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2 Periods Of English Literature The division of a nation's literary history into periods offers a convenient method for studying authors and movements. Hence most literary histories and anthologies are arranged by periods. In the case of English literature, there are almost as many arrangements as there are books on the subject. One plan is to name a period for its greatest or its most representative author: Age of Chaucer, Age of Spencer, etc. Another is to coin a descriptive adjective from the name of the ruler: Elizabethan Period, Jacobean Period, Victorian Period. Or pure chronology or names of centuries may be preferred: Fifteenth - Century Literature, Eighteenth - Century Literature, etc. Or descriptive titles designed to indicate prevailing attitudes or dominant fashions or "schools" of literature may be used: Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Age of Reason. The table that follows gives the scheme used in The Outline of Literary History.

428 - 1100 Old English Period 1100 - 1350 Anglo-Norman Period 1350 - 1500 Middle English Period 1500 - 1660 Renaissance Period 1550 - 1557 Early Tudor Age 1558 - 1603 Elizabethan Age 1603 - 1625 Jacobean Age 1625 - 1649 Caroline Age 1649 - 1660 Commonwealth Interregnum 1660 - 1798 Neoclassic Period 1660 - 1700 Restoration Age 1700 - 1750 Augustan Age 1750 - 1798 Age of Jonson 1798 - 1870 Romantic Period 1798 - 1832 Age of the Romantic Movement 1832 - 1870 Early Victorian Age 1870 - 1914 Realistic Period 1870 1901 Late Victorian Age 1901 1914 Edwardian Age 1914 - 1965 Modern of Modernist Period 1965 - Post-Modernist of Contemporary Period The Old English Period This term is applied to the period in English history and literature between the invasion of England by Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, beginning about 428, and the establishment of the Norman rule of England around 1100, following the triumphant Conquest of England by the Norman French under William the Conqueror. It was an age of intertribal conflict and, in the ninth century, of struggles with the invading Danes. The greatest of the rulers of the period was Alfred, who remains the only English ruler to be styled "The Great".

Learning and culture flourished in the monasteries. Although most writing throughout the period was in Latin, Christian monks began writing in the vernacular that we call Old English about 700. In the earliest part of the period the poetry, written in accentual meter and linked by alliteration1, was centered on the life of the Germanic tribes and was basically pagan, although Christian elements were incorporated early. The best of the poems that has survived is the great epic2 Beowulf which belongs to the seventh century. It is a story of about 3,000 lines which gives us an interesting picture of life in those old days. It tells us of fierce fights and brave deeds, of the speeches of Beowulf, a brave young man from southern Sweden, and the sufferings of his men.

Beowulf goes to help the King of the Danes whose great hall is visited at night by a terrible creature which lives in a lake and comes to kill and eat the king's men. The brave young man kills the terrible creature in a fierce fight.

In later days Beowulf, now king of his people, has to defend his country against a fire-breathing creature. He kills the animal but is badly wounded in the fight, and dies. The poem ends with a sorrowful description of Beowulf's funeral fire. The name of its author is unknown. In fact in Old English poetry, descriptions of sad events or cruel situations are commoner and in better writing than those of happiness. Early poetry of a more emphatically Christian nature included Caedmon's "Song"; Biblical PARAPHRASES such as Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, Judith; religious NARRATIVES such as the Christ, Elene, Andreas; and the allegorical Phoenix (a translation from Latin).

Old English lyrics include Deor's Complaint, The Husbend's Message, The Wanderer and The Wife's Complaint. Deor is a singer who has lost his lord`s favour. So he complains, but tries to comfort himself by remembering other sorrows of the world. Of each one he says "That passed over; this may do so also". There are many other poems in Old English. One of the better ones is a late poem called The Battle of Maldon. This battle was fought against the Danes in 991 and probably the poem was written soon after that. In general it is fairly safe to say that Old English prose came later than Old English verse; but there was some early prose. The oldest Laws were written at the beginning of the seventh century. These Laws were not literature, and better sentences were written towards the end of the seventh century.

The most interesting piece of prose is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, an early history of the country. There are, in fact, several chronicles, belonging to different cities. No doubt King Alfred (849-901) had a great influence on this work. He probably brought the different writings into some kind of order. He also translated a number of Latin books into Old English, so that his people could read them. He brought back learning to England and improved the education of his people.



alliteration - two or more words beginning with the same sound.

epic - the story in poetry of the adventures of a brave man (or men).

Another important writer of prose was Aelfric. His works, such as the Homilies3 and Lives of Saints, were mostly religious. They reflected Latin models and were noted for their richness of style. He wrote out in Old English the meaning of the first seven books of the Bible. His prose style is the best in Old English, and he uses alliteration to join his sentences together. The Norman Conquest (1066) however put an end to serious literary work in the Old English language.

Word Study.

I. Say the words in these pairs aloud, paying particular attention to where the strong stress lies.

period - periodic Elizabeth - Elizabethan allegory - allegorical Jacob - Jacobean narrate - narrative Victory - Victorian chronology - chronological prefer - prefrence history - historical prevail - prevalence prose - prosaic indicate - indication emphasis - emphatic educate - education scheme - schematic situate - situation poem - poetic apply - application German - Germanic restore - restoration triumph - triumphant alliterative - alliteration II. Match the words on the left with their definitions on the right.

anthology - a. a list or table arranged according to the order of time.

representative - b. a holy man.

coin - c. be active and successful.

chronology - d. account of events.

title - e. a record of historical events, arranged in order of time.

homily - f. unfairly generous treatment.

flourish - g. make better.

epic - h. a collection of poems or other writings, often on the same subject.

narrative - i. the appearance of the same sound or sounds at the beginning of two or more words that are next to or close to each other.

improve - j. invent a word or phrase.

chronicle - k. a spoken or written piece of information passed from one person to another.

favour - l. a form of oral religious instruction.

Homily - religious talk.

alliteration - m. typical, being an example of what other members of the same group or type are like.

lyric - n. a long poem of the adventures of a brave man (or men).

message - o. a short poem expressing strong personal feelings.

saint - p. a name given to a book, painting, play, etc.

III. Decide what part of speech is needed in the blanks. Change the original word to the appropriate form.

1. call The Old English language, also _ Anglo-Saxon, was the earliest form of English.

2. suffer "Beowulf" tells us of fights and brave deeds, of the speeches of the leader and the _ of his men.

3. religion We know the names of two Old English poets, Caedmon and Cynewulf.

Cynewulf's poems are _, and were probably written in the second half of the eight century.

4. speak It is true to say that Old English was _ from about A D 600 to about 1100.

5. rule King Alfred was not only an able warrior but also a dedicated scholar and a wise.

6. invade Old English was spoken in the British Isles between the Anglo-Saxons in the fifth century and the Norman conquest in the eleventh.

7. alliterative A good example of consonantal is Coleridge's lines:

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew, The furrow followed free.

8. anthologist The Bible is sometimes considered an and so is the Koran.

9. chronicle A few old secular plays the adventures of Robin Hood, but most plays from the Middle Ages to the time of Elizabeth are religious.

10. invade On 14 October 1066 an army from Normandy defeated the English at the Battle of Hastings.

IV. Fill in each of the blanks with the word that best fits the sentence. Change the part of speech when necessary.

dates common poem call invasion read Chronicle Alliteration tongue epic 1. English remains basically a Germanic.

2. Today only a quarter of the words in usage in English are of Old English derivation.

3. Among the critics who cannot read Old English there are some who are unkind to the, but Beowulf has its own value.

4. It is difficult to give exact for the rise and development of a language, because it does not change suddenly.

5. The Old English language, also Anglo-Saxon, was the earliest form of English.

6. The old language cannot be now except by those who have made a special study of it.

7. The date 14 October 1066 is remembered for being the last time that England was successfully.

8. The Anglo-Saxon, begun under King Alfred late in the ninth century and carried on by various writers in a number of monasteries, has been called the "first great book in English Prose".

9. A few of the more important folk are: Homer's the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Old English Beowulf,the East Indian Mahabharata, the Spanish Cid, the Finnish Kalevala, the French Song of Roland, and the German Nibelungenlied.

10. Verse is a term applied to verse forms, usually Germanic or Celtic in origin, in which the metrical structure is based on some pattern of repetition of initial sounds within the lines.

Comprehension Activities.

I. Read the following statements. Which of these statements do you think are correct 1. In the fifth and sixth centuries, the Angles and Saxons together with the jutes invaded and conquered Britain.





2. King Alfred is known as "Alfred the Terrible" - the only English monarch to be given this title.

3. Beowulf is not about England.

4. The successful Norman invasion of England in 1066 brought Britain into the mainstream of western European culture.

5. Late examples of Anglo-Saxon verse are the "Battle of Maldon" and the "Battle of Brunan burgh", lyric poems.

6. The Norman Conquest put an end to serious literary work in the Old English language.

7. The term Anglo-Saxon is applied to the period following the Norman Conquest.

8. "Beowulf" is an epic that tells the early history of Britain.

9. Until 700 Christian monks wrote in Anglo-Saxon. About 700 they began writing in Latin.

10. The early Greeks termed lyric that poetry that was the expression of the emotion of a single singer accompanied by a lyre.

II. Choose the best answer for the following questions:

1. The Old English period was marked by:

a. Religious unrest.

b. Intertribal conflict.

c. Great crusades.

2. The English language developed from:

a. The West Germanic dialects.

b. The Celtic dialects.

c. The French dialects.

3. The Old English Beowulf is a folk epic telling the story of:

a. Britain's glorious past.

b. The adventures and fortunes of the King of the Danes.

c. The brave deeds of a Swedish citizen and his men.

4. The Norman Conquest put an end to:

a. The dominance of Norman-French culture, art, and language.

b. Social, political, and linguistic readjustment.

c. Serious literary work in the Old English language.

5. The West-Saxon dialect is now commonly referred to as:

a. Anglo-Saxon.

b. Anglo-French.

c. Middle English.

The Anglo-Norman Period (1100-1350) The term Anglo-Norman is applied to the period in English history and literature between 1100 and 1350 which was marked by the dominance of Norman-French culture, art and language. The period is also often called the Early Middle English Period and is frequently dated from the triumph of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, although it was early in the twelfth century before the impact of Norman culture was marked on the English of before the Norman conquerors began to think of themselves as inhabitants of the British Isles.

In Europe this was the age of the great crusades and the period of the dominance of French literature. The Old English language, the tongue of conquered slaves for a period after the Conquest, not only survived in the period but blended with the French dialect of the Norman victors. Gradually it emerged as the language of England. By 1300 English was becoming again the language of the upper classes and was beginning to displace French in schools and legal pleadings.

Latin was the language used for learned works, French for courtly literature, and English chiefly for popular works-religious plays, metrical romances, and popular ballads. On the continent Dante and Boccaccio flourished. In England and France the body of legend and artful invention that gave England its national hero, Arthur, was coming into being in French, Latin, and English.

Writings in native English were few. The last entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles was made at Peterborough in 1154. About 1170 a long didactic poem in fourteeners4, the Poema Morale, appeared. Early in the twelfth century English metrical romances using English themes began to appear, the first being King Horn, and flourished throughout the period. The drama made its first major forward leaps in this period. The first recorded miracle play5 in England, The Play of St. Catherine, was performed at Dunstable about 1100. By 1300 the mystery plays were moving outside the churches and into the hands of the town guilds.

Native English poetry, both in the older alliterative tradition and in the newer French forms continued to develop. About 1250 came The Owl and the Nightingale, the most famous English debat6 poem; about the same time lyric verse was getting under way with poems like The Cuckoo Song. About came the popular The Prickeof Conscience, describing the misery of earth and glory of heaven and often ascribed to Richard Rolle of Hampole.

But, significant as these works are in the developing strength of native English writing, the period between 1100 and 1350 is predominantly the age of the Latin chronicle and of the glories of French and Anglo-Norman writings.

Throughout the period, but particularly in the twelfth century, a veritable cultural renaissance was expressing itself in England primarily through imaginative literature written in Anglo-Norman. In general, it follows the lines of the contemporary literature of France and embraces romances, tales, historical works, political poems and satires, legends, and saints` lives, didactic works, lyrics and debats, as well as religious drama. By 1350, however, the French qualities of grace, harmony, humour, and chivalric idealism, together with the many characteristic French lyric forms, worldly subjects, and syllabic meters, had been absorbed into the mainstream of English writing; and, in folk ballad, in fourteeners - a verse form consisting of fourteen syllables arranged in iambic.

miracle play - a play based on the legend of some saint or a miracle performed by some saint or sacred object.

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