While the carpenter sleeps in his tub, 6 A Short History of English Literature Nicholas It used to be argued that he had every literary 8 A Short History of English. The short Oxford history of English literature/Andrew Sanders. Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. English literature - History and criticism. I . Title. A Short History of English Literature. Chapter I. The Anglo-Saxon Period (the earliest time). 1. Social background: the making of England; the invasion of.
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The history of English writing begins very early in the Middle Ages and native language; West-European short histories of English literature focus on the. Literature in the Anglo-Saxon period was recorded in manuscripts, and the life of a manuscript is a hard one. VI A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE. A Brief History of English Literature Notes - Free download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read online for free. Download A Brief History of English Literature.
Wycliffe's Bible is the name now given to a group of Bible translations into Middle English that were made under the direction of, or at the instigation of, John Wycliffe. They appeared between about and Another literary genre, that of Romances , appears in English from the 13th century, with King Horn and Havelock the Dane , based on Anglo-Norman originals such as the Romance of Horn c.
It is one of the better-known Arthurian stories of an established type known as the "beheading game". Developing from Welsh, Irish and English tradition, Sir Gawain highlights the importance of honour and chivalry. Preserved in the same manuscript with Sir Gawayne were three other poems, now generally accepted as the work of the same author, including an intricate elegiac poem, Pearl.
Chaucer is best known today for The Canterbury Tales.
This is a collection of stories written in Middle English mostly in verse although some are in prose , that are presented as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together from Southwark to the shrine of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Chaucer is a significant figure in the development of the legitimacy of the vernacular , Middle English, at a time when the dominant literary languages in England were still French and Latin.
At this time, literature in England was being written in various languages, including Latin, Norman-French, and English: the multilingual nature of the audience for literature in the 14th century is illustrated by the example of John Gower c.
A contemporary of William Langland and a personal friend of Chaucer, Gower is remembered primarily for three major works: the Mirroir de l'Omme, Vox Clamantis , and Confessio Amantis , three long poems written in Anglo-Norman , Latin and Middle English respectively, which are united by common moral and political themes.
Julian's Revelations of Divine Love about is believed to be the first published book written by a woman in the English language. It was popular and influential in the later revival of interest in the Arthurian legends. Mystery plays were presented in the porches of cathedrals or by strolling players on feast days.
The Return of the Native. Eliot's reputation largely rests on two long and complex works: The Waste Land and Four Quartets Modern literature Early 20th century poets W.
Eliot was born in the USA but settled in England. Rudyard Kipling Housman James relates character to issues www. The work of these two has overshadowed the work of the best late Victorian. Where Yeats is prolific as a poet.
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Yeats uses conventional lyric forms. A brief history of English literature Notes Middlemarch. Early modern writers The late Victorian and early modern periods are spanned by two novelists of foreign birth: Thomas Stearns Eliot Rupert Brooke Edwardian and Georgian poets. Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. Edward Thomas William Butler Yeats is one of two figures who dominate modern poetry. Among these are Thomas Hardy. Polly being perhaps his masterpiece. Nostromo and The Secret Agent.
Wells Graham Greene and the Nobel prizewinner. Forster's novels include Howard's End. William Golding Joyce and Woolf Where these writers show continuity with the Victorian tradition of the novel. Shaw was an essay-writer. Wells is celebrated as a popularizer of science. Evelyn Waugh Other notable novelists include George Orwell Of his many plays.
Where Joyce and Woolf challenge traditional narrative methods of viewpoint and structure. Other notable writers of the early part of the century include George Bernard Shaw Lawrence A brief history of English literature Notes of culture and ethics. Lawrence is concerned to explore human relationships more profoundly than his predecessors. The History of Mr. Forster Conrad's narratives may resemble adventure stories in incident and setting.
Working-class characters are presented as serious and dignified. Philip Larkin Scott Fitzgerald The Welsh poet. Two works notable www. Ted Hughes and the Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney b. Ernest Hemingway Auden seems to be a major figure on the poetic landscape. Notable writers outside mainstream movements Any list of "important" names is bound to be uneven and selective. Jekyll and Mr.
Of poets who have achieved celebrity in the second half of the century. Identifying broad movements leads to the exclusion of those who do not easily fit into schematic outlines of history. John Steinbeck and J. A brief history of English literature Notes Poetry in the later 20th century Between the two wars. Oscar Wilde Thomas Wystan Hugh Auden Thom Gunn Salinger b. John Galsworthy and the Americans F. Dylan Thomas is notable for strange effects of language.
Writers not referred to above. Some of these may be brief fashions the western seems to be dying while others such as the detective story or science-fiction have survived for well over a century. The growth of literacy in the Victorian era leads to enormous diversification in the subjects and settings of the novel. As the dominant form of narrative in contemporary western popular culture.
Prose narratives were written in the 16th century. Literature and culture Literature has a history. Recent and future trends In recent times the novel has developed different genres such as the thriller. Miller is more popular in the UK than his native country.
A History of English Literature
But it has proved surprisingly resilient. A brief history of English literature Notes not just for their literary merit but for their articulation of the spirit of the age are Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.
The American dramatist Arthur Miller b. The popular and very contemporary medium for narrative in the 16th century is the theatre. As society alters. The earliest novels reflect a bourgeois view of the world because this is the world of the authors and their readers working people are depicted. It is. Heart of Darkness or The Waste Land.
Flag for inappropriate content. Related titles. Jump to Page. In the 19th century, theatre was entertainment, and poetic drama was altogether too poetic. The English take pride in Shakespeare and pleasure in the stage, yet after the best drama in the English tongue is by Irishmen: Congreve, Goldsmith, Sheridan, Shaw, Wilde and Beckett.
As the quantity of literature increases with the centuries, the criterion of quality becomes more pressing.
Scholarly literary history, however exact its method, deals largely in accepted valuations. Voltaire also said that ancient history is no more than an accepted fiction. Literary histories of the earliest English writing agree that the poetry is better than the prose, and discuss much the same poems. Later it is more complicated, but not essentially different. Such agreements should be challenged, corrected and supplemented, but not silently disregarded.
The priorities of a history can sometimes be deduced from its allocation of space. Yet space has also to be given to the historically symptomatic. This does not mean that the Elegy is worth more than the whole of Old English prose or of Jacobean drama, which are [p. Space is given to Chaucer and Milton, poets whose greatness is historical as well as personal. Where there is no agreement as about Blake's later poetry , or where a personal view is offered, this is made clear.
Texts The best available texts are followed. These may not be the last text approved by the author.
A Short History of English Literature
Line references are not given, for editions change. But most are modernized in spelling and repunctuated by their editors. Variety in edited texts is unavoidable, for well-edited texts can be edited on principles which differ widely. This inconsistency is a good thing, and should be embraced as positively instructive. Further reading Primary texts Blackwell's Anthologies of Verse. Longman's Annotated Anthologies of Verse. Penguin English Poets, and Penguin Classics as a whole. Oxford Books of Verse.
Oxford and Cambridge editions of Shakespeare. Oxford University Press's World's Classics. Secondary texts Drabble, M. The standard work of reference. Rogers, P. Well designed; each chapter is by an expert scholar. Jeffares, A. Other volumes cover Scottish, Anglo-Irish, American and other literatures.
The Cambridge Companions to Literature Well edited. Each Companion has specially-written essays by leading scholars on several later periods and authors from Old English literature onwards. In the 7th century, Christian missionaries taught the English to write.
The English wrote down law-codes and later their poems. Heroic poetry, of a Christian kind, is the chief legacy of Old English literature, notably Beowulf and the Elegies. A considerable prose literature grew up after Alfred d. There were four centuries of writing in English before the Norman Conquest. These cliffs are part of what the Romans, from as early as the 2nd century, had called the Saxon Shore: the south-eastern shores of Britain, often raided by Saxons.
The Romans left Britain, after four centuries of occupation, early in the 5th century. Later in that century the Angles and Saxons took over the lion's share of the island of Britain. By , they had occupied the parts of Great Britain which the Romans had made part of their empire. This part later became known as Engla-land, the land of the Angles, and its language was to become English.
It is not always recognized, especially outside Britain, that Britain and England are not the same thing. But Lear was king not of England but of Britain, in that legendary period of its history when it was pre-Christian and pre-English. And did those feet in ancient time Walk upon England's mountains green?
Blake here recalls the ancient legend that Jesus came with Joseph of Arimathea to Glastonbury, in Somerset. Human settlement, in Britain as elsewhere, preceded recorded history by some millennia, and English poetry preceded writing by some generations. The people eventually called the English were once separate peoples: Angles, Saxons and Jutes. The Jutes liked what they saw, and by about the lion's share of Britannia had fallen to them, and to Saxons and Angles. The Celtic Britons who did not accept this went west, to Cornwall and Wales.
Other Britons, says Bede, lived beyond the northern moors, in what is now Strathclyde, and beyond them lived the Picts, in northern and eastern Scotland. The coming of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes in the 5th, 6th and 7th centuries [p. English literature, ; and Modern English, after The author of two After the English wrote in Latin, as they had done before the Conquest, but now also in magnificent verse epics: French.
English continued to be written in places like Medehamstead Abbey modern The Iliad, about the siege Peterborough , where the monks kept up The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle until Not very much of Troy and the anger of English writing survives from the hundred years following the Conquest, but changes in the Achilles; and The language of the Peterborough Chronicle indicate a new phase.
The modern academic convention of calling the people Anglo-Saxons and their from Troy to Ithaca. See Franks Casket. Only then could they take their place in English literary history. Old English is now well understood, but looks so different from the English of today that it cannot be read or made out by a well-educated reader in the way that the writings of Shakespeare and Chaucer can: it has to be learned.
Linguistically, the relationship between the English of AD and that of AD might be compared to that between Latin and modern French. Culturally, the English of had none of the authority of Latin. In terms of literary quality - which is the admission ticket for discussion in this history - the best early English poems can compare with anything from later periods. Literature changes and develops, it does not improve.
The supreme achievement of Greek literature comes at the beginning, with the Iliad of Homer 8th century BC ; and that of Italian literature, the Commedia of Dante d. Any idea that Old English poetry will be of historical interest only does not survive the experience of reading Old English poetry in the original - though this takes study - or even in some translations. Old English literature is part of English literature, and some of it deserves discussion here on literary merit.
Besides merit, it needed luck, the luck to be committed to writing, and to survive. The Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes were illiterate: their orally-composed verses were not written unless they formed part of runic inscriptions. The Britons passed on neither literacy nor faith to their conquerors. The English learned to write only after they had been converted to Christ by missionaries sent from Rome in Strictly, there is no Old English writing that is not Christian, since the only literates were clerics.
Oral origins and conversion It would be a mistake to think that oral poetry would be inartistic.
The Germanic oral poetry which survives from the end of the Roman Empire, found in writings from Austria to Iceland, has a common form, technique and formulaic repertoire.
It dealt with a set of heroic and narrative themes in a common metrical form, and had evolved to a point where its audience appreciated a richly varied style and storytelling technique. In these technical respects, as well as in its heroic preoccupations, the first English poetry resembles Homeric poetry. As written versions of compositions that were originally oral, these poems are of the same kind as the poems of Homer, albeit less monumental and less central to later literature.
Just as the orally-composed poetry of the Anglo-Saxons was an established art, so the Roman missionaries were highly literate. His most influential successor, Theodore [p. His chief helper Hadrian came from Roman Africa. Theodore sent Benedict Biscop to Northumbria to found the monastic communities of Wearmouth and Jarrow Throughout the Anglo-Saxon period, clerics from Ireland and England travelled through western Europe, protected by the tonsure which marked them as consecrated members of a supranational church with little regard to national jurisdictions.
English literature, as already noted, is both literature in English and the literature of England. In the 16th century, England became a state with its own national church. Before this, English was not always the most important of the languages spoken by the educated, and loyalty went to the local lord and church rather than to the state. Insular art, the art of the islands, is distinctive, but of mixed origins: Celtic, Mediterranean and Germanic.
The blended quality of early English art holds true for the culture as a whole: it is an AngloCeltic-Roman culture. This hybrid culture found literary expression in an unmixed language. Arriving as the Roman Empire faded, the Saxons did not have to exchange their Germanic tongue for Latin, unlike their cousins the Franks, but Latin was the language of those who taught them to read and write. As they completed their conquest of Britain, the Saxons were transformed by their conversion to Catholicism.
King Alfred thought Aldhelm unequalled in any age in his ability to compose poetry in his native tongue. There is a tradition that Aldhelm stood on a bridge leading to Malmesbury, improvising English verses to the harp in Border to attract his straying flock.
Aldhelm's English verse is lost; his surviving Latin writings are exceedingly sophisticated. Aldhelm c. Yet Britain, placed, if you like, almost at the extreme edge of the Western clime, has also its flaming sun and its lucid moon Britain has, he explains, Theodore and Hadrian.
Aldhelm wrote sermons in verse, and a treatise in verse for a convent of nuns, on Virginity. He also wrote an epistle to his godson, King Aldfrith of Northumbria, on metrics, which is full of riddles and [p. Exodus [p. Genesis B ? Even if Aldfrith and the nuns may not have appreciated Aldhelm's style, it is clear that 7th-century England was not unlettered.
More care was taken to preserve writings in Latin than in English. Of his English writings in prose and in verse, only five lines remain. Even this precious text is lost. On his deathbed, Bede sang the verse of St Paul Hebrews that tells of the fearfulness of falling into the hands of the living God. This is a Northumbrian version: Fore thaem neidfaerae naenig uuirthit thoncsnotturra, than him tharf sie to ymbhycggannae aer his hiniongae hwaet his gastae godaes aeththae yflaes aefter deothdaege doemid uueorthae.
Literally: Before that inevitable journey no one becomes wiser in thought than he needs to be, in considering, before his departure, what will be adjudged to his soul, of good or evil, after his death-day.
Its laconic formulation is characteristic of Anglo-Saxon. Oral composition was not meant to be written. A poem was a social act, like telling a story today, not a thing which belonged to its performer. For a Saxon to write down his vernacular poems would be like having personal anecdotes privately printed, whereas to write Latin was to participate in the lasting conversation of learned Europe.
Bede employed this system in his History, instead of dating by the regnal years peculiar to each English kingdom as was the custom at the time.
His example led to its general adoption. Bede is the only English writer mentioned by Dante, and the first whose works have been read in every generation since they were written.
The first writer of whom this is true is Chaucer. But we can learn something about literature from the account of the final acts of Bede, a professional writer. Composition was not origination but re-creation: handing-on, performance. These features of composition lasted through the Middle Ages, and beyond. Bede presents the calling of this unlearned man to compose biblical poetry as a miraculous means for bringing the good news to the English. At feasts when [p.
On one such occasion he left the house where the feast was being held, and went out to the stable where it was his duty that night to look after the beasts. There when the time came he settled down to sleep.
Suddenly in a dream he saw a certain man standing beside him who called him by name. Next day the monks told him about a passage of scriptural history or doctrine, and he turned this overnight into excellent verses. He sang of the Creation, Genesis, and of Exodus and other stories of biblical history, including the Incarnation, the Passion, the Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost and the teaching of the apostles, and many other religious songs.
Here is my own translation. Praise now to the keeper of the kingdom of heaven, The power of the Creator, the profound mind Of the glorious Father, who fashioned the beginning Of every wonder, the eternal Lord. For the children of men he made first Heaven as a roof, the holy Creator. Then the Lord of mankind, the everlasting Shepherd, Ordained in the midst as a dwelling place -The almighty Lord-the earth for men.
English is a stressed language, and the Old English verse line is a balance of two-stress phrases linked by alliteration: the first or second stress, or both, must alliterate with the third; the fourth must not. Old English verse is printed with a mid-line space to point the metre. Free oral improvisation in a set form requires a repertory of formulaic units.
The style is rich in formulas, often noun-phrases. The image of heaven as a roof and of the Lord as protector is characteristically Anglo-Saxon. In Old English verse, all vowels alliterate. About 30, lines of Old English verse survive, in four main poetry manuscripts. These were written about the year , but contain earlier material. Much is lost, but three identifiable phases of Old English literature are the Northumbria of the age of Bede d.
The artistic wealth of Northumbria is known to us through Bede, but also through surviving illuminated books such as the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Codex Amiatinus, and some fine churches, crosses and religious art. The Ruthwell Cross is from this period: in this high stone cross near Dumfries, in Scotland, was smashed as idolatrous by order of the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland.
In , however, the minister reassembled and re-erected it, and it now stands 5. It was an open-air cross or rood, covered with panels in deep relief showing scenes from the life of Christ, each with an inscription in Latin. On it is also carved in runic characters a poem which in a longer MS. This longer text in the Vercelli Book c. The Ruthwell text, which once ran to about 50 lines, is itself a great poem.
If carved c. The Dreamer in the poem sees at midnight a glorious cross rise to fill the sky, worshipped by all of creation. It is covered with gold and jewels, but at other times covered with blood. They made me a hoist for wrongdoers.
The soldiers on their shoulders bore me until on a hill-top they set me up; Many enemies made me fast there. Fast I stood, Who falling could have felled them all. Almighty God ungirded Him, eager to mount the gallows, Unafraid in the sight of many: He would set free mankind. Stand fast I must. I raised the great King, Liege lord of the heavens, dared not lean from the true. They drove me through with dark nails: on me are the deep wounds manifest, Wide-mouthed hate-dents.
I durst not harm any of them. How they mocked at us both! These last lines appear on the Rood at Ruthwell. The Ruthwell Cross is an expression of the veneration of the Cross which spread through Christendom from the 4th century. Constantine had been granted a vision of the cross, which told him that in that sign he would conquer.
Victorious, the new emperor declared toleration for Christianity, and built a basilica of the Holy Sepulchre on Mt Calvary. In excavating for the foundations, fragments of what was believed to be the Cross of the crucifixion were discovered, and miraculous cures were attributed to it.
Encased in reliquaries of gold and silver, fragments of the Cross were venerated all over Europe. One fragment was presented by the Pope to King Alfred, and is now in the 10thcentury Brussels Reliquary, which is inscribed with a verse from The Dream of the Rood. In warrior culture, it was the duty of a man to stand by his lord and die in his defence. But the lord in The Dream is an Anglo-Saxon hero, keen to join battle with death.Literary merit has been followed, at the risk of upsetting partisans.
Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. Lawrence In this aristocratic world, women have honoured roles: peacemaker in marriage-alliances between dynasties, bride, consort, hostess, counsellor, mother, and widow. Earl of Surrey Minor writers and movements are described rather than discussed, but a great deal of information about them is to be found in the full apparatus which surrounds the narrative.
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