2. What is meant by “period”?
A period is a dominant mode, style, or type of
literature within a specific historical context.
A period is usually indicative of the controlling
philosophical perspective of the time.
As such, periods are not generally confined to the
literature of the time; rather, their characteristics can
be seen in other art forms as well as non-literary
Dates are approximations.
3. ENGLISH LITERATURE
literature produced in England, from the
introduction of Old English by the Anglo-Saxons in
the 5th century to the present. The works of those
Irish and Scottish authors who are closely identified
with English life and letters are also considered part
of English literature.
4. AMERICAN LITERATURE
Literary works, fiction and nonfiction of the
American colonies and the United States, written in
the English language from about 1600 to the present.
This literature captures America’s quest to
understand and define itself. From the beginning
America was unique in the diversity of its
inhabitants; over time they arrived from all parts of
Although English quickly became the language of
America, regional and ethnic dialects have enlivened
and enriched the country’s literature almost from the
5. Old English or Anglo-Saxon Era (450-1066)
This period extends from about 450 to 1066, the year
of the Norman-French conquest of England.
The Germanic tribes from Europe who overran
England in the 5th century, after the Roman
withdrawal, brought with them the Old English, or
Anglo-Saxon, language, which is the basis of Modern
Few surviving texts with little in common.
Language closer to modern German than modern
Frequently reflect non-English influence.
Beowulf, “The Wanderer”
6. Old English or Anglo-Saxon Era (450-1066)
Much of Old English poetry was probably intended
to be chanted, with harp accompaniment, by the
Anglo-Saxon scop, or bard.
Prose in Old English is represented by a large
number of religious works.
7. Middle English (1066-1500)
Extending from 1066 to 1485, this period is noted for
the extensive influence of French literature on native
English forms and theme
The Middle English literature of the 14th and 15th
centuries is much more diversified than the previous
Old English literature.
Works frequently of a religiously didactic content.
Written for performance at court or for festivals.
Geoffrey Chaucer (The Canterbury Tales)
“The Cuckoo’s Song”, mystery plays
8. English Renaissance (1500-1660)
Influence of Aristotle, Ovid, and other Greco-Roman
thinkers, as well as science and exploration.
Primarily texts for public performance (plays,
masques) and some books of poetry.
William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Ben
Jonson, Francis Bacon, John Fletcher, Francis
9. Neoclassical Period
(Enlightenment/Age of Reason)
England 1660-1785 America 1750-1800
Reaction to the expansiveness of the Renaissance in
the direction of order and restraint.
Developed in France (Moliere, Rousseau, Voltaire).
Emphasized classical ideals of rationality and control
(human nature is constant through time).
Art should reflect the universal commonality of
human nature. (“All men are created equal.”)
Reason is emphasized as the highest faculty (Deism).
10. Neoclassical Period (cont.)
Writing should be well structured, emotion should be
controlled, and emphasize qualities like wit.
England: John Locke, John Milton (Paradise Lost),
Alexander Pope (Essay on Man), Jonathon Swift
(Gulliver’s Travels), Henry Fielding (Tom Jones), Daniel
Defoe (Robinson Crusoe), Jane Austen (Sense and
Sensibility, Emma, Pride and Prejudice).
America: Benjamin Franklin (Poor Richard’s Almanack,
autobiography), Thomas Paine (“Common Sense”),
Thomas Jefferson (“The Declaration of Independence”),
James Madison (“The Constitution of the United
11. Romantic Period
England 1785-1830 America 1800-1860
Reaction against the scientific rationality of
Neoclassicism and the Industrial Revolution.
Developed in Germany (Kant, Goethe).
“I felt before I thought.” -Rosseau
Emphasized individuality, intuition, imagination,
idealism, nature (as opposed to society & social
Elevation of the common man (folklore, myth).
Mystery and the supernatural.
12. Romantic Period
England 1785-1830 America 1800-1860
romantic literature everywhere developed,
imagination was praised over reason, emotions over
logic, and intuition over science—making way for a
vast body of literature of great sensibility and
This literature emphasized a new flexibility of form
adapted to varying content, encouraged the
development of complex and fast-moving plots, and
allowed mixed genres (tragicomedy and the mingling
of the grotesque and the sublime) and freer style.
13. Romantic Period
England 1785-1830 America 1800-1860
No longer tolerated, for example, were the fixed
classical conventions, such as the famous three
unities (time, place, and action) of tragedy.
In English poetry, for example, blank verse largely
superseded the rhymed couplet that dominated 18th-
14. ROMANTIC THEMES
LIBERTARIANISM-the desire to be free of
convention and tyranny, and the new emphasis on
the rights and dignity of the individual.
Political and social causes became dominant themes
in romantic poetry and prose throughout the
Western world, producing many vital human
documents that are still pertinent.
NATURE-Basic to such sentiments was an interest
central to the romantic movement: the concern with
nature and natural surroundings.
15. ROMANTIC THEMES
-Delight in unspoiled scenery and in the (presumably)
innocent life of rural dwellers.
THE LURE OF THE EXOTIC
-In the spirit of their new freedom, romantic writers in
all cultures expanded their imaginary horizons
spatially and chronologically.
-They turned back to the Middle Ages (5th century to
15th century) for themes and settings and to the
Asian setting of Xanadu evoked by Coleridge in his
unfinished lyric “Kubla Khan.
16. ROMANTIC THEMES
- The trend toward the irrational and the supernatural
was an important component of English and German
- It was reinforced on the one hand by disillusion with 18th-century
rationalism and on the other by the rediscovery of a body of older
literature—folktales and ballads—collected by Percy and by German
scholars Jacob and Wilhelm Karl Grimm and Danish writer Hans
Christian Andersen. From such material comes, for example, the motif
of the doppelgänger (German for “double”). Many romantic writers,
especially in Germany, were fascinated with this concept, perhaps
because of the general romantic concern with self-identity.
17. Romantic Period (cont.)
England: Robert Burns (“To a Mouse”), William Blake
(Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience), William
Wordsworth (Lyrical Ballads, “Tintern Abbey,”
“Intimations of Immortality,” “I Wandered Lonely as
a Cloud”), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (“The Rime of
the Ancient Mariner,” “Kubla Kahn”), Lord Byron
(“Don Juan”), Percy Bysshe Shelley (“Ozymandias”),
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Frankenstein), John
Keats (“Ode on a Grecian Urn”), Sir Walter Scott
18. Romantic Period (cont.)
America: Washington Irving (“Rip Van Winkle,” “The
Legend of Sleepy Hollow”), Edgar Allan Poe (“The
Raven,” Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, “The
Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Philosophy of
Composition”), James Fennimore Cooper (The Last of
the Mohicans), Herman Melville (Moby-Dick, Billy
Budd), Nathaniel Hawthorne (Twice-Told Tales, The
Scarlet Letter), William Cullen Bryant (“To a
Waterfowl”), Oliver Wendell Holmes (“The Chambered
Nautilus”), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (“Paul
Revere’s Ride”), James Russell Lowell (“The First
19. Romantic Period (cont.)
American Transcendentalism (Romantic philosophy)
Named for the core belief that our spiritual nature
transcends rationality and religious doctrine; thus, it
is found in intuition.
Developed in New England, influenced by Eastern
Pro-suffrage & abolitionist.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (Nature, “The American
Scholar”), Henry David Thoreau (Walden, “Civil
Disobedience”), Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass).
20. Romantic Period (cont.)
In New England, an intellectual movement known as
transcendentalism developed as an American version
the transcendentalists celebrated the power of the
human imagination to commune with the universe
and transcend the limitations of the material world.
The transcendentalists found their chief source of
inspiration in nature.
21. Victorian Period (England 1832-1901)
Named for the reign of Queen Victoria, Britain’s
longest reigning monarch.
Period of stability and prosperity for Britain.
British society extremely class conscious.
Literature seen as a bridge between Romanticism
Generally emphasized realistic portrayals of
common people, sometimes to promote social
Some writers continue to explore gothic themes
begun in Romantic Period.
22. Victorian Period (England 1832-1901)
The novel gradually became the dominant form in
literature during the Victorian Age.
English literature throughout much of the century,
the attention of many writers was directed,
sometimes passionately, to such issues as the growth
of English democracy, the education of the masses,
the progress of industrial enterprise and the
consequent rise of a materialistic philosophy, and
the plight of the newly industrialized worker.
23. Victorian Period (cont.)
Charles Dickens (David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Great
Expectations), George Eliot (Middlemarch), Thomas
Hardy (Tess of the D’Ubervilles), Robert Louis
Stevenson (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde), Rudyard Kipling (Jungle Book), Lewis Carroll
(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), Charlotte Brontë
(Jane Eyre), Emily Brontë (Wuthering Heights),
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (In Memoriam), Elizabeth
Barrett Browning (Sonnets from the Portuguese),
Robert Browning (“My Last Duchess”), Matthew
Arnold (“Dover Beach”), Oscar Wilde (The Importance
of Being Earnest).
24. Realistic Period (America 1860-1914)
Reaction against Romantic values (Civil War).
Developed in France (Balzac, Flaubert, Zola).
Emphasized the commonplace and ordinary (as
opposed to the romanticized individual).
Sought to depict life as it was, not idealized.
Mark Twain (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn),
Ambrose Bierce (“An Occurrence at Owl Creek
Bridge”), William Dean Howells (A Modern
Instance), Theodore Dreiser (Sister Carrie).
25. Realistic Period (America 1860-1914)
Realist literature is defined particularly as the fiction
produced in Europe and the United States from
about 1840 until the 1890s, when realism was
superseded by naturalism. This form of realism
began in France in the novels of Gustave Flaubert
and the short stories of Guy de Maupassant.
an attempt to describe human behavior and
surroundings or to represent figures and objects
exactly as they act or appear in life.
26. Realistic Period (cont.)
Naturalism – hyper-realism
Named for the belief that man is simply a higher
order animal, and thus under the same natural
constraints and limitations as other animals.
Naturalism (literature), in literature, the theory that
literary composition should be based on an objective,
empirical presentation of human being.
Controlled by heredity and environment.
Stephen Crane (Maggie: A Girl of the Street, The
Red Badge of Courage), Jack London (“To Build a
Fire”), Upton Sinclair (The Jungle).
27. Edwardian Period (England 1901-1914)
Named for King Edward.
Some see as a continuation of Victorian Period;
however, the status quo is increasingly threatened.
Distinction between literature and popular fiction.
Joseph Conrad (Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness), H.G.
Wells (War of the Worlds), E.M. Forster (A Room
with a View, A Passage to India), George Bernard
Shaw (Major Barbara), A.C. Bradley
28. Modern Period (1914-1945)
Reaction against the values which led to WWI.
Influenced by Schopenhauer (“negation of the will”),
Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil), Kierkegaard (Fear
and Trembling), as well as Darwin and Marx.
If previous values are invalid, art is a tool to establish
new values (Pound: “Make it new”).
Writers experiment with form.
Form and content reflect the confusion and
vicissitudes of modern life.
Expositions and resolutions are omitted; themes are
implied rather than stated.
29. Modern Period (1914-1945)
During the 20th century a communications
revolution that introduced motion pictures, radio,
and television brought the world into view—and
eventually into the living room. The new forms of
communication competed with books as sources of
amusement and enlightenment. New forms of
communication and new modes of transportation
made American society increasingly mobile and
familiar with many more regions of the country.
Literary voices from even the remotest corners could
reach a national audience. At the same time,
American writers—particularly writers of fiction—
began to influence world literature.
30. Modern Period (cont.)
Ezra Pound (The Fourth Canto), T.S. Eliot (Prufrock
and other Observations, The Waste Land, “The
Hollow Men”), W.B. Yeats (The Wanderings of Oisin
and Other Poems, The Swans at Coole), H.D. (“Pear
Tree”), Wallace Stevens (Harmonium), William
Carlos Williams (“The Red Wheelbarrow,” “This Is
Just to Say”), Robert Frost (Mending Wall, The
Road Not Taken).
31. Modern Period (cont.)
James Joyce (Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a
Young Man), Franz Kafka (The Metamorphosis, The
Trial, The Castle), Ernest Hemingway (In Our Time,
The Sun Also Rises), William Faulkner (As I Lay
Dying, The Sound and the Fury), F. Scott Fitzgerald
(The Great Gatsby), John Steinbeck (The Grapes of
Wrath), Thornton Wilder (Our Town, The Bridge at
San Luis Rey), D.H. Lawrence (The Rainbow),
Virginia Woolf (Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse).
32. Post-Modern Period (1945-?)
Critical dispute over whether an actual period or a
renewal and continuation Modernism post-WWII.
Influenced by Freud, Sartre, Camus, Derrida, and
Deconstruction: Text has no inherent meaning;
meaning derives from the tension between the text’s
ambiguities and contradictions revealed upon close
Some believe it leads directly to the counter-cultural
revolution of the 1960s.
33. Post-Modern Period (cont.)
Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot), Gabriel Garcia
Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude), William
Burroughs (Naked Lunch), J.D. Salinger (A Catcher in
the Rye), Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five), Thomas
Pynchon (Gravity’s Rainbow), John Updike (Rabbit
Run), Phillip Roth (Portnoy’s Complaint, American
Pastoral), J.M. Coetzee (Life & Times of Michael K),
Joyce Carol Oates (“Where Are Going, Where Have You
Been?”), Margaret Atwood (The Handmaiden’s Tale),
Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian), Allen Ginsberg
(Howl and Other Poems), Charles Bukowski (The Last
Night of the Earth Poems).