Last Updated 02 Aug 2020

The Development of English Literature

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Usually, English literature is divided into seven periods from the academic angle: The first period is Early and Medieval English literature. And this period can be divided into two parts. The first part is Anglo-Saxon Period (449-1066). The main literary contribution of this period is the Epic, and its masterpiece is the national epic The Song of Beowulf. It is the oldest poem in the English language and the oldest surviving epic in Anglo-Saxon literature.

Next is the Anglo-Norman Period (1066-1350). The literature of this period is greatly influenced by the Norman Conquest.After the conquest, the customs and ideals known as chivalry was introduced by the Normans into England and can be reflected in literature, such as the knightly code, the romantic interest in women , tenderness and reverence paid to Virgin Mary etc.. The prevailing form of literature in the Feudal England was Romance (?? ,???? ). The most famous Romance was Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The second period is the English Renaissance.

The 16th century in England was a period of the breaking up of feudal relations and the establishing of the foundations of capitalism. The result is an intellectual movement(???? known as the Renaissance. The key-note of Renaissance is humanism and the greatest humanist is Thomas More, the author of Utopia. The representatives in literature are Shakespeare and Bacon. The 17th Century is the Period of Revolution and Restoration The literature of this period was greatly influenced by the bourgeoisie revolution against monarchy. The politically tempestuous period made the literature one of confusion in the Puritan Age. The greatest representatives of this period are the “Three Johns”: John Milton, John Donne, the representative of the Metaphysical School and John Bunyan, a great prose writer.

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The 18th c. is called the Age of Enlightenment, which, on the whole, was an expression of struggle of the then progressive class of bourgeoisie against feudalism . In literature, Classicism, or Neoclassicism, dominated this century. The middle of this century in England sees the inception of a new literary current– sentimentalism. At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, Pre-Romanticism emerged. Romanticism in England came into being in the latter half of the 18th century with William Blake and Robert Burns representing the spirit of what is called Pre-Romanticism.With the publication of Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge in 1798, Romanticism began to bloom in the history of English literature.

This is an age of poetry. The (Critical) Realism of the 19th century flourished in the forties and fifties. The task of the realists is criticizing capitalist society from a democratic viewpoint. In the fifties and sixties the realistic novel enters a stage of decline. The 2nd half of the 19th century in England produced a number of outstanding poets such as Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning etc.The greatest of them was Browning. The 20th Century is a period of Modernism and Post-Modernism.

The reaction against the values of Victorian society and the theme of its literature that began in the 1890’s, was manifested in the early decades of the 20th century by drastic changes in form, vocabulary and image. The movement has come to be called Modernism. The most important period for Modernism was between 1910 and 1925. After WWII , it faded into what has been termed Post-Modernism (Contemporary Literature ).

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The Development of English Literature. (2019, Feb 25). Retrieved from

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