English Literature Throughout Time

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Medieval 1300 - late 1400s

Historical Context

  • Life dominated by church and king
  • You live where you are born
  • Uneducated majority
  • Invention of the printing press
  • Crusades
  • extreem rich vs. extreem poor

Key Themes and Ideas

  • Chivilric Romances
  • Mystery/Morality plays
  • explicit and humerous portrayles of sex
  • vernacular languages
  • Courtly Love
    • love is an overwhelming experience
    • idealisation of the woman
    • spiritual experience
    • transforming effect
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Medieval 1300 - late 1400s

Key Texts

Poetry

The Miller’s Tale- Geoffrey Chaucer

  • Male characters suffer consequences of actions fuelled by love/lust/greed
  • Effictio and lovesickness used to describe Absolon
  • Alison described through animal imagery
  • Irony
  • Allusions to the bible
  • Absolon takes literature too seriously
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Renaissance 1500-1688

Historical Context

  • Economic growth
  • Start of scientific knowledge
  • 'Rebirth'
  • Humanism

Key Themes and Ideas

  • tragedies
  • comedies
  • sonnets
  • classical verse
  • allegorical poetry
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Renaissance 1500-1688

Key Texts

Poetry

Sonnet 130- William Shakespeare

  • 'My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun'
  • Parody of Petrachian Sonnet
  • He loves her because of her ordinariness 

Drama

Romeo and Juliet- William Shakespeare

  • Conversation forms a perfect, unified sonnet
  • Religious imagery ‘saints’ extended metaphor
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Elizabethan 1558-1603

Historical Context

  • Severe punishment for treason
  • Golden age
  • Threat of war- Spanish Armada
  • Geographical and intellectual exploration
  • High class has idealistic ideas about pastoral life

Key Themes and Ideas

  • courtly love poetry
  • 'Ode to...' Lengthy, lyrical and reflective poem
  • Sharing poems in court
  • Young men expected to produce love poems
  • Metaphysical poetry
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Elizabethan 1558-1603

Key Texts

Drama

Anthony and Cleopatra- Shakespeare

  • Hyperbolic language
  • Questionable love
  • Melting imagery
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Jacobean 1603-1625

Historical Context 

  • Parliamentary revolt
  • Gunpowder plot
  • Debt caused severe economic depression

Key Themes and Ideas

  • metaphysical poetry
  • revenge tragedy
  • Dark mood
  • Questioning the stability of social order
  • Acid satire
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Jacobean 1603-1625

Key Texts

Poetry

The Sun Rising- John Donne

  • Realistic
  • Colloquial language
  • Arrogant yet relaxed
  • Their love is invincible
  • Centre of their own universe
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Restoration 1660-1685

Historical Context

  • Puritans left for America
  • Civil war
  • Return of theatre
  • Monarchy restored
  • Hedonism
  • Social ambition

Key Themes and Ideas

  • Social comedy
  • Bawdy, Cynical, Amoral
  • Reaction against restriction
  • Cavalier Poets:
    • Carpe diem
    • Short lyric poems
    • Underlying sense of eroticism
  • Money and marriage
  • Dramatic irony
  • Jokes about country people 
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Restoration 1660-1685

Key Texts

Poetry

‘To Celia’ by Ben Johnson

  • Erotic
  • Angelic power
  • ‘thirst’
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Regency 1700-1760

Historical Context

  • Achievements in art and architecture
  • Upper class mini-Renaissance of culture
  • Fashionable novels
  • Polite society

Key Themes and Ideas

  • satire
  • political essays
  • invention of the novel
  • female readership
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Regency 1700-1760

Prose

Sense and Sensibility- Jane Austen

  • Money is power
  • Sensibility is looked down on
  • Social rules

Poetry

Remember Thee!-Lord Byron

  • Male is central to relationship
  • Relationship is central to life
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The Enlightenment 1760-1820

Historical Context

  • Dramatic revolutions in science, philosophy and politics 
  • Individualism over tradition
  • French Revolution inspired
  • Increase in the literate
  • Egalitarianism, Rationalism 
  • More goods produced for less money
  • Chances for social climbing
  • Book industry
  • Coffeehouses allowed for intellectual discussion
  • Human rights enshrined by law
  • Seperation of church from state

Key Themes and Ideas

  • passion and imagination
  • worship of nature
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The Enlightenment 1760-1820

Poetry

To His Coy Mistress- Andrew Marvell

  • Pursuit of a woman
  • Theme of death associated with virginity
  • ‘birds of prey’
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Romantic 1800-1850

Historical Context

  • The industrial revolution
  • Natural sciences
  • Liberalism and radicalism
  • Aesthetic experience

Key Themes and Ideas

  • Sensibility
  • Supernatural
  • The gothic novel
  • Increase in female authors and readers
  • Nature
  • Celebration of childhood
  • Idealism
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Romantic 1800-1850

Prose

Sense and Sensibility- Jane Austen

  • mocking of Marianne, an idealistic teenager, through free indirect narration

Poetry

To Helen- Edgar Allen Poe

  • Mythological imagery
  • Praise
  • Nature imagery
  • Religious imagery
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Victorian 1837-1901

Historical Context

  • British Empire
  • Darwinism
  • Role of women
  • Changing attitudes to science religion and culture
  • Social issues of class

Key Themes and Ideas

  • Duty
  • Morality
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Romanticism
  • The gothic
  • Crime fiction
  • Visions of the future
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Victorian 1837-1901

Poetry

No, Thank You, John-Christina Rossetti

  • Woman rejecting man

Prose

Queen of Gardens- John Ruskin

  • ‘protected from danger and temptation’
  • Gender roles

Drama

A Woman of No Importance- Oscar Wilde

  • Religion is love
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Edwardian 1901-1910

Historical Context

  • Large British Empire
  • Build up to WWI and the Titanic
  • Suffragettes

Key Themes and Ideas

  • questioning beliefs
  • art for art’s sake
  • experimentalism

Key Texts

Prose

House of Mirth- Edith Wharton

  • Social rules
  • Actions rather than words
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Modernism 1910-1952

Historical Context

  • Abstract thought
  • pop art
  • minimalism
  • Marxism
  • World Wars

Key Themes and Ideas

  • science fiction
  • social and personal identity
  • feminism
  • Experimental
  • Deliberate obscurity
  • Breakdown of traditional values
  • More equality between men and women
  • Freedom to express desires
  • Realistic attitude towards love
  • Less conventional and more personal poetry
  • The theatre of the absurd
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Modernism 1910-1952

Key Texts

Prose

The Great Gatsby- F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • High class
  • Obsessive love
  • Careless attitudes towards life
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Post-Modernism 1952-

Historical Context

  • Sceptical interpretations of life
  • Growing media impact

Key Themes and Ideas

  • randomness
  • binary oppositions
  • Criticism of religion
  • Black humor and deliberate irony
  • Formlessness
  • Pastiche
  • Populism
  • Meta fiction
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Post-Modernism 1952-

Key Texts

Poetry

Widow- Sylvia Plath

Prose

Margaret Atwood

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