And The Bird Fly Back

Journey of life started once the life begins, and the journey of survival begins where life struggle to live. More or less the beautiful example of living somewhat is the life of a bird which struggle hard to live and survive. Bird is a simplified nature being which travels with the measures of seasons, delight of seasons of sorrows and seasons of willingness. Bird has home after home and after. Bird originally the form and presents the reformation of life aspects with change.

Types and breeds are different their sub-services to seasons are also different. Irrevocably their serves as well.

One of the birds I may recognize and considerably comes beyond Access Bridge keeping purpose in mind in moves and in flight. This bird was trapped years to the season unchanged which times bird thinks to be static not dynamic where as apparently the seasons always has variations but not desirable switches or change which that bird want to enhance.

Consequently, the bird fly to the known, yet unknown territories roam around, consumes time for their own flights and for the act of fly- Simantanoulsy of this bird during swifting of flight learnt a lots of change chains of variations and conditions of nature. During this journey of flight bird at least desirably struggle for the right directives correct flows and diversify arts to more on.

Bird across others, their signs and symbols bird comes know its reality and originality. Bird comes to knew henceforth the flight of ecstasy during the change of flight of this very special journey. Is it the temporary change for the bird where bird was delighted enough to have new evolution, evaluations and resolutions. But might aspects return back and start to stand where begins like finished where started.

All the creatures are subject to Time and Time has many images and frames of Ages. I won’t remember that bird anytime shows its’ belonging to the world where it timely bestow upon to be. The bird belongs to the land of his own imagery of own thinking own world this own world does not refer his misery to the outer world but it belongs to the exceptional level of being prominent of being special. The journey of flight of this bird does not refers to the outer most coverage of only being in the fly but it also refers the spiritual world of knowing.

Symmetrically there is no arrangement in life and over its path all going on over HOPE ways, all flying over HOPE SKY ROADS. The Bird as a symbolism the most vary being and free liver and the most lucky, the one being which is not afraid of the results here after in another life. Birds and their nests are the grouping but the specific exceptional this bird is rare because it understand the rare consequences and unrealized way outs as well.

Birds travel not only based on rational reason of seasons’ change but also because of their questing over the actual and the most appropriate nesting all around the world where it must be proficient or sufficient enough. Their travelling is very significant for those who can estimate the nature and its’ moods through seasons and angels of the learning through. Lighter or harder, sooner or later through light or dark bird accept and consider nature close to heart and embrace its’ future in nature’s arms. Bird is not frozen being not static but dynamic, therefore the variations caused to its life are truly enough accepted to………………….




The Nobel Prize in Literature

Nobel’s Will and the Literature Prize

Among the five prizes provided for in Alfred Nobel’s will (1895), one was intended for the person who, in the literary field, had produced “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. The Laureate should be determined by “the Academy in Stockholm”, which was specified by the statutes of the Nobel Foundation to mean the Swedish Academy. These statutes defined literature as “not only belles-lettres, but also other writings which, by virtue of their form and style, possess literary value”. At the same time, the restriction to works presented “during the preceding year” was softened: “older works” could be considered “if their significance has not become apparent until recently”. It was also stated that candidates must be nominated in writing by those entitled to do so before 1 February each year.

A special regulation gave the right of nomination to members of the Swedish Academy and other academies, institutions and societies similar to it in constitution and purpose, and to university teachers of aesthetics, literature and history. An emendation in 1949 specified the category of teachers: “professors of literature and philology at universities and university colleges”. The right to nominate was at the same time extended to previous Prize-winners and to “presidents of those societies of authors that are representative of the literary production in their respective countries”. The statutes also provided for a Nobel Committee “to give their opinion in matter of the award of the prizes” and for a Nobel Institute with a library which was to contain a substantial collection of mainly modern literature.

Accept the Task? Discussion in The Swedish Academy

Two members of the Swedish Academy spoke strongly against accepting Nobel’s legacy, for fear that the obligation would detract from the Academy’s proper concerns and turn it into “a cosmopolitan tribunal of literature”. They could have added that the Academy, in doldrums at the time, was ill-equipped for the sensitive task. The permanent secretary, Carl David af Wirsén, replied that refusal would deprive “the great figures of continental literature” of an exceptional recognition, and conjured up the weighty reproach to be directed at the Academy if it failed to “acquire an influential position in world literature”. Besides, the task would not be foreign to the purposes of the Academy: proper knowledge of the best in the literature of other countries was necessary for an Academy that had to judge the literature of its own country. This effective argument, which won a qualified majority for acceptance, showed not only openness to Nobel’s far-reaching intentions, but also harbored Wirsén’s and his sympathizers’ ambition to seize the unexpetected possibilities in the field of the politics of culture, and to enjoy, as he wrote in a letter, “the enormous power and prestige that the Nobel will bequeaths to the Eighteen [members of the Academy]”.

Nobel’s Guidelines and Their Interpretations: A Short History

As guidelines for the distribution of the Literature Prize the Swedish Academy had the general requirement for all the prizes – the candidate should have bestowed “the greatest benefit on mankind” – and the special condition for literature, “in an ideal direction”. Both prescriptions are vague and the second, in particular, was to cause much discussion. What did Nobel actually mean by ideal? In fact, the history of the Literature Prize appears as a series of attempts to interpret an imprecisely worded will. The consecutive phases in that history reflect the changing sensibility of an Academy continuously renewing itself. The main source of knowledge of the principles and criteria applied is the annual reports which the Committee presented to the Academy (itself making part of that body). Also the correspondence between the members is often enlightening. There is an obstacle though: all Nobel information is to be secret for 50 years.

“A Lofty and Sound Idealism” (1901-12)

The first stage, from 1901 to 1912, has the stamp of the secretary Carl David af Wirsén, who read Nobel’s “ideal” as “a lofty and sound idealism”. The set of criteria which resulted in Prizes to Bjørnstierne Bjørnson, Rudyard Kipling and Paul Heyse, but rejected Leo Tolstoy, Henrik Ibsen and Émile Zola, is characterized by its conservative idealism (a domestic variation of Hegelian philosophy), holding church, state and family sacred, and by its idealist aesthetics derived from Goethe’s and Hegel’s epoch (and codified by F.T. Fischer in the middle of the nineteenth century). Those standards had earlier been typical of Wirsén’s and the Academy’s struggle against the radical Scandinavian writers. Nobel’s testament gave Wirsén – called “the Don Quixote of Swedish romantic idealism” – the opportunity to carry his provincial campaign into the fields of international literature. This application was actually far from Nobel’s values: he certainly shared Wirsén’s disgust for writers like Zola, but was radically anticleric, adopting Shelley’s utopian idealism and religiously coloured spirit of revolt.

A Policy of Neutrality (World War I)

The next chapter in the history of the Literary Prize could be entitled “A Literary Policy of Neutrality”. The objectives laid down by the new chairman of the Academy’s Nobel Committee at the beginning of the First World War kept, on the whole, the belligerent powers outside, giving the small nations a chance. This policy partly explains the Scandinavian overrepresentation on the list. The Prizes to the Swede Verner von Heidenstam, the Danes Karl Gjellerup and Henrik Pontoppidan – one of the few cases of a shared Prize – and to the Norwegian Knut Hamsun still in 1920 are to be comprehended from this point of view.

“The Great Style” (the 1920s)

A third period, approximately coinciding with the 1920s, could be labeled “The Great Style”. This key concept in the reports of the Committee reveals the connections with Wirsén’s epoch and its traits of classicism. With such a standard the Academy was, of course, out of touch with what happened in contemporary literature. It could appreciate Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks – a masterpiece “approaching the classical realism in Tolstoy” – but passed his Magic Mountain over in silence. By that time, however, the Academy had got rid of its narrow definition of “ideal direction”. In 1921 this stipulation of the will was interpreted more generously as “wide-hearted humanity”, which paved the way for writers like Anatole France and George Bernard Shaw, both inconceivable as Laureates – and, sure enough, rejected – at an earlier stage.

“Universal Interest” (the 1930s)

In line with the requirement “the greatest benefit on mankind”, the Academy of the 1930s tried a new approach, equating this “mankind” with the immediate readership of the works in question. A report of its Committee stated “universal interest” as a criterion and the Academy decided on writers within everybody’s reach, from Sinclair Lewis to Pearl Buck, repudiating exclusive poets like Paul Valéry and Paul Claudel.

“The Pioneers” (1946- )

Given a pause for renewal by the Second World War and inspired by its new secretary, Anders Österling, the post-war Academy finished this excursion into popular taste, focussing instead on what was called “the pioneers”. Like in the sciences, the Laureates were to be found among those who paved the way for new developments. In a way, this is another interpretation of the formula “the greatest benefit on mankind”: the perfect candidate was the one who had provided world literature with new possibilities in outlook and language.

In Österling’s epoch, the word “ideal” was deliberately taken in a still wider sense: the new list started with Hermann Hesse who, in the 1930s, had been rejected for “ethical anarchy” and lack of “plastic visuality and firmness” in his characters, words which echo Wirsén’s time. Later, the compatibility of Samuel Beckett’s dark conception of the world with Nobel’s “ideal” was put to the test, one of the last occasions when this condition was central to the discussion. It is only at “the depths” that “pessimistic thought and poetry can work their miracles”, said Karl-Ragnar Gierow in his address, emphasising the deep sense of human worth and the life-giving force, nevertheless, in Beckett’s pessimism. The borderline of this generosity can be seen in the handling of Ezra Pound. He appealed to the Academy because of his “pioneering significance”, but was disqualified by his wartime applauding, on the Italian radio network, of the mass extermination of the East European Jews. Member Dag Hammarskjöld, in a representative way, concluded that “such a ‘subhuman’ reaction” excluded “a prize that is after all intended to lay weight on the ‘idealistic tendency’ of the recipient’s efforts”. (This repudiation did not prevent Hammarskjöld from negotiating, on the Academy’s commission, with the American authorities for Pound’s release from the mental hospital where he had been interned to be saved from a death penalty for treason.)

This new policy, at the same time more exclusive and more generous in its interpretation of the will, was actually meant to start with Valéry but he died in the summer of 1945. Instead we find, in 1946-50, the splendid series Hesse, André Gide, T.S. Eliot, and William Faulkner. In his address to the author of The Waste Land, Österling drew attention to “another pioneer work, which had a still more sensational effect on modern literature,” James Joyce’s Ulysses. With this reference to the greatest omission of the 1930s, he extended the 1948 acclaim of Eliot to cover also the dead master. The explicit concentration on innovators can, via the choices of Saint-John Perse in 1960 and Samuel Beckett in 1969, be traced up to recent years.

The criterion lost weight, however, as the heroic period of the international avant-garde turned into history and literary innovation became less ostentatious. Instead, the instruments pointed at the “pioneers” of specific linguistic areas. The 1988 Prize was awarded a writer who, from a Western point of view, rather administers the heritage from Flaubert and Thomas Mann. In the Arabic world, on the other hand, Naguib Mahfouz appears as the creator of its contemporary novel. The following Prize went to Camilo José Cela, who had, in an international perspective, modest claims to the title “pioneer”, but who was, in Spanish literature, the great innovator of post-war fiction. Still found among the innovators of certain linguistic areas is 2000 Laureate, Gao Xingjian, whose œuvre “has opened new paths for the Chinese novel drama”.

Attention to Unknown Masters (1978- )

Another policy, partly coinciding with the one just outlined, partly replacing it, is “the pragmatic consideration” worded by the new secretary, Lars Gyllensten, and, again, taking into account the “benefit” of the Prize. A growing number within the Academy wanted to call attention to important but unnoticed writers and literatures, thus giving the world audience masterpieces they would otherwise miss, and at the same time, giving an important writer due attention. We get glimpses of such arguments as far back as the choice of Rabindranath Tagore in 1913 but there was no programme until the early 1970s. The full emergence of this policy can be seen from 1978 and onwards, in the Prizes to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Odysseus Elytis, Elias Canetti, and Jaroslav Seifert. The criterion gives poetry a prominent place. In no other period were the poets so well provided for as in the years 1990-1996 when four of the seven prizes went to Octavio Paz, Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney, and Wislawa Szymborska, all of them earlier unknown to the world audience.

“The Literature of the Whole World” (1986- )

A new policy, long on its way, had a breakthrough in the 1980s. Again, it was an attempt to understand and carry out Nobel’s intentions. His will had an international horizon, though it rejected any consideration for the nationality of the candidates: the most worthy should be chosen, “whether he be Scandinavian or not”. The problem of surveying the literature of the whole world was, however, overwhelming and for a long time the Academy was, with justice, to be criticized for making the award a European affair. Wirsén expressly confined himself, as we saw, to “the great figures of Continental literature”. In the 1920s it was certainly laid down that the prize was “intended for the literature of the whole world” but instruments to implement the idea were not available. In the 1930s, there were, on the whole, not even reasonable nominations from the Asiatic countries and the Academy had, at that time, not yet developed a scouting system of its own.

The Prize at last to Yasunari Kawabata in 1968 illustrates the exceptional difficulties in judging literature in non-European languages – this was a matter of seven years, involving four international experts. In 1984, however, Gyllensten declared that attention to non-European writers was gradually increasing in the Academy; attempts were being made “to achieve a global distribution”. This includes measures to strengthen the competence for the international task.

The picture of the Academy’s Eurocentric policy was also significantly altered by the choices of Wole Soyinka from Nigeria in 1986 and Naguib Mahfouz from Egypt in 1988. Later practice shows the extension to Nadine Gordimer from South Africa, to Kenzaburo Oe from Japan, to Derek Walcott from St. Lucia in the West Indies, to Toni Morrison, the first Afro-American on the list, and to Gao Xingjian, the first laureate to write in Chinese. It is, however, important that nationality is not involved in the discussion. It has sometimes been suggested that the Academy should first decide upon a neglected language and then seek out the best candidate in it. Doing so would amount to politization of the Prize. Instead, efforts are being made to widen the horizon so that, in the course of the normal process of judgement, it is possible to weigh sometimes a prominent Nigerian dramatist and poet, sometimes an Egyptian novelist, against candidates from closer parts of the linguistic atlas – with all such evaluations continuing to be made on literary grounds. Critics have quite often neglected the Academy’s striving for political integrity. Naturally, an international prize can have political effects but it must not, according to this jury, carry any political intention.

The criteria discussed sometimes alternate, sometimes coincide. The spotlight on the unknown master Canetti in 1981 is thus followed by the laurel to the universally hailed “pioneer” of magic realism, Gabriel García Márquez, in 1982. Some Laureates answer both requirements, like Faulkner, who was not only “the great experimentalist among twentieth-century novelists” – the Academy was here fortunate enough to anticipate Faulkner’s enormous importance to later fiction – but also, in 1950, a fairly unknown writer. On this occasion, the Prize, for once, could help a great innovator outside the limelight to reach his potential disciples as well as his due audience. The surprising Prize to Dario Fo in 1997 can also be said to have a double address: it was given to a genre which had earlier been left out in the cold but also to the brilliant innovator of that genre.

The Prize Becoming a Literary Prize

The more and more generous interpretation of the formula “in an ideal direction” continued in the 1980s and the 1990s. Academy Secretary Lars Gyllensten pointed out that nowadays the expression “is not taken too literally… It is realized that on the whole the serious literature that is worthy of a prize furthers knowledge of man and his condition and endeavours to enrich and improve his life”. Cela’s candidature, again, put the principle to the test. His dark conception of the world posed the same problem as Beckett’s, and provoked a similar solution. The Prize was given “for a rich and intense prose, which with restrained compassion forms a challenging vision of man’s vulnerability”. As Knut Ahnlund said in his address, Cela’s work “in no way lacks sympathy or common human feeling, unless we demand that those sentiments should be expressed in the simplest possible way”. In this “unless” we glimpse the repudiation, implicit in recent practice, of the early narrow interpretation of the will. The Nobel Prize in Literature has gradually become a literary prize. One of the few reminiscences of the “ideal direction” policy of the earlier age is the homage paid to those great artistic achievements that are characterized by uncompromising “integrity” in the depiction of the human predicament (cf. below).

International Neglect of the Change of Standards

International criticism of the Literature Prize has usually treated the Academy’s practice during the first century of the Prize as a whole, overlooking the differences in outlook and criteria between the various periods, even neglecting the continuous renewal which makes the Academy of, say, 1950 a jury much different from Wirsén’s.

As to the early prizes, the censure of bad choices and blatant omissions is often justified. Tolstoy, Ibsen and Henry James should have been rewarded instead of, for instance, Sully Prudhomme, Eucken and Heyse. The Academy which got this exacting commission was simply not fit for the task. It was deliberately formed as “a bulwark” against the new radical literature in Sweden and much too conservative in outlook and taste to be an international literary jury. It was not until the 1940s – with Anders Österling as secretary – that the Academy, considerably rejuvenated, had the competence to address the major writers of, in the first place, the Western World. On the whole, criticism of its postwar practice has also been much more appreciative. Objections in recent times have less often been levelled against literary quality, rather referred, mistakenly, to political intentions. Also blame for eurocentricity was common, in particular from Asiatic quarters, up to the choices of Soyinka and Mahfouz in the 1980s.

Special Articles


In the first year, the number of nominations was 25. In the early time of the Prize the members of the Swedish Academy were reluctant to use their right to nominate candidates. Impartiality suggested that proposals should come from outside. As no one abroad nominated Tolstoy in 1901, the self-evident candidate of the time fell outside the discussion. The omission caused a strong reaction from Swedish writers and artists who sent an address to Tolstoy – who answered by declining any future prize. During the First World War the number of nominations decreased, to fall to twelve in 1919, compared with 28 in 1913. This wartime slackening of initiative from the outside world induced the Academy to make use of its right to propose. In 1916 the Committee members themselves put forward five names. In recent times, members of the Committee – but also other members of the Academy – regularly add their nominations to the outside names to make the list as comprehensive and representative as possible. The number of nominations has towards the end of the century been about – and even substantially surpassed – 200.

The Nobel Committee

The Nobel Committee is a working unit of 3-5, chosen within the Swedish Academy, (with a rare additional member from outside). Its task is to examine the proposals made and study all relevant literary material to select the candidates to be considered by the Academy. Formerly the Committee presented only one name for the decision of the Academy, which usually confirmed the choice of its Committee. (There are exceptions though: the Academy preferred Tagore in 1913 and Henri Bergson in 1927.) From the 1970s and onwards, the members of the Committee have presented individual reports, which enables the Academy to weigh the different opinions and consequently gives it a greater influence.

The Committee’s first task is to trim down “the long list” nowadays about 200 names of to some 15, which are presented to the Academy in April. Towards the end of May, this “half-long list” is condensed to a “short list” of five names. The œuvres of these finalists make up the Academy’s summer readings. At its first reunion in the middle of September, the discussion immediately starts, to end in a decision about a month later. Naturally, the whole production of five writers would be too heavy a workload for a couple of months but most names of the previous short list return the current year, which makes the task more reasonable. It should be added that in recent times a first-year candidate will not be taken to a prize the same year. In the background looms one of the main failures, Pearl Buck, the Laureate of 1938. A first-year candidate, she was launched by a Committee minority as late as 19 September, to win the contest a short time afterwards, without due consideration.

The chairman of the Committee has usually been identical with the Academy’s permanent secretary, with some displacement at transitional stages. Thus, Carl David af Wirsén was chairman in 1900-1912, Per Hallström (secretary from 1931) in 1922-1946, Anders Österling (secretary from 1941) in 1947-1970, Karl-Ragnar Gierow (secretary from 1964) in 1970-1980, and Lars Gyllensten (secretary from 1977) in 1981-1987. An exceptional period is in 1913-1921 when the historian, Harald Hjärne wrote the reports. In 1986, when Sture Allén became secretary, Gyllensten remained as chairman, to be succeeded by Kjell Espmark in 1988. Since 1986 the tasks have thus been divided between secretary and chairman.

“Ideal” – A Textual Examination

As was shown by Sture Allén, the adjective “ideal” referring to an ideal was used by several of Nobel’s contemporaries; one of them was Strindberg. However, the word is, he found, an amendment made by Nobel in his handwritten will. He seems to have written “idealirad”, with “idealiserad” (idealized) in mind, but checked himself in front of the reference to embellishment in this word for upliftment and wrote “sk” over the final letters “rad”, thus ending in the disputed word “idealisk”. Allén concluded that Nobel actually meant “in a direction towards an ideal”, and specified the sphere of the ideal by the general criterion for all the Nobel Prizes: they are addressed to those who “shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind”. “This means, for instance”, Allén added, “that writings, however brilliant, that advocate, say, genocide, will not comply with the will.”

Shared Prize

The Nobel Prize for Literature can be divided between two – but not three – candidates. However, the Swedish Academy has been restrictive on this point. Divisions are liable to be regarded as – and sometimes are – the result of compromise. That was the case with Frédéric Mistral and José Echegaray in 1904 and with Karl Gjellerup and Henrik Pontoppidan in 1916. A shared prize also runs the risk of being viewed as only half a laurel. Later divisions are exceptional, the only cases being the shared Prizes to Shmuel Yosef Agnon and Nelly Sachs in 1966 and to Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson in 1974. In the 1970s a policy was laid down, stating (1) that each of the two candidates must alone be worthy of the Prize and (2) that there must be some community between them justifying the procedure. The latter requirement no doubt offers a real obstacle for divisions.

Competence for the International Task

In the Swedish Academy, linguistic competence has, as a rule, been high. French, English, and German have posed no problems and several members have been excellent translators from Italian and Spanish. Also noted Orientalists have found a place in the Academy. One of them (Esaias Tegnér, Jr.) could have read Tagore in Bengali (but in fact contented himself with the author’s own English translation of Gitanjali), another (H. S. Nyberg) could report on Arabic literature. In 1985 Göran Malmqvist, one of the West’s foremost experts on modern Chinese literature, became a member. The present Academy includes competence also in Russian. Above all, however, the area of scrutiny has been extended by means of specialists in the various fields. Where translations into English, French, German or the Scandinavian languages are missing, special translations can also be procured. In several cases such exclusive versions – with no more than eighteen readers – have played an important role in the recent work of the Academy.

“Political Integrity”

The Literary Prize has often, in particular during the cold war, given rise to discussion of its political implications. The Swedish Academy, for its part, has on many occasions expressed a desire to stand apart from political antagonisms. The guiding principle, in Lars Gyllensten’s words, has been “political integrity”. This has quite often not been understood. Especially in the East it has been hard to grasp the Swedish Academy’s autonomous position vis-à-vis state and government. In fact, the Academy does not receive any subsidy from the state, nor would it accept any interference in its work. The government, in its turn, is quite happy to stand outside the delicate Nobel matters.

Naturally, there is a political aspect of any international literary prize. It is, however, necessary to make a distinction between political effects and political intentions. The former are unavoidable – and often unpredictable. The latter are expressly banned by the Academy. The distinction, as well as the autonomy of the Academy, can be illustrated by the prehistory of the Prize to Solzhenitsyn. Considering the sad consequences for Pasternak of his Prize, the secretary Karl-Ragnar Gierow took the unusual step of writing to the Swedish ambassador to Moscow, Gunnar Jarring, to gain some idea of Solzhenitsyn’s position, stressing that the question related, of course, only to what might “happen to him personally.” On this point, Mr. Jarring could give a reassuring answer (which proved not to be prophetic). But he also had another message. He wanted to postpone the decision, specifying, in a letter to Österling, that a prize to Solzhenitsyn “would lead to difficulties for our relations with the Soviet Union”. He received the reply: “Yes, that could well be so, but we are agreed that Solzhenitsyn is the most deserving candidate.” This exchange illuminates a fundamental fact: the Academy has no regard for what may or may not be desirable in the eyes of the Swedish Foreign Office. Its unconventional inquiry was concerned solely with the likely effects of the decision for the candidate personally. However, the exchange also offers a good example of the way in which a likely political effect may be taken into account – not, of course, that the Academy intended the possible disturbance in Soviet relations, but that it was aware of the risk and chose to take it.

The history of the Literary Prize offers a case where this delicate balance was endangered, the prize to Winston Churchill. When the decision was taken in 1953, after many years of discussion, it was felt that a sufficient distance from the candidate’s wartime exploits had been gained, making it possible for a Prize to him to be generally understood as a literary award. The reaction from many quarters showed that this was quite a vain hope.

Now, there can be no doubt that the Committee and the Academy attributed exceptional literary merits to Churchill the historian and the orator. They certainly concurred in the address to the Laureate, “a Caesar who also had the gift of wielding Cicero’s stylus”. The problem was how this Caesar, a mere eight years after the war, could be mentally separated from the Ciceronian prose. After all, Churchill was not only the winner of World War II but prime minister and leader of one of the key powers in the cold war world. It can be asked if any of the Academy’s choices has put its political integrity at such risk. At any rate, one well-known conclusion was drawn: ever since, candidates with governmental positions, such as André Malraux and Léopold Senghor, have been consistently ruled out.

During the last decades there is one seeming case of a “political” Prize, the award to Czeslaw Milosz. “Has Milosz been given the 1980 Prize because Poland is politically in fashion?” asked Der Tagesspiegel and many other newspapers joined in. The suspicions did not account for the time involved in each nominee’s candidacy. As was disclosed by a member, Artur Lundkvist, Milosz had been on the list for three or four years and had been shortlisted in May 1980 – in other words, long before the Danzig strike. The strike caused several members to hesitate, said Lundkvist, but he added that it would have been equally impossible to drop Milosz because of the events in Poland.

His argument no doubt reflects the opinion within the Academy. This jury realizes not only the damage that a political choice would inflict on the Prize; the integrity of the award could be jeopardised also by a non-choice in a delicate situation. Still, Milosz was a dissident, and so were Jaroslav Seifert and Joseph Brodsky, the Laureates of 1984 and 1987. These choices all caused great irritation in the East. There one failed to see that the Academy’s overriding concern was literary. The pronouncements of the secretary repeatedly stressed the existential dimensions of these great contemporary poets, values corresponding to the humanistic traditions of the Literary Prize. From that point of view it is essential that Milosz’s political defection be thus formulated by Gyllensten (after a reminder of how during the cold war the political climate had altered in a Stalinist direction): “With his uncompromising demand for artistic integrity and human freedom, Milosz could no longer support the regime”. Uncompromising integrity and a call to rally round human values – these are qualities that the Swedish Academy, following the spirit of Nobel’s will, has again and again sought in combination with great artistic achievement. And just as repeatedly, this mode of evaluation has collided with Marxist/Leninist aesthetics, which interprets such a focus as mere camouflage for political intentions.

The process of judgement, while “primarily a literary matter”, does not, of course, prevent subsidiary evaluations from gradually forming a pattern. Such a pattern is apparent in the sequence Singer-Milosz-Canetti-Seifert. At first sight one could see here what a newspaper headline proclaimed about the choice of Seifert: “The Swedish Academy Greets Central Europe.” It is, however, not a question of some politically defined region or some third way in the tug-of-war between East and West. It is rather a question of authors who with great personal integrity have given voice to an old culture that has either been swept aside by oppressors or whose continued existence was severely threatened. In the difficult area of Central Europe, a number of authors have emerged, speaking, out of their sorely tested experience, on behalf of the basic human values – this in keeping with the humanistic tradition of the Nobel Prize. Such a pattern, though, reveals only part of the truth. The Prize is in the end not given to an attitude toward life, to a set of cultural roots, or to the substance of a commitment; the Prize has been rewarded so as to honour the unique artistic power by which this human experience has been shaped into literature.

International Criticism of the Literature Prize

The history of the Literature Prize is also the history of its reception in the press and in other media. Apart from overlooking the changes in outlooks and criteria within the Swedish Academy, international criticism has tended to neglect the crowd of likely names around the Prize a specific year. Thus, Graham Greene was a celebrated candidate towards 1970 and the Academy was criticized for passing him over. But the 1969 Prize went to Samuel Beckett and the 1970 Prize to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, both most worthy candidates. Quite rightly, an international inquiry by Books Abroad in 1951, directed to 350 specialists, came to the conclusion that the first fifty years of the Prize contained 150 “necessary” candidates. The Academy cannot have the ambition to crown all worthy writers. What it cannot afford is giving Nobel’s laurel to a minor talent. Its practice during the last full half-century has also largely escaped criticism on that point. Even the inquiry of 1951 found that two-thirds of the prizes during the first half-century were fully justified – “a fairly decent testimonial”, as Österling commented. The second half-century as liable to get a still better mark.

As was mentioned above, criticism of omissions and bad choices was often justified as to the early period of the Prize. The Academy headed by Wirsén made only one choice to get general acclaim by posterity – Rudyard Kipling, and then for qualities other than those that have shown themselves to be lasting. The score of the 1910s and the 1920s was better: Gerhart Hauptmann, Tagore, France, Yeats, Shaw, and Mann have been found worthy in several appraisals. The results of the period 1930-1939 are poorer. Two choices have widely been regarded as splendid: Luigi Pirandello in 1934 and Eugene O’Neill in 1936. But the period offers several laureates justly judged as mediocre – and they conceal as many cases of neglect: Virginia Woolf ought to have been rewarded instead of Pearl Buck, and so on. The Academy of the inter-war years quite simply lacked the necessary tools to evaluate one of the most dynamic periods in Western literature. The post-war Academy has in a quite different manner fulfilled the expectations of serious criticism. The Österling Academy’s investment in the pioneers has received due recognition in many favorable assessments. Names like Gide, Eliot, Faulkner, Hemingway, and Beckett have won general acclaim. Some names less known to an international audience, like Jiménez, Laxness, Quasimodo, and Andric, have attracted criticism as insignificant, but been classified by experts as discoveries.

Sometimes the complaints about omissions have been anachronistic. Among those missing, critics have found Proust, Kafka, Rilke, Musil, Cavafy, Mandelstam, García Lorca, and Pessoa. This list, if it had any chronological justification, would undeniably suggest serious failure. But the main works of Kafka, Cavafy, and Pessoa were not published until after their deaths and the true dimensions of Mandelstam’s poetry were revealed above all in the unpublished poems that his wife saved from extinction and gave to the world long after he had perished in his Siberian exile. In the other cases there was much too brief a period of time between the publication of the author’s most deserving work and his death for a prize to have been possible. Thus, Proust achieved notoriety in 1919 by the Goncourt Prize for the second part of À la recherche du temps perdu but less than three years later he was dead. The same short time of reaction was offered by Rilke’s Duineser Elegien and García Lorca’s plays. Musil’s significance did not appear outside a narrow circle of connoisseurs until more than a decade after his death in 1942. He belonged, as was pointed out by a critic (Theodor Ziolkowski), to the category of authors who “on closer examination … exclude themselves.”

Epilogue: At the Turn of the Century

The last literary Nobel Prize of the twentieth century was awarded to Günter Grass, “whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history”. The choice won general acclaim but the moment was called in question. Why not three decades ago when Grass was at the summit of his craft? And why just now?

The first question takes us back to the situation around 1970 when Böll and Grass were both hot names. When the laurel was given to Böll in 1972 the citation recalled his contribution “to a renewal of German literature”. The word had, however, a special meaning here. As was clarified in Gierow’s speech to the Laureate “the renewal” was “not an experiment with form” but “a rebirth out of annihilation”, “a resurrection” of a ravaged culture “to the joy and benefit of us all”: “Such was the kind of work Alfred Nobel wished his prize to reward.” This meant that the foremost representative of a moral renaissance from the ruins of the Third Reich was preferred, with a direct appeal to Nobel’s intentions, to the country’s foremost representative of what was an artistic renewal. The choice took Grass out of focus for many years, and allowed for a discussion of a downward trend in his craft. It remained for the rejuvenated Academy of the nineties to take up the issue again. Several of its new members might have chosen Grass instead of Böll in 1972. As to the alleged decline of Grass’s art, the presentation at the announcement certainly called special attention to The Tin Drum and the Danzig trilogy it makes part of, but refused to share the politically biased German view of Ein weites Feld. “We just read the book and it is goddam good”, as the permanent secretary Horace Engdahl declared.

Also the second question – why just now? – can be answered. The citation recalls the fabulous historian, with a view to the forgotten face of history. Without neglecting works like The Flounder, beginning at the dawn of history, the jury naturally focussed upon the great recreator of the century just about to end. Grass is, in the secretary’s words, “one of the really important writers investigating and explaining the twentieth century to us”; giving him the last prize of the century was “an easy decision”. In other words, the choice long due found its perfect moment at the very end of the period that Grass had summed up in his incomparable way.

Grass’s stronger position in recent years is, of course, also due to the growing understanding of his role as a source of energy in literature. In 1972 he was still a solitary master. In recent years he has been hailed as a precursor by writers such as Salman Rushdie, Nadine Gordimer, Gabriel García Márquez, Antonio Lobo Antunes, and Kenzaburo Oe. Grass has found his place among the “pioneers”.

This choice at the end of the century has, however, also another purport. The Prizes to Hesse, Gide, Eliot, and Faulkner introduced a half-century of new competence for the difficult mission. The 1999 Prize is an indication of how far the jury has managed to make the Prize for Literature a literary award. The reference to moral values at the expense of experimental art in 1972 would be hard to imagine in the present Academy. We also notice the explicit disregard of the political implications that made Grass’s last novel an apple of discord in his country. The Literary Prize has made an instructive journey since 1901. At the beginning of the new century it has become the Literary Prize that its name announces.




Espmark, K., The Nobel Prize in Literature. A Study of the Criteria behind the Choices. G.K. Hall & Co, Boston 1991.



* Published as a chapter of The Nobel Prize: The First 100 Years, Agneta Wallin Levinovitz and Nils Ringertz, eds., Imperial College Press and World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., 2001.

Kjell Espmark (b. 1930) is a poet, a novelist, and a literary historian. He was professor in comparative Literature at the University of Stockholm 1978-1995, became a member of the Swedish Academy in 1981 and the chairman of its Nobel Committee in 1988. His poetry can be read in a dozen languages, including English: Béla Bartók against the Third Reich (1985), Route Tournante (1993), and Five Swedish Poets (1997). The first in a series of seven novels, Glömskans tid (“The Age of Oblivion”, 1987-1997, is available in French (L´Oubli, 1990) and Italian (L´Oblio, 1998). The best-known of his seven books of criticism (including studies of Harry Martinsson, Tomas Tranströmer, and the tradition from Baudelaire) is The Nobel Prize in Literature, A Study of the Criteria behind the choices (1986; in English in 1991); it can also be read in French, German, Greek, and Chinese.


First published 3 December 1999



Plotinus in ‘Mont Blanc’ and ‘Adonais’

Piecing together the religion and philosophy of a poet is often a thankless task. So fluid and flexible are they, so entirely at the service of the poetic event, that the effort to reconstruct them may spoil the poetry while leaving unsatisfied the thirst for intellectual coherence. Yet the power of Shelley’s verse depends on the degree to which we take seriously his self-image as a prophet and a religious teacher. Its beauty cannot be abstracted from its moral and liberative thrust, and this in turn is inextricable from the underlying metaphysical doctrine. Sketching the doctrine in broad strokes, we may distinguish three aspects: a vision of Love and Beauty, manifested in the universe; an ideal of Mind or of creative Imagination; and the sense of an impersonal and inconceivable ultimate reality, which Shelley sometimes calls `God’. In the present essay I shall argue that the contours of this philosophy come into clearer focus if we relate them to the three dimensions of transcendental reality in Plotinus: the Soul, the Mind, and the One. Two poems in particular, `Mont Blanc’ and Adonais, acquire greater authority and formal beauty when more attention is paid to their Plotinian resonances.

Shelley came under Neoplatonic influence when he joined the `Orphic’ circle of Thomas Taylor in November 112. Taylor held that Plotinus `was the first, who, having penetrated the profound wisdom of antiquity, delivered it to posterity without the concealment of mystic symbols and fabulous narrations’ (quoted, Woodman 12). In Queen Mab (113), `the World Soul, which Shelley encountered in his reading of the Timaeus in Taylor’s translation, is mystically conceived as the animating power of the universe of which the individual soul is the microcosmic form’ (Woodman 0). The poem confusingly syncretizes the World-soul with D’Holbach’s materialistic `Necessity’. In 116, `Mont Blanc’ and the `Hymn to Intellectual Beauty’ show a loftier Platonic vision. Later, Shelley’s Neoplatonism was refined through his work on translating Plato in 117, his immersion in Italian literature, his intensive reading of Plato in 120, until it found its ripest expression in Adonais (121).

Usually Shelley is content with an undifferentiated concept of `intellectual beauty’ – close to that of the Symposium – to which he then gives godlike traits as `some unseen Power’ (`Hymn to Intellectual Beauty’). In reading `Mont Blanc’ and Adonais, however, it is well to bear in mind the distinctions that Plotinus makes between the Soul, as the principle of life and love, the Mind, as the realm of intellectual beauty, and the One or the Good as transcending this realm. Shelley may stress the continuity between the three dimensions more than their differences. Nonetheless, if we collapse them into a vague `intuitive awareness of something permanent, something apart from the flux of sense experience’ (Vivian 570), we cannot do justice to the spiritual drama of these poems.

In `Mont Blanc’, two goals of Shelley’s religious questioning are presented. The first is the sublime impersonal Absolute which is symbolized by the summit of Mont Blanc and which has many of the traits of Plotinus’s One. Usually the poem is taken to express awe at the inhuman power of Necessity ruling the universe. But this does not do justice to the sublime tone of:


Far, far above, piercing the infinite sky,

Mont Blanc appears, – still, snowy, and serene. (60-61).


Of the One, Plotinus writes:

One should not enquire whence it comes, for there is no “whence”: for it does not really come or go away anywhere, but appears (phainetai) or does not appear. So one must not chase after it, but wait quietly till it appears, preparing oneself to contemplate it, as the eye awaits the rising of the sun. (Enneads V 5.8, trans. Armstrong).

Viewers of Mount Fuji will savour the analogy between the appearing and disappearing of a mountain and this feature of mystic awareness of the One.

As in Plotinus, Shelley’s absolute is beyond Mind, and it is other than Mind. It is also beyond existence (epekeina tes ousias). Could Shelley be alluding to this idea when he writes: `It is infinitely improbable that the cause of mind, that is, of existence, is similar to mind’ (`On Life’, 119, Shelley VI 197)? If he moves beyond `reality as defined by the Intellectual Philosophy’ (the level of Mind) and `know[s] imaginatively the Power, which is unknowable’, this is not a `purely suppositive’ movement (Wasserman 101); rather the apprehension of the absolute is sustained by two sources: the Neoplatonic tradition, and the poet’s own contemplative sense of ultimate reality, with which the symbol of the mountain chimes:


Power dwells apart in its tranquillity

Remote, serene, and inaccessible (96-97).


Plotinus, too, speaks of the One as `alone and isolated from all other things’ (Enn. V 5.13). When the One is thought of as the Good it is conceived in terms of Power: `he is the productive power of thoughtful intelligent life… he has infinity in the sense of power’ (Enn. V 5.10); `for it has all power; that which comes after it has not all power, but as much as can come after it and derive from it… He does not need the things which have come into being from him. (Enn. V 5.12). `Mont Blanc’ evokes the One in terms of power, which is not yet, as in Adonais, the power of self-diffusing love: `the power is there,/The still and solemn power’ (127-8); the word `there’ (repeated in the following lines) is the ekei used by Plotinus to name the Intelligible World. Shelley used it for the earthly paradise in Queen Mab (VIII, IX).

Shelley hailed this coldly impersonal idea of God as a liberation from centuries of Christian cruelty and superstition. In the `Essay on Christianity’, also dating from 1816, he interprets Jesus Christ as teaching a similar doctrine: `It is important to observe that the author of the Christian system had a conception widely differing from the gross imaginations of the vulgar relatively to the ruling Power of the universe. He everywhere represents this power as something mysteriously and illimitably pervading the frame of things’ (Shelley VI 230). Perhaps influenced by the argument of Hume’s Epicurus (in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, chapter xi), Shelley was inclined to see the creative power as sharing the limits and imperfections of the world it had produced: `Though evil stain its work, and it should be/Like its creation, weak yet beautiful’ (Prometheus Unbound III i, 14-15). Shelley is not a passive spectator of the One: he questions it and he interprets its voice. His prophetic role is to make felt the voice of the Absolute cutting through the world’s `codes of fraud and woe’ (1) and introducing a heavenly order into the tragic chaos of mutability.


The secret strength of things

Which governs thought, and to the infinite dome

Of heaven is a law, inhabits thee!

And what wert thou, and earth, and stars, and sea,

If to the human mind’s imaginings

Silence and solitude were vacancy? (139-144).


Mind and cosmos are governed by the One. Yet Shelley introduces a distinctive, modern twist in suggesting that this cosmic order and the absolute itself remain a hypothesis of the human mind. `If the human mind did not, in silence and solitude, plunge into these realms of speculation… – then, in effect, the Principle itself (“thou”) would have no significance’ (Vivian 57). However, it seems clear that the `silence and solitude’ are the mountain’s. They symbolize the absolute to the poet’s imagination. The emphasis is not on the process of imaginative apprehension but on the ultimate that it falteringly glimpses.

The other theme of `Mont Blanc’ is the universal Mind, which embraces the forms of all things, and of which the individual mind is a portion; this roughly corresponds to Plotinus’s Nous. If one attempts to explain Shelley’s `Intellectual Philosophy’ exclusively in terms of the British empirical tradition one has to give more weight to Berkeley than Shelley’s lack of interest in him allows. Shelley differs from Berkeley in not associating Mind with a creator God, in distinguishing Mind from the supreme Power, and in refusing to make a sharp distinction between the Mind and the human mind (see Wasserman 75): in each of these respects Shelley is closer to Plotinus. What the poem has to say about the dimension of mind is complicated and obscure. `Shelley has not arrived at any conclusion about the ultimate nature of the mind’ (Vivian 575). But the Plotinian resonances of this account allow us to situate them firmly in the total structure. The snow gathered on the mountain may represent Mind in its supreme form, before it expresses itself in the world and human minds. In Prometheus Unbound II iii, 39-40 the metaphor is reversed; the snows of the impending avalanche gather `in Heaven-defying minds/As thought by thought is piled’.

In `Tintern Abbey’, Wordsworth’s loftiest flight corresponds to Shelley’s level of Mind: `A motion and a spirit, that impels/All thinking things, all objects of all thought’ (100-1). The sublime simplicity and detachment of the One does not emerge in Wordsworth even at his most visionary. It is Shelley’s domain, as the poet of height, whose imagination habitually vaulted at an altitude inaccessible to other poets. This difference between the level of One and that of Mind is elided by Jerrold E. Hogle when he identifies the Power as natura naturans and sees its withdrawal as pointedly alluding to Wordsworth’s `something far more deeply interfused,/Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns’ (Hogle 109).

Coleridge in his `Hymn Before Sun-rise’ is moved to prayer by Mont Blanc: `I worshipped the Invisible alone’, and thinks of God who created it: `Who sank thy sunless pillars deep in Earth?’ Hogle claims that Shelley subverts a version of the `metaphysics of presence’ by using Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s metaphors for other ends; but it might be closer to the mark to say that he rewrites Coleridge’s Christian piety in Plotinian terms. To say that Shelley gives no account of the origins of thought except `a movement of transfers between differences that has no one original point of departure and recalls no singular author’ (Hogle 114) is to miss the role of the One. To see Shelley as aiming at `the recovery of interacting “waves” without an origin from within [Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s] tyrannical assertions of an origin that is finally God’ (Hogle 114) does little justice to Shelley’s fascination with the ultimate origin of things. When he redrafts his predecessors’ language for a more comprehensive religious vision, tinged with agnosticism, his motive is not an unreasonable phobia about divine origins, but a keener nostalgia for the absolute. To say that `the Power is a sheer “becoming other” or a going out of itself in self-extensions of its “electric life”‘ (Hogle 117) misses Shelley’s sense that the emanations from the One leave its self-sufficiency inviolate (as in Plotinus). The poem analyses the imaginative movement back to the origin in a way that might recall Freudian analyses of transference, but the imaginings are not unmasked as mere delusion. Hogle goes too far in claiming that the Power is intrinsically self-deconstructive and that this is Shelley’s revolutionary message.

However, there is a residual ambiguity in the poem. The mountain suggests both Plotinian transcendence and some purely materialistic Power. The Demogorgon scene in Prometheus Unbound also leaves it unclear how the `deep truth’ that is `imageless’ (II iv, 116) is to be conceived – whether as materialistic necessity or a sublime elusive absolute. In Adonais, Shelley makes a great imaginative effort to overcome the materialism articulated in the poem’s despairing first stanzas, rising by degrees to his strongest affirmation of the Plotinian absolute. To reduce Shelley’s religiosity to a theory of imaginative projections underestimates the validating experience of inspiration, or grace, which underlies his `sceptical’ soundings of the `deep truth’ and gives them a positive cast.

Adonais is lucid where `Mont Blanc’ is murky, and it culminates in an image of the One which is vividly focused and unambiguously benevolent despite the sacred dread it still inspires. The Platonism is more orthodox and more authoritative than anywhere else in Shelley, as if the Greek elegiac mood had brought his imagination into perfect accord with the tradition. The Plotinian dimension of the poem has been understudied. `The Plotinian theory of emanation is rather prominent in the relation of the One and the Many, in Keats’s being made one with Nature and the Eternal’ (Notopoulos 292). But there is more to be said than this. Plato’s Phaedo is a major source for the theme of immortality, as are the Symposium and Phaedrus for the theme of Intellectual Beauty. But the conclusion of the poem is not adequately explained solely by reference to Plato: `in his death he [Keats] has become united with the true essence of Intellectual Beauty, which will shine for him in all the vivid and unfading and imageless reality which Plato ascribed to it’ (Notopoulos 291). The vagueness of this can be remedied if we distinguish between the `Eternal Beauty’ of which Keats’s soul has become a portion (corresponding to the Plotinian World-soul, the third hypostasis in the triad) and the dimensions of Mind and One (the second and first hypostases). In the lines


Dust to the dust! but the pure spirit shall flow

Back to the burning fountain whence it came,

A portion of the Eternal. (stanza 3).


Notopoulos sees a borrowing from Phaedo here, and adds that `the Platonism of this passage is refracted through the Plotinian doctrine of emanation of souls from the One’ (Notopoulos 294). He notes that the burning fountain is Plotinian, though coming to Shelley from the Platonic tradition rather than from a direct reading of Plotinus. `The one Spirit’s plastic stress’ (st. 43), recalling the Cambridge Platonist Cudworth’s notion of Plastic Nature, conforms to Plotinus’s view that the power bringing the universe into being is nature’s self-contemplation, while nature is born of Soul’s self-contemplation, Soul derives from Mind’s self-contemplation, and the latter comes into being through and as contemplation of the One.

Shelley gives each element of the triad an empirical content. Thus the Soul of the cosmos is associated with love (`love’s delight’, st. 19) which is expressed in loveliness. The figure of Urania, based on Plato’s heavenly Aphrodite – `the eldest daughter of Uranus, born without a mother, whom we call the Uranian’ (Plato, Symposium 210 E, trans. Shelley VII 174) and Milton’s Muse, belongs to this dimension. Plotinus identifies this figure with the Soul:

The heavenly one (ourania), since she is said to be the child of Kronos, and he is Intellect, must be the most divine kind of soul, springing directly from him, pure from the pure, remaining above, as neither wanting nor being able to descend to the world here below… Now since Aphrodite follows upon Kronos… she directed her activity towards him and felt affinity with him, and filled with passionate love for him brought forth Love (Eros), and with this child of hers she looks towards him. (Enn. III 5.2)


Her warmth, life, passion are opposed to the coldness of death:


Where wert thou mighty Mother, when he lay,

When thy Son lay, pierced by the shaft which flies

In darkness? (st. 2).


A possible echo of Psalm 91.5-6 (`You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, not the pestilence that stalks in darkness’) fits the tactic of converting biblical diction into the currency of a Romantic and Platonic faith.


Following pastoral convention, all Nature, led by Urania, mourns the dead poet. Critics unable to share Shelley’s delight in classical allusions and conceits – largely derived from Italian and Spanish poetic tradition – find this elegiac machinery tiresome. But it seems that Shelley’s high play here corresponds to Plotinus’s notion of play as contemplation: `Are we now contemplating as we play? Yes, we and all who play are doing this, or at any rate this is what they aspire to as they play’ (Enn. III 8.1).

Again and again we are reminded that the corpse cannot be brought back to life:


Death feeds on his mute voice, and laughs at our despair. (st. 3)


The harmony between his poetic thoughts and the natural world also seems irrevocably broken:


All he had loved, and moulded into thought

From shape, and hue, and odour, and sweet sound,

Lamented Adonais. (st. 14).


But the very supposition of such sympathy between the poet and nature prepares the later declaration that his soul is one with the soul of nature, following a technique of redefinition based on Petrarch’s Trionfi: `potential ideas, representing a new or advanced perspective, are first prevented from becoming actual, but are subsequently allowed to realize themselves’ (Weinberg 191). The credibility of the consolatory topos is also prepared by the full-scale evocation of the World-soul in stanza 19, with its pantheist revision of Genesis (`the great morning of the world when first/God dawned on Chaos’). Moreover, delusive impressions that Adonais’s corpse is not really dead prefigure the final declaration that his soul still lives (st. 10, 25). The `leprous corpse’ which `exhales itself in flowers’ (st. 20) deflates the literal usage of the myth of Adonis as vegetation God, borrowed from Bion, which lies in the background in stanzas 1-2; its true value as a metaphor for the spiritual reviviscence of Adonais appears only in the second part. The Adonis legend thus helps to cement together the pastoral and Platonic conventions.

The first stage in the apotheosis of the dead poet associates him with the World-soul: `He is made one with Nature’ (st. 42). Empirically, this means only that his poems have become part of our perception of Nature:


There is heard

His voice is all her music, from the moan

Of thunder, to the song of night’s sweet bird..


But Shelley does not avoid the metaphysical foundation of this vision:


while the one Spirit’s plastic stress

Sweeps through the dull dense world, compelling there,

All new successions to the forms they wear..


This is still not the ultimate reality: `Both poets have for a time coalesced with Nature’s “plastic stress”, though neither poet when thus immersed can properly grasp the divine reality, the “ideal prototype”, behind what was being shaped’ (Woodman 175).

Some critics claim that Urania is presented in a merely ironic way and is dismissed in the second half of the poem: `She exists only within the myth of Adonis, and when Shelley abandons the myth, Urania disappears… Those who remain with Urania, playing with lovely images, ultimately delude themselves’ (Woodman 169-70). However, the Plotinian theme of Soul suggests a continuity between the time-bound mourning lover of the first part and the `never wearied love’ (st. 42) or `sustaining Love’ (st. 54) of the second part. Urania in her lower aspect is `chained to Time, and cannot thence depart!’ (st. 26). This is puzzling, for in the source here, Bion’s Lament for Adonis, it is because Aphrodite is a goddess that she cannot follow her dead lover. (One might be tempted to find here a confused echo of Enn. III 5.2 – Aphrodite’s dependence on Kronos taken as dependence on chronos, Time.) The Plotinian thesis that time originates as Soul disperses itself in the manifold (Enn. III 7.11) may be illuminating here. Urania is associated with this downward-oriented aspect of Soul. She can offer only the immortality of the ever-renewed cycles of nature. In the second half of the poem a higher aspect of Soul is emphasized. It is envisioned as the ‘one Spirit’ (st. 43), the creator rather than the captive of the natural world.

Though Urania, in this subtle sense, lives on in the second part of the poem, it is a mistake to claim that she is fused with the One itself, regarded as identical with `one Spirit’ of stanza 42. The Plotinian distance between the World-soul and the utterly transcendent One seems to me to be retained in Adonais: Urania is fused with the love that emanates from the One rather than with the One itself. This distinction may be less marked in other poems: `Many of the epithets used to decribe “Emilia” in Epipsychidion… anticipate the epithets applied to the “One” of the third part of Adonais‘ (Baker 247). But here again it seems that the idealized Emilia’s epithets – `light, and love, and immortality/Sweet Benediction in the eternal Curse’ (20-1) – are those of Soul as it emanates from the One rather than of the One itself. Emilia’s beauty is `in that Beauty furled/Which penetrates and clasps and fills the world (102-3), but she is not identified with the ultimate source of that beauty.She is a Mirror (30), which suggests not identity with the One but a mind or soul fully receptive of the One’s light (see Adonais, st. 54).

The second stage of the apotheosis sees Adonais as taking his place in the domain of Mind, which is distinct from that of Soul and from the One. Shelley envisions Mind not as the world of Forms or of self-thinking intellect, but more accessibly as the realm of poetic thought and as the world of immortal fame inhabited by great creative spirits. He focuses on one aspect of Plotinus’s doctrine – the idea of Mind as a communion of individual spirits (`spirit’ occurs in this sense in 4, 29, 32, 3, 40, 45, 47, 55), as `a living richly varied sphere; a thing all faces, shining with living faces; all the pure souls running together into the same place’ (Enn. VI 7.15) – and finds an empirical counterpart for this in the immortal fame of great poets, who form an elect company. This Intelligible World is populated by individual poets, whose portraits are scattered throughout the poem: Milton, `third among the sons of light’ (st. 4), the four mourners: Byron, Moore, Shelley, Hunt (st. 30-35), and `the inheritors of unfulfilled renown’ (st. 45), Chatterton, Sidney and Lucan. As in the case of the poet’s survival as a note in nature’s music, here again posthumous survival may be amount to nothing more than a metaphor for undying reputation. `If Shelley has in mind any specific location for the region to which Adonais has risen, it is the third heaven of Dante’s Paradiso‘ (Baker 249). This is the sphere of Venus, the abode of lovers. Its amalgamation with the Plotinian Intelligible World is inspired by Dante’s reference to how certain Intelligences (angels) move the sphere of Venus by the intellect alone (Paradiso VIII, 34-7). Emilia, in Epipsychidion is also imaged as a star (2, 60); she too belongs to Dante’s `third sphere’ (117), and as its `pilot’ she is associated with Venus (Urania!). The line `Thy spirit’s sister, the lorn nightingale’ (st. 17) suggests a further association between the two poems, for it recalls not only the `Ode to a Nightingale’ and the nightingales (adones or adonides) of Moschus’s Lament for Bion, but also Emilia, `my adored Nightingale’ (10).

The dimension of Mind is evoked as early as stanza 1: `his fate and fame shall be/An echo and a light unto eternity!’ and is developed in stanzas 4-5. Mind is constrasted with death and darkness, just as Soul is. But the stress falls less on physical corruption than on the spiritual terrors of death: `he went, unterrified/Into the gulph of death’ (st. 4). The light of Soul is warm sunlight. The Mind, as it appears in this life, is a burning fire, which death extinguishes: `extinct in their refulgent prime’ (st. 5), `quenched in a most cold repose’ (st. 20), `the spirit’s self has ceased to burn’ (st. 40). It is once imaged as a sun: `The sun comes forth, and many reptiles spawn’ (st. 29). But this very passage shows that at death Mind assumes its true shape, that of a star, in `the spirit’s awful night’. Not in the cyclic loveliness of nature, but in the immutability of Dantean `immortal stars’ (st. 29), `joyous stars’ (st. 41), does immortality find its definitive figure. On the level of Soul the opposition is between Adonais’s loveliness and the shaft of darkness (death and corruption); on the level of Mind it is between his virtue and the vileness of his enemies (st. 3, 40). The magnificent outbursts of indignation sharpen the image of the poet’s mental virtue. The pastoral and Platonic dimensions of the poem are held together at this level by the fact that Adonais’s tomb is presented from the start as `a grave among the eternal’ (st. 7), located in the Roman cemetery which recurs in the latter half of the poem; and by the fact that Adonais is never presented as a real shepherd at all, but as a shepherd of thoughts (st. 9), well-fitted to be `gathered to the kings of thought’ (st. 4). After the section on Soul (st. 41-43) we have the fullest vision of the starry realm of Mind (st. 44-46). The imagery of light and dark reaches its strongest concentration about this theme: `Like stars to their appointed heights they climb’ (st. 44). The Roman cemetery is now unfolded as imaging the glory of mind, one of the many gentle transformations which unite the mourning and consolation in the poem.

The dimension of the One seems to emerge unprepared, and in a shocking contradiction to what precedes.The One appears — like the supreme Beauty in Plato — exaiphnes, `on a sudden’ (Symposium 210E, trans. Shelley VII 206), in a way that attests its sovereign independence:


The One remains, the many change and pass;

Heaven’s light forever shines, earth’s shadows fly. (st. 52).


The majesty of the incantation is helped by its foundation in the most basic Platonic teaching. Cameron, who thinks Shelley could not have entertained the notion of Heaven (and who misses the purely Platonic, non-Christian reference of the word here) is forced to imagine that the words `Die/If thou wouldst be which thou dost seek’ are an ironic apostrophe to the hostile Christian critic Southey (Cameron 442)! The accent in this third phase of the apotheosis seems to reverse that of the first phase in joyously affirming death and devaluing the loveliness of Nature as mere distraction from absolute reality. There is an apparent incoherence in the account of Adonais’s life beyond the grave: is he


a portion of the loveliness

Which once he made more lovely (st. 43).


or has he disappeared into the pure simplicity of the One?:


Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,

Stains the white radiance of Eternity,

Until Death tramples it to fragments. (st. 52).


Let us note that the same tension between a rejoicing in the plurality of the world and a cult of the purity of the One runs through Plotinus’s philosophy too. Soul and Mind add something to the One and stain its pure radiance: `the first one of all, on which the others depend, we must let be what it is, adding nothing further to it’ (Enn. V 6.6). The tension can snap either in a Gnostic rejection of the world as evil – to which Shelley partly inclines in speaking of `the eclipsing Curse/Of birth’ (st. 54) – or in a Stoic affirmation of the cosmos as supreme reality, which cuts off the ascent to the One. How deep this tension runs may be seen from Plotinus’s tendency to see even the emergence of Mind from the One as the result of tolma, rebellious daring (see Torchia 37-8).

In Adonais the One, though making its majestic entrance without immediate preparation, has been intimated from afar throughout the poem. We are led to it through the realms of Soul and Mind, and the final section recapitulates themes of Soul and Mind, since the One is the final inner truth of both. Mind does not constitute a self-sufficient realm, but yearns back to its source in the One: `the pure spirit shall flow/Back to the burning fountain whence it came’ (st. 3).

Both Soul and Mind are evoked in the lines


Rome’s azure sky,

Flowers, ruins, statues, music, words, are weak

The glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak. (st. 52).


Sky and flowers belong to the natural world quickened by Soul; they blend here with the monuments of Mind. The One is what ensouls the world –


That Light whose smile kindles the Universe,

That Beauty in which all things work and move (st. 54).


— and minds are its mirrors of it


Burns bright or dim, as each are mirrors of

The fire for which all thirst. (st. 54).


This stanza tempts many readers to fuse Soul, Mind, and One together in a single World-soul; but within the unity of the One, its Light and its Beauty, it is important to maintain the distinctions established by Plotinus. Porphyry dubbed Soul, Mind and the One the three `hypostases’ but it is truer to Plotinus to think of them, with Shelley, as three perspectives on a single reality. If the empirical support for the Soul theme is the beauty of nature and poetry, and that for the Mind theme is the virtue and fame of genius, the theme of the One draws support from both of these; it is what underlies Soul and Mind. They are what they are because they proceed from it, the supreme Good. In addition to these effects at the level of Soul and Mind, the phenomenology of the One has its own distinctive trait: it is a final purity that rejects all the shadows and transfusions of earthly life. The One corresponds to a deep disillusionment with life and longing for death. In its sheer transcendence of what we have been able to envision so far, it is a ripping of the `painted veil’ which reveals the life beyond life, which is the true heart of life. `Die,/If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!’ (st. 52). These accents cannot be mistaken for Byronic bravado or mere funeral oratory. Death had struck at Shelley from every side, and he evidently senses its imminence for himself (whereas the author of `Lycidas’ dies only to his youth, turning happily to `pastures new’).

To equate the One with `the Divine light of the World-soul’ (Baker 251) is incorrect unless one stresses that the One transcends the World-soul as its enabling principle. `Panpsychism’ (Baker 252) is an inadequate description of Shelley’s metaphysics. To say that Shelley combines Love and Eternity, Asia and Demogorgon, in the One (Baker 252), is misleading unless one adds that Love and its activity remains subordinate to the One, which is not active, but simply `remains’ or, at best, `shines’. It is only partly correct to say that `Sometime after 119, “Demogorgon” was metamorphosed from an essentially passive principle to an active or informing principle by fusion with the principle of love’ (Baker 252). Shelley now seems to recognize a fully transcendent absolute, no longer merely a projection of human imagination, or sharing the defects of the world it produces. The One is an unambiguously benevolent force, unlike Demogorgon or the Power of `Mont Blanc’, yet in its utter transcendence even of the light and love that emanates from it, it inspires a sacred terror which leaves no room for the irony of the close of `Mont Blanc’.

The One, as in Plotinus, calls forth a conversion, a turning, whereby all things return to it as their source. Adonais has assumed in death this posture of contemplation of the One, and his example draws the poet to undergo the same formation into luminous mind under the drawing-power of the One. In Plotinus mystical contact with the One is prepared by a long period of theoretical instruction and practice in virtue. But the moment of grace comes unbidden. Shelley has us believe that it happens as he writes. First the invitation coming from the One, via Adonais, is heard:


the low wind whispers near:

‘Tis Adonais calls! (st. 53).


The majestic naming of the Light, Beauty, Benediction, Love that issue from the One (st. 54) climaxes in `now beams on me’ and what this feels like is thrillingly conveyed in the closing stanza. The radicality of his poetic calling spurs Shelley to a final blind embrace of the absolute. To sing the beauty of nature and the glory of mind is not enough: mind itself beacons to the highest simplicity of the One. The final incantation (`The breath whose might I have invoked in song/Descends on me…’) recalls Enn. VI 7.36:

Up to this point one has been led along by instruction and settled firmly in beauty, which has engaged one in thinking, but now one is carried out of this dimension of thinking by the surge of the wave of Mind itself and lifted on high by a kind of swell, and one has seen, suddenly, not seeing how one has seen, for the vision, filling the eyes with light, allows one to see nothing else but that light.

The One itself does not think (Enn. V 6; VI 7.37-42); it is beyond the duality of knowing and known; and to draw near to the One involves a surrender of thinking, which is experienced as ecstasy, but which is also fearful: `in proportion as the soul goes toward the formless, since it is utterly unable to comprehend it…, it slides away and is afraid that it may have nothing at all (Enn. VI 9.3). To leave behind the world of form `the intellect must return, so to speak, backwards, and give itself up, in a way, to what lies behind it’ (Enn. III 8.9).

Rather than say that `there is an apparent “absence of progress” from one point in the discourse to another: each stanza recasts essentially the same vision of immortality in different terms, giving the impression that, from whatever point in the cosmos one is looking, a single reality is perceived’ (Weinberg 194), one can note advances to new perspectives in stanzas 39, 41, 44, 47, 52, punctuating the ascent through Soul (st. 41) and Mind (st. 44) to the One (st. 52), and the naked emergence of the poet himself in stanzas 54-5 is an electrifying closing twist. Weinberg is looking at the conclusion in light of Dante’s Paradiso (he sees stanzas 1-17 as an Inferno and stanzas 1-37 as a Purgatorio), but this leads to an undifferentiated reading which misses the Plotinian architecture (Weinberg does not mention Plotinus).

We are now in a position to see how outrageously dismissive is the view that `the imported Platonism of the last five stanzas has the same straining, thinness of tone associated with a far less mature and more blatant work, the “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty”‘ (Holmes 657). We can also counter the subtler suspicion that the Shelley’s tone of passionate conviction here is a wilful self-intoxication, an unstable feat of wishful thinking. The rhetoric of these stanzas is a delicate balancing-act:

The energy which fuels the final section of Adonais proceeds not from any conviction of Keats’s apotheosis but from contrary resources of indignation. It is only by continually adverting to the horrors of present existence in this “dull dense world”… that Shelley can generate, rhetorically, conviction in himself and his readers about some other order of exemplary existence. (Beatty 227).

It is emotion rather than reason that guides Shelley’s exploitation of `a mixture of Stoical, Platonic, Pantheist, Deist, and popular sentiments’ (Beatty 226). Unlike Dante, who had a stable doctrinal foundation, Shelley had to work with home-made conceptions:

Writing within an esoteric tradition both alien and isolated from the European traditions of thought which surrounded him, he is forced ultimately to look into himself and find his divinity there. He has somehow to make his poetic faith, which in the end he recognizes as a `willing suspension of disbelief’, a matter of religious faith, which is to say, a matter of absolute truth. (Woodman 177).

Shelley saw Platonic immortality as one of `those ideas which exalt and ennoble humanity’, though `until better arguments can be produced than sophisms which disgrace the cause’ the desire for immortality is `the only presumption that eternity is the inheritance of every thinking being’ (quoted, Woodman 7).

If we may glimpse, underlying Adonais, a reflectively appropriated structure of Platonist doctrine, reproducing some of the diversity and inner coherence of Plotinus’s thought, not merely as a source for consolatory topoi but on the same level as the investment in Christian belief that sustains Milton’s `Lycidas’. The poem is indeed a revision of Milton’s, repeating his retrieval of Greek pastoral myth for a contemporary religious vision. Both elegies reflect a crisis of young manhood: Adonais was completed on June , 1821; Shelley was 29 on August 4th; `Lycidas’ was written in November, 1637; Milton was 29 on December 9th. Milton’s crisis is resolved by turning to life, to `pastures new’; Shelley’s by accepting the call of death, embraced in Plotinian resolution. In both works high and artificial literary neo-classicism masks a deep existential thrust which is revealed by the oneiric power of the images deployed and the unbroken confidence of the diction.

Shelley shows little familiarity with Saint Augustine, who provides the strongest counter-force to the Plotinian tradition by absorbing Plotinian mysticism into an experience of a personal God of grace and salvation (in Confessions VII and IX). Shelley was repelled by Christian history and the imaginative platitude of popular Christianity; the spiritual Christianity of Paul, John and Augustine remained a closed book to him. His challenge to Christians today is to imagine their faith as powerfully as he imagined his.



Armstrong, A.H. (trans.). Plotinus I-VII. Loeb Classical Library, 1966-4.

Baker, Carlos. Shelley’s Major Poetry: The Fabric of a Vision. New York: Russell & Russell, 1961.

Beatty, Bernard. ‘The Transformation of Discourse: Epipsychidion, Adonais, and some lyrics’. In: Essays on Shelley, ed. Miriam Allott. Liverpool University Press, 1982.<

Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Shelley: The Golden Years. Harvard UP, 1974.

Hogle, Jerrold. ‘Shelley as Revisionist: Power and Belief in Mont Blanc’. In: The New Shelley, ed. G. Kim Blank. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991, pp. 10-27..

Holmes, Richard. Shelley: The Pursuit. Penguin Books, 1987.

Notopoulos, James A. The Platonism of Shelley. Duke UP, 1949.

Reiman, Donald H. and Sharon B. Powers (eds). Shelley’s Poetry and Prose. New York and London: Norton, 1977.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. Complete Works, ed. Roger Ingpen and Walter E. Peck. New York: Gordian Press, 1965.

Torchia, N. Joseph. Plotinus, Tolma, and the Descent of Being. New York: Peter Lang, 1993.

Vivian, Charles H. ‘The One “Mont Blanc”’. In: Reiman and Powers, pp. 569-79.

Weinberg, Alan M. Shelley’s Italian Experience. London: Macmillan, 1991.

Wasserman, Earl R. ‘Mont Blanc’. In: Shelley: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. George M. Ridenour. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1965, pp. 69-102.

Woodman, Ross Greig. The Apocalyptic Vision in the Poetry of Shelley. University of Toronto Press, 1964.


From: K. Kamijima et al., ed. Centre and Circumference. Tokyo: Kirihara, 1995, pp. 466-81.



Conflict in Doctor Faustus

Christopher Marlowe’s play, its genre an English tragedy of the sixteenth century, presents the tragic conflict of the Faustus theme in the tradition of medieval morality plays. There are two kind of conflict in the play: one between rival views of nature of evil and the other between the choice of good and the choice of evil. The first is at its sharpest in the contrast in the first acts between Faustus and Mephistopheles; the second, in the play, soliloquies. Faustus’ initial obstinacy makes him persist in a heroic view of evil and renders him incapable of moral reflection. The concepts of good and evil in these plays and their psychological implications reflect a historical background in which the church dominates the ethical and moral concepts of their time. Faustus defies society’s norms and embraces the devil with courageous desperation, fully aware of the inevitable consequences, but incapable of being satisfied with his human limitations. Faustus in his soliloquy says

“If we say that we have no sin
We deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us.
Why then, belike, we must sin,
And consequently die.
Ay, we must die an everlasting death.”

One of the most important and prominent themes in Doctor Faustus is by far the conflict between good and evil in the world and the human soul. Marlowe’s play set the precedent for religious works that were concerned with morals and suffering. In the play, Doctor Faustus is frequently accompanied by two angels, one good and one evil. Both spirits try to advise him on a course of action, with the evil one usually being more influential over his mind. These two angels embody the internal battle that is raging inside of Faustus. On one hand, he has an insatiable thirst for knowledge and supreme power; on the other hand, Faustus realizes that it is folly to relinquish heavenly pleasures for fleeting mortal happiness.

Although society is accustomed to believing that good will always prevails, evil gains the upper hand in Marlowe’s play. Innocent and often devout men are tortured at Faustus’s delight and command. He partakes in many pleasures with devils and is even shown the seven deadly sins in person. Thus, Faustus is depicted as doomed from the very beginning. Although he has moments of contrition, he quickly shoves aside thoughts of God and turns to evil. Marlowe attempted to express to his audience that while prayer and repentance are the paths to heaven, sin and mortal pleasure are very hard temptations to pass over.

Lucifer’s acquisition of Faustus’s soul is especially delightful for him because Faustus was once a good and devout soul. Even during his last moments on earth, Faustus curses himself for willingly burning the scriptures and denouncing God. In Doctor Faustus, Marlowe shows the reader that everything in the mortal world is a double-edged sword. In his never-ending quest for knowledge, Faustus exemplifies how even scholarly life can have evil undertones when studies are used for unholy purposes. Doctor Faustus’s miserable defeat against the forces of evil, within and without, enlightens the reader to beware a surfeit of anything.

The Caretaker Comedy of Menace

Comedy of Menace

Absurdism: doctrine that we live in an irrational universe
The term “comedy of menace” comes from the subtitle of one of David Campton’s plays, The  Lunatic View: A Comedy of Menace. A reviewer picked up on it and used it when writing about certain playwrights.

A ‘comedy’ is a humorous play with elements of surprise, incongruity (things that don’t fit logically together), conflict, & repetitiveness that often leads the audience to expect one thing will happen, then delivers the opposite to amuse and make the audience laugh.
Comedy and tragedy are interwoven in The Caretaker. There are elements of humour at the beginning of the play, but as it progresses these turn towards tragedy.
Both Davies and Mick have comic elements to their characters, with Aston as the exception.
The comedy from Davies is unintentional. Through his characterisation of Davies Pinter introduces a visual comedic element, for example when Davies is chased around the room with no trousers on at the start of Act II, or when he tries on the shoes or smoking jacket. There is also a comedic element in Davies style of speaking. He is always very earnest and thinks a lot of himself. He doesn’t always follow what people are saying which leads to comic responses.
As the comedy disappears from The Caretaker, the mood of the play changes and the characters concentrate on their own survival.
Mick’s humour depends largely on the actor cast and their interpretation of the character. Mick baits Davies; it’s a performance which can sometimes be funny for example the monologues.
Violence and Menace/The Outsider

Menace (a threat or the act of threatening)
A ‘menace’ is something which threatens to cause harm, evil or injury; which doesn’t seem like a logical idea to fit with comedy.
Violence and menace are mostly below the surface of the play. Mick moves swiftly and silently and is an unpredictable character.
Davies threatens Mick’s relationship with his brother, and responds to his fear of authority by threatening violence
Aston is more of a victim of violence, his description of his treatment in hospital shows that the world beyond the room is now a threatening place.

But, in certain plays (like those by Campton & Harold Pinter, for example), it is quite possible for a playwright to create both humor and menace in the same play and even at the same time in the play (for instance, a character might joke about a bad situation he finds himself in, while he prepares a gun to deal with his situation – that is an example from one of the comedies of menace). The playwright’s objective in mixing comedy & the threat of menace is to produce certain effects (like set up dramatic tension or make the audience think a character is a weasel because they are acting nice or funny, but planning to do something evil) or to convey certain social or political ideas (for ex., don’t trust lawyers or politicians) to the audience.
Comedy of menace is a term used to describe the plays of David Campton, Nigel Dennis, N. F. Simpson, and Harold Pinter by drama critic Irving Wardle, borrowed from the subtitle of Campton’s play The Lunatic View: A Comedy of Menace, in reviewing Pinter’s and Campton’s plays in Encore in 1958. (Campton’s subtitle Comedy of Menace is a jocular play-on-words derived from comedy of manners—menace being manners pronounced with somewhat of a Judeo-English accent.)

After Wardle’s retraction of comedy of menace as he had applied it to Pinter’s writing, Pinter himself also occasionally disavowed it and questioned its relevance to his work (as he also did with his own offhand but apt statement that his plays are about “the weasel under the cocktail cabinet”). For example, in December 1971, in his interview with Pinter about Old Times, Mel Gussow recalled that “After The Homecoming [Pinter] said that [he] ‘couldn’t any longer stay in the room with this bunch of people who opened doors and came in and went out.
“ASTON comes in. He closes the door, moves into the room and faces MICK. They look at each other. Both are smiling, faintly.

MICK: (beginning to speak to ASTON). Look … Uh…
He stops, goes to the door and exits. ASTON leaves the door open, crosses behind DAVIES, sees the broken Buddha, and looks at the pieces for a moment. He then goes to his bed, takes off his overcoat, sits, takes the screwdriver and plug and pokes the plug.”

Davies: You can take it from me I’m clean. I keep myself up. That’s why I left my wife. Fortnight after I married her, no, not so much as that, no more than a week, I took the lid off a saucepan, you know what was in it? A pile of her underclothing, unwashed. The pan for vegetables, (Act I)

Davies: They (women) have sais same thing to me. Women? There’s many a time they’ve come up to me and asked me more or less the same question. (Act I)

Aston: They weren’t hallucinations, they… I used to get the feeling I could see     things… very clearly… everything… was so clear… everything used…     everything used to get very quiet… all this… quiet… and… this clear     sight… it was… but maybe I was wrong. (Act II)

Once asked what his plays are about, Pinter lobbed back a phrase “the weasel under the cocktail cabinet”, which he regrets has been taken seriously and applied in popular criticism:
“Once many years ago, I found myself engaged uneasily in a public discussion on theatre. Someone asked me what was my work ‘about’. I replied with no thought at all and merely to frustrate this line of enquiry: ‘the weasel under the cocktail cabinet’. This was a great mistake. Over the years I have seen that remark quoted in a number of learned columns. It has now seemingly acquired a profound significance, and is seen to be a highly relevant and meaningful observation about my own work. But for me the remark meant precisely nothing.”
David Wilbanks

“The Weasel Under the Cocktail Cabinet”
“The thing referred to is likely not reducible to a singel statement but will more probably involve a range of possible meanings and interpretations” — Foster (98)
While “the weasel under the cocktail cabinet” was famously used to answer the question “what are your plays about?” (Harold Pinter) I feel the same phrase aptly answers the question “What does this symbolize?” It’s whatever you want. Foster points out that if a symbol means only one thing, it is allegory rather than symbolism. Thus symbols, by their nature, are beholden to the reader’s interpretation. Any meaning you can think of is completely valid, provided it is meaningful. i.e has some sort of reason behind it. As Foster, and Dr. Jerz both frequently say, there is no big dusty book of literary meanings. If you want, and can find reason behind it, Moby Dick, Frankenstein’s monster, excalibur, the red ‘A’, that radio the proffessor made out of coconuts on Giligan’s island and the football that Lucy prevents Charlie Brown from ever kicking all represent the weasel under the cocktail cabinet.
Actually, the scarlet letter obviously represents the ferret under the sofa.

Language, Society And Culture

Factors Involved in the investigation of Social Dialect

Social Class And Education:
Leaving Educational system at early age
e.g. ( Them boys throwed somethin)
Spending long time in educational system
e.g. (Talks like a book)

Labov’s Theory:
Study of Labov (1972), looking sales people pronunciation differences in New York city at Saks, Macy’s and Klein’s departmental stores.
Use of more  /r/ Sound by higher and socio-economic status. (higher)
Fewer /r/ sounds produced by lower socio-economic status. (lowah)

Dialect Survey in a particular region shows that grandparents may use those terms which grand children do not.
e.g icebox, wireless (doesn’t use like to introduce reported speech)
e.g we’re getting ready, and he’s like

Female speaker tend to use Prestigious form than male
e.g I done it—I did
e.g Women discuss personal feelings, experience, seeking connections while Male Non-personal topics and give advice on solutions, more competitive and concerned with power via language

Ethnic background:
An ethnic group (or ethnicity) is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture (often including a shared religion) and an ideology

Within any society differences in speech may come about because of Ethnic background
e.g African Americans known as BEV, Use frequent absence of copula, Double negative constructions, illogical structure
(He don’t know nothing, I ain’t afraid of no ghosts)

In linguistics, an idiolect is a variety of a language unique to an individual. It is manifested by patterns of vocabulary or idiom selection (the individual’s lexicon), grammar, or pronunciations that are unique to the individual.
The term idiolect is used for the personal dialect of each individual speaker of a language.

Use in specific situations
Religious Register (Ye Shall be blessed by him)
Legal Register (The Plaintiff is ready to take the witness stand)

Technical Vocabulary associated with the special activity or group
“Don’t bother me know I’m juggling eggs”
A major skill like pronunciation and grammar, to different varieties of language co-exist in a speech community (Arabic Language)

Language and Culture:
Linguistic variations are some times discussed as terms of cultural differences
Culture variation means “socially acquired knowledge” or cultural transmission by which languages are acquired

Worlds culture study become clear that different groups not only have different languages, they have different world’s views reflected in their languages
In very simple term, the Aztecs not only didn’t have a figure in their culture like “ Santa Claus”, they did not have a word for this figure either

Linguistic Determinism:
If two languages appear to have very different ways of describing the way of world is called linguistic determinism
Language determines thoughts (You can only think in the categories which your language allows you to think in)
Eskimos in English

The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis:
Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf produced arguments in 1930s that language of American Indians is different from other Europeans languages
Hopi Indians Tribes perceived differently from other English speaking tribes, distinction b/w animate and inanimate (Cloud, Stone)
Confusion b/w (animate, feminine, living, female—door, stone)

Language Universals:
All languages of the world have certain common properties, those common properties called linguistics universals and can be described with definitive feature of languages
Arbitrary symbol systems, noun like and verb components, set of sound patterns, Grammar, prepositions

Sociolinguistics is the study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural norms, expectations, and context, on the way language is used, and the effects of language use on society.

Sociology of Language:
Sociology of language focuses on the language’s effect on the society. It is closely related to the field of sociolinguistics, which focuses on the effect of the society on the language.
A sociology of language would seek to understand the way that social dynamics are affected by individual and group language use

Social Dialects:
Social Dialects are varieties of language used by groups defined according to class, education, age, sex, and a number of other social parameters.

Concept of Prestige:
In sociolinguistics, prestige describes the level of respect accorded to a language or dialect as compared to that of other languages or dialects in a speech community. The concept of prestige in sociolinguistics is closely related to that of prestige or class within a society. Generally, there is positive prestige associated with the language or dialect of the upper classes, and negative prestige with the language or dialect of the lower classes.

Language, Society and Culture
By: Muhammad Afzal & Zammad Aslam

Enhanced by Zemanta

Linguistic relativity

The principle of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects the ways in which its speakers are able to conceptualize their world, i.e. their world view. Popularly known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, or Whorfianism, the principle is generally understood as having two different versions: (i) the strong version that language determines thought and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories and (ii) the weak version that linguistic categories and usage influence thought and certain kinds of non-linguistic behavior.

The idea was first clearly expressed by 19th century thinkers, such as Wilhelm von Humboldt who saw language as the expression of the spirit of a nation. The early 20th century school of American Anthropology headed by Franz Boas and Edward Sapir also embraced the idea. Sapir’s student Benjamin Lee Whorf came to be seen as the primary proponent as a result of his published observations of how he perceived linguistic differences to have consequences in human cognition and behavior. Harry Hoijer, one of Sapir’s students, introduced the term “Sapir–Whorf hypothesis”, albeit infelicitous due to Sapir’s non-involvement with the idea and the term’s misleading use of hypothesis in a colloquial (i.e. non-scientific) sense. Whorf’s ideas were widely criticized, and Roger Brown and Eric Lenneberg decided to put them to the test. They reformulated Whorf’s principle of linguistic relativity as a testable hypothesis and conducted experiments designed to find out whether color perception varies between speakers of languages that classified colors differently. As the study of the universal nature of human language and cognition came in to focus in the 1960s the idea of linguistic relativity fell out of favor. A 1969 study by Brent Berlin and Paul Kay showed that color terminology is subject to universal semantic constraints, and the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis was seen as completely discredited.

From the late 1980s a new school of linguistic relativity scholars have examined the effects of differences in linguistic categorization on cognition, finding broad support for weak versions of the hypothesis in experimental contexts. Effects of linguistic relativity have been shown particularly in the domain of spatial cognition and in the social use of language, but also in the field of color perception. Recent studies have shown that color perception is particularly prone to linguistic relativity effects when processed in the left brain hemisphere, suggesting that this brain half relies more on language than the right one. Currently a balanced view of linguistic relativity is espoused by most linguists holding that language influences certain kinds of cognitive processes in non-trivial ways but that other processes are better seen as subject to universal factors. Current research is focused on exploring the ways in which language influences thought and determining to what extent. The principle of linguistic relativity and the relation between language and thought has also received attention in varying academic fields from philosophy to psychology and anthropology, and it has also inspired and colored works of fiction and the invention of constructed languages.


Enhanced by Zemanta

The Revival of Jane Austen

[schema type=”event” evtype=”EducationEvent” url=”” name=”The Revival of Jane Austen” description=”Austen, Elizabeth Bennet, Emma, Jane Austen, Prejudice, Pride & Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen Adaptations, Emma Thompson” street=”Online” city=”NY” country=”US” ]

Jane Austen; “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody, not  greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort and to have done with all the rest.”

Jane Austen has returned to bring the world back to its senses.  Hollywood’s honest heroine for 1996 proved to be Jane Austen with Sense and Sensibility nominated for Oscar in seven categories and Emma nominated for Costume Design and selected for Music Original Musical or Comedy Category.  Sense and Sensibility brought Emma Thompson an Oscar for Best Screenplay based on materials previously produced or published, making her the first woman to be nominated for both  Best Actress and screenwriter in the same year.

It was in 1796 when Jane Austen started writing Pride and Prejudice in her small house in Chawton, Hampshire. Could she ever imagine in her wildest dreams that 200 years later her stories would interest millions of people from all over the world? Could she have believed that  Sense and Sensibility would become the 160th most popular of all films made between 1900 and 1997?  Could we, when studying Jane Austen in school and/or university, foresee that we would rush to the cinemas to see the latest Austen film? Hollywood could…

My reasons for writing this paper are not to discover whether Jane Austen adaptations are successful or not; but rather to find out why they have become so popular in a cinematic context dominated by action films. How could stories from the late 18th and early 19th centuries find an audience in an era dominated by disaster films?
Jane Austen’s popularity can be traced back to the second decade of the 19th century. Although she started writing in her early twenties, her first book was published in 1811. At 36, Austen published Sense and Sensibility on her own expense. She had thought that sales of the book would not repay the expenses, therefore she had put aside some of her limited income. However, Sense and Sensibility not only covered its expenses, but made a profit of about £150.  It was an immediate success; and encouraged Austen to write further novels.  Pride and Prejudice followed in 1814 in three volumes; later the first edition of Mansfield Park, though it was badly printed and full of mistakes, sold out in six months.

Perhaps this popularity had a lot to do with her characters, which appeared down to earth, and recognizable in any society.  Sir Walter Scott praised her for “that exquisite touch which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting”. Even the Prince Regent became an Austen fan  It is often said that he used to keep a series of her novels in each of his residences.

Austen experienced a decline in popularity in the 50 years following her death. However, by 1870 her reputation began to increase once more, chiefly as a result of the work of her niece, J.E. Austen-Leigh, who published A Memoir of Jane Austen in 1870.  The success of that volume was unprecedented: in the preface to the second edition, Austen-Leigh wrote: “The Memoir of my Aunt, Jane Austen, has been received with more favour than I had ventured to expect. The notices taken of it in the periodical press, as well as letters addressed to me by many with whom I am not personally acquainted, show that an unabated interest is still taken in every particular that can be told about her.”

In the 1920s the reaction to Romanticism brought a new impetus to Jane Austen’s popularity. Many readers appreciated her for her sensibility, her balance and her avoidance of wild passion. A proof of the popularity of Austen’s novels at the time can be seen in Rudyard Kipling’s story, called “Janeites”, in which he tells about a group of lieutenants in 1918, trying to make a soldier memorise her novels.

Nonetheless, there were critics – chiefly in the academic world – who disliked Austen.  In 1928, for instance, H.W.Garrod wrote a book named Jane Austen:A Depreciation, in which he defined her as “intolerably sensible”. Such reactions did not have much effect on Austen’s popularity.  Numerous Jane Austen Societies were formed throughout the world; her books were endlessly read and reprinted; some of them were turned into stage plays; whilst Pride and Prejudice was made into a Hollywood film, directed by Robert Z.Leonard, with Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet and Laurence Olivier as Mr Darcy, in 1940.

Within half a century, however,  Jane Austen’s popularity had soared, chiefly as a result of the Andrew Davies’s adapation of Pride and Prejudice for the BBC.  The BBC had dramatised Austen’s novels before – many of them had been turned into serials for the Sunday tea-time slot, notably Pride and Prejudice in 1980; but this was a big-budget adaptation, made for prime-time television in association with the American company the Arts and Entertainment Network. The last of the six episodes was watched by over ten million British viewers, almost 40 percent of the total UK television audience.  In the same year, the BBC also screened an adaptation of Persuasion [which had a limited cinema exposure in London and other major British cities].  Hollywood also helped to re-establish Austen’s reputation; both Sense and Sensibility and Douglas McGrath’s version of Emma, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, were released in 1995. Clueless carried the story of Emma and Mr Knightley to a Los Angeles high school in the 1990s.  A year later, another adaptation of Emma appeared on British television, made by the independent company Meridian Television, with Kate Beckinsale in the title role.

The 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice was a real success: so much so that a scandal broke out in a small town near Exeter because the last episode could not be broadcast properly. The people protested, claiming that they were deprived of their rights as licence-payers to watch the end of the series. A video version of the series was released before the last episode was even shown and sold out twice, selling more than 100.000 copies. A companion edition of the novel was also published and sold out. Darcy and Elizabeth once again became the best loved characters of the fiction world.

Although not equalling the success of Pride and Prejudice, the BBC film of Persuasion performed tolerably well at the box-office, particularly in the USA.   Audiences appeared to respond to the main plot of the novel, which centres on the conflict between elderly prudence and the romantic love of two young people.  Although it has been 200 years since Jane Austen started writing Persuasion, the conflict is still valid today. Looking around, many 19 year-old girls can still be seen fighting their parents for the “perfect man”, or simply giving in to their desires. The thoughts of Lady Russell in Persuasion could just as well be uttered now:

    • Anne Elliot, with all her claims of birth, beauty and mind, to throw herself away at nineteen; involve herself at nineteen with a young man, who had nothing but himself to recommend him, and no hopes of attaining affluence, but in the chances of a most uncertain profession, and no connexions, to secure even his farther rise in that profession; would be indeed a throwing away which she grieved to think of.

The thoughts of Lady Russell on Anne’s wish to marry Captain Wentworth is the typical small town reaction a well-bred 19 year old girl in Turkey in 1998 would obtain from her superiors, if she should wish to marry a musician, for instance.
As in all Jane Austen stories, the lovers come together in the end. The end gives the readers, or the audience nowadays, hope. “It’s a Cinderella story” says director Roger Michell, “It’s boy meets girl. Girl loses boy. Boy finds girl.”  Reviewing the film on its American release in 1995, the film critic Laura Miller quoted from Persuasion: “Everything united in him; good understanding, correct opinions, knowledge of the world and a warm heart”.  Miller added:

        • Thus Jane Austen defines an excellent man in her last novel Persuasion, and dares us to find his equal in our own public and private spheres: Bill Clinton? Ross Perot? Brad Pitt? Kurt Cobain? Perhaps the yearning for such an individual inspires the current wave of Austen novels committed to celluloid.

At the end of 1995 came the film version of Sense and Sensibility. The film created a great interest in the book. The novel, published in America by Signet Books, made it to the top ten in the Publisher’s Weekly lists. The producer of the film Lindsay Doran had felt even before the film had been made, that it would be a success, as she stressed in an interview:

        • The issues in it are still completely fresh. Do you marry the cad or do you marry the nice guy? Do you go after that dangerous guy who makes you feel so great or do you say ‘That’s not going to do me any good,’ and line up with the guy who’s appreciative and loving and solid and will always be there for you and will never make you feel the way the cad makes you feel. It doesn’t stop when you’re 19. This is a problem for women all of their lives, and to a certain degree a problem for men.

Convinced that this project had life in it, she started to look for the perfect scriptwriter and the perfect director. She found her ideal writer in Emma Thompson, who had apparently been reading Austen since she was nine years old. Thompson worked on the script for four years, until she did not know any more which sentences were hers and which were Austen’s. Emma Thompson says that Jane Austen’s works survive because she wrote about subjects that would never lose their importance. “Women still fall in love with the wrong guy, she says, “they still get jilted, they’re still looking for people to marry”.

The person chosen to direct Sense and Sensibility was the Taiwanese director, Ang Lee. The theme of traditional family verses the new generation was familiar to him, particularly as he had worked on The Wedding Banquet, described as the most popular film in Taiwanese history. When it was first announced that Lee was to direct Sense and Sensibility, all translated copies of the novel were sold out in Taiwan.  After reading the first few pages of the script Lee found many links between the two societies, British and Taiwanese. “I found a moral bond with my own traditions, disguised under interesting traditions and dresses. Both societies have a tendency to reach the balance between harmony and the opposites,” says the director.’  Lee had another word on why Jane Austen is still popular today: “Austen tells us how much we have to suffer in order to find real love and truth as well as the pain of growing up. These conflicts in one way or another determine our lives. This is a universal issue.”

Having won the top award of the Writers Guild of America with her Sense and Sensibility adaptation, Emma Thompson says, “I think they [film audiences] have misconceptions about Austen in the same way they have misconceptions about Shakespeare that they won’t be able to understand … But one of the things I like about her books most is that her characters are people that we recognise now.”

The diary Emma Thompson kept while making Sense and Sensibility has been published in book form, both in Britain and America, along with her script. The film received many BAFTA Awards, as wall as seven Oscar nominations and an Oscar for best adaptation. The box office gross revenue was $134.1 million worldwide.

On August 12, 1996, Austen’s own favourite character Emma appeared on screen. She was “faultless in spite of all her faults” as Knightley described her in the book. People adored her. Although the author was British, the places were British, nearly all the actors were British, Emma turned out to be a most American movie. It was definitely Austen’s happiest comedy and as Lisa Scbwarzbaum states in her article “the one best suited to the American way of quality drama”.

Emma was a small budget film, costing not much more than $6 million – eventually it made $37,800,000 worldwide, the 67th most popular film of 1996.  The project itself, as well as the film, was something that excited director Douglas McGrath even before he had started the film.  On February 12, 1994 he wrote in his diary:

        • Today my parents called in panic: Emma Thompson is doing Emma! It was my turn to panic then, I called my agent in L.A. Dave whom I never saw in panic since I first met him, [he] told me only three words: Sense and Sensibility. The three correct words.”

Emma succeeded in being adored by all movie audiences; the heroine, as portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow, was good natured, well-meaning, snob. Jane Austen’s character Emma also provided the inspiration for Amy Heckerling’s Clueless; not surprisingly, the story fitted the 1990s California Valley Girl environment perfectly. Heckerling wanted to write a comedy of manners, and needed a story that could happen to any girl. Then she thought of Jane Austen and how much she had enjoyed reading Emma at school when she was a teenager. There is a rich girl in the story, who thinks she understands everything, but she is absorbed so much in her own world, that she can not see at all what others can observe clearly. So Heckerling created an idealized dream world based on Emma.
Clueless appeared on screen on July 19, 1995. The box office gross revenue in the first week was $20 million. Emma herself had changed into a popular high school student of 15, named Cher Horowitz. Tai, who is a new student helped by Cher, was Harriet Smith. Mr. Knightley happened to be Josh, Cher’s college-age step brother. Even Mr. Elton was actually named Elton.  The film demonstrates once again the fact that although times might have changed, people have stayed the same. The gypsy scene in Emma has been adopted perfectly to prove this point. The gypsies who threaten Harriet Smith in Emma have changed into gang bullies at the local mall who threaten Tai. Tai is rescued by Christian, just like Harriet is rescued by Frank Churchill.  Despite these modernisations, the film appealed to Austen aficionados everywhere.  A “Janeite” Carolyn Nelson observed:

        • I finally rented Clueless this weekend and saw it for the first time. Not the typical movie experience, since I was scrutinising every line for the parallel in Jane Austen, but fun! I think my biggest laugh-out-loud was when Cher was sitting in class realizing she ought to find a guy for herself. The sultry music rolls and Christian, sensual mouth, pompadour, and jacket slung over his shoulder, steps into the dassroom bathed in a golden glow. I screamed, “It’s Frank!!!” – my son thought I was nuts.

Examining the works of Jane Austen, the popularity of her novels can be based mainly on the universal themes she chose, her familiarity with her subject, and her optimism. She has focused on themes that never die, such as marriage, social pressure, and the generation gap. The opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice can be considered one of the most famous of all Bnglish comedies of manners:  “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” In the material world of the 1990s, on the threshold of a new century, the general view on marriage has not changed much from the beginning of the l9th century.

Social pressure, a very popular theme of Austen, still exerts a very powerful influence over people’s lives.  The same thing holds true for the generation gap. Although different generations have learnt to live in peace to some extent, it is nonetheless true that however much younger and older members of some families try to understand one another, there are still many points on which they can never agree.

Jane Austen has been criticized by some critics for her want of imagination.  However, she saw herself not as a so-called ‘great author’ but rather someone who “knows only her mother tongue and has read little in that … The most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress”.  She knew her capacity and she used it. When J.S. Clarke, a clergyman, suggested that she should write a historical novel she said: “No, I must keep to my own style and go my own way. And though I may never succeed in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other.”  She has demonstrated that ordinary people can have interesting lives, and this is welcomed even in the image-besotted society of the 1990s.

Apart from this realism, however, Jane Austen also to some extent helps to fulfil readers’ wishes and desires: “The unfolding narrative [of Mansfield Park] is at one level a Cinderella story of bow her worth is recognised by the hero who, in spite of obstacles, carries her off at the end of the novel”, as Dr. Ian Littlewood observes in his introduction to the Penguin edition of the novel.  This kind of notion is also evident in popular films of recent years, such as Pretty Woman.
Jane Austen does not punisb even the worst villains. At the end everybody is happy and everybody has undergone a process of self-development.  As Laura Miller explains:

        • Finally, Austen’s novels display the serene conviction that decency, civility and common sense will be rewarded. Not by the hand of God, but simply because they lead to warm and lasting relationships and lives free of turmoil, dissatisfaction and debt. What would she think of the contemporary pressure to judge by appearances, seek our own advantage at all times, indulge our most childish caprices while conforming slavishly to trends, and equate material wealth with happiness? Probably that it was too familiar and none too sensible. And perhaps we’re beginning to suspect she was right.”22

Considering all that has been said on Jane Austen and her works, Hollywood made her a gift for her 220th birthday with the film versions of her novels released in 1995. And the gift has been well received by audiences. After all the action and disaster films, it was time for a little rest and a little hope. So as Fanny says about nature in Mansfield Park, we could say about these latest films: “Here’s harmony!… Here’s repose… Here’s what may tranquillise every care, and lift the heart to rapture! When I look out on such a night as this, I feel as if there could never be neither wickedness nor sorrow in the world.”

Portrait of Jane Austen, from the memoir by J....
Sketch by Cassandra Austen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How to Advertise to Be a Tutor

[schema type=”organization” orgtype=”PerformingGroup” url=”” name=”Be a Tutor” description=”Tutor, Classified advertising, Education, Homework Help, Math, Online tutoring, Services for Hire, Student, Tutor, Tutor training, Advertising tools” street=”Online” city=”NYC” state=”NY” country=”US” ]

Before You Posting a Tutor

  1. Be ready to take customers and tutor them before you post your first ad. Your advertising will be most effective if you can create a good first impression with those who call. Good preparation should also show through in your ads.
    • Choose the subject(s) you will tutor. If possible, select subjects relating to your own expertise, subject of study, or professional experience.
    • Consider the age range with which you’d like to work. Second graders and high school juniors will have widely varying levels and needs.
    • Get some experience tutoring, formally if possible. See if your local library has an adult literacy program. Look for volunteer tutoring opportunities in your area and find out whether any offer tutor training. Or, tutor somebody you know, such as a neighbor or family member.
    • Write a resumé of your tutoring experience and related education. Don’t forget volunteer experience, such as helping a classmate, sibling, or child. You can show this list of qualifications to prospective customers or their parents. Even if you don’t show it to them, it will help to prepare you to promote your services and answer calls.
    • Consider taking classes or training in how to teach. There is more to it than knowing the subject you’ll teach. You also have to know about how to motivate students and explain things.
    • Decide how much you will charge. Evaluate your credentials and experience, and find out what others in your area charge.
  2. Decide where you will tutor.If you will go to the students, don’t forget to factor in travel time. If the students will come to you, make sure you are comfortable having them at your home.
  3. Make Business Cards and Brochures that state that you offer tutoring services and hand them out to people you know. Besides being a simple and inexpensive way to spread the word, personal contacts and word of mouth are very powerful and persuasive advertising tools. People tend to trust people they know. Also send these cards and brochures to school counseling offices to let them know about your service. Often they will mention your service to teachers, especially if you mention recommendations from parents and students.
  4. Sign up with a local tutoring agency and let them do the advertising for you. Depending on the agency, be prepared that you may have to demonstrate at least basic academic credentials, such as having a college degree. Also be aware that these agencies take a cut, so you will make less per session than you might freelancing. Also find out what they have in their contracts for non-competition clauses. That said, they can be a good way to build your tutoring experience. But you must also keep in mind that many of these agencies take a very large percentage. You might be much better striking off on your own.
  5. Sign up with an on-line tutoring agency. This and various other on-line services match up tutors and students. If you go with such a service, read the fine print and find out what the fees and restrictions may be. Keep in mind that you may not meet your students personally this way, nor necessarily have long-term contact with them.
  6. Compose your advertisement. Aim to catch attention, then demonstrate value. Mention your credentials and focus on results. Don’t forget to include some information about what subjects and ages you can teach. One approach might begin: “‘Jessica’ raised her math grade from C to A; you(r child) can, too. Ask me how!”
  7. Create different versions of your ad with varying lengths and headlines. A classified ad will read differently than a flyer, for instance. Have somebody proofread your ads. Even if English is your strong point, you can still miss things in your own writing, and you want to come across as professionally as possible.
  8. Advertise locally. Try these options:
    • The local classified ad pamphlet that comes around in the mail once a week
    • The classified section in the newspaper
    • Flyers at local supermarkets, libraries, campuses, etc.
    • You can advertise your services FREE on SeekaTutor,, Find A Tutor, TutorMatch Tutoring,, etc.

Tips as Tutor Posting

  • Be prepared to give references. This is where volunteer experience can come in handy, if you don’t yet have some established, satisfied customers.
  • Encourage your customers to tell others. Moms of students, especially, talk to other moms.
  • Ask your customers how they heard of you so that you know which advertising approaches work.
  • When advertising, put yourself in the shoes of your customers. If you were a student or a parent, where would you go? What would you read? What would concern you? What would attract you?
  • Be honest, but don’t be overly modest. Present your work in a good light. Don’t put your prices in your ads unless you intend to use them as a selling point. Otherwise, discuss that after your first impressions are made. Keep in mind, though, that some people believe that lower prices indicate lower quality.
  • Consider offering a first session for free or a reduced rate. It’s a good incentive for people to try you, and it’s a good opportunity for you and your customers to get to know each other under a little less pressure.
  • Call your local schools and ask if they have a tutor list, have them put your name on it. If they don’t have one, ask if they would consider starting one. They may require you to come in or to send a resume.
  • Consider listing in free tutor directories.

Warnings to a Tutor

  • There are restrictions on certain kinds of advertising. Make sure that you follow guidelines of campuses, libraries, cities, and other establishments where you post flyers or spread handbills, and otherwise obey laws.
  • Find out whether you need a business license or other credential to work as a tutor.
  • Be the best tutor you can be. The best advertising is word of mouth from satisfied customers.
  • Remember, tutoring is considered self-employment, so you will have to pay the appropriate taxes on your income.


Tutor Appreciation 2009
Tutor Appreciation 2009 (Photo credit: farrellink)