History of English Literature

  • Period: 450 to 1066

    Old English (Anglo-Saxon) Period (450–1066)

    As a result of two Germanic tribes the term Anglo-Saxon was created. This era is marked by the invasion of tribes and when Norman France, under William, conquered England. Composed mostly by oral literature, most of it was based on translations or medical, legal or religious matters.
  • 670


    Both poets, made their contribution to Old English Literature by translating and creating religious songs, poems and stories.
  • 701

    Anglo Saxon - Old English

    Anglo Saxon - Old English
    Written in what is now considered Anglo Saxon or Old English, the Beowulf settles the start of what is known today as English Literature. Here we can hear the original version while read it in modern English
  • Period: 1066 to 1500

    Middle English Period (1066–1500)

    Witness of big changes in language, lifestyle and culture of England that ends with what we know today as Modern English. Most of its literature is made of religious content, but around 1350 and on, different texts began to florish
  • 1370

    Piers Plowman

    Piers Plowman
    Poem written mostly in unrhymed is considered by many one of the greatest works of English literature of the Middle Ages,
  • 1390

    The Canterbury Tales

    The Canterbury Tales
    24 stories written by Geoffrey Chaucer mostly in verse, are part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The prize for this contest is a free meal at the Tabard Inn at Southwark on their return.
  • 1485

    Le Morte d'Arthur

    Le Morte d'Arthur
    Written by Sir Thomas Malory of existing tales about the legendary King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin, and the Knights of the Round Table. Malory used the original stories and added some made by himself as well.
  • Period: 1500 to

    The Renaissance (1500–1660)

    By the time of Elizabethan literature a vigorous literary culture in both drama and poetry included poets such as Edmund Spenser, Typically, the works of these playwrights and poets circulated in manuscript form for some time before they were published, and above all the plays of English Renaissance theatre were the outstanding legacy of the period.
  • Edmund Spenser – The Faerie Queene

    Edmund Spenser – The Faerie Queene
    The poem was a clear effort to gain court favour, and as a reward Elizabeth granted Spenser a pension for life amounting to £50 a year, though there is no further evidence that Elizabeth I ever read any of the poem. This royal patronage elevated the poem to a level of success that made it Spenser's defining work.
  • William Shakespeare – Henry IV Parts 1 and 2

    William Shakespeare – Henry IV Parts 1 and 2
    Dealing with the successive reigns of Richard II, Henry IV (two plays, including Henry IV, Part 2), Part 1 depicts a span of history that begins with Hotspur's battle at Homildon in Northumberland against Douglas late in 1402 and ends with the defeat of the rebels at Shrewsbury in the middle of 1403. From the start, it has been an extremely popular play both with the public and critics.
  • Period: to

    The Neoclassical Period (1600–1785)

    Generally thought of as literature that flourished under the restored court of Charles II. It’s difficult to pin it down to exact dates, though, as literature was in a state of flux during this period, with new genres (such as the laudatory ode) springing up and responding to the political, social and economic state of play at the time; this influenced different literary genres at different times. Poetry is by far the most important genre of this period.
  • The Countess of Montgomery's Urania - The Countess of Montgomery's Urania

    The Countess of Montgomery's Urania - The Countess of Montgomery's Urania
    Also known as Urania, is a prose romance, it is the first known prose romance written by an English woman. The full work exists in two volumes, the first published in 1621 and the second written, but unpublished, during Wroth's lifetime. The novel also contains several versions of Wroth's sonnet sequence Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, distributed throughout the prose and reproduced in sequence at the end of the volume.
  • John Milton – Paradise Lost

    John Milton – Paradise Lost
    Paradise Lost, more than ten thousand lines in length, tells the Biblical story of the Fall of Man, and it’s an achievement made all the more impressive by the fact that it was dictated in its entirety, Milton having gone blind some years before he wrote it.
  • John Bunyan – The Pilgrim’s Progress

    John Bunyan – The Pilgrim’s Progress
    The Pilgrim’s Progress, an important religious poem that is an allegorical treatment of Christian life, particularly the idea of personal salvation. Its protagonist, Christian, is an ‘everyman’ character, and the poem is differentiated from similar preceding texts by the simplicity of its style.
  • Birmingham Journal (eighteenth century)

    Birmingham Journal (eighteenth century)
    The Birmingham Journal was the first newspaper known to have been published in Birmingham, England.
  • Period: to

    The Romantic Period (1785–1832)

    The publication year for William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s book "Lyrical Ballads," is its true beginning. The time period ends with the passage of the Reform Bill (which signaled the Victorian Era) and with the death of Sir Walter Scott. This era includes the works of such juggernauts as Wordsworth, Coleridge, William Blake, Lord Byron, John Keats, Charles Lamb, Mary Wollstonecraft, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Thomas De Quincey, Jane Austen, and Mary Shelley.
  • William Blake - Songs of Innocence and of Experience

    William Blake - Songs of Innocence and of Experience
    Illustrated collection of poems by William Blake. It appeared in two phases. A few first copies were printed and illuminated by William Blake himself in 1789; five years later he bound these poems with a set of new poems in a volume titled Songs of Innocence and of Experience Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul. William Blake was also a painter before the songs of innocence and experience and made paintings such as Oberon, Titania, and Puck dancing with fairies.
  • William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge - Lyrical Ballads

     William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge - Lyrical Ballads
    Generally considered to have marked the beginning of the English Romantic movement in literature. The immediate effect on critics was modest, but it became and remains a landmark, changing the course of English literature and poetry.
  • Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice

    Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice
    Is a romantic novel of manners that follows the character development of Elizabeth Bennet, the dynamic protagonist of the book, who learns about the repercussions of hasty judgments and eventually comes to appreciate the difference between superficial goodness and actual goodness. A classic piece filled with comedy, its humour lies in its honest depiction of manners, education, marriage and money during the Regency era in Great Britain.
  • Mary Shellwy - Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

    Mary Shellwy - Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
    It tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a hideous sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Shelley started writing the story when she was 18, and the first edition was published anonymously in London on 1 January 1818, when she was 20. Her name first appeared on the second edition, published in 1823.
  • Period: to

    The Victorian Period (1832–1901)

    Named for the reign of Queen Victoria. It was a time of great social, religious, intellectual, and economic issues, heralded by the passage of the Reform Bill, which expanded voting rights. The period has often been divided into “Early” (1832–1848), “Mid” (1848–1870) and “Late” (1870–1901). This period is in strong contention with the Romantic period for being the most popular, influential, and prolific period in all of English (and world) literature.
  • Charles Dickens - Oliver Twist

    Charles Dickens - Oliver Twist
    The story centres on orphan Oliver Twist, born in a workhouse and sold into apprenticeship with an undertaker. After escaping, Oliver travels to London, where he meets the "Artful Dodger", a member of a gang of juvenile pickpockets led by the elderly criminal Fagin.
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Sonnets from the Portuguese

    A collection of 44 love sonnets written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The collection was acclaimed and popular during the poet's lifetime and it remains so.
  • Thomas Hardy - The Mayor of Casterbridge

    Thomas Hardy - The Mayor of Casterbridge
    One of Hardy's Wessex novels, it is set in a fictional rural England with Casterbridge standing in for Dorchester in Dorset where the author spent his youth.
    The novel is considered to be one of Hardy's masterpieces, although it has been criticised for incorporating too many incidents: a consequence of the author trying to include something in every weekly published instalment.
  • Bran Stoker - Dracula

    Bran Stoker - Dracula
    It introduced the character of Count Dracula, and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy. The novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and a woman led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.
  • Period: to

    The Edwardian Period (1901–1914)

    The era includes incredible classic novelists such as Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, and Henry James (who was born in America but who spent most of his writing career in England), notable poets such as Alfred Noyes and William Butler Yeats, as well as dramatists such as James Barrie, George Bernard Shaw, and John Galsworthy.
  • Joseph Conrad - Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard

    Joseph Conrad - Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard
    Set in the fictitious South American republic of "Costaguana". It was originally published serially in two volumes of T.P.'s Weekly.
    In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Nostromo 47th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It is frequently regarded as amongst the best of Conrad's long fiction; F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, "I'd rather have written Nostromo than any other novel."
  • J. M. Barrie - Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up

     J. M. Barrie - Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up
    Is the story of Peter Pan, a mischievous yet innocent little boy who can fly, and has many adventures on the island of Neverland that is inhabited by mermaids, fairies, Native Americans and pirates. The Peter Pan stories also involve the characters Wendy Darling and her two brothers, Peter's fairy Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys, and the pirate Captain Hook. The play and novel were inspired by Barrie's friendship with the Llewelyn Davies family.
  • George Bernard Shaw - Man and Superman

    George Bernard Shaw - Man and Superman
    Man and Superman opened at the Royal Court Theatre in London on 23 May 1905. A part of the act, Don Juan in Hell (Act 3, Scene 2), was performed when the drama was staged on 4 June 1907 at the Royal Court. The play was not performed in its entirety until 1915, when the Travelling Repertory Company played it at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh.
  • H. G. Wells - The History of Mr. Polly

    H. G. Wells - The History of Mr. Polly
    The novel has been called "a complete comic miracle."Mr. Polly' has been called a "wonderful incarnation of what might have happened to Wells without education, a Wells driven to use the words bubbling in him and getting them all so delightfully muddled."But Wells said his protagonist was based not on himself, but on his elder brother Frank.
  • Period: to

    The Georgian Period (1910–1936)

    The themes and subject matter tended to be rural or pastoral in nature, treated delicately and traditionally rather than with passion (like was found in the previous periods) or with experimentation (as would be seen in the upcoming modern period).
  • Period: to

    The Modern Period (1914–?)

    The modern period traditionally applies to works written after the start of World War I. Common features include bold experimentation with subject matter, style, and form, encompassing narrative, verse, and drama. Are often referred to when describing the core tenet or “feeling” of modernist concerns. It is difficult to say whether modernism has ended, though we know that postmodernism has developed after and from it; for now, the genre remains ongoing.
  • James Joyce – Ulysses

    James Joyce – Ulysses
    In James Joyce’s Ulysses, the idea of stream-of-consciousness was taken to the extreme in a novel described as “a demonstration and summation of the entire [Modernist] movement”. Based on the experiences of its protagonist throughout the course of a day in Dublin. The novel broke new ground in many ways, its most famous characteristic is its use of a different literary genre or experiment for each chapter; i.e., one has no punctuation, while another is written as though it were a play.
  • Virginia Woolf - Mrs Dalloway

    Virginia Woolf  - Mrs Dalloway
    Created from two short stories, "Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street" and the unfinished "The Prime Minister," the novel addresses Clarissa's preparations for a party she will host that evening. With an interior perspective, the story travels forward and back in time and in and out of the characters' minds to construct an image of Clarissa's life and of the inter-war social structure.
  • A. A. Milne - Winnie-the-Pooh

    A. A. Milne - Winnie-the-Pooh
    The first collection of stories about the character was the book Winnie-the-Pooh (1926), and this was followed by The House at Pooh Corner (1928). Milne also included a poem about the bear in the children's verse book When We Were Very Young (1924) and many more in Now We Are Six (1927). All four volumes were illustrated by E. H. Shepard.
  • John Masefield - The Midnight Folk

    John Masefield - The Midnight Folk
    It is about a boy, Kay Harker, who sets out to discover what became of a fortune stolen from his seafaring great grandfather Aston Tirrold Harker (in reality, Aston Tirrold is a village in Oxfordshire). The treasure is also sought by a coven of witches who are also seeking it for their own ends. Kay's governess Sylvia Daisy Pouncer is a member of the coven. The witches are led or guided by the wizard Abner Brown.
  • Virginia Woolf - Three Guineas

    Virginia Woolf - Three Guineas
    Although Three Guineas is a work of non-fiction, it was initially conceived as a "novel–essay" which would tie up the loose ends left in her earlier work, A Room of One's Own. The book was to alternate between fictive narrative chapters and non-fiction essay chapters, demonstrating Woolf's views on war and women in both types of writing at once. This unfinished manuscript was published in 1977 as The Pargiters.
  • William Buttler - The Circus Animals' Desertion

    In the poem, the poet uses the desertion of circus animals as an analogy to describe his failure to find inspiration for poetic creation as he seeks for new inspiration. Critics have detected aspects of both Modernism and Postmodern literature in the poem.
  • Christopher Isherwood - Goodbye to Berlin

    Christopher Isherwood  - Goodbye to Berlin
    The novel, a semiautobiographical account of Isherwood's time in 1930s Berlin, describes pre-Nazi Germany and the people he met. It is episodic, dealing with a large cast over a period of several years from late 1930 to early 1933. It is written as a connected series of six short stories and novellas.
  • T.S. Eliot - The Cocktail Party

    T.S. Eliot - The Cocktail Party
    The play was the most popular of Eliot's seven plays in his lifetime, although his 1935 play, Murder in the Cathedral, is better remembered today. It was written while Eliot was a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey in 1948.[1]
  • George Orwell - 1984

    George Orwell - 1984
    The story was mostly written at Barnhill, a farmhouse on the Scottish island of Jura, at times while Orwell suffered from severe tuberculosis. Thematically, Nineteen Eighty-Four centres on the risks of government overreach, totalitarianism, and repressive regimentation of all persons and behaviours within society.
  • C. S. Lewis - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

     C. S. Lewis - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
    It is the first published and best known of seven novels in The Chronicles of Narnia (1950–1956). Among all the author's books, it is also the most widely held in libraries. Although it was originally the first of The Chronicles of Narnia, it is volume two in recent editions that are sequenced by the stories' chronology. Like the other Chronicles, it was illustrated by Pauline Baynes, and her work has been retained in many later editions.
  • J. D. Salinger - The Catcher in the Rye

    J. D. Salinger - The Catcher in the Rye
    It was originally intended for adults but is often read by adolescents for its themes of angst and alienation, and as a critique on superficiality in society. The novel's protagonist Holden Caulfield has become an icon for teenage rebellion. The novel also deals with complex issues of innocence, identity, belonging, loss, and connection.
  • Jack Kerouac - On the Road

    Jack Kerouac - On the Road
    based on the travels of Kerouac and his friends across the United States. It is considered a defining work of the postwar Beat and Counterculture generations, with its protagonists living life against a backdrop of jazz, poetry, and drug use. With many key figures of the Beat movement, such as William S. Burroughs (Old Bull Lee), Allen Ginsberg (Carlo Marx) and Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty) represented by characters in the book, including Kerouac himself as the narrator Sal Paradise.
  • Truman Capote - In Cold Blood

    Truman Capote’s non-fiction novel, a true story of bloody murder in rural Kansas, opens a window on the dark underbelly of postwar America.
  • Elizabeth Taylor - Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont

    Elizabeth Taylor’s exquisitely drawn character study of eccentricity in old age is a sharp and witty portrait of genteel postwar English life facing the changes taking shape in the 60s.
  • J.K. Rowlling - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

    J.K. Rowlling - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
    A young wizard who discovers his magical heritage on his eleventh birthday, when he receives a letter of acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry makes close friends and a few enemies during his first year at the school, and with the help of his friends, Harry faces an attempted comeback by the dark wizard Lord Voldemort, who killed Harry's parents, but failed to kill Harry when he was just 15 months old.
  • Coetzee - Disgrace

    Coetzee - Disgrace
    In his Booker-winning masterpiece, Coetzee’s intensely human vision infuses a fictional world that both invites and confounds political interpretation.
  • Neil Gaiman - American Gods

    Neil Gaiman - American Gods
    American Gods (2001) is a fantasy novel by British author Neil Gaiman. The novel is a blend of Americana, fantasy, and various strands of ancient and modern mythology, all centering on the mysterious and taciturn Shadow.
  • Rick Riordan - The Lightning Thief

    Rick Riordan - The Lightning Thief
    The novel charts the adventures of modern-day twelve-year-old Percy Jackson as he discovers he is a demigod, the son of a mortal woman and the Greek god Poseidon. Percy and his friends Annabeth Chase and Grover Underwood go on a quest to find Zeus's stolen lightning bolt and prevent a war among the gods Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades.