History of English Literature

  • Period: 450 to 1066

    Old English

    Topics: Runic inscriptions, poetry, philosophy, religion and political position of that era.
    Old English literature, or Anglo-Saxon literature, encompasses literature written in Old English, in Anglo-Saxon England from the 7th century to the decades after the Norman Conquest of 1066. "Cædmon's Hymn", composed in the 7th century, according to Bede, is often considered as the oldest surviving poem in English.
  • 735

    Bede, The Venerable

    Bede, The Venerable
    'Ecclesiastical History of the English People' (731)
    'History of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow' (between 725 and 731)
    'De Locis Sanctis' (Probably composed before 709)
  • 1023

    Bishop Wulfstan

    Bishop Wulfstan
    'Canons of Edgar' and 'The Law of Edward and Guthrum' (before 1008)
    'Sermo lupi ad Anglos' (1014)
  • Period: 1066 to 1500

    Middle English

    There are three main categories of Middle English literature, religious, courtly love, and Arthurian.
  • 1220

    Roger Bacon

    Roger Bacon
    'Opus Majus' (1267)
  • 1343

    Geoffrey Chaucer

    Geoffrey Chaucer
    'Book of the duchess' (1369)
    'The House of Fame' (probably written between 1374 and 1385)
    'Troilus and Criseyde' (mid-1380s)
    'The Canterbury Tales' (between 1387 and 1400)
  • Period: 1500 to

    English Renaissance

    The Renaissance was a fervent period of European cultural, artistic, political and economic “rebirth” following the Middle Ages. Generally described as taking place from the 14th century to the 17th century, the Renaissance promoted the rediscovery of classical philosophy, literature and art.
  • 1552

    Edmund Spenser

    Edmund Spenser
    'The Faerie Queene' (1590)
    'Amoretti and Epithalamion' (1595)
    'Fowre Hymnes' (1596)
  • Period: 1558 to


    Elizabethan literature refers to bodies of work produced during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603), and is one of the most splendid ages of English literature. During her reign a London-centred culture, both courtly and popular, produced great poetry and drama.
  • 1564

    William Shakespeare

    William Shakespeare
    'Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies' (First Folio) (1623)
    Here we can find all the iconic works (Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, etc.) which have made William Shakespeare famous and significant along this era.
  • Period: to


    Jacobean literature, body of works written during the reign of James I of England. Jacobean poetry included the graceful verse of Jonson and the Cavalier poets but also the intellectual complexity of the Metaphysical poetry of John Donne and others.
  • Period: to


    The Caroline era refers to the period in English and Scottish history named for the 24-year reign of Charles I. The term is derived from Carolus, the Latin for Charles. Despite the friction between King and Parliament dominating society, there were developments in the arts and sciences.
  • Richard Baxter

    Richard Baxter
    'Christian Directory'
    'The Methodus Theologiae Christianae'
    'The Catholic Theology'
  • Anne Bradstreet

    Anne Bradstreet
    'Before the Birth of One of Her Children'
    'A Dialogue between Old England and New'
    'A Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment'
    'Contemplations' (poem)
  • Period: to


    Puritanism, a religious reform movement in the late 16th and 17th centuries that sought to “purify” the Church of England of remnants of the Roman Catholic “popery” that the Puritans claimed had been retained after the religious settlement reached early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
  • John Dryden

    John Dryden
    'Absalom and Achitophel' (1681)
    'Marriage à-la-Mode' (1673)
    'The Hind and the Panther' (1687)
  • Period: to

    Restoration Age

    The Restoration was an age of poetry. Not only was poetry the most popular form of literature, but it was also the most significant form of literature, as poems affected political events and immediately reflected the times. It was, to its own people, an age dominated only by the king, and not by any single genius.
  • Alexander Pope

    Alexander Pope
    'An Essay on Criticism' (1711)
    'The Rape of the Lock' (1712–14)
    'The Dunciad' (1728)
    'An Essay on Man' (1733–34)
  • Period: to

    18th Century

    European literature of the 18th century refers to literature (poetry, drama, satire, and novels) produced in Europe during this period. Subgenres of the novel during the 18th century were the epistolary novel, the sentimental novel, histories, the gothic novel and the libertine novel.
  • Period: to


    It was a literary era that featured the development of the novel, an explosion in satire, the mutation of drama from political satire into melodrama and an evolution toward poetry of personal exploration.
  • Jonathan Swift

    Jonathan Swift
    'A Tale of a Tub' (1704)
    'An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity' (1712)
    'Gulliver's Travels' (1726)
    'A Modest Proposal' (1729)
  • Daniel Defoe

    Daniel Defoe
    'Robinson Crusoe' (1719)
    'Captain Singleton' (1720)
    'A Journal of the Plague Year' (1722)
  • Period: to

    Age of sensibility

    The period in British literature between roughly 1740 and 1800 is sometimes called “the Age of Sensibility,” in recognition of the high value that many Britons came to place on explorations of feeling and emotion in literature and the other arts.
  • Period: to


    The movement was characterized by a celebration of nature and the common man, a focus on individual experience, an idealization of women, and an embrace of isolation and melancholy.
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne

    Nathaniel Hawthorne
    'Fanshawe' (published anonymously, 1828)
    'The Scarlet Letter, A Romance' (1850)
    'Twice-Told Tales' (1837)
  • Edgar Allan Poe

    Edgar Allan Poe
    'Tamerlane and Other Poems' (1827)
    'The Black Cat' (1843)
    'Lenore' (poem) (1843)
    'The Fall of the House of Usher' (1839)
  • Period: to


    While the novel was the dominant form of literature during the Victorian era, poets continued to experiment with style and methods of story-telling in their poems. Examples of this experimentation include long narrative poems (epic poems) and the dramatic monologue as seen primarily in the writing of Robert Browning.
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    Elizabeth Barrett Browning
    'The Battle of Marathon: A Poem' (1820)
    'An Essay on Mind, with Other Poems' (1826)
    'Prometheus Bound, Translated from the Greek of Aeschylus, and Miscellaneous Poems' (1833)
  • Charles Dickens

    Charles Dickens
    'The Adventures of Oliver Twist' (1837)
    'The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club' (1836)
    'A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost-story of Christmas' (1843)
  • Friedrich Nietzsche

    Friedrich Nietzsche
    'Thus Spoke Zarathustra' (1883)
    'The Case of Wagner' (1888)
    'Ecce Homo' (1888; first published in 1908)
    The Antichrist (1888)
  • Period: to

    Modern Literature

    This literary movement was driven by a conscious desire to overturn traditional modes of representation and express the new sensibilities of their time. The horrors of the First World War saw the prevailing assumptions about society reassessed, and much modernist writing engages with the technological advances and societal changes of modernity moving into the 20th century.
  • Sigmund Freud

    Sigmund Freud
    'Studies on Hysteria' (co-authored with Josef Breuer) (1895)
    'Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis' (1910)
    'An Outline of Psychoanalysis' (1940)
  • Period: to

    Post Moderns

    Postmodern literature is a form of literature that is characterized by the use of metafiction, unreliable narration, self-reflexivity, intertextuality, and which often thematizes both historical and political issues.
  • Gabriel García Márquez

    Gabriel García Márquez
    'One Hundred Years of Solitude' (1967)
    'Autumn of the Patriarch' (1975)
    'Chronicle of a Death Foretold' (1981)
    'Love in the Time of Cholera' (1985)
  • Samuel Beckett

    Samuel Beckett
    'Human Wishes' (c. 1936; published 1984)
    'Dream of Fair to Middling Women' (written 1932; published 1992)
    'Whoroscope' (1930)
  • Period: to


    Typical characteristics of the contemporary period include reality-based stories with strong characters and a believable story. Settings usually keep to the current or modern era, so futuristic and science fiction novels are rarely included in this category.
  • Margaret Atwood

    Margaret Atwood
    "Oryx and Crake" (2003)
    "The Blind Assassin" (2000)
  • Haruki Murakami

    Haruki Murakami
    "Kafka on the Shore" (2001)
    "After Dark" (2007)
    'Killing Commendatore' (2018)