A Brief Outline of english literature


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A Brief Outline of english literature

  1. 1. OLD ENGLISH LITERATURE Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, was written from 600 -1100. The greatest Old English poem is a long epic called Beowulf, whose author is unknown. Two Old English authors that are known by name are Caedmon, the author of a short hymn, and Cynwulf, the author of four long poems.
  2. 2. MIDDLE ENGLISH LITERATURE Middle English was used from about 1100 to about 1500.  Poetry: The most important poet of the time is Geoffrey Chaucer. His greatest work is Canterbury Tales.  Drama: The three main types of medieval drama are mystery plays, about Bible stories, miracle plays about the lives of saints and the miracles they performed, and morality plays, in which the characters personify moral qualities (such as charity or vice) or abstractions (as death or youth) and in which moral lessons are taught.
  3. 3. ELIZABETHAN LITERATURE This is literature written approximately during the time Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603).  Poetry: The most important poets include Edmund Spenser, the author of The Faerie Queene, Walter Raleigh, and William Shakespeare.  Drama: Drama is the greatest form written during the Elizabethan age. William Shakespeare is considered one of the greatest playwrights of all times. His best works include Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, Othello, and Merchant of Venice. Other important dramatists include Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson.
  4. 4. THE AGE OF MILTON The most important poet after the Elizabethan period is John Milton. Milton’s greatest work is the epic Paradise Lost. One of the best poets of this period is Robert Herrick, who is famous for his beautiful lyrics (songs).
  5. 5. RESTORATION DRAMA A great change in literature happened after Charles II became king. After a period of closing, the theatres were reopened and new forms of drama appeared. The main forms of drama of this period are the heroic plays, as written by John Dryden; and the comedy of manners, as written by Richard Sheridan and William Congreve.
  6. 6. NE0CLASSICISM The main characteristics of Neoclassicism:  Poetry should be guided by reason.  The role of the poet is that of the teacher.  Poetry should be written according to fixed rules.  Poetry should use special diction. The major representatives of this school are John Dryden and Alexander Pope.
  7. 7. ROMANTICISM The main characteristics of Romantic poetry:  Poetry is the expression of personal feelings and emotions.  Imagination is a main source of poetry.  Nature in Romantic poetry is a living thing, a teacher of man, and a healing power. Some important Romantic poets are William Wordsworth, Keats, Byron, Shelley, and Coleridge.
  8. 8. THE VICTORIAN PERIOD It includes the second half of the nineteenth century. Poetry: Alfred Tennyson and Robert Browning are the major poets of the period. The Novel: The novel was the main literary production of the Victorian period. This was the time of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy. Drama: The best dramatist of the period is Oscar Wilde. His masterpiece is The Importance of Being Earnest.
  9. 9. THE TWENTIETH CENTURY As a result of the political changes and the world wars, the sense of confidence in Victorian literature is replaced by the loss of faith, suffering, and uncertainty that modern literature expresses. Stylistic experimentation and revolution against all literary traditions are the mark of modern literature. Some major literary figures include W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot and W. H. Auden in poetry ; Virginia Wolf and James Joyce in the novel; and Samuel Becket in drama.