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LETTERATURA INGLESE - The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Aestheticism and Decadence, Thomas Hardy, The cinematic technique

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The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

The term "Pre-Raphaelite" came into use when young painters criticizing Raphael's Transuration, reject the academic taste and classical doctrines, and praised the purity and simplicity of the Italian art of the 13th and 14th centuries. The movement began, at the end of the 1840s, as an attempt to introduce in visual art, not only the qualities of medieval Italian painting, but a concern with naturalistic accuracy of detail. The merely decorative neo-medievalism, subjectivity, dreaminess, the morbid and languid sensuousness had become its dominant features. The Pre-Raphaelite painters turned their eyes away from the contemporary industrial and urban world, and conceived the creation of beauty as a duty owed to society.

Group of poets: Dante Gabriele Rossetti and his sister Christina and William Morris. Both a poet and a painter, D. G. Rossetti was the strongest personality and organizer of the group, while Morris's ure was outstanding for the incredibly wide range of his interest.

Some common features of this movement are: a deliberate simplicity of manner, taste for detail, the peculiarity of sensory detail, often visual or auditory, a characteristic taste in decoration, the recurrence of certain habits or feeling, the use of religious language, the static, unreal atmosphere.

Their open revolt against the contemporary values and their search for new sources of inspiration and new ways of expression anticipated the Aesthetic Movement.

Aestheticism and Decadence

The Aesthetic Movement developed in the universities and intellectual circles in the last decades of the 19th century. Born in France with Gautier, it reflected the sense of frustration and uncertainty of the artist, it's a reaction against the materialism and the restrictive moral code of the bourgeoisie. French artists escaped into aesthetic isolation, into what Gautier defined "Art for Art's Sake". The bohémien embodied his protest against the monotony and vulgarity of bourgeois life, with an unconventional existence.

This doctrine was imported in England by Whistler, an American painter. Pater is regarded as the theorist of the Aesthetic Movement in England. He rejected religious faith and said that art was the only means to stop time, the only certainty. Life should be lived in the spirit of art "as work of art". the task of the artist was to feel sensations. Art had no reference to life, it had nothing to do with morality. Pater's work had a deep influence on the poets and writers of the 1890s, especially Oscar Wilde.

Features of decadent artists: excessive attention to the self, hedonistic and sensuous attitude, perversity in subject matter, disenchantment with contemporary society, evocative use of language.

Decadence must be seen as a European movement. Rimbaud, Verlain, Mallarmé, Laforgue, influenced by Baudelaire. Model for Wilde's dandy. The main representatives of Decadence in Italy were Gabriele D'Annunzio and the poet Giovanni Pascoli.

Thomas Hardy

In his works we find considerations about life, death, man and the universe; they express a deterministic view. From Greek tragedy he derived the notions of cruel Gods, indifferent Nature and hostile Fate. Reading Darwin he perceived the intellectual consequences of that scientific theory and denied the existence of God. Human life was a purely tragic process upon which man had no power. Hardy was not a total pessimist, he advocated the need for altruism through cooperation and loving kindness, and the application of scientific knowledge. Hardy's description of nature set against the vast cosmic perspective of constellations, indicating the smallness of man despite his intense and dramatic experience.

Most of Hardy's stories are set in a very circumscribed area, the south-west corner of England, he called this area "Wessex". Hardy's Wessex transcends topographical limits combining the imaginative experience of the individual with a sense of man's place in the universe. Hardy has a superb sense of place and an accurate knowledge of the country traditions. The chorus acts as a messenger, it comments on the actions of the central characters, sometimes it interprets their actions and sometimes it provides light relief.

He develops one main theme: "the hobble of being alive". Another important theme is "Nature", presented as a co-protagonist with the characters. Nature is also implies regeneration, expressed through the cycle of seasons. In his novels Hardy exposes the most conventional, moralistic, hypocritical aspects of Victorian society. His attitude to religion is polemic: he believes Christianity is no longer capable of fulfilling the needs of modern man. Difficulty or failure of communication is another central theme. Hardy's characters are not psychological or moral entities: they are presented through their experiences and their reactions to events.

Hardy's language is detailed, controlled, and rich in symbolism. His characters speak with their social register. Hardy's love of nature is reflected particularly in his use of metaphor, simile, and personification. Things are presented through their shape and touch, sigh, sound, and smell. The sense of sight is particularly strong.

Hardy emphasises the importance of strict, rigorous form, stressing symmetry and a blend of dialogue, description and narration. Hardy continued to employ the Victorian omniscent narrator, who is always present, and sometimes comments the action or introduces his opinions and his view of life. Hardy often presents action through the eyes of a hypothetical observer.

The cinematic technique

"Cinematic" novelists anticipated film. Camera-eye, camera movement. Their realism anticipated the cinema. The discourse seems to be transparent window on reality. Accept the truthfulness of what it shows them. Novel and film are able to shift their point of view between an "omniscent" or impersonal perspective and the perspective of a particular character without sacrificing realistic illusion. The novel can describe anything, visible or invisible. A cinematic novelist is one who deliberately renounces some of the freedom of representation and report offered by the verbal medium. The scene is empty at first, then an object appears. Thomas Hardy exploited a freedom within his verbal medium and anticipated the cinema in the choice of some techniques.


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