sexta-feira, 25 de março de 2011

Class 3 - Reading and Activities

Dear students:

Read the following dictionary entries from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries; how do they expose the historicity of concepts such as "literature" and "poetry"? After that, please do the following activities, in groups or in pairs, to be handed in next Friday (April 1).

Edmund Coote, The English School-master (1596)

Literature: learning.

Randle Cotgrave, A Dictionary of the French and English Tongues (1611)

Literature: f. Literature, learning.

John Bullokar, An English Expositor (1616)

Literature. Learning: knowledge in bookes.

Henry Cockeram, English Dictionary (1623)

Literature. Learning.

Edward Phillips, The New World of English Words (1658)

Literature: (lat.) knowledge in letters, learning.

John Kersey the younger, English Dictionary (1702)

Literature: skill in Letters, or learning.

* * *

John Bullokar, An English Expositor (1616)

Poesie: The writing of a Poet; a Poets worke.

John Kersey the younger, English Dictionary (1702)

A Poet: one that writes or makes verses.

John Kersey the younger, English Dictionary (1702)

A Tragick Poet: one well skill'd in the writing of tragedies.

John Kersey the younger, English Dictionary (1702)

A Bard: or old British Poet.

John Kersey the younger, English Dictionary (1702)

A Poetess: or female poet.

John Kersey the younger, English Dictionary (1702)

A Rimer: versifier, or riming poet.



1) In groups or in pairs, discuss the historicity of key concepts such as “literature”, “poetry”, “author”. Use Eliot’s, Koselleck’s and Eagleton's essays as a point of reflection, as well as the previous discussion we had last class.

2) Discuss and then give examples of the “coexistence”, such as Koselleck terms it, of "different eras" in the same historical “present”.

3) Considering that Shakespeare (as any other school-trained author of his time) had learned ancient Rhetoric and Poetics; had read Greek and Latin authors, such as Homer, Plutarch and Virgil; knew the Medieval epic and lyric poems not only of England, but also of France, answer the following questions:

a) How do you relate the case of Shakespeare with Eliot’s idea of “the conception of poetry as a living whole of all the poetry that has ever been written”?

b) How do you explain Eliot’s assertion that emotion “has its life in the poem and not in the history of the poet”?

Any doubt, send me an email. Next class, we will discuss further Eagleton's introduction to Literary Theory. Enjoy your readings and activities. ;)

terça-feira, 22 de março de 2011

Literary Theory: an Introduction

Terry Eagleton, British literary critic and scholar (1943-)

Dear students,

for next class, I'd like you to read the text I gave you by Terry Eagleton, his introduction to A Literary Theory.

Please take notes on your reading and bring them in for class discussion.

Enjoy your readings! ;)

quarta-feira, 16 de março de 2011

Preface to "Futures Past"

German historian Reinhart Koselleck (1924-2006)

Hey guys,

Koselleck's preface to his book Futures Past: on the Semantics of Historical Time can be read in the English translation if you access the Amazon site:

Anyhow, I left a copy of this text in the Portuguese translation in my folder. This text will be discussed next Friday along with Eliot's "Tradition and Individual Talent". Don't forget to bring in your notes.

Enjoy your reading! ;)

Tradition and the Individual Talent

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Dear students,

as I said last class, T.S. Eliot's essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent" (1919) is also available in the Internet; check out this site:

But I also left a printed copy of it in my folder; please don't forget to bring in your notes for class discussion next Friday.

Enjoy your readings. ;)

terça-feira, 15 de março de 2011

Why a blog?

Dear students,

now we have our Blog. Good news!

The purpose for keeping this blog is to facilitate communication and access to the texts we will be reading in class or for homework, and to keep you informed. Also, this is a space for you to leave your comments, to read literature in English, to enjoy the texts and the images you see here (I'll be posting paintings and pictures related to our class activities).

The name of the Blog is the title of one of my favorite poems by John Donne (1572-1631): "A Lecture upon the Shadow", published in London in 1633, two years after his death. I chose it as the name for the blog because I feel this image (of a lecture, or a teaching, about shadows) is very powerful, and makes us think about what a class on literature should be like. Are we just going to reproduce the old-fashioned ways of dealing with literature? Or are we going to be critical about what we read, about the decisions we make, the interpretations we construct, and so on? I'll definitely need your help and enthusiasm to make this class be as good, instructive and delightful as I intend it to be!

Please visit the sites I list here on the Blog; they will be very useful for you throughout the semester.

Enjoy your readings! ;)

"A Lecture upon the Shadow", by John Donne (1572-1631)

John Donne

STAND still, and I will read to thee
A lecture, Love, in Love's philosophy.
These three hours that we have spent,
Walking here, two shadows went
Along with us, which we ourselves produced.
But, now the sun is just above our head,
We do those shadows tread,
And to brave clearness all things are reduced.
So whilst our infant loves did grow,
Disguises did, and shadows, flow
From us and our cares ; but now 'tis not so.

That love hath not attain'd the highest degree,
Which is still diligent lest others see.

Except our loves at this noon stay,
We shall new shadows make the other way.
As the first were made to blind
Others, these which come behind
Will work upon ourselves, and blind our eyes.
If our loves faint, and westerwardly decline,
To me thou, falsely, thine
And I to thee mine actions shall disguise.
The morning shadows wear away,
But these grow longer all the day ;
But O ! love's day is short, if love decay.

Love is a growing, or full constant light,
And his first minute, after noon, is night.

Course Syllabus (to be updated...)

Introduction to Literature in English

Course Syllabus

Prof. Lavinia Silvares

Class days:

March – 11, 18, 25

April – 1, 8, 15, 29

May – 6, 13, 20, 27

June – 3, 10, 17

July – 1, 8 (?)

Total days: 16 (15 days of class + 1 day of assessment)


Prof. Lavinia Silvares

Teacher's room 21 (above the library staircase)

General plan:

Part I. Theory: Historical perspectives and the writing of literature

2 classes

Part II. Theory: The different genres of literary texts

2 classes

Part III. Reading: Literature 1 – Origins up to the 1700s

3 classes

Part IV. Reading: Literature 2 – Mid 18th century up to the 1850s

4 classes

Part V. Reading: Literature 3 – Mid 19th century up to contemporary literature in English

4 classes


1 class

Assessment method:

1 take-home individual assignment (40%)

1 in-class individual assignment (40%)

Weekly readings (20%)

General bibliography:

To be distributed in class and available at my folder

Additional information:

Study groups on Literature will be held every 15 days, on Fridays, from 6PM to 7PM

Student frequency requirement: 75%

Part I – Historical perspectives and the writing of literature

Class 1 (11/03). Introduction

  1. Notions of historical periods and literary movements: discussing the horizontal timeline as a system of representation.
  2. The historicity of "literature": the different genres and their functions; lyrical poetry; the epic; the satire; the essay; the novel; the short-story; drama etc.
  3. Perspectives on the construction of canon / pantheon / tradition
  4. The composition; the poet (poiétes); the reader: "O poeta é um fingidor. / Finge tão completamente / Que chega a fingir que é dor / A dor que deveras sente." (Fernando Pessoa, "Autopsicografia"). "the poet, like a painter or any other image-maker, is a mimetic artist" (Aristotle, Poetics, XXV)

Readings for next class:

Aristotle. Poetics, IX. London: Harvard University Press, 1995.

Koselleck, Reinhart. "Prefácio", in Futuro Passado: contribuição à semântica dos tempos históricos. Rio de Janeiro: Contraponto / PUC-Rio, 2006, p. 13-18.

Eliot, T. S. "Tradition and individual talent", in Selected Essays (1917-1932). New York: Harcourt, 1932, p. 3-11.

Assignment: write a paragraph (main ideas) for each text you read; be sure to bring it to class for discussion.

Class 2 (18/03). Reading, interpreting, discussing

  1. Discussion of texts read for homework
  2. Aristotle's Poetics: notions of "mimesis" (P., I), "poiein" (P., I), "poietés" (P., I), "drama" (P., III), "universal" (P., IX)

"A Poet is as much to say as a maker. And our English name well conforms with the Greek word: for of poiyin to make, they call a maker Poeta." (George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie, 1589, I: 1). "Poesie: an art not only of making, but also of imitation" (idem)

"Poetry is the expression of the imagination" (Shelley, A Defense of Poetry, 1821)

  1. "imitation" and "emulation": Cicero, Horace, Quintilian, Longinus
  2. The concepts of "author", "authorship", "authority"
  3. Rhetoric and Aesthetic
  4. Readings in class:
  1. Shakespeare: "Hold, hold, my heart; [...]" (in Hamlet, Act. I, Sc. v.), 1603
  2. Shelley: "To a Skylark" (in Prometheus Unbound), 1820

Readings for next class:

Burke, Peter. "Origins of Cultural History", in Varieties of Cultural History. UK: Cornell U. P., 1997, p. 1-22.

Chartier, Roger. "Mistério estético e materialidades da escrita", in Inscrever & apagar: cultura escrita e literatura. São Paulo: Ed. UNESP, 2007, p. 9-22.

Assignment: write a paragraph (main ideas) for each text you read; be sure to bring it to class for discussion.