That Life brings with her in her equipage;
As if his whole vacation
Were endless imitation."
~William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

"In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guarding of my heart, and soul.
Of all my moral being."
~William Wordsworth, Tintern Abbey

November 23, 2009

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth

19th century English romantic poet and poet laureate of England
  • Birth: April 7, 1770
  • Death: April 23, 1850
  • Place of Birth: Cockermouth , Cumberland, in the Lake District of northwestern England
  • Spouse: Mary Hutchinson (Married her in 1802)
  • Number of Children: Five
  • Education: Saint John's College, University of Cambridge
  • Known for: Initiating Romanticism by introducing novel poetic theories and techniques
  • Wordsworth was the Poet Laureate of England from 1843–1850


"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of grory do we come
From God, who is our home:"
“Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” (1807)

Notable Works

Lyrical Ballads, with Other Poems (first published in 1778, 2nd edition appeared in 1800)
Poems, in Two Volumes (1807)
The Excursion (1814)
Ecclesiastical Sketches (1822)
The Prelude (1850)

Did You Know?

  • William Wordsworth was orphaned at an early age.
  • Wordsworth suffered from anosmia, an inability to smell.
  • Although Wordsworth had begun to write poetry while still a schoolboy, none of his poems was published until 1793. Although fresh and original in content, the poems received little notice, and few copies were sold.
  • His masterpiece "The Prelude" was not published during his lifetime.
  • Even though his contribution led the tide of Romantic movement in English literature, only a few poets imitated his poetic style. Even his best friend Coleridge modified Wordsworth's poetic theory in the way of creating his own works.

November 21, 2009

W.H Auden is widely considerd as one of the most influential and all-around members of his generation of modernist poets. Even though his status as a modern poet is well-decided by his bold experimentation with the accepted literary forms and metres, Auden’s enormous intelligence, complex philosophical and moral vision, and keen wit distinguish him from his contemporaries. Perhaps the aspect that gives his poems power and makes Auden the towering figure of the modern age was the range of his social awareness. He seemed conscious of what was happening not just in his country, rather across the world. It is this awareness of social concerns that inspires his greatest poems.

Majority of the great poets write poetry of universal significance being the representatives of their age.  W.H. Auden is no exception in this respect. Like his contemporary T.S. Eliot, he mirrors and surveys different issues of his age. However, he is concerned to a greater degree than Eliot with social problems. His poetry is more relevant to contemporary social and political realities than that of T.S. Eliot. Auden explores social injustice, oppression and loss of human values. He thinks that it is one’s moral duty to protest all the irregularities and injustice. He finds the need of revolution to change in the structure of the society. Auden is the spokesman of the masses. He talks about the need for individual freedom and sympathy for the helpless. Auden finds his objects of writing among everyday sordid realities of diseased society. To be brief, social consciousness shapes the poetic career of Auden.

The following discussion hinges round the range or scope of Auden’s social awareness along with a critical inquiry into the major poems written by this great originator of modern poetics:


Auden’s social concerns are mostly expressed in the context of war. Auden is an avid observer of war. In his poetry he functions as the critic of war. He surveys different social, political, and economic upheavals caused by World Wars I and II, Spanish Civil War, and Communist revolution in Russia. He argues that most of the ills of the contemporary society results from war. Many of Auden’s poetry can be studied in this contextual consideration: The Shield of Achilles, In Memory of W.B. Yeats, Spain 1937, etc.

In the poem The Shield of Achilles Auden embodies in poetic myth, the desolation, savagery, and uninspiring barrenness of contemporary society. In this poem Auden compares and contrasts the current social condition with the values and unity of the glorious past.  Here Auden confronts us with two contrasting shields from two antithetical periods. One is from ancient Greek civilisation and the other is from modern civilisation. The classical/Homeric shield reflects a lively and gay picture of the glorious past, whereas the modern shield reflects an ugly picture of the degenerative modern civilisation, which is full of savagery, violence, aimlessness, and ailment. Thetis, the silent explorer looks for the classical virtues on her son Achilles’ shield, but finds instead a negative image, the picture of a barren land. The modern civilisation is full of decay, desolation and frustration. It is an era of deficiency, and artificiality, where massess unable to communicate their emotions, sufferings and spiritual loneliness. The whole world is now involved in warfare; people have lost their reasoning power and have become mechanical since they have no individual conscience and initiative. Moreover, the religious beliefs have been crumbled away and lack of morality is everywhere.

In his poem In Memory of W.B. Yeats Auden gives us an idea of the chaotic politics of 1930s. Here the poet tells about the atmosphere of war and hatred prevailing the European nations. When Auden was writing this elegy in memory of W B Yeats, the threat of Second World War was looming large over European nations. The rise of Nazism and Fascism was creating a sense of distrust and hatred among them. The aggressive policy of Hitler was creating a sense of insecurity among the European people. Thus although in this poem Auden is commemorating the death of Yeats, his private thing becomes commingled with the public one. Auden is here indicating that all the European nations are crying for war, like the dogs barking loudly. There is no fellow-feeling among the European nations. Rather they are separated from each other by their hatred. Auden seems to say that European leaders are not behaving in a rational way; rather they have gone mad. In this way, Auden superbly analyses the situation of Europe immediately before the Second World War:

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark
And the living nations wait
Each sequestered in its hate.

The poem Spain 1937, has the war in Spain as its subject. It is a struggle between past and present. Like a telephoto lens, the narrative sweeps across the panorama of history, zooms in on the Spanish Civil War, focuses briefly into the future, and returns to the scene in Spain and the common realities of war. Spain 1937 is an urgent call to “Seize the Day”, recognizing the literal and symbolic importance of the Spanish Civil War. In this poem Auden considers the outcome of Spain's Civil War as a significant and historical event that will in turn influence the future. By placing it in the context of the whole sweep of history, the poet accurately identifies the struggle between the forces of democracy and fascism as significant not only for the Spanish but for modern civilization. The poem prophetically predicts this struggle throughout the 20th century; it has been enacted again and again in the past decades, both within nations and between them. Many historians have speculated that had the Republicans been successful, Mussolini and Hitler might not have been so bold or so successful and history might have taken a different course. Yet the fascist tyrants were unchecked for years, and with the end of World War II, civilization entered the postmodern era where the struggle continues.

Rejection of Conventionality

In his poetry Auden rejects the notion of conventionality and advocates individualism and its manifestations. In the poem In Praise of Limestone, Auden speaks against conformity in society, a conformity that would submerge the individual. Ironically, Auden, in this poem, takes to task the poet who insists on being pragmatic, on calling “the sun the sun” and who finds the limestone landscape disturbing to something more truly poetic.

Callousness of Society

In many of his poems he observes the narcissistic side of the contemporary society. For instance, in Musée des Beaux Arts Auden presents the philosophical truth about human suffering. He sees suffering at the heart of human existence. Auden respects the ancient artists because they had a powerful sense to enter deep into the nature of human suffering. They understood that suffering is something universal and inevitable for human being. Moreover, people generally remain indifferent to the pain and suffering of an individual. While a man suffers, others are engaged in their usual labour.

In order to prove the fact of human indifference and callousness to the suffering of others, Auden presents the case of the martyrdom of Jesus Christ. Auden here refers to the painting of Brueghel called “The Numbering at Bathlehem”. The picture shows that the religious-minded old people wait for Second Coming of Jesus Christ while children keep skating joyously on a pond at the edge of the wood. Thus to the people, even the great fact of crucifixion of Jesus Christ is nothing but a normal event that happens for other criminals too. Again, the event of crucifixion did not happen in a sacred place but in an untidy spot of a secluded place. Here Auden is praising the ability of the artists like Brueghel for their extraordinary power to observe human nature and present it in their works. These artists well understood:

That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

At the time of crucifixion people went on their regular works, showing no special concern to it. People saw the event with the same instinctual interest as that of a dog or a horse. A dog leads its life according to its animal instinct, which the poet terms “doggy”. In the same way, the horse of the killer of Jesus went on rubbing its back against a tree. Again Auden refers to another painting by Brueghel namely “Icarus”. According to the Greek mythology, Icarus managed to flee from Crete by using wings of feather and wax. But as he flew too close to the sun, the wax melted and he was drowned into the sea. Brueghel deals with this event in his painting “Icarus”. What particularly moves Auden while reflecting on Brueghel’s painting “Icarus” is how the ship and the ploughman look at the falling Icarus and then turn their attention to their own affairs without any worry or care at all for the boy. This is the reality of our society where no one cares of any one.

Human Sufferings

Auden’s poetry is also concerned with the predicament of human beings. His As I Walked Out One Evening is a viciously nihilistic assertion of the triumph of time over life and the futility and transience of love. The poem is basically labelled a love poem. But underlying its simple theme of love there is a serious subject matter. It is about the harsh reality or tragedy of human life. In initial stage the pot depicts the charming side of human life by showing the fascination of romantic love. But very soon, he realizes that life is full of miseries, and it is not made up of simplicities and certainties. In material life one cannot hide himself from the real horror, loss and fear of life, nor from the ravages of time. Time destroys everything. Thus the poem illustrates with great cynicism the sufferings of human beings in the modern world:

In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And time will have his fancy
Tomorrow or today.

Loss of Human Values

As a conscious social observer Auden also deals with the moral problems of the 20th century society. For instance, his Lullaby gives a trustworthy picture of the faithlessness of modern lovers. In this poem we are confronted with a pair of faithless couple who have gathered together to enjoy sexual pleasure. The lover knows very well that his beloved is disloyal to him and her love for him is just for one night but still he decides to love her devotedly. As a materialistic man the lover feels that nothing in this world is perfect. Human beings are subject to decay and demise. In the same way their physical love is also subject to this decay and death.  His beloved is a human being and she is not free from human imperfections or characteristic shortcomings. So he ignores her inconstancy and endears her without any complaint. The problem mentioned in Lullaby is, undoubtedly, one of the most pervasive problems of modern society. Nowadays the society has become morally corrupted. So, illicit and unstable relationship between men and women is a common phenomenon.

Psychological Ills of the 20th Century Society

Auden is the first major poet to incorporate modern psychological insights and archetypes as a natural element of his work and thought. He was among the first English poets to employ Freudian concepts in poetry, for example. In his poems Auden presents a clinical diagnosis of the psychological ills of the 20th century society.

In the conclusion we may say that the range of Auden’s’ social conscious is absolutely imposing.  He is a master poet in representing the true aspects of his age.

Auden’s Social Consciousness

November 20, 2009

Edmund Spenser stands among the greatest writers of the Elizabethan period whose valuable contributions fashioned a new tradition in English literature. Nowadays he is hailed to be one of the chief initiators of the Renaissance movement in English literature. Spenser's rich and vigorous imagery, and careful treatment of metrical structure left a profound influence on the succeeding poets and ensured his place as one of the seminal literary artists in the flamboyant field of English literature.

Spenser reached the highest pinnacle of his art and invention with his romantic tour de force The Faerie Queene. It has been hailed as Spenser’s masterpiece, the supreme triumph of the poetic art in English literature. The poem is an allegorical romance symbolising the moral and spiritual journey of an individual through innumerable temptations of sins towards the ultimate attainment of glory and truth. The poem thus has a serious purpose behind its fanciful characters, settings and events. All the characters in The Faerie Queene have allegorical significance since they represent abstract ideas. The title character, the Fairy Queen (Gloriana) herself, is meant to represent Queen Elizabeth. The Red Cross Knight who is appointed by the Fairy Queen to assist Lady Una in releasing her parents from the prison of Dragon is the embodiment of Holiness, piety, and true religion (Protestantism). Lady Una stands for truth, goodness and wisdom. Her parents symbolise humanity held by Evil represented by the foul Dragon. The mission of Holiness is to champion the cause of Truth and regain the right of human race, held by subjection by the mighty force of Evil.

For a Christian to be holy, he must have true faith. So Holiness must be grounded in Truth in order to remain pure and immaculate in the world. As long as Truth and Holiness are united no evildoer can stand against holiness. The power of truth invigourates Holiness. The plot of Book I mostly concerns the attempts of evildoers to separate Red Cross from Una to decrease his strength. Most of these villains are meant by Spenser to represent one thing in common: the Roman Catholic Church. The poet felt that, in the English Reformation, the people had defeated “false religion” (Catholicism) and embraced “true religion” (Protestantism/Anglicanism).So Red Cross must defeat villains who mimic the falsehood of the Roman Church. In the course of his mission he and Una come upon various manifestations of evil. The first encounter is with monster Error. The monster Error allegorically stands for all sorts of mistakes which every individual makes in the course of his life. The fight of the Red Cross Knight with the monster Error symbolises the conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism. The books and papers vomited by Error allude to the offensive pamphlets directed against Queen Elizabeth by the Roman Catholics.

The Red Cross Knight may able to defeat these obvious and disgusting errors, but until he is united to the truth he is totally lost and can be easily deceived. This deceit is arranged by Archimago, who symbolises the hypocrisy of Papacy. When Truth and Holiness are separated, Hypocrisy gets the chance to mislead Holiness. The separation of Truth from Holiness symbolises the danger of the English Church against the hypocrisy and plots of the Roman Catholicism.

The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser

Once separated, Holiness is susceptible to the opposite of truth or falsehood. Red Cross may able to defeat the strength of Sansfoy or faithlessness through his own native virtue, but he falls prey to the tricks of Falsehood herself –Duessa. Duessa also represents the Roman Church, both because she is “false faith”, and of her rich, purple and gold clothing, which, for Spenser, displays the greedy wealth and arrogant pomp of Rome. Historically Duessa stands for Queen Mary who was a Roman Catholic by faith. Having been separated from Truth, the Holiness becomes weak and feeble. He cannot withstand the fierce attack of Falsehood and becomes a prey to Duessa. Red Cross becomes a veritable puppet in the hands of Duessa. In the similar manner Truth also becomes weak and in order to protect her virtue she gets aid and succour from Lion which stands for Courage. But subsequently the hypocrisy of Archimago makes her an easy victim Sans Loy who stands for lawlessness. She is later saved by Sir Satyrane who is a symbol of the Natural force. The implication here is very clear and concrete. Truth cannot be subjected to Lawlessness for long. It has a natural force which would assuredly impel it to reassert itself against all hindrance. The humility, symbolised by the Dwarf, informs Truth the story of the sufferings of Holiness. Then Truth goes in search of Gloriana, the Fairy Queen and Holiness is led to the palace of Divine Grace by Truth. There he recovers his former strength. He is now ready to fight against the malignant forces of nature.

Thus at the end Spenser represents the triumph of Holiness and Truth. They may be separated by various evildoers but ultimately they are united again to bring about the redemption and moral salvation of the human race.

N.B: This article was last updated on January 20, 2018

November 19, 2009

Nathaniel Hawthorne is deemed to be the greatest of America's anti-transcendental writers. His writing is especially noted for its redolent symbolism and psychological probing into the darker sides of human heart, especially guilt and sin.Young Goodman Brown is one of Hawthorne’s most significant short stories in which his preoccupation with the effects of guilt and sin are combined with a continued emphasis on symbolism and allegory. The story is  an allegorical journey of a newlywed man who is walking toward spiritual crises, hand in hand with the devil himself. Set in Salem about the time of the Salem witchcraft trials, it provides the backdrop to a weird journey into the dark forest and the darkness of human heart as well.

Young Goodman Brown

All the characters, objects and settings in the story have allegorical significance since they represent abstract ideas. The names of the first two characters introduced in the story, Young Goodman Brown and his wife Faith, are both symbolic. Brown stands for man’s hereditary predilection to evil. He represents everyman’s inherent propensity to evil. His wife Faith stands for true Christian faith and virtue. Brown’s marriage to Faith symbolises that he clings to a faith in good in the world. The pink ribbon worn in Faith’s hair serves as an emblem of heavenly faith. Later in the story, when Brown meets his companion in the woods, he declares, “Faith kept me back awhile”. Here, Hawthorne uses the name of Brown’s wife as a symbol for Brown’s personal faith in goodness. At this point in the story, Brown’s conscious is keeping him from embracing the evil ways of his companion. The image that Hawthorne creates of Brown putting his head back across the threshold of his house to kiss his wife goodbye symbolises Brown’s reservations of surrendering to the devil’s evil ways. Brown does, despite his vacillating conscious, surrender to an impulse to follow an evil path and begin his journey into the woods. In old times, the forest was considered a place of evil so Brown’s errand in a dense forest suggests that he is up to somethig bad.

Brown’s journey through the forest is on a narrow, dark, and dull path. The darkness and dreariness symbolise the evil that hides in the forest. The narrowness of the path symbolises that Brown is surrounded by evil. The idea that Brown may never return to the state of innocence from which he came is suggested by the fact that the woods seem to close immediately behind him. The trail being long and windy symbolises how far Brown’s conscious must travel from innocence to realise the evil in his world.

In the forest, Brown meets his companion, a character who symbolises the devil. He is about fifty years old and his appearance resembles Young Goodman Brown so much that he has been called the elder Goodman Brown. The devil appears as an image of his own evil or dark side. Allegorically the devil stands for Goodman Brown’s hereditary predilection to evil. This idea of evil past, present and future is just another example of the allegorical nature the story has in relation to the Fall of Man. It is Hawthorne's intention to display the sin that we have all inherited through Adam and Eve, and to bring greater understanding as to the psychosexual, religiously symbolic and historical pretexts that made events like the Salem witch trials occur in our history. The elder Goodman Brown gives us an allusion to Moses, the prophet of the Jews, whose staff could become a serpent at his will. It indicates that here Hawthorne’s intention is to mock at all religious figures, and all things are associated with religion through the presentation of the elder Brown as a devil. The devil offers Brown his walking staff that is described as having “the likeness of a great black snake”. The snake-like appearance of the staff symbolises the cunning and treacherous character of Young Goodman Brown’s companion, who often takes the shape of a serpent. Brown’s rejection of the staff symbolises Brown’s reluctance to  surrender to the evil in the world.

Goodman Brown sees his forefathers as symbols of honest and good Christian men, but as the devil tells Brown that he has been well acquainted with his family, his forefathers become symbols of people that embody the evil that surrounds Brown. The devil tells Brown that he has a general acquaintance with the people of New England. Then Brown saw Goody Cloyse, who taught him catechisms. But now she is an embodiment of evil, a witch. With this Brown feels a conflict within his mind and refuses to follow the elder and go back to his wife Faith. This indicates his endeavour to stay away from evil and keep faith in good. The elder then leaves him, giving him a maple branch. Brown’s acceptance of the newly-made staff from the devil hurries along the same evil path of his contemporaries. The staff symbolises a tool of evil, and Brown’s accepting it represents his beginning to accept the evil in his world.  He then gets much more confused when he sees all the so-called good men like – the minister and deacon Gookin being evil. Another symbol of Brown’s new commitment to evil is the pink ribbon that he catches falling from the sky. The ribbon symbolises Faith’s conversion into the evil and Brown’s loss of faith in good.

We observe that Goodman Brown resisted the temptation of evil more than once and preserved his mental strength to stand against evil till he found that his faithful wife has become evil. But Faith’s conversion to evil shattered his faith in the goodness of things and became an evil himself. In this respect Faith can be compared to Eve, for whom Adam lost his innocence.

In a few words, the story allegorises the fact that man is inherently disposed to evil and once in its grip, cannot wriggle out.

November 18, 2009

Allegory has been derived from the Greek term ‘allos’ meaning ‘disguise’. So allegory suggests describing on thing under the disguise of another thing. It is an extended narrative poem or prose work in which characters, events, and settings represent abstract qualities (represent or stand for something else) and carries a secondary (underlying/inner/symbolic) meaning  along with its surface (primary/literal) story. Some of its related genres include the fable and the parable, which are didactic, relatively short and simple allegories. In English literature all morality plays and beast epics are allegorical.  The salient features of an allegory are as follows:
  • An allegory consists of two levels of meaning: a surface meaning and a secondary meaning.
  • The literal or surface level tells a simple story.
  • The secondary level is the symbolic manifestation of the story.
  • The secondary meaning may be moral, religious, political, social or satiric.
  • Generally, the characters in an allegory do not have individual traits but they are often personifications/embodiments of greed, envy, pride, hope, charity, fortitude, chastity etc.
  • Allegories may be sustained or short; they may be independent wholes or may be embedded in non-allegorical elements.
  • Allegories may appear in the form of prose, poetry, or drama.
Allegory is a powerful figure of speech. Allegories had their heyday during medieval and Renaissance times in Europe. The use of allegory is very popular and effective in modern literature.  It is more or less, knowingly or unknowingly employed by all the great writers of all ages.  The Divine Comedy, written by the Italian author Dante Alighieri in the early 1300s, literally tells of a man's journey to heaven through hell and purgatory (supposed place or state of expiation of petty sins after death and before entering heaven).  Allegorically, the poem describes a Christian soul rising from a state of sin to a state of blessedness.  Other allegories include Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (Books I-III, 1590; Books IV-VI, 1596), a multiple moral-religious-political allegory expressed through tales of knightly deeds; Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726), a political allegory; and Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown (1846), an allegory of ideas.

Allegories lost popularity in Europe after about 1600.  However, many later writers used them to explore the meaning of human existence.  Such allegories include Moby Dick (1851) by Herman Melville and Finnegans Wake (1939)by James Joyce.



Griffith, Benjamin W. A Pocket Guide to Literature and Language Terms. New York: Barron's,

Watt, Homer A. and William W. Watt. A Handbook of English Literature. New York: Barnes &
Noble, 1946

N.B.: This article was last updated on January 09, 2018

Satire is a type of literary or dramatic work that uses sarcasm, wit and irony to ridicule and expose the follies and foibles of mankind, often in an attempt to reform society. Satire is related to parody in its intention to mock, but satire tends to be more subtle and to mock an attitude or a belief, whereas parody tends to mock a particular work (such as a poem) by imitating its style, often with purely comic intent. Both satire and parody are designed to appeal to the intellect rather than the emotions and both, to be effective, require a knowledge of the original attitude, person, or work that is being mocked (although much satire, such as Gulliver's Travels by Swift, can also be enjoyed simply on a literal level). The salient features of satire are as follows:
  • It intends to arouse ridicule, contempt, or disgust at abuses and weakness of man and his institution.
  • Its aim is to correct the malpractices by inspiring both indignation and laughter with a combination of criticism and wit.
  • Its mood may be light and playful or it may be malicious or merely mischievous.
  • In literary art the satirical mood appears in many forms – prose, verse, or drama.
Satires are often classified into the following types:

(1) Formal/direct satire: A formal or direct satire is one which is not mixed with other genres. In direct satire the author or the persona speaks in the first person directly to the reader. It can be again distinguished into the following types:

(i) Horatian satire: Horatian satire is named after ancient Roman writer Horace. This type of satire is gentle, amused and mildly corrective.

(ii) Juvenalian satire: Juvenalian satires named after another ancient Roman writer Juvenal. His satires are harsh, bitter, and full of moral indignation and contempt.

(2) Informal/indirect satire: In indirect satire the satirist creates a story or play peopled with characters who speak and act in a manner as if they were themselves targets of satire. Generally this type of satire is presented in the form other genres like – allegory, mock epic, satiric comedy or even satiric essay. Some example of indirect epics include: Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Pope’s Rape of the Lock, Eliot’s The Waste Land, O’Neil’s The Hairy Ape and Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.


November 17, 2009

Walt Whitman is a great poet of democracy. Indeed, he may be the greatest. As Thoreau said, Whitman “is apparently the greatest democrat the world has ever seen.” Specifically speaking, he is perhaps the greatest poet of the culture of democracy. He writes the best phrases and sentences about democracy. To describe democratic culture we may take into account the following ideas:

First, democratic culture is the soil for the creation of new works of highly artistic poems and moral writings, in particular.

Second, democratic culture is a distinctive stylization of life-that is, a particular set of appearances, habits, rituals, dress, ceremonies, folk traditions, and historical memories.

Third, democratic culture is the soil for the emergence of great souls whose greatness consists in themselves being like works of art in the spirit of a new aristocracy.

Whitman's Democratic Views

All these ideas are interconnected and appear in Whitman’s writings throughout his life. But, in our judgment, Whitman’s democratic individuality is a greatly more powerful and original idea than any of the other ideas of democratic culture that we have just mentioned. Democracy for Whitman means the assertion of one’s individuality as well as equality with others. In his view all men are equal and all professions are equally honourable. Whitman had a deep faith in democracy because this political form of government respects the individual. He thought that the genius of the United States is best expressed in the common people, not in its executive branch or legislature, or in its churches or law courts. He believed that it is the common folk who have a deathless attachment to freedom. His attitudes can be traced to the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century because he thought that the source of evil lay in oppressive social institutions rather than in human nature. The function of literature is to break away from the feudal past of man and artistically to urge the democratic present. Princes and nobles hold no charm for Whitman; he sings of the average, common man. He follows Emerson in applauding the doctrine of the “divine average” and of the greatness of the commonplace. A leaf of grass, to Whitman, is as important as the heavenly motion of the stars. Whitman loves America, its panoramic scenery and its processional view of diverse, democratically inclined people. He loved, and reveled in, the United States as a physical entity, but he also visualized it as a New World of the spirit. Whitman is a singer of the self as well as a trumpeter of democracy because he believes that only in a free society can individuals attain self-hood.

I speak the pass-word primeval, I give the sign of democracy,

By God! I will Accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms.

This is Whitman's expression of the idea of democracy taken from "Song of Myself." In this all-encompassing interpretation Whitman says that the freedom offered by democracy is for all not a chosen few. It included all people, not renouncing those of other races, creeds, or social standings.

Whitman celebrates no individual person, nor does he celebrate himself. Though he often says “I celebrate myself”, the self celebration throughout is celebration of himself as a man and an American. The “I” in Whitman’s poetry is not only the individual, but collective ego of humanity (universal). This “I” is an imaginative and sympathetic identification of himself with every other individual (average American). This feeling of “oneness” strongly asserts Whitman’s faith in democracy. In “Song of Myself” Whitman constructs a democratic “I,” a voice which stands not only for himself but also for all average men. The poet opines that he sings for himself, and, as he finds complete identity between himself and others, in singing himself he is also singing for others. He is confident that his beliefs and ideas are also the beliefs and ideas of others, and what belongs to him also belongs to others. Every particle and every element of which he is made has also gone into the making of others. In other words, the poet derives his ego-centric self confidence from the pantheistic faith that the inner essence of all is one and indivisible:

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

Whitman has a sense of identity not only with man but with all leaving creatures. Whitman’s sense of “oneness of all” makes his democracy universal and pantheistic. The basic emotion in Whitman’s lyricism is a feeling of kinship between all creations, which is evinced in the section 6 of the poem “Song of Myself”. Here, it is the simple spear of grass that becomes the symbol of democracy. According to the poet the grass knows no discrimination. It grows all places. It grows in broad zones and also in narrow zones. It loves equality. It grow among black people as well among the white, Knauck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Chuff, etc. It gives them the same delight. It regards them all as equal.

Whitman emphasized individual virtue, which he believed would give rise to civic virtue. He aimed at improving the masses by first improving the individual, thus becoming a true spiritual democrat. His idea of social and political democracy—that all men are equal before the law and have equal rights—is harmonized with his concept of spiritual democracy—that people have immense possibilities and a measureless wealth of latent power for spiritual attainment. In fact, he bore with the failings of political democracy primarily because he had faith in spiritual democracy, in creating and cultivating individuals who, through comradeship, would contribute to the ideal society. This view of man and society is part of Whitman’s poetic programme.

Not only in his ides is Whitman democratic, but his poetic technique too reflects his democratic impulse. It is significant that he rejects the conventional forms of poetry which he left to be associated with its feudalistic and aristocratic past. His freedom with poetic form reflects his advocacy of freedom for the human soul. The free flow of words, the lines of uneven length, all express the sense of development inherent democracy.

In short, Whitman is undoubtedly the most authentic voice of the United States of America. His art is one mode of the totality of American discourse; thus, in asserting a new democratic identity through poetry, Whitman actively asserts a new democratic identity for American politics and culture.

November 15, 2009

Eliot, T[homas]. S[tearns]. (1888-1965), American-born British dramatist, poet, and critic

"Whatever you think, be sure it is what you think; whatever you want, be sure that is what you want; whatever you feel, be sure that is what you feel."
~T. S. Eliot

"Success is relative. It is what we can make of the mess we have made of things."
~T. S. Eliot

"Humor is also a way of saying something serious."
~T. S. Eliot

"Humankind cannot stand very much reality."
~T. S. Eliot

"Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things."
~T. S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent", II (The Sacred Wood, 1922)

"I take as metaphysical poetry that in which what is ordinarily apprehensible only by thought is brought within the grasp of feeling, or that in which what is ordinarily only felt is transformed into thought without ceasing to be feeling."
~T. S. Eliot

"Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers."
~T. S. Eliot

"We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."
~T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding

"The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason."
~T. S. Eliot

"Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow"
~T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

"Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow"
~T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

"This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper."
~T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

In his fundamental work, Biological Foundations of Language, 1967, the biolinguist Eric Heinz Lenneberg presents, among other concepts, his “Critical period” hypothesis. Lenneberg's idea of a critical period is an important aspect of the innateness proposal. Lenneberg theorized that the capacity to learn a language is indeed innate, and, like many such inborn mechanisms, it is confined in time. He proposed that there is one critical phase between the age of two and about 13 years (before puberty) in which an individual is able to acquire first language (L1). Beyond this time language becomes increasingly difficult to acquire.

Eric Lenneberg (1921 –1975)

It was Lenneberg's proposition that the end of this "critical period" is determined by a loss of brain plasticity – in particular by the completion of the lateralization of the language function in the left hemisphere. Researchers have debated the age at which lateralization actually occurs. Kinsbourne (1975) proposes completion by birth; Krashen (1973) suggests it may be complete by age 5; Lenneberg (1967) proposes lateralization by puberty. Long (1988) suggests that the brain's loss of plasticity is also due to other aspects of cerebral maturation unrelated to lateralization.

Evidence: Viktor, Genie, deaf signers

Limitations: Despite its strong sides the hypothesis has some limitations. Evidence of various types seems to weaken Lenneberg's hypothesis:

Firstly, neuropsychological evidence shows that brain lateralization "occurs long before the onset of puberty, perhaps during the first year of life" (Flynn and Manuel, 1991: 130).

Secondly, the similar developmental patterns observed in child and adult language acquisition are in contrast with the idea that different processes take place in the two types of learning.

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