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Basic differences in perception of man, nature and time in Medieval and Renaissance literature
Time of Medieval literature started with the fall of the Roman empire in 5th century A.D. People were on the highest level of barbarism, man got all what he could, he did not have goals anymore. This was time of constant wars and instability. But world could not stop develop and in the result three parallel styles in literature started to develop at the same time:
1)literature of pagan traditions what mostly includes folklore of peasants. They could not write and read in Latin and Greek jet, so traditions went through the centuries orally and in their used language;
2)official church and state literature. Christianity was made as a sort of superstructure and almost everything were depended on it, also literature did;
3)feudal or knights? literature. It was written by knights and described their way of life.
The time of Renaissance started to develop in 13th century. It was time when man got across to the culture of new time. Man became antifeudal in basis of his mind. He became social, anticlerical, and human. Man started to believe in himself, that he is creative and conscious creature in this world. Literature came back to the values of the ancient times.
To my mind, perception of man in each time firstly is a hero. He just differentiates.
The hero of Medieval literature was man usually born from man and some kind of animal, as in case with old English epos ?Beowulf?, his mane means the son of bear. He also was the man sent by God to fight with evil.
?But the Lord wove the webs of destiny,
gave the Geats success in their struggle,
help and support, in such a way
that all were enabled to overcome their enemy
through the strength of one man.?
The Renaissance new ideology came with new hero, of course. He was simple man as all we are. He lives between us and just you think is he or not sent by God. He looked like:
? a knight, a reputable man,
who from the moment that he first began
Compaining, had cherished the profession
Of Arms, he also prized trustworthiness,
Liberality, fame, and courteousness.?
Geoffrey Chauser ?Canterbury tales?
Of course, the main tasks of hero is to protect himself, his family, his country, his nation. It is brightly shown in Medieval literature because this time literature contains descriptions of kings, protectors, or brave hearted knights, his fights in battles, and their altruism in state protection:
? Grain ruled the Danes
a long time after his father?s death,
and to him Healfdene, fierce in battle,
who rules until he was old?
It seems that the simple man who was not at least a knight could not be sung the price. At this time man was conscious of himself as a member of a race, people, or family ? only through some general category so he had to be something more than a human to be hero. He also was not afraid of death, he should have heroic death and strong belief of another, grater life after death. But Renaissance with its hew ideology brought a new hero. This man understood that he should leave after his death family, masterpiece, or work but at the same time he also understood that he lives a single time.
?Men fear death, as children fear to go in the dark: and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other?
said Francis Bacon in his essay ?Of Death?. Renaissance in its basis considers that the hero could be everyone even a person who is not a Christian. Man was one a spiritual individual and recognized himself as such, as strong personality:
? A man?s nature runs either to herbs or weeds; therefore let him seasonably water the one, and destroy the other?
Francis Bacon ?Of Nature in Man?
Because of strong influence of Catholic church on people in the Medieval time here could not be stronger love to anyone but God. Man?s love to woman was not described much in Medieval literature simply because woman was not considered as human. The Church was not believing that woman had soul. But anyway woman always was close to her man:
??.. the noble Danish queen
went to sit beside her lord?
Man of Renaissance came to conclusion that there is not greater love on the world than love to women. He showed his adore, described her beauty, her influence on his life, etc. Man was not afraid to show his deepest wishes and dreams:
?And I will thee beds of roses,
And a thousand fragrant poises;
A cap of flower, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle?.
Christopher Marlowe ?The shepherd?s song to his love?
With this started of new era in poetry ? love poetry. Such poets as Dante and Petrarca were the first who did it. Their poetry is considered one of the best in the world up to modern times. Many great later poets learned from them how to show feelings by means of literature.
But as I said in Medieval times love to Jesus Christ was on the first place. So most of literature works showed it, besides church literature people described God that their imagined him:
?Then the young warrior, God mighty
stripped Himself, firm and unflinching, He dimed
upon the cross, brave before many, to redeem mankind?
?The Dream of the Rood? (The Dream of the Cross)
But basically it was simple retelling of the Bible on own used language. Renaissance alternated a new belief called humanism. That is belief in values of man; in his right to free development of ability. This new belief became very popular among mankind that church said them atheists and started hidden war to them. But thanks to the humanism ideology man did several great discoveries that originally could not be connected to church dogma.
Now we could not imagine modern literature without descriptions of nature. During perception of literary work you feel what author is trying to say by description of nature, how it interrelates with his feelings. But it is know when we know much about stylistic studies. Medieval time literature differs with that there is not much nature descriptions, probably because man did know how to say and connect it with story of the hero. But anyway we can find it:
? the foamy ? necked ship?.
??. Had gone so far
that the seafarers saw land,
shining shore cliffs
and steep mountains?
So we see that nature descriptions was very poor only said facts about it. Probably it was influence of this time when people were thinking much about their soul and good serving to God. Renaissance poets, mainly, started to bring nature into literature as something very close to man. They compared it with man?s life: spring was the same as youth or falling in love, autumn meant old age, etc. There also appeared simple descriptions of beautiful places not only in paintings but in literature as well:
? There were hills which garnished their proud height with stately trees; humble valleys, whose base estate seemed comforted with the refreshing of silver rivers; meadows, enameled with all sorts of eye ? pleasing flowers?
Sir Philip Sidney ?Description of Arcadia?
I think that with era of Renaissance man got across that nature is such thing he is very closely related to. He understood that everything develops due to something and why it could not be nature?
Old epic songs from Medieval literature do not contain such thing as stating the time of happening. It resembles to fairy tales because it has the same introductory words:
You have heard of the Danish Kings
In the old days and how
They were great warriors?
?One night, after a beer party??
To my mind, people were not counting years yet in Middle ages. The counting order changed many times and it was more easily to count ages by seasons. I think man of Early Middle ages did not think much about age simply because he believed in immortality. In Renaissance man started to pay attention to present. He came to conclusion that probably there is something after death but nobody knows what. By living for present Renaissance man understood that time is going on and never comes back. He started to divide it on periods, mark his achievements. Time and live became very connected and important because man should do his task in time.
Two different eras ? two great eras ? Medieval and Renaissance brought new permanent values to mankind. Now we have great possibility to choose the best from both of sources and by help of it serve to God and mankind as good as it is possible.
List of literature:
An Anthology of English Medieval and Renaissance Literature: S. Ankrava, I. Pan?ze, 1998, R?ga
The old Anglo-Saxon epic song ?Beowulf?, Modern English translation
?rzemju literat?ras v?sture. Viduslaiki un renesanse: V. ?irmunskis; 1968, Zvaigzne, R?ga
Пространство и время в литературе и искусстве: 1997, Даугавпилс
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