Literary Periods

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The Medieval Period

Medieval Period (1066 - 1485)

Plays that instruct the majority of illiterate people in morals and religion.
Chivalry and Courtly love => the Knight's Tale
Religious devotion.

Stories told orally due to the illiteracy of most people.
Morality, Mystery and Miracle plays.
Kennings - two word phrases that describe an object through metaphors e.g. book-worm, brown-nose, tree hugger.

An illiterate population was able to hear and see the literature and the church could instruct its people through the morality and miracle plays.

Henry III was crowned king in 1154 which brings a judicial system, royal courts, juries and chivalry to Britain.

**Geoffrey Chaucer, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

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The Renaissance Period

The Renaissance (1485 - 1660)

The world view shifts from religion and the after life to one stressing the human life on earth.
Courtly, Timeless, Constant and Unrequited love.
Popular themes: the development of human potential and many aspects of love explored.

Sonnet form.
Metaphysical Poetry.
Tragedies, Comedies and Histories.

Commoners were now being welcomed at some play productions while conservatives tried to close theatres on the grounds that they promote brazen behaviours.

Printing press helps stabilise English as a language and allows more people to read a variety of literature.

** John Donne, Christopher Marlowe, Andrew Marvell and William Shakespeare.

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The Neoclassical Period

The Neoclassical Period (1660 - 1798)

Emphasis on reason and logic
Stresses harmony, stability and wisdom.

Satire
Poetry
Letters, Diaries and Biographies.

Belief that humanity is basically evil.Emphasis on the individual.

50% of males are now functionally literate.
Impoverished masses begin to grow as farming life declines and factories build (MORE POOR PEOPLE)
Factories begin to spring up as industrial revolution begins.

** Daniel Defoe, Alexander Pope and John Milton.

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The Romantic Period

The Romantic Period (1798 - 1832)

Introduction of Gothic elements and terror/horror stories and novels.
In nature people can find comfort and peace that the man made urbanised towns and factory environments can't offer.

Poetry
Lyrical ballads

A desire for personal freedom.
Evil attributed to society and not to human nature.

Middle class gains representation in the British parliament.
Tory philosophy that government should NOT interfere with private enterprise.

** William Blake, William Wordsworth, Jane Austen and Mary Shelley.

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The Victorian Period

The Victorian Period (1832 - 1900)

Conflict between those in power and the common masses of labourers and the poor.
The shocking life of workhouses and urban poor is highlighted in literature to insist on reform.
Romantic triangles.
Heroines in physical danger.

Novel becomes popular for the first time and is mass produced.
Poetry that is easier to understand.
Political, Detective and Serialised novels.

Literature begins to reach the masses.

Paper becomes cheap and magazines, novels etc are cheap to mass produce.

** Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Charlotte Bronte and Thomas Hardy.

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The Modern Period

The Modern Period (1900 - no agreed date)

Breakdown of social norms.
Rejection of outdated social systems.
Objection to religious thoughts,
traditional thoughts and traditional moralities.
Two World Wars effect humanity.

Poetry: free verse
Speeches
Memoirs
Novels
Stream of consciousness

Literature attempts to search for 'truths' and discover the deep ideas and meanings behind things.

British Empire loses one million soldiers to World War One.
Winston Churchill leads Britain through World War Two and the Germans bomb England directly.

** T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence and George Orwell. 

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The Postmodern Period

The Postmodern Period (1945 ish - present)

It is generally assumed Postmodernism started after WW2 in a time of great social, political and cultural upheaval.

It contrasts entirely with Modernism.

Rejects Western values and beliefs.
Suspicious of being 'profound' because such ideas are based on particular Western value systems.
Dwells on the exterior image and avoids drawing conclusions or suggesting underlying meanings associated with the interior of objects and events.
Sees human experience as unstable, internally contradictory, ambiguous, inconclusive, fragmented and with no one specific reality possible.

The reader must work out alternative meanings and provide their own interpretation.

** Margaret Atwood, George Orwell, Sylvia Plath and Kurt Vonnegut.

 

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