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Periods of English Literature

1. Old English (700 – 1100) – Anglo-Saxon literature


- the 1st works in English were written in Old English
- influenced by coming Christianity
- strong oral tradition (proverbs, riddles, gnome songs)
- the most important literary work - epic poem Beowulf- anonymous, written in manuscripts

2. Middle English (1100 – 1470) - Anglo – Norman period


2.1 Early Middle English - French influence – - Norman Conquest
- a new genre: romances (adventures of knights and heroes)
2.2 Late Middle English - new poetic genres: hymns, legends, visions, ballads
- new dramatic genres: mysteries, miracles, moralities
- Geoffrey Chaucer – important personality, spoke and wrote the dialect of official
London, which later developed into Modern English
- wrote The Canterbury Tales – the collection of stories of 29 pilgrims, showing realistic and satirical
observation of the characters in the 14th cent.
3. Period of Renaissance (early 16th – early 17th century)
3.1 the age of Shakespeare or the Elizabethan era
- following the introduction of a printing press
- Italian and French influence ( the translation of many classical literatury works)
Important personalities: Thomas Moor – famous humanist
- work UTOPIA ( his image of an ideal future society)
William Shakespeare – famous dramatist
- one of the founders of London Globe theater
tragedies: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth

3.2 the Age of Reason or Augustan period


- literature concerned with the men in society and their interests, trying to educate its readers
- popular genres: essay, novel, verse, journals
-important writers: Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe)
John Milton ( epic Paradise Lost)
Jonathan Swift ( Gulliver's travel)

4. Early Modern Period


4.1 Romanticism
– connected to Great French Revolution in 1789, which brought the ideas of freedom, equality, love, beauty and
brotherhood
- important poets: Percy, P.B. Shelley, lord Byron, John Keats – used symbols to describe their feelings,
attitudes
Writer: Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

Victorian Age (1837-1901)


- the great age of English novel
- functions: to describe ordinary life, to entertain the middle class
- most of the writers concerned with social problems, ethical conflicts, description of reality
- the best women writers: Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre) Emily Brontë (Wuthering Heights), the realist
novels of George Eliot, Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion)
- the best men writers: Charles Dickens (Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield) – about
London life and the struggles of the poor, in a good-humoured fashion which was acceptable to readers
of all classes
Thomas Hardy ( Tess of d'Urbevilles, Far from the Madding Crowd)
5.Modernism (19th – 20th cen.)
- disillusionment with values and ideals of Victorian era, influence of WWI and WWII
- angry young men movement, fighting against the social disorder( John Osborne, John Waine)
- humorous and witty dialogues, irony to describe human characters: Oscar Wilde (Picture of Dorian
Gray) , G.B.Shaw (Pygmalion)
- important writers of 20th cent.: novelists: J. Joyce (Dubliners, Ulysses (stream of consciousness novel),
Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, D.H. Lawrence
- poet: T.S.Elliot