How important has the theme of optimism been in the development of Western Lit since 1493?
According to dictionary.com 4 types of optimism 1) Disposition/tendency to look on the bright side and expect the best outcome. 2) Belief that Good trumps Evil. 3) Belief the Good pervades reality. 4) A doctrine that this world is the best of all possible worlds
Nowadays we see mostly __ this type of optimism, but was it always that way?
Throughout history optimism and pessimism conflict. We could not have survived without optimism and risen to where we are now?
Literature is best record of optimism in history because preserved so we can read it ourselves.
Since 1493, optimism is evident in all literature and we can see it becoming a more prominent part of the written world as time goes on and comes closer to our day
Examining the lit in more detail, we see that optimism has not just extended its influence, it has morphed and changed from different types of optimism entirely over set periods of time to go along with events of the days.
Of course, the optimism was targeted at specific groups of people as well, which affects our view of the past.
And let’s not forget that while today we can write about anything we want to, back then books were only specific themes.
We begin in the 16th century. Major event of century was rupture of Christendom and birth of Protestantism (messy, bloody, painful) Persecution of Catholics and Protestants (blood and stones and lashes and screaming) People just coming out of Middle Ages. Everything was for God. Started changing with Utopia. Ideas about how things could be different. Printing press was new to scene. Pamphlets were common now . Books aimed at rich and clergy. ^ in literacy. ^ in interest about the world. Development of the essay. Writing is showing more of an interest in self and less in God. Plays are now for entertainment. Playing around with writing. Which optimism definition here?. Doctrine that this world is the best of all possible worlds for former half of 16th century. Belief that Good trumps Evil for latter half of 16th century.
Martin Luther was the first notable author of the century. Here are sme notable quotes from his work that reflect optimism in different ways:
Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.
2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.
3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.
4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
And some others (Hight lighted in Doc.)
I will explain these later in a little more detail probably
Foxe’s Martyrs came next: BY THE GRACE AND SPEED OF CHRIST OUR LORD, WE WOULD DISCOURSE, IN PARTICULAR SORT, THE ACTS AND DOINGS OF EVERY AGE BY ITSELF, IN THE FOLLOWING ORDER: O DECLARE, first, the suffering time of the church,which containeth about the space of three hundred years after Christ.
Secondly, The flourishing and growing time of the same, containing other three hundred years.
Thirdly, The declining time of the church, and of true religion, other three hundred years.
Fourthly, Of the time of antichrist, reigning and raging in the church since the loosing of Satan.
Lastly, of the reforming time of Christ’s church, in these latter three hundred years.
Neither is it here any need to speak of these our lower and later times, which have been in king Henry’s and king Edward’s days, seeing the memory thereof is yet fresh and cannot be forgotten. But let this pass; of this I am sure, that God yet once again is come on visitation to this church of England, yea, and that more lovingly and beneficially than ever he did before. For in this visitation he hath redressed many abuses, and cleansed his church of much ungodliness and superstition, and made it a glorious church, if it be compared to the old form and state. And now how grateful receivers we be, with what heart, study, and reverence we embrace that which he hath given, that I refer either to them that see our fruits, or to the sequel, which peradventure will declare it.
Next we will talk about Dr. Faustus. His story seems dark and pessimistic but is actually extremely optimistic: Therefore we shall blame neither his parents nor his patrons, who desired only the best (as do all pious parents), nor shall we mix them into this Historia. For they neither witnessed nor experienced the abominations of their godless child.
For his prurience,insolence and folly so pricked and incited him that he at last resolved to utilize and to prove certain magical vocabula, figuræ, characteres and coniurationes in the hope of compelling the Devil to appear before him…Thus in the night between nine and ten o’clock he did conjure the Devil.
Even in this hour did the godless man cut himself off from his God and Creator to become a liege of the abominable Devil, whereto pride, arrogance and transgression did bring and seduce him.
When these two wicked parties contracted with one another, Doctor Faustus took a penknife, pricked open a vein in his left hand (and it is the veritable truth that upon this hand were seen graven and bloody the words: o homo fuge–id est: o mortal fly from him and do what is right), drained his blood into a crucible, set it on some hot coals and wrote…
Upon hearing these words, and understanding that the Devil would surely dispatch Faustus this night, the students urged him to call upon God, begging Him for forgiveness for Jesus Christ’s sake, saying:
O God, be merciful unto me poor sinner, and enter not into judgement with me, for I cannot stand before Thee. Although I must forfeit my body unto the Devil, wilt Thou preserve my soul!
Faustus agreed to do this. He tried to pray, but he could not. As it was with Cain, who said his sins were greater than could be forgiven him, so was it with Faustus also, who was convinced that in making his written contract with the Devil he had gone too far.
When it was day the students, who had not slept this entire night, went into the chamber where Doctor Faustus had lain, but they found no Faustus there. The parlor was full of blood. Brain clave unto the walls where the Fiend had dashed him from one to the other. Here lay his eyes, here a few teeth. O it was a hideous spectaculum. Then began the students to bewail and beweep him, seeking him in many places. When they came out to the dung heap, here they found his corpse. It was monstrous to behold, for head and limbs were still twitching.
From it the students and clerks in particular should learn to fear God, to flee sorcery, conjuration of spirits, and other works of the Devil, not to invite the Devil into their houses, nor to yield unto him in any other way, as Doctor Faustus did, for we have before us here the frightful and horrible example of his pact and death to help us shun such acts and pray to God alone in all matters, love Him with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength, defying the Devil with all his following, that we may through Christ be eternally blessed. These things we ask in the name of Christ Jesus our only Lord and Savior. Amen. Amen.
Then trundled along the 17th century. Predominate world view: Belief that Good trumps Evil for the entire thing really.
Shakespeare sort of banded the two centuries together: playwright, underground Catholic, Smart and well-learned, persecution still going at that time. Wrote allllll the time (prolifically). Incorporated society’s views into his work (Shylock anyone?). Had magic, and tradgedy, and humor in his stuff. Loved playing with words (not the way people talked at the time). Had a optimistic view
Don Quixote fist novel written FOR FUN. That’s pretty dang optimistic: First fictional fun novel of West Europe. Everything else Legend or History or God says…. It was happy go lucky and upbeat and humorous. He used his imagination. Ppl were learning how to use lit as entertainment. Lit is still evolving and beyond anything before. Imagination. If you open the book, you can immediately see the humorous, tongue-in-cheek writing and hear the author laugh at himself as he begs you to read the story and just enjoy it. ”Put in bit of prologue” . Discuss how author pokes fun at himself for this book.
Bacon: is delicious. But beef bacon is too chewy. Introduced scientific method. G-man is still on top but maybe we have more control over the world than we thought. We don’t have to be so pessimistic—don’t have to sit there and take what we get. Maybe we can better ourselves on earth while still keeping the ideas of the Bible. Wanted to help mankind and prove that we have to analyze data and think about results. Was titled the “Father of Experimental Science”. P 447. He emphasizes careful experimentation and analysis to increase man’s knowledge of nature and the world around him and to better human life. Whole point of New Atlantis was to show a Utopia where scientific knowledge was used to bring to power.
Pilgrim’s Progress is probably one of the most optimistic books ever written: Christian was searching for something better. Good wins over Evil. Mmmmm cookies… Evil pervades reality but if you just stay on the path of good everything will be OK.
“This book it chalketh out before thine eyes
The man that seeks the everlasting prize;
It shows you whence he comes, whither he goes,
What he leaves undone; also what he does:
It also shows you how he runs, and runs,
Till he unto the gate of glory comes.
It shows, too, who set out for life amain,
As if the lasting crown they would obtain;
Here also you may see the reason why
They lose their labor, and like fools do die.
This book will make a traveller of thee,
If by its counsel thou wilt ruled be;
It will direct thee to the Holy Land,
If thou wilt its directions understand
Yea, it will make the slothful active be;
The blind also delightful things to see.”
Phew! We made it to the 18th century! Almost DONE!Next we have
Mandeville. He doesn’t seem very optimistic though…:Vast numbers thronged the fruitful hive, Yet those vast numbers made them thrive; Millions endeavouring to supply Each other’s lust and vanity; While other millions were employed To see their handiworks destroyed. They furnished half the universe, Yet had more work than labourers. Some with vast stocks and little pains Jumped into business of great gains; And some were damned to scythes and spades, And all those hard laborious trades Where willing wretches daily sweat And wear out strength and limbs to eat; While others followed mysteries To which few folks bind ‘prentices, That want no stock but that of brass And may set up without a cross, As sharpers, parasites, pimps, players, Pickpockets, coiners, quacks, soothsayers, And all those that in enmity With downright working, cunningly Convert to their own use the labour Of their good-natured heedless neighbour. These were called knaves, but bar the name, The grave industrious were the same: All trades and places knew some cheat; No calling was without deceit.
Thus every part was full of vice, Yet the whole mass a paradise; Flattered in peace and feared in wars, They were the esteem of foreigners, And lavish of their wealth and lives, The balance of all other hives. Such were the blessings of that state; Their crimes conspired to make them great: And virtue, who from politics Had learned a thousand cunning tricks, Was, by their happy influence, Made friends with vice; and ever since, The worst of all the multitude Did something for the common good.
Robinson Crusoe is the last one I will be talking about: Pride and humility, survival, struggles w/ conscience. That shows the authors Puritan underpinnings and how he believes you need God to SURVIVE.
Books where good wins out give us hope. That’s why they sell so well. Now we see that not just optimism changed and morphed but the writing styles and reasons and targeted audience changed to fit around the optimism as well.