Top English Literature Quotes

Browse top 44 famous quotes and sayings about English Literature by most favorite authors.

Favorite English Literature Quotes

1. "I don't only write about English literature; I also write about chaos theory and... ants. I can understand ants."
Author: A. S. Byatt
2. "Blackadder was fifty-four and had come to editing Ash out of pique. He was the son and grandson of Scottish schoolmasters. His grandfather recited poetry on firelight evenings: Marmion, Childe Harold, Ragnarok. His father sent him to Downing College in Cambridge to study under F. R. Leavis. Leavis did to Blackadder what he did to serious students; he showed him the terrible, the magnificent importance and urgency of English literature and simultaneously deprived him of any confidence in his own capacity to contribute to, or change it. The young Blackadder wrote poems, imagined Dr Leavis's comments on them, and burned them."
Author: A.S. Byatt
3. "When I entered college, it was to study liberal arts. At the University of Pennsylvania, I studied English literature, but I fell in love with broadcasting, with telling stories about other people's exploits."
Author: Andrea Mitchell
4. "Vitamin C is the world's best natural antibiotic, antiviral, antitoxin and antihistamine. This book's recurring emphasis on vitamin C might suggest that I am offering a song with only one verse. Not so. As English literature concentrates on Shakespeare, so orthomolecular (megavitamin) therapy concentrates on vitamin C. Let the greats be given their due. The importance of vitamin C cannot be overemphasised."
Author: Andrew W. Saul
5. "The Procrustean bed. . .suggests itself with dispiriting aptness as a metaphor for the Culture Wars, right down to the blandishments with which Procrustes must have lured his guests over the threshold. (I picture him as a handsome fellow with a large vocabulary and an oleaginous tongue, not unlike the chairmen of many English departments.) There's just one crucial difference. Sometimes Procrustes lopped off his victims, and sometimes he stretched them, but the Culture Wars always lop. I have never seen cultural politics enlarge a work of literature, only diminish it."
Author: Anne Fadiman
6. "I finally returned to Iran in 1979, when I got my degree in English and American literature, and stayed for 18 years in the Islamic republic."
Author: Azar Nafisi
7. "I left school at 16 but I wish I'd gone to university - I think I would have studied English literature. I had a knack for that. But I don't think you have the kind of wisdom at 16 to make that decision."
Author: Brendan Coyle
8. "When sonneteering Wordsworth re-creates the landing of Mary Queen of Scots at the mouth of the Derwent -Dear to the Loves, and to the Graces vowed,The Queen drew back the wimple that she wore- he unveils nothing less than a canvas by Rubens, baroque master of baroque masters; this is the landing of a TRAGIC Marie de Medicis.Yet so receptive was the English ear to sheep-Wordsworth's perverse 'Enough of Art' that it is not any of these works of supreme art, these master-sonnets of English literature, that are sold as picture postcards, with the text in lieu of the view, in the Lake District! it is those eternally, infernally sprightly Daffodils."
Author: Brigid Brophy
9. "I had not particularly liked the way in which he wrote about literature in Beginnings, and I was always on my guard if not outright hostile when any tincture of 'deconstruction' or 'postmodernism' was applied to my beloved canon of English writing, but when Edward talked about English literature and quoted from it, he passed the test that I always privately apply: Do you truly love this subject and could you bear to live for one moment if it was obliterated?"
Author: Christopher Hitchens
10. "I have an English literature degree. I wanted to be the next great American novelist from a very early age, but I put it aside for a while, because I got very realistic at one point."
Author: Daniel Suarez
11. "Many of them were familiar from childhood with the fables of La Fontaine. Or they had read Voltaire or Racine or Molière in English translations. But that was about the sum of any familiarity they had with French literature. And none, of course, could have known in advance that the 1830s and '40s in Paris were to mark the beginning of the great era of Victor Hugo, Balzac, George Sand, and Baudelaire, not to say anything of Delacroix in painting or Chopin and Liszt in music."
Author: David McCullough
12. "I was always drawn to teachers who made class interesting. In high school, I enjoyed my American and English literature classes because my teachers, Jeanne Dorsey and Dani Barton, created an environment where interaction was important."
Author: Ellen Ochoa
13. "The high-school English teacher will be fulfilling his responsibility if he furnishes the student a guided opportunity, through the best writing of the past, to come, in time, to an understanding of the best writing of the present. He will teach literature, not social studies or little lessons in democracy or the customs of many lands. And if the student finds that this is not to his taste? Well, that is regrettable. Most regrettable. His taste should not be consulted; it is being formed."
Author: Flannery O'Connor
14. "Please write and tell me about London, I live for the day when I step off the boat-train and feel its dirty sidewalks under my feet. I want to walk up Berkeley Square and down Wimpole Street and stand in St.Paul's where John Donne preached and sit on the step Elizabeth sat on when she refused to enter the Tower, and like that. A newspaper man I know, who was stationed in London during the war, says tourists go to England with preconceived notions, so they always find exactly what they go looking for. I told him I'd go looking for the England of English literature, and he said: "Then it's there."
Author: Helene Hanff
15. "But I don't know, maybe it's just as well I never got there. I dreamed about it for so many years. I used to go to English movies just to look at the streets. I remember years ago a guy I knew told me that people going to England find exactly what they go looking for. I said I'd go looking for the England of English Literature, and he nodded and said: "It's there."
Author: Helene Hanff
16. "English literature, from the days of the minstrels to the Lake Poets—Chaucer and Spenser and Milton, and even Shakespeare, included—breathes no quite fresh and, in this sense, wild strain. It is an essentially tame and civilized literature, reflecting Greece and Rome. … Where is the literature which gives expression to Nature?...I do not know of any poetry to quote which adequately expresses this yearning for the Wild....The West is preparing to add its fables to those of the East. The valleys of the Ganges, the Nile, and the Rhine having yielded their crop, it remains to be seen what the valleys of the Amazon, the Plate, the Orinoco, the St. Lawrence, and the Mississippi will produce."
Author: Henry David Thoreau
17. "Despite his first, the study of English literature seemed in retrospect an absorbing parlor game, and reading books and having opinions about them, the desirable adjunct to a civilized existence. But it was not the core, whatever Dr. Leavis said in his lectures."
Author: Ian McEwan
18. "School was rough for me. I was a good student in middle school, but high school wasn't so fun. I still pulled through, though! I excelled in art, fashion, history and English literature - anything creative. Math and science I struggled a bit more in."
Author: India De Beaufort
19. "I have not been nourished by English Literature. . . for the simple reason that I have never found much there in which to rest my heart (or heart and head together). I was brought up in the Classics, and first discovered the sensation of literary pleasure in Homer...I do know Celtic things (many in their original languages Irish and Welsh), and feel for them a certain distaste: largely for their fundamental unreason. They have bright colour, but are like a broken stained glass window reassembled without design. They are in fact ‘mad'. . . but I don't believe I am...[I] set myself a task, the arrogance of which I fully recognized and trembled at: being precisely to restore to the English an epic tradition and present them with a mythology of their own."
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
20. "It is commonly asserted and accepted that Paradise Lost is among the two or three greatest English poems; it may justly be taken as the type of supreme poetic achievement in our literature."
Author: John Drinkwater
21. "We did meet forty years ago. At that time we were both influenced by Whitman and I said, jokingly in part, 'I don't think anything can be done in Spanish, do you?' Neruda agreed, but we decided it was too late for us to write our verse in English. We'd have to make the best of a second-rate literature."
Author: Jorge Luis Borges
22. "At graduation, I assumed I'd be in publishing, but first I went to England and got a master's degree in English Literature. And then I came back to New York and had a series of publishing jobs, the way one does."
Author: Joseph Kanon
23. "For this reason, to study English literature without some general knowledge of the relation of the Bible to that literature would be to leave one's literary education very incomplete."
Author: Lafcadio Hearn
24. "English dramatic literature is, of course, dominated by Shakespeare; and it is almost inevitable that an English reader should measure the value of other poetic drama by the standards which Shakespeare has already implanted in his mind."
Author: Lytton Strachey
25. "I studied English literature; I took 2 independent religion classes, but I wasn't a religion major really."
Author: Maggie Gyllenhaal
26. "Angela Carter...refused to join in rejecting or denouncing fairy tales, but instead embraced the whole stigmatized genre, its stock characters and well-known plots, and with wonderful verve and invention, perverse grace and wicked fun, soaked them in a new ?ery liquor that brought them leaping back to life. From her childhood, through her English degree at the University of Bristol where she specialised in Medieval Literature, and her experiences as a young woman on the folk-music circuit in the West Country, Angela Carter was steeped in English and Celtic faerie, in romances of chivalry and the grail, Chaucerian storytelling and Spenserian allegory, and she was to become fairy tale's rescuer, the form's own knight errant, who seized hold of it in its moribund state and plunged it into the fontaine de jouvence itself.(from "Chamber of Secrets: The Sorcery of Angela Carter")"
Author: Marina Warner
27. "I was there to get a Ph.D. in English literature. That's not true. I was there to read a lot of books and to discuss them with bright, insightful, book-loving people, an expectation that I pretty quickly learned was about as silly as it could be.Certainly there were other people who loved books, I'm sure there were, but whoever had notified them ahead of time that loving books was not the point, was, in fact, a hopelessly counterproductive and naive approach to the study of literature, neglected to notify me. It turned out that the point was to dissect a book like a fetal pig in biology class or to break its back with a single sentence or to bust it open like a milkweek pod and say, "See? All along it was only fluff," and then scatter it into oblivion with one tiny breath."
Author: Marisa De Los Santos
28. "With English literature, if you do a bit of shonky spelling, no one dies, but if you're half-way through a maths calculation and you stick in an extra zero, everything just crashes into the ravine."
Author: Mark Haddon
29. "I will find you another long-forgotten Queen Mab poem in no time. Depend on it. I refuse to let Cody or anyone else know more about English Literature than me. So calm yourself, Elfish, and let an expert take over."
Author: Martin Millar
30. "People think I'm selling feminism in my books, but what I'm really doing is writing advertising copy for expensive private colleges that most women can't afford anyway. Oh, and try to find a job with a major in English literature. No luck? Joke's on you, sucker!"
Author: Mary Gordon
31. "I would not have majored in English and gone on to teach literature had I not been able to construct a counterargument about the truthfulness of fiction; still, as writers turn away from the industrious villages of George Eliot and Thomas Hardy, I learn less and less from them that helps me to ponder my life. In time, I found myself agreeing with the course evaluations written by my testier freshman students:'All the literature we read this term was depressing.' How naive. How sane."
Author: Mary Rose O'Reilley
32. "Men may congratulate themselves for writing truly and passionately about the movements of nations; they may consider war and the search for God to be great literature's only subjects; but if men's standing in the world could be toppled by an ill-advised choice of hat, English literature would be dramatically changed."
Author: Michael Cunningham
33. "One of the effects of indoctrination, of passing into the anglo-centrism of British West Indian culture, is that you believe absolutely in the hegemony of the King's English and in the proper forms of expression. Or else your writing is not literature; it is folklore, or worse. And folklore can never be art. Read some poetry by West Indian writers--some, not all--and you will see what I mean. The reader has to dissect anglican stanza after anglican stanza for Caribbean truth, and may never find it. The anglican ideal -- Milton, Wordsworth, Keats -- was held before us with an assurance that we were unable, and would never be able, to achieve such excellence. We crouched outside the cave."
Author: Michelle Cliff
34. "As a former English major, I have always been fascinated by the connections between literature and history."
Author: Nathaniel Philbrick
35. "But this is exactly why I read--and don't belong to a book group--because reading is the most individual thing there is. Why collectivize it? Didn't we have enough bad English teachers in school? Crowd sourcing and literature shouldn't mix."
Author: Peter Orner
36. "We were supposed to be an English literature class, but Miss Nesbitt used literature to teach real life. She said she didn't have time to teach us like a regular English teacher--we were too far behind. Instead, she taught us the world through literature."
Author: Phillip M. Hoose
37. "Despite centuries of English literature, the most famous split infinitive in all of history comes from Star Trek."
Author: R. Curtis Venture
38. "John Milton has, since his own lifetime, always been one of the major figures in English literature, but his reputation has changed constantly. He has been seen as a political opportunist, an advocate of 'immorality' (he wrote in favour of divorce and married three times), an over-serious classicist, and an arrogant believer in his own greatness as a poet. He was all these things. But, above all, Milton's was the last great liberal intelligence of the English Renaissance. The values expressed in all his works are the values of tolerance, freedom and self-determination, expressed by Shakespeare, Hooker and Donne. The basis of his aesthetic studies was classical, but the modernity of his intellectual interests can be seen in the fact that he went to Italy (in the late 1630s) where he met the astronomer Galileo, who had been condemned as a heretic by the Catholic church for saying the earth moved around the sun."
Author: Ronald Carter
39. "The fairy or fantastic world replaces the classical Hades (or Hell) in Sir Orfeo, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight takes this fantasy element to new heights. Sir Gawain is one of the Knights of the Round Table, the followers of King Arthur, who is so much of a presence in English history, myth and literature."
Author: Ronald Carter
40. "In my teens, I developed a passionate idolatry for a teacher of English literature. I wanted to do something that he would approve of more, so I thought I should be some sort of a scholar."
Author: Trevor Nunn
41. "Critics and academics have been trying for forty years to bury the greatest work of imaginative fiction in English. They ignore it, they condescend to it, they stand in large groups with their backs to it - because they're afraid of it. They're afraid of dragons. They have Smaugophobia. "Oh those awful Orcs," they bleat, flocking after Edmund Wilson. They know if they acknowledge Tolkien they'll have to admit that fantasy can be literature, and that therefore they'll have to redefine what literature is. And they're too damned lazy to do it."
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
42. "He who studies MA in English Literature but fears the name Shakespeare is one who studies shadow but afraid of its statue."
Author: Vikrant Parsai
43. "It is an old observation that the best writers sometimes disregard the rules of rhetoric. When they do so, however, the reader will usually find in the sentence some compensating merit, attained at the cost of the violation. Unless he is certain of doing as well, he will probably do best to follow the rules. After he has learned, by their guidance, to write plain English adequate for everyday uses, let him look, for the secrets of style, to the study of the masters of literature."
Author: William Strunk Jr.
44. "This book is intended for use in English courses in which the practice of composition is combined with the study of literature. It aims to give in a brief space the principal requirements of plain English style. It aims to lighten the task of instructor and student by concentrating attention (in Chapters II and III) on a few essentials, the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated. The numbers of the sections may be used as references in correcting manuscript."
Author: William Strunk Jr.

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