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Literary Periods

This presentation provides a brief introduction to the five periods in British Literature up to the year 1800.

Elizabeth Bobo

on 18 January 2013

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Transcript of Literary Periods

Literary Periods Literary Periods Middle Ages Renaissance Baroque Period Restoration Enlightenment Vocabulary

Middle Ages
Colonial Expansion Century – n. a period of 100 years.
The 17th century is from 1600-1699;
The 20th century is from 1900-1999. Period – n. a portion of time,
often indefinite,
characterized by certain
events, processes, conditions Periodization – n. the process of
dividing and structuring
(history, culture, or literature)
into chronological phases Periods relation to Genres Genre study focuses on structure,
length, rhythm, content,
and whether or not
or how the author tells a story. Period study focuses on chronology
and historical context Good literary analysis includes both concepts In grouping texts according to "type,"
the concept of genre is applied to all literary works,
past, present, or future. The concept of literary period is another method
of classifying texts, placing it within the century or
decade in which it was written. Every age has its special features, among these
characteristic features may be its typical choice of genres Literary Period theorist
René Wellek writes:
these "systems of norms," include
themes, and
philosophies Warning: Yet we need to think critically about generally accepted definitions of the “characteristic features” of a period. How are they determined? It is usually a special, highly educated and privileged minority of people who shape and reflect the defining character of a literary period. Example: The names and characteristics history has given any specific period are limited by the fact that upper-class, white (and in the case of England and America, usually Protestant) males were the ones to write history. “The Age of Enlightenment” (which transmits a positive connotation) is concurrent with the height of the slave trade and continued oppression of less-privileged people, including women and colonial natives. So, while the concept of distinctive periods is helpful and necessary to the study of literature, some literary historians warn us not to blindly accept standard “periodizations,” but to question the social class, race and gender assumptions which have come to define the traditional periods. Consequence: Definition by Negation: What Periodization is not:
1) the characteristic features are not exact
2) beginning and ending dates are not exact
4) no period is objectively better than another
3) no one work embodies all features
5) labeling of each period is not exact 1) the features that differentiate periods are always relative:
works written in one time period often display
continuities with works of other periods
as well as differences among themselves. 2) the beginning, the flowering, and the end of each
literary period can be defined, but cannot be fixed precisely;
in addition, such terminal dates may vary from one country to another. 3) no individual work can ever embody
all that is associated with a given period. 4) the evolutionary fallacy is the notion that a particular period represents an "advance" of some sort or that something "higher" has "evolved" out of earlier, more "primitive" forms. One period cannot be proven to be objectively "better" than another. 5) even the labeling of literary periods and movements does not always appear to be consistent. This has come about because the traditional names derive from a variety of academic disciplines. The definitions of the the terms on this vocabulary list are themselves inexact. The adjective “medieval”comes from the Latin medium (middle) and aevum (age): the period noun, the “Middle Ages,” starts with the Anglo-Saxon invasion in the 5th century. Examples The "Renaissance" comes from art historians focusing on late14th -15th century Italy. The “Reformation” comes from religious historians focusing on the break from the Roman Catholic Church in the16th century. The “Baroque” period comes from art historians focusing on 17th century Europe. The "Restoration" comes from political historians focusing on the age after a monarch was restored to the English throne in the mid to late 17th century. The “Enlightenment” comes from historians of the history of ideas and science focusing on the 18th century. The “Colonial Expansion” comes from historians of early America, British Empire and its former dominions focusing on the 16th through the early 20th centuries. So, why study the periods? Three reasons: 1) Understanding topical references and allusions 2) Avoiding misreading or misunderstanding through ignorance of historical context 3) Engaging with great works of art is more interesting in proportion to the reader’s possession of information about the age in which they were produced. Five Periods in British Literature to 1800
Medieval Period
Baroque Period
Restoration and Neo-Classical Period
Enlightenment and Colonial Expansion from the 5th cen. fall of Rome to the 14th or 15th cen. The first and longest period of British literature, also called the Medieval Period, contains early works in Anglo-Saxon language such as the first epic of the Anglo-Saxon people, Beowulf. After the Anglo-Saxon period, England was conquered by the Normans and its high literature was written in French. There is a flourishing of religious themes during this period and the Roman Catholic Church and local trade guilds sponsor the first instances of English drama. Geoffrey Chaucer’s late 14th century work, The Canterbury Tales, reveals both an understanding and criticism of the religious culture of the time. and Reformation from its earliest beginnings in Italy in the 14the cen. to the 16th cen. The Renaissance period included the Reformation: from Martin Luther’s publishing his theses against the Roman Catholic Church in 1517 to the end of the European religious wars in 1648 In England this period is further subdivided into two periods named for the reigning Tudor monarchs: Henrician (King Henry VIII) and Elizabethan (Queen Elizabeth I). The Age of Shakespeare, the late Elizabethan and early Jacobian periods are considered the Golden Age of English Drama. It is also the age of the first national epic in modern English, The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser. [The Baroque style was encouraged by the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches in response to the Protestant Reformation and the Puritan Movement. It was also popular among royalty and aristocracy as a means of expressing their supremacy, power, and opulence.] In England, these years can be further subdivided into periods named for the reigning Stuart monarchs at the time: Jacobean (King James I) and Carolinian (King Charles I). This is the Golden Age of English lyrical poetry exemplified by writers such as Shakespeare, John Donne, and George Herbert. from 1660 when a monarch was restored to the throne of England until the turn of the 18th century. and Neo-Classisism The Restoration is also the beginning of the Neo-Classical Period (the “new” classical period) from the mid 17th cen.-18th cen. The movements in decorative, visual, and architectural, theatrical and literary arts called neo-classicism was characterized by the similarities to classical structures from the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. Attention to rules, symmetrical patterns, and rhymed couplets was In response to what writers saw as the extravRenaissance and Baroque extravagance. This period saw the publication of the second national epic in modern English, "Paradise Lost" by John Milton. and Colonial Expansion from the late 17th cen. through the 18th cen. (also called the Age of Reason) This period witnessed an intellectual movement that revolutionized the way Europeans saw science, religion, and politics. Philosophers underscored values that defended the French and American Revolutions The 18th century witnessed the growth of the British Empire which had begun with the16th cen. sea exploration and 17th cen. Colonial Expansion and slave trade in the Americas. The 18th century witnessed the growth of the British Empire which had begun with the16th cen. sea exploration and 17th cen. Colonial Expansion and slave trade in the Americas. This period invented the popular genre called the novel: Daniel Defoe is one of the first English novelists. This section of English 201 will unconventionally treat these periods in reverse chronological order, starting with discourses of liberty and captivity in the 18th century. Source:
Some of the definitions and text is adapted from
Literary Periods at CUNY Brooklyn
This site adapted the material from :
A Guide to the Study of Literature: A Companion Text for Core Studies 6, Landmarks of Literature, ©Brooklyn College. in a new approach to thinking about Literary Periodization You will participate This semester the 17th century throughout Europe; in this class, the term will be used to designate the first 40 years of the 17th century: 1603-1641. a period of grand and flamboyant artistic style, during which religious and classical themes were treated with direct emotional involvement From Latin “re” (again) + “nasci” (to be born) = rebirth or revival. The finding and reincorporation of “classical” (ancient Greek and Roman) learning into European culture. An illustration from "Paradise Lost:"
The expulsion of Adam and Eve from
The Garden of Eden. After The Restoration, comes the 18th Century, also know as "The Age of Enlightenment," or just "The Enlightenment." So, instead of learning about the periods in typical, chronological order (approximate centuries following):
1. Middle Ages (aka. Medieval Period), 13-14th centuries
2. Renaissance Period, 15-16th centuries
3. Baroque Period, early 17th century
4. Restoration, late 17th century
5. Enlightenment, aka Age of Reason, Colonial Expansion, Slave Trade and Abolitionist Movement. 18th century We will read the literature representative of each period from late 18th century (that is the late 1700s) exemplified by Equiano, backwards to late 14th century (that is the late 1300s), exemplified by Chaucer
1. Englightenment (18th cen)
2. Restoration (late 17th cen)
3. Baroque (early 17th cen)
4. Renaissance (15th and 16th cen)
5. Middle Ages (13th and 14th cen)
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