Terry Eagleton: Literary Theory – Introduction

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I’m not a very good reader; and I’m not very good with literary theory. So, god knows why but I spend a bit of time trying to further acquaint myself with – in the very least – some of the basics of criticism.  In order to help keep myself from ‘losing the plot’ of the work, I am writing notes – crib sheets – as I read Terry Eagleton’s famous Literary Theory: An Introduction.  So, then, here we go, as I post them for my own edification and access, if no one else’s – though if, hapless stranger, you have stumbled upon this, feel free to add your corrections, thoughts, and suggestions in the comments.

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Many people live in such horror of failure that they can never embark on any great enterprise. And this inability to get going in the first place is the worst kind of failure because there is truly no way out. You can cover up. You can hide behind a mask of exquisite sensibility. You can congratulate yourself on the fact that your standards are so high that no human effort could possibly match up to them. You can make yourself unpleasant to your contemporaries by becoming expert on their shortcomings. In the end, nothing is achieved by this timidity.

James Fenton

Nelligan: “Béatrice”

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D’abord j’ai contemplé dans le berceau de chêne
Un bébé tapageur qui ne pouvait dormir;
Puis vint la grande fille aux yeux couleur d’ébène,
Une brune enfant pâle insensible au plaisir.

Son beau front est rêveur; et, quelque peu hautaine
Dans son costume blanc qui lui sied à ravir,
Elle est bonne et charmante, et sa douce âme est pleine
D’innocente candeur que rien ne peut tarir.

Chère enfant, laisse ainsi couler ton existence,
Espère, prie et crois, console la souffrance.
Que ces courts refrains soient tes plus belles chansons!

J’élève mon regard vers la voûte azurée
Où nagent les astres dans la nuit éthérée,
Plus pure te trouvant que leurs plus purs rayons.

At first, I pondered in the cradle of oak
A rowdy baby who could not sleep;
Then came the grand lass of eyes coloured ebony,
A brown child, pale, unfeeling of pleasure.

Her beautiful face is dreamlike; and, somewhat haughty
In her white costume which becomes her ravishingly,
She is lovely and charming, and her gentle spirit is full
Of innocent candour which nothing can dry up.

Sweet child, let thus flow your existence.
Hope, pray and believe, allay suffering.
Would that these brief refrains be your most beautiful songs!

I lift my regard towards the azure canopy
Where swim the stars in the etherial night,
More pure do I find you than their purest rays.