Friday, August 23, 2013

Outline of English Literature

Old English

Caedmon (active 657–680) – a monk and Britain’s first known poet. Only one work survives, Caedmon’s Hymn.

Beowulf – an epic poem, written around 975–1025, tells the story of a Swedish king living around 550.

Middle English literature: 12th Century – 1470’s

v     Chancery Standard English (from London) became standard.

v     3 categories of writing existed: Religious, Courtly Love, Arthurian

v     William Langland (1332-1386) – wrote Piers Plowman (earliest allusion to Robin Hood) – concerns a quest for the true Christian life, from the perspective of mediæval Catholicism. This story includes a series of visions and three allegorical characters, Dowel ("Do-Well"), Dobet ("Do-Better"), and Dobest ("Do-Best").

v     Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400)– wrote Canterbury Tales, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Canterbury Tales - The tales (mostly written in verse) are presented as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey, a pilgrimage, from Southwark to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The prize for this contest is a free meal at the Tabard Inn at Southwark on their return.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in this story, Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur's round table, accepts a challenge from a mysterious “Green Knight” who challenges any knight to strike him with his axe if he will take a return blow in a year and a day. Gawain accepts and beheads him with his blow, at which the Green Knight stands up, picks up his head and reminds Gawain of the appointed time.

Early Modern period (Renaissance): (1480-1558)

v     William Caxton introduced the printing press to England in 1476.

v     English renaissance began in 1485 when the Tudors won the Wars of the Roses and started the Tudor dynasty. It started with Henry VII.

v     Book of Common Prayer 1549, was written in vernacular English, not Latin.

v     Philospher & politician, Saint Thomas More (1478-1535) wrote Utopia.

v     The poet Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) introduced the Petrarchan sonnet to English literature.

Elizabethan Literature: (1558-1603) The height of the English renaissance, includes all the literature produced during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

v     Plays dominated English literature because it was more profitable than books. Paper was expensive, but actors were cheap.

v     Plays included:     - comedies like A Midsummer Night’s Dream
                                    - tragedies like Romeo & Juliette
                                    - historical plays like Richard III, and Henry VIII
                                    - romances (combining comedy & tragedy) like The Tempest
                                    - revenge plays like Hamlet

v     Famous playwrights included Thomas Kyd (1558-1594), Christopher Marlowe (1563-1594) stabbed at twenty-nine in a tavern brawl, William Shakespeare (1564-1616), and Ben Jonson (1572-1637)

v     Philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626) developed the scientific method, beginning the Age of Enlightenment.

v     In poetry, Shakespeare developed the English sonnet: abab cdcd efef gg

Other poets included: Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) wrote Faerie Queene.
                        Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586) wrote Arcadia.

Jacobean Literature: (1603-1625) during the reign of King James I.

v     the King James Bible – was printed in 1611. Although many English translations have been made, some of which are more accurate, many people prefer the King James version because the meter mimics the original Hebrew version.

v     Metaphysical Poets, led by John Donne (1572-1631) who wrote the sonnet Death Be Not Proud.

The English Commonwealth: (1649-1660)

v     King Charles I had been so unpopular that parliament began the English Civil War, fighting the royalists and killing the king.

v     From 1649-1660 a new government was formed, led by Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658).

v     The new government was very religious, closing theatres, and banning secular writing and music. So, there is very little literature from this time.

v     One except was the poet John Milton (1608-1674), who wrote the epic poem Paradise Lost.

Restoration Literature: (1660-1689) written after the English Restoration, when King Charles II was returned to the throne.

v     Royal Society – founded in 1660.

v     Satire became widely popular, written anonymously for fear of punishment.

v     Philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) wrote Treatises on Government.

v     Writer John Bunyan (1628-1688) wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress.

v     Poet and playwright John Dryden (1631-1700) wrote the play All For Love.

Augustan Literature: (1689-1750) – written during the reign of King George I.

v     literature of the period is political and full of scandal and outrage.

v     Periodicals gave rise to famous essays and journalism. The most famous essayist was Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) who wrote Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets, and a Dictionary of the English Language, used for over 150 years.

v     Sir Richard Steele (1672-1729) wrote a satirical journal called The Tatler.

v     The Licensing Act of 1737 brought theatre under state control. Many playwrights turned to writing novels.

v     Writers: Daniel Defoe (1659-1731) wrote Robinson Crusoe,
         Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) wrote Gulliver’s Travels,
         Henry Fielding (1707-1754), wrote Tom Jones.

v     Playwrights: John Gay (1685-1732) wrote The Beggar’s Ballad.

v     Poets: Alexander Pope (1688-1744) wrote Rape of the Lock and The Dunciad,

Age of Enlightenment: (1750-1800)

v     Literature reflected the worldview of the Age of Enlightenment (or Age of Reason) in which a rational and scientific approach to religious, social, political, and economic issues was promoted.

v     This led to a more secular view of the world and a general sense of progress.


v     Romanticism started at the beginning of the industrial revolution. Cities expanded, the countryside depopulated, pastures privatized, and peasants poured into cities to work in factories.

v     Some words changed their meanings: industry (once meant "creativity"), democracy (once meant "mob rule"), class (once only used with a social connotation), art (once just meaning "craft"), culture (once only belonging to farming).

v     Poor working conditions, pollution, and new class-conflicts cause a reaction against industrialization. Poets begin to romanticize the beauty and value of nature.

v     Mother earth is seen as a new source of wisdom, the only solution to the ugliness caused by machines.

v     Writers: Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), wrote Ivanhoe and Rob Roy.
                    Jane Austen (1775-1817) wrote Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma.
                    John William Polidori (1795-1821) wrote The Vampyre.
                    Mary Shelley (1797-1851) wrote Frankenstein.

v     The Lake Poets: William Wordsworth (1770-1850),
                   Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) wrote Rime of the Ancient Mariner

v     Other Poets:  William Blake (1757-1827)
                Lord Byron (1788-1824)
                Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) wrote Ode to the West Wind, Ozzymandius
                John Keats (1795-1821) wrote Ode on a Grecian Urn.

6 Victorian literature – (1837–1901) written during the reign of Queen Victoria.

v     The novel became the leading form of literature, especially social novels that described the plight of the poor in industrial society.

v     Writers: William Thackeray (1811-1863) wrote Vanity Fair
   Charles Dickens (1812-1870) wrote The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, Bleak House
                   The Bronte Sisters: Charlotte (1816-1855) wrote Jane Eyre
                                                     Emily (1818-1848) wrote Wuthering Heights
                                                    Anne (1820-1849) wrote Agnes Grey and Wildfell Hall
   Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) wrote Tess of the d'Urbervilles
   Henry James (1843-1916) wrote The Portrait of a Lady
                     Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) wrote  Heart of Darkness

v     Charles Darwin (1809-1882) wrote Origin of Species creating the theory of evolution.

v     Many new genres of pop fiction began at this time, like sci-fi, fantasy, horror, detective stories, spy novels, ghost stories, lost world stories, and children’s stories.

v     Fantasy lit. included: George MacDonald (1824-1905) The Princess and the Goblin.
                       Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) Treasure Island, Kidnapped,
                                                                                     Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.

v     Detective stories included: William Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) The Moonstone. (first detective novel)
                                            Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) Sherlock Holmes.

v     Spy novels included: Erskine Childers (1870-1922) The Riddle of the Sands

v     Sci-Fi stories included: H.G. Wells (1866-1946) The Time Machine, and The War of the Worlds.

v     Lost World lit. included: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle The Lost World.
                                               H. Rider Haggard (1856-1925) King Solomon’s Mines.

v     Horror included: Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) The House by the Churchyard.
                            Bram Stoker (1847-1912) Dracula.

v     Children’s literature included: Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
                                      Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932) The Wind in the Willows.
                                      Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
                                      J.M. Barrie (1869-1937) Peter Pan

v     Plays were still popular with many new farces, musical burlesques, extravaganzas and comic operas

v     Playwrights: Gilbert (1836-1911) & Sullivan (1842-1900) wrote light operas
                     B.C. Stephenson (1839-1906) wrote Dorothy, longest running of the 19th century.
                           Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) wrote Picture of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest.

v     Poets:  Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
     Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)
     Robert Browning (1812-1889),
     Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)

Modernism & Edwardian Literature: (1901-1939) – written during the reign of King Edward.

v     Modernism in English literature developed from the disillusionment with Victorian era attitudes of certainty, conservatism, and belief in objective truth.

v     Modernists were influenced by Darwin (1809-1882), Ernst Mach (1838-1916), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Karl Marx (1818-1883), and Sigmund Freud (1856-1939).

v     Not all writers at this time were considered Modernist. The following writers and playwrights were active in this period, but not considered Modernist:

v     Playwrights: Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) wrote Pygmalian

v     Non Modernist Writers: Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) The Jungle Book,
                                       E.M. Forster (1879-1970) Howard’s End and A Room with a View.

v     American Poets who were influential in England: Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), William Frost (1874-1963) (first published in England), William Carlos Williams (1883-1963), Ezra Pound (1885-1972), Hilda Doolittle (1886-1961), Marianne Moore (1887-1972), T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) (became a British citizen)

v     British & Irish Modernist writers included:

Dorothy Richardson (1873-1957) Pointed Roof, a stream of consciousness novel
James Joyce (1882-1941) Ulysses and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) A Room of One’s Own
D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) The Rainbow and Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) Brave New World
George Orwell (1903-1950) 1984 and Animal Farm,
Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) A Handful of Dust
Alan Paton (1903-1988) Cry the Beloved Country
Graham Greene (1904-1991) Brighton Rock
Anthony Powell (1905-2000) A Dance to the Music of Time
Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) Waiting for Godot
Sir William Golding (1911-1993) Lord of the Flies
Anthony Burgess (1917-1993) A Clockwork Orange
Iris Murdoch (1919-1999) Under the Net
Doris Lessing (1919-present) The Children of Violence
Kingsley Amis (1922-1995) Lucky Jim

British & Irish Modernist Poets: William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
                                                     T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
                                                     Hugh MacDiarmid (1892-1978),
                                                     Robert Graves (1895-1985),
                                                     Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Post-modern literature: (1950-The Present)

Postmodern literature, like postmodernism in general, is difficult to define and there is little agreement on its exact characteristics, goals, or importance. It is both a continuation of the modernist experimentation (using fragmentation, paradox, questionable narrators, etc.) and a reaction against Enlightenment ideas found in Modernist literature.

Post Modern Writers:

Richard Adams (1920-present) Watership Down
Salman Rushdie (1947-present) Midnight’s Children, Satanic Verses
Irvine Welsh (1958-present) Trainspotting

Post Modern Poets:

R. S. Thomas (1913–2000) The Stones of the Field

Popular Fiction

1890-1976 Agatha Christie, who wrote mysteries
1892-1973 J.R.R. Tolkien, wrote The Lord of the Rings
1893-1957 Dorothy L. Sayers, mystery writer
1898-1963 C.S. Lewis, wrote The Chronicles of Narnia
1902-1974 Georgette Heyer, wrote historical romances
1908-1964 Ian Fleming, spy novelist who created James Bond
1916-1990 Roald Dahl, humorist and children’s book author
1917-2008 Arthur C. Clarke, sci-fi writer, wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey
1931-Present John le Carré, spy novelist
1934-Present Alan Garner, fantasy novelist
1939-Present Michael Moorcock, sci-fi writer
1939-Present Margaret Atwood, Canadian writer
1946-Present Philip Pullman, wrote His Dark Materials
1948-Present Terry Pratchett, fantasy novelist
1952-2001 Douglas Adams, sci-fi humorist. Wrote The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
1954-Present Iain Banks, sci-fi writer
1965-Present J.K. Rowling, wrote Harry Potter series.

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