Periods in the History of English Literature – ages, thoughts and debate

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The history of English literature is divided into different periods by the scholars and literary historians. At some points, there is a consensus while at others, many differ. The universally accepted periods also are looked with differences by different scholars. In many authentic books of history of English literature, a reader can find different divisions; however, more than seventy per cent of the elements are often found to be agreeable.

On English Literature Education, we have also set our benchmarks and divided the entire history of English literature into different sections (by period, by trends, by literary persons and by the reins). We are not submitting that ours is the most authentic and should be universally accepted. Ours is just an attempt based on our study and accumulation of the understanding based on the trends and traits that different periods in the literary history of England displays.

The Anglo-Saxon English Literature: 650 – 1066 AD: Can we call it English literature? Well, if you go by reason, yes, we can call it English literature. However, the language in which the literature of this period was certainly not produced in a language called ‘English’. Major traits were valour in the verse or religious literature.

The Norman Conquest: This was the time when the literature of England was exposed to the French and it was certainly helpful for the literati but forgetful for England.

Literature in The Age of Chaucer: 1350 – 1400 AD: This was the time when English literature took shape in England. Chaucer emerged as a person in whom the nation could see their father figure – of poetry and also of language. Satirical spirit was at the level which was mild and not pungent. It was also fused with intellectual showmanship. Religion also found its due reflection in the literature of this period.

The 15th Century Literature: 1400 – 1500 AD: The 15th Century in the English literature is not considered very important because, in the opinions of many scholars, it did not produce anything worthy enough. It was marked with a confusion and unfulfilling attempts at writing.

Pre-Elizabethan Literature: 1516 – 1578 AD: The setting up for the grand Elizabethan literature marked with early flashes or sparks of drama and poetry was visible in this period of English literary history.

Elizabethan Literature: 1578 – 1625: It was only the great Elizabethan literature which paved the way for English Poetry’s advancements as well as set the English Stage for the grandeur of Drama. Marked with a celebration of human life, sensual romance and also getting deeper into the human spirit were at the centre, scattered around it, of the literature.

The Forced Biblical Literature: 1625 – 1660 AD: The forced Biblical Literature – Well, the only book popular in this period was supposed to be the bible and any other attempts at writing were limited to closed-group circulations through pamphlets. Marked with religious overdose into literature and the celebration of the Puritan spirit was apparently visible in the works of literature.

The Restoration Literature: 1660 – 1700 AD: The Restoration literature was marked with a free-spirited attempt at comedy on the stage as well as the initial attempts at political literature. Dominated by the celebration of the free spirit and also sexual overdrowning, the restoration literature can be seen as a mixed bag.

The Augustan Literature: 1700-1750 AD: Enlightenment, reason, sticking to the form and maintaining the norms were the main motives. The seeds of the English novel were rooted during this period.

Pre-Romantic Literature: 1750-1798 AD: Displayed a shift – from reason to imagination, as well as to religion. The literature of the romantic age was taking shape as well as the novel was getting a firm form.

Romantic Literature: 1798-1837: Look inward and move ahead… a panic was seen not only in the heart but also in the head. The French revolution had a great impact on the literature of this period. Leisure literature stepped in the form of novel which was destined to overtake poetry a day.

Victorian Literature: 1837:1901 AD: Though the reign of Queen Victoria is generally linked to describe the literature of this period, Victorian Literature, in its true spirit, ended earlier than the reign of the queen. It was marked with a haste and perennial confusion. Victorian literature, it seems, was in a struggle with itself. Reason vs belief was at the centre and a balance was not to be found in spite of continuous efforts. Also, it made sure that people dwell more in prose than in the verse.

Modern English Literature: 1901 – 1940 AD: Marked with delusion and a cynicism which was later taken over by a disgust for human life, Literature was getting to be coarse.

Post Modern English Literature: 1945 – 1990 AD: The delusion continued and got its reflection on the stage as well. The British could produce but not so much in numbers.

Contemporary Literature: 1990 – current: Marked with nothingness and a confused whole, the literature of the contemporary period is largely about the expression of individual opinions disguised in a universal tone.

Prepared by English Literature Education staff

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