chronological overview of English literature

  • Period: 450 to 1066

    Old English (Anglo-Saxon Period)

    Old English Literature covers the literature in early medieval England from the 7th century to the decades after the Norman Conquest of 1066.
    The first long narrative poems in the history of English literature were Widsith and Beowulf, the latter being considered the most significant work and the first English epic poem.
    Old English literature has had some influence on modern literature, such as Tolkien adapting the theme and terminology of heroic poetry for such works as The Hobbit.
  • 680

    Cædmon’s Hymn

    Cædmon’s Hymn
    Caedmon's Hymn claims to be the oldest surviving English poem: it was composed between 658 and 680, in the early stages of the Christianization of Anglo-Saxon England; even on the basis of surviving manuscripts, the poem is the earliest example of Old English verse that can be securely dated. It is one of the oldest surviving examples of Germanic alliterative verse and is a landmark in the study of Old English literature.
    Its author, Caedmon, is the oldest known English poet.
  • 702


    The poem Beowulf, which often begins the traditional canon of English literature, is the most famous work of Old English literature. It has 3182 verses written in Old English in alliterative verse. Both the author and the date of composition of the poem are unknown.
    Its importance as an epic is comparable to that of the German Nibelungenlied, the Spanish Cantar de mi Cid, the French Roldán Song, or the Lebor Gabála Érenn (Book of the Conquests of Ireland).
  • 801


    Widsith is a 143-line Old English poem dating from the 9th century and drawing on the earliest oral traditions of Anglo-Saxon poetry. The poem is preserved in the manuscript known as the Exeter Book.
    The poem is, for the most part, a study of the people, kings, and heroes of Europe in the Heroic Age of Northern Europe, it contains the first mention of the Vikings by name. He closes with a brief comment on the importance of poems like Widsith, with many reminders of the generosity of minstrels.
  • Period: 1066 to 1500

    Middle English Period

    The Norman conquest of England in the 11th century greatly affected the development of the English language and its literature. Old English was greatly affected by the 1066 invasion and has since incorporated many more elements and words from Norman, Old French, and Latin. Literary production in the Middle Ages laid the foundation for English literature for centuries to come. The Middle English period is made up of a wide range of works, as the population of England during this time was literate
  • 1377

    Piers Plowman

    Piers Plowman
    Peter the Ploughman is a medieval English allegorical poem written by William Langland in unrhymed alliterative lines. Unlike other satirical and moral poems of the time, this text is written in the first person in order to make more alive the facts that it denounces in favor of the oppressed peasants and against the exploiters collected in the figure of the officials of the king. It is considered one of the most important works of English literature of the Middle Ages, influencing other works.
  • 1400

    Canterbury tales

    Canterbury tales
    Geoffrey Chaucer is among the most respected poets in the period from 1342 to 1400 and was known for his poetry of courtly love, including the famous "Canterbury Tales", although it remained incomplete; “The House of Fame”, and 'The Book of the Duchess'.
    The Canterbury Tales is a collection of twenty-four short stories written in English and is one of the most important works of English literature, and the best work of the Middle Ages in England.
  • 1400

    The Summoning of Everyman

    The Summoning of Everyman
    "The Summoning of Everyman" (commonly known as "Everyman") is a Christian morality play. No one knows who wrote the play. Everyman uses allegorical characters to examine the question of Christian salvation and what Man must do to attain it.
    The oldest surviving example of the script begins with this paragraph:
    "Here begins a treatise how the high Father of Heaven sends Death to summon every creature to come and give account of their lives in this world, and is in the manner of a moral play".
  • Period: 1500 to


    The effects of this period on English literature were a greater emphasis on humanism and individualism, as well as a greater willingness for writers to lampoon institutions such as church and state and to write secular rather than religious works.
    The number of readers multiplied thanks to the printing press. The growth of the middle class, the development of trade, the spread of education among the laity, and the centralization of power were elements that favored a new impulse in literature.
  • 1557

    Tottel’s Miscellany

    Tottel’s Miscellany
    Written by Henry Howard and Sir. Thomas Wyatt. Together they were the first poets to use the sonnet form in English.
    It is considered the first printed book among the different poetic works of this period. Henry Howard, also known as the Earl of Surrey, was the one who brought the use of blank verse which was later used by famous writers such as Shakespeare. His lyrical poetry, at times, becomes very elegant and saddened and tends to deal with love.
  • Romeo and Juliet

    Romeo and Juliet
    It is one of the most popular works by the English author and the one that has been performed the most times. Its composition and plot have had a profound influence on later literature. Previously, love was not usually seen as an element worthy of a tragedy.
    William Shakespeare is considered the most important writer in the English language and one of the most famous in world literature.
    Among his most popular works are Hamlet, Macbeth, Midsummer Night's Dream, Julio Cesar, King Liar, and more.
  • Period: to

    Neoclassical Period

    English Neoclassicism can be identified with the "Augustan Age" The name of Augustus is due to the parallelism established between the reign of Charles II and that of the Roman Emperor Augustus. During this period, English literature acquired a greater theoretical base, to which Dryden's works of literary criticism contributed significantly, among which An essay of dramatic poetry (1668) stands out, in which the author highlighted the features of English neoclassicism.
  • Paradise Lost

    Paradise Lost
    John Milton was an English poet and essayist, especially known for his epic poem Paradise Lost which is considered a classic of English literature and has given rise to a widespread literary topic in world literature. Poetically, Milton is one of the most important figures on the English literary scene, sometimes being placed on the same level as Shakespeare. "Of fellowship I speak
    Such as I seek, fit to participate
    All rational delight, wherein the brute
    Cannot be human consort". (8.389–392)
  • The Vanity of Human Wishes: The Tenth Satire of Juvenal Imitated

    The Vanity of Human Wishes: The Tenth Satire of Juvenal Imitated
    It's a poem by the English author Samuel Johnson.
    As the subtitle suggests, this is an imitation of Satire X by the Latin poet Juvenal. Unlike Juvenal, Johnson tries to sympathize with his poetic themes. Additionally, the poem focuses on human futility and humanity's quest for greatness like Juvenal, but concludes that Christian values are important to living properly. "There mark what Ills the Scholar's Life assail,
    Toil, Envy, Want, the Patron, and the Jail"(line 160)
  • The Castle of Otranto

    The Castle of Otranto
    The Castle of Otranto is a novel written by Horace Walpole and is considered the inaugural text of gothic horror literature. The novel fused medievalism and horror in a style that has endured ever since.
    The novel launched a literary genre that would become extremely popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, with authors such as Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis, Mary Shelley and Robert Louis Stevenson.
  • Period: to

    Romantic Period

    This period produced authors who wrote about life, love and nature. Many of these authors found the world disappointing and had a melancholic bent to their works. John Keats is possibly the most famous author of this period. William Wordsworth is also a key figure, with the remarkable poem "The World Is Too Much With Us, Late and Soon," as is his collaborator Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who wrote "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."
  • Songs of Innocence

    Songs of Innocence
    The two collections of William Blake's poems become very famous in contemporary times, even post-modern times, they are 'Songs of Innocence' and 'Songs of Experience'.
    Songs of Innocence presents childhood as an ideal moment of freedom, joy and innocence, which is violated by the experiences of the adult world.
    The Little Boy Lost
    “...The mire was deep, & the child did weep
    And away the vapour flew.”
    This poem gives an in-depth look at a terrifying situation through which a child is struggling.
  • The Romance of the Forest

    The Romance of the Forest
    The Forest Romance is a gothic novel by Ann Radcliffe that combines an air of mystery and suspense with an examination of the tension between hedonism and morality. this novel established her reputation as the first among romance writers of her day. Most critics who have paid attention to Radcliffe as a novelist have decided that she is important primarily for her use of the supernatural and for her emphasis on landscape.
  • The Monk

    The Monk
    It's a gothic novel by Matthew Gregory Lewis. It is an excellent example of the masculine goth that specializes in the horror aspect. Its convoluted and scandalous plot has made it one of the most important gothic novels of its time, often imitated and adapted for stage and screen. The monk is remembered for being one of the "most lurid and transgressive" gothic novels. It also stands out for showing a priest as a villain, which corresponds as a model for other future literary works.
  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

    The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
    The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a poem written by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It narrates the fantastic adventure of a sailor during a long journey at sea. this poem. As well as being mentioned in several other notable works, due to the popularity of the poem, the phrase "albatross around the neck" has become an English idiom referring to "a heavy load of guilt becoming a obstacle to success.
  • The world is too much with us, late and soon

    The world is too much with us, late and soon
    “The World Is Too Much With Us”, by William Wordsworth, is a fairly easy poem to understand once you realize the poem is dealing with the First Industrial Revolution. Wordsworth speaks of the materialism that has come about in this new world. It goes on to speak about how people are valuing things more than they value nature. He claims people are “out of tune” with the world and that he’d rather be a pagan and experience nature than be a Christian and experience materialism.
  • Pride and Prejudice

    Pride and Prejudice
    Today, after more than 200 years, its publication continues to be a work admired and praised not only by those who know literature but also by those readers who have immersed themselves in its paragraphs to find in them the vision of a woman who was in a society in which the woman was seen almost as a decorative and acquisition object for the highest bidder; however, for Jane Austen, each of her protagonists defies the impositions of the time. Pride and Prejudice has inspired many books.
  • Frankenstein

    Frankenstein or the modern Prometheus is a literary work by the writer Mary Shelley. Framed in the tradition of the Gothic novel, the text deals with issues such as scientific morality and the audacity of humanity in its relationship with God. Hence, the subtitle of the work: the protagonist tries to compete in power with God, as a sort of modern Prometheus who snatches the sacred fire of life from the divinity. It is also considered as the first true science fiction story.
  • Ode To a Nightingale

    Ode To a Nightingale
    Keats's lyrics are characterized by an exuberant, imaginative and melancholic language.In this poem the lyrical self rises among the trees to meet the nightingale that sings there; thus comparing the eternal and transcendental nature of ideals with the transience of the physical world: the poet, who feels himself dying, yearns for that eternity. "Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
    To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
    While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
    In such an ecstasy!"
  • Period: to

    Victorian Age

    The Victorian period is considered the link between the romanticism of the eighteenth century and the realism of the twentieth century. The novel as a genre emerged to entertain the growing middle class and represent contemporary life in a changing society. The realist Victorian novel focused on characters and themes such as the plight of the poor and the social mobility that was being afforded to a new middle class and the rising middle class was eager to consume these novels.
  • A Christmas Carol

    A Christmas Carol
    A Christmas Carol is a short novel written by the British Charles Dickens. Its plot tells the story of a greedy and selfish man named Ebenezer Scrooge and his conversion after being visited by a series of ghosts on Christmas Eve. Broadly speaking, the story can be seen as a condemnation of greed. Charles Dickens created some of the best-known fictional characters in the world and is considered by many to be the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.
  • love poems of Elizabeth and Robert Browning

    love poems of Elizabeth and Robert Browning
    The Brownings' marriage was the union of two poets, and the poetry of each is a celebration of their unbroken devotion, compatibility, and passion; and together his poems reflect the union of two great souls. “I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach... Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.”
    - Elizabeth Browning “All my soul follow you, love –
    encircles you –
    and I live in being yours"
    - Robert Browning
  • Wuthering Heights

    Wuthering Heights
    Wuthering Heights is an 1847 novel by Emily Brontë, initially published under her pseudonym Ellis Bell. The novel was influenced by romanticism and gothic fiction.
    Wuthering Heights is now considered a classic of English literature, but contemporary reviews were polarized. It was controversial for its depictions of mental and physical cruelty, including domestic abuse, and for its challenges to Victorian morality and religious and social values.
  • Idylls of the King

    Idylls of the King
    Idylls of the King, published between 1859 and 1885, is a cycle of twelve narrative poems by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892; poet laureate from 1850) that retells the legend of King Arthur, his knights, their love for Guinevere and her tragic betrayal of him, and the rise and fall of Arthur's kingdom. “I fain would follow love, if that could be;
    I needs must follow death, who calls for me;
    Call and I follow, I follow! let me die.”
    ― Alfred Tennyson, Idylls of the King
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

    Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
    It's an 1865 English novel by Lewis Carroll. It received positive reviews upon release and is now one of the best-known works of Victorian literature; its narrative, structure, characters, and imagery have had a widespread influence on popular culture and literature, especially in the fantasy genre. It is credited as helping end an era of didacticism in children's literature, inaugurating a new era in which writing for children aimed to "delight or entertain".
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

    The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
    It is a short novel written by Robert Louis Stevenson that has become a fundamental piece and focused on the concept of Western culture of the inner conflict of the human being between good and evil. It has also been regarded as "One of the best descriptions of the Victorian period for its piercing depiction of the fundamental dichotomy of the 19th century: external respectability and internal lust". And his tendency to social hypocrisy.
  • A Study in Scarlet

    A Study in Scarlet
    This is an 1887 crime novel by Arthur Conan Doyle. The story marks the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, who would go on to become the most famous detective duo in literature. By the 1990s, there were over 25,000 stage adaptations, movies, television productions, and publications starring Sherlock Holmes.
    "There is the scarlet thread of murder that runs through the colorless skein of life, and it is our duty to unravel it, isolate it, and expose every inch of it."
  • Dickinson's Poems

    Dickinson's Poems
    While Emily Dickinson was a prolific writer, her only publications during her lifetime were 10 of her nearly 1,800 poems, and one letter. Her poems were unique for her era. Many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality, two recurring topics in letters to her friends, and also explore aesthetics, society, nature, and spirituality. A solemn thing – it was – I said –
    A Woman – White – to be –
    And wear – if God should count me fit –
    Her blameless mystery Emily Dickinson, c. 1861
  • The Jungle Book

    The Jungle Book
    The Jungle Book is a collection of stories written by the Indian-born Englishman Rudyard Kipling, the first British writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1907.
    Other of his most popular works are the espionage novel Kim (1901), the short story “The Man Who Would Be King” (“The man who could be king”, 1888), originally published in the volume The Phantom Rickshaw, or the poems "Gunga Din" (1892). Several of his works have been made into movies.
  • The Time Machine

    The Time Machine
    The Time Machine is a science fiction novel by the British writer Herbert George Wells. It was the first novel by one of those considered to be the fathers of science fiction and, with its mixture of adventures and social and political doctrine, it achieved notable success. thus contributing to the stability of Wells, who from that moment was able to devote himself fully to writing. Other important works are: The Invisible Man, The First Man on the Moon, and The War of the Worlds.
  • Dracula

    Dracula is a novel by Bram Stoker, published in 1897, and is one of the most famous pieces of English literature. Many of the book's characters have entered popular culture as archetypal versions of their characters. The novel has been adapted for film more than 30 times, and its characters have made numerous appearances in virtually every medium.
  • Heart of Darkness

    Heart of Darkness
    Heart of Darkness (1899) is a novel by the Polish-English novelist Joseph Conrad. The novel is widely regarded as a critique of European colonial rule in Africa, while also examining issues of power dynamics and morality.
    Central to Conrad's work is the idea that there is little difference between "civilized people" and "savages." Heart of Darkness implicitly comments on imperialism and racism. Conrad draws parallels between London and Africa as places of darkness.
  • Period: to

    Modern Period: Early 20th century

    Modernist English literature includes the works of William Butler Yeats, Virginia Woolfe, James Joyce, and DH Lawrence, who dealt with sometimes disturbing themes of death and disillusionment and pioneered new literary forms.
  • In the Seven Woods

    In the Seven Woods
    William Butler Yeats [1865-1939] is one of Irelands most revered poets and playwrights. His work has been widely circulated and anthologised. As poetry and as song a number of his poems have been recorded and also used on radio, TV and films.
  • A Room of One's Own

    A Room of One's Own
    A Room of One's Own is a lengthy essay by Virginia Woolf, in which she uses metaphors to explore social injustices and comments on women's lack of freedom of expression. Her metaphor of a fish explains her most essential point: "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she wants to write fiction."
    Woolf is considered one of the most important novelists of the 20th century. A modernist, she was one of the pioneers in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device.
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

    The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
    It's a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie. The novel was well-received from its publication. In 2013,the British Crime Writers' Association voted it the best crime novel ever. It is one of Christie's best-known and most controversial novels,its innovative twist ending having a significant impact on the genre. Christie is perhaps the world’s most famous mystery writer and is one of the best-selling novelists of all time.Her works are reportedly outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible.
  • Brave New World

    Brave New World
    Brave New World is a dystopian novel by English author Aldous Huxley. Largely set in a futuristic World State, whose citizens are environmentally engineered into an intelligence-based social hierarchy, the novel anticipates huge scientific advancements in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation and classical conditioning that are combined to make a dystopian society which is challenged by only a single individual: the story's protagonist.
  • Animal Farm

    Animal Farm
    Animal Farm is a satirical novella by British writer George Orwell. Published in 1945, the play is a scathing fable about how Stalin's Soviet regime corrupts socialism. In the fiction of the novel, a group of animals from a farm expels the human tyrants and creates a system of their own government that ends up becoming another brutal tyranny.
    Another of Orwell's most recognized works in 1984, is Orwell's prophetic vision of a totalitarian society supposedly located in the near future.
  • Period: to


    Postmodernism is a reaction against modernist premises. It is characterized by the idea of experimentation and the rejection of conventional literary forms. Postmodernists did not believe in the existence of a higher art form, or that some works of art are more valuable than others. So the idea of creating something aesthetically perfect did not make sense, for this reason, the authors create texts with an irreverent and random style.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia

    The Chronicles of Narnia
    The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven fantasy novels by British author C. S. Lewis. The Chronicles of Narnia is considered a classic of children's literature and is Lewis's best-selling work.
  • Lord of the Flies

    Lord of the Flies
    This is the first and most famous novel by William Golding. (1954), is considered a classic of post-war English literature. It had hardly any circulation in the year of its publication, maintaining a low volume of sales. Years later, it achieved great fame in England and is considered essential. Lord of the Flies presents a vision of humanity unimaginable before the horrors of Nazi Europe and then dives into speculation about humanity in the state of nature.
  • The Lord of the Rings

    The Lord of the Rings
    The Lord of the Rings is an epic fantasy novel written by the British philologist and writer J. R. R. Tolkien. J. R. R. Tolkien planned The Lord of the Rings as a sequel to his earlier novel The Hobbit, but it ended up becoming a much more far-reaching and lengthy story which was first published in the UK. between 1954 and 1955 in three volumes. Since then it has been reprinted numerous times and translated into many languages, becoming one of the most popular works of 20th century literature.
  • Look Back in Anger

    Look Back in Anger
    It's a realist play written by John Osborne. This work expresses a deep dissatisfaction with the British status quo and indignation at the tendency of British society to ignore the problems of its most needy citizens. Look Back in Anger is considered one of the first examples of kitchen sink drama in theatre. The play was received favorably in the theatre community, becoming an enormous commercial success, transferring to the West End and Broadway, and even touring Moscow.
  • The Hawk in the Rain

    The Hawk in the Rain
    It's a collection of 40 poems by the poet Ted Hughes. The book received immediate acclaim in both England and America, where it won the Galbraith Prize. Many of the book's poems imagine the real and symbolic lives of animals. Other poems focus on erotic relationships, and on stories of the First World War. "Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
    A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
    Two eyes serve a movement, that now
    And again now, and now, and now"
    -The last four stanzas of "The Thought Fox"
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a 1964 children's novel by British author Roald Dahl. The story features the adventures of young Charlie Bucket inside the chocolate factory of eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka. The story was originally inspired by Roald Dahl's experience of chocolate companies during his schooldays at Repton School in Derbyshire. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is frequently ranked among the most popular works in children's literature.
  • Cloud Nine

    Cloud Nine
    Cloud Nine is one of Caryl Churchill's most renowned works.
    The play uses controversial portrayals of sexuality and obscene language and establishes a parallel between colonial and sexual oppression. Its humor depends on incongruity and the carnivalesque and helps to convey Churchill's political message about accepting people who are different and not dominating them or forcing them into particular social roles.
  • Period: to

    Contemporary period

    In this period, technological advances and social, cultural and political changes were constant. His works are born as a response to new living conditions, the need for communication, population growth and economic crises. The writers express themselves through a literature that recreates the character of fiction, fantasy or mystery, based on real life. On the other hand, technological and industrial innovations encourage large-scale publications of works.
  • The Pillars of the Earth

    The Pillars of the Earth
    The Pillars of the Earth is a historical novel by British author Ken Follett, set in England in the Middle Ages, specifically in the twelfth century, during a period of civil war known as English anarchy, between the sinking of the White Ship and the assassination of Archbishop Thomas Becket.
  • Trainspotting

    Trainspotting is the first novel by Scottish writer Irvine Welsh. It takes the form of a collection of short stories, written in either Scots, Scottish English or British English, revolving around various residents of Leith, Edinburgh who either use heroin, are friends of the core group of heroin users, or engage in destructive activities that are effectively addictions. The novel has been described by The Sunday Times as "the voice of punk, grown up, grown wiser and grown eloquent".
  • Harry Potter

    Harry Potter
    Harry Potter is a series of seven fantasy novels written by British author J. K. Rowling. Since the release of the first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone the books have found immense popularity, positive reviews, and commercial success worldwide. They have attracted a wide adult audience as well as younger readers and are often considered cornerstones of modern young adult literature. According to Rowling, the main theme is death, also prejudice, corruption and madness.
  • Atonement

    Atonement is a 2001 British metafictional novel written by Ian McEwan. Set in three time periods, 1935 England, Second World War England and France, and present-day England, it covers an upper-class girl's half-innocent mistake that ruins lives, her adulthood in the shadow of that mistake, and a reflection on the nature of writing.
    Widely regarded as one of McEwan's best works, it was shortlisted for the 2001 Booker Prize for fiction.
  • What Night Brings

     What Night Brings
    Carla Trujillo’s novel What Night Brings is written in a first-person limited point of view. The reader is only privy to Marci’s thoughts and experiences. The scope of the novel is mostly limited to Marci’s home, her extended family, and locations in California. Occurring sometime in the 1960s, the Vietnam War is the main point of historical context in the novel, serving as a mirror to the violence and hopelessness Marci experiences.
  • The Underground Railroad

    The Underground Railroad
    The Underground Railroad is a historical fiction novel by American author Colson Whitehead. The alternate history novel tells the story of Cora, a slave in the antebellum South during the 19th century, who makes a bid for freedom from her Georgia plantation by following the Underground Railroad, which the novel depicts as a rail transport system with safe houses and secret routes.The book was a critical and commercial success, hitting the bestseller lists and winning several literary awards,