English- Context - A2 AQA

Both the historical and literary context from the 14th Century to 21st Century.

  • Created by: Ella
  • Created on: 03-05-13 13:07

1300s/ 1400s 14th/ 15th Century

-The Medieval literary movement

- Most literature was written in French or Latin so was unaccessible to many. Chaucer wrote in the Vernacular (middle English).

- Status was often dictated by occupation.

- Fabliau- Medieval verse. Characterised by comic. ribald treatment. Tells stories of ordinary people, usually involving sex or money. Often had a mixed audience of either the lower class who could relate, or the upper class who would mock them.

- Courtly love, a tradition celebrated in literature during the middle ages and Renaissance which often idealises a love between a knight and a married women. Typically the lover falls in love at first sight and remains in agony until the love is returned.

EXAMPLES- Link to 'The Miller's Tale', The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer

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1500s / 16th Century

- Renaissance (1500 - 1670) literary movement.

- Elizabethan

- The emergence of Britain into the modern era

- Dissolution of Monasteries

- Religious struggles

- Literature starts to reject traditions and the cliches of Medieval Britain

- Ideas about perfection in regards to love. Women who had red cheeks and lips for example were often seen as the ideal.

EXAMPLE- Shakespeare (1564) - > Othello (1603), Sonnet 130 (1609)

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1600s / 17th Century

- Still in the Renaissance
- The English civil war (1642 - 1651). Conflict between the Parliamentarians and Royalists.
- New scientific developments ie Willam Harvey's circulation of blood or Galileo discovering the Earth revloving around the sun.
- Idea of 'carpe diem' and living life to the full.
- Censorship of anything sexual or political in literature.
- Metaphyscial poetry and the use of conceits (abit like extended methaphors) to talk about these issues. (John Donne, Andrew Marvell, George Herbert etc.) Often middle class.
- Cavalier Poets,knights and squires who sided with the King. They were often aristocrats who avoided the subject of religion and instead celebrated life. (e.g Robert Herrick, Richard Lovelace etc) Also known as the 'Sons of Ben' after Ben Jonson.
- Influences from Neo- Platonism
- Little reference to nature of classic mythology.

EXAMPLES- John Donne -> 'The Sun Rising', 'The Flea', 'Love's Growth'. George Herbert's shape poem 'Wings'. Andrew Marvell 'To His Coy Mistress'. Robert Herrick's 'To The Virgins, to Make Much of Time'

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1700s / 18th Century

- The Romanticism literary movement (1789 - 1830)

- French Revolution, rise of the working class and overthrow of the monarchy.

- Britain was full of protests and disturbances with poor conditions for work.

- There were 'six big poets': Keats, Shelley, Blake, Wordsworth, Byron and Coleridge

- There were also six main features of Romantic poetry: Heart over reason, transcendence, rebellion against the traditional, investigation of the self, a focus on the imagination and the love of nature.

- Lots of new structures/ forms being introduced/ reintroduced e.g ballads and ottova rimas.

EXAMPLES: Keats 'Bright Star' = sonnet. 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci' = ballad. 'Isabella' = ottova rima. 'The Eve Of St Agnes'

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1800s / 19th Century

- Respective roles of men and women and the 'seperate spheres debate'. Women should be in the home and men out to work.

- Introduction to the idea of the 'New Women' who are women in real life or literature who were dissatisfied with their traditional roles and were supposed to be intelligent, educated, active, attractive and employable.

- Pater, the founder of the Aesthetic movement. Suggested that all art and forms of literature are self sufficient.

- Overturning of traditional gender roles was often seen as funny to a contemporary reader as it seemed absurd and unlikely.

- Victorian period, the gothic genre and ideas of family living. (1827 - 1901)

- Rigid class systems

EXAMPLE- Oscar Wilde's 'Importance of Being Earnest' (1890s), 'Jane Eyre' Charlotte Bronte, 'Northanger Abbey' Jane Austen

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1900s / 20th Century

- Modernism - Self-conscious break with traditional styles of poetry and verse, experimenting with literary form and expression with the desire to overturn traditional modes of representation and express the new sensibilities.

- WWI and WWII and scientific developments

- Women seen as hopeless, emotional and dependant at the start of the century, changed to being independent and powerful near the end (Margaret Thatcher as prime minister etc.). Equality in genders.

- Rejecting the traditional ideas of love and instead try and show the realities of it.

- 60s speaks of the sexual revolution and society's changing ideas to do with relationships.

- Post Modernism (1965 onwards): self conscious narrator, fragmented narrative, unreliable narrator, multiple readings, sense of uncertainty and intertextuality.

EXAMPLES- Philip Larkin 'Talking in Bed' and Carol Ann Duffy 'Valentine'. Also Ian McEwan in the late 1900s 'Enduring Love' and 'Atonement'.

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Really helpful, thank you!

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