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History of English Literature

  • Period: Jan 1, 800 to Dec 31, 800


    the first great work of Germanic literature, mingles the legends of Scandinavia with the experience in England of Angles and Saxons
  • 950

    The material of the Eddas

    taking shape in Iceland, derives from earlier sources in Norway, Britain and Burgundy
  • 1100


    The most significant turning point, from about 1100, is the development of Middle English - differing from Old English in the addition of a French vocabulary after the Norman conquest.
  • 1100

    English Literature

    English Literature
    Alliterative verse: 8th - 14th century
    The story of English literature begins with the Germanic tradition of the Anglo-Saxon settlers. Beowulf stands at its head.
  • 1300

    Duns Scotus

    Duns Scotus
    Known as the Subtle Doctor in medieval times, later provides humanists with the name Dunsman or dunce
  • Period: Jan 1, 1300 to Dec 31, 1300

    Piers Plowman and Sir Gawain: 14th century

    Piers Plowman and Sir Gawain are masterpieces which look back to Old English. By contrast Chaucer, a poet of the court, ushers in a new era of English literature.
  • 1367

    Piers Plowman

    Piers Plowman
    Piers Plowman exists in three versions, the longest amounting to more than 7000 lines. It is considered probable that all three are by the same author. If so he spends some twenty years, from about 1367, adjusting and refining his epic creation.
  • Period: 1367 to 1400

    Geoffrey Chaucer en la corte:

    There can rarely have been a more inspired appointment. Chaucer's poems are designed to be read aloud, in the first instance by himself. Their range, from high romance to bawdy comedy, is well calculated to hold the listeners spellbound. Courtly circles in England are his first audience. He undertakes diplomatic missions abroad on behalf of the king; he is given administrative posts, such as controlling the customs, which bring lodgings and handsome stipends.
  • 1385

    Troilo y Criseyde

    Troilo y Criseyde
    Chaucer's first masterpiece is his subtle account of the wooing of Criseyde by Troilus, with the active encouragement of Criseyde's uncle Pandarus. The tender joys of their love affair are followed by Criseyde's betrayal and Troilus's death in battle. (Gascoigne, Bamber. HistoryWorld. From 2001)
  • Period: 1387 to 1400

    The Canterbury Tales

    Collections of tales are a favourite literary convention of the 14th century. Boccaccio's Decameron is the best-known example before Chaucer's time.
  • 1400

    The English language

    The English language
    It has developed over the course of more than 1,400 years. The earliest forms of English, a set of Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the fifth century, are called Old English.(Richard M. Hogg, 1992)
  • 1476

    William Caxton

    William Caxton
    He introduced the printing press in England. From that moment, the vernacular literature began to flourish. The Protestant Reformation inspired the production of a proper liturgy that led to the Book of Common Prayer
  • Period: 1500 to

    English Renaissance

    It is associated with the pan-European Renaissance that is usually regarded as beginning in Italy in the late 14th century. Like most of northern Europe, England saw little of these developments until more than a century later. Renaissance style and ideas were slow in penetrating England, and the Elizabethan era in the second half of the 16th century is usually regarded as the height of the English Renaissance
  • 1564


    sees the birth of two poets, Marlowe and Shakespeare, who between them launch the English theatre into the three decades of its greatest glory. Marlowe makes his mark first, in a meteoric six years (from 1587) in which his life and his writings are equally dramatic.
  • 1576

    an actor

    an actor
    James Burbage, builds a permanent playhouse in Shoreditch - just outside the city of London to the north, so as not to require the permission of the puritanical city magistrates.
  • Period: 1579 to

    Edmund Spenser

    Edmund Spenser, who has the greatest lyric gift of any English poet in the two centuries since Chaucer, is a graduate of Cambridge and by inclination a humanist pedant. His inspiration comes largely from a desire to rival his classical and Renaissance predecessors.
  • the Rose

    the Rose
    opens in 1587 on the south bank of the Thames in the area known as Bankside. In that year one of these three theatres puts on a play which reveals how far English playwrights have progressed in a very short while - Tamburlaine, by Christopher Marlowe.
  • Shakespeare's plays are first presented.

    Shakespeare's plays are first presented.
    James Burbage, builder of the original Theatre, dies in 1597. Two years later his two sons dismantle the building and carry the timber over the river to Bankside, where they use it as the basis for a theatre with a new name - the Globe. This name resounds in English theatrical history for two good reasons. It is where Richard, one of the Burbage brothers, develops into one of the first great actors of the English stage
  • Ben Jonson

    After the death of Shakespeare, the poet and playwright Ben Jonson became the most prominent figure in literature. However, Jonson's aesthetics reminded more of the Middle Ages than the Tudor, they emphasize John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont who, although they did not have the talent of Shakespeare, wrote a brilliant comedy, The Knight of the Burning Pestle
  • political literature

    political literature
    The turbulent period of the mid-seventeenth century, during the reign of Charles I, the subsequent Commonwealth and the Protectorate, witnessed the birth of political literature. The pamphlets written by sympathizers of each of the factions that were organized during the civil war, ranged from personal attacks written viscerally to various forms of propaganda, going through schemes that sought a way to reform the nation.
  • Period: to

    The Romantic period

    The Romantic period was one of major social change in England and Wales, because of the depopulation of the countryside and the rapid development of overcrowded industrial cities, that took place in the period roughly between 1750 and 1850. The movement of so many people in England was the result of two forces: the Agricultural Revolution, that involved the Enclosure of the land, drove workers off the land, and the Industrial Revolution which provided them employment
  • Romanticism in America by William Blake

    Romanticism in America by William Blake
    The European Romantic movement reached America in the early 19th century. American Romanticism was just as multifaceted and individualistic as it was in Europe. Like the Europeans, the American Romantics demonstrated a high level of moral enthusiasm, commitment to individualism and the unfolding of the self, an emphasis on intuitive perception, and the assumption that the natural world was inherently good, while human society was corrupt
  • Modernism

    English literary modernism developed in the early twentieth-century out of a general sense of disillusionment with Victorian era attitudes of certainty, conservatism, and belief in the idea of objective truth. The movement was influenced by the ideas of Charles Darwin
  • Genre fiction

    Genre fiction
    Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes is a brilliant London-based "consulting detective", famous for his intellectual prowess. Conan Doyle wrote four novels and 56 short stories featuring Holmes, which were published between 1887 and 1927. All but four Holmes stories are narrated by Holmes' friend, assistant, and biographer, Dr. Watson. The Lost World literary genre was inspired by real stories of archaeological discoveries by imperial adventurers.
  • The Last of the Mohicans

    The Last of the Mohicans
    Illustration from 1896 edition of The Last of the Mohicans, by F.T. Merrill. The drawing occurs when Hawk-eye attacks Magua in the cave where Alice is held captive. The Last of the Mohicans, J. Fenimore Cooper, 1896. Illustration by F.T. Merrill
  • Period: to


  • Period: to


  • The novel

    The novel
    Malcolm Lowry published Under the Volcano, while George Orwell's satire of totalitarianism, Nineteen Eighty-Four, was published in 1949. Other novelists writing in the 1950s and later were: Anthony Powell whose twelve-volume cycle of novels A Dance to the Music of Time
  • Louis de Bernières publishes Captain Corelli's Mandolin

    Louis de Bernières publishes Captain Corelli's Mandolin, a love story set in Italian-occupied Cephalonia
  • The poems forming Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters describe his relationship with Sylvia Plath

    The poems forming Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters describe his relationship with Sylvia Plath
    and A schoolboy wizard performs his first tricks in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • Michael Frayn's play Copenhagen

    Michael Frayn's play Copenhagen
    Michael Frayn's play Copenhagen dramatizes the visit of Werner Heisenberg to Niels Bohr in wartime Denmark
  • The Amber Spyglass completes Philip Pullman's trilogy, His Dark Materials

    The Amber Spyglass completes Philip Pullman's trilogy, His Dark Materials
    Set against the dreaming spires of Jordan College and the dangerous wilderness of the frozen north, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy offers an intoxicating blend of imagination, science, theology and adventure. This special collection features all three titles in the award-winning trilogy: Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.
  • Genre fiction in the twentieth-century

    Genre fiction in the twentieth-century
    Many works published in the twentieth-century were examples of genre fiction. This designation includes the crime novels, spy novel, historical romance, fantasy, graphic novel, and science fiction.
    Among significant writers in the fantasy genre were J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. C.S. Lewis author of The Chronicles of Narnia, and J.K. Rowling who wrote the highly successful Harry Potter series.