English literature has been used to narrate stories and history from one generation to the next. Works of literature can be beautiful, tragic, funny, or entertaining.

As one of the oldest arts of story-telling, it imparts a depth of ideas, a wealth of emotions, and insights into characters. Therefore it is never too late to dive into the rich world of English literature.

There are numerous benefits of literature courses: they boost creativity, help you accept and provide criticism, and builds communication, writing, and critical thinking skills.

With English literature, you can experience life through the eyes of revered authors. It inspires us emotionally and intellectually and increases our knowledge of society, history, and ourselves.

Furthermore, it serves as important subject-matter for English majors. The study of literature provides an in-depth look into English society over the ages, as it helps readers differentiate between ethical standpoints and ideologies.

Without further ado, let's delve into more detail!

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A Guide To English Literature

As it consists of historical and contemporary viewpoints, here's a brief history of English Literature in the USA:

Old (Anglo-Saxon) Period

This era of literature dates from 450 to 1066. Before the 7th century, much of it was oral, and it was either an unoriginal translation or otherwise medical, religious, or legal in nature.

However, this era still gave birth to works like Beowulf, Caedmon's Hymn, and Juliana, all considered vital for English literature students.

Middle Period

The Middle era experienced a significant shift in the overall language, lifestyle, and culture of England. This transition resulted in Modern English we use today. The period extends from 1066 to 1500.

Similar to the prior era, the majority of literature from this period was religious as well. It was only after 1350 that a secular literary narrative began to rise.

Some great writers from this period were Chaucer, Robert Henryson, and Thomas Malory, while notable works include Le Morte d'Arthur, the Canterbury Tales, and Piers Plowman.

The Renaissance

While some literary historians classify this period as 'Early Modern,' we will stick to the historically common term: 'Renaissance.'

This period is split into: Elizabethan Age, Jacobean Age, Caroline Age, and Commonwealth era.

The Elizabethan era was a golden period for English drama. Arguably the most significant period for literature, it spawned names that are now synonymous with prose: Francis Bacon, Sir Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spencer, and the great William Shakespeare.

The portrait of the famous Renaissance-era English playwright, William Shakespeare. He's regarded as one of the best dramatists and writers in English literature
Widely considered the most influential writer in English literature, Shakespeare authored some timeless pieces of literature. Some of his most noteworthy works include The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet. (Source: Pixabay)

The Jacobean era comprises the writings of Shakespeare, John Donne, John Webster, Ben Jonson, Mary Wroth, and Michael Drayton. Meanwhile, the translation of the Bible' by King James formed part of this period.

The Caroline period spanned Charles I's rule, and some of the famous literary names of this era were John Milton, George Herbert, and Robert Burton. And if this period intrigues you, a few essential readings include Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained by John Milton.

A portrait of John Milton, an English intellectual and poet of the Renaissance era, penned some era-defining pieces of poetry that form a massive part of curriculums of English literature
Often considered the second-best English author after Shakespeare in English literature, John Milton was a poet, historian, and pamphleteer who has written remarkable poems like Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. (Source: Pixabay)

Lastly, the Commonwealth era covers the period between the end of the British Civil War to the reinstatement of the House of Stuart. During this time, theatres were shut down for about two decades to stop public gatherings and fight religious and moral transgressions.

Thomas Hobbes and John Milton's political works emerged, and, as drama suffered greatly, prose writers like Andrew Marvell, Thomas Fuller, and Abraham Cowley published prolifically.

Neoclassical Period

The neoclassical literary period is also divided into various ages: the Restoration Age, Augustan Age, and Age of Sensibility.

The Restoration era responded to puritans, particularly in the field of theater. Talented playwrights like John Dryden and William Congreve gave relevance to comedy during this time.

Additionally, satire also became popular among the masses through the work of Samuel Butler. Moreover, some of the influential writers of this age include John Bunyan, John Locke, and Aphra Behn.

The Augustan period is defined by the writings of Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope; their compelling stories, Gulliver's travels, and The Rape of the Lock have stood the test of time and remain relevant even today.

Apart from these two, Lady Mary Montagu also contributed to this period with her challenging views on the conventional female roles in society. She was ahead of her time and a trailblazer in her genre.

Lastly, Daniel Defoe and his novels Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders were also an essential part of this era's literature.

The last era in the neoclassical period was known as the Age of Sensibility, defined by the literary efforts of Edward Gibbon, Edmund Burke, James Boswell, Hester Lynch, and Samuel Johnson.

This period brought about a vigorous shift in ideology with the ideas like Enlightenment and neoclassicism. It shed light on famous novelists like Samuel Richardson, Laurence Sterne, Tobias Smollett, and Henry Fielding.

Aside from these novels, you can also find some intriguing poetry by Thomas Percy and William Cowper.

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Romantic Period

There are conflicting views about the start of the Romantic era of English Literature. Some believe it began immediately after the Age of Sensibility, while others maintain that it started on the eve of the French Revolution of 1789.

Notable scholars claim that this period started with Samuel Taylor and William Wordsworth's book the "Lyrical Ballads" in 1798. These two individuals also underlined this period with their thought-provoking writing.

Alongside this duo, William Blake, John Keats, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Coleridge, Lord Byron, Charles Lamb, Percy Shelly, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Thomas, Quincey, and Mary Wollstonecraft were some of the relevant contributors.

The Gothic era forms part of the Romantic period. It provided a sinister element to Romantic writing and has maintained popularity to this day and age. Various institutes around the world teach Gothic material in English literature classes.

Some famous writers of this epoch include Anne Radcliffe, William Beckford, and Matthew Lewis.

Modern Period

The modern age of English literature covers works penned after WW1. Some of this period's standard features include persistent experimentation with style, matter, form, drama, verse, and narrative.

Writers who have shaped modern literature include James Joyce, Aldous Huxley, Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Richardson, Richard Wright, William Faulkner, FS Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemmingway.

A series of novels authored by one of the most well-known and widely read modernist-era writers, FS Fitzgerald. Modern classics are written with an element of time bias that makes them ideal to be adapted into movie format
F. Scott Fitzgerald was an American essayist, short-story writer, screenwriter, and novelist. He was famous for novels such as The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night; both portraying the excess and flamboyance of the 'Jazz Age'. (Source: Pixabay)

From this period, literature students will find some compelling works such as The Great Gatsby, The Old Man and the Sea, and A Farewell to Arms.

Furthermore, the modern period was also replete with remarkable poets and dramatists, from TS Elliot, Robert Frost, and WB Yeats to Frank Mcguinness.

Postmodern Period

The postmodern age begins at the end of WW2. Experts classify it as a response to the modernism of the mid-20th century.

Although it's known to have ended in 1990, it's a bit soon to assert such claims. During this age, poststructuralist literary criticism and theory were developed.

The postmodern period is defined by the works of Joseph Heller, John Fowles, Iain Banks, Penelope Lively, Anthony Burgess, Samuel Beckett, John Hawkes, and Paul Auster.

Want To Learn English Literature In The US?

English Literature has developed over 1400 years, and over this time, it has adopted the nuances of each period to offer modern readers a library of diverse genres.

Therefore, when you begin reading and analyzing literature, you learn more about history and culture than the plot itself. But people refrain from it because it seems like a long-term commitment.

However, you can speed up your English literature learning if you choose the correct method, such as Superprof's English literature lessons in the United States!

With Superprof customized literature courses, you can grasp a lot at your own pace.

Plus, our experienced tutors can pinpoint mistakes to help you improve your analytical skills. Superprof English literature lessons are for all ages and budgets!

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