SYNOPTIC RESEARCH IDEAS
need to have read “widely, independently and critically” and know something
of the traditions of English Literature. This will involve an appreciation of
the significance of cultural and historical influences on readers and writers.
This list is a starting point for research into major writers, poets and dramatists, covering the seventeenth century to the present day.
Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to research the major historical events listed, as well as particular movements, or ideas and, of course, the authors and their works. This should give you an overview of what shaped the writings of these authors.
the internet. A good search engine is to be found at www.copernic.com.
A free download of their basic search engine gives you the ability to type in
plain language questions, such as “find out about postmodernism”. You should
then be directed to various linked sites to continue your quest.
basic reference texts are the various Oxford & Cambridge Guides to English
Literature. Use also the catalogue of your local library and any other sources
available to you. When you research try to make a set of basic notes with clear
sub-headings. As far as possible USE YOUR OWN WORDS to provide a summary of the
information you find. You need to find out who was writing what and when. Also
the influences on them at the time, historically, politically and socially. You
also need to be able to identify and evaluate the literary techniques used by
each author, i.e. how they choose to use their words. Remember, the words used
are almost always shaped by the time and the place and what is happening in the
world. You might like also to look at why these authors are still read today.
What ideas or lasting philosophies are evident in their work?
(We've chosen to start with the 17th century because we think you'll probably have done lots of work already on Shakespeare and Chaucer and the 'obvious' authors and works in English Literature (who largely 'happened' before that) so now we think it's time for you to find out all about the Restoration and the Enlightenment and all that good stuff. In fact we really WANT you to become enlightened, because if we had to do it - then so should you - so there!)
Puritanism/Civil War/ Cromwell/ Restoration of the Monarchy (1660)
& Catholics/ ‘Glorious Revolution’
Enlightenment. The Royal Society. Exploration & Scientific discoveries
(Newton, Leibnitz, etc)
developments (canals, bridges, roads, railways)
of the novel – Defoe, Fielding
– Swift, Pope
(poets) – Blake
Romantics (poets) – Wordsworth, Coleridge
Victoria the 'Victorian Age'
of Napoleon (1815)
of Slavery / American Civil War
– Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, the Bronte sisters, George
Elliot, Thomas Hardy, Mark Twain (U.S.) Nathaniel Hawthorne (U.S) Rudyard
– George, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, Robert & Elizabeth
Browning, Tennyson, Rossetti, Matthew Arnold, Thomas Hardy.
– Oscar Wilde
(Africa, India, etc) and especially the decline of the Empire & the rise of
– HG Wells, DH Lawrence, James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, Henry James (US)
– Robert Frost (US)
WORLD WAR ONE 1914-1918
– Sassoon, Owen, Brooke, Rosenberg
the Wars” 1918 – 1939
Right to Vote
– Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Aldous Huxley, F. Scott Fitzgerald (US) John
Steinbeck (US), George Orwell,
Depression & Wall Street Crash
WAR TWO (1939-45)
of breakup of British Empire (Ghandi)
– GB Shaw, Noel Coward, Tennessee Williams (US)
– TS Eliot, WB Yeats
Threat & McCarthyism in the US
of working class literature (Angry Young Men)
Sink Drama (British Theatre)
and Roll. Youth Culture. Rebellion. Beatniks
– JD Salinger (US), also all mentioned above in post war section
– Ginsberg (US) ‘Beat Poets’
– Pinter, Delaney, Arthur Miller (US)
Rights & Racial Awareness (esp. in USA) (then watch for the rise of black
literary figures & works)
Liberation / Sexual Revolution/The Pill
– Harper Lee (Mockingbird) (USA), Heller (Catch22) (USA) Muriel Spark
– Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Philip Larkin, John Betjeman
– Peter Schaffer, Robert Bolt (also see above in 50,s)
(Killing Fields & Khmer Rouge)
conflict in Middle East
of ‘Commonwealth Literature’
& Polemical writing – Germaine Greer, Angela Carter, VS Naipaul
– Stoppard, Ayckbourn
– see above
continued progress in communications & technology
– Margaret Atwood (Canada) Alice Walker (US) Isaac Asimov, Toni Morrison (US)
(esp. ‘Beloved’) Julian Barnes, Salman Rushdie
– Tony Harrison, Seamus Heaney
This list merely offers a flavour of the periods, with mostly ‘mainstream’ writers and many ‘popular’ writers. Your research will enlarge your knowledge of each era. Feel free to include any other names you discover as you search. Feel free, also, to look at the fashions and the music and art of each era, if you have time.
main thing to remember about this element of the course is that the pre-release
material will certainly be compatible - that is whatever is given to you will
inform your answer in some way.
© Val Pope 2002
© Val Pope 2002