The Guardian view on China’s media controls: the truth doesn’t hurt 20 02 20 (Shared Guardian Editorial)

Note: editorial shared on blog site due to lack of avalable means of sharing in China (i.e., twitter etc blocked). Editorial contains information of public interest.

The Guardian view on China’s media controls: the truth doesn’t hurt

In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, Beijing has expelled three journalists. The measure is designed to intimidate – and is bad for Chinese citizens as well as the wider public

A young woman walking in Beijing’s Tiantan Park.
‘The Chinese journalists who have produced outstanding coverage of the epidemic face increasing curbs.’ Photograph: Artyom Ivanov/TASS

We know too little about China, and will soon know a little less. Beijing is kicking out three excellent reporters, in the first direct expulsion since 1998. Officials said the trio’s employer, the Wall Street Journal, had refused to apologise for a headline on an opinion piece about the coronavirus outbreak: “China is the real sick man of Asia.”

The headline was offensive to many people, including staff at the paper. Not only does the phrase date from the era when foreign powers were carving up China, but it draws upon racist beliefs that Asian people carried and spread diseases, which reverberate and fuel bigotry even now. It was also insensitive given the hundreds killed and thousands sickened by the virus.

But its link to the expulsions should not be taken at face value. Reporters have nothing to do with comment pieces, and this was written and edited outside China. The journalists – Chao Deng, Josh Chin and Philip Wen – have produced important coverage, including on the horrific treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang. Wen also wrote about an Australian investigation into a relative of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping; his co-author was refused a visa renewal last year – one of several reporters forced out that way in recent years.

Strikingly, the decision was announced one day after the US said it was designating five media outlets as operatives of the Chinese state. (Not only are they part of the propaganda apparatus, but staff at the news agency Xinhua, for example, produce reports reserved for senior leaders in addition to regular coverage.) Though the move is primarily symbolic, many had predicted that Beijing might act in response.

Correspondents in China already face harassment and surveillance, and know that their Chinese colleagues and sources are at much graver risk of retaliation. The expulsions are a clear attempt to intimidate foreign media and shape reporting and commentary done far beyond China’s borders. As news broke of the WSJ expulsions, Chinese diplomats were pressuring Nepalese media over a coronavirus commentary and illustration.

Back at home, the Chinese journalists who have produced outstanding coverage of the epidemic face increasing curbs. On the same day that Beijing announced the WSJ expulsions, a well-established Chinese blog vanished; its last article was reportedly titled “Chinese are all paying the price for the death of media”. Meanwhile, Wuhan’s new party secretary said officials would be held responsible “if a single new case is found” – a remark supposed to encourage thoroughness, but giving cadres good reason to conceal any further infections.

Since the WSJ headline caused real anger in China, the expulsions may help to divert growing rage at the official handling of the outbreak towards foreigners. But reliable, detailed and humane coverage – of the kind that Deng, one of those expelled, has been producing from Wuhan – is in the interests of the public as a whole, and Chinese citizens most of all.

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comments (15)

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0 1

Must admit if the UK was like China it would clamp down on newspapers the print nothing but Pro- Eu propaganda, bet your glad that the Guardian is not in China.



0 1

We do not needs lies coming from China about the virus. China will never be forgiven. Luckily I have not a Huawei phone otherwise this would not be posted.



0 1

I don’t doubt that in an apparent move to be seen by its own people as coming down hard on the WSJ for this editorial, Xi is in fact removing journalists who have been a thorn in his side and have shone light on places that he would have preferred to remain dark…

but the real tragedy is that in the face of a disease that is still most likely to spread worldwide in the next few months and with the ability to cause untold suffering and loss of life across the Planet…. that the Countries of the World, their Leaders and the MSM in these Countries, are still firmly stuck in the role of gaming this for narrow political advantage…. and not working resolutely together to do all we possibly can to counteract this.

To be honest, this likely pandemic will be bad for all and terrible for very many, but not an existential threat but perhaps the worst aspect is the augers that this delivers on the likelihood of our being able to cooperate across the World, when we really are facing an existential threat, which may very well be happening in the definitely not too distant future.



2 3

None of this is new of course, but the West – which given the amount of trade it does with China might be expected to have at least some leverage – cares more for its endless supply of iphones and laptops than the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Uighurs incarcerated in Xinjiang.


2 3

We let them get too strong by giving them out technology and helping them build their economy. Historians will puzzle over why the West decided to commit suicide like this.



0 1

It’s following a pattern. It’s more or less inevitable.



4 5

Those brave reporters deal in facts that may ‘hurt the feelings of the Chinese people’ but facts about this contagion will help the Chinese and foreign scientists solve this problem.
The CCP has locked down millions of its own citizens to deal with the situation but complains about foreign countries closing their borders to prevent the ongoing spread of this damaging sickness ….



5 6

Brutal Communist Dictatorship acts like a Dictatorship who would’ve guessed !



2 3

China really needs a regime change ASAP.




3 4

Socialism, enjoy!


4 5

Obviously, you don’t know the difference between Socialism and Communism.



2 3

debatable whether China can even be described as ‘communist’. It’s now second in the global league table (to the US) of home grown billionaires and far ahead of third placed India, while the workers meanwhile live in vast sprawling cities where the air is barely fit to breathe. I don’t think Marx would be too impressed.



1 2

No longer socialism. It’s an overused word but the best descriptor of this totalitarian, nationalist, mixed economy under government control is Fascism.



4 5

It does when you’ve been lying to the Chinese people for the past 70+ years. The truth hurts very much to the Chinese Communist Party.


1 2

National Conference cancelled because the top CCP officials are helping their communities, or was it cancelled because they are scared to death of catching the conovirus at a large gathering.





Dissent becomes the next victim of coronavirus as China cracks down (The Guardian 2020 02 19. Shared)

Dissent becomes the next victim of coronavirus as China cracks down

Analysts say epidemic poses gravest threat to authorities since Tiananmen Square – and Beijing’s tight control could backfire

Experts say the authorities are using coronavirus epidemic control as a pretext to detain government critics Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The coronavirus crisis in China has posed unprecedented political challenges to the authorities and prompted them to further crack down on speech freedom and tighten control over people in a desperate move to bolster the regime, say analysts and activists.

After President Xi Jinping ordered “resolute efforts” to curb the spread of coronavirus in his first public remarks on the disease on 20 January, Wuhan was swiftly placed under lockdown. Millions of communities across China also began to implement draconian epidemic control measures.

The rough implementation of epidemic control has resulted in extensive human rights abuses across China, analysts say. Disturbing images have emerged on social media showing people chained up and paraded on streets, or beaten by police for not wearing masks. Footage has also shown officers installing metal bars or chains outside people’s homes to prevent them leaving.

Propaganda banners with threatening messages have been put up around the country. “A surgical mask or a breathing tube? Your choice,” said one. “Those who don’t report their fever are class enemies hiding among the people,” another said.

The coronavirus has turned into an epidemic that has so far infected more than 75,000 and killed more than 2,000, mostly in China. In Hubei province, home to the epicentre of the virus, Wuhan city, there have been nearly 50,000 confirmed cases.

In a desperate move Wuhan this week began to confine all communities in the city of 11 million people to their homes and authorities said anyone seen on the streets without permission would be severely punished. Officers started to carry out new house-to-house checks to seek out and “round up” all infected patients.

Citizens of Wuhan say they are forbidden from even taking strolls in their neighbourhood and shopping for food. “People are gripped by fear and anxiety, and we are extremely angry because this disaster is entirely manmade,” said a Wuhan resident who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals.

“If they didn’t detain Dr Li Wenliang for ‘spreading rumours’ and told us the virus was under control, none of this would have happened.”

The whistleblowing doctor alerted colleagues in late December to a mysterious disease that turned out to be coronavirus. Wuhan police censured him on 3 January and state television CCTV accused eight people, including Li, of “spreading false rumours”. Li’s death from coronavirus infection this month sparked widespread demands for speech freedom online, although cyber-police quickly took down those posts.

But the authorities do not seem to have learned their lesson. Cases of further crackdowns on speech abound. While the new decree from Wuhan said people would be punished for not reporting cases, it also warned that “fabrication” and the spread of “rumours” would be severely punished.

The government of the south-western province of Yunnan announced in early February that 25 people were detained or censured for “fabricating and spreading rumours” over the coronavirus epidemic. Last week three more in the province were detained over the same accusation.

The authorities are also using epidemic control as a pretext to detain government critics. Two citizen journalists, Wuhan native Fang Bin and lawyer Chen Qiushi, who have reported on the situation in Wuhan, have disappeared under the guise of “quarantine”.

A portrait of Mao Zedong, former Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, in Tiananmen Square

A portrait of Mao Zedong, former Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, in Tiananmen Square Photograph: Artyom Ivanov/TASS

The law professor Xu Zhangrun, who criticised Xi over the coronavirus crisis in an essay, was also put under house arrest under pretext of quarantine. The activist and legal scholar Xu Zhiyong, who has also lambasted Xi for mishandling the epidemic and other crises, was detained last Saturday.

“Restrictions of personal freedoms used to happen only to activists, but now millions in China know how it feels to be under house arrest,” said Hu Jia, a veteran activist who has been previously jailed and often detained.

“This epidemic poses the gravest challenge to the authorities since 1989 [the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement],” he said. “I have never seen so much demand for speech freedom – people now understand it is a matter of life and death. The authorities are afraid that people have awakened.”

Johnny Lau, a veteran commentator on Chinese politics, said the Communist party’s intensification of control over free speech was aimed at bolstering the power of the regime but would ultimately cause political and social instability.

“When people are kept in the dark and they don’t trust the government, their [discontent] would turn into protests,” Lau said.

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Key components of good academic writing (an brief introduction)

Nimen Hao,

welcome to our class for this week.

I’ll start by giving a little guidance on what John Langan calls four basic elements of a good academic essay. (This lecture is based on John Langan’s book College Writing Skills with Readings, 9th edition).

There are five basis for a good academic essay writing: unity, coherence, support, and sentence skills.

As well as these we can also usefully think about our personal writing styles.


Have a clearly stated point or thesis. Begin with a clear opening statement of the main point or thesis of your presentation. Make sure that everything else works to support this opening statement.


Organize and connect your supporting material. Have an effective introduction, body, and conclusion, make sure your points are well-linked.

A Model for structuring your essay.

  1. Introduction
  2. Three or more main points, with supporting material.
  3. Conclusion.


A key part of a good introduction is sign=posting, telling your reading where you are going to take her on your written journey. That is also important for linking different sections of your essay.

Headings and Subheadings

Like signposting, headings and subheadings tell your read, or direct his attention, onto a particular aspect of your essay’s themes or argument. Your headings and subheadings should follow each other logically (and without unnecessary repetition).

Timeliness and organization

Writers need to plan the amount of writing devoted to each section of their written work (essay) carefully.

One suggestion would be to give no more than 20 per cent to the introduction, 60 per cent to your main points, and then the remaining 20 per cent to the conclusion. You could choose to vary these proportions, but be careful not to run out of words (for example, end up without giving a conclusion).

Words can be measured in terms of working time. Think about how much time each section requires, allow for revisions and don’t short change any part (don’t forget to give enough time for working on each part). Giving enough time for all parts should include time for revision. Sometimes, or often, things need changing once you have done some writing. Often writers find that what they wrote in their introduction needs revising after they have finished a first draft of an essay, because their ideas changed as they were writing the essay body (for example, they found different evidence, and maybe changed one or more key arguments).


Provide logical and detailed support for your thesis, including sufficient specific evidence, reasoning or examples. Conversely, weed out (delete) any statement, claims, opinions or assertions that you have not supported with evidence, reasoning or examples (those belong to non-academic writing).

Note: Often reasoning is insufficient as a means of support on its own, and needs to be used with examples and/or evidence.


Revise and edit so that you sentences are effective and error-free. Practice your essay by reading it aloud (you could record it and listen to yourself, or ask a peer to listen to you). Often when a writer does this s/he will be surprised to find mistakes that s/he had not seen when looking at her written word. Check for the following.

  • Correct verb forms?
  • Subject and verb agreement?
  • Avoidance of fragments (speaking in full sentences)?
  • Correct use of pronouns including gender (he/she)?
  • Needless words eliminated?
  • Effective word choices?
  • Varied sentences?
  • Clarity: Express your ideas as simply and clearly as possible (avoid unnecessarily complex language).

Your personal writing style

As well as those four basic components of good writing, there are also related qualities that may enhance your written communication, including creativeness, inventiveness, entertainment.

Different writers might have differing positive qualities and still produce an effective and well-communicated written work: for example, one student might gain positive marks for a humorous essay while another might gain just as many marks for a serious and compelling (or persuasive) essay.

Humor: a word of caution

If you have a humorous manner and can use it to support your writing’s thesis that’s great. But make sure it does work to support rather than distract from your arguments, that it is appropriate to your subject matter, and is used respectfully.

Mistakes to avoid

  • Being overly descriptive means you will have spent too many words describing things without giving enough analysis (your judgements and reasons). Sometimes poor writers give their opinion without any reasons (or sufficient reasons); such as in an essay on a movie: great acting, cool effects, a good movie, it was bad etc.
  • Writing about irrelevancies (you need to keep your discussion unified [keep your eyes on the prize]).
  • Lack of a strong structure (for example, not finishing with a conclusion).
  • Running out of time (not finishing an essay, or a section of an essay).
  • Failing to adequately support your points.




American Culture & Mythology (introduction)

What is Culture?

‘Culture’ is one of the most difficult concepts in the human and social sciences
and there are many different ways of defining it.

In more traditional definitions of the term, culture is said to embody the ‘best that has been thought and said’ in a society. It is the sum of the great ideas, as represented in the classic works of literature, painting, music and philosophy- the ‘high culture· of an age.

Belonging to the same frame of reference, but more ‘modern’ in its associations, is the use of ‘culture’ to refer to the widely distributed forms of popular music, publishing, art, design and literature, or the activities of leisure-time and entertainment. which make up the everyday lives of the majority of ‘ordinary people’- what is called the ‘mass culture’ or the ‘popular culture’ of an age.

High culture versus popular culture was, for many years, the classic way of framing the debate about culture- the terms carrying a powerfully evaluative charge (roughly, high= good: popular= debased).

In a more ·social science’ context, the word ‘culture’ is used
to refer to whatever is distinctive about the ‘way of life’ of a people,
community, nation or social group ) – the ‘anthropological’ definition.

Alternatively. the word can be used to describe the ‘shared values’ of a group or of society (like the anthropological definition. only with a more sociological emphasis).

We can think of Culture as a set of things – novels and paintings or
TV programmes and comics. But we can also speak of culture as as a process. a set of practices. In this sense, culture is concerned with the production and the exchange of meanings – the ‘giving and taking of meaning’- between the members of a society or group.

Things ‘in themselves’ rarely have any one, single, fixed and unchanging meaning. Even something as obvious as a stone can be a stone, a boundary marker or a piece of sculpture, depending on what it means within a certain context of use.

It is participants in a culture who give meaning to people, objects and events. It is
by our use of things, and what we say, think and feel about them – how we represent them – that we give them a meaning. In part, we give objects, people and events meaning by the frameworks of interpretation which we bring to them.

Members of the same culture must share sets of concepts, images and ideas which enable them to think and feel about the world, and thus to interpret the world, in roughly similar ways. They must share, broadly speaking, the same ‘cultural codes.’

In this sense, myths and mythology are ways that communities imagine their world, making it meaningful and value-laden. They are the key forms of their culture.

Conflicting conceptions of the term ‘myth’.

Common sense (realist) perspective:

A myth is a false (often deliberately false) belief or account (Williams)

It is implicit that the person designating a story as myth does not now believe it to be true … (Flood)

Cultural (romantic) perspective: Myth gives a truer (deeper) version of reality than (secular) history or realistic description or scientific explanation.

Neutral perspectives:

  • In everyday usage, one way of understanding myth is simply a collective belief which is or was given the status of truth (Flood).
  • A myth does not simply imply something that is “false”; rather it is a collective belief that simplifies reality (Grittner).

Historical roots of the concept: mythos/logos, imagination/rationality.

For thinkers reflecting on what they saw as archaic aspects of the religious beliefs conveyed by the stories of the [ancient Greek] gods, the word mythos came to connote the use of language in the service of the use of imagination, story-telling, and fiction, as opposed to logos, connoting the use of language in the service of reasoning (Flood).

Contingent/universal definitions:

Myths are often tied to particular historical periods and places.

Williams: myths are ‘held to be fundamental expressions of certain properties of the human mind, and even of basic mental or psychological human organization [that are] are ‘timeless’ (permanent) or fundamental to particular periods or cultures (Williams).

Wolfrey’s et al. definition: The traditional story of pseudo-historical events that function as a fundamental element within the worldview of a given people or nation.

Contemporary historical and anthropological views

Myths seen as working in terms of narrative (discursive forms), subject-matter (stories of gods or superhuman beings), cultural status (sacred truth for the community to which the myth belongs) and social functions (expressing religious beliefs, confirming values and norms, or legitimating social practices and institutions).

In our course, we are interested in the conflicted meanings of ‘myth’:

  1. the sense that a myth as something that gives a truer (deeper) version of reality than (secular) history or realistic description or scientific explanation (Williams)
  2. the sense that a myth is a false or unreliable story or belief
  3. perhaps, a sense that myths might have both aspects (1+2).

Using these conflicting definitions (roughly, romantic vs. rationalist versions, and romantic+rationalist versions), we can begin to discuss aspects of American culture and its mythology:

Founding myths: the American Dream

National communities have founding mythologies (body of related myths) ; they function as a fundamental element within the worldview of a given people or nation.

The American mythology is a key focus of our course this semester, as it gives us the key aspects of American culture. In our text book Myths Americans Live By: White Supremacy and the Stories that Give us Meaning, Richard Hughes introduces his idea of what a myth is, and his idea of the key aspects of American mythology.  Chapter one was part of your reading for this lesson.

We will follow Hughes’s ideas throughout this course. For now, let’s see if we can begin to use the ideas of myth and mythology in the American context.

We might say myths and mythologies work to aid ‘imagined communities‘ (the phrase Benedict Anderson coined, meaning the way a people comes to imagine itself, how they think/feel of their ‘we, how they identify as a we). Different communities do that in particular ways, drawing on their own particular mythologies.

Quick reflections 1: The Malboro Man.

Classic American cigarette advertising

  • What’s going on with this image?

  • What makes you say that?











In American mythology , the U.S. is, as their national anthem puts it, “the land of the free / And the home of the brave!”

It’s a land in which in which all citizens are thought of as being equal and free. As Thomas Jefferson wrote

We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  (Declaration of Independence, 1776).

Key aspects of American mythology are brought together in ‘the American Dream’. Central to the American dream is the idea that every individual American should have an equal right to become her or his best self. Citizens have the right too, or should be free to try to realize their hopes.

The American Dream is individualist. In a common sense (or everyday) kind of understanding, the dream involves the idea that if an individual put in the effort then s/he should be able to achieve the success s/he deserves.

  • Individual responsibility is a key idea: if someone succeeds, it is attributed to their individual efforts, they are regarded as having made the best of their talents (whatever their talents are).
  • Conversely, if someone fails, then it is their fault (that individual didn’t work hard enough to realize her/his dream).

This idea is sometimes referred to as meritocracy (society is ruled by the principle that people get what they deserve).

The American dream is closely related to America’s founding myths (or mythology). Thomas Jefferson, one of the ‘founding fathers’, thought the new American republic was different from old feudal Europe. He believed an “aristocracy of talent and virtue” was replacing the aristocracy of birth, the old world order where aristocrats inherited power and wealth.hgt

This dream was popularized in

the fictional characters of the 19th-century writer Horatio Alger Jr – like the New York shoeshine “Ragged Dick [1867/8]” [who went] from rags to riches …

in part due to entrepreneurial spirit and hard work.


Being able to rely on your talents and efforts to go “from rags to riches” is one part of the mythology of the American dream.

Quick reflections 2:

Let’s think about an example.

Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezo. These three business own more wealth than the poorer half of America’s citizens (collectively they are wealthier than the lowest 50% of Americans).

Q. How do you think that relates to the American dream?

The mythology of the American Dream for immigrants

Another part is the idea that America gives welcome to anyone from anywhere and that anyone can ‘make it’ in America (regardless of where they came from).

Give Me Your Weak Quote Give Me Your Tired Your Poor Your Hudd Emma Lazarus Like

Historically, a key element of the American myth of a land of hope and freedom is the idea that America gave welcome to the world’s migrants. For many foreigners, the idea of American freedom has been a magnet attracting them to migrate to the United States.

New York’s Statue of Liberty is a famous icon that represented welcome to the 19th century immigrants who later became American citizens.


For generations, America has served as a beacon of hope and freedom for those outside her borders, and as a land of limitless opportunity for those risking everything to seek a better life. (U.S. Congressman Spencer Bachus).

We might say that the Congressman’s story of American welcome is one ‘re-telling’, ‘reiteration’ or ‘narration’ of a founding (national) myth, just as The Statue of Liberty is an icon of that myth.

Quick reflection 3: American mythology satirized


Q1. What’s going on in the above artwork?

Q2. What makes you say that?

Q3. What else would we need to know to answer Q1. more fully?


American History X Culture, reading for week 1. Myth, Mythology, American Mythology.

Dear Students,

please read the extracts discussing the concepts myth and mythology below, and then chapter one from Hughes, R.  Myths Americans Live By: White Supremacy and the Stories that Give us Meaning (one of your key text books). Take particular note of the way Hughes writes about the concepts myth and mythology.

Myth (a keyword)

Myth came into English as late as eC19, though it was somewhat preceded by the form mythos (C18) from fw mythos, lL, mythos, Gk – a fable or story or tale, later contrasted with logos and historia to give the sense of ‘what could not really exist or have happened’.

Myth and mythos were widely preceded in English by mythology (from C15) and the derived words (from eC17) mythological, mythologize, mythologist, mythologian. These all had to do with ‘fabulous narration’ (1609) but mythology and mythologizing were most often used with a sense of interpreting or annotating the fabulous tales. We have mythological interpretation from 1614, and there is a title of Sandys in 1632: Ovid’s Metamorphosis Englished, Mythologiz’d, and Represented in Figures, with the same sense.

Two tendencies can be seen in the word in eC19. Coleridge used mythos in a sense which has become common: a particular imaginative construction (plot in
the most extending sense). Meanwhile the rationalist Westminster Review, in perhaps the first use of the word, wrote in 1830 of ‘the origin of myths’ and of seeking their ‘cause in the circumstances of fabulous history’.

Each of these references was retrospective, and myth alternated with fable, being distinguished from legend which, though perhaps unreliable, was related
to history and from allegory which might be fabulous but which indicated some
reality. However, from mC19, the short use of myth to mean not only a fabulous
but an untrustworthy or even deliberately deceptive invention became common, and has widely persisted.

On the other hand, myth acquired in an alternative tradition a new and positive
sense, in a new context. Before C19 myths had either been dismissed as mere
fables (often as pagan or heathen fables), or treated as allegories or confused memories of origins and pre-history. But several new intellectual approaches were now defined. Myths were related to a ‘disease of language’ (Muller) in which a confusion of names led to personifications; to an animistic stage of human culture (Lang); and to specific rituals, which the myths gave access to (Frazer, Harrison; the popular association of ‘myth and ritual’ dates from this 1C19 and eC20 work).
With the development of anthropology, both this last sense, of accounts of rituals,and a different sense, in which myth, as an account of origins, was an active form of social organization, were strongly developed. From each version (which in varying forms have continued to contend with each other as well as with efforts to rationalize (q.v.) myths in such a way as to discredit them or to reveal their
true (other) causes or origins) a body of positive popular usage has developed.
Myth has been held to be a truer (deeper) version of reality than (secular) history or realistic description or scientific explanation. This view ranges from simple irrationalism and (often post-Christian) supernaturalism to more sophisticated accounts in which myths are held to be fundamental expressions of certain properties of the human mind, and even of basic mental or psychological human organization.

These expressions are ‘timeless’ (permanent) or fundamental to particular
periods or cultures. Related attempts have been made to assimilate this mythic
function to the more general creative (q.v.) functions of art and literature, or
in one school, to assimilate art and literature to this view of myth. The resulting
internal and external controversies are exceptionally intricate, and myth is now
both a very significant and a very difficult word. Coming into the language only
in the last hundred and fifty years, in a period of the disintegration of orthodox
religion, it has been used negatively as a contrast to fact, history (q.v.) and science (q.v.); has become involved with the difficult modern senses of imagination, creative and fiction; and has been used both to illustrate and to analyse ‘human nature’ in a distinctively post-Christian sense (though the mode of various schools using myth in this sense has been assimilated to Christian restatement and apology). Meanwhile, outside this range of ideas, it has the flat common sense of a false (often deliberately false) belief or account.

Extract from Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society

Myth (a literary definition)

Myth, a kind of story or rudimentary narrative sequence, normally traditional and anonymous, through which a given culture ratifies its social customs or accounts for the origins of human and natural phenomena, usually in supernatural or boldly imaginative terms. The term has a wide range of meanings, which can be divided roughly into ‘rationalist’ and ‘romantic’ versions: in the first, a myth is a false or unreliable story or belief (adjective: mythical), while in the second, ‘myth’ is a superior intuitive mode of cosmic understanding (adjective: mythic). In most literary contexts, the second kind of usage prevails, and myths are regarded as fictional stories containing deeper truths, expressing collective attitudes to fundamental matters of life, death, divinity, and existence (sometimes deemed to be ‘universal’). Myths are usually distinguished from legends in that they have less of an historical basis, although they seem to have a similar mode of existence in oral transmission, re-telling, literary adaptation, and allusion. A mythology is a body of related myths shared by members of a given people or religion, or sometimes a system of myths evolved by an individual writer, as in the ‘personal mythologies’ of William Blake and W. B. Yeats…. For a fuller account, consult Laurence Coupe, Myth (1997).

Extract from Chris Baldick, (2001) The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, OUP.


From Reformation to Enlightenment. Europe in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.

Reformation and religious conflict

Martin Luther established the twin pillars of the Protestant Reformation: the doctrine of justification by faith alone and the Bible as the sole authority in religious affairs. But by 1555 Lutheranism had lost much of its momentum outside of Scandinavia. Protestantism fragmented into different sects opposed to Catholicism but divided over the interpretation of the sacraments and religious practices. Among these, Calvinism had a clarity of doctrine and a fervor that made it attractive to a whole new generation of Europeans.

At the same time, Catholicism was also experiencing its own revival. New religious orders based on reform, a revived and reformed papacy, and the Council of Trent, which reaffirmed traditional Catholic doctrine, gave the Catholic Church a renewed vitality.

By the middle of the sixteenth century, the religious division (Catholics versus Protestant) was instrumental in beginning a series of religious divisions and wars:

  • The English Reformation 1509-47
  • The French Wars of Religion 1562-98
  • The 30 Years War 1618-48
  • a revolt of the Netherlands against the Catholic King Philip II of Spain (1568-1648)
  • conflict between Philip II and Elizabeth I of England, which led to the failed attempt of the Spanish armada to invade England in 1588.

The English Reformation was initiated by King Henry VIII (1509–1547), who wanted to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, because she had failed to produce a male heir. Henry had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine. Anne was unwilling to be only the king’s mistress and the king desired to have a legitimate male heir. The king requested the Catholic pope grant him a divorce, but the request was denied. So, he obtained an annulment of his marriage in England’s own ecclesiastical courts

Anne Boleyn had become pregnant and he had secretly married her in January 1533 to legitimize the expected heir. In May, as archbishop of Canterbury and head of the highest ecclesiastical court in England, Thomas Cranmer ruled that the king’s marriage to Catherine was ‘‘null and absolutely void’’ and then validated Henry’s marriage to Anne. At the beginning of June, Anne was crowned queen. Three months later, a child was born. Much to the king’s disappointment, the baby was a girl, whom they named Elizabeth.

Henry V, Jane Seymour and son, Edward VI.

In 1534, Parliament completed the break of the Church of England with Rome by passing the Act of Supremacy, which declared that the king was ‘‘taken, accepted, and reputed the only supreme head on earth of the Church of England.’’ This meant that the English monarch now controlled the church and the authority of the Catholic Pope was no longer recognized. The Anglican Church, a form of Protestant faith became dominant in England after much conflict ensued on Protestant/Catholic lines. The Catholic dominance ended with the execution of Queen Mary (the first daughter of Henry V in 1558), ordered by half-sister, Queen Elizabeth I.

The English Reformation was not as bloodily violent as the religious wars on continental Europe, where millions died. But it does show that the religious divisions were inseparable from political conflict and the quest for power. In the case of Henry V, the conflict was partly one of state power over religious power, but also one of maintaining power (Henry V wanted to ensure a male successor to continue the Tudor rule).

By the 17the century the concept of a united Christendom, held as an ideal since the Middle Ages, had been destroyed by the religious wars and divisions.

What emerged was a system of European nation-states in which a growing concern for power and dynamic expansion led to larger armies and greater conflict. War remained an endemic feature of Western civilization.

In those states called absolutist, strong monarchs assisted by aristocracies centralized power. Louis XIV, the Sun King of France, was the model for other absolutist rulers. His palace of Versailles, where the nobles were entertained and controlled by ceremony and etiquette, symbolized his authority and was the envy of other European rules.

Palace of Versailles, exterior view.

This street perspective gives an indication of the massive size of the palace, maybe comparable with the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Palais de Versailles

Note the baroque opulence of the design, lots of flourishes in gold and an intricate tiled floor.


The Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, reinforces the impression of grandeur and luxury. Everything gleams goldenly, reflecting the luminous Sun King, Louis XIV (1661-1714)


Strong monarchy also prevailed in central and eastern Europe, where three new powers made their appearance: Prussia, Austria, and Russia.


Peter the Great attempted to westernize Russia, especially militarily, and built Saint Petersburg, a new capital city, as his window on the west.

Peter the Great

There were exceptions to the trend of absolutism. In England, conflict between the Stuart kings, who were advocates of divine-right monarchy, and Parliament led to civil war and the creation of a republic and then a military dictatorship under Oliver Cromwell.

After his death, the Stuart monarchy was restored, but a new conflict led to the overthrow of James II and the establishment of a new order. The landed aristocracy gained power at the expense of the monarchs, thus laying the foundations for a constitutional government in which Parliament provided the focus for the institutions of centralized power.


The Flourishing of European Culture

In the midst of religious wars and the growth of absolutism, European culture continued to flourish. The era was blessed with a number of prominent artists and writers.

After the Renaissance, European art passed through a number of stylistic stages. The artistic Renaissance came to an end when a new movement called Mannerism emerged in Italy in the 1520s and 1530s.

The Reformation’s revival of religious values brought much political turmoil. Especially in Italy, the worldly enthusiasm of the Renaissance gave way to anxiety, uncertainty, suffering, and a yearning for spiritual experience.

Mannerism reflected this environment in its deliberate attempt to break down the High Renaissance principles of balance, harmony, and moderation (the term Mannerism derives from critics who considered their contemporary artists to be second-rate imitators, painting ‘‘in the manner of’’ Michelangelo’s late style).

Italian Mannerist painters deliberately distorted the rules of proportion by portraying elongated figures that conveyed a sense of suffering and a strong emotional atmosphere filled with anxiety and confusion.

(Domenikos Theotocopoulos 1541–1614). (called ‘‘the Greek’’—El Greco) was from Crete, but after studying in Venice and Rome, he moved in the 1570s to Spain, where he became a church painter in Toledo. El Greco’s elongated and contorted figures, portrayed in unusual shades of yellow and green against an eerie background of turbulent grays, reflect the artist’s desire to create a world of intense emotion. Pictured here is his version of the Laocoon, a Hellenistic sculpture discovered in Rome in 1506. The elongated, contorted bodies project a world of suffering while the somber background scene of the city of Toledo and the threatening sky add a sense of terror and doom.

La0coon El Greco

A new movement—the Baroque —eventually replaced Mannerism. The Baroque began in Italy in the last quarter of the sixteenth century and spread to the rest of Europe, where it was most wholeheartedly embraced by the Catholic reform movement, especially in Madrid, Prague, Vienna, and Brussels. Although it was resisted in France, England, and the Netherlands, eventually the Baroque style spread to all of Europe and to Latin America.

Baroque artists sought to bring together the Classical ideals of Renaissance art with the spiritual feelings of the sixteenth century religious revival. The Baroque painting style was known for its use of dramatic effects to arouse the emotions.

Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio (1571-1610) was an Italian painter active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily from the early 1590s to 1610. His paintings combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, which had a formative influence on Baroque painting.

Caravaggio employed close physical observation with a dramatic use of chiaroscuro (painting with great contrast in shadow and light). He made the technique a dominant stylistic element, darkening shadows and transfixing subjects in bright shafts of light.

The Lute Player


St. Jerome writing at his desk

Caravaggio vividly expressed crucial moments and scenes, often featuring violent struggles, torture and death. He worked rapidly, with live models, preferring to forgo drawings and work directly onto the canvas.


His influence on the new Baroque style that emerged from Mannerism was profound. It can be seen directly or indirectly in the work of Peter Paul Rubens, Jusepe de Ribera, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and Rembrandt, and artists in the following generation heavily under his influence were called the “Caravaggisti” or “Caravagesques”, as well as tenebrists or tenebrosi (“shadowists”).

Baroque painting was known for its use of dramatic effects to heighten emotional intensity.

This style was especially evident in the works of the Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens (1577– 1640), a prolific artist and an important figure in the spread of the Baroque from Italy to other parts of Europe. In his artistic masterpieces, bodies in violent motion, heavily fleshed nudes, a dramatic use of light and shadow, and rich, sensuous pigments converge to express intense emotions.

Rubens oude vrouw

The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus

This 1618 mythological painting concerns the rape of the daughters of King Leucippus of Messene by the demigods Castor and Pollux, as related by ancient poets such as Theocritus and Ovid. The powerful image indicates Rubens’ fascination for classical sculpture — this time inspired by Giovanni Bologna’s statue group The Rape of the Sabines, located in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence.  Mysteriously, a cupid (an angel of love) holds the horse’s reins, while glimpsing mischievously out of the canvas, perhaps signalling the eventual fate of the daughters, who were to be happily married to the demi-gods.

‘The Rape of the Sabine Women’ by Giovanni Bologna, Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence

Rubens sometimes used his art to make social/political commentary. He worked during the time of Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), the origins of which originated from the animosity between Protestants and Catholics and was perpetuated by struggles for political power. Nearly all European states were pulled in; the fighting involved Spain, France, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, the Ottoman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire.  See the painting below.

The Consequences of War, Rubens

The main figure of the image is the god of war, Mars, who has departed the open temple of Janus — which in times of peace was closed, according to Roman custom — and he grips a shield and blood smeared sword, threatening the surrounding people. Mars is encouraged by the Fury of War, Alecto, accompanied by two monsters that symbolise Plague and Famine, while Venus unsuccessfully attempts to restrain her lover. A woman on the left personifies wretched Europe, while there are also personifications of Fecundity, Harmony, Maternity and Charity, who all are known to thrive under peace. A terrified mother grasps her child to her breast, indicating that procreation and charity are threatened by War, which inevitably destroys everything. An architect lies on his back, his instruments held uselessly in his hand, suggesting that creative works that were used to ornament a city are now razed to the ground in this time of conflict.

Artemisia GentileschiSelf portrait

The great works of Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1653) are part of the Baroque tradition. Born in Rome, she studied painting under her father’s direction. In 1616, she moved to Florence and began a successful career as a painter. At the age of twenty-three, she became the first woman to be elected to the Florentine Academy of Design.

In the 17th century she was internationally renowned as a portrait painter and even the king of England had her come and stay in London so she could paint his portrait.

In modern times, her fame rests on a series of pictures of heroines from the Old Testament (the first and older part of the Christian bible).

1612-3 Artemisia Gentileschi_Judith_Beheading_Holofernes_Naples
Judith Beheading Holofernes

Most famous is Judith Beheading Holofernes, a dramatic rendering of the biblical scene in which Judith slays the Assyrian general Holofernes to save her besieged town from the Assyrian army.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Beheading Holofernes. Artemisia Gentileschi painted a series of pictures portraying scenes from the lives of courageous Old Testament women. In this painting, a determined Judith, armed with her victim’s sword, struggles to saw off the head of Holofernes. Gentileschi realistically and dramatically shows the gruesome nature of Judith’s act. The image of women being represented here is strong and violent and quite a rebuke to the male sexism of the period. In fact, Gentileschi was herself, to say the least, a strong woman who took her rapist to court, trying to have him convicted. She did not succeed, but the very fact that she attempted to do so shows her outstanding individual power and strength. Also, the fact that she was a rape victim helps us make sense of this series of painting with its female heroines enacting violent justice against men.

Baroque art and architecture also reflected the search for power that was so important to the seventeenth century ethos. Baroque churches and palaces were magnificent and richly detailed, as we have seen in the example of Louis XIV’s palace of Versailles. Kings and princes wanted other kings and princes as well as their subjects to be in awe of their power.

The Italian architect and sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) celebrated the power of the church in his baroque architecture and sculpture.

Bernini designed Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican and also the vast colonnade enclosing the piazza in front of it.


Bernini’s work exemplifies the grandeur of Baroque power-architecture. St Peter’s signifies the power of the Catholic Church through its massive proportions, luxuriously ornate style and classical features (including the repetitions of columns).


In his most striking sculptural work, the Ecstasy of Saint Theresa, Bernini depicts a moment of mystical experience in the life of the sixteenth-century Spanish saint. The elegant draperies and the expression on her face create a sensuously real portrayal of physical ecstasy.

The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa

In the second half of the seventeenth century, France replaced Italy as the cultural leader of Europe.

French Classicism maintained the classical values of the High Renaissance, including clarity, simplicity, balance, and harmony. The art reflected the shift in seventeenth-century French society from chaos to order. Though it rejected the drama of the Baroque, French Classicism continued the portrayal of noble subjects, especially those from Classical antiquity.

Nicolas Poussin (1594– 1665) exemplified these principles in his paintings. His choice of scenes from Classical mythology, the orderliness of his landscapes, the postures of his figures copied from the sculptures of antiquity, and his use of brown tones all reflect French Classicism of the late seventeenth century.

Saint Elizabeth and Saint Jean on journey

Apollo and the muses

Dutch realism

Brilliant Dutch painting paralleled the supremacy of maritime and finance-based Dutch commerce in the seventeenth century. Wealthy patricians and burghers of Dutch urban society commissioned works of art for their guild halls, town halls, and private dwellings. Neither Classical nor Baroque, Dutch painters were primarily interested in the realistic portrayal of secular everyday life.

The subject matter of many Dutch paintings reflected the interests of this burgher society: portraits of themselves, group portraits of their military companies and guilds, landscapes, seascapes, genre scenes, still lives, and the interiors of their residences.

Judith Jans Leyster_zelfportret op 21-jarige leeftijd (1630)

Judith Leyster, Self-Portrait.

This interest in painting scenes of everyday life is evident in the work of Judith Leyster (1609–1660), who established her own independent painting career. Like Gentileschi before her, it was a remarkable achievement for a woman in Europe. Leyster became the first female member of the painting Guild of Saint Luke in Haarlem, which enabled her to set up her own workshop and take on three male pupils. Musicians playing their instruments, women sewing, children laughing while playing games, and actors performing all form the subject matter of Leyster’s paintings of everyday Dutch life (see paintings below).

Girl with a straw Hat

Children with a cat.

The finest golden Dutch painter was Rembrandt van Rijn (1606– 1669). During his early career, Rembrandt painted opulent portraits and grandiose scenes that were often quite colorful.


The Nightwatchmen above, is painted in more muted tones than some of his early works.

Rembrandt was prolific and successful, but he turned away from materialistic success to follow his own artistic path.


One of many self-portraits

Rembrandt shared the Dutch predilection for realistic portraiture.

Young Girl by the Window

Saskia, portrait of his wife

As he grew older he refused to follow his contemporaries, whose pictures were largely secular; half of his own paintings depicted scenes from biblical tales. Since the Protestant tradition of hostility to religious pictures had discouraged artistic expression, Rembrandt stands out as the one great Protestant painter of the seventeenth century.

1629-30 Bust of an Old Woman at Prayer oil on copper 15.5 x 12.2 cm Residenzgalerie, Salzburg, Austria

in the process of following his own artistic path he eventually he lost public support and died bankrupt.

An Age of popular theater

In England and Spain, writing reached new heights between 1580 and 1640. All of these impressive new works were written in the vernacular.

Except for academic fields, such as theology, philosophy, jurisprudence, and the sciences, Latin was no longer a universal literary language. The greatest age of English literature is often called the Elizabethan era because much of the English cultural flowering of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries occurred during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Elizabethan literature exhibits the exuberance and pride associated with England’s international exploits at the time. Of all the forms of Elizabethan literature, none expressed the energy and intellectual versatility of the era better than drama. And of all the dramatists, none is more famous than William Shakespeare (1564–1616).

-Shakespeare Chambos

Shakespeare was the son of a prosperous glovemaker from Stratford-upon-Avon. When he appeared in London in 1592, Elizabethans were already addicted to the stage. In Greater London, as many as six theaters were open six afternoons a week.

London theaters ranged from the Globe, which was a circular unroofed structure holding three thousand spectators, to the Blackfriars, which was roofed and held only five hundred. In the former, an admission charge of a penny or two enabled even the lower classes to attend; the higher prices in the latter ensured an audience of the well-to-do. Elizabethan audiences varied greatly, putting pressure on playwrights to write works that pleased nobles, lawyers, merchants, and even vagabonds.

William Shakespeare was a ‘‘complete man of the theater.’’ Although best known for writing plays, he was also an actor and shareholder in the chief company of the time, the Lord Chamberlain’s Company, which played in theaters as diverse as the Globe and the Blackfriars.

Shakespeare has long been recognized as a genius of the English language for his poetry and drama. His wonderful language was matched by an incredible insight into human psychology and the politics of Elizabethan England in his tragedies, histories and comedies.

As was common in the period, Shakespeare based many of his plays on the work of other playwrights and recycled older stories and historical material. Playwrights of the time wrote fast because the demand for new plays was great, so relying on existing stories made the process easier. In addition, plays based on already popular stories appear to have been seen as more likely to draw large crowds. There were also cultural reasons: Renaissance writers believed tragic plots should be grounded in history. For example, King Lear is probably an adaptation of an older play, King Leir, and the Henriad probably derived from The Famous Victories of Henry V.[28] For plays on historical subjects, Shakespeare relied heavily on two principal texts. Most of the Roman and Greek plays are based on Plutarch‘s Parallel Lives ,[30] and the English history plays are indebted to Raphael Holinshed‘s 1587 Chronicles. This structure did not apply to comedy, and those of Shakespeare’s plays for which no clear source has been established, such as Love’s Labour’s Lost and The Tempest, are comedies. Even these plays, however, rely heavily on generic commonplaces (common ideas of the time).

The plays tend to fall into three main stylistic groupings. The first major grouping of his plays begins with his histories and comedies of the 1590s. Shakespeare’s earliest plays tended to be adaptations of other playwrights’ works and employed blank verse and little variation in rhythm. However, after the plague forced Shakespeare and his company of actors to leave London for periods between 1592 and 1594, Shakespeare began to use rhymed couplets in his plays, along with more dramatic dialogue. These elements showed up in The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Almost all of the plays written after the plague hit London are comedies, perhaps reflecting the public’s desire at the time for light-hearted fare. Other comedies from Shakespeare during this period include Much Ado About Nothing, The Merry Wives of Windsor and As You Like It.

The middle grouping of Shakespeare’s plays begins in 1599 with Julius Caesar. For the next few years, Shakespeare would produce his most famous dramas, including Macbeth, Hamlet, and King Lear. The plays during this period are in many ways the darkest of Shakespeare’s career and address issues such as betrayal, murder, lust, power and egoism.

The final grouping of plays, called Shakespeare’s late romances, include Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest. The romances are so called because they bear similarities to medieval romance literature. Among the features of these plays are a redemptive plotline with a happy ending, and magic and other fantastic elements.


Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film version of Romeo and Juliet is wonderful.

The theater was also one of the most creative forms of expression during Spain’s golden century.

As in England, actors’ companies ran the first professional theaters, which were established in Seville and Madrid in the 1570s. Soon a public playhouse could be found in every large town, including Mexico City in the New World. Touring companies brought the latest Spanish plays to all parts ofthe Spanish Empire.

Beginning in the 1580s, Lope de Vega (1562–1635) set the agenda for playwrights. Like Shakespeare, he was from a middle-class background. He was an incredibly prolific writer; almost one-third of his fifteen hundred plays survive, which have been characterized as witty, charming, action packed, and realistic.

Lope de Vega wrote his plays to please his audiences. In a treatise on drama written in 1609, he stated that the foremost duty of the playwright was to satisfy public demand.

Shakespeare is likely to have believed the same thing, since his livelihood depended on public approval, but Lope de Vega was considerably more cynical about it: he remarked that if anyone thought he had written his plays for fame, ‘‘undeceive him and tell him that I wrote them for money.’’

As the great age of theater in England and Spain was drawing to a close around 1630, a new dramatic era began to dawn in France that lasted into the 1680s. Unlike Shakespeare in England and Lope de Vega in Spain, French playwrights wrote more for an elite audience and were forced to depend on royal patronage.

Louis XIV used theater as he did art and architecture—to attract attention to his monarchy.

French dramatists cultivated a style that emphasized the clever, polished, and correct over the emotional and imaginative.

Many of the French works of the period derived both their themes and their plots from Classical Greek and Roman sources, especially evident in the works of Jean-Baptiste Racine (1639–1699

Like the ancient tragedians, Racine, who perfected the French neoclassical tragic style, focused on conflicts, such as between love and honor or inclination and duty, that characterized and revealed the tragic dimensions of life). In Phedre, which has been called his best play, Racine followed closely the plot of Hippolytus by the Greek tragedian Euripides.

Jean-Baptiste Moliere (1622–1673) enjoyed the favor of the French court and benefited from the patronage of King Louis XIV. Moliere wrote, produced, and acted in a series of comedies that often satirized the religious and social world of his time.


In Tartuffe, he ridiculed religious hypocrisy. His satires, however, sometimes got him into trouble. The Paris clergy did not find Tartuffe funny and had it banned for five years. Only the protection of the king saved Moliere from more severe harassment.

Scientific revolution

The seventeenth century was a period of transition toward the more secular spirit that has characterized modern Western civilization to the present. A key foundation for this spirit could be found than in the new view of the universe that was ushered in by the Scientific Revolution.

In the Scientific Revolution, the Western world overthrew the medieval, Aristotelian- Ptolemaic worldview and geocentric universe and arrived at a new conception of the universe: the sun at the center, the planets as material bodies revolving around the sun in elliptical orbits, andan infinite rather than finite world.

This new conception of the heavens was the work of a number of brilliant individuals:

  • Nicolaus Copernicus, who theorized a heliocentric, or sun-centered,
  • universe;
  • Johannes Kepler, who discovered that planetary orbits were elliptical;
  • Galileo Galilei, who, by using a telescope and observing the moon and sunspots, discovered that the universe seemed to be composed of material substance;
  • Isaac Newton, who tied together all of these ideas with his universal law of gravitation.


The contributions of each individual built on the work of the others, thus establishing one of the basic principles of the new science—cooperation in the pursuit of new knowledge.

With the changes in the conception of ‘‘heaven’’ came changes in the conception of ‘‘earth.’’

The work of Bacon and Descartes left Europeans with the separation of mind and matter and the belief that by using only reason they could in fact understand and dominate the world of nature.

The creation of scientific societies and learned journals spread its results. The Scientific Revolution was more than merely intellectual theories. It also appealed to nonscientific elites because of its practical implications for technology, economic progress and for maintaining the social order, including the waging of war.

The new ways of thinking created a more fundamental break with the past than that represented by the breakup of Christian unity in the Reformation.

The Scientific Revolution forced Europeans to change their conception of themselves. At first, some were appalled and even frightened by its implications. Formerly, humans on earth had viewed themselves as being at the center of the universe.  Now the earth was only a tiny planet revolving around a sun that was itself only a speck in a boundless universe.

If it was just a speck it was nonetheless fascinating. Newton demonstrated that the universe was a great machine governed by natural Laws and that motion in the universe could be understood in terms of the law of gravitation.

There was a hunger among scientists to discover other laws.  Were there not natural laws governing every aspect of human endeavor that could be found by the new scientific method? Thus, the Scientific Revolution leads us logically to the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century.

Enlightenment in the 18th century

The eighteenth century was a time of change but also of tradition. The popularization of the ideas of the Scientific Revolution, the impact of travel literature, a new skepticism, and the ideas of Locke and Newton led to what historians call the Age of Enlightenment.

Its leading figures were the intellectuals known as philosophes who hoped that they could create a new society by using reason to discover the natural laws that governed it.

Like the Christian humanists of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, they believed that education could create better human beings and a better human society. Such philosophes as Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot, Hume, Quesnay, Smith, Beccaria, Condorcet, and Rousseau attacked traditional religion as the enemy, advocated religious toleration and freedom of thought, criticized their oppressive societies, and created a new ‘‘science of man’’ in economics, politics, and education.

In doing so, the philosophes laid the foundation for a modern worldview based on rationalism and secularism.

Although many of the philosophes continued to hold traditional views about women, female intellectuals like Mary Astell and Mary Wollstonecraft began to argue for the equality of the sexes and the right of women to be educated.

Portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin
Mary Wollstonecraft

The Enlightenment appealed largely to the urban middle classes and some members of the nobility, and its ideas were discussed in salons, coffeehouses, reading clubs, lending libraries, and societies like the Freemasons.

Innovation in the arts also characterized the eighteenth century. The cultural fertility of the age is evident in:

  • Rococo painting and architecture;
  • the achievements of Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart in music;
  • the birth of the novel in literature;
  • new directions in education and historical writing.

Although the philosophes attacked the established Christian churches, many Europeans continued to practice their traditional faith. Moreover, a new wave of piety swept both Catholic and Protestant churches, especially noticeable in Protestant Europe with the advent of Pietism in Germany and John Wesley and Methodism in England.

Thus, despite the secular thought and secular ideas that began to pervade the mental world of the ruling elites, most people in eighteenth-century Europe still lived by seemingly eternal verities and practices—God, religious worship, and farming.  The most brilliant architecture and music of the age were religious.

And yet the forces of secularization were too strong to stop. In the midst of intellectual change, economic, political, and social transformations of great purport were taking shape and would lead to both political and social upheavals and even revolution. Those upheavals and revolutions will be the subject our lesson next week, the last for this semester.

Les Miserables

Cultural Activity Assessment

Dear Students,

The assessment for this semester’s course will be based on a test (90%) and class participation (10%).

The test will be held in the exam period at the end of semester (the date, time and room will be announced via the Department’s exam timetable).

The questions will be based on the two readings, on the movies you have watched, the class discussions we had and the lesson notes.

Just to remind you, the movies you watched included:

  • Ladybird
  • Wandering Earth
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • The Hate U Give
  • If Beale Street Could Talk
  • The Farewell
  • Crazy Rich Asians
  • The Immigrant

There will be no surprises (all of the questions will be based on the class resources and discussions, so you should be familiar with the question topics). You will not have to answer questions about any other movies.

If you have questions about the test please ask me via our wechat class groups.



Discussion exercise

Make up four sentences about your leisure habits (at least one of them should be false [not true]). Use the following words/phrases

more often than not

every so often we

 most weeks we …

Most of the time

once in a while we ….

every now and then

 Verbs exercise

Choose five of the following verbs and use them to make up sentences about yourself:

  • stop
  • avoid
  • persuade
  • remember
  • refuse
  • try
  • help
  • end up
  • hope
  • encourage
  • pretend

The exercise is based on the ‘quick review’ on page 12 of Face2Face, Upper Intermediate.

 Agreeing and disagreeing exercise

Look at these sentences.

Are they ways of agreeing (A) or disagreeing (D)?

  1. I don’t know about that.
  2. 1 can’t really see the point of that.
  3. Oh, do you think so?
  4. 1 see what you mean.
  5. Oh, I wouldn’t say that.
  6. 1 see your point.
  7. 1 suppose that’s true, actually.
  8. You might be right there.
  9. That’s a good point.
  10. Well, I’m still not convinced.
  11. Well, I can’t argue with that.
  12. 1 suppose you’ve got a point there.

TIP! We often follow an agreement phrase with but to challenge the other person’s opinion: I see what you mean, but I think it’s much better to let them eat when they want.

Past tense exercises

Look at the underlined phrases. Tick the correct phrases. Change the incorrect ones.

  1. I used to go out with friends’ last night.
  2. I’m usually waking up at 7 a.m.
  3. I’d have pets when 1 was a child.
  4. Occasionally I’ll stay in at the weekends, but I normally go out.
  5. I’m always lose things.
  6. I didn’t use to watch as much TV as I do now.

Frequency exercise

Make 4 sentences using these words/phrases.

rarely                                  more often than not

              seldom                                  once in a while

occasionally                  most weeks


every now and again

Fill in the gaps with a preposition.

1 I’m excited … moving house.

2 I’m afraid we’re not satisfied …. the service.

3 I’m not aware …. Any problems.

4 We’re very fond …. dogs.

5 He was disappointed …. His results.

6 I’m impressed …. the food.

7 I’m sick ….. waiting for her.

8 They’re not sure ….. the colour.

9 Jon’s famous ….. being late.

10 I’m shocked ….. the price of houses.

11 She’s terrified ….. the dark.

12 He’s always been fascinated …. magic tricks.

Used to discussion

  1. Tell each other two sentences about someone you admire using be used to or get used to.
  2. Tell each other about something someone you despise will have to get used to in the future.
  3. Tell us about something your classmate wasn’t used to doing before, but is used to doing now.
  4. Tell each other about something you think your classmate could never get used to


Vacation talks

Tell us about some of the things you will be doing in the Winter vacation.

What are the pleasures of winter? What will you do?