Major Periods of English & American Literature

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1 Major Periods of English & American Literature

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 texts. Dates are approximations.

3 Anglo-Saxon ( ) Few surviving texts with little in common Language closer to modern German than modern English Frequently reflect non-english influence Oral Storytelling Beowulf Caedmon Cynewulf

4 Medieval ( ) Works frequently of a religiously didactic content Written for performance at court or for festivals Passion Plays Printing Press Geoffrey Chaucer (The Canterbury Tales) Arthurian Tales

5 English Renaissance ( ) French for Rebirth The Rise of Humanism Religious Reform Catholic and Protestant Fall of Feudalism 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 Machiavelli The Prince

6 Neoclassical/Enlightenment England America 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. ) Writing should be well structured, emotion should be controlled, and emphasize qualities like wit. Reason is emphasized as the highest faculty Deism belief in the existence of a God on the evidence of reason and nature only, with rejection of supernatural revelation (no miracles) or belief in a God who created the world but has since remained indifferent to it.

7 Neoclassical/Enlightenment (cont.) England: John Locke John Milton (Paradise Lost) Alexander Pope (Essay on Man) Jonathan Swift (Gulliver s Travels) Henry Fielding (Tom Jones) Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe) Jane Austen (Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Pride and Prejudice)

8 Neoclassical/Enlightenment (cont.) America: Benjamin Franklin (Poor Richard s Almanack) Thomas Paine ( Common Sense ) Thomas Jefferson ( The Declaration of Independence ) James Madison ( The Constitution of the United States )

9 Romanticism England America Reaction against the scientific rationality of Neoclassicism and the Industrial Revolution Developed in Germany (Kant, Goethe) Emphasized individuality, intuition, imagination, idealism, nature (as opposed to society & social order) Elevation of the common man (folklore, myth) Mystery and the supernatural

10 Romanticism England: The Big Six William Blake (Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience) William Wordsworth (Lyrical Ballads, Tintern Abbey, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud ) Samuel Taylor Coleridge ( The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ) Lord Byron ( Don Juan ) Percy Bysshe Shelley ( Ozymandias ) Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Frankenstein) John Keats ( Ode on Melancholy )

11 Romanticism America: Washington Irving ( Rip Van Winkle, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow ) Edgar Allan Poe ( The Raven, The Murders in the Rue Morgue ) James Fennimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans) Herman Melville (Moby-Dick) Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter) Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ( Paul Revere s Ride )

12 Romanticism 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 philosophy Pro-suffrage & abolitionist Ralph Waldo Emerson (Nature, The American Scholar ) Henry David Thoreau (Walden, Civil Disobedience ) Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass)

13 Victorianism (England ) 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 and Modernism Generally emphasized realistic portrayals of common people, sometimes to promote social change Some writers continue to explore gothic themes begun in Romantic Period Novels became literary form: Children s novels

14 Victorianism (cont.) Charles Dickens (David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations) 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) Matthew Arnold ( Dover Beach ) Oscar Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest)

15 *Edwardian Period (England ) Named for King Edward Some see as a continuation of Victorian Period 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 *Realistic Period (America ) 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)

17 *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. 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)

18 Modernism ( ) Reaction against the values which led to WWI Influenced by Schopenhauer claimed that our world is driven by a continually dissatisfied will, continually seeking satisfaction Kierkegaard proposed that each individual not society or religion is solely responsible for giving meaning to life and living it passionately and sincerely as well as Darwin and Marx

19 Modernism Continued ( ) Nietzsche: Key Ideas Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy a philosophical and literary dichotomy, based on certain features of ancient Greek mythology Apollo and Dionysus are both sons of Zeus. Apollo is the god of reason and the rational, while Dionysus is the god of the irrational and chaos. The Apollonian is based on reason and logical thinking. By contrast, the Dionysian is based on chaos and appeals to the emotions and instincts. The content of all great tragedy is based on the tension created by the interplay between these two. Death of God "God is dead" does not mean Nietzsche believed in an actual God who first existed and then died in a literal sense. The death of God is a way of saying that humans are no longer able to believe in any such cosmic order since they themselves no longer recognize it.

20 Modernism ( ) If previous values are invalid, art is a tool to establish new values Writers/Artists experiment with form Form and content reflect the confusion and changes of modern life Expositions and resolutions are omitted themes are implied rather than stated

21 Modernism (cont.) Poetry: 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) William Carlos Williams ( The Red Wheelbarrow, This Is Just to Say ) Robert Frost (Mending Wall, The Road Not Taken)

22 Modernism (cont.) Fiction: 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)

23 Post-Modern Period (1945-?) Critical dispute over whether an actual period or a renewal and continuation Modernism post- WWII Influenced by Sartre - key figure in the philosophy of existentialism (philosophical thinking begins with the human subject, the acting, feeling, living human individual) and phenomenology (the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness) Camus - His views contributed to the rise of the philosophy known as absurdism, referring to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any in essence it is absurd, humanly impossible. Foucault - theories addressed the relationship between power and knowledge, and how they are used as a form of social control through societal institutions) Deconstruction: Text has no inherent meaning; meaning derives from the tension between the text s ambiguities and contradictions revealed upon close reading Some believe it leads directly to the counter-cultural revolution of the 1960s.

24 Post-Modern Period (cont.) Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot) Gabriel Garcia Marques (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) Phillip Roth (Portnoy s Complaint, American Pastoral) Joyce Carol Oates ( Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? ) Margaret Atwood (The Handmaiden s Tale) Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian) Allen Ginsberg (Howl and Other Poems)

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