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LITERARY GENRES, TRADITIONS, AND FORMS FROM DIFFERENT CULTURES

English Literature

Epic poem - This is a long narrative poem usually about a hero and
his deeds. A well-known example is Beowulf.
Sonnet - This poem has fourteen lines that follow a rhyme scheme.
A well-known example is Sonnet 18 of William Shakespeare. It starts
with the famous line, Shall I compare thee to a summers day?
Drama - This piece of writing tells a story through dialogue, and it is
performed on stage. A well-known example is The Importance of
Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.
Novel - This is a long prose narrative usually about fictional
characters and events, which are told in a particular sequence.

English Literature

English literature is one of the richest, most developed, and most


important bodies of literature in the world. It encompasses both written and
spoken works by writers from the United Kingdom.

Old English Literature (600 - 1100)

Old English, the earliest form of the English language, was spoken by the
Anglo-Saxons, a Germanic tribe living in Britain during the fifth century. One
significant work written in Old English is Beowulf, the longest epic poem in
Old English. It is known for its use of kennings, which are phrases or
compound words used to name persons, places, and things indirectly.

Middle English Literature (1100 - 1500)

Middle English is a blend Old English and Norman French, the French
dialect spoken by the Normans (people of Normandy). The Canterbury Tales
by Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English literature, is a fine example of
literature written in Middle English.

Elizabethan Literature (1558 - 1603)

The Elizabethan period is the golden age of English literature. Also, it is


the golden age of drama. Known as the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare
wrote his plays during the period. His best plays include Hamlet, King Lear,
Macbeth, Othello, and The Merchant of Venice. Also, he wrote 154 sonnets,
many of which are the best loved and the most widely-read poems in the
English literature.

The Romantic Period (1800 - 1837)


This period is the golden age of lyric poetry. Poetry became the expression
of the poets personal feelings and emotions. A few notable works of poetry
of the period are Songs of Innocence and of Experience by William Blake,
Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Eve
of St. Agnes, and Other Poems by John Keats, Don Juan by Lord Byron, and
Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

The Victorian Period (1837 - 1900)

The period saw the rise of the novel. Charles Dickens, considered to be the greatest English novelist of the 19th
century, wrote Great Expectations. This novel was published as a serial in a weekly periodical from December
1860 to August 1861.

Alfred Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning each wrote fine poetry during the period. Tennysons In
Memoriam A.H.H. is a requiem for his friend Arthur Henry Hallam. It is widely considered to be one of the
great poems of the 19th century. Browning, who is known for his dramatic monologues, wrote the famous poem
My Last Duchess. In a dramatic monologue, the poet addresses an audience through an assumed voice.

Oscar Wilde is the best dramatist of the period. He wrote the masterpiece The Importance of Being Earnest.

Twentieth Century (1900 - 2000)

William Butler Yeats and Thomas Stearns Eliot wrote Modernist poems during the period. Yeats wrote The
Tower, The Winding Stair, and New Poems, all of which are known to have potent images. Eliots masterpieces
are The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Waste Land.

Virginia Woolf in her story Mrs. Dalloway and James Joyce in his work Ulysses use stream of consciousness, a
literary technique in which the flow of thoughts of a character is described in words.

American Literature

The 19th Century

William Cullen Bryant (1794 - 1878) became famous for Thanatopsis (1817). This poem marked a
new beginning for American poetry.
Washington Irving (1783 - 1859) was known for Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy
Hollow, the first American short stories. They were part of his work The Sketch Book, the first
American work to become successful internationally.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849) became famous for his macabre stories like The Fall of the House of
Usher (1839) and The Cask of Amontillado (1846). Also, he wrote The Murders in the Rue
Morgue (1841), the first detective story, and the poem Raven (1845), with which he achieved instant
fame.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 - 1864) became known for his symbolical tales like The Hollow of the
Three Hills (1830) and Young Goodman Brown (1835). Also, he wrote the gothic romance The
Scarlet Letter (1850).

Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892) became well-known for Leaves of Grass, first published in 1855. In this
poetry collection, Whitman showed the experiences of the common man.

Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886) wrote odd poems. She mostly used the imperfect rhyme and avoided
regular rhythms. A collection of her poems, Poems by Emily Dickinson, came out in 1890.

The 20th Century


Robert Frost (1874 - 1963) wrote poems with traditional stanzas and a blank verse, a verse in iambic
pentameter with no rhyme. His poems portray ordinary people in everyday situations like Mending
Wall, "The Road Not Taken," and After Apple-Picking, both of which were published in 1914.
E. E. cummings (1894 - 1962) was known for his unconventional punctuation and phrasing. His poems
were compiled in Complete Poems (1968).

Ezra Pound (1885 - 1972) was a leader of the Imagists, who emphasized the use of direct and sparse
language and precise images in writing poetry. Two of his works are Ripostes (1912) and Lustra (1916).

Sherwood Anderson (1876 - 1941) wrote prose using everyday speech. His best works appeared in
Winesburg, Ohio (1919) and Death in the Woods (1933).

Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961) was known for his succinct writing, which was widely imitated. His
writing was very straightforward and objective - not verbose and sentimental. Two of his finest stories
are The Killers (1927) and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber (1936).

Allen Ginsberg (1926 - 1997) was known for his work Howl (1956), a poem with incantatory rhythms
and raw emotion. He was one of the Beat poets, who aimed to bring poetry back to the streets.

Anne Sexton (1928 - 1974) became known for her confessional poetry, a kind of poetry that deals with
the private experiences of the speaker. Her work Live or Die (1966) won a Pulitzer Prize.