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World Lit. fifteenth century-present

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Jean Racine
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PhĂšdre was a 1677 play by Jean Racine, based on both the play Hippolytus by Euripides… Synopsis: In the absence of her husband, King ThĂ©sĂ©e, PhĂšdre falls in love with Hippolyte, son of ThĂ©sĂ©e of a preceding marriage.
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Moliere
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Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known as MoliĂšre (January 15, 1622 – February 17, 1673), was a French theatre writer, director and actor, one of the masters of comic satire. Tartuffe–his most popular work
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Honore de Balzac (1799-1850)
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Honoré de Balzac was a French novelist. Along with Flaubert, he is generally regarded as a founding-father of realism in European fiction. His large output of novels and stories, collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, is a broad panorama of French society in the period of the Restoration and the July Monarchy
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Stendhal (1783-1842)
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Marie-Henri Beyle, better known by his penname Stendhal, was a 19th century French writer. He is known for his acute analysis of his characters’ psychology and for the dryness of his writing-style. He is considered one of the foremost and earliest practioners of the realistic form, and his best novels are Le Rouge et le Noir (1830; The Red and the Black) and La Chartreuse de Parme (1839; The Charterhouse of Parma).
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Michel de Montaigne
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Michel de Montaigne is the finest represent of the early modern skepticism. Montaigne developed a new literary genre: the essay. He rejected the claim that one culture may be superior to others and by doing this he inaugurated a new era of doubt. (p.519) Part of the group of Renaissance thinkers who questioned the prescribed order of things: Michel de Montaigne in his Essais (1580) articulates a probing, ironic doubt about virtually all of his culture’s cherished values. His books reveal Montaigne’s deep suspicion of dogmatism, his dislike of ascetic self-punishment and violence against the body, his skepticism of his culture’s orthodoxies, his passion for freedom, and his astonishingly humane response to the peoples of the New World. Famous for Of Cannibals (1603) and A World of Words (1598).
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Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra:
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In Don Quixote: This novel, originally published as two books, is one of the most influential and popular novels to emerge from Spain. The adventure, symbolism, and characterization contained in this novel has promoted this book to the popularity it still enjoys today, and it continues to inspire others to create movies, stories, and more based on the story of the man of La Mancha. Spain’s major contributions to Renaissance literature can be traced to Cervantes and Lope de Vega. Examining the conflict between illusion and reality, Miguel de Cervantes’s satire of chivalric romances, Don Quixote, is widely considered to be the precursor to the modern European novel. Don Quixote’s interactions with Sancho Panza shed light on an important aspect of Renaissance literature: the frustrated desires of the human mind to produce a vision of the world that is meaningful and satisfying
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau
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French philosopher and writer born in Switzerland; believed that the natural goodness of man was warped by society; ideas influenced the French Revolution (1712-1778) Romantic author: In the work of French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, children and so-called primitives were exalted for being closer to nature and to a less corrupted understanding of the human world.
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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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(1749-1832) A German author who wrote near the end of the AufklĂ€rung, the German Enlightenment. Goethe’s morose The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) helped fuel the Sturm und Drang movement, and his two-part Faust (1808, 1832) is seen as one of the landmarks of Western literature. His life held a number of ardent loves, which he celebrated in lyrics that are compared to Shakespeare’s, and in 1806 he married Christiane Vulpius whom he had loved for many years. In later life Goethe became a generous patron of younger writers, including Byron and Carlyle.
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Leo Tolstoy
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Tolstoy is widely regarded as one of the greatest of all novelists, particularly noted for his masterpieces War and Peace and Anna Karenina; in their scope, breadth and realistic depiction of Russian life, the two books stand at the peak of realistic fiction. As a moral philosopher he was notable for his ideas on nonviolent resistance through his work The Kingdom of God is Within You, which in turn influenced such twentieth-century figures as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Famous For: What is Art–(1897) is a nonfictional essay in which Tolstoy argues against numerous aesthetic theories which define art in terms of the good, truth, and especially beauty. In Tolstoy’s opinion, art at the time was corrupt and decadent, and artists had been misled. War and Peace–The novel tells the story of five aristocratic families (particularly the Bezukhovs, the Bolkonskis, and the Rostovs–the members of which are portrayed against a vivid background of Russian social life during the war against Napoleon (1805-14).) and the entanglement of their personal lives with the history of 1805-1813, specifically Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. As events proceed, Tolstoy systematically denies his subjects any significant free choice: the onward roll of history determines happiness and tragedy alike. Psychological struggle: main character Pierre Bezukhov Anna Karenina–The novel, set among the highest circles of Russian society, is generally thought by the casual reader to be nothing more than the story of a tragic romance. However, Tolstoy was both a moralist and severe critic of the excesses of his aristocratic peers, and Anna Karenina is often interpreted overall as a parable on the difficulty of being honest to oneself when the rest of society accepts falseness. Anna is the jewel of St. Petersburg society until she leaves her husband for the handsome and charming military officer, Count Vronsky. By falling in love, they go beyond society’s external conditions of trivial adulterous dalliances. But when Vronsky’s love cools, Anna cannot bring herself to return to the husband she detests, even though he will not permit her to see their son until she does. Unable to accept Vronsky’s rebuff, and unable to return to a life she hates, she kills herself.
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Feodor Dostoevsky
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(1821-1881) Fyodor Dostoyevsky is considered one of the greatest of Russian writers, whose works have had a profound and lasting effect on twentieth-century fiction. His works often feature characters living in poor conditions with disparate and extreme states of mind, and exhibit both an uncanny grasp of human psychology as well as penetrating analyses of the political, social and spiritual states of Russia of his time. Many of his best-known works are prophetic precursors to modern-day thoughts. Famous for: Notes from Underground It is considered the world’s first existentialist work. It presents itself as an excerpt from the rambling memoirs of a bitter, isolated, unnamed narrator (generally referred to by critics as Underground Man), a retired civil servant living in St. Petersburg. Crime and Punishment (1866) The novel portrays the haphazardly planned murder of a miserly, aged pawnbroker and her younger sister by a destitute Saint Petersburg student named Raskolnikov, and the emotional, mental, and physical effects that follow. The Brothers Karamazov (1880) The book is written on two levels: on the surface it is the story of a patricide in which all of the murdered man’s sons share varying degrees of complicity, but on a deeper level, it is a spiritual drama of the moral struggles between faith, doubt, reason, and free will
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Anton Chekhov
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(1860-1904) Anton Chekhov was a physician, major Russian short story writer and playwright. Many of his short stories are considered the apotheosis of the form while his playwriting career, though brief, has had a great impact on dramatic literature and performance. Famous for: The Seagull (1896) (references to Hamlet); The Cherry Orchard (1904); Three Sisters (1901)
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Rabindranath Tagore
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a Bengali poet and novelist, best known for his 1916 book Ghare-Baire (The Home and the World). In this book, he tells the story of Nikhil, Sandip, and Bimila, three Bengalis who struggle to come to terms with Indian national identity in the midst of British colonialism. Through their dynamic relationship, the book illustrates the danger in nationalist movements and promotes the recognition of universal moral norms. India’s first poet laureate Colonization and decolonization were generally savage (to use a colonialist term) from the perspective of colonial and postcolonial subjects. The intrusion of colonial politics in the daily lives of individuals is addressed in the form and content of works by Tagore, Senghor, Mahfouz, Achebe, Walcott, Soyinka, and Goodison. Other including writers—Premchand, CÈsaire, al-Hakim, Neruda, Devi, El Saadawi, and Yehoshua—responded to social, political, and economic concerns at a regional or local level.
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Rainer Maria Rilke
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German poet (born in Austria) whose imagery and mystic lyricism influenced 20-th century German literature (1875-1926)
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Franz Kafka
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Czech novelist who wrote in German about a nightmarish world of isolated and troubled individuals (1883-1924)
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Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca
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Poet and dramatist who focused on folkloric themes and traditions. His theatrical work deals with human passion–violence South American literature is often associated with magical realism, a mixture of fantasy and realism, made popular by authors such as GarcĂ­a MĂĄrquez and Rulfo. The generally political nature of magical realism in South American writing was often missed by earlier generations of Western readers, who were too amazed by the imaginative creativity of magical realism. Simultaneously, writers resisted Western literary conventions and wrote in regional styles.
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Isak Nadine Gordimer
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(born 1923) Nadine Gordimer is a South African (Jewish) novelist and writer, winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize in literature and 1974 Booker Prize. Nadine Gordimer’s subject matter in the past has been the effect of apartheid on the lives of South Africans and the moral and psychological tensions of life in a racially-divided country, which she often wrote about by focusing on oppressed non-white characters. She was an ardent opponent of apartheid and refused to accommodate the system, despite growing up in a community in which it was accepted as normal. Her work has therefore served to chart, over a number of years, the changing response to apartheid in South Africa. Her first novel, The Lying Days (1953), was based largely on her own life and set in her home town. Her next three novels, A World of Strangers (1958); Occasion for Loving (1963), which focuses on an illicit love affair between a black man and a white woman; and The Late Bourgeois World (1966) deal with master-servant relations in South African life. In 1974, her novel The Conservationist, was joint winner of the Booker Prize for Fiction.
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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
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Author of “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”, Soviet writer and political dissident whose novels exposed the brutality of Soviet labor camps (born in 1918). He wrote the accounts from experience, having been imprisoned for writings critical of Satlin. Famous Russian writer who was imprisoned in the Soviet Union for exposing the cruelties of Communism, was exiled to the west.
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Pablo Neruda
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World renown for his works on politics, romance, and nature. He received the Nobel Peace prize in 1971. wrote about every day objects as well as critical of politics.
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Czeslaw Milosz
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Joined Polish resistance movement and wrote anti Nazi poetry that was published by underground presses and read at Clandestin poetry, 1980 received Nobel Prize for literature, “Song of a Citizen”
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Wole Soyinka
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Nobel Prize-winning playwright (first black African to win one) from Nigeria; trained to write plays in a “western” style (for which he has been criticized by other African playwrights); He has been in and out of favor with the Nigerian government because his plays have frequently discussed corruption at the official level. His plays are frequently performed in England and the United States. Though early criticisms were leveled at former colonial subjects who wrote in the colonizer’s language, since writing was considered to reflect “impoverished” experiences, more recent evaluations point to the ways that the writings of former colonial subjects have enriched European languages. Works by writers such as Achebe, Soyinka, and Rushdie challenge efforts to interpret meaning according to conventional reading strategies that largely hold for many works produced by their European and North American contemporaries.
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R.K. Narayan
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was an Indian author whose works of fiction include a series of books about people and their interactions in an imagined town in India. He is one of three leading figures of early Indian literature in English, along with Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao. He is credited with bringing Indian literature in English to the rest of the world, and is regarded as one of India’s greatest English language novelists.
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Margaret Atwood
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She was a poet, novelist, essayist, critic, and short-story writer, had been called “a national heroine of the arts.” Born in the city of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada, she spent much of her childhood in wilderness regions, where she accompanied her scientist father on long field trips.
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Derek Walcott
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Born in 1930, he is still living today. He won a nobel prize in 1992 for “omeros”. He was born on a Caribbean island and collaborated with Paul Simon for the Broadway musical, “The Capeman”.
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Naguib Mahfouz
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Egyptian writer who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1988. particularly adept at blending panoramic historical events with the intimate lives of ordinary human beings
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ƌe Kenzaburƍ
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(1935 – present) Novelist and recipient of the 1994 Nobel Prize for Literature. His first work, Shiiku (The Catch in the Shadow of the Sunrise), describes a friendship between a Japanese boy and a black American POW, and won him the Akutagawa award while he was still a student. His early works are filled with insanity, abuse, perverse sex, and violence, but his later works (including A Personal Matter (Kojinteki-na taiken) and The Silent Cry (Man’en gannen no futtoboru)) reflect the experience of being the father of a brain-damaged child. His fiction centers on the alienation following Japan’s surrender and his political writings focus on the search for cultural and ideological roots.
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V. S. Naipaul
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Born of Indian parents in Trinidad; winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001,wrote “Mimic Men” and “An Area of Darkness” which dealt with the massive poverty facing India. He castigated governments in the developing countries for corruption, ineptitude, and self-deception. (themes- poignant loneliness and homelessness of people uprooted by colonialism and Western expansion).
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Chinua Achebe.
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(b. 1930) Achebe is considered the father of the African novel in English as well as one of the world’s most acclaimed writers.He is one of contemporary Africa’s most famous authors. A member of the Ibo people of eastern Nigeria, he was born in the village of Ogidi. During the Nigerian civil war of 1967-1970, he supported the independence effort of Biafra, a predominately Ibo region in eastern Nigeria. Things Fall Apart (1958) Things Fall Apart explores the forces that drive the rise and fall of Okonkwo, a leader in the Umuofia clan and the influences of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on his traditional Ibo (also spelled Igbo) community. Things Fall Apart is considered one of the major works in African postcolonial literature because it presents the life, culture, and complexities of a traditional African people with breathtaking honesty, dignity and humanity. The story of Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart has been compared in western countries to Greek tragedy, as the very characteristics that make Okonkwo a great leader in his clan (strength, inflexibility) lead ultimately to his death. The title of the book comes from a poem, “The Second Coming,” by William Butler Yeats, and is quoted in the frontpiece of the book: Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
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The Enlightenment in Europe
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In the midst of the massive—and often cataclysmic—social changes that violently reshaped Europe during the eighteenth century, philosophers and other thinkers championed reason and the power of the human mind, contributing to the somewhat misleading appellation of this prerevolutionary period as an “Age of Enlightenment.” New commerce permitted the accumulation of new wealth, which threatened the established hierarchies of social order, particularly the monarchies, when the newly wealthy demanded political power. Similarly, the schisms within the Christian Church gave witness to the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which had granted toleration of Protestants in France, as well as to rebellions around the succession to the throne in England. Religious differences carried over into social and political differences, so that division within European powers, especially France and England, were of greater significance than divisions between them. The Age of Enlightenment also watched as the American and French revolutions changed the ethos and tenor of European life. Both French and English society were strictly hierarchical. Because literature was produced by a small cultural elite, it tended to address limited audiences of the authors’ social peers, who would not necessarily notice the class- and race-specific values that served as a basis for proper conduct and actions outlined in poems, novels, and belles lettres. For the upper classes, public life mattered more than private life. In France, women controlled the intellectual life of literary salons; in England, women were allowed no such commanding positions. Beginning around 1660, authors such as MoliËre, Swift, Pope, and Voltaire called attention to the deceptions of well-defined codes of behavior, though they did not go so far as to consider whether the codes themselves might be at fault. Literary “expressiveness” was linked to shared opinions rather than to the eccentricities of individual will.
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Famous Enlightenment thinkers
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To different degrees and on different occasions, MoliËre, Pope, Swift, and Voltaire wrote in the satirical mode. By exercising their right to criticize their fellow men and women, satirists evoked a rhetorical ascendancy that was obtained by an implicit alliance with literary and moral tradition. The popularity of satire suggests another version of the conflict between reason and passion, the forces of stability and instability. By contrast, Racine adapted the classical form of the tragedy to new ends.
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Romanticism in Europe and America
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Emerging in the late eighteenth century and extending until the late nineteenth century, Romanticism broke with earlier models of thinking that were guided by rationalism and empiricism. Instead, Romanticism valorized the particular over the universal and the individual over the collective After the American and French revolutions, faith in social institutions declined considerably; no longer were systems that were organized around hierarchy and the separation of classes considered superior. As manufacturing and industrialization developed, resulting in a decline in the agricultural economy, a “middle class” began to emerge in England and other parts of Europe. Breaking with the Christian belief that the self is essentially “evil” and fallible, Romantic poets and authors often explored the “good” inherent in human beings. As the middle class rose to ascendancy in the nineteenth century, new approaches to science, biology, class, and race began to shake middle-class society’s values. Imagination was seen as a way for the soul to link with the eternal. The new thematic emphases of poetry—belief in the virtues of nature, the “primitive,” and the past—engendered a form of alienation that was described in the “social protest” poetry of Romantic poets.
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Modernism outside of the West
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In the twentieth century, modernization was used in tandem with colonization as a means to legitimize the often forced adoption of Western concepts of “progress” in different parts of the world. As such, modernization also became a stimulus for movements that rejected “progress” in favor of “tradition.” In the Western world (that is, Europe and North America), modernization has meant industrialization, a refusal of positivism, and movements to redefine nationalist politics. In the non-Western world (that is, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America), modernization has generally meant Westernization in terms of technology, industry, political structures, mass culture, and other mechanisms of globalization (or neocolonialism, as it is sometimes called). Modernization arrived at different speeds in different parts of the world and was received with indifference, optimism, or outright horror. Success was measured according to Western values and institutions such as individualism, capitalism, democracy, literacy (often in terms of European languages, with no consideration for older local languages), private ownership, the middle class, religious freedom, scientific method, public institutions, and the emancipation of women, all of which may or may not have been realized in the West itself—even today. European writers and thinkers looked beyond models of scientific rationalism for means of expressing knowledge of the world and lived experience that could not be apprehended by intellect alone. Literary and linguistic systems were seen as games in which “pieces” (words) and “rules” (grammar, syntax, and other conventions) were combined with playfulness and sometimes with pathos to emphasize the instabilities of language. The twentieth century is sometimes called a “century of isms” as different groups of European artists and intellectuals attempted to give expression to contemporary history and subjectivity. Western modernism is too conceptually limited to describe much of the cultural productions of older nations in North America such as the Navajo, Zuni, and Inuit.
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Ferdinand de Saussure
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Swiss linguist and expert in historical linguistics whose lectures laid the foundations for synchronic linguistics (1857-1913). The linguist Ferdinand de Saussure and philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein emphasized that language was connected to society and usage—not to reality. The connection between the word cat and the domesticated feline mammal is completely arbitrary. The mammal remains the same whether it is called chat, gato, gatto, bekku, bili, poonay, kuching, or just kitty. Literary and linguistic systems were seen as games in which “pieces” (words) and “rules” (grammar, syntax, and other conventions) were combined with playfulness and sometimes with pathos to emphasize the instabilities of language. Writers such as Beckett, Borges, and Robbe-Grillet show that language determines how we see the world. Semiotics (the study of signs) allowed critics to examine similar games in film, television, advertising, and other cultural productions.