A blog for the comprehensive understanding of Literature, Applied Linguistics and ELT

December 11, 2010

The Organs of Speech

The various organs which are involved in the production of speech sounds are called speech organs (also known as vocal organs). The study of speech organs helps to determine the role of each organ in the production of speech sounds. They include the lungs, the vocal folds, and most importantly the articulators.

1. The Lungs

The airflow is by far the most vital requirement for producing speech sound, since all speech sounds are made with some movement of air. The lungs provide the energy source for the airflow. The lungs are the spongy respiratory organs situated inside the rib cage. They expand and contract as we breathe in and out air. The amount of air accumulated inside our lungs controls the pressure of the airflow.

The Lungs

2. The Larynx & the Vocal Folds

The larynx is colloquially known as the voice box. It is a box-like small structure situated in the front of the throat where there is a protuberance. For this reason the larynx is popularly called the Adam’s apple. This casing is formed of cartilages and muscles. It protects as well as houses the trachea (also known as windpipe, oesophagus, esophagus) and the vocal folds (formerly they were called vocal cords). The vocal folds are like a pair of lips placed horizontally from front to back. They are joined in the front but can be separated at the back. The opening between them is called glottis. The glottis is considered to be in open state when the folds are apart, and when the folds are pressed together the glottis is considered to be in close state.

The opening of the vocal folds takes different positions:
  1. Wide Apart: When the folds are wide apart they do not vibrate. The sounds produced in such position are called breathed or voiceless sounds. For example: /p/f/θ/s/.
  2. Narrow Glottis: If the air is passed through the glottis when it is narrowed then there is an audible friction. Such sounds are also voiceless since the vocal folds do not vibrate. For example, in English /h/ is a voiceless glottal fricative sound.
  3. Tightly Closed: The vocal folds can be firmly pressed together so that the air cannot pass between them. Such a position produces a glottal stop / ʔ / (also known as glottal catch, glottal plosive).
  4. Touched or Nearly Touched: The major role of the vocal folds is that of a vibrator in the production of speech. The folds vibrate when these two are touching each other or nearly touching. The pressure of the air coming from the lungs makes them vibrate. This vibration of the folds produces a musical note called voice. And sounds produced in such manner are called voiced sounds. In English all the vowel sounds and the consonants /v/z/m/n/are voiced.

Thus it is clear that the main function of the vocal folds is to convert the air delivered by the lungs into audible sound. The opening and closing process of the vocal folds manipulates the airflow to control the pitch and the tone of speech sounds. As a result, we have different qualities of sounds.

3. The Articulators

Articulators transform the sound into intelligible speech. They can be either active or passive. They include the pharynx, the teeth, the alveolar ridge behind them, the hard palate, the softer velum behind it, the lips, the tongue, and the nose and its cavity. Traditionally the articulators are studied with the help of a sliced human head figure like the following:

(i) The Pharynx: The pharynx lies between the mouth and the food passage, that is, just above the larynx. It is just about 7cm long in the case of women and 8cm long in the case of men.

(ii) The Roof of the Mouth: The roof of the mouth is considered as a major speech organ. It is divided into three parts:

a. The Alveolar Ridge/Teeth Ridge: The alveolar ridge is situated immediately after the upper front teeth. The sounds which are produced touching this convex part are called alveolarsounds. Some alveolar sounds in English include: /t/d/.

b. The Hard Palate: The hard palate is the concave part of the roof of the mouth. It is situated on the middle part of the roof.

c. The Velum or Soft Palate: The lower part of the roof of the mouth is called soft palate. It could be lowered or raised. When it is lowered, the air stream from the lungs has access to the nasal cavity. When it is raised the passage to the nasal cavity is blocked. The sounds which are produced touching this area with the back of the tongue are called velarsounds. For example: /k/g/.

(iii) The Lips: The lips also play an important role in the matter of articulation. They can be pressed together or brought into contact with the teeth. The consonant sounds which are articulated by touching two lips each other are called bilabial sounds. For example, /p/ and /b/ are bilabial sounds in English. Whereas, the sounds which are produced with lip to teeth contact are called labiodental sounds. In English there are two labiodental sounds: /f/ and /v/.

Another important thing about the lips is that they can take different shapes and positions. Therefore, lip-rounding is considered as a major criterion for describing vowel sounds. The lips may have the following positions:

a. Rounded: When we pronounce a vowel, our lips can be rounded, a position where the corners of the lips are brought towards each other and the lips are pushed forwards. And the resulting vowel from this position is a rounded one. For example, /ə ʊ/.

b. Spread: The lips can be spread. In this position the lips are moved away from each other (i.e. when we smile). The vowel that we articulate from this position is an unrounded one. For example, in English /i: /is a long vowel with slightly spread lips.

c. Neutral: Again, the lips can be neutral, a position where the lips are not noticeably rounded or spread. And the articulated vowel from this position is referred to as unrounded vowel. For example, in English /ɑ: / is a long vowel with neutral lips.

(iv) The Teeth: The teeth are also very much helpful in producing various speech sounds. The sounds which are made with the tongue touching the teeth are called dental sounds. Some examples of dental sounds in English include: /θ/ð/.

(v) The Tongue: The tongue is divided into four parts:

a. The tip: It is the extreme end of the tongue.
b. The blade: It lies opposite to the alveolar ridge.
c. The front: It lies opposite to the hard palate.
d. The back: It lies opposite to the soft palate or velum.

The tongue is responsible for the production of many speech sounds, since it can move very fast to different places and is also capable of assuming different shapes. The shape and the position of the tongue are especially crucial for the production of vowel sounds. Thus when we describe the vowel sounds in the context of the function of the tongue, we generally consider the following criteria:

• Tongue Height: It is concerned with the vertical distance between the upper surface of the tongue and the hard palate. From this perspective the vowels can be described as close and open. For instance, because of the different distance between the surface of the tongue and the roof of the mouth, the vowel /i: /has to be described as a relatively close vowel, whereas /æ / has to be described as a relatively open vowel.

• Tongue Frontness / Backness: It is concerned with the part of tongue between the front and the back, which is raised high. From this point of view the vowel sounds can be classified as front vowels and back vowels. By changing the shape of the tongue we can produce vowels in which a different part of the tongue is the highest point. That means, a vowel having the back of the tongue as the highest point is a back vowel, whereas the one having the front of the tongue as the highest point is called a front vowel. For example: during the articulation of the vowel / u: / the back of the tongue is raised high, so it’s a back vowel. On the other hand, during the articulation of the vowel / æ / the front of the tongue is raise high, therefore, it’s a front vowel.

(vi) The Jaws: Some phoneticians consider the jaws as articulators, since we move the lower jaw a lot at the time of speaking. But it should be noted that the jaws are not articulators in the same way as the others. The main reason is that they are incapable of making contact with other articulators by themselves.

(vii) The Nose and the Nasal Cavity: The nose and its cavity may also be considered as speech organs. The sounds which are produced with the nose are called nasal sounds. Some nasal sounds in English include: /m/n/ŋ/.


Harmer, Jeremy. The Practice of English Language Teaching. 3rd ed. England: Longman-
Pearson, 2001. 28-35.

Yule, George. The Study of Language. 2nd ed. Cambridge: CUP, 1996. 40-50.

Varshney, Dr. R.L.  An Introduction of Linguistics & Phonetics. Dhaka: BOC, n.d. 38-42.

NB  This Article is Essentially in the Tentative Stage. Further Revision is Required.


September 4, 2010


Antiromanticism is a movement in English literature that emerged in the 20th century as a reaction to Romanticism that dominated the field of literature during the late 18th and the early 19th centuries. Antiromanticism shares some tenets of Classicism, which was subsequently opposed by Romanticism. From this point of view, Antiromanticism could be considered as the resurgence of Classicism in a new name and guise. Antiromanticism questioned the stability and rationality of Romanticism and necessitated a reassessment of the nature of literature and the role of the writer in society. When first arrived, this new type of literary tendency not only baffled but also shocked the audience, writers, and critics around the globe with its novel, unconventional, and highly disputable ideas. The basic difference between Romanticism and Antiromanticism is that whereas the former has a strong predilection to idealisation of life, the latter tends to explore life from practical point of view. Though hard to assign precisely, literary works based on antiromantic attitude roughly hinge round the following concepts:
  • Ironic, indirect, and impersonal (objective) representation of ideas.
  • Uncompromising criticism of romantic illusions.
  • Opposition of unreal ideas and artificiality of treatment.
  • Satirisation of irrational and whimsical attitudes of the so-called aristocracy.
  • Criticism of established conventions of sentimental love, marriage, sex, religion, and rituals.
  • Criticism of social, political, cultural, and moral customs and manners of the contemporary society.
  • Advocacy of pragmatism and disapproval of idealism.
  • Valuing reason over emotion and imagination.

Chief Representatives

The major literary artists who helped to establish Antiromanticism through explicit rejection of Romanticism include:
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Shaw is antiromantic in person and by nature. He opposed Romanticism for he assumed that it shamelessly and irrationally deals with imaginary and vague artificiality of emotions. Shaw wrote a number of plays on antiromantic tone. The greatest expression of this outlook found its way in his first successfully staged drama Arms and the Man (1894), where he wittily, humorously, and critically exposes the futility of romantic and emotional concept of war, love, heroism, and marriage. Another critically acclaimed play is Man and Superman (1903), dealing with the antiromantic attitude towards marriage.
W.H. Auden (1907-1973)
Auden is strongly antiromantic. His poetry reveals a strong rejection of the ideas of the poetry of earlier generation and an admiration of earlier and less fashionable poetic movements. Auden’s poetic theory and practice are largely engendered by impersonality, that is, he is able to write poetry by keeping his own feelings aloof. He sought to exercise objectively the anarchy, dismay, desolation and spiritual decay of the contemporary society to portray the obscurity of modern life. Due to his scepticism about the idealistic claims about the nature of poetry, imagination, love, society, politics, etc., he was able to forge himself as one of the strongest representatives of Antiromanticism.
Philip Larkin (1922-1985)
Apart from Auden, Philip Larkin happens to be the most representative of the poets who gave expression to the antiromantic sensibility. He treats the modern English setting in a withdrawn and non-sentimental manner, but often with considerable feeling. The works which established Larkin as a fine antiromantic poet of great wit, sophistication, and compassion include The North Ship (1945), and The Less Deceived (1955).
Kingsley Amis (1922-1995)
The tone of Amis’ work is antiromantic and rational. His works take a humorous yet highly critical look at British society, especially of the period following the end of World War II in 1945. In a number of novels he explored his disillusionment: Lucky Jim (1954), That Uncertain Feeling (1955), and Take a Girl Like You (1960).

Other antiromantic poets of the same generation include Donald Alfred Davie (1922-1995), D (ennis) J (oseph) Enright (1920-), John Barrington Wain (192-1994), Elizabeth Jennings (1926-2001) and Robert Conquest (1917-).

In America a similar type of literary tendency was prevalent during the mid-nineteenth century. It was known as Antitranscendentalism (also known as Dark Romanticism). It stemmed from Transcendentalism, which was developed in the first half of the 19th century. But the antitranscendentalists did not accept all ideas of Transcendentalism; rather they rejected or modified most of the utopian ideas. Transcendentalism was regarded by many scholars as the American version of English Romanticism. Transcendentalism was based on the belief that there was inherent goodness in man, and that nature always cares for the wellbeing of the humankind, since it is created by god. In contrast, Antitranscendentalism held a less optimistic view about the Transcendentalist assertions. To the antitranscendentalist, man was capable of evil and nature was destructive and unsympathetic. Thus the chief difference between the two schools of thought is that whereas the former is predominantly utopian in nature, the latter is essentially down-to-earth in its thoughts. Generally, the antitranscendental outlook centers round the following principles:
  • Less optimistic assertion about the inherent goodness in mankind, nature, and the universe.
  • Disclosure of the dark sides of the human heart.
  • Acceptance of nature as a spiritual force.
  • Revelation of the destructive and indifferent side of nature.
  • Exposure of social corruption.

Chief Representatives

The major representatives of the antitranscendental sensibility include:
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)
Hawthorne is widely deemed to be one of the distinguished members of the antitranscendentalist movement. His writings features psychological probing into human nature, especially its darker side. Hawthorne’s psychological exploration found its greatest expression in his allegorical magnum opus The Scarlet Letter (1850), a tale of sin, punishment, and redemption.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
Allan Poe is the unchallengeable leader of the antitranscendentalist movement in American literature. He is, perhaps the best of the antitranscendentalists. In his masterful works, Poe tries to explore human psychology with a keen interest in the perverse and self-destructive nature of the conscious and subconscious mind. Amongst Poe’s literary output, the short stories: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838), The Fall of the House of Usher (1839), The Pit and the Pendulum (1842), The Tell-Tale Heart (1843), The Cask of Amontillado (1846) and the poems: The Raven (1845), The Sleeper (1831), Lenore (1831), and Annabel Lee (1849) are distinguished for their uniqueness.
Herman Melville (1819-1891)
Psychological exploration provides the force and vitality to the works of the Antitranscendental writer Herman Melville. It is this psychological exploration, for which his works remained in obscurity until the 1920s, when his genius was finally recognised. Among many of his creations, Moby Dick; or The Whale (1851) is the most-appreciated one, and it is definitely the apex of his creation. The novel, in its entirety, is a meticulous illustration of man's evil toward fellow man and nature.


“Dark Romanticism.” Wikipedia. 2010. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 26 August 2010
< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_romanticism >.

“Kingsley Amis.” Microsoft Encarta. DVD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft, 2005.

“Philip Larkin.” Microsoft Encarta. DVD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft, 2005.

“Philip Larkin.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 25 August 2010

NB: This article was last updated on January 09, 2018

August 1, 2010

Dylan Thomas Quick Facts


Dylan Thomas

20th century Welsh poet, short-story writer, playwright, journalist, broadcaster, and scriptwriter
  • Full name: Dylan Marlais Thomas
  • Birth: October 27, 1914
  • Death: November 9, 1953
  • Place of Birth: Swansea, South Wales
  • Buried: Laugharne, Wales
  • Father: D(avid) J(ohn) Thomas
  • Mother: Florence Williams Thomas
  • Sister: Nancy Marles Thomas
  • Spouse: Caitlin Macnamara
  • Number of Children: Three (2 sons: Llewelyn Edouard Thomas and Colm Garan Hart Thomas; 1 daughter: Aeronwy Bryn Thomas)
  • Education: Swansea Grammar School (attended from 1925 to 1931)
  • Known for: the force and vitality of his verbal imagery and for his celebration of scenic aspects of nature
  • Notorious for: leading a bohemian lifestyle that included heavy-drinking and philandering


“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night (1951)

Notable Works:

1934: Eighteen Poems
1936: Twenty-five Poems
1939: The Map of Love
1940: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog
1946: Deaths and Entrances
1951: In Country Sleep
1952: Collected Poems
1953: The Doctor and the Devils
1954: Under Milk Wood (published posthumously)
1955: Adventures in the Skin Trade (published posthumously)
1957: Letters to Vernon Watkins

Did You Know?

  • Alongside his reputation as a poet, Thomas is also remembered today for his alcoholism and womanizing.
  • Dylan Thomas was not an Englishman. He was a Welshman, but chose to write in English poetic tradition.
  • During his tenure as a student at the Swansea Grammar School he showed much interest in the extra-curricular activities than regular studies.
  • Later Thomas could realise the value of formal education and regretted over his lack of linguistic command and professional training and lived in fear of his ignorance being found out.
  • It is assumed that Thomas’ marriage was a happy one, but a book published by Caitlin after his demise included the fact that almost each day of their conjugal life featured fighting and quarreling.
  • Thomas’ reaction to the outbreak of World War II was both cowardly and patriotic. He was afraid of being conscripted and so being killed. He even couldn’t flee to America like W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, hence chose to become a conscientious objector. However, he was saved from being filed for conscientious objector status as he was declared medically unfit for the armed forces.
  • During the post-World War II phase, financial need provoked him to give more energy to his profitable short stories and screenplays rather than to his poetry.
  • His American tour in 1950, and those that followed in 1952 and 1953, were marked by inebriation, outrageous behaviour, and in some cases, brilliant readings.
  • Thomas’ attempt to secure regular employment with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and various film companies was hindered by his notoriety as a heavy-drinker.
  • Even though Thomas planned to use the profits from his readings in America to pay back his growing debts at home, he squandered most of his earnings before he made his way back to Wales.
  • Thomas died at the age of 39 in New York City of pneumonia caused by excess of drinking.
  • When Thomas’ life ended prematurely of alcoholism, the world regarded his demise as a symbol of the tragic life of the modern artist.

July 1, 2010

Conceit/Metaphysical Conceit

Conceit/Metaphysical Conceit

Generally conceit is a figure of speech and the term generally denotes “idea”, “concept”, “opinion”, or a “theme”, especially one that is fantastic or eccentric to certain extent. In terminological sense, it is an elaborate, often extravagant metaphor or simile making an analogy between two totally dissimilar things or images. The point of relation between them is difficult to determine. This comparison jolts the mind. During the Renaissance period, the term indicated any particularly fanciful expression of wit, and was later used pejoratively of outlandish poetic metaphors. The term is generally associated in the contemporary usage with the 17th century English metaphysical poets. It is generally considered that John Donne is the originator of conceits. But this claim is not fully plausible, since the use of such device can also be found in the works of Petrarch and the Elizabethan poets.

The modern literary critics have used the term to mean simply the style of extended and heightened metaphor common in the Renaissance and particularly in the 17th century, without any particular indication of value. Within this critical sense, conceits are generally placed into two categories:
1. Petrarchan conceit: Petrarchan conceits are conventional comparisons imitated from the love sonnets of the Italian poet Petrarch. It is also known as Elizabethan conceit. In this type of conceit human experiences are described in terms of an extravagant metaphor or hyperbolic comparison, like the stock comparison of eyes to the sun, which Shakespeare employs in his sonnet 130:
"My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun."
2. Metaphysical conceit: John Donne is the chief begetter of the metaphysical conceit. It is a more intricate and intellectual device. It startles and at the same time amuses the readers. In the metaphysical conceit, metaphors have a much more purely conceptual and thus tenuous relationship to the thing being compared. The most outstanding paradigm of conceit appears in Donne’s A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, where the poet compares the two lovers’ souls to a draftsman’s compass:
“If they be two, they are two so
As stiffe twin copmpasses are two,
Thy soule the fixt foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the ’other doe.”
The central difference between a metaphysical conceit and an Elizabethan conceit is that the former is an organic (structural) part of the poem, while the latter is a mere decorative device. The Elizabethan conceit does not convey any sorts of philosophies, while the metaphysical conceit conveys a wide range of philosophy.


“Conceit.” Wikipedia. 2008. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.20 September 2008

June 3, 2010

John Donne’s Treatment of Love and Women

The literature of the 17th century is rife with conflicting as well as novel poetic ideas. Being the major metaphysical poet of that era, John Donne contributed much in the escalation of the flow of that literary transformation. In his poetry he sought to establish a view of love and women that was diametrically opposite to the conventional philosophy of courtly love of the great poetic personalities like Sidney and Petrarch. From this point of view, his approach to love was much brave and original than the poets of the preceding generations.

The most original contribution of John Donne in love poetry is perhaps the blending of thought with imagination, passion with intellect. This intellectuality is expressed in the conceits he frequently employs in his poems. His conceits are based on the similes and metaphors drawn from all branches of knowledge such as theology, cosmology, philosophy, medicine, chemistry, law, etc. The Elizabethan poets based their conceits on the conventional physical comparisons, but Donne, on the other hand, moulded his ones by scholastic and fanciful comparisons. He is exceptionally good at creating unusual unions between different elements in order to illustrate his point and form a convincing argument in his poems. His most outstanding and striking example of conceit appears in A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, where the poet compares the two lovers’ souls to a draftsman’s compass:
“If they be two, they are two so
As stiffe twin copmpasses are two,
Thy soule the fixt foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the ’other doe.”
Donne looked upon the relationship of love between man and woman from both sensuous and realistic standpoints. In scrutinising the pragmatic sides of love Donne supports the necessity of both the body and the soul. This attitude is another aspect that distinguishes Donne from both the Petrarchan and the Platonic school of thoughts. In his poems Donne seeks to establish the relationship between the body and the soul. He assumed that physical intercourse without spiritual union cannot be considered as love; such passion is nothing but momentary attraction. Again, true spiritual union cannot be accomplished without the union of the bodies. Thus true love is engendered by the mating of both the bodies and the souls, and such a love lasts long. For example, in the poem The Canonization physical love is regarded as a holy emotion like the worship of devotee of God. After physical intercourse the lovers feel a strong emotional passion for each other, and it is this fire of passion that unites their souls together. Thus physical love helps to form a spiritual bond between the lovers. However, in A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, Donne’s treatment of love is sensuous. In this poem his statement reverberates the Platonic assertion that physical contact is unnecessary for the formation of spiritual love. A truer and more refined love, Donne explains comes from a connection at the mind, the union of two souls as one. The Physical presence is irrelevant if a true bond of the minds has occurred, joining a pair of lovers’ souls eternally.

Another novel aspect in Donne’s poetry was the difference in angle in which he looked at womankind. The followers of Petrarchan tradition depicted women as deities. They only portrayed their beauty and positive sides. But with a sharp contrast to the Petrarchan followers, Donne was bold enough to expose the negative sides of women. He sceptically believes that women are neither deities nor fully honest; they possess all the human shortcomings. Thus Donne’s attitude towards women is materialistic, pessimistic, and occasionally misogynistic. For example, in the poem Goe, and Catche a Falling Starre Donne comments on the faithlessness of women. He ironically remarks that it is totally impossible to find a constant woman in this world. However, he is not always cynical towards women, because when he finds a woman really honest and faithful he deeply admires her virtues. For instance, in the poem Twicknam Garden he cynically says that all women are false; they cannot remain faithful to a single lover. But he shows a ray of optimism when he says that only his beloved is true, since she is faithful to a single lover. He greatly admires her for this particular quality, which is, undoubtedly, a rare virtue in womanhood.

The Petrarchan poets sang about the pains and sorrows of love, the sorrows of detachment, and the pains of rejection by the cruel mistress. But Donne, in sharp contrast to the Petrarchan poets, considered love to be mutual and self-sufficient. In the poems The Canonization and The Sunne Rising, he expresses the delight of mutual love-making, without reference to outside interference, and with no hint of inadequacy in the beloved. Donne often tells about separation but in an unconventional way. For example, A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning Donne tells us about the mystical union between him and his beloved despite their discreet position.

John Donne’s Treatment of Love and Women

May 22, 2010



A symbol is anything which stands for or denotes something else, not by exact resemblance, but by vague suggestion or statement. Symbols are of two types:
  1. Universal/conventional/traditional/public symbol.
  2. Private/personal symbol.
 The functions of  symbols are as follows:
  • Symbols are oblique or indirect means of communication.
  • Symbolic words are not merely connotative, but also evocative and emotive.
  • Symbolic words convey a deeper/inner meaning along with their surface meaning, generally an abstract idea, principle, or quality.
  • A single word can be used to express several associated ideas and images, and evoke certain emotional responses. For instance, the word “rose” merely connotes a flower but it may be employed by a writer to evoke associated thoughts of beauty, delicacy or even pride or violence, and at the same time the emotional overtones of admiration, love, compassion or even anger and jealousy.
  • Through symbols a writer can express much more than by the use of ordinary words.
  • Symbols make the language rich and expressive.
  • Symbols help the writer to convey concepts which are inexpressible by their very nature. Thus a symbol can be used to convey abstract and metaphysical truths.

May 1, 2010


In Roman mythology, Proserpina (Greek equivalent: Persephone, also Kore: “the maiden”) is the goddess of the dead (queen of the underworld) and the fertility of the earth. She was the daughter of Jupiter (also Jove; Greek equivalent: Zeus), the king of the gods, and Ceres (Greek equivalent: Demeter; she is also Jupiter’s sister), the goddess of grain and harvest. Proserpina was a very innocent and charming young maiden. She was the jewel of her mother’s heart. Ceres’ intense love for her daughter led her to keep Proserpina away from the company of the malignant forces of nature. So Proserpina was able to live a very peaceful and carefree life on the very lap of nature, far from evils as well as the Olympian gods. But this peace was instantly destroyed after Pluto (also Dis; Greek equivalent: Hades; he is also Jupiter’s brother), the god of the dead (king of the underworld), abducted Proserpina (she is also his niece) and carried her off to the underworld (the underworld itself was often called the Hades). The incident took place in Sicily, at the fountain of Arethusa near Enna (formerly known as Castrogiovanni), where she was picking flowers with the nymphs (also Oceanids, the daughters of Oceanus and his wife Tethys). Greatly frustrated by the incident, Ceres searched for her daughter in every corner of the earth but could not find her anywhere. Ultimately Ceres was able to learn about Proserpina’s fate from Sol (Greek equivalent: Helios), the god of the sun.

Even though it was Pluto who was responsible for her daughter’s abduction, Ceres blamed Jupiter alone for the offense. Out of anguish she stopped the growth of all sorts of vegetation. She decided not to go back to the Olympus until she finds her daughter back. She kept wandering on the earth, making it a sterile land at every step. All the vegetation died and famine devastated the earth. The hungry mortals as well the gods found no other alternative than pleading before Jupiter to tackle that grievous situation.

Being concerned of the existence of the earthlings, Jupiter sent Mercury (Greek equivalent: Hermes), the messenger of the gods, to bring Proserpina back to her mother. But Pluto conspired to make Proserpina the queen of the underworld, so before letting her go, he asked her to eat a pomegranate seed, the food of the dead. Due to this reason Proserpina was unable to return from the underworld. Eventually, Jupiter made a rule that she would have to live eight months of each year with her mother and the rest four months with her husband as the queen of the underworld. Her return to the earth symbolised the arrival of the spring, a period when nature revives its lost colour and splendour. Contrariwise, her going back to the underworld symbolised the advent of the winter, a phase when nature loses its colour and splendour. From this point of view she is often called a life-death-rebirth deity.

Abduction_of Proserpina_by_Bernini_a_Roman_Statue

In ancient Greece Proserpina was primarily worshiped on two grounds. During her eight months’ staying with her mother on earth she was worshiped as “the maiden”, and for the remaining four months with her husband in the underworld as the goddess of the dead.

Proserpina’s abduction inspired many woks of art. She has been the model for numerous sculptures, paintings, and literary works.

April 14, 2010

Emily Dickinson Quick Facts

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

19th century American poet
  • Full Name: Emily Elizabeth Dickinson
  • Also Called: New England Mystic
  • Birth: December 10, 1830
  • Death: May 15, 1886
  • Place of Birth: Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
  • Place of Death: Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
  • Cause of Death: Bright's disease
  • Zodiac Sign: Sagittarius 
  • Nationality: American
  • Father: Edward Dickinson (1803-1874)
  • Mother: Emily Norcross Dickinson (1804-1882)
  • Siblings:
  1. William Austin Dickinson (1829-1895)
  2. Lavinia "Vinnie" Norcross Dickinson (1833-1899)
  • Sexual Orientation: Straight
  • Marital Status: Unmarried
  • Known for: Her atypical, compressed, and meticulous poetic style, which disregarded the traditional rules of poetics
  • Allegation: According to popular traditions she was sensitive and reclusive in nature, and had an unrequited or secret love

Editions of Dickinson’s Poems:

The Poems of Emily Dickinson (3 volumes,1955)
The Letters of Emily Dickinson (3 volumes,1958)
The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson (2 volumes,1981)


“I died for Beauty – but was scarce
Adjusted in the Tomb
When One who died for Truth was lain
In an adjoining Room –“
I died for Beauty – but was scarce (449)

Did You Know?

  • Although Dickinson is highly deemed as one of the most prominent poets in the field of American literature, during her lifetime she was chiefly known as a gardener rather than as a poet.
  • She never married.
  • She wore only white dresses for almost her entire adult life.
  • Although she was alleged to be a recluse, in reality, she was very much sociable. She frequently entertained guests at her home during her 20s and 30s.
  • She wrote nearly 2000 poems, most of which were published posthumously. During her lifetime she published only 7 poems.
  • Dickinson never named her poems; the titles were given by the early editors of her poems. Popularly her poems are named by the first line.

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

April 13, 2010


In Roman mythology, Venus (Greek equivalent: Aphrodite, also called: Cytherea) was originally considered as a deity of gardens and fields but later identified with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. Homer described her as the daughter of Jupiter (also called: Jove; Greek equivalent: Zeus) and Dione, the daughter of Epimethius. But in Theogony, Hesiod, the other Greek poet, however, opined that she was born of sea-foam. Requested by his mother Gaea (also called: Ge), the earth goddess, Saturn (Greek equivalent: Cronus) dethroned and castrated his father Uranus, the god of the heavens. The detached testicles of Uranus fell into the sea, and from them emerged the goddess Venus. Since her birth she was a full-fledged sensual woman. According to Homeric tradition she was the wife of Vulcan (Greek equivalent: Hephaestus), the god of fire and fire-based arts. But Venus was alleged to be often unfaithful to her husband. Among her many lovers were Mars (Greek equivalent: Ares), the god of war by whom she became the mother of the famous son Cupid (Greek equivalent: Eros), the god of love, and the daughter Harmonia, the wife of Cadmus, the founder of Thebes. Venus also formed love affairs with numerous mortals. Anchises was one of them, by whom Venus had Aeneas, the Trojan prince. The most notable mortal lover was perhaps Adonis, the handsome shepherd. Venus was the rival of Proserpina, (Greek equivalent: Persephone), the goddess of the underworld, for the love of Adonis.

During the imperial periods she was worshiped under several aspects. As Venus Genetrix, she was worshiped as the mother of the hero Aeneas, the founder of the Roman people; as Venus Felix, the bringer of good fortune; as Venus Victrix, the bringer of victory; and as Venus Verticordia, the protector of feminine chastity. But ultimately she was worshiped exclusively as the goddess of love and beauty.

Although she was associated with love and beauty, many times she proved her cruel sides by destroying those who dared to deny her excellence or surpass her beauty. Venus’ vindictiveness is particularly seen in her indifferent treatment towards her daughter-in-law Psyche (Greek equivalent: Yuch).


Venus played a significant role in the instigation of the Trojan War. The war started when the Trojan prince Paris (also called Alexander, in Greek mythology, son of Priam and Hecuba, king and queen of Troy) gave the golden apple (on which there was inscribed: “for the fairest”) depriving Juno (Greek equivalent: Hera) and Minerva (Greek equivalent: Athena, also called: Athene). Juno promised to Paris that she would make him an influential ruler of Europe and Asia. Minerva told him that she would help him to achieve great military success by ensuring his victory against the Greeks. But Venus’ bribe was more appealing to Paris, since she pledged to give him the fairest woman (Helen, the wife of Menelaus) in the world. Paris’ subsequent abduction of Helen kindled the primary cause of the Trojan War. In the war Venus favoured the Trojans. In the Warfield she got wounded by the Greek hero Diomedes (king of Árgos), when she tried to rescue Paris.


Khan, Farhad. An Encyclopedia of Classical Literature. Dhaka: Protik, 1996.

“Aphrodite.” Microsoft Encarta. DVD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft, 2005.

“Venus.” Microsoft Encarta. DVD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft, 2005.

April 5, 2010


In Roman mythology Psyche (Greek equivalent: Yuch) is the goddess of the soul, the wife of Cupid (Greek equivalent: Eros), the god of love. Psyche started out as a mortal princess. She was the daughter of an anonymous king and his queen. Psyche had two elder sisters. All three sisters were beautiful, but Psyche was the fairest. For her matchless beauty, she was considered as a new Goddess of Love, and as her fame increased, many men came from distant land to witness her for once.

Psyche earned the ire of Venus (Greek equivalent: Aphrodite), the goddess of love and beauty when people diverted their worship from the goddess to the mortal. Venus commanded Cupid, his son, to shoot her with one of his magical arrows to make her fall badly in love with the first man she saw. But the Parcae (Greek equivalent: Moirai ; Fates) decreed otherwise, just as Cupid was about to shoot the arrow at her, he stumbled by her beauty and accidentally pricked himself with the arrow. As a consequence, he fell madly in love with Psyche and carried her away to his secluded palace. However Cupid hid his true identity, and commanded her never to look upon his face. Fearing the fact that his disloyalty might be disclosed to his mother, Cupid visited Psyche only by night unseen and unrecognised. He made her promise that she would never look at him. Although Cupid had forbidden her never to look upon his face, one night, out of curiosity, Psyche lit a lamp and looked upon him while he was sleeping. Psyche got so excited to discover Cupid as her husband that her body started to shiver. When she bent her body to kiss him, a drop of oil spilt from the lamp on the naked body of Cupid and awakened him. Cupid became very angry at the disobedience of Psyche and abandoned her. Psyche found herself alone in the midst of darkness, the whole palace got vanished in the thin air just after Cupid left the scene.

Psyche was devastated when Cupid left her. Subsequently, the brokenhearted young woman decided to go to Venus and beg before her for her blessing on the marriage. Venus, however, saw this as her opportunity to take her revenge. Venus told Psyche that she would consider her worthy of her son if she was able to complete three tasks. Then Venus beat her fiercely. Cupid saw and heard everything standing from distance.

Psyche’s first task was to spend the night in a room filled with mixed grains and to have them all sorted and bagged by daybreak. Realising the impossibility of the task, Psyche started weeping. Watching her misery an army of ants took pity on her and came forward to help her with the task. Because of their helping hands Psyche was able to finish the task in advance of the deadline. As a reward of her success, Venus beat Psyche again like the previous day.

The following day she was given a far more impossible task. Her mission was to bring back the Golden Fleece belonging to a magical ram. The ram was extremely ferocious and already killed several heroes who tried to acquire his fleece. She was Terrified that she also would be crushed by the vicious creature. When she was about to give up her faith on her task’s materialisation, a mermaid took pity on her. Psyche worked according to her advice and managed to collect the fleece. She presented the fleece to Venus. That day Venus mocked at psyche very rudely.

The third task was utterly impossible. Venus gave Psyche a crystal jar to fetch water from the river Styx. That river was guarded by a band of dragons. When Psyche reached there she realised that this task cannot be undertaken by her. When Psyche was about to give up her faith on the task, Jupiter’s (also Jove; Greek equivalent: Zeus) eagle showed up in the sky. The eagle was aware of Cupid and Psyche’s story. So, he took the jar from Psyche’s hand and filled it with Stygian water.

When Psyche returned with the water in the jar, Aphrodite thought she must be a clever and wicked witch, and gave her yet another task. It was Psyche's last and most frightening challenge. The test was to descend into the underworld, the kingdom of the dead, and to return with the beauty box from Proserpina (Greek equivalent: Persephone), the goddess of the dead (goddess of the underworld) and the fertility of the earth. This task was her longest and hardest. Even Venus could realise that this time Psyche would surely die. When Psyche set out for her journey into the underworld, Cupid secretly followed her. He knew very well that this time she was walking towards death. When she was about to enter the underworld, Cupid, staying out of sight, instructed her how to collect the beauty box from Proserpina. Psyche could not recognise Cupid’s voice. However, she worked according to his advice and was able to get the box. At the time of returning, she thought that if Venus keeps her promise, she would be able to meet Cupid just after completion of this task. Thus, she thought that she should prepare herself to face that moment of truth. Then, with a view to increase her beauty a bit more, she decided to use a tiny touch of the beauty contained in the box. But as she opened the box, a black cloud covered her. What she released from that box was not beauty but Stygian sleep. She fell to the ground and lay like a corpse without sense or motion. She was supposed to sleep forever, but Cupid came forward and rescued her. He shut the cloud of sleep up again in the box and awakened Psyche with the light prick of one of his arrows.

Accepting the reality that he truly loved Psyche, he flew to the heaven and begged to the supreme god Jupiter to consider his case. So Jupiter, who had been defiled by Eros so many times, found on this occasion the opportunity to teach Cupid a lesson. But instead, he assured Cupid that his prayer would be granted. Zeus then called a council of the gods. There, in front of everybody, Jupiter requested Venus to forgive psyche. Venus could not refuse that request. She blessed Psyche wholeheartedly. Then upon Minerva’s (Greek equivalent: Athena, also: Athene) advice Jupiter decided to make psyche the last goddess of Olympia. A marriage ceremony was arranged to legitimise their relationship.

Thus after many trials Psyche and Cupid were united. And in due time they had a daughter born to them whose name was Pleasure/Volupta/ Hedone.


The fable of Cupid and Psyche is usually considered allegorical. The Greek name for a butterfly is Psyche, and the same word means the soul. There is no illustration of the immortality of the soul so striking and beautiful as the butterfly, bursting on brilliant wings from the tomb in which it has lain, after a dull, grovelling, caterpillar existence, to flutter in the blaze of day and feed on the most fragrant and delicate productions of the spring. Psyche, then, is the human soul, which is purified by sufferings and misfortunes, and is thus prepared for the enjoyment of true and pure happiness.

In works of ancient mosaics Psyche is represented as a maiden with the wings of a butterfly, along with Cupid. Sometimes a pair of Psyches is portrayed; the second is probably their daughter Pleasure.

The story of Psyche and Cupid has been the interesting subject of scrutiny for numerous literary artists. The 17th century English poet John Milton, for example, alludes to the story of Cupid and Psyche in the conclusion of his Comus:
"Celestial Cupid, her famed son, advanced,
Holds his dear Psyche sweet entranced,
After her wandering labours long,
Till free consent the gods among
Make her his eternal bride;
And from her fair unspotted side
Two blissful twins are to be born,
Youth and Joy; so Jove hath sworn."
The English Romantic poet John Keats alludes to the story of Cupid and Psyche in his Ode to Psyche:
"O latest born and loveliest vision far
Of all Olympus' faded hierarchy!
Fairer than Phœbe's sapphire-regioned star
Or Vesper, amorous glow-worm of the sky;
Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none,
Nor altar heaped with flowers;
Nor virgin choir to make delicious moan
Upon the midnight hours;
No voice, no lute, no pipe, no incense sweet,
From chain-swung censer teeming;
No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat
Of pale-mouthed prophet dreaming."


Khan, Farhad. An Encyclopedia of Classical Literature. Dhaka: Protik, 1996.

Bulfinch, Thomas. Bulfinch's Mythology: The Age of Fable, The Age of Chivalry, Legends of
Charlemagne. New York: Random House, 1934.

“Psyche.” Greek Mythology Link. 1997. Carlos Parada and Maicar Förlag. 30 March 2010
< http://homepage.mac.com/cparada/GML/Psyche.html >.

March 17, 2010

William Shakespeare


No writer in the history of world literature holds such a unique position as the Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare does. Shakespeare's works are highly remarkable for their graceful style and universally celebrated for their comprehensive understanding of human condition. Shakespearean works exhibit the power of literature to transport the audience into a magnificent word of mystery and fantasy. Shakespeare is definitely the unchallengeable master of romantic literature. His writings have proven that it is still possible to explore human life without presenting it realistically. He was quite aware of the classical formulas of writing, but opted to write in his individual style. His novel dramatic technique thought to have paved the way for the 20th century romantic movement. Following his style a number of great romantic writers such as Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Coleridge shaped their poetic career. His works of art have been entertaining for the last few centuries and still continue to amaze us with their artistic and universal appeal. His friend and fellow dramatist Ben Jonson could recognise his brilliance and wrote in praise of him:

"He was not of an age, but for all time!"

William Shakespeare is the first significant writer in English literature whose dramatic skill transformed ordinary human character and action into unforgettable piece of art. Such a writer cannot definitely stay out of criticism. As a result, we have a number of rumours about him that sometimes baffle us. One such tradition strangely declares that the Shakespearean dramas were not written by Shakespeare himself. According to this claim these plays were originally written by Francis Bacon, or the Earl of Oxford, or a syndicate of playwrights using the name of Shakespeare as pen name. Even sometimes it is doubted whether there exited a real person named Shakespeare. But such theories lack sound historical evidence.

Shakespeare’s writing style has been a subject of scrutiny for a number of critics. Many critics believe that some of his writings lack originality. The dramatist borrowed his raw materials largely from classical legend, history, and biography;Italian tales; English and Scottish chronicles; even older plays and folk tales. But all these old works were brilliantly transformed by a freshness of presentation. Mixing of different plots never made his plays incoherent. These dramatic reconstructions have become the most original creations of Shakespeare. The patterns of his plots are sometimes complex but always clearly woven. His characters are true to life and well developed. In his plays he mixed tragedy and comedy since they are mixed in human life.


Surprisingly, Shakespeare is the single most writer of his age to have such a rich amount of information about his life. But there are truly no authentic source to write an accurate biography for Shakespeare. Most of his biographies are written on the basis of assumptions.

Early Life

William Shakespeare (also spelled Shakspere, Shaksper, Shaxper, and Shake-speare, due to the fact that spelling in the Elizabethan times was not fixed and absolute) was born on or about April 23, 1564 in the village of Stratford-on-Avon in the country of Warwickshire. His birth is assumed to have occurred at the family house on Henley Street.The third of eight children, William Shakespeare was the eldest. His father John Shakespeare was a farmer’s son from the neighbouring village of Stratford. He came to Stratford about 1531 and began to prosper as a trader in corn, meat, leather, and other agricultural products. His mother Mary Arden was from a family much above her husband’s social status. She was the daughter of a prosperous farmer, descended from an old family of mixed Anglo-Saxon and Norman blood. It is generally believed neither of the parents could read nor write.


Little is known about Shakespeare’s formal education. The young Shakespeare probably attended the King Edward VI Grammar School in central Stratford, which educated the sons of Stratford citizens. The curriculum of that school was largely based on the study of Latin grammar and literature. Shakespeare’s writings evince that he was greatly influenced by the classical Latin writers like Ovid as well as other Latin works. But his real his real talent were greatly influenced by the men and natural surroundings of his village. He grew up in the beautiful village of Stratford with sights and scenery that could stir up anyone’s creative side. Many of his literary works reflect the beauty and splendour of his birthplace.

When Shakespeare turned 14 years old, his father lost his property and fell into debt. Shakespeare probably left school to help to support his family. But it is not exactly clear what occupation did he follow for the next eight years. However, a potentially reliable claim is that during his father’s financial decline Shakespeare had been a schoolmaster in the country.

At the age of 18 he married 26 year old Anne Hathaway (on November 27?, 1582), the daughter of a Warwickshire farmer. Now it is believed that young Shakespeare might have been involved in a love affair with Anne.There appears to have been some haste in arranging the ceremony, presumably because Anne was 3 months pregnant. The birth of a daughter six months after the marriage also provides some explanation for that quick arrangement.


After his marriage, Shakespeare left few traces in the historical record until he appeared on the London theatrical scene. Indeed, the late 1580s (years between 1585 and 1592) are known as Shakespeare’s “lost years” because no evidence has survived to show exactly where he was or why he left Stratford for London. On May 26, 1583, Shakespeare’s first child, Susanna, was baptised at Stratford. Twin children, a son, Hamnet, and a daughter, Judith, were baptised on February 2, 1585. Hamnet died in 1596. Sometime after the birth of the twins, Shakespeare apparently left Stratford, but no records have discoverd to reveal his activity between their birth and his presence in London in 1592, when he was already at work in the theatre. An unsubstantiated report claims Shakespeare left Stratford after he was caught while stealing deer in the park of Sir Thomas Lucy, a local justice of the peace. Another theory has him leaving for London with a theatre troupe that had performed in Stratford in 1587.

Life in London

Shakespeare’s initial life in London began as a humble one. Tradition claims that he used to hold the horses at the door of a theatre-house, where the gentlemen of rank and fashion came to enjoy performance on horseback. He got interested in the theatre from the very beginning and from outside he found his way to the inside of the theatre. He became an actor in minor parts until he gradually worked his way to a better position. Subsequently he was entrusted with the task of repairing the old plays, and in this task he received his apprenticeship in the dramatist’s craft. From 1592 his individual dramatic career began and gifted the world thirty seven plays, which are without question the richest treasure in English literature.

The theatre served Shakespeare’s financial needs very well. In 1597 he bought New Place, a substantial three-story house in Stratford. With the opening of the splendid Globe Theatre in 1599, Shakespeare’s fortunes increased and in 1602 he bought additional property: 43 hectares (107 acres) of arable land and 8 hectares (20 acres) of pasture north of the town of Stratford and, later that year, a cottage facing the garden at New Place. In 1605 he bought more property in a neighboring village. His financial activities can be traced, and his final investment is the purchase of a house in the Blackfriars district of London in 1613.

Last Years

After about 1608 Shakespeare began to write fewer plays. For most of his working life he wrote at least two plays a year; by 1608 he had slowed usually to one a year, even though the acting company continued to enjoy great success. In 1611 Shakespeare retired from London theatre and returned to his village, where he had established his family and became a prominent citizen. He lived there still his demise. He died on April 23, 1616 at the age of 52. He also died on his birthday, if the tradition that he was born on April 23 is correct. He was married to Hathaway until his death and was survived by his two daughters, Susanna and Judith. Susanna married Dr. John Hall, a doctor with a thriving practice in Stratford, in 1607. His younger daughter, Judith, married a Stratford winemaker, Thomas Quiney, in 1616. Shakespeare’s wife, Anne, died on August 6, 1623. Soon after her death, Susanna and John Hall moved into New Place, where they lived until their deaths, his in 1635 and hers in 1649. Their daughter, Elizabeth Hall, died childless in 1670. Judith Quiney had three sons, but none lived long enough to produce heirs, and she died in 1662. Thus, by 1670, the line of Shakespeare’s descendants had reached its end. There are no direct descendants of the playwright alive today.

Shakespeare was buried in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. He was granted the honour of burial in the chancel not on account of his fame as a playwright but for purchasing a share of the tithe of the church for £440. A monument placed by his family on the wall nearest his grave features a bust of him posed in the act of writing. Each year on his claimed birthday, a new quill pen is placed in the writing hand of the bust. It is assumed Shakespeare himself wrote the epitaph on his tombstone:

Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear
To dig the dust enclosèd here;
Bleste be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.

Shakespeare’s Plays

So far as is known Shakespeare had no hand in the publication of any of his works. Only 16 plays were published before his death. Almost all the plays of Shakespeare were printed posthumously by his fellow actors, John Heminges and Henry Condell in a volume called First Folio in 1623. They were published from Shakespeare’s original manuscripts, though several of them had been obtained from earlier published Quartos. The traditional division of his plays into tragedies, comedies, and histories follows the logic of the First Folio. It is at this point that stage directions, punctuation and act divisions enter his plays, setting the trend for further future editorial decisions. Modern criticism has also labelled some of his plays “problem plays” or tragi-comedies, as they elude easy categorisation, or perhaps purposefully break generic conventions. The term “romances” has also been preferred for the later comedies.

The exact date of composition of Shakespearean plays is a highly disputable issue. By using evidences of style, versification, and general tone it has been possible to arrange the plays in their chronological order. On the whole, there is a unanimity among the critics about this order. The dramatic career of Shakespeare has been divided into four sharply-defined periods and the plays of each period bear certain family resemblances.

(i) The First Period: This period covers the years 1588-1596. This was a period of apprenticeship and was largely experimental. The works of this period are immature and the style is often crude and artificial. The plays written in period are:

Titus Andronicus; Henry VI (three parts); Love’s Labour’s Lost; Comedy of Errors; Two Gentlemen of Verona; Richard III; Romeo and Juliet.

(ii) The Second Period: This period covers the years 1596-1600. It is the period of great comedies and chronicle plays. The plays written in this period shows rapid growth of his genius. These plays reflect a deeper understanding of human life and human nature. This is the period when he abandoned rime and used blank verse. The plays of this period are:

King John; The Merchant of Venice; Henry IV (Part I & Part II); Henry V; The Taming of the Shrew; The Merry Wives of Windsor; Much Ado About Nothing; As You Like It; and Twelfth Night.

(iii) The Third Period: This period includes the years 1601-1607. It is the period of the great tragedies, and of the sombre or bitter comedies. It is considered the supreme phase of Shakespeare’s literary career. This is the time when Shakespeare wrote his greatest masterpieces. At this stage his attention was largely confined within the darker sides of human nature. The plays of this period are:

Julius Caesar; Hamlet; All’s Well That Ends Well; Measure for Measure; Troilus and Cressida; Othello; King Lear; Macbeth; Antony and Cleopatra; Coriolanus; and Timon of Athens.

(iv) The Fourth Period: This period covers the years 1608-1612. It is the period of the later comedies or dramatic romances. The plays of this period reveals the decline of Shakespeare’s dramatic powers since they lack careful characterisation, plot construction, and versification. During this period Shakespeare changed his temper from bitter and gloomy to serene and peaceful. Beauty and calmness, forgiveness and reconciliation are the main noted of the plays of this period, which have been called “romances”. he plays written in period are:

Pericles (1608); Cymbeline (1609); The Winter’s Tale (1610-11); The Tempest (1611); Henry VIII (unfinished).


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

Evans, Ifor. A Short History of English Literature. London: Penguin Books, 1976

March 11, 2010



The intensity of any literary work largely depends on powerful imagination. It also depends on the effective execution of that very imagination in the pages of a literary work. Therefore, to visualise his/her imagination the poet/writer often employs various literary devices. The most effective and compelling of those is the use of imagery (a figure of speech). Imagery is used in literary works to refer to the ways the writers compose mental images in words. It signifies all the sensory perceptions used in a literary work, whether by literal description, allusion, simile, or metaphor. Imagery is not limited to visual imagery; it also includes auditory (sound), tactile (touch), thermal (heat and cold), olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), and kinesthetic sensation (movement). Imagery engages the reader’s imagination through wonderful descriptions or illustrations that vividly portray the reality of a particular moment. A literary work with effective imagery gives the reader a clear mental picture of what is happening and enhance what the writer is trying to convey to the reader. The main functions of imagery can be summarised in the following manner:
  • Imagery is used to concretise an abstract or inner state of mind.
  • Generally a poet’s/ writer’s imagery takes the form of similes and metaphors which are used either for effective communication of thought or decorative purposes.
  • Sometimes the poet/writer bases his imagery on literary descriptions.
  • It is not merely used to signify descriptions of visible objects and scenes.
  • Imagery is used to signify all the objects and qualities of sense perception.
  • It enables the poet/writer to draw/ create pictures in words.

March 4, 2010

The Behaviourist Theory


The Behaviourist Theory (also known Empiricism, Behaviourism, Behavioural Theory, Stimulus-response Theory) stands among the major theoretical perspectives within the field of first language acquisition. It began as a reaction against the introspective psychology of the late 19th and early 20th century and dominated the study of learning throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Although its ascendancy was blurred by the emergence of the Innate Theory in the mid 20th century, still today much language learning programmes firmly stands on the foundation laid by the Behaviourist Theory.

Theoretical Assumptions

The theoretical assumptions underlying the Behaviourist Theory are as follows:
  • Language learning is a habit formation resembling the formation of other habits. In other words, Language is learned in the way in which other habits are learned.
  • Language learning is nothing more than the acquisition of new behaviour or knowledge. It takes place when experience or practice causes a change in a person's knowledge or behaviour.
  • Language learning is an external event, because it involves an observable change in behaviour brought about by the stimuli coming from the environment. It does not involve any unobservable change in mental knowledge. All behaviours can be explained without the need to consider internal mental states or consciousness.
  • Only human beings have the capacity for language learning. They acquire a language as discrete units of habits, independently trained, not as an integrated system.

Background of the Theory

The behaviourist school of thought ran concurrent with the psychoanalysis movement in psychology in the 20th century. The Behaviourist Theory was first introduced in 1913 by the American psychologist John B. Watson. Watson is credited by some with coining the term "behaviourism". Watson’s view was largely influenced by the research of the Russian physiologist Ivan P. Pavlov during the early 1900s. The most influential version of this theory is put forward by B. F. Skinner in 1959. His version of Behaviourism is best known as Radical Behaviourism. Skinner, sought to give ethical grounding to behaviourism, relating it to pragmatism.

Types of Behavioural Learning

Experiments by the behaviourists identify conditioning as a universal learning process. Conditionings are primarily of two types, each yielding a different behavioural pattern:

1. Classical conditioning: This conditioning was first described by the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, in 1903 through his experiment on dogs. The general idea of Pavlov’s experiment is this: Pavlov presented dogs with food to examine their salivary response. He rang a bell just before serving the food. At first the dogs did not salivate until the food is served. However, when the bell was rung at repeated feedings, the sound of bell alone caused the dogs to salivate.

pavlov's-classical- conditioning

Thus in classical conditioning an unconditioned stimulus (food) is paired with a conditioned stimulus (bell). When they repeatedly occur in pair, the conditioned stimulus acquires the capacity to produce a conditioned response (salivation). Subsequently, the conditioned stimulus alone can produce a conditioned response.

Subsequently, it was studied in infants by John B. Watson. Like Pavlov, he was originally involved in animal research, but later became involved in the study of human behaviour. Watson believed that humans are born with a few reflexes and the emotional reactions of love and rage. All other behaviour is established through stimulus-response associations through conditioning.

Watson demonstrated classical conditioning in an experiment involving a young child (Albert) and a white rat. Originally, Albert was unafraid of the rat; but Watson created a sudden loud noise whenever Albert touched the rat. Because Albert was frightened by the loud noise, he soon became conditioned to fear and avoid the rat. The fear was generalised to other small animals. Watson then extinguished the fear by presenting the rat without the loud noise. Some accounts of the study suggest that the conditioned fear was more powerful and permanent than it really was.

2. Instrumental or Operant Conditioning: Expanding on Watson’s basic stimulus-response model, Skinner developed a more comprehensive view of conditioning, known as operant conditioning.Skinner’s model was based on the premise that effective language behaviour consists of producing responses (behaviours) to the correct stimuli (situation). When a response is followed by a reinforcer (reward) then it is conditioned to occur again. Thus operant conditioning was used by Skinner to describe the effects of the consequences of a particular behaviour on the future occurrence of the behaviour. Reinforcement and punishment are the core ideas of operant conditioning:

Reinforcement: A reinforcer is a stimulus (encouraging activity) that increases the frequency/occurrence of a response it follows. The act of following a response with a reinforcer is called reinforcement. Reinforcement (prize) can be classified into the following types:

(i) Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is the encouragement of a desired response (behaviour) by a pleasant stimulus. It increases the probability of the reoccurrence of the same response to the same situation. For example: If the child produces an alternative which is appropriate to the situation, the mother will reward him/her with some sign of approval (such as smiles, hugs, or food). This approval or reward will encourage him to repeat the same response to the same situation.

(ii) Negative Reinforcement: Negative reinforcement is the discouragement of an undesired response (behaviour) by an unpleasant stimulus. It decreases the probability of the reoccurrence of the same response to the same situation. For example: If the child produces an utterance which is inappropriate to the situation, he/she will not be rewarded. Consequently, the child will not repeat the same response to the same situation.

Punishment: Punishment is used to erase undesirable behaviours by presenting a distressing stimulus when the behaviour occurs. Punishment can be classified into the following types:

(i) Positive Punishment: An undesirable stimulus is received after a behaviour occurs. For example, if the learner fails to follow the class then he will be given detention.
(ii) Negative Punishment: A desirable stimulus is lost or removed after a behaviour occurs. For example, if the learner fails to follow the class rules then he will not be given any recess hour.

Thus, it is quite visible that the Behaviourist Theory (as propounded by Skinner) is represented as a “stimulus – response – reinforcement” chain. For better understanding, this chain can be demonstrated in the following illustration:


The Behaviourist Theory explains two major aspects. It firstly explains how the child produces speech. It secondly explains how he/she understands speech. Positive and negative reinforcement contain various adult utterances which function as discriminating stimuli for the production of the child’s responses (behaviours). When the child hears these adult utterances he/she tries to imitate them to produce his/her speech. The child earns the ability to understand a speech when he/she becomes able to produce an utterance which is appropriate to the situation. Reinforcement can come from different sources. The mother is the primary source of reinforcement because she has to take care of the child almost all the time. The people around him/her can also provide reinforcement.


Although sound in many ways, the theory is not free from limitations. The shortcomings of this theory are as follows:

Firstly, the Behaviourist Theory completely ignores the inborn aspect of human knowledge.
Secondly, the theory puts over emphasis on the role of imitation and ignores completely the creativity of the child, making him/her somewhat passive viewer than actor in the process of language acquisition.
Thirdly, the Behaviorist Theory seems to be somewhat mechanical in nature, since the child is considered a passive object.
Fourthly, it cannot develop the child’s problem solving skills. The child may find himself/herself in a situation where the stimulus to the correct response does not occur. In such cases the child won’t be able to respond.
Fifthly, it fails to explain how the child understands utterances he/she has never heard before, or produces new and unique utterances.
Finally, the Behaviourist Theory cannot explain how the child proceeds in his/her journey of language acquisition at such a young age.


The Behaviourist Theory came under fierce attack when Chomsky proposed his Innate Theory in 1959. Chomsky’s theory strongly proved that the child is not a tabula rasa; rather he is born with an innate capability to learn language. Nevertheless, along with all of its limitations, the Behaviourist Theory was able to govern the direction of the psychological explanation of language acquisition quite productively. After its emergence, this theory was passively accepted by the influential Bloomfieldian structuralist school of linguistics and produced some well-known models of foreign language teaching, most notably, the Audio Lingual Method. For many years, the concepts from the Behaviourist Theory formed the basis of most of the learning theory applied in child rearing and in classrooms. Parents and teachers still find that, in many instances, individuals do learn when provided with the appropriate blend of stimulus, reinforcement, and punishments. Especially with small children and simpler tasks, behaviourist principles are often effective. Thus, the contribution of the Behaviourist Theory as an explanation of child language development cannot be overlooked altogether.


“Behaviorism.” Funderstanding. 1998-2001. Funderstanding. 20 Sep 2008 < http://www.funder-
standing.com/behaviorism.cfm >.

“Behaviorist Learning Theory.” Innovative Learning. 2008. InnovativeLearning.com. 20 September 2008
< http://www.innovativelearning.com/educational_psychology/behaviorism/index.html>.

“Behaviorist Theories of Learning.” SIL International. 1999.SIL International. 22 August 2008
< http://www.silinternational.org/>.

“Classical Conditioning (Pavlov) .” Learning –Theories.com. 2008. Learning Theories.
< http://www.learning-theories.com/classical-conditioning-pavlov.html >.

“Instructional Design & Learning Theory.” University of Saskatchewan. 1994-2008.
University of Saskatchewan.22 August 2008< http://www.usask.ca/education/coursework/

“Learning Theories/Behavioralist Theories.” Wikipedia. 2008. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
20 September 2008 <http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Learning_Theories/Behavioralist_Theories>.

Recent Posts

Recent Posts Widget

Blog Archive

Random Articles