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Friday, August 13, 2021

Ten stages in the history of English Literature

stages in the history of English Literature, Influences on English Literature

Ten stages in the history of English Literature

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Formative Influences on English Literature

It is finely commented that “the splendid fabric of English literature is a coat of many colours." The varying tints of different racial characteristics are found well matched here. In the making of this literature there is found the solid contribution from the spontaneous fancy of the Celt, the grave view of the Teuton, the sea-faring spirit of the Dane, the lively imagination of the Norman, the golden knowledge of Rome and Greece and the varied contacts with diverse lands and men of letters at different times. The greatness of English literature, indeed, is the result of a long-drawn process, in which were participated equally by the Celts and the Teutons, the Danes and the Normans, the Italians and the Greeks, as also different literary influences from the places, far and near, continental and colonial.

Again, in the formative influences on English literature are found the stamps of the racial characteristics of different people, friends or foes, in different times. Little is known of the first indwellers of England. The early history of England is replete with the tales of aggressions and conquests. There was the Roman invasion, which ended in the subjugation of the natives of Britain (not those known as the English today). After the departure of the Romans, there came the invasion of the Angles and the Saxons. The Saxons had, for the time being, to make a room for the Dances. And lastly there was the historic Norman Conquest of 1066.

Besides all such armed invasions, there was the finer penetration in the realm of thoughts and ideas, social and religious, in different periods. The conquest of Constantinople by the Turks brought about an intellectual upsurge in Europe and proved a subsidising resource to the growth of English literature in the fifteenth century. Greek and in literature, rich with the spoils of time', unrolled itself not merely to the whole of the continent but also to England. The elevating and energising inspiration of the Renaissance dawned upon England, in particular, along with other countries. There was the radical change in the character of medieval literature, introduced Elizabethan literature and proved instrumental to the beginning of modern English literature.

Subsequent centuries widened further contacts and extensions for English literature. The Civil War and the Restoration of Monarchy in 1660 gave a fresh literary impetus from France as from the other parts of the continent - Germany, Spain and Portugal.

The texture of English literature, as the foregoing observation implies, is woven out of various threads - light and heavy, simple and coloured. Yet, it never looks like 'a thing of patch-work quality'. Many and varied are the elements that have gone to the making of English literature. It is, however, the harmonious blending of all these elements that has led the literature of Shakespeare and Milton, of Wordsworth and Dickens and of Shaw and Eliot to grow from more to more to the present magnificent stature.

The following chart on the growth of English literature in different periods and under different forces is an attempt to substantiate what has been stated.


[Anglo-Saxon Period]


The Settlement of the Anglo-Saxon People

Old English Literature (From the beginning to 1066)


[Anglo-Norman Period]


The Norman Conquest of 1066 - Middle English Literature (From 1066-1340)

First phase


[The Age of Chaucer]


Chaucer's Emergence  - 

Middle English Literature [From 1340 to 1515]

Middle English Literature under the influence of French Literature - Advancement in middle English Literature - Chaucer



[The Elizabethan Age]


The Revival of Learning

Advent of Modern English Literature (The Age of Renaissance and the Reformations) (From 1516 to 1642)


The Civil War  - The Puritan Age (From 1642 to 1660)


The Restoration of Monarchy -  Restoration Literature (From 1660 to 1702)


The Bloodless Revolution and the Growing Power of Parliament  ---  Eighteenth Century Literature (From 1702 to 1798)


The French Revolution and Return to Nature  ---  Romantic Literature (From 1798 to 1832)


The Industrial Revolution  -  Victorian Literature (From 1832 to 1880)


Scientific development, War and Moral and Spiritual crisis in Twentieth Century Life  ---  Literature of the present Generation (From 1880 to current times) 

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