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The Periods of British Literature

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  1. The Periods of British Literature • Old English • Middle English • The Renaissance • Neoclassical Period(Enlightenment/Age of Reason) • Romantics • Victorian Era • Edwardian Period • Modernism • Postmodernism and Contemporary

  2. Old English 680-1066 • Around 450, Germanic tribes--Angles, Saxons, and Jutes--began the invasion of Britain.. • By 600, Anglo-Saxons conquer the Britons • language becomes more Germanic and is unrecognizable as modern English • Beowulf (please see next slide) is an example of this language

  3. Old English Text Hwæt. We Gardena in geardagum, LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings þeodcyninga, þrymgefrunon, of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped, huðaæþelingasellenfremedon. we have heard, and what honor the athelings won! Oft ScyldScefingsceaþena/ þreatum, Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes,

  4. Middle English 1066-1500 • Language – The MOST significant shift in language occurs at this time. Language shifts from unrecognizable, to decipherable (see next slide). • Works frequently of a religious content • Written for performance at court or for festivals • Literature often contains a long composition describing the life and adventures of a noble hero • Theme – loyalty to king and his lord • Arthurian Legend: King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table • Geoffrey Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

  5. Middle English Text • Wan that • Aprille with • his sure-es • so-tut • The drewgt • of march • hath pear- • said to the • row-tuh When April with his showers sweet with fruit The drought of March has pierced into the root

  6. The Renaissance (1500-1660) • “Renaissance” means “Rebirth”--Rebirth of interest in the Greek and Latin classics • This is one of the greatest times of expansion for Britain. • Focus on the individual • Cultivation of human potential through proper education; focus on individual consciousness and the Interior mind • Concern with the refinement of the language and the development of a national, vernacular literature

  7. The Renaissance • Noted authors during this time were Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare • Marlowe: • The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus • Shakespeare • Romeo and Juliet • Hamlet • A Midsummer Night’s Dream

  8. Neo-classics and Enlightenment 1660-1785 • Reaction to the expansiveness of the Renaissance in the direction of order and restraint. • 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).

  9. Neoclassic Noted Authors • 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)

  10. Romantic Period (1785-1830) • Poetry is the common form of writing. • Reaction against the scientific rationality of Neoclassicism and the Industrial Revolution. • Emphasized individuality, intuition, imagination, idealism, nature (as opposed to society & social order). • Elevation of the common man. • Mystery and the supernatural

  11. Romantic Noted Authors • Robert Burns (“To a Mouse”) • William Blake (Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience) • William Wordsworth (Lyrical Ballads) • Samuel Taylor Coleridge (“Kubla Kahn”) • Lord Byron (“Don Juan”) • Percy Bysshe Shelley (“Ozymandias”) • John Keats (“Ode on a Grecian Urn”)

  12. Victorian Era (1830-1901) • Named for the reign of Queen Victoria, Britain’s longest reigning monarch. • Britain is at the height of its power during this era. This is as a result of Imperialism (acquisition of as much foreign territory as possible – often through force or coercion). • British society extremely class conscious. • Generally emphasized realistic portrayals of common people, sometimes to promote social change.

  13. Literature and the Victorians • The novel is the dominant form of literature during this time period. • Victorian literature was notable for the creation of atypical heroes. This was a response to Imperialism and fear about the following: • change • instability • fluctuation of beliefs • assimilation

  14. Victorians, cont. • Charles Dickens (Great Expectations) • Thomas Hardy (Tess of the D’Ubervilles) • Rudyard Kipling (Jungle Book) • Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) • Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre) • Emily Brontë (Wuthering Heights) • Alfred, Lord Tennyson (In Memoriam) • Robert Browning (“My Last Duchess”) • Oscar Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest)

  15. Edwardian Period 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)

  16. Modern (1914-1945) Reaction against the values which led to WWI. 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. Dystopian is a common theme – born out of a fear of totalitarian power post WWI

  17. Modern Period Poetry: • T.S. Eliot (The Waste Land) • W.B. Yeats (The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems, The Swans at Coole) Fiction: • James Joyce (Dubliners) • D.H. Lawrence (The Rainbow) • Virginia Woolf (To the Lighthouse).

  18. Post-Modern Period (1945-?) Period begins with the end of World War II Influenced by Freud, Sartre, Camus, Derrida, and Foucault. Deconstruction: Text has no inherent meaning; meaning derives from the tension between the text’s ambiguities and contradictions revealed upon close reading. (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead) Some believe it leads directly to the counter-cultural revolution of the 1960s.