1.1. Aims of the unit.
1.2. Notes on bibliography.
2. THE IMPACT OF CINEMA ON THE DIFFUSION OF LITERARY WORKS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
2.1. A history of literature and cinema.
2.1.1. A history of literature.
18.104.22.168. Earlier times: religious sources and oral tradition.
22.214.171.124. The eleventh century : epic and elegy.
126.96.36.199. The twelfth century: romance and lyric.
188.8.131.52. The thirteenth century: lyrics and prose.
184.108.40.206. The fourteenth century: spiritual writing vs. secular prose.
220.127.116.11. The fifteenth century: morality plays.
18.104.22.168. The sixteenth century: the Tudor and Elizabethan Age.
22.214.171.124. The seventeenth century: The Stuart Age and the Enlightment.
126.96.36.199. The eighteenth century: the Victorian Age.
188.8.131.52. The nineteenth century: the Augustean Age and the Romantics.
184.108.40.206. The twentieth century up to the present day.
2.1.2. A history of cinema up to 1895.
220.127.116.11. Earlier times.
18.104.22.168. The seventeenth century.
22.214.171.124. The eighteenth century.
2.2. From the birth of cinema (1895) up to the present day.
2.2.1. The film era: three main stages.
126.96.36.199. The Silent Film Era.
188.8.131.52. The Golden Age: the sound era.
184.108.40.206. The Second Golden Age: the ‘movie brats’.
2.3. Cinema and literature: literary adaptations.
2.3.1. Main subjects and stories.
220.127.116.11. The Western.
18.104.22.168. The musical.
22.214.171.124. Crime: gangsters and film noir.
126.96.36.199. Science fiction.
188.8.131.52. Love stories.
2.3.2. Main techniques.
2.3.3. Main similarities and differences.
3. MAIN EDUCATIONAL IMPLICATIONS.
1.1. Aims of the unit.
The present unit, Unit 61, aims to provide a useful introduction to the impact of cinema on the diffusion of literary works in the English language. In doing so, we aim at reviewing the historical development of literature and the cinema throughout time so as to analyse how the cinematic genre has helped the literary genre to expand at a high speed all over the world and to bring to life literary works which may be part of reality, such as ancient history (Troia , featuring Bradd Pitt) or social conflicts (In the Name of the Father , featured by Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford) or part of fiction (X-Men, featuring Will Smith).
In this presentation we shall try to answer the question of ‘What was first? Literature or cinema?’ At first sight, one might say that it was literature since most films are based on literary works. Yet, the answer is that both of them trace back to ancient times, and hence, it is almost impossible to pinpoint the exact date. Nowadays, most historians agree that the literary genre is linked to man’s first attempts of communication through language and therefore, oral transmission literature in the past within religious and magic practices whereas the story of cinema traditionally traces back to “the ancient Greeks and moving shadows” (Parkinson,
1995). Yet, there is a question in the air: ‘Could the Homo Sapiens discover the true magic of
cinema with moving shadows on the walls of primitive caves before they could speak?’
So, these considerations will be reflected in the organization of Chapter 2 , which is divided into three main sections: first, regarding the history of both literature and cinema, in which literature is overviewed from its origins up to nowadays, and the cinema just to 1895 (only in this section), the date of its birth since the majority of film experts agree that “cinema began with the cinematographic show of Louis and Auguste Lumière on 28 December 1895” (Parkinson,
1995:17); and finally, the relationship of cinema and literature in terms of similarities and differences.
Then, the first part on (1) a history of literature and cinema will offer (a) a history of literature from its origins to the present day in terms of literary age and literary genres in (i) earlier times through religious sources and oral tradition; (ii) the eleventh century, with epic and elegy; (iii) the twelfth century, with romance and lyric; (iv) the thirteenth century, with lyrics and prose; (v) the fourteenth century, with spiritual writing vs. secular prose; (vi) the fifteenth century, with morality plays; (vii) the sixteenth century, under the Tudor and Elizabethan Age; (viii) the seventeenth century, representing the Stuart Age and the Enlightment; (ix) the eighteenth
century, with the industrial revolution in the Victorian period; (x) the nineteenth century, half romantic and half Victorian; and finall, (xi) the twentieth century up to the present day, with modernims and experimentalism. Similarly, we shall start a journey through (b) a history of cinema, to see how it developed into this century’s most popular form of entertainment, as well as into an art form in (i) the early years, (ii) the seventeenth and (iii) eighteenth century.
The second part, (2) from the birth of cinema up to the present day will present (a) the three main stages in film era, that is, (i) the Silent Film Era, (ii) the Golden Age or sound era, and (iii) the Second Golden Age, which coincided with a new generation of fim- makers, nicknamed the
‘movie brats’. These three stages will be described in cinematographic and historical terms,
since the three of them coincided with important historical benchmarks at international level. Finally, the last section will introduce (3) the relationship of cinema and literature in terms of (a) subjects and stories; (b) main techniques, and (c) similarities and differences.
Chapter 3 will be devoted to the main educational implications in language teaching regarding the introduction of this issue in the classroom setting. Chapter 4 will offer a conclusion to broadly overview our present study, and Chapter 5 will include all the bibliographical references used to develop this presentation.
2.1. Notes on bibliography.
An influential introduction to the impact of cinema on the diffusion of literary works in the English language is based on Richard, Cinema (1992); Shiach, The Movie Book. An Illustrated History of the Cinema (1993); and Parkinson, The Young Oxford Book of Cinema (1995). Historical information is drawn from Goytisolo Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible heritage of Humanity (2001), Palmer, Historia Contemporánea (1980); Brogan, The History of the United States of America (1985); Cook & Paxton, European Political Facts of the Twentieth Century (2001); and Philips, Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich (2002).
On the present-day literary background, relevant works are: Fiedler, Love and Death in the American Novel (1960); Bradbury & Temperley, Introduction to American Studies (1981); Rogers, The Oxford Illustrated History of English Literature (1987); Magnusson & Goring, Cambridge Biographical Dictionary (1990); Byron, Murder Will Out, The Detective Fiction (1990); Ousby, The Crime and Mystery Book. A Reader’s Companion (1997); Keating, Writing
Crime Fiction (1988); Ward & Trent, The Cambridge History of English and American
Literature (2000); and VanSpanckeren, Outline of American Literature (2004).
The background for educational implications is based on the theory of communicative competence and communicative approaches to language teaching are provided by the most complete record of current publications within the educational framework is provided by the guidelines in B.O.E. (2004) for both E.S.O. and Bachillerato; the Council of Europe, Modern Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common European Framework of reference (1998); and van Ek and Trim, Vantage (2001). Other sources include Enciclopedia Larousse
2000 (2000); Enciclopedia Encarta CD Rom (2004); and Encyclopedia of World Literature in
the 20th Century (1999).
2. THE IMPACT OF CINEMA ON THE DIFFUSION OF LITERARY WORKS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
Chapter 2 is divided then into three main sections: (1) the origins of literature and cinema up to
1895, regarding (a) the story of cinema and (b) the story of literature in terms of literary age and literary genres; (2) from the birth of cinema up to the present day regarding (a) the three main stages in film era, that is, (i) the Silent Era, in which there was nor sound or colour; (ii) the Golden Age, in which sound arrived to the screen, and finally, (iii) the Second Golden Age, which coincided with a new generation of film- makers, nicknamed the ‘movie brats’. These three stages will be described in cinematographic and historical terms, since the three of them coincided with important historical benchmarks at international level. Next section addresses the relationship of (3) cinema and literature regarding literary adaptations in terms of (a) main subjects and stories; (b) main cinema techniques adapted from literature, and finally, (c) main similarities and differences.
2.1. The origins of literature and cinema up to 1895.
2.1.1. A history of literature.
184.108.40.206. Earlier times: religious sources and oral tradition.
We may say that literature holds timeless universal human truths which can be read or listened to without regard to historical context of its production, and without regard to particular historical moment in which we read, listen and make meaning of it. For Malinowsky, a relevant anthropology figure, language had only two main purposes: pragmatic and ritual. The former refers to the practical use of language, either active (by means of speech) or narrative (by means of written texts) and the latter is concerned with the use of language associated to ceremonies, and also referred to as magic. As seen, we can already mark a distinction here between ordinary and literary language since both had different purposes.
As Juan Goytisolo (2001) stated in his speech at the Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible heritage of Humanity, we must first examine our historical knowledge of both oral and written cultures so as to provide ourselves a cultural identity in society. Since ancient times, tribal chiefs, chamans, bards and story-tellers have been in charge of preserving and memorising for the future the narratives of the past, so Goytisolo further points out that acquiring knowledge of this primary orality is an anthropological task in the field of literature and oral narrative. The usual forms of popular and traditional expression were oral literature, music, dance, games, mythology, rituals, marketplaces, festivals and even architecture, and for our purposes, the cinema nowadays.
Earlier works in Britain, Britannia, England.
Then when examining earlier works that took place in Britain (under the influence of Celtic people), Britannia (under the rule of the Roman Empire) and England (Anglo-Saxon England), we realise that literature is written language since human settlement preceded recorded history by some millennia, and Old English works (namely epic and lyric) preceded writing by some generations. Thus, the earlier inhabitants of the island, the Celts (also known as Britons) passed on no written literacy to their conquerors since they had an oral literary tradition; yet, later on, the Romans brought about to the island the art of writing through their historical literary accounts, for instance, Tacitus’s Germania (AD 98) or St Jerome’s vulgate edition of the Bible (AD 384).
Next, the Germanic tribes (the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes) were illiterate so their orally- composed verses were not written unless they formed part of runic inscriptions. When the Roman empire faded, the Saxons did not have to exchange their Germanic tongue for Latin although Latin was the language of those who taught them to read and write. So, the English learned to write only after they had been converted to Christ (the process of Christianization) by missionaries sent from Rome in AD 597.
In fact, there is no evidence of Old English writing that is not Christian, since the only literates were clerics. Linguistically and historically, the English poems composed by Caedmon after 670 and Bede (AD 676-735) are the earliest we know about. Hence, oral poetry (epic) was an art which had evolved over generations and was considered to be an art of memorable speech. It dealt with a set of heroic and narrative themes in a common metrical form, and had evolved to a point where its audience appreciated a richly varied style and storytelling technique (Alexander,
Just as the orally-composed poetry of the Anglo- Saxons was an established art, the Roman missionaires were highly literate. Bede’s work makes it clear that the evangelists sent by Pope Gregory in AD 597 to bring the gospel to the Angles were an élite group, for instance, St Augustine and his most influential successor, the Syrian Greek Theodore of Tarus (Archbishop of Canterbury, 669-90). According to Alexander (2000), this hybrid culture found literary expression in an unmixed language, in which the English took few words from the languages of Roman Britain (except for Celtic names of rivers and the Roman words ‘wall’ and ‘street’).
Christian literature in Anglo-Saxon England.
Christian literature in Anglo-Saxon England is represented by different types of literary productions, such as verse paraphrases of Old Testament stories (Caedmon’s Genesis and Exodus, Daniel and Judith, 657-80), lives of saints (Andrew or Helena), historical lives of contemporaries (St Guthlac, Cuthbert of Lindisfarne), sermons, wisdom literature or, finally, doctrinal, penitential and devotional works, such as The Dream of the Rood, a substantial English verse carved in c. 700 in the Vercelli Book found in Northumbria.
Yet, the figure of Alfred, the fourth son of the King of Wessex from 871, proves highly relevant in the development of literacy in Anglo-Saxon England, not only because he defended his reign against the Danes who had overrun all the English kingdoms except his own, but also because he translated wisdom books into English. Alfred may cast an interesting light on literacy as well as on literature since he reported that “when he came to the throne he could not think of a single
priest south of the Thames who could understand a le tter in Latin or translate one into English” (Alexander, 2000). Looking backwards at the great learning that had been in Roman Britain, the king tried to improve and increase the number of literature works under his reign by means of translating Latin works into English ones.
Alfred had some needful wise authors to carry out this task, for instance, Augustine (354-430), Orosius (earlyl fifth century), Boethius (c. 480-524), and Gregory (c. 540- 604). Since Old English verse was namely oral to record written laws, Alfred established English as a literary language in authorising versions of essential books from Latin into English prose. Hence we find such works (AD 878) as Bede’s Eclesiastical History, Orosius’ Histories, Gregory’s Pastoral Care and Dialogues, Augustine’s Soliloquies and Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy.
According to Alexander (2000:27), “Alfred’s educational programme for the laity did not succeed at first but bore fruit later in the Wessex of this grandson Edgar, who ruled 959-76. After the Ages of Bede and Alfred, this is the third clearly-defined Age of Anglo-Saxon literature, the Benedictine Revival, under Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury 960- 88, himself a skilled artist. Bishop Aethelworld made Winchester a centre of manuscript illumination. In its profusion of manuscripts the Wessex of Dunstan, Aethelwold and Aelfric is better represented today than the more remarkable early Norhumbria of Bede. In this period English prose became the instrument for a flourishing civilisation, with scientific, political and historical as well as religious interests. It was in this second Benedictine age, towards AD 1000, that the four poetry manuscripts were made: the Vercelli Book, the Junius Book, the Exeter Book and the Beowulf manuscript”.
Beowulf, elegies and battle poetry.
These three works represent the starting point towards the end of the Old English period. First, the epic poem of Beowulf 1(c. 909), a poem of historic scope telling of heroes and of the world (human and non-human), is considered to be the first great work of English literature and like other epics, it has a style made for oral composition, rich in formulas. It shows the English the world of their ancestors, the heroic world of the north, a world both glorious and heathen since
1 The poem Beowulf was found in a manuscript of the late 10th century, but was probable composed two centurias earlier, and it is set in a world more than two centuries earlier still, on the coasts of the Baltic,
the north-west Germanic world from which the English had come to Britain (Alexander, 2000).
Yet, the most striking early English poems are the Elegies of the Exeter Book, which are divided into heroic elegies (i.e. ‘The Wanderer’ and ‘The Seafarer’) and love elegies (i.e. ‘The Husband’s Message’, ‘The Wife’s Complaint’). This type of poems are dramatic monologues whose speaker is unnamed and whose soliloquy moves from his own sufferings to a general lament. Finally, battle poetry is relevant in this period because German warriors were said to recite poetry before battle, according to the Roman historian Tacitus.
So, as we can see, Alfred’s translation programmed had developed into a body of discursive native prose as it has been reflected in the works mentioned above. This was extended in the
10th century and this prose gave way to impressive political and legal writings which provided
the laity with the religious and civil materials long available to the clergy in Latin. Then, by
1000 the humane Latin culture which developed between the renaissance of learning at the court of Charlemagne and the 12th century renaissance, had found substantial expression in English.
There were changes in the nature of the language, notably the use of articles, pronouns and prepositions instead of final inflections, which made verse composition more difficult. The millenium was a period of cultural growth but of political decline. The reign of Ethelred II (978-
1016) saw an artistic revival, but there were disunity and Danish invasions (The Viking Age). The conquest of England by Vikings and then by Norman kings disrupted cultural activity, and changed the language of the rulers. Yet, Latin remained the language of the church, but the hierarchy was largely replaced by Normans, and English uses were done away with. But how did the Norman Conquest affect medieval literature?
220.127.116.11. The eleventh century: epic and elegy.
As stated above, the eleventh century was characterized by the use of epic and elegy within literary works. Yet, the Norman Conquest (1066) meant the establishment of a new social, political, economic, cultural, linguistic and even literary situation in which the type of works were to be changes as well into romance and lyric. Therefore, the language of the new rulers, French, displaced English as the medium of literature and also influenced the way of writing.
There is evidence that William the Conqueror tried to learnt English, but he gave up. On the other hand, Saxons dealing with him had to learn French, and French became the language of the court and the law for three centuries in such as way that the Normans spoke Norman French, which was commonly known in England as Anglo-Norman.
In fact, the linguistic situation during the eleventh century and early twelfth centuries is described as a relationship of ‘vertical bilingualism’ (or sometimes called trilingualism, if we consider the role of Latin). This situation describes the coexistence of two (or three) languages, which were not wholly mixed up. Possibly, this mix appeared in mercantile centres or perhaps as a desire to look socially sophisticated.
This promotion of French was impinged by several historical factors, such as the existence of a close connection between the Norman nobility in England and Normandy; the expansion of the Dukedom of Normandy when King Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine (AD 1152) and gained the state of Brittany, and therefore, the King of England controlled two thirds of France; and the development of courtly literature in French by wish of Eleanor, among others.
So, educated men for the next three centuries were trilingual, and many homes bilingual. Literature in English suffered then a severe disruption in 1066 since the classical Old English verse died out, just to revive later on in a very different form, romance, whereas prose continued in the form of sermons within the clergy.
18.104.22.168. The twelfth century: romance and lyric.
As stated above, when the classical Old English verse died out, it revived in a very different form, romance , and the prose developed in a lyric form. When this new writing appeared, it was in an English which had become very different from that of the eleventh century. The reasons for this include the lack of any written standard to discourage dialectal variety, scribal practice, linguistic change and, above all, a new literary consciousness. This is the background for the first of our works to comment on, the Arthurian legend under oral tradition.
According to Alexander (2000), “the change in literary sensibility after 1100 is often characterized as a change from epic to romance”, where ‘romance’ is defined as “a kind of medieval story, originally from stories written in romauns, or vernacular French”. Actually, it was such a novelty that William I’s minstrel Taillefer is said to have led the Normans ashore at the battle of Hastings declaiming the ‘Chanson de Roland’, which is a ‘chanson de geste’ (song of deeds). Also, in c. 1200 a Norman from Jersey called Layamon dedicated an Old English heroic poem (‘Brut’) to Eleanor of Aquitaine. This poem was based on the French ‘Roman de Brut’ (1155) by Wace, a canon of Bayeux, who in turn based his work on Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae. Yet, the main literature works were the Arthurian legend and courtly literature.
The Arthurian legend.
It was this latter author, Geoffrey of Monmouth who, in AD 1135 (c.1130-6), wrote ‘Historia Regum Britanniae’ and, unconciously, created the Arthurian legend by means of a wonderful historical romance, in which the Arthur of literature belongs to the age of chivalry and the Crusades after 1100. Yet, according to the historian Gildas and his work ‘Excidio Britanniae’ (c.550), there was a Romanized Celtic chieftain called Ambrosius Aureliano, who became a Celtic (British) hero agains the Saxon invasion in west part of Britain.
Later on, another British author, called Nennius (c.800) reported about this chieftain, and said that he became a servant of Vortigern (under the influence of a spell) to defeat the Saxons. Then, in the same report it is said that a man called Arthur led his warriors to victory in twelve successful battles against the Saxons, the latter taking place at Mons Badonicus in today’s Wales (Asimov, 1990:47). So, later oral legends created King Arthur, his Knights of the Round Table, and even Camelot was set up as the legendary capital of Arthurian reign in Cadbury Hill (Wales).
It was in northern France that the legends of Arthur, his Round Table and the Quest for the Grail improved before they re-crossed the Channel to the northern half of the Norman kingdom. Note that although the Normans conquered southern Scotland, Wales and Ireland, they did not include in the Arthurian story2. Geoffrey’s work was quite a popular story until the Renaissance, and a popular legend afterwards. Note that the character of Merlin in this story has Celtic origins, since he is an enigmatic figure related to ancient druids.
Geoffrey’s legendary history of the island of Britain was put into English by Layamon, a parish priest at Arley Regis in Worcestershire, an area where old verse traditions lasted. His work was written in 14,000 lines and makes no distinction between the British and the English, thus allowing the English to regard Arthur, their British enemy, as English. Although his talent was for narrative, he employed old formulas with less economy when describing Arthur’s death. In
2 The plot is based on the fact that “the kings of Britain descend from Brutus, the original conqueror of the island of Albion, then infested by giants. This Brutus is the grandson ofAeneas the Trojan, from whom Virgil traced the kings of Rome. Brutus calls Albion ‘Britain’, after his own name, whose capital is
New Troy, later called London. The Romans conquer Britain, but the Britons, under Lucius, reconquer
Rome. They fight bravely under king Arthur against the Saxon invader, but Arthur, poised to conquer Europe, has to turn back at the Alps to put down the revolt of his nephew Mordred. Fatally wounded at the battle of Camla nn, Arthur is taken to the island of Avalon, whence, according to the wizard Merlin’s prophecies, he shall one day return. Geoffrey stops in the sixth century at King Cadwallader, after whom the degenerate Britons succumbed to the Saxons” (Alexander, 2000:39).
repeated in Malory’s Morte Darthur (c.1470), who also tried to compile the main body of
Arthurian legends into narrative.
So, during the eleventh and thirteenth centuries there was a change from ‘gestes’ (songs of res gestae, Lat. ‘things done’) to romances of chivalry as part of the rise of feudalism. Hence, a knight’s duty was to serve God and the King with a religious orientation and a legal force, which was not just an honour-code in literature. So, the concept of chivalry was considered to be historical as well as literary and its cultural prestige was spread through Romance.
As we can see, ‘Romances’ were tales of adventurous and honourable deeds, such as at first were deeds of war and later on, to defend ladies or to fight for them. Soon they developed into courtly literature and began as a courtly genre, a leisure pursuit, like feasting, hunting, reading, playing chess, or love itself. The warrior gave way to the knight, and when the knight got off his horse he wooed the lady. In other words, in literature the pursuit of love grew ever more refined (Alexander, 2000:40).
The French rulers enjoyed romances of antiquity, about Thebes, Aeneas, Troy and Alexander and, actually, Benoît de Sainte-Maure produced a 30,000- line ‘Roman de Troie’ (1165) at the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Such popular stories made reference to classical themes full of marvels (Rome), but Arthurian romance was even more popular with French ladies and hence, the first developments of Geoffrey’s Arthurian legend material were in French.
As we will see, the romance is a lasting legacy of the Middle Ages, not only to works of fantasy in later centuries (such as Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene or the Gothic novel but also to such marvellous but pseudo-realist works as Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Samuel Richardson’s Pamela).
22.214.171.124. The thirteenth century: lyrics and prose.
The thirteenth century was just about to bring changes at all levels when, shortly after AD 1200, England lost an important part of her possessions abroad. The Loss of Normandy would have, for our purposes, linguistic consequences, such as the loss of prestige of Norman-French and Anglo-Norman. Consequently, the maintenance of French into some kind of artificial language had an influence on the literary productions in that period, namely on lyrics and prose. Yet, this nationalistic feeling did not extend to the King and courtly nobility, but linguistically speaking, the loss of prestige of Norman French and Anglo-Norman reinforced the functional use of English, the use of Latin as the official language for records, and the adoption of Norman French by native English speakers.
Literature, then, reflected this situation at two main levels, first, by showing the relevance of medieval institutions and authority; and second, by means of lyrics and English prose. Regarding the former, The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer shall look at institutions and mental habits which shaped this new English literature. Nowadays, modern literature is mostly concerned with secular life and lay people, but for over a thousand years, thought, culture and art in Europe were promoted by the Church. The clergy were the source of education at that time as well as of arts and literature.
Second, regading the latter, lyrics and English prose dominated the literature scene at that time. Thus, these two new academic attitudes inspired clerical literature, such as The Owl and the Nightingale (early 13th century), which became the bird of love in Provençal lyrics of the early
12th century. The refinement and abundance of Provençal song- literature is unmatched in North
French and English lyric. Hundreds of medieval lyrics remain in manuscripts which can be roughly dated, but composition and authors are usually unknown. In addition, rhyme is first found in Church hymns, but late religious lyrics appear with the fifteenth century literature.
126.96.36.199. The fourteenth century: spiritual writing vs. secular prose.
During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries new historical events, such as the Hundred Years’ War, the Black Death and the Peasants’ Revolt, reinforced the national feeling which had ensued the loss of Normandy and led the inhabitants of the island to a general adoption of English. On the other hand, the bubonic and pneumonic plague ravaged Europe in the mid fourteenth century and, its effects were felt at all levels, particularly the social and economic ones since the drastic reduction of the amount of land under cultivation became the ruin of many landowners. Therefore, the shortage of labour implied a general rise in wages for peasants and, consequently, provided new fluidity to the stratification of society and afforded a new status to the middle and lower social classes, whose native language was English.
Linguistically speaking, the consequences of these events were to be felt in a general adoption of English in the late fourteenth century. Already in the late thirteenth century, the English language was virtually understood and actively used by everyone, but it was not recognized in official, legal, governmental or administrative affairs. Hence, among the historical events of the fourteenth century which led to a gradual use of English in these high domains, we may highlight the use of English in a will, instead of Latin, for the first time (1383) and later on, in an official petition to Parliament (petition of the London Mercers’ Guild, 1386).
It is in this environment where spiritual writing vs. secular prose comes into force, as well as the Ricardian poetry, and Geoffrey Chaucer’s works. Thus, we can namely distinguish spiritual writing, which seeks a disciplicine of the spirit to become closer to God, and secular prose, which was used for practical matters in general terms. So, spiritual writing is represented by Richard Rolle (c.1300-49), who included in his English writings (Song of Songs, Form of Living, Ego Dormio) allegorical commentaries, poems and prose marked by a musical rhetoric, and also Walter Hilton (d.1379) who also addressed the spiritual life in his writings (The Scale of Perfection). On the other hand, secular prose appeared when reformers started to translate the Bible into English since they had to produce an English Vulgate so literal as to be almost unreadable.
In fact, according to Alexander (2000), apart from The Peterborough Chronicle in 1154, English secular prose –non-religious prose-, other prose writers of interest were Sir John Mandeville and Margery Kemp who, after a religious conversion, wrote her confessional testament in The Book of Margery Kempe (revised in 1436). Similarly, The Paston Letters were the correspondence of a 15th-century Norfolk family which was subject to study years after.
The reign of Richard II (1372-98) saw the flowering of a mature English poetry in Middle English. Besides lyric and religious prose of the highest quality, Arthurian verse romances were spirited in the Stanzaic ‘Morte’ (c.1390) and the Alliterative ‘Morte’ (c.1400). The revival of English alliterative verse produced at least two crucial poems, ‘Piers Plowman’ (c.1377) by William Langland and ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, which was found with three other fine poems (Patience, Cleanness and Pearl) in the ‘Gawain’ manuscript (c.1390). Each poem is strikingly original and intelligent, but ‘Gawain’ must stand here for all. On the other hand, verse drama was also popular, although surviving texts are 15th century (Alexander, 2000).
Yet, according to Rogers (1987:39), the most important contributions to the literature development in this century were made by two ‘courtly makers’, that is, Chaucer and Gower. On the one hand, John Gower (1330-1408) contributed with the appearance of an assured syllabic verse in his long poems and, on the other hand, Geoffrey Chaucer contributed with the establishment in English of the decasyllabic verse of France and Italy: in the ‘Troilus’ stanza (c.1382-5) which coincided with the Peasants’ Revolt (1381), and the couplets of the
‘Canterbury Tales’ (c.1387).
Finally, Chaucer’s relevance is not merely historical but also literary. He states Chaucer was “as humane as any English non-dramatic poet, with a versatility and narrative skill never exceeded”, even though Gower wrote in three languages and Chaucer in English only. Yet, this linguistic
tool gave a richer tone and a deeper social reach than French or Latin at that age. Chaucer is said to be “a bright star in a sky with many bright stars” since his relevance was recognized at his death. His mature and last work, The Canterbury Tales, is today his most popular.
188.8.131.52. The fifteenth century.
Historically speaking, by the fifteenth century, during the reign of Henry V (1413-1422), the English language was officially used at both the oral and written levels in most fields, except legal records (still written in Latin), the Statutes of Parliament (written in French until 1489) and in ceremonial formulae (still French). Yet, for our purposes, we shall focus on the literary productions which reinforced the national feeling which had ensued the loss of Normandy and led the inhabitants of the island to a general adoption of English.
Regarding literature, after Chaucer and Gower were buried outside the City of London, in the churches in Westminster and Southwark next to which each had lived, there was good English writing in the fifteenth century, particularly in lyric and drama and prose, but no major poet. Yet, Thomas Hoccleve (1369-1426), who called Chaucer his ‘father’, scratched his living as a copyist at Westminster, lacking his master’s skill and his diplomacy. His job was reported to be
Another author who is worth mentioning is John Lydgate (1370- 1449). He was a monk of Bury St Edmunds, and did well out of English verse. Among his main works, we mention ‘Troy Book’, written for Henry V; his version of ‘The Pilgrimage of the Life of Man’ for the Earl of Salisbury; his ‘Fall of Princes’ for Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. His works had a decorated style without Chaucer’s rhythm, verve and intelligence.
So, we can affirm that the decasyllable lost its music in the 15th century, as words altered in accent and inflection. As English topped up with prestige words from Latin and French and doubled its resources, its eloquence took the form of reduplication, pairing English and Romance synonyms. New literary streams and events were entering this century, for instance, drama (mystery and morality plays), religious lyric, Scottish poetry and the most important event, the arrival of printing, with which ‘quality’ marketing had begun. That meant that chivalry and romance were dying, but manners could be learned.
Regarding literary work, although English poetry was the dominant tradition of fifteenth- century (established by Chaucer and Gower), there was also good English writing in the fifteenth century, particularly in lyric and drama and prose, but no major poet. Yet, other
relevant authors in Middle English literature are Thomas Hoccleve (1369-1426), who called Chaucer his ‘father’, scratched his living as a copyist at Westminster, lacking his master’s skill and his diplomacy; John Lydgate (1370- 1449), who was a monk of Bury St Edmunds, and did well out of English verse; and a dynasty of ‘courtly makers’ (from courtly literature: romance) represented by Lydgate, Charles d’Orléans and James I of Scotland, Henryson, and Dunbar (Rogers, 1987).
Moreover, the decasyllable lost its music in the 15th century, as words altered in accent and inflection. As English topped up with prestige words from Latin and French and doubled its resources, its eloquence took the form of reduplication, pairing English and Romance synonyms. New literary streams and events were entering this century, for instance:
Drama. Fifteenth-century writers played an important role in the development of vernacular drama, which distinguished between mystery and morality plays:
o On the one hand, Miracle or Mystery plays represented Biblical history in Latin and in local tongues. These plays were cycles of religious dramas performed by town guilds, craft associations of a religious kind. It is relevant to bear in mind that English drama is Catholic in origin and that a branch of it, liturgical drama, spread over Europe after the 10th century. Although they were last suppressed in 1580 at the Reformation, they continued in Catholic Europe. As Greek tragedy began in religious rite, medieval European drama also began with the representation of the central Christian story in the Mass, and in the annual cycle of services developed by the early Church, where Mystery Plays have their origin (other records survive from Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Ireland and Scotland).
o On the other hand, morality plays showed the fate of the single human person in the 15th and 16th centuries, played by travelling companies. The moralities had a final moral, but it is to the Mysteries that Elizabethan dramma will owe a
long-established communal participation in religious drama, civic comedy and secular drama, recorded but not extant.
Also, religious lyric developed from Latin songs and hymns. If we trace back in history, hymns came into the Latin church in the fourth century, bringing in accentual rhythm and rhyme from popular songs. There is a large literature of Latin songs, sacred and profane, from every century.
The oldest prose narrative was also familiar in English, apart from those in scripture. Hence, Le Morte Darthur (1470) of Sir Thomas Malory, which derived from the French prose La Mort Artu. Malory acknowledges the French prose books on whichhe
draws, but not his English verse sources. His prose is rhythmical, and there is a larger narrative rhythm to his scenes, well-paced and with dramatic exchanges, which tells us of conflict and loss in a courtesy world. In fact, the status of Le Morte Darthur owes much to its printing by William Caxton (1422-91), who also printed a Canterbury Tales in 1477 (Alexander, 2000).
Finally, Scottish poetry took place in the late fifteenth century and showed a mix of four tongues: Highland Gaelic. Lowland English, clerkly Latin, and lordly Anglo- Norman French.
184.108.40.206. The sixteenth century: the Tudor and Elizabethan Age.
Historically speaking, the sixteenth century coincides in its early years with the Tudor Age, which not only marked the start of Reinassance, but also the end of the medieval Arthur. The early Tudor period, particularly the reign of Henry VIII, was marked by a break with the Roman Catholic Church and a weakening of feudal ties, which brought about a vast increase in the power of the monarchy. Stronger political relationships with the Continent were also developed, increasing England’s exposure to Renaissance culture as ‘the revival of learning’. This meant a turn to classical models of verse, which began with a man Chaucer called ‘Fraunceys Petrak, the lauriat poete’ (who was an Italian humanist and collected classical manuscripts).
Hence, humanism became the most important force in English literary and intellectual life, both in its narrow sense (the study and imitation of the Latin classics) and in its broad sense (the affirmation of the secular, in addition to the otherworldly, concerns of people), and in fact, the contrast between Renaissance learning based on classical models and medieval ignorance is often exaggerated. Yet, in 1517, the Protestant Reformation began with Martin Luther’s attacks on the Church’s Penitential system, order and doctrine.
The Reformation, like the Renaissance, was an outcome of a gradual transfer of authority away from weaker central and communal structures to stronger local individual ones, and an accompanying transfer from external to internal ways of thinking, feeling and representeing. These changes brought about the division of Europe into Catholic or Protestant. With this background in mind, Henry VIII wrote the first book by an English king since King Alfred, though in Latin not English (Defence of the Seven Sacraments). He was helped by Sir Thomas More, a lawyer’s son, who had a new faith in education since rhetoric challenged the medieval sciences of logic and theology.
Also, Henry asked Rome for the divorce of Catherine of Aragon (unable to produce a male heir) to marry Ann Boleyn. Then, after being excommunicated (since he went ahead with marriage), Henry made himself Supreme Head of the Church (at that time the Church of England) and held to Catholic doctrines, but in the six years under his young son Edward VI (1547-53), reform was imposed. For the next six years, her daughter Mary returned Catholicism, recalling the Benedictines to Westminster Abbey. Finally, Elizabeth I (1558-
1603), Ann Boleyn’s daughter, gradually imposed a compromise between Protestant teaching and Catholic practice, but Catholics lost ground when Rome declared the Queen illegitimate (1570).
The Reformation brought about authors like Thomas More (1478-1535), Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) and The Earl of Surrey (1517-1547) as the main representative figures in this period. Moreover, we may mention first, the development of religious and instructive prose with the aim to promote native vernacular English. Since prose has such a varity of tasks, its history is not readily summarized, but we can distinguish bible translation, since the Reformation created an urgent need for a religious prose (Miles Coverdale -1488-1568- produced the first complete printed English bible in 1539). Secondly, instructive prose perfects a storytelling mode originally oral. Writer took their ideas of style from Cicero and Quintilian to get Latin-derived words which would worry linguistic patriots. Hence, main authors to be mentioned are Sir Thomas Elyot (c.1490-1546) who wrote ‘Governor’ (1531) for Henry VIII, the humanist John Cheke (1514-1557) who became tutor to Edward VI, and Roger Ascham (1515-1568) who dedicated his ‘Toxophilus’ (1545) to Henry, which earned him a pension.
The Reformation may also account for drama. The fact the major literature of the period 1540-
1579 was in the translation of religious texts meant “the suppression of the monasteries and their schools,which did not go into education and poets needed patrons. Before the Elizabethan theatre opened, there was no paying profession of writing. University men tried vainly to bridge the gap between uncommercial ‘gentle’ status and scribbling for a tiny market. Yet in this fallow period secular drama began. Mystery and morality plays continued, and the Mysteries until Shakespeare’s day” (Alexander, 2000).
Guilds clubbed together to buy pageant waggons and costumes and companiesof players travelled between inns and great houses . Hence, a new kind of play, the interlude, was now played between courses in big houses at Christmas and Easter, and was considered to be a moral entertainment. Drama became a family habit and soon many authors appeared on stage, thus John Rastell (1470- 1536) with his own interlude ‘The Four Elements’ (with the first printed music), John Heywood (c.1497-1580), author of the farcical interlude ‘The Four Ps’, Nicolas
Udall (1504-1556), who adapted Roman comedie s by Plautus and Terence, for instance, ‘Ralph Roister Doister (first English comedy for pupils), and Jasper Heywood (1535- 1598), John’s son, who translated into English Seneca’s ‘Troas’.
So, these forces developed during the reign (1558–1603) of Elizabeth I, which became one of the most fruitful eras in literary history.The activities and literature of the Elizabethans reflected a new nationalism, which expressed itself also in the works of chroniclers (John Stow, Raphael Holinshed, and others), historians, and translators and even in political and religious tracts. A wide range of new genres, themes, and ideas were incorporated into English literature, and Italian poetic forms, especially the sonnet, became models for English poets.
So, the last two decades of the Elizabethan golden age are so crowded with special talents: in
1552 were born Edmund Spenser and Walter Ralegh, and in 1554 Philip Sidney, John Lyly and Richard Hooker. This generation began what was completed by Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare (b.1564), and John Donne and Ben Johnson (b.1572) at the end of Tudor England; let alone the second-rank dramatists and the theologians (Rogers, 1987).
Hence this period saw a variety of prose, artful, lively and dignified variety of literary styles among which we may distinguish: verse (Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, Sir Walter Ralegh, the Jacobethans, Christopher Marlowe), song (Thomas Campion), prose (John Lyly, Thomas Nashe, Richard Hooker), and namely, drama (Shakespeare, and an unprecedented abundance of non-dramatic poets and translators). It is worth remembering that Shakespeare has been one of the main inspirations for the cinema business.
The variety was called ‘Elizabethan Drama’ for Queen Elizabeth, who was popular for her love of religion and arts. When the Renaissance reached England, this intellectual and artistic impulse found its fullest and most lasting expression in the drama which, due to a fortunate group of coincidences, affected the people of England at a moment when the country was undergoing a rapid and peaceful expansion. In addition, the development of the language and the forms of versification had reached a point which made possible the most triumphant literary achievement which that country has seen: the Elizabethan Drama. In fact, the Elizabethan Age achieved this literary success through different intellectual and artistic representations of reality: the chronicle history, tragedy and comedy.
“With the revival of learning came naturally the study and imitation of the ancient classical drama, and in some countries this proved the chief influence in determining the prevalent type of drama for generations to come. But in England, though we can trace important results of the
models given by Seneca in tragedy and Plautus in comedy, the main characteristics of the drama of the Elizabethan age were of native origin, and reflected the spirit and the interests of the Englishmen of that day” (Ward & Trent, 2000).
220.127.116.11. The seventeenth century: The Stuart Age and the Enlightment.
The seventeenth century has its starting point in the death of Elizabeth I (1603) and is to be framed upon the Stuart succession line, thus under the rule of James I (1603-1625); his son, Charles I (1625-1642), who ruled until civil war broke out in 1642; then Cromwell (1642- 1660), until monarchy was restored by Charles II (1660-1685); this was followed by his brother, James II (1685-1689) who, in 1668, fled before his invading son- in- law, the Dutchman William of Orange became William III; and finally , William and Mary II (1689-1707), who were succeeded by Mary’s sister, Queen Anne (1702-1713).
Regarding literature, we can talk about different literary conditions under the rule of Cromwell and the Restoration since the former showed a Puritan attitude against Renaissance culture and manners whereas the latter inaugurated a new temper and a cultural style which lasted into the eighteenth century. Actually, with the return of Charles II as King in 1660, new models of poetry and drama came in from France, where the court had been in exile. Later on in James’ I reign, high ideals had combined with daring wit and language, but the religious and political extremism of the mid-century broke that combination.
In literature the Restoration was a period of novelty, change and refoundation rather than of great writing. Following Alexander (2000:156), “if the Restoration period produced no writer of the first rank, it gave secular literature new importance. The civil, secular, social culture of the Restoration period is often called Augustan, since its writers saw parallels between the restored monarchy and the peace restored by the Emperor Augustus after vivil war and the assassination of Caesar had ended the Roman republic.”
It is relevant to bear in mind that those who had remained in England during the Commonwealth had faced years of strict moral repression, and those who fled to France had acquired some of the decadence bred across the channel. In combination, these two forces created a nation of wealthy, witty, amoral hedonists, whose theatre reflected their lifestyles. Thus was born the Restoration Tragedy and the Comedy of Manners.
Yet, in the Restoration period, it is relevant to say that that Restoration verse, prose and stage comedy were marked by world ly scepticism clearly shown in the works of Bunyan, Milton and
Dryden. In fact, the only works worth mentioning from these forty years (1660-1700) to have been read in every generation since are Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678-1679), some poems by John Dryden , and the better Restoration comedies.
First of all, regarding drama , it is worth mentioning that this is one of the most affected genres by the English Civil War in 1642 and the figure of Cromwell, since one of the first acts after the Civil War was to order the closing all the theatres in London for the sake of purity. Yet, when Charles II returned, he gave literature chances and the theatres opened again, determined to reject Puritan earnestness. As a result, the king’s friends came back from France with a more secular, sceptical and civilized tone, and above all, neo-classical ideas. Hence Charles patronized the Royal Sociey, the Royal Observatory, the theatre and the opera, and soon the Restoration Tragedy and the Comedy of Manners were born.
Secondly, poetry in this century came from the Court, the Church, and the gentry of the theatre. Hence the first half of the century (to 1642) flourished under the names of: Ben Jonson (1572- 1637), a professional poet as well as playwright, whose clarit y, edge and economy behind his writing produced one of his most famous poems Works (1616); also, we find metaphysical poets (Henry King, George Herbert, Thomas Carew, Henry Crashaw, John Cleveland, Abrahan Cowley, Andrew Marvell, Henry Vaughan, Thomas Traherne), devotional poets such as George Herbert (1593-1633) whose poems are homely in imagery and simple in language, and Henry Vaughan (1621- 95), Herbert’s disciple, among others; and cavaliers poets who wrote with a gallant secular verse (Sir John Suckling, Sir Richard Lovelace, Andrw Marvell); and finally, John Milton (1608-
1674), whose late work was aimed to a spiritual élite. Among his most famous works are Lycidas (1637), an ambitious pastoral elegy for a Cambridge contemporary, and Paradise Lost (1667), which was adapted from a drama called Adam Unparadis’d (1642). Milton turned from poetry to reforming prose at the Civil War and toughened his argumentative powers.
Finally, prose is namely represented in the Restoration period by John Dryden, the Royal Society of London’s members, and John Locke. In the first half of the century one of the main prose works was the Duke of Buckingham’s The Rehearsal (1672), which was a huge successful prose burlesque of the theatrical conventions of the time. One of his targets was John Dryden, who was considered as a social inferior by Buckingham and other writers.
o When Royalist politics and religion lost favour in the 1680s, John Dryden (1631-1700) turned from poetry to satire, and then to translation. He wrote in every kind, but posterity has liked best the non-dramatic work of his later career: his satire, his prose and his Virgil. Among his works we include the most representative of his career: Works (1697) and Fables, Ancient and Modern (1700).
o Also, the Royal Soc iety of London, which was the nursery of English science, had members who helped in the production of prose (i.e. Wren, Boyle, Hooke, Locke and Newton). There is much pleasurable minor prose, for instance, Izaak Walton’s Lives (1665), the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, the Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson by his daughter Lucy, the account of the assassination of Buckingham in John Aubrey’s Brief Lives. Also, we find other new forms such as brief biographies.
o Finally, we shall approach the figure of John Locke (1632-1704) as one of the most important writers in British cultural history, since his epistemology and psychology bacame part of the common sense of the eighteenth century. He was an Oxford academic who published after 1689, when he formulated an empirical philosophy which derived knowledge from experience and a theory of government as a contract between governor and the governed. One of his most famous works is Essay concerning Human Understanding (1690), which held that the human mind at birth is as a white paper, without any ideas.
With this background in mind, we are ready now to examine eighteenth-century Great Britain, and understand certain events closely related to previous historical period.
18.104.22.168. The eighteenth century: the Augustean Age and the Romantics.
This period coincides to a great extent with the Augustean Age (1714-1790), and only in the last decade it is related to the Romantics (1790- 1837). The political background is to be framed upon the Georgian succession line, thus under the rule of Queen Anne (1701-1714); her German cousin, which became George I (1714-1727); George II (1727-1760), George III (1760- 1820), king of Great Britain and Ireland; and his son, George IV (1820-1830), who was succeeded by his brother, William IV.
Following Alexander (2000:173), “the course of the 18th century presents a broad contrast to the disruption and change of the 17th. A desire for rational agreement, and an increasing confidence, mark literary culture for a century after 1688. There were cross-currents, exclusions and
developments: the novel arrived in the 1740s, and Augustanism was increasingly in dialogue with other modes. By then, England and her empire within the British Isles prospered by improvements in agriculture and industry, and by trade with her overseas empire, at first commercial, then territorial. Also, much of the religion of a rational Church of England settled into duties, social and private, though there was the evangelical revival known as Methodism. Disenters and Catholics had civil disabilities, but were tolerated: Dissenters with condescension, Catholics with mistrust. Toleration was extended to Jews (expelled from England in 1290) and atheists.”
Regarding the literary background of the eighteenth century, we shall overvie w how Georgian literature dealt with art, music and a variety of genres throught the century. Thus the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries saw a wide variety of authors who produced a flourishing scholarly and popular works that we still consider ‘classics’, for example, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature (1739), Johnson’s Dictionary (1755), Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776), Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776). Yet, the turn of the century saw artists such as Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (1811), Scott’s Waverley Novels (1814 onwards), Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and Tennyson’s Lady of Shalot (1832).
Musically, the period started with Handel regularly composing and performing in London and ended with Mendelsson’s Fingal’s Cave likewise being performed to a metropolitan audience. Other works such as Rule Britannia , God save the King and Auld Lang Syne also date from this period. In 1823, the Royal Academy of Music opened in London.
According to Alexander (2000:173), “the status of literature is shown by periodicals which carried out essays on civilized neutral topics, including literature itself; by the sums subscribed for editions of Prior and Pope and Johnson’s Dictionary as a monument to English letters; by Gothic fiction where the neo-classicism prevails until mid-century, and art imitates reality. Hence much 18th-century literature has a polite or aristocratic tone, but its authors were largely middle -class, as were its readers. The art of letters had social prestige, and poets found patrons among the nobility, who also wrote. Congreve, Prior and Addison rose high in society, and so, despite his disadvantages, did Pope”.
“Fiction was less polite and more commercial than poetry, and in Johnson’s Dictionary, the prose writer most cited is Samuel Richardson, a joiner’s son who became a printer and finally a novelist. Johnson himself was a bookseller’s son. The pioneer realist, Daniel Defoe, was a hack journalist who lived by his pen. Defoe and Richardson had a concern with individual
consciousness, which evolved out of the Protestant anxiety about personal salvation, found in John Bunyan (17th century). Defoe and Richardson were Dissenters. Henry Fielding, an Anglican, scorned Richardson’s concern with inwardness and attacked social abuses” (2000:174).
In this period the triumph of classicism is fully represented in poetry, which is developed by means of (1) lyric, which almost disappears (although the best pieces of the period are to be found in Prior, Gay and Ramsay); (2) the ode, which also survives feebly in the Pindaric form, namely developed by Pope and Lady Winchilsea; (3) the satiric type, which is more common, of high quality and tends to be lighter, brighter, and more cynical whose best example is Pope’s Dunciad, a personal satire. Satire also spread to other forms of verse such as the heroic couplet (Swift, Prior and Gay poems); (4) also, narrative poetry, which contains the best works of the period together with a slight revival of the ballad (Pope, Gay, Prior); and finally, (5) the Pastoral, which was highly famous among formal compositions.
Among the most popular poets we namely find Alexander Pope (1688-1744), followed by Mattew Prior (1664-1721), John Gay (1685-1732), Edward Young (1683-1765), Sir Samuel Garth (1661-1719), Lady Winchilsea (1661-1720), Ambrose Philips (1675-1749), Thomas Parnell (1679- 1718) and Allan Ramsay (1686-1758).
As stated above, drama production was not so fruitful as poetry or prose because of previous events (see seventeenth-century literary background). So the main works in this period are Ambrose Philips’s The Distressed Mother (1712) (among other two tragedies); Addison’s Cato , in tragedy; and Steele’s The Beggar’s Opera, which is a comedy play regarded as a survival of the Restoration type and the only advance in drama.
In this period we observe the prominence of prose namely characterized by the rise of periodical literature. Hence we find the rise of the press, the essay, prose narrative and miscellaneours prose. Thus:
(1) the rise of the periodical press, which traces back to the first periodical publication in Europe, the Gazetta (1536) in Venice. Later on, newssheets were published in the Elizabethan England, followed by the publication of the first regular English journal in
1622 by Thomas Archer and Nicholas Bourne. Political passions which led to the Civil
War were reflected in a kind of journalistic writing, which in 1641, gave way to the Diurnalls and home news. Yet, in 1659 Cromwell suppressed the licensed press (with the exception of the official organ, the weekly The Publick Intelligencer), but in 1682
the freedom of the Press was restored and large numbers of periodicals appeared in different fashions. Hence The Daily Courant (1702), Defoe’s Review (1704) (a Whig organ) and its opponent The Examiner (a Tory paper); Steele’s The Tatler (1709), The Spectator (1711) and The Plebeian (1719) as an early example of the political periodical.
(2) The rise of the essay refers to the development of writing productions which “must be short, unmethodical, and written in a style that is literary, easy, and elegant” (Albert,
1990:218). Again, the English essay traces back to the Elizabethan Age under the work of Lodge, Lyly, and Greene, among others. Hence Sidney’s Apologie for Poetrie (1595), Francis Bacon, who is regarded as the first real essayist in English; Cowley’s Of Myself and The Garden; Dryden’s Essay of Dramatick Poesie (1668), Locke’s An Essay concerning Human Understanding (1690); and Temple’s Essay of Poetry (1685). More recently, Addison’s The Tatler (1709) and Steele’s The Spectator (1711).
(3) Prose narrative, still under the influence of allegory, is namely reflected in Swift’s Gulliver Travels and Addison’s The Vision of Mirza , among others. Yet, fiction is given prominence in the novels of Defoe and, in particular, in his work Robinson Crusoe.
(4) Finally, miscellaneous prose is namely regarded as a large body of religious, political,
and philosophical work. In political and religious prose-writing Swift is the most relevant figure, but we may find other authors such as Bolingbroke (political), Berkeley (philosophical) and Steele (religious).
Regarding prose style, the most outstanding feature is the emergence of the middle style, “pure without scrupulosity, and exact without apparent elaboration; always equable, and always easy, without glowing words or pointed sentences” (Albert, 1990:220). It is a prose suitable for miscellaneous purposes, that is, for newspapers, political or religious works, as well as for essays, for history and biography.
Among the main novelists or prose-writers we include Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Joseph Addison (1672-1719), Sir Richard Steele (1672-1729), Daniel Defoe (c.1659-1731), John Arbuthnot (1667-1735), Lord Bolingbroke (1678-1751), George Berkeley (1685-1753), and Lady Mary Wortley (1689-1762), whose literary productions are framed (more or less) within this period. Note that this period coincides with the days of Alexander Pope, and hence it is referred to as the Age of Alexander Pope (Alexander, 2000).
22.214.171.124.The nineteenth century: the Victorian Age.
The nineteenth century is namely represented by the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne when her uncle, William IV dies in 1837. So Victoria would reign from 1837 to 1901 and would be the longest reigning British monarch. In general terms, during Victoria’s reign, the revolution in industrial practices continued to change British life, bringing about urbanisation, a good communications network and wealth. In addition, Britain became a champion of Free Trade across her massive Empire, and industrialisation and trade were glorified in the Great Exhibitions. Yet, by the turn of the century, Britain’s industrial advantage was being challenged successfully by other nations such as the USA across the ocean and Germany on the continent.
The Victorian Age includes, as stated before, several changes different in nature and, in this respect, the literary background presents a great variety of aspects. Thus, the literary period is characterized by its morality, which to a great extent is a natural revolt against the grossness of the earlier Regency, and the influence of the Victorian Court. In addition, literary productions are affected by the intellectual developments in science, religion, and politics.
Also, the new education acts of the period made education compulsory, which rapidly produced an enormous reading public. Actually, the cheapening of printing and paper increased the demand for books among which the most popular form was the novel. Finally, we also observe a strong literary interaction between American and European writers (specially in political and philosopical writings). In Britain, the influence of the great German writers was continuous (Carlyle, Arnold).
The Victorian literature is characterized by the telling of every detail, as in photography so as to get a real image of the object or person described. The fact may suggest concepts of clarity, precision, and certainty. On the contrary, the disadvantages of being close to the object, and of possessing masses of information about it is the production of copious works. So we notice that this aspect of clarity is reflected in the main literary productions of the period, which are namely divided into three groups: political, philosophical and social so as to reflect the events of the time. But before examining prose in this aspect, let us briefly examine first the other two literary forms: poetry and drama.
Regarding poetry, the Victorian Age produced literary works of a high quality, but, except in the novel, the amount of actual innovation is by no means great. Actually, the lyrical output is very large and varied, but there is no work worth mentioning since there were many attempts at purely narrative poetry. Despite the efforts to revive the epic, the impulse was not sufficiently strong. Thus, Browning’s Ring and the Book (a
psychological epic) and William Morris’ The Earthly Paradise (a return to the old romantic tale).
Similarly, there are no drama productions which are worth mentioning since there were no efforts to revive the poetical drama. Of them all, we may highlight Swinburne’s tragedies (concerned with Mary Queen of Scots), Browning’s earlier plays (before he overdeveloped his style) and Tennyson’s Ulysses and Tithonus.
Regarding prose (the novel), there is no doubt that the king style in prose was the novel by the middle of the nineteenth century, which is presented with a political, philosophical or social overtone (Thackeray, Dickens, Brontë). Another variety of prose is the short story (namely developed in the next century); the essays, in the treatise-style (Carlyle, Symonds, Pater); the lecture, which became prominent both in England and in America; historical novel, strongly represented by William Stubbs, Edward A. Freeman and Samuel R. Gardiner; and finally, we find the scientific treatise so as to account of the scientific developments of the period (Browne, Burton, Berkeley).
o Political writing reflects the political consequences of the industrial revolution in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Britain. Therefore, writers such as Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) and Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) among others, show, denunciate and value the moral and political affairs which deeply affected
society in Britain at that period. Thus, some of their works are respectively, Coningsby: or the New Generation (1844), Sybil: or The Two Nations (1845), dealing with the politics of his day; Richelieu, or the Conspiracy (1839), A Strange Story (1862) and The Coming Race (1871); Phineas Finn (1869) and Phineas Redux (1874), where Trollope makes a satire of the political period; and finally, Carlyle’s The French Revolution (1837) and Oliver Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches (1845), in an attempt to criticize Cromwells’ methods.
o Philosophical writing is represented by George Eliot (1819-1880), who is actually a woman writing under a pen-name, George Meredith (1828-1909) and Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895). His main works reflect the most outstanding philosophical and moral problems of the period, thus respectively: Eliot’s Adam Bede (1859), an excellent picture of English country life among the humbler classes, Felix Holt the Radical (1866), a critical work on the Reform Bill, and Daniel Deronda (1876), which strongly coloured
preoccupation at that period with moral problems and and inexorable realism; Meredith’s Vittoria (1867) which revindicates the spirited handling of the Italian insurrectionary movement and The Egoist (1879), with a moral plot;
finally, Huxley’s Man’s Place in Nature (1863), Lay Sermons, Addresses and
Reviews (1870), and American Addresses (1877).
o Finally, social writing is represented by:
§ William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), whose works showed a biting humour and the observation of human weaknesses, thus The Book of Snobs (1849), The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon (1844), a picaresque novel, and Vanity Fair (1847-1848), which tells about the fortunes of Becky Sharp to denounce the mournful vision of the vanities of mankind, and The Virginians (1857-1859).
§ The Brontë sisters, Charlotte (1816-1855), Emily (1818-1878) and Anne
(1820-1849) wrote melodramatic, terror and passionate novels addressing the features of the period in which they lived. Thus, Charlotte’s Jane Eyre (1847), full of countryside details, Shirley (1849) and Villette (1853); Emily’s unique Wuthering Heights (1847) in a description of the wild, desolate moors where the main characters conceive their passions in gigantic proportions, described with a stark realism; finally, Anne’s Agnes Grey (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848).
§ Wilkie Collins (1824- 1889), who was considered to be the most successful of the followers of Dickens, specialized in the mystery novel to which he sometimes added a spice of the supernatural. Thus The Dead Secret (1857), The Woman in White (1860) and The Moonstone (1868) as one of his earliest detective stories.
§ Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), who was strongly criticized by his stark pesimism in his writing. Among his most famous works, we highlight Tess of the D’Urbevilles (1891), Poems of the past and present (1901), The dynasts (1903-1908), and Moments of Vision (1917). He is regarded as one of the first modernists in content, attitude rather than form.
§ Finally, among many others not mentioned, Charles Dickens (1812-1870) who showed in all his novels a great interest in Social Reform at his time: A Christmas Carol (1843), Hard Times (1854), Bleak House (1852-1853), Great Expectations (1861) and Bleak House (1865), among his most representative works.
126.96.36.199.The twentieth century up to the present day.
The twentieth century literature is reflected by different periods and group of authors, for instance, in the first quarter by the Lost Generation; in the inter-war years by another
miscellaneous group; and finally, in the second half, by contemporary writers up to nowadays. Broadly speaking, the main features of literature in the inter-war period and WWII are summed up in five key concepts: the breakdown of established values, the resurgence of poetry, the variety of technical experiments in most literary genres, the influence of radio and cinema, and the speed of life. Thus,
(1) a breakdown of established values because of the perplexity and uncertainty which sprang from the post-War situation. Many different reactions regarding spiritual values were equalled by a great variety of literary work.
(2) Hence the resurgence of poetry whereas the novel and drama were the protagonists in
the previous years. Actually, the pre-War years had seen relative eclipse of poetry, and the dominance of the novel and drama as literary forms, but a new and living poetical tradition was demanded and was met between the Wars in his own work and in that of the new poets (T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Cecil Day Lewis, Louis MacNeice). Following Albert (1990:508), “poetry again became a vital literary form closely in touch with life, and if it did not oust the novel from its primacy it certainly outstripped the drama”.
(3) Also, there was a desire for new forms and methods of presentation, and in all the major literary genres the age produced revolutionary developments thanks to two important inventions of the twentieth century: the radio and the cinema.
(4) Actually, the radio and the cinema had an enormous impact on the rapid development of
the media and also, had important effects on the literature of the time, which applied these two media techniques. It must be borne in mind that this novelty reduced the time devoted to reading (prose) and going to the theatre (drama) since the radio brought literature at home and the cinema brought a new form of leisure activity. In the form of broadcast stories, plays, films, or literary discussion, a new field was opened for authors who applied film techniques to a number of experiments in the novel.
(5) Finally, since people lived in a new atmosphere of fear and restlessness, the demand
was “for more and faster action, stronger and more violent stimulus, and the general atmosphere thus created was by its very nature inimical to the cultivation of literary pursuits, which necessarily demand a degree of calmness of spirit and leisure of mind (Albert, 1990:509).”
For poetry, the hopes for a new world quickly disappeared in people’s minds after the World War I and even less during the WWII, which caused a general feeling of disillusionment and despair. Writers witnessed how culture disintegrated with no positive values to replace it and soon they felt the need for a new world, for a new outlook on life. Following Albert (1990), the overall impression of this inter-war years coincide with a new awareness of sociological factors
which affect poetry, for instance, developments in poetic technique, the difficulty of modern poetry, the combination of psychology and politics, the rise of surrealism and new traditionalism, and the quest for stability. Thus,
developments in poetic technique were soon demanded to show a more realistic way to face up to those difficult years. So, there was a change from old poetic forms to free verse, and also to sprung rhythms, complex verbal patterns, and disregard for normal syntax.
The emphasis on the evolution of new forms gave way to a great difficulty of modern poetry, thus the dominance of form on content and the use of eccentric themes. Hence this difficulty caused an increase in the use of ‘vers libre’ and obscurity to appeal the complex states of mind. This trend was encouraged by the popularity of the metaphysical conceit, which accompanied the rebirth of symbolism (Yeats, French Symbolistes) and the imitation of allusiveness (Eliot). Poetry reflected the situation of those inter-war years: complexity, a refined sensibility, and the use of allusive and indirect language.
Psychology and politics tried to come together under the figures of Sigmund Freud and
Karl Marx, respectively, so as to find a solution to the world problems. Already in the
1920s psychological research made poets turn their attention to the investigation of the hidden impulses of man, and the development of techniques such as the internal monologue and the stream of consciousness in characters. On the other hand, political ideas took up the cause of the masses, whose lives they studied with genuine sympathy and often with striking realism. The Republican support to the Spanish Civil War together with a proletarian sympathy was seen by contemporary England in the form of cheap satire.
The rise of surrealism and new traditionalism also contributed to poetry writing, for instance, the former as an over-simplification of a complex and constantly shifting situation which meant the escape from the complex problems of contemporary life by means of experiments; the latter as the expression of the individual emotional development and their reactions to their environment. Poetry was then characterized by a detailed observation and lucid phraseology, concise expression, ironic style, stirred by love and sex, out of the scope of experiments, and also on the line of dramatic monologue.
Finally, the quest for stability increased as there was still no strongly established poetic tradition to compare in stability with that of the Victorian age, but a constructive approach to life. During the inter-War years we find a great proportion of didactic verse,
and the numerous attempts to find a solution to the problems of a perplexed generation through the use of lyric poetry.
As for poetry, the situation of the inter-War years was deeply felt in the English theatre, and therefore, in Ireland within the Irish Literary Revival Drama. Following Albert (1990), after the war the sociological factors which affected this literary form were, broadly speaking, the conditions in the theatre, the decline of realism, the development of comedy, the popularity of the history play, the revival of poetic drama and the experiments abroad and at home. Thus,
By the 1920s the conditions in the English theatre was defined as poor since there were no worth productions since Shaw’s Pygmalion (1913). The increasing demand for light and escapist entertaintment for troops had made spectacle and musical comedy supreme on the London stage. It must be borne in mind that in the early part of this period the cause of serious drama in England depended almost entirely on a few enlightened individuals (Lilian Baylis, Sir Barry Jackson, Sir Nigel Playfair). In addition, the arrival of the cinema constituted a new threat to the theatre since it quickly became the main way of entertainment of the masses. The cinema was a powerful competitor as it is today due to the ability to offer sensation, spectacle on a scale impossible in the theatre, and the novelty of a new art form.
Other hopeful aspects of dramatic activity are found under the growth of the amateur dramatic movement regarding the British Drama League (1919) and the Scottish Community Drama Association, both created to stimulate drama. Yet, it must be born in mind that and this growth of repertory in England and Ireland (1890-1918) was promoted by the arduous struggle to create an audience for the new drama (troops). This led to seek additional support in the provinces, and thus came into being the repertory movement3, whose chief aim was to encourage the writing of realistic problem plays in the new tradition, and among the dramatists who there came to the fore were St John Ervine (1883-1971), W. Stanley Houghton (1881-1913) and Allan Monkhouse (1858-
Repertory companies of distinction were founded in Liverpool (1911) and Birmigham (1913). But most important of the theatrical developments outside London was the creation of the Irish National Theatre in Dublin. Of the dramatists who wrote for this
3 A season of Shaw repertory was given in 1904 at the Court Theatre under the Vedrenne-Barker management, and in 1907 Miss A.E.F. Horniman (1860-1937) abandoned her active interest in the Abbey
Theatre, Dublin to found “Miss Horniman’s Company,” whic h, at the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester,
developed into the Manchester Repertory Company.
theatre, Yeats and Synge looked on the drama as a thing of the emotions, and, reacting against realism, sought their themes among the legends, folklore, and peasantry of Ireland.
The decline of realism takes place after the 1920s, that is, after realism and naturalism had dominated the work of most English dramatists. Yet, the movement from realism is the keynote of the inter-War period and is namely reflected in the greatest new inter- War dramatist, O’Casey, though he bases his plays on a truthful picture of Dublin slum life, and has the ability to transform his works into real poetry, where the new literary trends are sentimentalism and the concern with the after-life.
The development of comedy caught the atmosphere of the later twenties and therefore was quite popular. Yet, there were not major comedy writers as in the novel.
Similarly, the popularity of the history play was only second to that of comely. Yet, the vogue of this genre in modern times began witht he work of John Drinkwater (1882-
1937), who was one of the founders of the Birmingham Repertory Company, where numerous history plays took place.
Finally, regarding prose, by the end of the period, the novel was considered not only the premier form of entertainment but also a primary means of analyzing and offering solutions to social and political problems, only challenged by the revival of drama towards the last two decades. This king style, the novel, is presented with a political, philosophical or social overtone since was the ideal form to describe contemporary life and to entertain the middle class.
Yet, the twentieth century witnesses the development of the novel into new revolutionary techniques as well as the genres of poetry and drama. Thus, we shall examine the novel in relation to, for instance, the new approach as an interpreter of life, experiments in the evolution of a new technique, the influence of pshychology, the lack of popularity of the new novelists, writers in the established tradition, war books, satire, escapist novels, the autobiographical- novel-sketch comedies, and the growth of the American novel under the figures of the lost generation.
The novel was regarded as an interpreter of life since it reflected the disillusionment, cynicism, despair, and bewilderment in face of the crumbling of established moral values which characterize the post-War world and even the WWII. These features, combined with its form and content, made the inter-War generation look to the novel for an interpretation of the contemporary scene. According to Albert (1990:521), we may distinguish three main groups of novelists: first, those who attempted to replace the old values for new ones; second, those who portrayed the comple xities of inter-War life;
and finally, those who focused attention on the impact of life on the individual consciousness and on characters rather than action.
This practice is closely connected to impressionism which gives way to expressionistic techniques based on experiments, which establish a clear difference between the pre- War novel (Henry James) and that of the inter-War years (James Joyce). Namely the novel develops from having a controlled, finished, artistic form to have a more loose, fluid, and le ss coherent one; from presenting an outward appearance to inner realities of life; from a simple chronological development of plot to a complex and discontinuous one. Apart from James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Aldous Huxley, other who experimented in this way included Dorothy Miller Richardson and May Sinclair.
Yet, the most representative technique of this period is drawn from the influence of pshychology so as to present the mind of the characters: the stream of consciousness, the use of the interior monologue, the detailed tracing of the association of ideas, and an allusive style. The rapid development of the science of psychology did much to deepen and enrich the study of human character in the early years, but its full impact came with the works of Sigmund Freud about the study of personality. This opened the way to the exploration of the vast fields of the subconscious and the unconscious so as to dwell the mind of characters, which meant a breakdown of Victorian moral attitudes.
The lack of popularit y of the new novelists is not surprising, according to Alfred (1990:524) as their concern with the subtlest shades of motive and inner impulse called for readers while the preoccupation of some with the morbid mental states provoked distaste. So, it is not surprising either that writers in the Established tradition were inevitably more popular since they wrote after the manner of an earlier generation. Among these writers we find Sir Hugh Walpole (1884-1941), William Somerset Maugham (1874- 1965), John Boynton Priestley (1894-), Sir Compton Mackenzie (1883-1972), Francis Brett Young (1884- 1954), and Robert Graves (1895-), among others.
“Another reflection of the disillusionment of the post-War generation is to be found in the literature on the War itself, which began to appear once the catastrophe was sufficiently remote”. Among the War writers we include Edmund Blunden (1896- 1974), Robert Graves (1895-), and C.E. Montague (1867-1928), among others.
Satire was also common as a form of fiction. Satirist writers are Rose Macaulay (1881-
1958), Ronald Firbank (1886-1926), and Cyril Connolly (1903-1974).
Another genre was escapist novels, characteristic of all periods of great emotional and moral tension. This type of novel was highly demanded in the 1920s, which was partly
met by imaginative, fantastic, and light writing. Among the most representative writers we include Norman Douglas, Walter de la Mare, and David Garnett.
We also find autobiographical-novel-sketch comedies with tragic implications which particularly show the after-war situation in the 1930s. Thus, popular writers are Christopher Isherwood, Richard Hughes, and Leopold Hamilton Myers, among others. Finally, it is worth mentioning the growth of the American novel since it is one of the most striking features of the period. Following Albert (1990:528), “since the turn of the century, not only has the U.S.A. given encouragement and shelter to artists whose work met with opposition in this country, but Americans have been among the boldest so far as experiments in technique are concerned. The basis of most of their work was realism, the depiction of the contemporary scene no matter how unlovely, the exposure of corruption and lack of moral values in organizations and in people, the consideration of emotiona l crises and moral dilemmas at all levels of society, and the portrayal of the individual and the depths or heights with which he can be faced”.
The XXth and XXIst-century literature is characterized by the uncertainty of the post-War years, which is reflected in the concern of many novelists about the disintegration of society, and their lack of positive optimism, while the frequency with which violence and sadism appear as themes is not surprising in a world grown accustomed to the thought of genocide, global conflict, and nuclear destruction” (Albert, 1990:563). Even nowadays, at the turn of century, globalisation, uncertainty and the question of terrorism are often reflected in literature as well as the positive development of Europe under the strong ties of the EU.
Among the most representative figures are John Clifford Mortimer (1923- 2001), who applied media methods to his writings in Dock Brief (1957) -developed from a TV script-; Harold Pinter’s demostration of how plays for radio and television can be adapted to suit the stage, and that the so-called legitimate drama can gain much from the techniques necessitated by other media; and the best example for students, J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels which have been recently taken into the big screen by Hollywood’s superproduction The Lord of the Rings. Other writers are Dylan Thomas (1914- 1955) in poetry; Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) and Samuel Becket (1906-1989) in drama; and William Golding (1911-1993) and Graham Greene (1904-), as representing the evil of socie ty and man’s most primitive insticts, and the imaginative exploration of characters, respectively. Also, George Orwell (1903-1950) is worth mentioning as the typical product of the inter-war and WWII years; and J.R.R. Tolkien, as the most representative figure of the XXIst century with his science fiction novels.
With this background in mind, we proceed to analyse a history of cinema where most of the works already mentioned will be part of its history since they have been filmed and have become works of art.
2.1.2. A history of cinema.
188.8.131.52. Earlier times.
Following Parkinson (1995:10), the earliest picture shows are to be traced back to the time of the Ancient Greeks since these people was fascinated by the tricks of light and shade. He states that “around 360 BC, the Greek philosopher Plato described in his book The Republic the movements made by shadows thrown on to the wall of a cave by the glow of a camp fire. Some film historians consider this description of the ‘Cave of Shadows’ to be the first reference to moving images.”
Yet, he also states (1995:13) that the illusion of the magic lantern, the ancestor of the movie camera and the projector, had already first been observed by the Ancient Egyptians, who believed “that the eye retained an image of an object for a fleeting moment after it had been removed from sight (in fact we now know that it is the brain and not the eye that has this ability).”
As Flatt (1992:6) states, “shadow shows like these are as old as fire itself. But primitive shadow theatre eventually became the life-like movies that we all enjoy today. A discovery by Chinese wise men 1,000 years ago marked the first step. They noticed that a hole in a window blind projected an upside-down picture of the scene outside. Five centuries later, Italian Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576) fixed a lens into the hole which made the pictures clearer.”
184.108.40.206. The seventeenth century.
In the seventeenth century, delicately decorated leather puppets spread from the Far East, from medieval Java, China and India to be used with lights and shade to cast the shadows on to traslucent screens in order to tell epics tales based on local myths and legends.
220.127.116.11. The eighteenth century.
Following Parkinson (1995:11), “similar puppet shows were introduced into Europe in the late
18th century during the period of intellectual curiosity known as the Enlightment. Shows, such
as Dominque Séraphin’s ‘Chinese Shadows’ remained popular for over a century.” These simple shadows had grown into elaborate pictures painted on glass. A “magic lantern” projected these glass lantern slides onto a screen. But real moving images were still a thing of the future.
“In the 1780s a Scottish showman, Robert Barker, devised another form of visual entertainment called the Panorama. This used ingenious lighting to animate vast paintings depicting dramatic battles or busy street scenes. At the same time, the artist Philippe de Loutherbourg introduced his Eidophusikon, a ‘theatre of effects’ which used imaginative lighting to make pictures appear three-dimensional.” Yet, “the most famous lanternist was Étienne Robert (known as Robertson), whose Phantasmagoria (1798) was the forerunner of the horror film. Staged in a theatre eerily decorated like a ruined chapel, this terrifying show used a moving lantern to make supernatural images appear and vanish in the smoke-filled air.”
Yet, it was some years before (in 1765) that a Frenchman, Chevalier d’Arcy, whirled a hot coal on the end of a rope and suggested that the glowing coal made a bright circle in the dark because its image persists (remains visible) for about one tenth of a second. But his work went unnoticed until the 1820s, when people used his discovery to make toys and other entertainments (Platt, 1992).
18.104.22.168. The nineteenth century.
“This phenomenon”, says Parkinson (1995:13), “was first called ‘persistence of vision’ in 1824 by Peter Roget, the author of the famous Roget’s Thesaurus. Persistence of vision allows us to see a series or sequence of separate still images as a single , continuous action. The whole process of making and watching films depends on this principle.” In fact, “in the nineteenth century, scientists in Europe made use of persistence of vision to make drawings appear to move by running them together in rapid succession.”
Then, “an Austrian baron, Franz von Uchatius, was the first to project moving pictures in 1853. However, his Projecting Phenakistoscope produced blurred images. The problem was solved by L.S. Beale, who devised a six-frame slide called a Choreutoscope. This slide briefly held each picture before the projecting lens and the used a shutter to block the light until a system of gears slid the next image into place.”
Later on, an odd scene made history in 1878, for the racehorse, Occident, was the first moving subject to be captured in a photograph sequence. Imagine the scene (Platt, 1992:10).:
“thundering down a white track, a racehorse snaps threads stretched tight across its path. The broken threads trigger the shutters of 12 identical cameras, so with each prancing step, the horse photographs itself.” Yet, “the British photographer, Eadweard Muybridge, was not the first to use a camera nor to photograph movement since Frenchman Nicéphore Niépce invented photography more than 50 years earlier and pictures of slow-moving subjects were common.”
Also, in 1888 Louis Le Prince, a French engineer working in England, did manage to produce moving images of traffic passing over a bridge in Leeds, using a specially treated paper strip. But he mysteriously vanished in 1890 leaving his work unfinished. Claims have also been made on behalf of many other European and American inventors” (Parkinson, 1995:16). Later on, another French artist, Émile Reynaud, “pioneered an alternative projector called the Praxinoscope. Based on the Zoetrope, it used mirrors placed at the centre of the drum to project images on to miniature stage sets. In 1892 he constructed a fullsize version, with which he presented his Illuminated Pantomimes at the Optical Theatre in Paris. Complete with musical accompaniment, these charmings shows are considered to be the earliest animated films. His first programme was made up of The Clown and his Dogs, Poor Pierrot, and A Good Glass of Beer” (Parkinson, 1995:13).
But, following Parkinson (1995:16), “it as Scotsman William Dickson [1860-1935], an assistant to the famous American Thomas Edison [1847- 1931], who produced the first movie camera in
1891. Edison hoped that a picture machine would have the same commercial success as the light bulb and the Phonograph which had earlier been developed by his laboratories. Using a camera, which he called the Kinetograph, Dickson shot one of the earliest motion pictures of a man raising his hat and bowing. Two years later he completed the Kinetoscope, a viewer that employed a stop-start motion to wind films past a peephole situated in its lid.”
“In order to satisfy the demand for moving picturs featuring vaudeville (or music -hall) stars, comedians and boxers, Edison built the world’s first film studio. This was called the Black Maria, becuase it looked like an American police wagon of the period. Inside this cramped room Dickson photographed such influential early films as Fred Ott’s Sneeze and The Rice-Irwin Kiss. Convinced that moving pictures would be merely a passing novelty, Edison decided to ignore projection and make a quick profit from his Kinetoscopes.” Yet, “others recognized this and continued working towards creating a projecting machine” (Parkinson, 1995:17).
2.2. From the birth of cinema (1895) up to the present day.
Among those who continued working on the projecting machine were “Louis and Augute
Lumière who demonstrated their Cinématographe projector at a scientific conference in March
1895. Later that spring, Major Woodville Latham showed a boxing film to a paying crowd on Broadway in New York. In August, Birt Acres and R.W. Paul projected several shorts with the Kineopticon in London. The following month Americans Thomas Armat and Francis Jenkins presented their Phantascope in Atlanta. Finally, just weeks before the Lumières’s Grand Café première, Max and Emil Skladanowsky exhibited their Bioscope in Berlin” (Parkinson,
Following Parkinson (1995:17), “any of these inventors could justifiably claim to have projected the first moving pictures, but the majority of film experts now agree that cinema began with the Lumières’s show on 28 December 1895.”
2.2.1. The film era: three main stages.
So, the film era has already started and as Platt (1992:18) states, “the invention of moving pictures was such a sensation that audiences paid just to see people walking or dancing on screen. When the novelty wore off, New York and Philadelphia film companies built roof-top studios and turned out short, cheap, dramas: fims that told stories, like stage plays. But for good pictures, they needed sunshine, and they soon became tired of waiting for the clouds over the East Coast to clear. In 1910, many film makers headed west for California.”
“There, close to Los Angeles, they found a sleepy town called Hollywood. Land was cheap, wages were low, the sun shone constantly, and there was an incredible variety of background landscapes for their movies, just a short distance away. Hollywood grew quickly –from 5,000 people in 1910 to 1910 to 35,000 less than a decade later. The film people creates studios, the studios created movie stars, the stars built mansions, and soon the very name “Hollywood” began to mean “Movies”. Since then cinema is characterised by three main stages: the Silent Film Era, the Golden Age which coincided with the arrival of sound to the screen, and finally, the Second Golden Era, which is commonly known because of the ‘movie brats’.
22.214.171.124. The Silent Film Era.
Though Hollywood was the centre of world movie -making for most of the silent era, many other countries had thriving film industries. In Europe, Germany actually produced more feature films than the USA in 1913. In 1926, German director Fritz Lang produced his silent masterpiece
Metropolis, a chilling vision of the future; British studios flourished in the 1920s and 1930s. Britain’s best-known studio, Rank, was founded in the 1930s by flourmilling tycoon J. Arthur (later lord) Rank, in order to make religious films; in Italy, the Cinecittà was created, but became less important as Hollywood grew; and in France, Leon Gaumont founded the British Gaumont studios in Shepherd’s Bush, west London.
In the States, during the first decade of the twentieth century, Hollywood began to replace New York as the centre of filmmaking and several companies were created, thus Paramount Company by the mogul Adolph Zukor; Metro Goldwyn Mayer, whose motto was “more stars than there are in the heavens”; Warner Brothers, which dismissed bad reviews with the words “Today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s toilet paper”; and later on in 1935, the famous studio 20th Century Fox, which pioneered both sound and colour.
The reasons to create all these companies were several: independent producers went west to escape the dutches of the Motion Picture Patents Company, a trust formed to enforce a monopoly on filmmaking patents; the suburbs round Los Angeles were relatively undeveloped and furnished excellent natural resources for filmmaking on the cheap (sun, desert, mountains, nearby urban locations); and, crucially, the area was also a source of far cheaper labour than could be found in New York” (Shiach, 1995:12).
Actually, the first motion picture theatre, the Electric, was opened in 1902 in Los Angeles. “Early cinemas were called ‘nickelodeons’ because you paid a nickel (five cents) to see the show. By 1907 there were approximately 3000 such nickelodeons across America. The cinema was on its way to becoming big business” (Shiach, 1993:10). In 1903 the Edison factory produced the first true narrative film, The Great Train Robbery, and a few years later a young actor, on replacing a sick director, produced The Adventures of Dolly , which was to launch him as a great film-maker, David Wark Griffith.
In 1907 he was offered the chance to appear in Edwin Porter’s Rescued from an Eagle ’s Nest, and although he originally disliked cinema, he directed 61 short films within a year Grifith and was regarded as one of America’s most promising film- makers. In 1912 he watched the audience’s reaction to the French film Queen Elizabeth , which ran for about 50 minutes, and later the Italian epic Quo Vadis?, which lasted for almost two hours. Then, though by the end of
1913 he had completed over 450 motion pictures and was hailed as the ‘Shakespeare of the screen’, he began to work on his first feature film, The Birth of a Nation. Next year, the Paramount Pictures was formed to release the pictures of the Famous Players Company and the World War First started (1914-1918).
In 1915 the most famous silent movie of all, The Birth of Nation, was released and everything Griffith had learned about film- making he used on this three-hour epic. Tracing the relations between two families during the American Civil War and the period of reconstruction that followed, this film was easily the most ambitious film so far attempted in America: spectacular battle sequences, long shots juxtaposed, and specially coloured or tinted film stock to heighten their mood. The film was a success and it earned the cinema a new social and intellectual respectability as audiences of all classes flocked to see it. However, it was also seen as an openly racist depiction since the Ku Klux Klan were represented heroically as the defenders of civilised values and, as a result, it was banned in many American cities.
The WWI marked a dramatic change in America at three main levels. First, at social level the younger generation were keen to abandon many of the moral and cultural attitudes that had existed before the war since the motor car, the radio, the tabloid press and a new style of music called jazz became part of daily life. This social revolution was seen as a more relaxed approach to sex and morality which Hollywood was quick to exploit. Secondly, at industrial and economic level since many countries (film industries of the Soviet Union, Germany, France and Scandinavia) were forced to stop making pictures between 1914 and 1918; and finally, at popularity level, since thanks to it, the American film industry had effectively establish itself as the dominant cinema.
Hollywood studios had then the power to impose their products wherever films were shown commercially since they created an aura of glamour and excitement round movies, where stars were the main protagonists. In the first films, the actors playing leading roles earned low salaries and were anonymous. The ‘star system’ began when highly paid and pampered stage actors began to appear in films. The lives of famous film people appeared to be idyllic because of huge houses, ranging from French chateaux to Spanish haciendas, swimming pools, servants, cars, and parties. Hence their glamorous life-styles gave fans a fantasy of escaping their own humdrum lives despite that fact that, in real life, many stars came from humble homes.
Among the most famous film stars then we include the Polish Pola Negri (1894- 1987), who ended her career when sound arrived to the scene; the so-called Valentino, actually Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926), who was the idol of millions of women playing an arab lover in films such as The Sheik (1921); the beautiful Gloria Swanson (1897-1983) who began as an extra; Bebe Daniels (1901- 1971), who first appeared on screen at the age of seven; and Theda Bara (1890-1955), famed fo her sexy roles as eastern princesses, among others.
Following Shiach (1993:15), “by the twenties movies were very big business indeed. The average movie was unsophisticated and direct in its appeal. Film makers went after family audiences because that was where the money was, so escapism was the order of the day. Movies offered an escape frome everyday problems” and hence the Hollywood studios were called the Dream Factories. They wanted to produce the highest quality entertainment, but they were not keen to risk making films that might not earn any money. This is the moment in which literature comes into force since to minimize such risks, “they began to concentrate on groups of films called genres. These reused the most popular plots, characters, locations and themes to guarantee box-office success” (Parkinson, 1995:24).
Parkinson added that “among the most popular genres were crime, horror, comedy, melodrama, action adventure and the Western” (the development of each of these genres from the silent era to the present day is covered in next section on subjects and stories). “The most important pictures were backed by cleverly targeted advertising and mass publicity campaigns, which focused on film stars who, by the 1920s, had become the cornerstone of the entire Hollywood system.” At the same time, the studios tried to avoid the examination of films by the authorities and imposed their own strict moral code on both their pictures and their employees.
As seen, “silent screen stars, like modern mime artists, became expert at expressing themselves without words. Instead, they communicated with their faces and hands, exaggerating every gesture. Then suddenly, in 1927, the silent screen spoke. Film makers had found a practical way to record sounds as well as pictures” (Platt, 1992:22) and interest in silent cinema disappeared virtually overnight. Follow ing Parkinson (1995:27), “the sudden decline of silent film- making has no parallel in any other art form. The public never abandoned classical music, but the idols of the silent era almost are forgotten.” He also adds that by 1927 “as Hollywood dominated international cinema, silent production virtually ceased in the western world within three years. An age of bold artistic experiment was over.”
126.96.36.199. The Golden Age: the sound era.
Following Parkinson (1995: 34), “sound transformed cinema. Film industries sprang up around the world, as countries began tomake pictures in their own languages. Europe has produced many fine films, and Africa, Asia and Australia have begun to make an impact on the international scene. But the film capital of the world is still Hollywood. From here have come not only many of the most popular films of all time, but also much of the technology that makes movie -going so magical.” Moreover, “Warner Brothers desperately needed to attract big audiences to stay in business, so Sam Warner decided to take a risk with sound” and “in 1926
his studio made Don Juan , which was a silent costume drama that included sound effects and orchestral music on a sound-on-disc system called Vitaphone.” The real proof that “the silent era was over finally came in October 1927 with the release of The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson.”
Also, “colour, like sound, did not immediately become an essential part of international film- making, and many films continued to be made in black-and-white, or monochrome up to the
1970s. One reason for this was that most directors preferred the more subtle and atmospheric images they could achieve with monochrome” (Parkinson, 1995:38). The technicolor method (introduced by Herbert T. Kalmus in 1917) was used on many silent classics, including The Black Pirate (1926), Disney’s cartoon Flowers and Trees (1932), The Wizard of Oz and (1930s) Margaret Michell’s Gone With the Wind (1940s). However, technicolor’s first real test came in
1935, with the launch of Becky Sharp, a historical drama based on Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. It was the first feature film made entirely using the Technicolor three-strip process.”
In the inter-war years, European directors adapted to sound more quickly than directors in
Hollywood. Actually, according to Parkinson (1995: 45) “for a brief period in the middle of the
1930s Hollywood’s most serious competition came from its biggest customer –Britain. But most British movies were cheaply and quickly made, produced only to fulfil the terms of the Quota Act, which stated that 20 per cent of all British screen time had to be filled with British pictures.” One of the most important directors of the time was Alfred Hitchcock, who began his career directing silent thrillers like The Lodger (1926).
Hitchcock made his name with the first British Talkie, Blackmail (1929), which explored his favourite theme, fear in everyday life. “He was deeply influenced by German Expressionism and planned each scene with great precision so that the décor, props, performers and camera angles, as well as the music and sound effects, all added to the tension of the plot” (1995: 45). “He so effortlessly blended thrills, comedy and romance in the pictures like The 39 Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938) that by the time he moved to Hollywood he was known as the
‘Master of Suspense’. His first American film was the tense melodrama Rebecca, which won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1940.”
“During World War II (1939- 1945) films had to provide both information and entertainment. British pictures like Went the Day Well? were almost as realistic as documentaries. Among the best Hollywood war films were Lifeboat (1944), Alfred Hitchcock’s study of the Nazi menace, and Tay Garnett’s Bataan (1943), which depicted the harsh realities of the conflict in the Pacific.” Actually, “cinema was transformed in the period after World War II. A growing
number of directors began to make films showing the world around them in a more realistic way” in the same way literature did within the influential style known as neo-realism or new realism in the 1940s.
New realities were also to be shown by Britain, which also made highly polished pictures during this period. Following Parkinson (1995:51), they were mainly costume melodramas, heroic war films and pictures known as ‘Ealing comedies’ that gently poked fun at the British character. But producers like Alexander Korda and J. Arthur Rank were not content with only pleasing British audiences. They also wanted to succeed in America. They co-produced films like Carol Reed’s thriller The Third Man (1949) with Hollywood money and stars like Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton. For other films they drew on Britain’s colourful history and proud literary heritage.” For instance, “David Lean’s version of Dicken’s Great Expectations (1946) and Laurence Olivier’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1948) were much admired. But British cinema did not have enough money to challenge Hollywood seriously, even though Hollywood was itself deep in a crisis that threatened its very survival.”
In the States, American directors approached their subjects in much the same way as the Italian neo-realists had done in order to increase the realism of their films. “They abandoned artificial studio sets and shot the action to location, often casting less well- known performers in the leading roles rather than big stars. However, even the problem pictures that were most critical of society usually concluded that things would improve if everyone lived according to traditional American values. This idealism was totally absent from a brutal, pessimistic kind of feature film known as film noir” (1995:53). Hence we have again a connection to literature since the most famous films of this type are John Huston’s version of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (1930) in 1941; and Edward Dmytryks’s version of Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely (1940) in
However, right-wing politicians did not agree with this type of ‘problem pictures’ and, as a result, “in September 1947 a government body called the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) came to Hollywood to investigate ‘Communism in motion pictures’. Consequently, since ten screenwriters and directors refused to cooperate, they were jailed. Several leading film stars, including Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Gene Kelly, campaigned for the release of the ‘Hollywood Ten’. Then, the studios threatened to put communists and their supporters on a ‘blacklist’ and they decided to back down. The blacklist resulted in the ruin of many talented individuals, and the ‘witch-hunt’ created deep divisions within Hollywood.
Also, the 1950s coincided with the widescreen technology, known as Cinerama, which had originally been invented to help train air force gunners during World War II. Hollywood believed that widescreen epics wre the way to win the war with television and films in all genres were made in the widescreen format, among which we highlight King Vidor’s War and Peace (1956). Moreover, “many screen stars of the Golden Age remained popular after World War II, along with later Hollywood performers such as Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston and Burt Lancaster. Their looks and glamorous styles were given as much publicity as their ability to act” (1995:57).
“In the late 1950s a new technique known as ‘method acting’ became popular with young actors like Marlon Brando, James Dean and Paul Newman. They believed that their performances would be more lifelike if they studied the background to their characters for many months before filming started. The result was a depth and realism that had not been seen on screen before” (1995:57). A similar literary technique was the study of personality by psychological techniques drawn from Freud (stream of consciousness, depiction of thoughts). The end of the era was close and over the next 30 years the boldest and most imaginative pictures were to be made in Europe.
The 1960s was a decade of enormous change. Exciting new attitudes to sex, fashion and politics were reflected in films, books, music and art. It was a time when film-makers everywhere began to reject the basic storytelling methods that had been used for over half a century. Contemporary techniques taken from literary genres or advertis ing such as the flashback or the new wave
‘cinematic truth’ method are applied to cinema. British cinema is also transformed during the
1950s and 1960s since it is influenced by the social background of the time: the ‘kitchen sink’ stage plays are usually set in the industrial north and deal with the everyday lives of ‘angry young men’ who are dissatisfied with their place in society to add realism.
188.8.131.52. The Second Golden Age: the ‘movie brats’.
Following Parkinson (1995:68- 9), “since 1970 a new generation of film-makers, nicknamed the
‘movie brats’, has dominated Hollywood. Their big- budget blockbusters appeal to younger audiences. Action-packed entertainments are released worldwide, with adevertising and publicity campaigns to ensure that they succeed at the box office. Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg were the best known of this new generation. They were called ‘movie brats’ because they had been trained at film schools, where they developed their wide knowledge of cinema history, which influenced their individual styles of directing. Coppola’s The Godfather (1972) and Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) began a new era of blockbusters.”
Science fiction and “escapist adventures offer more leading roles to actors than to actresses. Among the stars to have emerged as a result are action-men like Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson. There are also many respected characters actors including Robert de Niro, Al Pacino, Michael Douglas, Jack Nicholson, Tom Hanks, Kevin Costner and Tom Cruise. Only Julia Roberts, Sharon Stone and Demi Moore have equal box- office appeal. But Hollywood can call on many fine actresses, including Jodie Foster, Michelle Pfeiffer, Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, Winona Ryder, Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon.”
It must be borne in mind that “American self-confidence was very low in the mid-1970s, following its defeat in the Vietnam War and the resignation of President Nixon after the Watergate bugging scandal. America’s gloom was reflected in a number of powerful films. A key director in this period was Robert Altman. He re-worked several film genres, such as the war movie (M*A*S*H, 1970), the Western (McCabe and Mrs Miller, 1971), the detective thriller (The Long Goodbye, 1973) and the musical (Nashville , 1975) to challenge the glamorous image of America usually presented by Hollywood. He even poked fun at the movie business itself in The Player (1992).”
“The problem facing Hollywood in the 1990s is how to appeal to young audiences while retaining the loyalty of adults who have grown out of ‘kidpix’ escapism. Studio executives have fallen back on the familiar storylines of the Hollywood genres to find a solution. When complaints wre made about the amount of sex and violence in movies, producers began to concentraqte more on ‘feel good’ entertainment. Pictures like Pretty Woman (1990) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993) marked a return to the romantic comedies of the Golden Age of Hollywood” for family movies. “Some blockbusters like Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Judge Dredd (1995) still rely heavily on special effects. But others are now spending their budgets on lavish costumes and sets for such swashbuckling historical adventures as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) and Braveheart (1995)”, inspired on real British historical facts. “Many other period pieces are adapted from novels, like The Age of Innocence (1993) and Interview with the Vampire (1994).”
Up to now we have seen how “during the first century of its existence the cinema has usually managed to find imaginative ways of using the latest technology. Sound, colour and widescreen all eventually became essential elements in film-making, after long periods of trial and error. Perhaps the same will be said one day for 3D, interactive systems such as CD-i and virtual reality. Digital video (DV) now makes it possible to store moving images on a compact disc. When it is inserted, the viewer can influence a film’s plot and ending simply by using a joypad.
Computer imaging will soon make it possible for viewers not only to alter the storyline of popular pictures, but also to star in them themselves! After a century of cinema projection, the
‘electronic cinema’ may take us through the next 100 years. Whatever happens, it is clear that the moving image will continue to excite, entertain and enthrall audiences of all ages and tastes.”
2.3. The cinema: literary adaptations.
As mentioned above, one of the main sources from which cinema receives most ideas and plots is literature. Actually, during the silent film era, Hollywood studios wanted to attract the widest audiences, so they began to make films within certain subject areas, called literary genres, which gave audiences familiar plots, characters and settings. The different cinematic genres, as for literary ones, offer then exciting adventure, hilarious comedy, unbearable suspense, heart- warming romance and much more.
Audiences would know what to expect and then, they would have two sets of expectations at least, of the genre and the star. Genres made sense economically because a studio could re-use the same sets, locations, actors, directors, costumes and even plots from literary works to churn out more westerns, musicals, comedies or war movies which bred a sense of familiarity in the mass audience. It must be borne in mind that genres and stars were a means of product differentiation and a way of persuading the customer to come back for more. Moreover, the only demand made on the audience was to sit back and enjoy itself.
So, we shall approach the literary adaptations in terms of (1) subjects and stories, regarding (a) the Western, (b) the musical, (c) crime stories regarding gangsters and film noir, (d) adventure, (e) comedies, (f) epics, (g) horror, (h) scie nce fiction, (i) love stories, and (j) war; and also, in terms of (2) main techniques and (3) main similarities and differences.
2.3.1. Main subjects and stories.
184.108.40.206. The Western.
Following Schiach (1993:206), “the western is the most cinematic of the genres because no other art form can hope to emulate the cinema’s power to represent the myths of the American frontier in such an immediate and all-embracing manner. But why have westerns been so popular with the public in the past and why have they largely disappear nowadays from our cinema screens? The answer lies in the way westerns deal in mythology. They present a view of America’s frontier and agrarian past that feeds the American Dream: the rugged individual
striking out for the unknown, Man against raw Nature, the pursuit of an independent way of life, the acquiring of land and wealth, the conquering of hostile elements in the shape of Indians and
‘bad’ men, and building communities out of the wilderness based on simple values, hard work and Godliness.”
“Packed with stagecoaches, cattle stampedes, tribal raids, saloon brawls, lawmen, villains and gunfights, the Western represents a unique American contribution to the arts. Celebrating chiefly the 30-year period that followed the end of the American Civil War in 1865, Westerns often had similar plots, but their combination of breathtaking scenery, larger-than-life characters, distinctive costumes and exciting action made them popular with audiences worldwide.” Hence, the first cowboy picture was Cripple Creek Bar Room (1898), the first important Western was The Great Train Robbery (1903), and John Ford as the greatest director of the ‘psychological Westerns’.
Actually, there are several literary adaptations taken from English and American literature at that time. John Ford, notable for the beauty of his composition and his insights into the hardships of frontier life, produced several popular and intelligent Westerns, which were turned into art forms. He made hugely influential films in a range of other genres, winning Best Direction Oscars for The Informer (1935), How Green Was My Valley (1941) and, for our purposes, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (1940), originally written in 1939; and The Quiet Man (1952). More recently, the pioneering era when America was a British colony was shown in the Hollywood’s cinematic adaptation from James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, re-made in 1992.
220.127.116.11. The musical.
“The musical is another genre that Hollywood took over and made its own. When sound came to Hollywood, the studios poured out film after film with people singing and dancing rather inexpertly, and audiences seemed to love these happy films” (Shiach, 1993:209). However, soon the public got tired of the new phenomenon, the movie musical probably due to the onset of the Depression or the surfeit of musicals as well as the studio system since they were expensive to make and required a large body of permanent employees to produce. Among the most famous Broadway blockbusters taken from literary works in this genre was My Fair Lady, produced in
18.104.22.168. Crime: gangsters and film noir.
The literary genre of crime fiction has probably been the most adapted by cinema. Both gangster movies and film noir take characters, plot and scenery from English literature. According to Parkinson (1995:94), “crime was a popular subject in the silent film era. The earliest screen crooks were usually burglars or melodramatic villains and swindlers. The crime film presents a very sinister picture of modern city life. Set on crowded, unwelcoming streets, the action is often fast and the talk is always tough. Gangsters, bank robbers and murderers seem to lurk on every corner, while cops, private eyes and special agents search for clues to solve baff ling mysteries.” We shall concentrate in this section on gangsters and sleuths within crime, and private eyes within film noir.
On the one hand, “the gangster film was transformed by the coming of sound. The rattle of machine-gun fire, the screams of onlookers and the screeching tyres of getaway cars all added to the excitement and realism of these tough-talking pictures. The hoodlums in the films in the classic gangster era (1930- 1933) were often based on real gangsters who operated in American cities like Chicago. Many of the stories in these features were taken directly from true crime reports splashed across the daily newspapers” (Parkinson, 1995:94).
Yet, most films were based on amateur detectives or ‘sleuths’ taken from literature, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. These stories, set amid the bustling, foggy streets of Victorian London, made Hollywood stars like Basil Rathbone (as Holmes) and Nigel Bruce (as his faithful assistant) starred in fourteen adventures together, many of whic h, like Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943), were set during World War II.
“In the 1930s and 1940s several other sleuths found their way on to the screen from the pages of popular fiction. The most sophisticated films of this type were the Thin Man series, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles. The British author Agatha Christie’s best-known character, the Belgian detective Hercules Poirot, has featured in a number of all-star
‘whodunits’, including Murder on the Orient Express (1974)”, originally written in 1934.
Regarding the film noir, the most famous Hollywood private eyes were set within the gloomy and threatening atmosphere of WWII. They first appeared “in the pages of hard-edged thrillers by American writers like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. World-weary and charming, the private eye solved baffling mysteries in which there were as many murders as there were twists in the plot” (1995:96). Actually, Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (1930)
launched this shadowy style in 1941’s widescreens and introduced a new kind of detective, the private eye, also known as the ‘shamus’.
Humphrey Bogart played Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, and went on to star as the equally tough Philip Marlowe in Chandler’s The Big Sleep in 1946, originally written in 1939. “Several other actors have also played the part of Marlowe, including Dick Powell in Farewell, My Lovely (1944) and Elliot Gould in The Long Goodbye (1973). But the role is usually associated with Bogart. Other private eyes in the same cynical mould include Mike Hammer in the brutal Kiss Me Deadly (1955) and J.J. Gittes, played by Jack Nicholson in Chinatown (1974) and The Two Jakes (1990). Other literary adaptations include Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock (1938), taken to the widescreen in 1948; Hammett’s The Thin Man (1934), filmed in 1934; and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Psycho (a thriller) filmed in 1958 and 1960, respectively.
Following Parkinson (1995:74), “action and adventure movies are pure escapism. They are usually simple tales of heroes and villains locked in a struggle between good and evil. The pace is fast and furious; the chases, rescues, fights and escapes are spectacular. There is also humour and romance, but they only play supporting roles. In all other genres, the action sequences form only part of the story. In adventure films they are everything.”
In the 1920s the director Douglas Fairbanks brought a swaggering, acrobatic style to many of the screen’s best-loved adventures, including Robin Hood, D’Artagnan, The Thief of Bagdad and The Black Pirate. Yet, the most enjoyable version was the one made in 1948 with Gene Kelly as an energetic, almost gymnastic D’Artagnan. The director Richard Lester made three lighthearted variations on the story in the 1970s and 1980s. The Three Musketeers was made yet again for youngter viewers in 1993, taken from the French author Alexandre Dumas’s Three Musketeers (1844) episodes.
Also, Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959) was adapted to cinema, in which a businessman (Gary Grant) beocmes the target of a gang of traitors led by an enemy agent (James Mason); historical events taken from British History, such as Robin Hood, Prince of the Thieves (1991), Braveheart (1995), Rob Roy (1995), First Knight (1995); and, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (1856), filmed in 1956.
“Comedy is the oldest form of film fiction. The very first cinema show given by the Lumière brothers in 1895 included a comic short film – L’Arroseur arrosé (The Sprinkler Sprinkled)” (Parkinson, 1995:80). The most important comedy actors were Charles Chaplin in the early years of cinema, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, and more recently, comedy actors such Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Jim Carrey. It is worth mentioning that comedy has taken little from literature and this unpredictability makes comedy the most difficult film style to do consistently well.
“The cinema has always tried to provide spectacle for mass audiences. The technological and material resources of cinema can recreate any period of history, any imaginary world, any vision of writers and directors. Movies have tried ever since they became a mass entertainment to privde spectacles that no other art or entertainment medium can rival in their size, opulence and authenticity” (Shiach, 1993:215).
“Birth of a Nation was the cinema’s first great spectacle and from then on many producers and directors have attempted to impress us with the grandness of their designs, the extravagance of their concepts, their devotion to reproducing a historical period, and to rewriting history itself. Among those works worth mentioning, which have been adapted from historical literature, we include: Birth of a Nation (1915), The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), the imperial adventures of The Four Feathers (1939), Braveheart (1995), Rob Roy (1995), and the recent Troia (2004), among others.
Following Schiach (1993:219), audiences love to be scared and filmmakers have learned to serve up ready-made nightmares on order. Horror films came out of the tradition of European gothic novels by way of Mary Godwin and Bram Stoker. Cinema, of all the art forms, is nearest to the dream state – we sit in the dark watching huge fig ures on a screen enact our fantasies and fears. Horror films deal with our nightmares, the fears of mankind, the horror of the irrational and the unknown, the horror of man himself.”
Actually, Parkinson (1995:100) says that “the pioneer of screen horror was Étienne Robertson, whose Phantasmagoria (1798) terrified audiences in Paris during the French revolution.”
Moreover, “many horror film directors were inspired by ‘Gothic romances’, which also first appeared at the end of the 18th century. These novels were set in ruined castles and gloomy monasteries built in the Gothic style of architecture.”
Similarly, the famous 19th-century novel by Bram Stoker, Dracula , based on the historical figure of Dracula in 16th-century Transylvania, has still terrified people in modern-day New York through films such as Dracula (1958), and more recently, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) or Interview with the Vampire (2001). Other terror films like Frankestein (1931) and Mary Shelley’s Frankestein (1994) have been based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) monster as well as Doyle’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue; Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) and George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968).
22.214.171.124. Science fiction.
“Science-fiction films have been made since the early 20th century. Many of the first pictures were set in the future or on distant planets, and included experiments with camera tricks, special effects, costumes and make-up. It is thanks to science fiction that many devices and processes were invented that have since become common in films of all kinds.” Actually, “it was not until the Cold War era of teh 1950s, when invasion and nuclear holocaust seemed very real threats, that more serious themes were tackled. Even then, sci-fi films did not have big budgets or big stars, so the special effects –and the acting- were usually both second rate.”
At the beginning, the main inspiration was taken from Julius Verne’s adventures to the moon, into Earth or in the sea, such as Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959). Time travel is as old as cinema itself and hence, we get adaptations from H.G. Well’s landmark sci-fi novel, The Time Machine (1985), filmed in 1960, which was published just months before the first cinema show in 1895. Later on, from the comic trip adventures of superheroes like Flash Gordon and from Superman.
The outer space was a common theme in the 1950s with the new outer space era and extraterrestrial life, shown in Outer Space (1959), Stanley Kuberick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), George Lucas’s Star Wars (1977), and more recently, Irvin Kershner’s The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Richard Marquand’s The Return of the Jedi (1983), Steven Spielberg’s E.T.-The Extraterrestrial (1982). More recently, archaelogical discoveries, the successful Jurassic Park (1993), directed by Steven Spielberg, was based on the best-selling novel by Michael Crichton.
126.96.36.199. Love stories.
“By ‘love stories’ or ‘romantic movies’, one usually means movies where the main interest is in the romantic involvement of the two leads. Some people, on that basis, would argue that Gone With the Wind is a love story about Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler rather than a civil war epic. Similarly, Casablanca is about the tragic love between Bogart and Bergman rather than a thriller involving the Nazis, Claude Rains as a Vichy policeman and the Resistance” (Shiach,
1993:222). Similarly, who remembers very much about the Spanish Civil War from
Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls (1940)?
“The British have made their share of romantic movies, but unitl the sixties they were usually of the tight- lipped, blouse-buttoned variety.” For instance, Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy, is a hugely romantic movie dedicated to the concept of a love that transcends all was adapted by George Steven’s film version A Place in the Sun (1952), featured by Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor. In fact, the screen romance had onlyl one golden rule: that true love should never run smoothly. Only when lovers had overcome all obstacles in the ir path could they be united in a final kiss. Also, the film Rebecca, filmed by Hitchcock in 1940, based on the novel of Daphne Du Maurier’s popular novel Rebecca.
On the other hand, following Parkinson (1995:91), “a common romantic storyline was one in which the characters were not immediately attracted to each other.” This is the case of how Hemingway shows some stories of boxing, bullfighting, war and love relationships between men and women in A Farewell to Arms (1929), a tragic story of love, betrayal and reconciliation against the violent backdrop of World War I. Other similar works are Gone with the Wind (1939), From Here to Eternity (1953), Love Story (1970); and literary adaptations include: Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations (1861), filmed in 1946, and more recently, 2000; Emily Brönte’s Wuthering Heights (1847), filmed in 1939 and 1992; and Howards End, the third novel by the Edwardian author E.M. Forster to be adapted for the screen by the director-producer team of James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, though it is considered a melodrama rather than a love story.
Following Parkinson (1995:118), “cinema helped transform people’s attitude to war by bringing the realities of combat to their local screens. At first governments were not keen to show such powerful pictures in wartime, for fear they would lower morale. But they soon came to realize that both factual and fictional films could stir up popular support for their war efforts. Battle sequences whether ancient, medieval or from the Napoleonic era usually looked spectacular.”
Hence, the best-known literary adaptation is Stephen Crane’s haunting Civil War novel, The
Red Badge of Courage (1895), filmed in 1951 by John Huston.
2.3.2. Main techniques.
As mentioned above, from its birth cinema has adapted literary novels to assure success, and similarly, it has also adapted the main techniques used in the literary scene. So, in the twentieth century literature witnesses the development of new revolutionary techniques in which the new approach was a new way to interprete life, scientific and technological experiments, and the influence of pshychology. So, we may appreciate certain techniques, such as flashback in which the story does not follow a chronological order but this is altered so as to attract the viewer’s attention; the psychological influence of Freud’s theories on the human mind, reflected in the stream of consciousness; and also the influential effects of literary streams such as realism, modernism, experimentalism.
2.3.3. Main similarities and differences.
As mentioned above, film makers went after family audiences because that was where the money was, and they wanted to produce the highest quality entertainment, but they were not keen to risk making films that might not earn any money. So, since they needed familiar issues and stories to deal with, they approached literature to minimize such risks. Yet, since they were to benefit each other though, they present similarities and differences. Among similiarities, we mention the fact that they both are regarded as genres, for instance, cinematic and literary genres, and as such, they deal with the same subjects and stories, and common elements: plots, characters, locations and techniques.
Among the main differences we highlight the fact that since they are different languages, they operate on different levels regarding time, content, and treatment. While watching a film takes between one hour and three hours, we have no limits to read a book (one day, two weeks, a year), that is, in cinema the spectator cannot make his choice of the speed in passing thorugh the events and situations whereas in literature the reader makes his own choice; also, imagination does not work in the same way at the level of visualizing images, since when reading a book we mentally create our own image about characters and scenery whereas at the cinema it is the director choice which determines the image (selection of characters and scenery); and finally, the difficulty of adapting literary novels since the director may change the writer’s point of view by using a free adaptation.
3. EDUCATIONAL IMPLICATIONS IN LANGUAGE TEACHING.
Literature, and therefore, literary language is one of the most salient aspects of educational activity, and in this unit we have linked its relevance to cinema. In classrooms all kinds of literary language (poetry, drama, prose –novel, short story, detective fiction, minor fiction-, periodicals) either spoken or written, is going on for most of the time. Yet, handling literary productions in the past makes relevant the analysis of literature in the twentieth and twenty-first century in this unit, specially when we find literary adaptations to the cinema. Yet, what do students know about the relationship of cinema and literature throughtout history?
Currently, action research groups attempt to bring about change in classroom learning and teaching through a focus on literary production through the presence of cinema productions. First, because they believe learning is an integral aspect of any form of activity and second, because education at all levels must be conceived in terms of literature and cinema history. The basis for these assumptions is to be found in an attempt, through the use of historical events, to develop understanding of students’ shared but diverse social and physical environment.
Learning involves a process of transformation of participation itself which has far reaching implications on the role of the teacher in the teaching- learning relationship. This means that literary productions are an analytic tool when related to cinema, and that teachers need to identify the potential contributions and potential limitations of them before we can make good use of genre techniques, in our case, flashback, stream of consciousness, suspense, and so on. We must bear in mind that most students will continue their studies at university and there, they will have to handle successfully all kind of genres within our current framework.
Moreover, today’s new technologies (the Internet, DVD, videocamera) and the media (TV, radio, cinema) may provide a new direction to language teaching as they set more appropriate context for students to experience the target culture. Present-day approaches deal with a communicative competence model in which first, there is an emphasis on significance over form, and secondly, motivation and involvement are enhanced by means of new technologies and the media when dealing with literary adaptations. Hence literary productions and the history of cinema may be approched in terms of film displays in class, among others.
Hence it makes sense to examine the main literary adaptations through the subjects students feel most attracted, such as detective and love stories, or science fiction, such as Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (1930) by John Huston’s adaptation in 1941 starring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade; Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep (1946), directed by Howard Hawks, and starring
Bogart & Bacall; Hitchcock’s Psycho; or Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Chandler’s private detective Philip Marlowe, familiar to students through television.
This is to be achieved within the framework of the European Council (1998) and, in particular, the Spanish Educational System which establishes a common reference framework for the teaching of foreign languages where students are intended to carry out several communication tasks with specific communicative goals, for instance, how to locate a literary work within a particular historical period. Analytic interpretation of texts in all genres should become part of every literary student’s basic competence (B.O.E., 2004).
In short, the knowledge about the history of literature and cineman should become part of every literary student’s basic competence (B.O.E., 2004) since there are hidden influences at work beneath the textual surface: these may be sociocultural, inter and intratextual. The literary student has to discover these, and wherever necessary apply them in further examination. The main aims that our currently educational system focuses on are mostly sociocultural, to facilitate the study of cultural themes, as our students must be aware of their current social reality within the international scene.
The present unit, Unit 61 has provided so far a useful introduction to the impact of cinema on the diffusion of literary works in the English language . In doing so, we have offered an overview of the origins of literature and cinema from the birth of cinema up to the present day regarding the three main stages in film era, that is, the Silent Era, in which there was nor sound or colour; the Golden Age, in which sound arrived to the screen, and finally, the Second Golden Age, which coincided with a new generation of film-makers, nicknamed the ‘movie brats’.
Last section has approached the issue of literary adaptations in terms of main subjects and stories; main cinema techniques adapted from literature, and finally, main similarities and differences so as to make our students aware of the important relationship of cinema and literature in the past and nowadays. Chapter 3 has presented the main educational implications in language teaching regarding the introduction of this issue in the classroom setting; and now we try to put an end to our presentation by offering a brief overall view Finally, Chapter 4 will include all the bibliographical references used to develop this presentation for further information.
So far, we have attempted to provide the reader in this presentation with a historical and cultural background on the vast amount of literature and cinema productions in the twentieth and twenty-first-century literature in the English-speaking countries. This information is relevant for language learners, even ESO and Bachillerato students, who do not automatically establish similiarities between literature and cinema, and the rest of the world in terms of social reality. So, learners need to have these associations brought to their attention in cross-curricular settings through the media. As we have seen, understanding how literature and cinema reflects the main historical events of a country is important to students, who are expected to be aware of the richness of English-speaking countries literature.
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