History of English Literature

  • Period: 450 to 1066

    Old English

    The Anglo-Saxons were made up of three tribes who came to England through the North Sea route – the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. The Anglo-Saxon age comprises about 600 years.
  • 800

    Germanic literature

    Germanic literature
    Beowulf is one of the most important works of that age. It is an epic poem which throws light on a young warrior in Geatland who fought for his people.
  • Period: 1066 to 1500

    Middle English

    He is known as the father-figure in English literature. In the 13th century, the English literature prospered at a distinguished rate. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, The House of Fame, among others. During those years, the inflectional system of Old English was weakened and a large number of words were introduced of France.
  • 1380

    Geoffrey Chaucer

    Geoffrey Chaucer
    The House of Fame is over 2,005 lines long in three books and takes the form of a dream vision composed in octosyllabic couplets. Upon falling asleep the poet finds himself in a glass temple adorned with images of the famous and their deeds. With an eagle as a guide, he meditates on the nature of fame and the trustworthiness of recorded renown.
  • Period: 1500 to

    English Renaissance

    The word Renaissance implies the rebirth of culture and learning. Renaissance was initially started in Italy in the late 14th century. There was introduced the printing press, it made it possible for the writers to produce written works. Shakespeare coined a lot of words by his own and had his famous plays as Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Merchant of Venice, etc. Other writers who gained popularity due to their writings like, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson.
  • Period: 1558 to

    Elizabethan Era

    This era was the period of new ideas and new thinking. Various other works like fine arts endured support and assistance from the Queen. Due to the Queen’s support and patron, the works of that time came to be known as ‘Elizabethan’. The poetries and dramas were prospered more, in particular and there were three types of Sonnet – Shakespearean Sonnet, Petrarchan Sonnet, and Spenserian Sonnet.
  • William Shakespeare

    William Shakespeare
    Hamlet: Set in Denmark, the play depicts Prince Hamlet and his revenge against his uncle, Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet's father in order to seize his throne and marry Hamlet's mother.
  • Period: to

    Jacobian Era

    The two primary contribution of this age in English literature is the Revenge play and Metaphysical poetry. Revenge play: signifies the plays where the victim is avenged Metaphysical poetry: This type of poetry is witty and ingenious. They are also highly philosophical. Some of the topics on which metaphysical poems are written are love, existence, life, etc. Two of his most popular poems are The Sun Rising and The Canonization. (short sonnets and love poems).
  • John Donne

    John Donne
    England's leading Metaphysical poet who was appointed the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in London. He also served as a member of Parliament in 1601 and in 1614.
  • Period: to

    Caroline Era

    During that time, a civil war was fought between the supporters of the king (Cavaliers) and the supporters of the parliament (Roundheads). Some of the prominent writers of that era are George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, Katherine Philips, John Donne, etc.
  • Period: to

    Puritan

    The age is named ‘Puritan Age’ because of the Puritan dominance in England for the first time. Furthermore, the greatest literary figures of that time were Puritans. One remarkable figure was John Milton.
  • George Herbert

    George Herbert
    The Temple is published posthumously
  • John Milton

    John Milton
    written for inclusion in a volume of elegies published in 1638 to commemorate the death of Edward King, Milton's contemporary at the University of Cambridge who had drowned in a shipwreck in August 1637.
  • Period: to

    Restoration

    Charles II was restored to the throne. There was a complete rejection of ideas. People had a different way of living as compared to the other ages. A lot of changes took place during that period. Monarchy was restored in England. Charles II, brother of Charles I who was defeated and beheaded returned to England from France. He became the king there.
  • John Dryden

    John Dryden
    Absalom and Achitophel, The poem tells the Biblical tale of the rebellion of Absalom against King David; in this context, talks about the religious and political conflict. The religious quarrel between the Protestants and the Catholics are also portrayed in his book.
  • Period: to

    Augustan Literature

    This age is also known as classical age. The first half of the 18th century was marked by the preparation of the Industrial revolution. The main social classes were merchants, landowners, and manufacturers. The condition of women was not satisfactory. Sexual harassment, abduction of women, forced marriage took place in the period. The politicians were corrupt too. This is the age of material greed.
  • Period: to

    Age of Sensibility

    Is also known as the Age of Johnson. Two most famous writers of this period are Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Oliver Goldsmith. Sheridan was a love poet. Most of the literary works of this age talk about human feelings, classicism and Romantic revival
  • Horace Walpole

    Horace Walpole
    The Castle of Otranto: is generally regarded as the first gothic novel. In the second edition, Walpole applied the word 'Gothic' to the novel in the subtitle – "A Gothic Story". The novel merged medievalism and terror in a style that has endured ever since.
  • Richard Brinsley Sheridan

    Richard Brinsley Sheridan
    The School for Scandal is a comedy of manners written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. It was first performed in London at Drury Lane Theatre
  • Period: to

    Romanticism

    This period was mainly a reaction against the philosophy of the Enlightenment period that dominated much of European Philosophy. Individual achievements are highly valued. Many of the Romantic writers believed that people regardless of wealth or social class must be able to appreciate art and literature.
  • John Keats

    John Keats
    It is a poem by John Keats written either in the garden of the Spaniards Inn, Hampstead, London. inspired by the bird's song.
  • Period: to

    Victorian

    It was one of the most important eras in the History of English Literature. This period made a lot of changes amongst people. The lower-class became more self-conscious but on the other hand, the middle-class people got more power in them. The rich became vulnerable in the society. Due to the industrial revolution, the country saw progress and growth. But along with that poverty and exploitation was also a part of it. The poor were hired for industrial labor at a very low rate.
  • Charles Darwin

    Charles Darwin
    Is a work of scientific literature which is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. Darwin's book introduced the scientific theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection.
  • Period: to

    Modern Literature

    Literature from various parts of the world started spreading. New writers were tried to impersonate the glory of British writers. Women at the time were suppressed in the literary sense. They were not allowed to write freely.
  • Period: to

    Post-Modernism

    Characterized by reliance on narrative techniques such as fragmentation, paradox, and the unreliable narrator; and is often (though not exclusively) defined as a style or a trend which emerged in the post–World War II era.
  • Nancy Mitford

    Nancy Mitford
    The Pursuit of Lov is a novel, its first in a trilogy about an upper-class English family in the interwar period. Although a comedy, the story has tragic overtones.
  • Iris Murdoch

    Iris Murdoch
    is a tale of the strange obsessions that haunt a self-satisfied playwright and director as he begins to write his memoirs. Murdoch's novel exposes the motivations that drive her characters – the vanity, jealousy, and lack of compassion behind the disguises they present to the world.
  • J. K. Rowling

    J. K. Rowling
    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone won most of the British book awards that were judged by children and other awards in the US. The book reached the top of the New York Times list of best-selling fiction in August 1999 and stayed near the top of that list for much of 1999 and 2000.
  • Period: to

    Contemporany

    As the 21st century got underway, history remained the outstanding concern of English literature. Although contemporary issues such as global warming and international conflicts (especially the Second Persian Gulf War and its aftermath) received attention, writers were still more disposed to look back.
  • Jennifer Egan

    Jennifer Egan
    A Visit from the Goon Squad: The book is a set of thirteen interrelated stories with a large set of characters all connected to Bennie Salazar, a record company executive, and his assistant, Sasha. The book centers on the mostly self-destructive characters, who, as they grow older, are sent in unforeseen, and sometimes unusual, directions by life
  • J. K. Rowling

    J. K. Rowling
    The novel is set in a suburban West Country town called Pagford and begins with the death of beloved Parish Councillor Barry Fairbrother. Subsequently, a seat on the council is vacant and a conflict ensues before the election for his successor takes place.