October 11, 2012


Expressionism was an avant-garde literary and artistic movement developed in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. The term was first employed by the French painter, Julien-Auguste Hervé in 1901 and was subsequently applied to literature by Hermann Bahr in 1914. It came out as a revolt against Naturalism, which always searched for a precisely detailed realism. The expressionists, on the other hand, wanted to produce and make vivid their very own reality or their inner idea or vision of what they saw. They were more imaginative in handling of their subject matter. To them it was totally meaningless to produce a sole imitation of the world, and it is the very attitude (i.e. turning away from the physical reality) for which Expressionism could be deemed as the revival and development of the Romantic tradition. Expressionist drama introduced to a new approach to staging, scene design, and directing. Apart from drama, Expressionism is exhibited in many literary forms, including novel, short story, poetry, etc. The movement declined in 1930 with the rise of Adolf Hitler. Though existed for a short period, the movement exerted an epoch-making influence on modern art and literature.


Akin to romanticism, expressionism is not easy to define. In fact, there are no yardsticks to define it in a precise term. Generally speaking, in expressionistic literature the author seeks to depict a character’s or his own emotional experience by representing the world or nature as it appears to his state of mind rather than to present the world or nature in a realistic way. In other words, in Expressionism the author’s or the character’s subjective/private emotions and responses to a subject are emphasized rather than the objective surface reality of the subject. Lucidly speaking, the expressionists tend to transform nature rather than directly imitating it. For this reason, the depiction in Expressionistic works is a fantastic distortion or altered representation of reality as the author or the character reshapes the objective image into his mind's image (subjective image) to depict his own version of reality. Sometimes the author or his character suffers from a psychological conflict, such as depression or paranoia, which helps to alter his perception of reality.


There is no specific model or theory to distinguish the mode and temperament of the expressionist school of literature since the works of this movement represent a wide range of subjects. However, the major tenets of Expressionism are roughly as follows:  

Subjectivity: Expressionistic play tends to display an artist's internal, subjective experience to the world which is dominated by his own interpretation.  

Abstraction: It is the act of considering or evaluating something in terms of general characteristics or qualities apart from specific objects and concrete realities. Expressionistic play employs this device in its every aspect, such as plot, structure, setting, atmosphere, characters, etc. to provide a distorted view. Such a distortion helps to create a more personalized/imaginative reality from the visual world.  

Setting and Atmosphere: The setting and atmosphere in such play is vividly dreamlike, non-realistic, grotesque and nightmarish, where the depiction of life and the world is not photographically accurate as it often reflects the character’s state of mind which is often emotional, troubled, or abnormal.  

Plot and Structure: The plot and structure of the play tends to be disjointed and broken into episodes, incidents and tableaux, each making a point of its own. Instead of the dramatic conflict of the well made play, the emphasis was on a sequence of dramatic statements made by the dreamer, usually the author himself.  

Dialogue: The dialogue is often spoken in a sort of telegraphic style usually formed of short phrases of one or two words or expletives. Sometimes it also takes the form of long lyrical/poetic monologues.  

Unorthodox Characterization: the characters are developed as everyman since they are often represented as social groups/masses rather than particular person. Such characters were merely identified by nameless labels, such as The Man, The Father, The Son, The Billionaire, etc.  

Psychoanalysis: Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis provided many incentives for the expressionists to explore the subconscious forces in man. This becomes obvious in those plays where the study of deep and dark areas of the human soul gets priority.  

Pessimism: The expressionistic play depicts the hollowness, meaninglessness, loneliness and isolation of modern man’s life in mechanical, industrial, acquisitive society, which definitely points towards a pessimistic view of the human condition.  

Human Concerns: The writers sought to encapsulate the basic problems and issues of modern society with a view to reform it. These include:
  • Oppression, war, dehumanization, anarchy, political instability, sex pervasion.
  • Man’s predicament, struggle, sorrow and suffering.
  • Stress on mankind, on human values, and on the spiritual brotherhood of man.

Chief Representatives

It is a strange fact that although the Movement was developed in Germany, most of its precursors were not from German descendent. Moreover, several non-Expressionist writers also wrote literary works with Expressionistic note. Even after the decline of this movement, there were subsequent expressionist works from German and non-German writers.

Early Influences

The development of Expressionism was engendered by the following contributors:

August Strindberg (1849 – 1912)

August Strindberg

Swedish dramatist and novelist, whose work is characterized by its dark pessimism and dominance of emotion, instinct, and passion. Strindberg experimented with expressionistic ideas much earlier than the constitution of the expressionistic school of thought. He is, in fact, the forefather of Expressionism. Major expressionist plays by this author include To Damascus (1898-1904), The Dance of Death (1901), and The Dream Play (1902).  

Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939)

Sigmund Freud

Austrian physician, neurologist, and founder of psychoanalysis, a theory claiming that much of our thinking and acting is strongly influenced by unconscious processes, such as innate sexual and aggressive drives. Freud's psychoanalytical approach played an important role in the development of Expressionistic School of thought.  

Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961)

Carl Gustav Jung

Swiss psychiatrist, who is credited to be the founder of the analytical school of psychology. Jung expanded Freud's psychoanalytical approach, interpreting mental and emotional disturbances as an attempt to find personal and spiritual wholeness. His researches also provided much stimulus for the growth of the Expressionistic School of thought.

German Expressionists

Historians identify two different phases of Expressionism having independent principles of their own:

1. Mysticism/Pure Expres­sionism: The major themes of Mysticism was personal struggle, the everyman, and God. The Mystics prioritized the need for achieving personal emancipation rather than directing a social protest. The chief leaders of this phase include:  

Reinhard Johannes Sorge (1892 – 1916)

Reinhard Johannes Sorge

German dramatist and poet, whose work is noted for its pessimism. He is best known for writing the Expressionist play The Beggar (Der Bettler), which won the Kleist Prize in 1912.  

Fritz von Unruh 1885 – 1970

Fritz von Unruh

German dramatist, poet, and novelist. Amongst many of his plays Offiziere (Officers, 1911), Ein Geschlecht (A Family, 1916), and its sequel Platz (Place, 1920) are considered to be his best Expressionist works.

2. Activism: The activists, counter to the mystics, opted to explore the oppression, dehumanization and political issues of the time with a view to enacting a strong social reform. From this point of view their outlook could be identified as rational. The notable literary artists from this phase encompassed the following authors:  

Ernst Toller (1893 – 1939)

Ernst Toller

German playwright, who wrote plays of social protest in the style of expressionism. Best of his Expressionist works include Masses and Man (1920; trans. 1923, Brokenbow (1924; trans. 1926), Hoppla! Such Is Life! (1927; trans. 1928), and Pastor Hall (1939).
Georg Kaiser (1878 – 1945)

Ernst Toller

German dramatist, whose work deals with the impact of the modern machine age. Major Expressionistic drama by this dramatist include Morn to Midnight (1916; trans. 1922) and Der Silbersee (The Silver Lake, 1933).

Non-German Expressionists

Austrian (Czech) Expressionists

Franz Viktor Werfel (1890 – 1945)

Franz Viktor Werfel

Czech-born novelist, playwright, and poet, whose works deal with psychoanalysis, human behaviour, historical events, religious faith, heroism, human brotherhood and people’s way of dealing with values and ethical norms. Werfel became one of the chief representatives of Expressionism through his poetry. His subsequent works were mostly novels and dramas. Influenced by Expressionism in German drama, Werfel wrote The Goat Song (1921).  

Franz Kafka (1883 – 1924)

Franz Kafka

Czech novelist and short-story writer, whose central theme is various psychological conflicts, such as loneliness, and frustration reflected either in his central characters or in the society. His best works include The Metamorphosis (1915; trans. 1937), In the Penal Colony (1919; trans. 1941), The Trial (1925; trans. 1937), The Castle (1926; trans. 1930), and Amerika (1927; trans. 1938).
American Expressionists

Eugene Gladstone O'Neill (1888-1953)

Eugene Gladstone O'Neill

American playwright, whose The Emperor Jones (1920), The Hairy Ape (1922) and The Great God Brown (1926), were influenced by Expressionism. 

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

T.S. Eliot

Anglo-American poet and critic, whose work is mostly concerned with the spiritual bankruptcy of contemporary society. He is often labelled as an Expressionist for his long poem The Waste Land (1922).

Elmer Leopold Rice (1892-1967)

Elmer Leopold Rice

American dramatist, noted for his expressionist plays, including The Adding Machine (1923) and Street Scene (1929).  

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983)

Tennessee Williams

American playwright, novelist, essayist, short story writer, screenwriter, and poet who is renowned for his psychologically complex dramas that explore isolation and miscommunication within families and small groups of misfits and loners. Nowadays, his reputation rests on his three award-winning dramas—The Glass Menagerie (1944), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955).  

Arthur Miller (1915-2005)

Arthur Miller

American dramatist, much of whose play is conveyed expressionistically. Miller's major achievement in Expressionistic style was Death of a Salesman (1949) which won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for drama and the 1949 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for best play of the year.
Irish Expressionists

Seán O'Casey (1880-1964)

Seán O'Casey

 Irish dramatist, whose successful plays exhibit a mastery of language and an unsentimental sympathy for the poor. His later plays were more expressionistic, they include The Silver Tassie, Within the Gates (1934), Purple Dust (1940), Red Roses for Me (1942), and The Bishop's Bonfire (1955).  

James Joyce (1882-1941)

James Joyce

Irish author, whose work is marked for its psychological insight and inventive language. Joyce is considered as an Expressionist for his best known epic novel Ulysses (1922), which uses stream of consciousness.


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NB: This article was last modified on January 13, 2018

September 21, 2012

The veteran linguist Noam Chomsky liberated himself from the notion of behaviourism and tended to revive the age-old conception of innatism. The innate view proposes language learning as an innate ability. That is, human beings are inherently born with the propensity to attain a language.

The core assumption of this theory is that the innate propensity, which is represented by LAD or Language Acquisition Device, is activated when the child hears a language. The LAD consists of Language Universals or the rules or principles common to all human languages. Whenever the child hears a language, he/she tries her best to match them with the internal rules. The rules are capable of forming hypotheses about the rules of the child’s mother tongue. By gradual checking and re-checking of the hypotheses, the child is able to rectify or enlarge his/her language data. The innatists believe that the child alone can learn a language. He/she does not need feedback from others. It considers language learning as a creative activity.

Innatism is by far the most accepted & modern theory of L1 acquisition after behaviourism. The theory however, lacks sufficient scientific evidence since the idea of innate propensity is an abstract quality. It is not possible to prove its core assumption as strongly as behaviourism. Above all the theory is not as effective in the practical learning/teaching situations as it was supposed to be. It is believed that the child can learn correct language even if he/she is exposed to wrong language structure. But in reality it is not possible; researches have proven that the child tends to learn language more similar like the one he/she is exposed to.

July 30, 2012



Second of the 3 greatest ancient Greek writers of tragedy.
  • Full Name: Sophocles
  • Birth: 496 B.C. ?
  • Death: 406 B.C. ?
  • Cause of death: ?
  • Place of Death: Athens
  • Place of Birth: Colonus Hippius (now part of Athens)
  • Buried at: Family tomb near Deceleia
  • Father: Sophillus
  • Mother: ?
  • Siblings: ?
  • Marriage: ?
  • Spouse: Nicostrata (First Wife), Theoris (Second Wife)
  • Number of Children: 2 legitimate sons: Iophon (by first marriage), Ariston (by second marriage) and 3 illegitimate sons
  • Education: ?
  • Known for: bringing change in the spirit and significance of tragic plays by cleverly portraying the nature of man, his problems, and his struggles as the foremost interest while keeping the traditional religion and morality as the central source of theme
  • Criticised for: not dealing with religious problems as Aeschylus had nor with intellectual ones as Euripides had done
  • Influences: Euripides, Aeschylus
  • Influenced: Heiner Müller, William E. Connolly, Grigol Robakidze, Dominik Smole, Malcolm Lowry


“There are many wonderful things, but none is more wonderful than man.” Sophocles, Antigone

Major Themes:

  • Fate
  • The limits of free will
  • Divine laws
  • Pre-ordinance
  • Justice
  • Revenge
  • Pride
  • The threat of Hasty judgment
  • The threat of tyranny
  • False optimism
  • Ignorance
  • Madness
  • Human strife and struggle
  • Human sufferings

Notable Works:

Extant Plays
  • Oedipus Tyrannus (430 to 415 B.C.)
  • Oedipus at Colonus (produced posthumously in 401 B.C.)
  • Antigone (after 441 B.C.)
  • Electra (430 to 415 B.C.)
  • Trachiniae (after 441 B.C.)
  • Ajax (c. 451-444 B.C.)
  • Philoctetes (409 B.C.)
Fragmentary Plays
  • Aias Lokros (Ajax the Locrian)
  • Aias Mastigophoros (Ajax the Whip-Bearer)
  • Aigeus (Aegeus)
  • Aigisthos (Aegisthus)
  • Aikhmalôtides (The Captive Women)
  • Aithiopes (The Ethiopians), or Memnon
  • Akhaiôn Syllogos (The Gathering of the Achaeans)
  • Akhilleôs Erastai (Lovers of Achilles)
  • Akrisios
  • Aleadae (The Sons of Aleus)
  • Aletes
  • Alexandros (Alexander)
  • Alcmeôn
  • Amphiaraus
  • Amphitryôn
  • Amycos
  • Andromache
  • Andromeda
  • Antenoridai (Sons of Antenor)
  • Athamas (two versions produced)
  • Atreus, or Mykenaiai
  • Camicoi
  • Cassandra
  • Cedaliôn
  • Cerebros
  • Chryseis
  • Clytemnestra
  • Colchides
  • Côphoi (Mute Ones)
  • Creusa
  • Crisis (Judgement)
  • Daedalus
  • Danae
  • Dionysiacus
  • Dolopes
  • Epigoni
  • Eriphyle
  • Eris
  • Eumelus
  • Euryalus
  • Eurypylus
  • Eurysaces
  • Helenes Apaitesis (Helen's Demand)
  • Helenes Gamos (Helen's Marriage)
  • Herakles Epi Tainaro (Hercules At Taenarum)
  • Hermione
  • Hipponous
  • Hybris
  • Hydrophoroi (Water-Bearers)
  • Inachos
  • Iobates
  • Iokles
  • Iôn
  • Iphigenia
  • Ixiôn Lacaenae (Lacaenian Women)
  • Laocoôn
  • Larisaioi
  • Lemniai (Lemnian Women)
  • Manteis or Polyidus (The Prophets or Polyidus)
  • Meleagros
  • Minôs
  • Momus
  • Mousai (Muses)
  • Mysoi (Mysians)
  • Nauplios Katapleon (Nauplius' Arrival)
  • Nauplios Pyrkaeus (Nauplius' Fires)
  • Nausicaa, or Plyntriai
  • Niobe
  • Odysseus Acanthoplex (Odysseus Scourged with Thorns)
  • Odysseus Mainomenos (Odysseus Gone Mad)
  • Oeneus
  • Oenomaus
  • Palamedes
  • Pandora, or Sphyrokopoi (Hammer-Strikers)
  • Pelias
  • Peleus
  • Phaiakes
  • Phaedra
  • Philoctetes In Troy
  • Phineus (two versions)
  • Phoenix
  • Phrixus
  • Phryges (Phrygians)
  • Phthiôtides
  • Poimenes (The Shepherds)
  • Polyxene
  • Priam
  • Procris
  • Rhizotomoi (The Root-Cutters)
  • Salmoneus
  • Sinon
  • Sisyphus
  • Skyrioi (Scyrians)
  • Skythai (Scythians)
  • Syndeipnoi (The Diners, or, The Banqueters)
  • Tantalus
  • Telephus
  • Tereus
  • Teukros (Teucer)
  • Thamyras
  • Theseus
  • Thyestes
  • Troilus
  • Triptolemos
  • Tympanistai (Drummers)
  • Tyndareos
  • Tyro Keiromene (Tyro Shorn)
  • Tyro Anagnorizomene (Tyro Rediscovered).
  • Xoanephoroi (Image-Bearers)

Did you Know?

Despite being a commoner, his father Sophillus was a rich man; his wealth was derived from the ownership of slaves employed in various manufactures, especially armour

Sophocles was well educated in all of the arts prevailed in old Greek system, including poetry, dance, gymnastics, philosophy, music, mathematics, astronomy, law, athletics and military tactics

He was well versed in Homer and the Greek lyric poets

Sophocles was an active, engaging man throughout his whole life; he was known as the “Attic Bee” for his diligence

Besides Aeschylus and Euripides, Sophocles is that great Greek tragedian whose work has survived into modern times

Sophocles was the younger contemporary of Aeschylus and the older contemporary of Euripides

In 468 B.C. at the age of twenty-eight Sophocles defeated Aeschylus at the Dionysian dramatic festival; with this victory, Aeschylus left for Sicily and Sophocles’ dramatic career started and continued to secure a number of consecutive victories

During his career he never won less than second prize

In 441 B.C. Euripides defeated Sophocles at the Dionysian dramatic festival

 He was the most-awarded writer in the dramatic competitions of ancient Athens; his total victories are greater than the combined wins of Aeschylus and Euripides

Now a days his reputation firmly rests upon Oedipus Tyrannus, the tragic story of the mythical figure Oedipus, whose name was adopted by Freud to explain his concept of Oedipus Complex

At the age of 16, due to his youth, good looks, and performing ability, he was picked to a paean (choral chant) about the victory of the Battle of Salamis

In total, Sophocles wrote 123 plays, of which only 7 complete tragedies survive these days; besides, fragments exist for 80 to 90 other pieces

Oedipus at Colonus, the second of his best pieces was produced posthumously

Sophocles was the only playwright of his time who did not perform in all of his plays, owing to his weak voice

Sophocles married twice. His first marriage was with a woman named Nicostrata, by whom he became the father of Iophon. Somewhat late in life he formed a connection with a certain Theoris, a woman of Sicyon, by whom he had a son called Ariston

It is assumed that Sophocles had three other illegitimate sons, though nothing is known about them

His two sons: Iophon and Ariston were also writers of tragedy

Towards the end of his life, Iophon sued against Sophocles to prove him mentally incompetent in order to get the administration of his property. To prove his sanity, Sophocles recited a portion of the then unpublished Oedipus Coloneus. He was off the charges since the jury could ascertain that no incompetent person could write such beautiful words

Sophocles had a strong appetite for carnal pleasure and it remained the same until he was very old

Akin to many Greek men of that time, Sophocles had a liking for handsome youths

Towards the end of his life, Sophocles fell in love with the courtesan named Archippe, whom he made heiress of his property but ultimately she lost it to Sophocles' relatives

When Archippe’s former lover learnt about her relationship with the old Sophocles, he wittily described it through the following lines:

“like a night-owl among the tombstones,
 like a horned owl over corpses,
 so my girl now sits with Sophocles.”

A series of myths exist about the manner of his death. According to some, he was choked by eating grapes sent him by the actor Callippides at the time of the Anthesteria. Some others said that he died while reading Antigone aloud by trying to deliver a long sentence without taking a breath. Again, few others ascribed his death to excessive joy at the success of his Antigone in competition

After his demise, he was buried in the family tomb on the way to Deceleia, about a mile from Athens, and over his tomb the figure of a siren was erected

He was not politically active or militarily inclined, but the Athenians elected him twice to high military office

Besides being a tragedian, Sophocles was also an actor, a military commander, a field general, a priest, a politician, and a treasurer

He was very religious-minded and he transformed his home in worship place for the healing god Asclepius, while a temple was being built


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July 12, 2012

Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer

14th century English poet, philosopher, courtier, civil servant and diplomat.
  • Full Name: Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Also Known as: Father of English Literature
  • Birth: 1343?
  • Death: 1400?
  • Cause of death: ?
  • Place of Death: ?
  • Place of Birth: London, England?
  • Buried at: Westminster Abbey, London
  • Father: John Chaucer
  • Mother: Agnes Copton
  • Siblings: 1 Sister (Katherine Chaucer)?
  • Marriage: 1366?
  • Spouse: Philippa Roet
  • Number of Children: 2 Sons ? (Thomas Chaucer and Lewis Chaucer) & 2 Daughters ? (Elizabeth Chaucer and Agnes Chaucer)
  • Education: ?
  • Known for: elevating the prestige of English as a literary language as well as increasing the range of its poetic vocabulary and metres
  • Criticised for: his lack of seriousness (According to Matthew Arnold)
  • Influences: Guillaume de Lorris (c. 1200 – c. 1240), Jean de Meun (c. 1240 – c. 1305), Dante Alighieri (c. June 1, 1265 – September 14, 1321), Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300 – April 1377), Giovanni Boccaccio (June 16, 1313 – December 21, 1375), and Jean Froissart (c. 1337 – c. 1405)
  • Influenced: Thomas Hoccleve (c. 1368–1426), John Lydgate (c. 1370 – c. 1451), Sir Thomas Malory (c. 1405 – 14 March 1471), John Skelton (c. 1460 – 21 June 1529), Robert Henryson (c. 1425 - c. 1500), Edmund Spenser (c. 1552 – 13 January 1599), William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616), and John Dryden (9 August 1631 – 1 May 1700)


“What is better than wisdom? Woman. And what is better than a good woman? Nothing. “Tale of Melibeus” (The Canterbury Tales)

Major Themes:

  • Courtly love
  • Romance
  • Sin
  • Social class
  • Corruption of the Church
  • Christianity
  • Patience
  • Decadence
  • Feminism
  • Sex and adultery
  • Male-female marriage
  • Justice and judgement
  • The human pursuit of transitory earthly ideals
  • The dilemma of fate verses free will

Notable Works:

  • The Book of the Duchess (about 1370?)
  • Troilus and Cressida (about 1385?)
  • The Canterbury Tales (about 1386?)
  • The Parliament of Fowls (about 1382?)
  • The Knight's Tale (from the Canterbury Tales) (about 1386?)
  • The House of Fame
  • The Legend of Good Women ( about 1386?)
  • Treatise on the astrolabe
  • Truth (about 1390?)
  • Gentilesse
  • Merciles Beaute
  • Lak of Stedfastnesse
  • Against Women Unconstant

Did You Know?

  • The historians are divided into their opinions about the exact date of Chaucer’s birth.
  • Generally it is assumed that he was born between 1343 and 1446.
  • The historians are in complete darkness about Chaucer’s death. According to one tradition, he died of natural causes, possibly tumor. Still another tradition relates that he was murdered by enemies of Richard II or his successor, Henry IV.
  • Geoffrey Chaucer grew up on Thames Street in London, England.
  • Little is known about his educational background. He probably attended a school attached to a local church named Saint Paul's Cathedral to have some education in Latin and Greek and may have studied law at the Inns of Court.
  • His father and grandfather were both London wine makers; several previous generations had been merchants in Ipswich.
  • Most possibly in 1366 he married a fellow courtier named Phillipa Pan.
  • It is assumed that Chaucer was fluent in several languages, including French, Italian, and Latin.
  • Since Chaucer was the first poet to write authoritatively in English, John Dryden called Chaucer "the father of English poetry," and honoured him as highly as the Greeks honoured Homer and the Romans honoured Virgil.
  • Although he spent most of his life in and around the court, he had to work a succession of jobs— as a page, a soldier, an esquire, a diplomat, a customs controller, justice of the peace, member of Parliament, Clerk of the Works of Westminster, Commissioner of Walls and Ditches, and Deputy Forester of the Royal Forest to support himself.
  • According to legal records, in 1380 Chaucer was accused of the raptus (which could mean either rape or kidnapping) of a woman named Cecilia Chaumpaigne. However, in court she dropped all of the charges and released him of all of his actions in the case of her rape.
  • After his death, he was buried in the South Transept of Westminster Abbey, which was definitely a rare honour for a commoner like him. Since then that very part became known as the Poet's Corner.
  • Chaucer's first published work was The Book of the Duchess, a poem of over 1,300 lines.
  • Although he wrote a number of stories and poems over the course of his lifetime, today his reputation chiefly rests upon The Canterbury Tales.
  • He never finished his masterpiece The Canterbury Tales and even the completed tales were not finally revised. Scholars are uncertain about the order of the tales. As the printing press had yet to be invented when Chaucer wrote his works, The Canterbury Tales has been passed down in several handwritten manuscripts.
  • In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer's characters are psychologically so complex that the work has also been called by the scholars the first modern novel.
  • Chaucer was the first English writer to write in the language of the people, the vernacular English, rather than Latin or French, the languages used for most literary writings in the 1300s.
  • Chaucer contributed a lot to increase the prestige of English as a literary language and extended the range of its poetic vocabulary and meters.
  • He was the first English poet to use the seven-line stanza in iambic pentameter known as rhyme royal and the couplet later called heroic.
  • For the English Renaissance, Chaucer was the English Homer. Edmund Spenser paid tribute to him as his master and many of the plays of William Shakespeare show thorough assimilation of Chaucer's comic spirit.
  • His family name derives from the French term chausseur, meaning "shoemaker".
  • There’s a crater on the far side of the moon named Chaucer which has been named in honour of Chaucer.


“Biography of Geoffrey Chaucer.” GradeSaver. 1999-2012. GradeSaver LLC. 8 July 2012
< http://www.gradesaver.com/author/geoffrey-chaucer/>.

David, Alfred. “Geoffrey Chaucer.” Microsoft Encarta. DVD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft, 2005.

 “Fast Facts about Geoffrey Chaucer.” Geoffrey Chaucer Information. 2003. Brendan Benson. 8
July 2012 < http://www.angelfire.com/mi3/chaucer/resume.html>.

“Geoffrey Chaucer Biography.” Bio.com. 1996–2012. A+E Television Networks, LLC. 8 July 2012
< httphttp://www.biography.com/people/geoffrey-chaucer-9245691>.

“Geoffrey Chaucer.” Wikipedia. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 8 July 2012
< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Chaucer>.

“Geoffrey Chaucer.” The Middle Ages Website. 2012. The Middle Ages Website. 8 July 2012
< http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/geoffrey-chaucer.htm>.

“Geoffrey Chaucer.” eNotes.com. 2012. eNotes.com, Inc. 8 July 2012
< http://www.enotes.com/authors/geoffrey-chaucer>.

Gray, Douglas. “Chaucer and the Growth of Vernacular Literature.” Oxford DNB.
2004-2012. Oxford University Press. 8 July 2012
< http://www.oxforddnb.com/public/themes/94/94766.html>.

“Little Known Facts about Geoffrey Chaucer.” Smithsonian Journeys. 2012. Smithsonian Journeys. 8 July
2012 < http://www.smithsonianjourneys.org/blog/2010/09/13/geoffrey-chaucer/>.

“Person Sheet: Catherine Chaucer.” Ancestry.com Community. 2012. Ancestry.com Community. 8 July
2012 < http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~barbpretz/PS01/PS01_316.HTM>.

“The Canterbury Tales and Other Works by Geoffrey Chaucer.” Librarius. 2012. Librarius.
8 July 2012< http://www.librarius.com/>.

July 6, 2012

Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold

Leading English poet, literary & social critic, and essayist of the Victorian age.
  • Full Name: Matthew Arnold
  • Birth: December 24, 1822
  • Death: April 15, 1888
  • Cause of death: Heart Failure
  • Place of Death: Liverpool
  • Place of Birth: Laleham, Middlesex
  • Buried at: All Saints' Churchyard, Laleham, Middlesex
  • Father: Thomas Arnold
  • Mother: Mary Penrose Arnold
  • Siblings: 6 (three sisters and three brothers)?
  • Marriage: 1851
  • Spouse: Frances Lucy Wightman
  • Number of Children: 6
  • Education: Rugby School; graduated from Balliol College, Oxford in 1844
  • Known for: his classical criticism on the socio-cultural matters of England, especially the manners of the class structure which was comprised of three major classes: the “Barbarians” (the aristocracy), the “Philistines” (the middle class), and the “Populace” (the lower class)
  • Criticised for: not incorporating sufficient original ideas of his own in the critical studies
  • Influences: William Wordsworth, John Keats. Goethe, Sainte-Beuve, and Cardinal Newman
  • Influenced: T. S. Eliot, Lionel Trilling, Harold Bloom, Robert Pinsky W. B. Yeats, James Wright, Sylvia Plath, and Sharon Olds


“Our society distributes itself into Barbarians, Philistines, and Populace; and America is just ourselves, with the Barbarians quite left out, and the Populace nearly.” Culture and Anarchy (1969)

Major Themes:

  • Nature
  • Melancholy in life
  • Loss of religious faith
  • Loss of love
  • Sharp Discrimination between Intellectual and Moral Truth
  • Arnold's own essential homelessness in the Victorian world
  • Past present and future of Britain
  • Separation and hopelessness
  • Confusion in life

Notable Works:

  • The Strayed Reveller, 1849
  • Empedocles on Etna, 1852
  • Poems, 1853
  • Poems, Second Series, 1855
  • "The Modern Element in Literature," inaugural lecture at Oxford, November 1857
  • Merope, a Tragedy, 1858
  • On Translating Homer, 1861
  • The Study of Celtic Literature (lectures), 1867
  • Essays in Criticism (1st series), 1865
  • New Poems, 1867
  • Culture and Anarchy, 1869
  • St. Paul and Protestantism, 1870
  • Friendship's Garland, 1871
  • Literature and Dogma, 1873
  • God and the Bible, 1875
  • Last Essays on Church and Religion, 1877
  • Essays in Criticism (2nd series), 1888

Did you Know?

  • Matthew Arnold was born in 1822, the same year that Percy Shelley was drowned
  • He died in 1888, the same year that T. S. Eliot was born
  • Although Matthew Arnold began his literary career as a poet, nowadays he is chiefly remembered for his critical essays
  • Arnold invested only a quarter of his productive life to writing poetry
  • Even though Arnold is considered one of the major poets of the Victorian Era, behind Alfred Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning, he was not recognized in his own time
  • Matthew Arnold was 26 years old when his first book of poetry appeared
  • He published his first book of poetry The Strayed Reveller (1849) anonymously. Then he published his second book Empedocles on Etna (1852). But he was so dissatisfied with these books that ultimately withdrew them from circulation
  • As a lecturer Arnold was disappointing, both because of his awkward manner and the feebleness of his voice, which was inaudible to the greater part of his audience.
  • During travels in 1848, he met and fell in love with a French woman, but they did not marry.
  • Arnold went to 2 different Colleges: Winchester College and Balliol College.
  • After graduating from Balliol College at Oxford in 1844, Arnold accepted a teaching post at the university.
  • In 1857 Arnold was elected to the professorship of poetry at Oxford, and he held this post for the next decade. He was the first professor of poetry to give his lectures in English rather than in Latin
  • He was the Head chairman of Poetry at Oxford University.
  • He was a Private Secretary to Lord Lansdowne.
  • In 1851 he was appointed inspector of schools, a position he held until shortly before his death within two years
  • He died on a sudden heart attack in 1888 in Liverpool while walking with his wife to catch a tram to meet his beloved daughter, who was arriving on a boat from the USA
  • Several of Arnold's early poems express his hopeless love for a girl he calls Marguerite. Scholars have been unable to identify an original for this girl, and whether she existed at all is a question
  • Some of Arnold's most attractive poems are addressed to his children
  • Arnold himself could apprehend that his talent was not as great as the other major poets of his time, and therefore, he completely abandoned poetry during the airy heights of his career and tend to write literary criticism instead
  • He is often considered to be the founding father of academic criticism in English, and the principles for literary criticism
  • His longest poem is "Empedocles on Etna,"
  • Matthew Arnold had six children by his wife, three of whom died in childhood.
  • When Wordsworth died in 1850 Arnold published his "Memorial Verses" in Fraser's Magazine to pay a homage to the deceased poet


“Classic Literature Writer.” About.com. 2012. About.com. 20 June 2012
< http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-bio/bl-marnold.htm >.

Cummings, Della. “Biography of Matthew Arnold.” Athens Academy. 2012. Athens Academy.
20 June 2012 < http://www.athensacademy.org/teachers/asweetapple
/2008/Cummings_PoetryWeb/bio.htm >.

Kunitz, Stanley. “Matthew Arnold: A Biography.” The Victorian Web. 2012. The Victorian Web.
20 June 2012 < http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/arnold/index.html>.

“Matthew Arnold.” Poets.org. 1997-2012. Academy of American Poets. 20 June 2012
< http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/88>.

“Matthew Arnold.” Yahoo Education. 2009. Yahoo! Inc. 20 June 2012 .
“Matthew Arnold Biography.” Dromo's Den. 2012. Dromo's Den. 20 June 2012
< http://www.dromo.info/arnoldmbio.htm >.

“Matthew Arnold.” MatthewArnold. 2012. Tangient LLC. 20 June 2012
< http://matthewarnold.wikispaces.com/Interesting+Facts >.

“Matthew Arnold (1822 - 1888) Short Biography.” Adnax Publications. 2012.
Adnax Publications. 20 June 2012 < http://www.adnax.com/biogs/ma.htm>.

“Matthew Arnold | Biography.” BookRags. 2012. BookRags, Inc. 20 June 2012
< http://www.bookrags.com/biography/matthew-arnold/>.

May 9, 2012

In Greek mythology, Pandora (Also called Anesidora: the sender of gifts) was the first human woman on earth, apart from the gods, goddesses, and human males. Zeus ordered Hephaestus (also spelt: Hephaistos; Roman equivalent: Vulcan) to create her to punish both Prometheus and humankind for the theft of fire from the chariot of Helios (Roman equivalent: Sol). Hephaestus moulded a perfectly shaped beautiful female figure with earth and water while Aphrodite (also called: Cytherea; Roman equivalent: Venus) posed as a model.

Then Zeus breathed life into the clay statue. Zeus ordered all of the gods each to give her a gift. Accordingly, Aphrodite gave her unparalleled beauty, grace and desire. Hermes (Roman equivalent: Mercury), the messenger god, gave her a cunning, deceitful mind and a crafty tongue. Athena (Roman equivalent: Minerva) dressed her in a silvery gown, covered her face with an embroidered veil and adorned her hair with bright garlands of fresh flowers and an ornate silver crown. Besides, Athena also taught her needlework and weaving. Poseidon (Roman equivalent: Neptune) presented her a pearl necklace that would prevent her from drowning. Apollo taught her to sing sweetly and play the lyre. The Graces and Peitho (Roman equivalent: Suadela) gave her necklaces of gold. Zeus (Roman equivalent: Jupiter, also called: Jove) gave her an imprudent, mischievous, and idle nature. Hera (Roman equivalent: Juno) gave her the wiliest gift, curiosity. Finally, Hermes named her Pandora, which means “the one who bears all gifts", because each god gave her a unique gift. With all such splendid gifts and luxurious attire, Pandora almost looked like a goddess of Olympus. She was indeed the most beautiful mortal woman ever created.

pandora carried off by mercury

Ahead of sending her to earth, Hermes presented Pandora with an artistically crafted golden box. He told her that the box contained special gifts from Zeus. But he strictly forbade her to open the box under any circumstance. Zeus then ordered Hermes to take Pandora to Prometheus and offer her as his wife. Prometheus, who had the gift of foresight, became suspicious about Hermes’ grand entrance with lovely Pandora. Therefore, Prometheus refused to accept her under the excuse that she lacked prudence. Then Hermes took her to Epimetheus, the brother of Prometheus, to be his wife. Prometheus warned Epimetheus not to accept anything from the Gods. But upon first sight of Pandora, Epimetheus was totally enthralled by her beauty and forgot his brother’s warning. Consequently, he accepted her as his wife and the couple settled down for a happy conjugal life. But Pandora always wondered what was in the box. Pandora tried to repress her curiosity for long but subsequently failed to hold it anymore. She opened the box, and from it flew hate, anger, sickness, poverty, and every bad thing in the world. Pandora was scared, because she saw all the evil spirits coming out and tried to close the box as fast as possible, closing hope inside.


Variations in the Story:

This popular myth appears in numerous versions. For instance, difference is seen with the box’s presenter, presentee as well as its opener. In some accounts it is mentioned that once Prometheus captured all the evil things in a box and gave it to his brother Epimetheus’ custody for its safekeeping. One day his wife Pandora found it and out of curiosity opened it. Thus she accidentally released all the evil things. However, few other tales recount that it was Epimetheus who opened the box not Pandora. Variations are also seen in the nature of the contents of the box. In some variants, Zeus actually sends Pandora with great gifts or blessings for mankind rather than evils. According to these views, all the good things of the world were inside the box, just as they were inside humans. When Pandora released the good things, they left humans as well. They would have been preserved for the human beings if they not been lost through the opening of the box. The only thing that stayed forever is hope, because Pandora managed to capture hope before it flew from the box as well. However, there are still some accounts where hope did escape from the box.

Influence on Art and Literature:

The legend of Pandora has been a valuable inspiration for numerous works of arts. The legend is captured in pottery and carvings from ancient Greece as well as in classical paintings, frescos, mosaics, and sculptures. Many modern paintings and sculptures too are inspired by this myth. This myth also reflected in works of classical Greek literature. In literature, the Pandora myth first envisaged in Theogony (Genealogy of the Gods), an epic poem written by the Attic poet Hesiod written circa 8th–7th centuries BC. Then it appeared more explicitly in Works and Days, a didactic poem by the same poet. Archaic and classical Greek literature seem to make no further mention of Pandora, though Sophocles wrote a satyr play Pandora, or The Hammerers of which virtually nothing is known. Sappho may have made reference to Pandora in a surviving fragment. In the 21st century this popular legend was adopted in the motion picture of Lara Croft Tomb Raider: the Cradle of Life (2003). In this movie the Pandora’s Box has been portrayed as an ancient relic.


















Did You Know?

In earlier accounts Pandora’s Box was actually a jar, called “pithos” in Greek. This jar became a box in the 16th century, when the Renaissance humanist Desiderius Erasmus translated a story of Pandora from Hesiod's work. In his endeavour, Erasmus mistranslated the Greek term pithos into the Latin word pyxis, meaning "box". And the jar remained as a box till these days.

Significance of Pandora’s Box

The Pandora myth chiefly describes the emergence of all sorts of evils on earth which was engendered by the creation of women. In this way, the Pandora myth reverberates the theological story of Adam and Eve. The story metaphorically explores the dangers of curiosity and disobedience. Pandora’s Box is also seen as the symbol of female sex organs. This is because there is a popular belief that women can utilize their sex organs to lead men to all sorts of trouble. These days the term Pandora’s Box symbolizes something that holds or releases evil. Opening Pandora's Box implies creating serious trouble that cannot be undone.


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

“Pandora's Box.” ThinkQuest. 2012. Oracle ThinkQuest Foundation. 3 April 2012
< http://library.thinkquest.org/C0119204/pandora.html>.

"Pandora." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2012. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia
Britannica Inc. 24 March 2012.

“Pandora.” Wikipedia. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 3 April 2012
< http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandora>.

“Pandora's Box.” Myths and Legends. 2006. E2BN. 3 April 2012
< http://myths.e2bn.org/mythsandlegends/origins562-pandoras-box.html>.

“The Myth of Pandora's Box.” Greek Myths & Greek Mythology. 2012. Greek Myths & Greek
Mythology. 3 April 2012
< http://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/pandoras-box-myth/>.

“The Myth of Pandora's Box: The First Woman Unleashes Evil on the World.” suite101. 2012.
suite101. 3 April 2012
< http://christopher-minster.suite101.com/the-myth-of-pandoras-box-a91577>.

March 30, 2012


In phonetics, a diphthong is a gliding monosyllabic speech sound that starts at or near the articulatory position for one vowel and moves to or toward the position of another.


Diphthongs present greater difficulty to people learning English because during the articulation of such vowels the tongue travels between two fixed locations. It is important to know exactly what to do with the speech organs, (•the position of the tongue • lip-shape and tension •size of mouth opening) in each location and the manner and direction of the movement.

Vowel sounds are more difficult to define in articulatory terms than consonants and the number of vowels that can be produced by human speech organs is fairly great. Therefore, to help identify vowels in different languages, phoneticians use a series of reference vowels, called cardinal vowels with which to compare them. The Cardinal Vowel System was designed by the phonetician Daniel Jones as a means of establishing fixed reference points for the phonetic description of vowel quality. It has become customary to locate cardinal vowels in a four-sided figure as illustrated below:

Having established the cardinal vowel diagram as a basic system of reference we can now proceed to a brief description of diphthongs of English and of their distribution in a manner similar to that used in the case of consonants.


There are eight English diphthongs altogether. It is useful to distinguish them between centring and closing diphthongs:

A. The first three diphthongs are centring diphthongs. They have the neutral "shwa" vowel sound /ə/, which occurs in grunting noises and the weak forms of "the" and "a", as the finishing position.

/ɪə / ইয়া : This diphthong starts with a front unrounded vowel situated between cardinal vowels 1 [i] and 2 [e] and then moves towards the central unrounded vowel / ə / between half-close and half-open position. The diphthong is distributed in all three basic positions:

/eə/ এয়া : This diphthong starts with the front unrounded vowel / e / and then moves towards and then moves towards the central unrounded vowel / ə / between half-close and half-open position. The diphthong is distributed in all three basic positions:

/ʊə/ উয়া : This diphthong starts with the back rounded vowel / ʊ / and then moves towards the back rounded vowel / ʊ / between close and then moves towards the central unrounded vowel / ə / between half-close and half-open position. This diphthong is distributed only in medial and final positions:

B. The next three diphthongs are closing diphthongs. They have the vowel sound /ɪ/ in "pit" or "if" as the finishing position.

/eɪ/ এই : It starts with a front unrounded vowel situated between cardinal vowels 2 [e] and 3 [ε]and then glides to a front-close vowel / ɪ / in between cardinal vowels 1 [i] and 2 [e]. The diphthong is distributed in all three basic positions:

/aɪ/ আই : It is the diphthong that actually implies the amplest articulatory movement of the speech organs that starts from the position of an open vowel between front and back (similar to ʌ in cut) and then glides towards / i /. The diphthong is distributed in all three basic positions:

/ɔɪ/ অই : This diphthong starts from a half-open back vowel, situated between cardinal vowels 6 [ɔ] and 7 [o] and ends in a front-close vowel / ɪ /, somewhere in the vicinity of cardinal vowel 1 [i]. Like the preceding diphthong, it also involves an ample articulatory movement from a back vowel to the front part of the imaginary vowel chart. It is distributed in all three basic positions:

C. The last two diphthongs are also closing diphthongs. The have the back rounded vowel / ʊ / as the finishing position.

/əʊ/ ওউ : This diphthong starts with the central unrounded vowel / ə / and then moves towards the back rounded vowel / ʊ/ between close and half-close position. It is distributed in all three basic positions: old, gold, flow:

/aʊ/ আউ : This diphthong starts with an open back rounded vowel (similar to ɑ: ) and then moves towards the rounded vowel /ʊ/ between close and half-close position. It is distributed in all three basic positions: ouch, loud, bough:


Diphthongs and long vowels differ from each other in a number of ways. We can differentiate them in the following manner:
  • The basic difference between diphthongs and long vowels is that whereas the former is a gliding vowel, the later is a pure vowel. During the articulation of long vowels the tongue stays at one fixed location in the mouth. But in the case of diphthongs the tongue is not stationary; rather it moves one position to another.
  • Diphthongs and long vowels can be distinguished from one another with regard to phonetic representation. Though diphthongs are single speech sounds, they are usually represented, in a phonetic transcription of speech, by means of a pair of characters indicating the initial and final configurations of the vocal tract.
  • Long vowels are independent. But diphthongs are dependent, because they do not have any individual starting points, they always start either from a short or long vowel or vowels with similar qualities.
  • Lastly, we can distinguish diphthongs from long vowels in relation to quantity. Whereas diphthongs are eight in number, the long vowels are only five in number.


Bengali language is renowned for its wide varieties of diphthongs or vowel combinations. But the parameters we generally use to produce these diphthongs are quite different than those of English ones. Majority of Bengali diphthongs posses different starting and ending points. As a result, all of these combinations cannot be compared to English diphthongs. Therefore, in Bengali we have only two diphthongs- /ঐ/ and /ঔ/, which are very much similar to the English- /ɔɪ/and /əʊ/.

/ / : This diphthong starts from a half-open back vowel, situated between cardinal vowels 6 [ɔ] and 7 [o] and moves towards close and half-close position, somewhere in the zone of cardinal vowel 1 [i]. For example: বউ [wife], নৌকা [boat]

/ / : The starting point for this diphthong is central position between half-close and half-open position. Then there is a glide towards close and half-close position, somewhere in the area of cardinal vowel 8 [u]. For instance: কই [where], নৈতিক [moral]


“Diphthongs.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. 29 March 2008

“English Diphthongs.” Pétur Knútsson. 2008. Pétur Knútsson. 29 March 2008

“English Diphthongs.” Ted Power. 2008. Ted Power. 29 March 2008

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

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