A Survey of the Background and Development of English Literature from the Earliest Time to Eighteen Century Contents 1. What is Literature? 2. Why the Knowledge of English Literature’s history is important 3. Distinct phases from Earliest to Modern Age 4. Brief survey of ages before Eighteen Century • Anglo-Saxon period • The Medieval period • The Renaissance period • The Puritan period • The Restoration period 5. A panorama of Eighteen century • General view of eighteen century • Social aspects • Religious aspects • Characteristics of eighteen century • Literary Critics of the age • Chronology of the writers of the age
What is Literature? The production of written works, having excellence of form or expression and dealing with ideas of permanent interest is called literature. Literature is one of the Fine Arts like, • Music • Dance • Painting • Sculpture. As it is meant to give aesthetic pleasure rather than serve any utilitarian purpose. It consists of great writings which, what ever their subjects are , notable for literary form or expression. Life, Society and Nature are the subject matters of literature. There is an intimate connection between literature and life, which provides the raw material on which literature imposes an artistic form.
Why the Knowledge of English Literature’s history is important? English literature is one of the richest literatures of the world, the literature of a great nation which has vitality, rich verity and continuity. As literature is the reflection of society, the various changes which have come about in English society, from the earliest to the modern times, have left their stamp on English literature thus in order to appreciate the true sense and taste of literature the knowledge of various phases of English literature, English society and political history of the land is essential.
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When we study the history of English literature from the earliest to modern times, we find that it has passed through certain definite phases, each having marked characteristics. These phases may be termed as “Ages” or “Periods” and divided into different section according to their characteristics. There are five ways to identify the different eras of English Literature. Distinct phases from Earliest to Modern Age: 1. Phases which are named after the Central Literary figures. • Chaucer • Shakespeare • Milton • Dryden • Pope • Johnson • Wordsworth • Tennyson • Hardy : Periods named after the Rulers of the time. • Elizabethan Age • The Jacobean period • The Age of Queen Anne • The Victorian Age • The Georgian Period 3: simple partitions named after literary movements • Classical Age • Romantic Age 4: While other after certain important historical eras as, • Anglo-Saxon period • The Medieval period • The Renaissance period • The Puritan period • The Restoration period 5: Named by the p of Time • The Seventeen Century Literature • Eighteen Century Literature • Nineteenth Century Literature • Twentieth Century Literature
Brief survey of ages before Eighteen Century: The Old English Period or the Anglo-Saxon Period refers to the literature produced from the invasion of Celtic England by Germanic tribes in the first half of the fifth century to the conquest of England in 1066 by William the Conqueror. During the Old English Period, written literature began to develop from oral tradition, and in the eighth century poetry written in the vernacular Anglo-Saxon (also known as Old English) appeared. One of the most well-known eighth century Old English pieces of literature is Beowulf, a great Germanic epic poem.
Two poets of the Old English Period who wrote on biblical and religious themes was Caedmon and Cynewulf. The Middle English Period consists of the literature produced in the four and a half centuries between the Norman Conquest of 1066 and about 1500, when the standard literary language, derived from the dialect of the London area, became recognizable as "modern English. " Prior to the second half of the fourteenth century, vernacular literature consisted primarily of religious writings. The second half of the fourteenth century produced the first great age of secular literature.
The most widely known of these writings are Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, the anonymous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur. While the English Renaissance began with the ascent of the House of Tudor to the English throne in 1485, the English Literary Renaissance began with English humanists such as Sir Thomas More and Sir Thomas Wyatt. In addition, the English Literary Renaissance consists of four subsets: The Elizabethan Age, the Jacobean Age, the Caroline Age, and the Commonwealth Period (which is also known as the Puritan Interregnum).
The Elizabethan Age of English Literature coincides with the reign of Elizabeth I, 1558 - 1603. During this time, medieval tradition was blended with Renaissance optimism. Lyric poetry, prose, and drama were the major styles of literature that flowered during the Elizabethan Age. Some important writers of the Elizabethan Age include William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Ben Jonson. The Jacobean Age of English Literature coincides with the reign of James I, 1603 - 1625.
During this time the literature became sophisticated, somber, and conscious of social abuse and rivalry. The Jacobean Age produced rich prose and drama as well as the King James translation of the Bible. Shakespeare and Jonson wrote during the Jacobean Age, as well as John Donne, Francis Bacon, and Thomas Middleton. The Caroline Age of English Literature coincides with the reign of Charles I, 1625 - 1649. The writers of this age wrote with refinement and elegance. This era produced a circle of poets known as the "Cavalier Poets" and the dramatists of this age were the last to write in the Elizabethan tradition.
The Commonwealth Period, also known as the Puritan Interregnum, of English Literature includes the literature produced during the time of Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell. This period produced the political writings of John Milton, Thomas Hobbes' political treatise Leviathan, and the prose of Andrew Marvell. In September of 1642, the Puritans closed theatres on moral and religious grounds. For the next eighteen years the theatres remained closed, accounting for the lack of drama produced during this time period.
The Neoclassical Period of English literature (1660 - 1785) was much influenced by contemporary French literature, which was in the midst of its greatest age. The literature of this time is known for its use of philosophy, reason, skepticism, wit, and refinement. The Neoclassical Period also marks the first great age of English literary criticism. Much like the English Literary Renaissance, the Neoclassical Period can be divided into three subsets: the Restoration, the Augustan Age, and the Age of Sensibility.
The Restoration, 1660 - 1700, is marked by the restoration of the monarchy and the triumph of reason and tolerance over religious and political passion. The Restoration produced an abundance of prose and poetry and the distinctive comedy of manners known as Restoration comedy. It was during the Restoration that John Milton published Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. Other major writers of the era include John Dryden, John Wilmot 2nd Earl of Rochester, and John Locke. The English Augustan Age derives its name from the brilliant literary period of Virgil and Ovid under the Roman emperor Augustus (27 B. C. - A.
D. 14). In English literature, the Augustan Age, 1700 - 1745, refers to literature with the predominant characteristics of refinement, clarity, elegance, and balance of judgment. Well-known writers of the Augustan Age include Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, and Daniel Defoe. A significant contribution of this time period included the release of the first English novels by Defoe, and the "novel of character," Pamela, by Samuel Richardson in 1740. During the Age of Sensibility, literature reflected the worldview of Enlightenment and began to emphasize instinct and feeling, rather than judgment and restraint.
A growing sympathy for the Middle Ages during the Age of Sensibility sparked an interest in medieval ballads and folk literature. Another name for this period is the Age of Johnson because the dominant authors of this period were Samuel Johnson and his literary and intellectual circle. This period also produced some of the greatest early novels of the English language, including Richardson's Clarissa (1748) and Henry Fielding's Tom Jones (1749). General view of eighteen century:
In history English literature the period of over one hundred years from (1660-1789) is variously termed as Augustan Age, Pseudo-classical age or Neo-Classical; Age, and age of Queen Anne. Matthew Arnold as Age of Prose and Reason it is also knows as age of Good Sense, age of Good Taste and age of Right Reason. The term Augustan was chosen by the writers of eighteenth century themselves, who saw in Pope, Addison, Swift, Johnson, Burke, the modern parallels to Horace, Virgil, Cicero and other brilliant writers who made roman literature famous during the reign of Emperor Augustus.
Eighteen century is called new Classical age on the account of three reasons: a) The writers of eighteen century tried to follow the noble and simple methods of great ancients like Homer and Virgil that’s why they were called Neoclassicist. b) During eighteen century there was an abundance of literary productions there for critics termed as neoclassical age. c) During this period English rebelled against the exaggerated and fantastic style of writing prevalent during the Elizabethan and Puritan ages and they demanded that Poetry, Drama and Prose should follow exact rules. n this they were influenced by French writers specially Boileau and Rapin. Therefore this period is known as neoclassical age. In eighteen century there was a completion of the reaction against Elizabethan romanticism. This reaction had started in seventeen century with Denham, Waller and Drden. Eighteen Century is the age of social, political, religious and literary controversies. Critical; spirit was aboard and men stop taking things for granted. Great stress was on reason and intellect sin. Notice the difference in age between Franklin and Edwards. 706 for Franklin and 1703 for Edwards. They are only three years apart, but they live in different eras. It was a choice that they made. You can be like Jonathan Edwards even now, and some people are. Ben Franklin is part of new movement, one that arises in Europe then moves out from there. This is called the Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason or the Neo-Classical Era. - This period goes by the names "the Enlightenment," "the Age of Reason," and "the Neo-Classical Age. " - There was a great turning away from religion as primary way of life. People had been caught up in religious schism and sometimes outright warfare from 1534, the year Henry VIII split away from the Catholic church, until the Glorious Revolution of 1589. England now turned its attention to politics and scientific/logical analysis & reason. - Belief had been based on authority; restoration brought the scientific method. - Scientific method - beliefs should be proven through repeated experiments. Until now, one was to trust the pronouncements of some authority. In religion, you accepted the dictates of the church; in science, you would turn to a recognized authority like Aristotle, Ptolemy, etc.
Your own experience could mislead you. Chaucer's Wife of Bath trusted experience over authority, but she was wrong to do so. In this era, she would be right. • Copernicus & Galileo trusted their own experience, their observations of the stars, over the authority of Ptolemy. They concluded that the world circled the sun rather than the other way around. • Newton discovered the laws of gravity, motion, & created a new branch of mathematics - calculus. A valid experiment would be repeatable. Thus others who turned telescopes toward the skies should observe the same things Copernicus & Galileo did. people wanted proof; did not want to accept an idea as true just because some person of authority said. The big name for the Enlightenment is Sir Isaac Newton. He discovered gravity; this is the calculus branch of mathematics. Newton was a great thinker. He discovered the idea of gravity that bodies attract to one another based on their mass. He discovered a principle, why things fall to the earth. For Edwards, you fell to the earth because of God. Now we have another explanation, a natural explanation, it is the pull of gravity.
In the religion of these people, once you discover the way that the planets move around the sun and the reason of this is gravity, then you eliminate the need for supernatural intervention. In the Ptolemaic system understood by the medieval Christian, angels were responsible for that making the sun, the moon, and the stars go around. Could an angel be up on the moon pushing it? Is there any way to disprove it? It could be possible, we cannot disprove it. Do we really think there are angels? No, because gravity was a sufficient explanation. We do not need the angels anymore; we have gravity now.
They could be there but they aren’t necessary. In the idea of cutting away that which is unnecessary, moving from that which is complex to that which is simple in science is not as Occam’s razor. Occam was an English priest and a scientist. Occam’s razor is the idea that you cut away any unneeded part of your hypothesis. The thrust of Enlightenment was to search for natural explanations for things in the scientific method. The idea of supernatural becomes something of a scandal, something of a great difficulty; why would God need to intervene?
If Mars was doing loops out there, then God would need to do so, but He made a more simple and elegant system which operates on its own. The universe is like a giant clock and God is the master clock maker. In this period, they loved to make clocks. Clocks were emblematic of the universe. You could tell time by the way the planets move around the sun. They’re only in this position every so many years. Based on that, if you’ve been out time traveling and you come flying into the Solar System, you can take a snapshot of where the planets are and figure out when it is.
It moves like a giant clock and they were discovering this. These aren’t random or odd motions up in the sky, they are very regular. So God created a world that operates according to laws, natural law. This means that He does not need to intervene. They had their own sort of religious expression. They were called the Deists. Deism is sort of a natural religion. That is it’s based on observation of what we can see. Another element of this Enlightenment is the idea that we should be able to see the evidence for ourselves and judge it for ourselves. A movement away from authority.
Before, if you wanted to prove a scientific theory, you would consult Hypocrites and Aristotle. You would put together your quotations, and it’s proven because you quoted the proper authorities. In religious matters, you quote the Bible, and the Bishops, and the theologians, the proper authorities. Now they say move toward your own individual ability. We see that somewhat also in the early stages of the Puritan movement, but this is expressed very differently. If I turn down a light switch, it will turn the light off. If you turn the switch, will it do the same thing?
If it is scientifically valid, it is universal; anybody can turn the light off. The one thing an experiment has to be is repeatable. The idea of special revelation goes away. We now have the appeal to general revelation. The goal is to have a religion based on stuff that is accessible to all of us. You don’t have to be in a certain place at a certain time; anybody anywhere can repeat this experiment. Social aspects: There was a rise of a trading community in the early eighteen century England. Most of the traders were Whigs and most of the landed gentry and nobility were Tories.
The clash between these two parties was not only political but social two. Eighteen century is known in the social history of England for the rise of the middle classes with the unprecedented rise in trade and comers the English were becoming increasingly wealthy and many hither to poor people were finding theme selves in the rank of respectable burgesses. These nouveaux riches were desirous of giving themselves and aristocratic touch by appearing to be learned and sophisticated like there traditional social superiors- the landed gentry and nobility.
This class of readers had hitherto been neglected by high brow writers. the literary works previous to the eighteen century were almost in variably meant to be the reading of the higher strata of society. Only popular literature such as Ballad, catered for the lower rungs. The up and coming middle classes of the eighteen century demanded some new kind of literature which should be in conformity with there temper and be designed as well to voice there aspirations as to cater for there taste. England was than becoming a country of small and big traders and shop keepers.
Some new type of literature of literature was demanded and this new type must expressed the new idle of the eighteen century, the value and the importance of the individuals life to tell men, not about knights to kings but about themselves, about their own thoughts and motives and struggles and the results of action upon their own characters. Religious aspects: The fact that religion is not only concerned with spirituality and morality but also with physical and psychological health is reflected in the teaching of most religious traditions in the world.
Eighteen century was the age of the speared of natural religion or Deism. Deists believed in the existence of God but disbelieved in any revealed religion, not excepting Christianity. Even in religion, reason and nature ruled the roost. People were also talking about” natural morality” the doctrine of the reason loving deists were repudiated by arthropods ethnologists. Characteristics of eighteen century: 1. Reason and rationality 2. Realism and precision 3. Rise of periodical press 4. Rapid development of prose 5. Prosaic poetry 6. Augustan themes 7. Development of satire 8.
Evolution of novel 9. Deficient in drama Reason and rationality: Pope and his followers gave much importance to reason in their modes of thinking and expressing. In the eighteen century reason was exalted. The main characteristic of neoclassical age is a general searching after rationality. This search which started in the age of Dryden culminated in the age of Pope. This reign of reason and common sense continued in to the middle of the century when the new ides and voices appeared and the precursors of the English romantics of the nineteenth century appeared on the scene.
Al the important writers of the neoclassical age Swift, Pope and Dr. Johnson glorified reason. Realism and precision: The two main characteristics of the restoration period-Realism and precision were carried to further perfection during eighteen century. They are found in their excellent form in the poetry of Pope who perfected the heroic couplet and in the prose of Addison who developed it into a clear, precise and elegant form of expression. Rise of Periodical press: With the rise of the periodical press in the begging of the eighteen century, the essay took a long stride forward.
Addison and Steele wrote social essays, their aim was social reform and to censor the manners and morals of the age, more particularly the frivolities of the female sex. Rapid development of prose: As eighteen century was the age of social, political and literary controversies in which the prominent writers took an active part and the large number of pamphlets, journals and magazines were brought out in order to cater to the growing need of the masters, who had began to read and take interest in these controversial matters.
Poetry was considered inadequate for such a task and hence there was a rapid development of prose. Prosaic poetry: Infect poetry also had become prosaic because it was no longer used for lofty and sublime purposes but like prose its subject matter had become criticism , satire, controversy and it was also written in the form of essay which was the common literary form. The chief glory of the age was therefore not poetry but prose. It was the age of satiric and argumentative and reflective poetry. Hardly any lyric or sonnet worth mentioning belongs to the period.
There is a growth of artificial poetic diction, and the language of poetry is cut off from the language of everyday use. Artificial themes: The Augustan literature was mainly intellectual and rational, deficient in emotion and imagination. It dealt exclusively with the artificial life of the upper classes of the city of London and its form and diction was as artificial as its theme. It had no feeling for nature and no feeling for those who lived out side the narrow confines of fashion able London society. Development of satire:
Satire developed as a form of literature during this age. Mostly prose writers wrote satires on the contemporary issues. The aim was the social reformation and to criticize the attitudes and behaviors of the age. The Whigs and the Torries members of the two important political parties which were constantly contending to control the government of the country- used and rewarded the writers for satirizing their enemies and undermining their reputation. Evolution of novel: New literary form novel was developed.
Realism of the age and development of the excellent prose style helped in the evolution of the novel. Between the period (1740 and 1800) novels of all kinds were written. Four main novelists of the eighteen centuries are Richardson, Smollett, Sterne and Fielding. Deficient in drama: Eighteen century was deficient in drama because the old puritanic against the theater continued and the court also withdrew its patronage. Gold Simith and Sheridan were the only writers who produced plays having literary merit. Literary Critics of the age:
According to Oxford new English dictionary criticism is defined as” the art of estimating the qualities and character of literary or artistic work”. It also quotes Dryden’s definition of criticism as “a stander of judging well”. "Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see, Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be. " (From An Essay on Criticism) Three major critics of the neoclassical age are Dryden, Pope, and Johnson. Dryden as a critic: As a student of the principles of criticism, Dryden broke entirely new grounds.
He penetrated more deeply then any critic had yet done into the problem of the character of poetry, and the function and meaning of a conscious work of art. In his work we have not only criticism, but criticism becoming conscious of itself, analyzing its objects with sympathy and understanding, and knowing its purpose. He always had an open mid on all literary problems and refused to be influences by the pronouncements of the French critics like Boileau, who were bent on curtailing the freedom of literary composition as well as judgment.
He found no harm in the mixture of tragedy and comedy which some English dramatists had attempted, nor did he blame the “variety and copiousness” of the English plays, simply because they did not conform to the French ideal of singleness of plot. Even to Aristotle he refused to render servile obedience. Though living in the age when Aristotle’s theories were widely admired, he had the courage to declare” “it is not enough that Aristotle had said so, for Aristotle drew his models of tragedy from Sophocles and Euripides; and, if he had seen ours, might have changed his mind. Dryden was the first critic to introduce the nation that literature is an organic force which develops with the development of a nation. It is not a static but dynamic force which expresses the impulse of each new age in a manner suited to its growth, and changes according to the change in the disposition of the people. The critic, therefore, should study the literature of an age in the context of its environment, and not follow blindly the rules laid down by the ancient critics like Aristotle.
This, no doubt, was a revolutionary development in the field of criticism which in the seventeenth century was dominated by the classical school of critics. Though Dryden expressed his critical opinions in the prefaces to his own literary productions, in critical studies of great writers, as well as in some critical essays as Apology for Heroic Poetry, yet his greatest critical work in his famous. An essay of Dramatic Poesy (1668). It is the most ambitiously constructed critical document of his career and the most important for general literary theory.
In his famous Essay,(on Dramatic poesy) Dryden has discussed a number of literary problems, but his main contribution to literary criticism is his further exploration of the principles of imitation and instruction. For Plato the poet’s world being a second-hand imitation of reality was worthless; for Aristotle the poet could achieve a reality more profound than we meet in ordinary experience, by the proper selection and organization of incident; for Sidney, the poet created a world better than the real world, and thereby exerted an ennobling influence on his readers.
None of these critics suggested that there is still another way in which a poet can deal with life, and that is to present it as it is. It was Dryden who made this obvious statement that a play or literature in general is “a just” or thoughtful image of human life. “a just and lively image of human nature, representing the passions and humors, and the changes of fortune to which it is subject, for the delight and instruction of making”. His achievement as a critic is, no doubt, considerable; and despite his lack of system, his inconsistencies and digressions, he has something substantial to offer to his own and later ages.
He make an effective us of the psychological, comparative and historical methods in forming literary judgments. He was the first to point out the facts that time was the final test of literary values, and also to illustrate this doctrine by revealing fresh “beauties” as three of the greatest English poets – Chaucer, Spenser and Shakespeare. Though the was influenced by the critical doctrines of the ancients, yet he assimilated only those influences which found a response in his own nature and temperament.
The secret of Dryden’s greatness as a critic lay in his native sensibility which made him keenly aware of artistic values, and helped him arrive at a dispassionate psychological analysis of those values. His judgment of Shakespeare and Chaucer was based on his own instructive reaction submitted to the test of Nature or reason, rather then on formal rules. It resulted from an imaginative sympathy and not merely from intellect. His criticism of literature was synthetic rather than analytical, and therefore he could view the effects observed with a critical insight which was akin to the creative vision.
It helped him penetrate to the heart of things and find meaning and coherence in the multiplicity of those effects. Pope as a Critic: Pope’s major work was a series of four "Moral Essays" and a work which had nothing to do with satire, the Essay on Man. this last work deals mainly with the place of humankind with respect to the Creator, to his place in Creation, and his happiness. Some of the sentiments (notably those at the beginning of Epistle II) have justly become axiomatic: The Essay on Man was to have formed part of a series of philosophic poems on a systematic plan.
The other pieces were to treat of human reason, of the use of learning, wit, education and riches, of civil and ecclesiastical polity, of the character of women Popes next publication was the Essay on Criticism, written two years earlier, and printed without the author’s name. In every work regard the writers end is one of its sensible precepts, and one that is often neglected by critics of the essay, who comment upon it as if Popes end had been to produce an original and profound treatise on first principles.
His Essay on Criticism established Pope as a significant poetic voice. It also prompted the first of many printed, personal attacks. John Dennis, a prominent critic whom Pope ridiculed in the Essay, aimed his venomous response at Pope’s ailing body, his character, and his religious faith. Joseph Addison, on the other hand, praised Pope for both insight and execution, and Samuel Johnson later hailed the poem for exhibiting “every mode of excellence that can embellish or dignify didactic composition” (Life of Pope).
Windsor-Forest, The Rape of the Lock, and The Temple of Fame followed and confirmed Pope’s place among celebrated poets, a place marked again by the publication of The Works of Mr. Alexander Pope. Pope was only 29. The poetic essay was a relatively new genre, and the "Essay" itself was Pope's most ambitious work to that time. It was in part an attempt on Pope's part to identify and refine his own positions as poet and critic, and his response to an ongoing critical debate which centered on the question of whether poetry should be "natural" or written according to predetermined "artificial" rules inherited from the classical past.
His aim was simply to condense, methodize, and give as perfect and novel expression as he could to floating opinions about the poet’s aims and methods, and the critics duties, to what oft was thought, but near so well expressed . The town was interested in belle’s letters, and given to conversing on the subject; Popes essay was simply a brilliant contribution to the fashionable conversation Dr. Samuel Johnson: Samuel was such a dominant literary figure in the second half of the eighteenth century that the period has sometimes been called the Age of Johnson, lived most of his adult life in London.
Until the crown granted him a pension in 1763, he had to support himself by his literary activity, including major projects such as the Dictionary of the English Language (1755) and his edition of the plays of Shakespeare (1765), as well as periodical essay series such as the Rambler (1750-52) and the Idler (1758-60), other separate publications such as the poem The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749) and the tale Rasselas (1759), and miscellaneous writing, mainly for a variety of periodicals. His last major literary project was the series Lives of the Poets (1779-81). whose still living writings are always ignored, a great honest man who will remain forever a figure of half fun because of the leechlike adoration of the greatest and most ridiculous of all biographers. For it is impossible not to believe that, without Boswell, Johnson for us today would shine like a sun in the heavens whilst Addison sat forgotten in coffee houses. " (from The March of Literature, 1938) - Although best remembered as the compiler of the first comprehensive English dictionary, Dr. Johnson was more than a scholar.
Born at Lichfield and educated at Lichfield Grammar School and Pembroke College, Oxford, he moved to London in 1737 with his wife, Tetty, who was twenty years his senior, and began to earn a living as a journalist and critic, whilst working on plays, poetry and biographies. Johnson began A Dictionary of the English Language in 1747, but did not complete it until 1755. It made his name, but not his fortune. Another of his major works, the satire Rasselas (1759), was written specifically to raise money to pay for his mother's funeral.
Johnson was at the centre of a literary circle which included such figures as Oliver Goldsmith, Edmund Burke and David Garrick. . Essays on his main works are complemented by thematic discussion of his views on the experience of women in the eighteenth century, politics, imperialism, religion, and travel as well as by chapters covering his life, conversation, letters, and critical reception. Useful reference features include a chronology and guide to further reading.
The keynote to the volume is the seamlessness of Johnson’s life and writing, and the extraordinary humane intelligence he brought to all his activities. Accessibly written by a distinguished group of international scholars, this volume supplies a stimulating range of approaches, making Johnson newly relevant for our time. Despite the consistency of his critical principles, Johnson's criticism is also very sensitive to the special circumstances of its origin. He unashamedly wrote to earn money.
The form in which he wrote were those demanded by the occasion, and what he wrote was adapted to what was appropriate for that form. Johnson was willing to recalculate work already on hand, and sometimes this work may seem out of place in its new setting; but when composing he was keenly sensitive to what was appropriate to his present occasion. A reader approaching Johnson's criticism needs to cultivate an understanding of the demands set by each kind of piece that he wrote--prefaces, dedications, lives, notes, reviews, and separate essays.
The reader also needs, if possible, to develop some sense of the context of literary discussion Johnson is joining, for although the particular topics he treats may be largely determined by this context, he is often much less explicit than a modern scholar would be about providing references to orient his reader in the controversy. His Shakespeare criticism provides a good example of most of these observations.
While we are liable to find anywhere in it those gnomic statements that grow out of a full knowledge of literature and life, without a proper sense of the whole piece in which they occur we will not have a true idea of the weight Johnson intended them to have. Chronology of the writers of the age: Following is the list of the prominent writers of the age and their major works. 1. Daniel Defoe(1660-1731) for Robinson Crusoe 2. John Arbuthnot(1667-1735) for History of John Bull 1712 3. Jonathan Swift(1667-1745) for Gulliver’s Travels , A Tale of Tub . Addison(1672-1719) for the Spectator 5. Steele(1672-1729) for The Tatler 6. Alexander Pope(1688-1744) for Dunciad, Rape of The Lock 7. Dr. Johnson(1709-1784) for Preface to Shakespeare, Lives of the Poets 8. Oliver Gold Smith(1730-1774) for The Citizen of The World 9. Charles Churchill(1731-1864) 10. Edmund Burke(1729-1797) Main Novelist of Eighteenth Century: 1. Richardson(1689-1761) for Pamela 2. Fielding(1707-54) for Joseph Andrews 3. Smollett(1721-71) for Roderick Random 4. Sterne(1713_68) for Tristram Shandy
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Background and Development of English Literature. (2017, Feb 18). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/a-survey-of-the-background-and-development-of-english-literature-from-the-earliest-time-to-eighteen-century/