My Literature Log eros masserut

Why we study literature?

“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”

Nelson Mandela

I also want to share this last quotation:

“Literature allows us to visit places and times and encounter cultures that we would otherwise never experience. Such literary travel can be profoundly life-enhancing.”

Is English really a Germanic language?

English is a very complicated language. Indeed, it has profound roots which go from Latin to the Anglo-Saxon.

Modern English shares many similar words with Latin and derived romance languages, like French and Italian, however, most of those words were no originally part of it. As a matter of fact, they started coming into the language with the battle of Hastings.

In 1066 (after the battle of Hastings) the French conquered England and they become the ruling class. They brought their language adding a massive amount of French and Latin words.

Do you ever wonder about words which indicate living animals and dead animals?

When you are talking of a pig you assume the animal is still living, but if you are talking of pork you are referring to a kind of food.

So, is English really a Germanic language?

Well, let’s see this graphic:

According to the diagram, about a half of the total English vocabulary comes from romance languages.

Nevertheless, English is still considered to be a Germanic language.

Geoffrey Chaucer a cheater?

We spoke about Geoffrey Chaucer because of his masterpiece: The Canterbury Tales. He was born in 1343 and he became interested in writing. At the time writers did not earn anything thus, they needed to have a patron or a job. But in 1389 he was appointed Clerk of the King’s Works at Westminster by king Richard II (his patron).

Chaucer’s works are usually divided into three periods: the French, the Italian and the English period. He learned mainly from many famous French and Italian authors. As a matter of fact, during the Italian period he wrote Troilus and Criseyde, this was a poem adapted from Bocaccio.

The English period includes his most famous masterpiece. The Canterbury Tales is a long narrative poem like the previous poem written by Bocaccio between 1349 and 1351: the Decameron. Their plots are very similar and it seems that Chaucer had cheated. We can presume that Chaucer was inspired by Bocaccio. However, the Decameron and The Canterbury Tales have very different aims. The Italian poem wants to focus on destiny that could be good or bad. Instead, The Canterbury Tales is a poem which deals with religion, wealth, pleasure and lust.

However, I think that Chaucer was not a cheater.

William Shakespeare, the power of literature

I am very surprised that Shakespeare has coined lots of words we still use today. Now, when I am talking in English, I always wonder whether the words I am using were coined by Shakespeare. And there are plenty of funny expressions like “Brave new world” (Macbeth) or “Devil incarnate” (Titus Andronicus / Henry V) that he coined.

Someone says he invented 1700 words, that is something extraordinary! And of course everyday, we are quoting Shakespeare but we do not know it.

SHALL I COMAPRE TO THEE

I was fascinated by the powerful meaning of this little poem. This sonnet deals with the immortality of art and the beauty of literature.

It was probably a eulogy written for Hamnet. He was one of Shakespeare’s children. When Shakespeare was in London he got word that Hamnet was very sick. But when he arrived home he found out that his son was dead. He was desperate and there was nothing left to do. So, he did what he could do best of all: he wrote this little sonnet.

“Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are our most powerful weapons” (Malala) this is what Shakespeare would say nowadays. Shakespeare played with words, I like to imagine him working at his desk and instead of using colours he used words to represent what was happening.

When we see the Primavera by Botticelli we are always astonished. This is what Shakespeare wants to teach. Poetry, literature, painting, sculpture, photography and cinematography are some ways to make our culture and our history immortal.

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Queen Elisabeth I

Queen Elisabeth was called the Virgin Queen because she received many proposals but she regarded marriage as dangerous. She thought that a husband would create confusion in England. As a matter of fact, when the Parliament pressed her to marry she said she would “rule and die a virgin”.

Elisabeth I is very famous because of her strong personality and her motivational speech. This is the most famous sentence she mentioned during her speech at Tilbury:

“I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too”.

Sure enough, Elisabeth I’s reign is considered England’s golden age. It was an age of political and economic stability and religious turmoil.

Hamlet

Hamlet is the first Shakespeare’s tragedy we studied. Hamlet is the son of the King of Denmark.

His father has been dead for two months and his mother, Queen Gertrude, has married her brother-in-law, Claudius. Some sentries and Horatio, a friend of Hamlet, have already seen the ghost at castle Elsinore. Hamlet and Horatio arrange a night meeting to see if the ghost will appear. Fortunately, the ghost of the King of Denmark appears to Hamlet and he says he was murdered by his brother Claudius, who poured some poison in his ears. The ghost asks Hamlet to avenge him. Hamlet is stunned. The day after, he pretends to be mad so that he can plan his revenge more easily. The king’s counsellor, whose name is Polonius, thinks that Hamlet is mad because of Hamlet’s love for his daughter Ophelia.

Hamlet wants to verify whether Claudius is culprit. So, he decides to arrange a troupe of actors to perform The Murder of Gonzago, a play whose story is very similar to the real murder of the king. As a matter of fact, Claudius goes out during the play. Now, Hamlet wants to persuade his mother to divorce Claudius. He uses a very strong and arrogant language, for example he says that Gertrude is just driven by lust:

“In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,

Stew’d in corruption, honeying and making love

Over the nasty sty.”

In her bedroom there are two portraits, one represents the King and the other represents Claudius. Furthermore, Hamlet points out that Claudius is a villain and a cutpurse.

“Look here, upon this picture, and on this,

The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.

See, what a grace was seated on this brow;

Hyperion’s curls; the front of Jove himself;

An eye like Mars, to threaten and command;

A station like the herald Mercury”

We can notice in these two small lines that Shakespeare describes a revolutionary relationship between the mother and her son. Indeed, in the past children used to have profound respect for their parents.

Then the ghost says to Hamlet not to continue reprimanding his mother. Thus, Hamlet suddenly mentions:

“How is it with you, lady?

Do you imagine what kind of effect it creates? It is a way to make the audience laugh, otherwise the tragedy would be very boring. However, Shakespeare does not want to make a usual tragedy, he wants to make people reflect upon the plot and the personality of the characters.

To be, or not to be: that is the question

Shakespeare presents Hamlet as a round character. He is a reflective man, probably he thinks too much. Hamlet reflect on the meaning of life. Life is full of injustice, sadness and sorrow.

Hamlet perform his brilliant skills of philosophy, he argues for life and for death. It is a monologue where the protagonist change very quickly his ideas, it seems he is constantly contradicting himself.

I think that his personality is like a violin. The violin is an extraordinary instrument which can be used singularly and despite its dimensions it has a strong sound. Moreover, it allows to modify the rhythm in a very short period of time.

I must confess that I was not interested in Hamlet at first. But I have started to appreciate his way of thinking and above all the way Shakespeare writes.

WEB OF LIES BY BEVERLY NAIDOO

"Say anything, boy, and you're dead meat."

At first I thought that it was an other book very similar to "The other side of truth".

I read this book for homework last year during my summer holiday. Thus, without reading the cover, I have started reading the first paragraph. It opens with a sentence like this: "The first hullabaloo left Femi pressed against the wall like a leech". I immediately went back to the cover and I was very surprised when I read that it is a sequel of "The other side of truth".

Nevertheless it is a good book, it took me a long time to read it. After a few pages, I began to focus on Femi's multifaceted personality. In "the other side of truth", Sade had the role of being the protagonist of the situation. Although someone may think, Sade had to take some sognificative decisions so as to save her and her brother's life.

Femi and Sade are attending school but Femi is involved with a gang of other boys. These people try to persuade him to do some illegal activities. For example they make him steal from a shop once.

Nonetheless, Femi is not a bad boy, he just wants to earn some money for his family. As a matter of fact, his father cannot work in England. The immigration office does not give him the political asylum. Furthermore, Sade and Papa know nothing, because Femi keeps this fact secret but he will be in serious trouble and he will have to explain everything. After having read both books I have known that Sade is pronunced Shad-dech, with your voice rising on the second syllable. As a matter of fact, Sade is not an English name. It is a name in Yoruba, a language spoken in the west of Africa. These books are clerly related with the author's life. Indeed, Beverly Naidoo was born in South Africa on 21st May 1943 and grew up under apartheid. As a student, she began to question the apartheid regime and was later arrested for her actions as part of the resistance movement in South Africa.

In 1965 she went into exile going to England. She married another South African exile, and they have two children. This last aspect is very important, because it makes us understand why her books are often set in England.

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Great, awesome, fantastic are the only words to describe this book. It is set in the 1990s and deals with a boy called Charlie. He is a fifteen-year-old guy, who has just entered his freshman year of high school when the book begins.

He is not a popular guy among his classmates, he is just a freshman who wants to find his way. But fortunately, he is not the biggest geek in the school.

During the first period of the year at the high school Charlie tries to overcome the sorrow caused by his friend's death. His friend, whose name is Michael, has committed suicide. Nevertheless, it is not the only grief that is tormenting him. When he was little his aunt Helen died in a car accident on Charlie's birthday. Charlie seems to be very grateful to his aunt, he says that she was the best person he has ever met. Charlie has also some clear memories of his birthday when Helen gave to him his presents. Charlie's birthday is on 24th December so lots of his relatives gave him one present for his birthday and for Christmas. Instead, Helen was very careful so as to buy the best present for his birthday and she always bought another present for Christmas. They were always the best presents.

The book is an epistolary novel, it is divided in four parts. Every letter commences with "Dear friend" and it always end with "Love always, Charlie". The author does not reveal the identity of the friend who Charlie is writing to. In my opinion, Charlie wants to dedicate this letters to his friend Michael.

He is quiet and withdrawn, but he is also very smart and thoughtful. As a matter of fact, his literature teacher, Bill Anderson, was very surprised and he said to Charlie that he is the best student he has ever had. He recognizes Charlie’s talent for literature, assigning him extra books to read and essays to write over the course of the year. Charlie becomes friend with Patrick and Patrick's stepsister, Sam, who integrate him into their social group. Sam and Charlie love each other but in a friendly way. Instead, Patrick is gay and he is having a close relationship with Brad, the quarterback of the football team.

This book concerns some significant themes such as love, sexuality, drugs and alcohol. In the story there are some sexual moments, that are described with lots of details. Thus, I cannot recommend this book to anyone because you need to be at least fourteen.

There are also described some extreme scenes in which, the protagonists take drugs and drink spirits. Along the way, Chbosky intelligently explores these themes, whilst simultaneously reminding the reader about how exciting it is to be young and idealistic.

Charlie loves reading books and Patrick usually gives him some books in order to understand what be gay means. Charlie and his friends love to listen to music and it will be the only thing that keeps their stories joined.

Stephen Chbosky has also directed the film of his book. The title is the same in English but in Italian it is "Noi siamo infinito" which is literally "We Are Infinite." Since the main character said once, while he was driving home with his friends: "I feel infinite."

However, the film is quite faithful to the book's story and sometimes there are some quotes from the book. Although it is a good film, a lot of scenes are missing. For example, in the film there is not the scene in which Charlie goes crazy because he thought he was responsible for his aunt's death. Therefore, the book is much better than the film, because it is rich of details.

Last year during San Remo, a music festival that takes place in Liguria every year, the songwriter Alessio Bernabei sang his song called "Noi siamo infinito". Personally, I think that it would be Charlie's favourite song. It deals with the meaning of life and the vulnerability of our body.

Adolescence is one of the nicest periods of our lives, during this age we are choosing what we want to be. It is not a game it is our future.

FRANKENSTEIN by MERY SHELLEY

The book entitled "Frankenstein", written by the famous writer Mary Shelley, is a great book. I have read the abridged version of the book, but I think I will buy the complete version, because I really love this novel. It is the first time I read a novel with a very fast rhythm.

It has a strong plot which stimulates the reader to go on the story. In every line you can be stunned by some events that perturb the characters and ruin the relationships among them.

When I read this book I immediately recognized some aspects that are related to our contemporary age. The protagonist, doctor Frankenstein, wants to defeat death.

If you love your life you want to be immortal. Unfortunately, we cannot for a long time, because of biological reasons. Nonetheless, everyone wishes to be immortal. Some rich people pay for being the protagonists of newspapers or gossip magazines. As a matter of fact, we cannot be immortal with our body, but we can be immortal with our actions, with our work, with our talent. Think of Elvis Presley, although he is died, everyone, even children, knows him.

This novel deals with immoral experiments. When Victor Frankenstein is trying to create a man, using other people's tissues and organs, I thought it goes against life. We are born in order to grow, have friends, have a family, be old and then die. It is unnatural parts of human bodies together in order to make a new human being. Doctor Frankenstein will be in trouble due to his own creature, and he will regret having make a monster.

FRANKENSTEIN (the film) by Kenneth Branagh

Robert De Niro

The movie is inspired by the famous novel, Frankenstein. It has been produced in 1994. I find it quite old-fashioned, but the quality of the audio is not so bad. This is a horror film, but at the same time it is also dramatic, because it does not end well.

Frankenstein was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who has even the role of Victor Frankenstein. In the cast there are some celebrated actors, such as Robert De Niro and Ian Holm. The film is not very intriguing as I thought it would have been. Some of the actors did not play their part very well. Furthermore, it has a slow narrative rhythm.

Watching the film, I noticed lots of differences in the plot between the book and the film. The film director, Kenneth Branagh, hold on the attention and the expectations of the audience with special effects violence and horror. Instead, Mary Shelley dwell on precise descriptions of the characters and places. In the book, when Victor meets the monster after the homicide of his brother William, the monster explains why he kills people. Moreover, he asks to doctor Frankenstein if he can create another monster, because he wants a woman like itself. In the book Victor Frankenstein refuses to create another monster, he thinks it will be a catastrophe. However, in the film Frankenstein try to create a monster. But the woman, who has been resuscitated, committed suicide because she realized to look horrible.

In addition, in the book, Frankenstein's father dies of a heart-attack when he finds Elisabeth killed by the monster. While, in the film, the creature kills him.

Finally, after the monster kills Victor's brother, we see that, in the film, Justine is executed after a trial and we do not know if she has confessed her crime, whereas in the book she admits her murder, although she is innocent.

However, the play is really faithful to the book and even the set is realistic. Moreover, set designers have set up the background and have chosen traditional clothes very carefully. Nothing is at random, everything has a role. Music is the most important narrator. It regulates the spectator's humour and it warns the audience about future events. It makes the audience feel bad or anxious. I have always thought that music is a bridge between viewers and characters. Even noises are realistic, they make you feel like you are there.

Makeup artists made an excellent work. The monster seemed real and his scars were so impressive.

The camera has an important function, it makes you concentrate on something that it is important for the comprehension of the plot. There are lots of close-ups, to allow the spectator to see what the character is feeling. Sometimes the camera follows the actor, so as to permit the viewer to see the scene with the character's eyes.

There are not many camera's movements because the technology at that time was not as developed as the actual films we are used to watch. Nowadays, movies are full of air shots and special effects, but I am sure that this film had a great success.

Created By
Eros Masserut
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