British Literature Survey

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Old and Middle Age English literature

Beowulf (7th-8th century) heroic epic, the oldest piece of English literature; the author unknown Beowulf a hero, brave and strong man, comes to help to an old Danish king in the fight with the monster.

Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400) Canterbury Tales a tale collection (epic poetry) frame: A group of pilgrims agree to tell the stories to pass the time on their journey to Canterbury, the place of pilgrimage. In this group we meet the merchant, the lawyer, the cook, the ploughman, the miller, the monk, nun, the prioress, the pardoner and a very special “wife of Bath”. Each of these characters was to narrate a story. They have different topics, the way of narrative, expressions, etc. Thus, the author wanted to show a “cross-section” of contemporary English society.

II. The Renaissance and the 17th century

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) playwright, poetry comedies: The Taming of the Shrew Twelfth Night A Midsummer Night’s Dream As you Like it The Merchant of Venice ......... tragedies Romeo and Juliet Hamlet Othello Macbeth King Lear ......... historical plays Richard III. Henry V. Julius Caesar romances The Tempest The Winter’s Tale lyrical poetry - sonnets

John Milton (1608-1674) Paradise lost An epic piece of work shows the rebellion in Heaven: the “Fallen Angels” rebelled against the God and left and founded the Hell where they recognise the authority of Satan. One part of the epic narrates the story of Adam and Eve,” the tree of knowledge” and their expulsion from the Paradise .

III. The 18th century – the Enlightenment era

the beginnings of English novel; many changes in the political and social life; rapid industrial and social development, spread of education, the development of journalism

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) satirical work Gulliver’s Travels The sailor Lemmuel Gulliver travels through four imaginary countries: the country of Lilliputans, Giants, flying island and the country of horses. Satire criticising the situation in these day England.

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) The Life and strange Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York

IV. The 19th century – the Era of Romanticism and Realism

a) Romanticism – the 1st half of the 18th century Romantic poets: S. Coleridge, W. Wordsworth, P. B. Shelley, J. Keats, G. Byron

Romantic novels: Walter Scott (1781-1832) Waverley Scottish setting and history in the early 18th century, Scottish scenery, traditions, customs, culture. Ivanhoe England in the era of Richard Lion-hearted; the late 12th century; the character of Robin Hood many other historical novels


Realism – 2nd half of the 19th century (Victorian literature)

Charlotte, Emily, Anne Brontë (Brontë sisters)

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) The Papers of the Pickwick Club A club of amateur cockney scientists goes through different adventures and events. Oliver Twist David Copperfield The autobiographic novel, the life story of the young and hard-working man who had gone through many hardships but finally was able to reach hapiness and get to higher society. Great Expectations Depictions of the 19th century England, realism and criticism; autobiographical elements; 19th century England and hard living conditions; Victorian society strictly divided into classes; poor people, criminals, the prisons for debtors, strong power of money.

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) The Book of Snobs The first use and the definition of a snob; depictions of different kinds of snobs strongly represented in the high English society.

V. The Late Victorian Period (Turn of centuries)

Thomas Hardy (1840-1920) The Mayor of Casterbridge Tess of the D’Urbervilles Realistic and naturalistic novel, psychological studies of characters who cannot escape their fates.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) Treasure Island The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde Neo-romanticism, adventure, exotic settings, fantastic elements.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) The Picture of Dorian Gray Fairy Tales The Importance of Being Earnest

VI. The 20th century – Modern English Prose, Poetry and Drama

a) Modernism (the Bloomsberry Group): the avant-garde artists using the experiments and special techniques, e. g. the stream of consciousness James Joyce (1882-1941) Ulysses Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) Mrs Dalloway

b) Other examples of the 20th century writers – different tendencies, streams influences Graham Greene 1904-1991) The Quiet American Religious and political topics, psychological and crime elements. William Golding (1911-1992) The Lord of the Flies Philosophical and allegorical novels dealing with moral human problems: ambitions, selfishness, violence, instincts, fascism....... George Orwell (1903-1950) Animal Farm 1984 “Anti-utopia” novels, negative visions of the future (2nd half of the 20th century) society.

c) Some examples of the 20 century English drama

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) Pygmalion Saint Joan realistic, critical dramas; “plays of ideas and debates”; plays pleasant and unpleasant

Samuel Beckett (1906- ???) Waiting for Godot absurd drama

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