An Overview of British Literature Including England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales The Middle Ages Time Frame Approximately from 5th century A.D. to the 16th century From the fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance The cultural and literary pinnacle of the time Came during the 12th and 13th centuries— Chaucer’s time Language In the early period, English was the primarily of Northern European and Germanic extractions, from the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. In the 9th century, Alfred the Great insured that English would remain the dominant language. Language Continued… With England’s invasion by Norman forces in 1066 came a might influx of Latin and Southern European languages, culture, and philosophy. For three centuries, Norman influence would dominate English culture. Indeed, English almost became a forgotten dialect. England’s Cultural Force After the Hundred Years War with France and the outbreak of “The Black Death” More and more information was being written in English-a major shift from Old to Middle English-also supported to return to linguistic roots. The Great Shift in Language Happened when Chaucer wrote The London being the center and government of English civilization, now determined the linguistic future of the language, and its evolution, replete with its violent cultural and military history, was underway. Canterbury Tales Literature, Etc. Beowulf-The first major work in the vernacular Old English a 10th Century manuscript of 3,182 lines. Geoffrey Chaucer-The ultimate master of Middle English with The Canterbury Tales Sir Thomas More-Best known for his satire Utopia (Latin version) which describes an ideal island in the New World. He was a friend and counselor to Henry VIII until the latter had him beheaded. The Renaissance During the reign of Elizabeth I and her successor James I, England saw a flowering of its culture with the development of the printing press and the rising of the middle class. The Renaissance Witnessed the revival of scholarship and science and an amalgamation of the foreign words and phrases into English Language Those who pushed the language to its limits, and ultimately, into what we now call modern English Sir Thomas More Francis Bacon, William Shakespeare Literary Authors and Their Work Sir Francis Beaumont- best represents the comic style. Usually coupled with John Fletcher for plays such as Philaster. Buried in Westminster Abbey George Chapman-dramatic reputation rest most fully on his two part tragedy, Bussy D’Ambois. Often called Shakespeare’s rival. Thomas Dekker- His work is notable for its optimism and its realistic portrayal of ordinary London life and its people who live there. Authors Continued… John Fletcher- boasts the largest number of plays of the Elizabethan period, most are collaborations with other playwrights. There is evidence that he worked with Shakespeare on Henry VIII. Thomas Kyd-only contribution to literary history is The Spanish Tragedy, the first important revenge tragedy in English More Authors … Christopher Marlowe-led an exciting and often dangerous life, during which he wrote an impressive collection of plays and poetry – Tamburlane – Edward II – Dr. Faustus His work influenced Shakespeare’s early histories, and the Bard memorialized him in As You Like It as the “dead shepard” More Authors Continued… Thomas Middleton- his chief success came with A Game at Chess, which had the longest initial run of any play of the Jacobean period. Edmund Spenser- His chief success came with The Faerie Queene. Much of the work still functions well through allusion, but, his specific references, to events and personalities of his day, have lost much of their significance. And Lastly… William Shakespeare – Little is known of his life, however, his name appears on the most impressive influential body of creative work in the history of the English language. – His works was a major catalyst in the monumental shift form middle to modern English. – His themes run the gamut from gender relations and social satire to history and classical tragedy. – He wrote 154 sonnets. – Hamlet remains the most important piece of dramatic literature in English, partly due to a number of words and phrases tht have become commonplace. The Seventeenth Century Authors John Donne Ben Jonson John Milton Samuel Richardson Jonathan Swift John Donne (1572-1631) Considered one of the great metaphysical poets and ministers in English history. His poetry moves away from the traditional Elizabethan format of flowery images. Instead, his work builds on complicated conceits that transcend usual symbols. As a minister he preferred beautifully graphic imagery in which he played a significant role, as actor magnificently portraying the exquisite extremes of humanity. Most of his sermons and memoirs have been published along with his poetry. Ben Johnson (1572-1637) He can be truly called a Renaissance man of the early 17th Century. He was a playwright , poet, critic, scholar, actor, translator, and poet laureate. Served as the head of the first literary “school,” His first play included Shakespeare in the cast. His two plays, Volpone and The Alchemist are considered the height of satiric comedy. His poetry successfully covers numerous genres. John Milton (1608-1674) One of the greatest thinkers and writers in English history. His Latin elegies and English odes fare considered models of poetic beauty. Coming as he did on the cusp of two great literary and social movements, the Renaissance and the Reformation, Milton’s work serves as a philosophical bridge between the two. Samuel Richardson (1689-1761) Wrote one of the earliest novels in English Literature, Pamela, an epistolary work drawn from earlier works in English and French. The novel was praised for its realism and its high level of morality, but, paradoxically, criticized for its perceived impropriety. Few writers have attained the expertise of the epistolary form that Richardson developed. Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) Considered the master of satire, with pieces such as A Modest Proposal and A Tale of a Tub. However, it is with Gulliver’s Travels that most readers remember him. He also wrote political tracts and poems dealing with themes as seemingly divergent as love and revenge. In his later years, Swift’s satires grew increasingly dark, due, in part, to his own failing mental and physical health. The Restoration Politically, The Restoration refers to the reestablishment of the House of Tudor through King Charles II, but it also includes the cultural movement of the last 40 years of the 17th Century. It represents the first period of modern English prose writing, an abundance of witty comedies, and poetry. Authors Joseph AddisonA key member of the Kit—Kat Club, organized by influential Whigs in the early 18th century. Known as “the model of the middle style”, and it can be argued that his style introduces a “middle class” style to literature Authors Cont... James Boswell A minor literary figure in his own right and will always be remembered for his monumental Life of Samuel Johnson, to which he devoted much of his life. His personal letters and memoirs portray a man given to emotional and physical extremes. He writes frankly of his violent temper, promiscuity, and depression. More Authors... Daniel Defoe His work Robinson Crusoe is considered the firs modern novel in the English language. He published more than 560 pieces of fiction, non-fiction, tracts, and pamphlets. More... John Dryden Can be called the chronicler of his age. A proponent of the Restoration, he was a poet capable of weaving aspects of his culture into his prolific writing, including political realities, theology, philosophy, art, and rhetoric. His greatest contribution to literature did not evolve, however, until he discovered his ability to use satire effectively. More... Samuel Johnson His career did not run smoothly. Most of his early work either went unnoticed or was criticized negatively. It was with his Dictionary of the English Language that set his reputation and led to the several degrees that would be awarded him. The Dictionary is useful for its scope and plethora of quotations. It also helped set spelling standards for the language. More... Alexander Pope A prolific writer, producing volumes of poetry, translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey, political and critical pieces, and a mockheroic satire. The satire is aimed toward dullness in general and toward specific authors who have earned Pope’s ridicule in particular. And Finally... William Wycherley His popularity comes from his sardonic wit and cutting satires of a hedonistic London society. His criticism of society is far harsher than that of his contemporaries. His comedies often build on the animal-like qualities of his characters as an indictment of the darkness just below the shiny surface of Restoration culture. The Romantic Movement In its simplest form stands as an emotional reaction to the rational, neo-classical th standards of the 18 century Augustan poetry and prose. The Romantic Movement The philosophical diversity of its practitionersBlake’s fundamentalist Christianity vs. William Wordsworth’s pantheism for instance-suggest that the Romanticism is more complex than s simple emotional reaction. The Romantic Movement The term itself stems from the 17th century usage of “romantick” to describe words that include, among others, nature, magic, chivalry, adventure, and idealistic love. The Romantic Movement 18th century Puritans disapproved of romantic elements, but there were proponents such as Pope who dared to experiment with the apparent indolence and emotional extremes of romanticism and pushed what would become the Romantic movement of the 19th century. The Romantic Movement • Romantic writers move in different thematic directions, they agree in their rejection of 18th century literary and cultural rigidity. Thus the individual takes center stage, along with all the trappings of human emotion, intuition, and reverence for Nature. The Romantic Authors Jane Austin Known for her impressive collection of novels Her influences extend from what might be considered an uneventful life. Her greatest works deal with the subtle complexities of the “ordinary” lives of England’s gentry The Romantic Authors William Blake A highly mystical poet, he evolves much of his poetic style from his investigation of a personal mythology. He had a vision of authority and submission within a family context and a broader Christian context. Much of his work was too esoteric for the reading public, and as a result, his literary career lagged due to increasingly complex biblical imagery and mystical philosophy. In the 20th century Blake’s poetry has had a marked influence on underground and avant-garde poetry as well as the Beat Generation Writers. The Romantic Authors Lord Byron George Gordon His years in England were not overly pleasant. His wife left him, his debts rose, and rumors of incest filtered through social circles. In 1816, he left England and never returned. He spend his remaining years with the Shelleys and traveling through Europe. His poetry and dram had a large impact on t he Romantics, his greatest popularity was in Europe and America rather than England. The Romantic Authors John Keats- In many of his poems, there is a subtle tension between the ruthless decay of life and the bounding sensual pleasures that are part of that decay. The Romantic Authors • Mary Wollstonecraft ShelleyShe is best known for Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, which arguably set the aesthetic stage for the Romantic movement in England. The Romantic Authors • Percy Bysshe Shelley- He first received critical notice with his beautiful poem, Alasstor written the year his son William was born. This was the summer that he went to Lake Geneva with Byron where he wrote poetry. The Romantic Authors William Wordsmith- He endured harsh criticism form other Romantic writers, including Byron, Shelley, and Keats. However, Matthew Arnold admired the beauty of Wordsworth’s images of the sublime good in nature and man. The Victorian Age This age began and ended with the reign of Queen Victoria. The literary Victorian Age ran until just about the time the Titanic sank. Culturally, the age came to accept social and political change as the norm. The mid 19th century rose with the middle class, industrialization, urbanization, an increase in technology, and the advancement of science and pseudoscience. The tendency of the age is toward the novel although the Victorian writers investigate the relationship between people and society, between the individual and the self. Supports or suggests the research of Freud. The Victorian Age Matthew Arnold- He began his amazing literary career with the publication of The Strayed Reveller and continued with such favorites as Dover Beach. Later he turned toward critical essays on educational and social topics in which he called for a broader, more European outlook for what he saw as the provincialism of 19th century England. The Victorian Age Charlotte Bronte-Her most fully realized novel is one of the leading works of the 19th century Romanticism, Jane Eyre. She investigates issues of women’s rights. The major theme of Bronte’s work is intense personal integrity that resists degradation. The Victorian Age Emily Bronte- Her poetry was considered her strongest achievement, even above her darkly moving novel Wuthering Heights. Many early readers found her tale of intrigue and mystery on the moors of England incomprehensible. Not until her death and even into the 20th century did readers and critics begin to appreciate the full weight of Bronte’s power as a writer. The Victorian Age Elizabeth Barrett BrowningWell know for her Sonnets from the Portuguese, yet her true work of genius did not come until1857, with Aurora Leigh, which investigates the social responsibilities of the poet and the position of women in society. The Victorian Age Robert Browning-He did not truly realize success until he married Elizabeth Barrett. Browning reentered the literary world with the publication of Men and Women. After Elizabeth’s death, he published several more collections of poetry. The Victorian Age Lewis Carroll-Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland established Carroll as a preeminent writer of children’s literature. Unlike children’s literature of the time, Carroll’s books do not appear to teach any particular morals; behind their surface as pure entertainment, however, lie devastating satires on the celebrities and morals of the time. The Victorian Age Charles Dickens- Few writers have been as successful in capturing an age as Charles Dickens. He turned out a remarkable series of novels that deal with the psychosocial aspects of Victorian society. His writings describe the intricacies and various ills of Victorian culture. The Victorian Age Sir Arthur Conan Doyle- Like Agatha Christie’s work, his sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, has engendered loyal fans around the world. From a stylistic points of view, Doyle's’ work creates a fascinating view of late Victorian England and its accompanying mind set. The Victorian Age George Eliot-Her real name is Mary Ann Evans. Her earliest works, including Silas Marner ,deal with life in Warwickshire, Eliot’s home. Although some novels are set in the period before the Reform Bill, the moral and social issues presented are clearly indicative of Victorian England. The Victorian Age Thomas HardyHis novels are masterpieces of literary naturalism. Many of his works are centered on the tragic-epic struggle between the individual and the environment. He also wrote poetry; in fact, he considered himself primarily a poet. The Victorian Age Rudyard KiplingHe is remembered for his children’s stories. Yet he successfully wrote many other forms of literature, particularly stories about the common people of India. His Kipling also valued technology and included various machines and inventions in many of his tales. The Victorian Age Robert Louis StevensonHis adventure novels have charmed generations. In particular, his first full-length novel, Treasure Island has gone through hundreds of editions and has been adapted for film at least three times. The Victorian Age Bram Stoker- Many readers admit a morbid fascination with Stoker’s one memorable creation, Count Dracula. In one stroke, Stoker managed to elevate a relatively obscure Eastern European myth to the stature of a multicultural dark force replete with lurid psycho-sexual implications. Dracula contains a wealth of information about the latest technological advances of the day and can almost be read as an anthropological text. The Victorian Age Alfred, Lord Tennyson-He published two of his most memorable poems. “The Lady of Shallot” and “The Lotus Eaters” in Poems. Both works signify his use of classical mythology and medieval legend tinged with melancholia. In another work, he received criticism for its reliance upon medieval allusions to ridicule Victorian society, but he remained steadfast in his belief that they merely reflected certain inconsistencies within the society. The Victorian Age H. G. Wells- He is best known for his science fiction stories that have been adapted for film. He also set the framework for today’s science fiction authors by his interest in social and technological progress and its implications, rather than pure fantasy. The Victorian Age Oscar Wilde- His flamboyant behavior, which first made him society’s darling, caused him much trouble in his later life, including imprisonment for homosexuality in 1895. His literature pivots on social and cultural satire with such works as The Importance of being Earnest. His only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, a Gothic melodrama about the demented search for eternal youth, caused quite a scandal when it was published. The Twentieth Century The 20th century is a time of great change and technological revolution. Writers use literature to express problems that run concurrent with socio-cultural changes. Existentialism defines the philosophical stance through the two world wars while postmodernism suggests the lack of social unity and the ultimate unreality of cultural and political ideals in the second half of the century, especially with the generation X writers. The Twentieth Century W.H. Auden- His talent as a poet first came to the fore while he was at Christ Church, Oxford where he later taught. T.S. Eliot accepted Auden’s first collection of poetry which established him as one of the strongest voices of his generation. The Twentieth Century Agatha Christie- Few can lay claim to what Dame Agatha does. She wrote 66 detective novels and developed at least two memorable sleuths. Several of her novels have been adapted for film, stage, and television. The Twentieth Century Joseph Conrad- He knew little English when he immigrated to England from Poland. By the age of forty, he had not only mastered it, but had written his first novel. The Twentieth Century Aldous Huxley- As a suggestion of the consequences of a careless society, he wrote one of the memorable pieces of science fiction, Brave New World. He warned against the temptations of technology The Twentieth Century George Bernard Shaw- He is England’s most important playwright of the first half of the 20th century, and arguable, second only to Shakespeare as its greatest, the Irish-born Shaw used theatre as a “bully pulpit” to espouse the causes in which he believed.