Periods of Literary History


These periods are spans of time in which literature shared intellectual, linguistic, religious, and artistic influences. In the Western tradition, the periods of literary history are roughly as follows below:

    • CLASSICAL GRECIAN PERIOD (800-200 BCE) Greek writers and philosophers such as Homer, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, and Sophocles
    • CLASSICAL ROMAN PERIOD (200 BCE-350 CE) Writings of Roman poets such as Ovid, Virgil, Terence, Plautus, philosophers such as Marcus Aurelius, and rhetoricians like Cicero and Quintillian.
    • PATRISTIC PERIOD (c. 70 AD-455 CE) Early Christian writings such as St. Augustine and St. Jerome

    · The so-called “Dark Ages” (455 AD -799 CE) Early Old English poems such as Beowulf The Carolingian Renaissance (800- 850 CE) Early medieval grammars, encyclopedias,etc

    · The Twelfth Century Renaissance (c. 1100-1200 CE) Chivalric romances, such as work of Chretien de Troyes and Jeun de Meung. Scholastic treatises appear by Abelard and others.

    · Late or “High” Medieval Period (c. 1200-1485 CE) Chaucer, Boccaccio, Dante, Christine de Pisan,the Gawain poet, Langland.

    • THE RENAISSANCE (the 16th and early 17th century in Britain, earlier in Italy)

    · Elizabethan period (1558-1603) Shakespeare’s early work, Marlowe, Kydd, Sidney

    · Jacobean period (1603-1625) Shakespeare’s later work, Jonson, John Donne

    · Caroline Age (1625-1649) John Milton, George Herbert, Robert Herrick

    · Commonwealth Period (1649-1660) Andrew Marvell, Sir Thomas Browne

    • NEO-CLASSICAL PERIOD (c. 1660-1790) Also called the “Enlightenment” due to the increased reverence for logic and disdain for superstition. Works written by Jonathan Swift, Aphra Behn, Voltaire, Racine, and Moliére;

    · In America, this period is called the Colonial Period. It includes colonial and revolutionary writers like Ben Franklin, Jefferson, and Paine.

    • ROMANTIC PERIOD (c. 1790-1830) Romantic poets wrote about nature and the imagination in England, such as Coleridge, Blake, Keats, and Shelley. In Germany, Goethe writes.

    · In America, this period is called theTranscendental Period. Transcendentalists include Emerson and Thoreau.

    · Gothic writings, (c. 1790-1890) overlap with the Romantic and Victorian periods. Writers of Gothic novels (the precursor to horror novels) include Radcliffe, Monk Lewis, and Bram Stoker in Britain.

    · In America, Gothic writers include Poe and Hawthorne.

    • VICTORIAN PERIOD (1832-1901) Writing during the period of Queen Victoria’s reign includes sentimental novels. British writers include Browning, Arnold, Dickens, the Brontës, and Austen. Pre- Raphaelites like the Rossettis, William Morris, idealize and long for the morality of the medieval.

    · The end of the Victorian Period marked by intellectual movements of Asceticism and “the Decadence” in writings of Pater and Wilde.

    · In America, Naturalist writers like Stephen Crane flourish, as do Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson.

    • MODERN PERIOD (1914-1945) In Britain, modernist writers include Yeats, Heaney, Dylan Thomas, W. H. Auden.

    · In America, the modernist period includes writers of The Lost Generation (also called The Jazz Age, 1914-1929) such as Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner.

    · “The Harlem Renaissance” marks the rise of black writers such as Baldwin and Ellison

    • POSTMODERN PERIOD (1945 onward) T. S. Eliot, Morrison, Shaw, Beckett, Stoppard, Fowles, Ginsberg, and other modern writers, poets, and playwrights.

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