Return to Table of Contents

For those students in Dr. Nighan's Honors British Literature class (and anyone else who cares to explore) who asked to have the "big board" notes available, here they are chronologically from the Classical period to the Modern period...

Classical Greece-- 500 BCE:
The Mimetic theory

Chain of being:

Ideas (the forms)


the Maker (Timaeus)

universal soul


Art imitates_____?

Plato - poet is father of lies: 3x's removed from the truth (but Socratic irony) Forms above matter: does the poet imitate the matter or the idea?

Aristotle: formal, material, efficient and final cause" the Poetics: the forms are "in" matter..."Tragedy is the imitation of an action..." Soul of tragedy is plot (dramatization of universals) occasioning pity and fear (catharsis)

The views of history:

1-theocentric (God centered)
2-homocentric--man shapes destiny
3-naturalistic-the rise of science
4-economic-haves and have nots in a "democracy.

Plato and the soul:
Ideas from the Greeks:

"Man is the measure of all things" (Protagoras)
"Know Thyself"
Balance, moderation
Sophocles: Oedipus -hubris -humility before gods

The Anglo-Saxon Period--to 1066: The Medieval Period--1066 to 1485:
The journey archetype:

--the monsters at the center (Tolkien)
--Denethor and LOTR

Beowulf as song:
-alliteration patterns: M, S, G. etc. with a positive and negative connotation:

"The mightiest mead hall made by man...[was] menaced by the marauding monster."

A society in flux...pagan to Christian values.

Three moments of greatness in the life of a man.

Beowulf as pagan and/or Christian
Hrothgar's anti-pride speech

the problem of age...the tragedy is to be alive at the time (Tolkien)

The role of the scop...oral tradition: poet and historian:

Values: honor, courage, loyalty, military values (comitatus code) of honor, revenge, Star Trek fans: think Klingons

The danger of exile: The Wanderer and The Seafarer

Chain of being:









Sociology of the chain...more links will be added: see Chaucer's Monk's Tale.

(What has to be added to the chain?)

.Man unique on chain:
-soul yearns for God (Up)
-body yearns for world (Down)-

-form (idea) is UP on the chain
-matter (material) is DOWN on the chain

Chain defines moral perspectives:
-Up in the chain is good (realism)
-Down is bad (nominalism)

-FAITH is UP on the chain

Medieval philosophy:
Metaphysics--what is really real?
Epistemology--how do we know reality?
Morality--values, aesthetics--good/evil
Problems in Medieval philosophy:
-the one and the many / plenitude
-must God create? (how much)
Authors and influences:

Chaucer: the father of English poetry uses the chain (modified) in the Canterbury Tales

Aristotle's logic --deduction and the Summa.

The Renaissance--1485-1603:
The pragmatic theory --Sidney's Apology for Poetry:

Diversity of Knowledge...beginnings of discipline--theology becomes:
-science...the rise of technology (Caxton and the printing press: their GOOGLE)
-Psychology: Burton and Bright on melancholy

The CHAIN CONTINUES..but in revolutionary times
--Bacon's New learning--the critique of Aristotle's logic (syllogism) --the 4 idols; induction modifies deduction, to become acquainted with things.
--Galileo as astronomer and physicists
--from the Medieval times -Luther's reformation

With the rise of science, nominalism is outpacing realism: moral implications?

--how do we know God?...
1-Sacred Scripture

What happens when they contradict?


Sidney--the sonnet and sonnet sequence, and literary criticism
the sonnet vogue: Wyatt and Surrey

The 'golden age of drama'-Shakespeare and Marlowe

The Seventeenth C.--1603-1660: The Neo-Classical Period--1660-1789:
Continuation of the Renaissance, but NO CHAIN OF BEING...
-the execution of Charles and the Cromwell protectorate

Age of confusion and paradox:
-chain gone
-truth is subjective...
-how do we know...Epistemology:
1-Descartes (rationalism / realism)
2-Locke (empiricism / nominalism)

Metaphysical --Donne (embraces paradox)
Cavalier--Lovelace, Herrick (carpe diem)
Puritan--Milton (the epic: Paradise Lost)

THE CHAIN IS BACK, BUT THIS TIME BASED. ON....? (See Pope's Essay on Man)

Names for the Period:
1-age of reason
2-Age of Augustus
3-Neo-classical period (the ancients)

Buzz words:
reason / nature (laws of physics) / utopia / wit / dull / irony / satire / decorum / science / paradox / balance: reason-passion

Recall above (classical model of the soul)-the 'best of all worlds' now, but...?

Rousseau--Social Contract (but see the Romantic Period).
-Swift--Modest Proposal , Gulliver
-Pope--Essay on Man

The Romantic Period--1798-1832: The Victorian -Modern Period--1832-__:
Rooted in paradox...the chain is gone

The expressive theory...what or who is imitated?

Buzz words:
nature (but not Neo-Classical view) / imagination / creativity / anti-technology /organic / fire / mirror and the lamp:


-Rousseau--father of Romanticism (but see Neo-Classical period)
Wordsworth - coloring by imagination
Coleridge - primary and secondary imag.
Byron-the romantic gothic / satirist
Shelley-the sympathetic imagination
Keats-Adam's dream

The Dark side of Romanticism (Gothic)
-Lewis: The Monk
-Mary Shelley--Frankenstein
-Stoker (Victorian) Dracula

The Victorian Period: 1832-1901

They KNEW they were different. Why?

Philosophy: of what knowledge is of most use? (utility--greatest good for greatest number:
1-Mill (realist) mental pleasure
2-Bentham (nominalism) physical pleasure

Ethics--how to manage leisure time

-Dickens...the age of the novel: Hard Times
Arnold (realist): Dover Beach
Browning: My Last Duchess-dramatic monologue

The Modern Period 1901-20__):

The information age:

1-modern man...T.S. Eliot--The Hollow Men and The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock.

2-the journey archetype--Heart of Darkness

3-the novel of controversy: The DaVinci Code

4-The novel of introspection; Henry James

5-the best seller : Harry Potter