English Literature [HOT]
Old English literature, or Anglo-Saxon literature, encompasses the surviving literature written in Old English in Anglo-Saxon England, in the period after the settlement of the Saxons and other Germanic tribes in England (Jutes and the Angles) c. 450, after the withdrawal of the Romans, and "ending soon after the Norman Conquest" in 1066. These works include genres such as epic poetry, hagiography, sermons, Bible translations, legal works, chronicles and riddles. In all there are about 400 surviving manuscripts from the period.
After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the written form of the Anglo-Saxon language became less common. Under the influence of the new aristocracy, French became the standard language of courts, parliament, and polite society. As the invaders integrated, their language and literature mingled with that of the natives, and the Norman dialects of the ruling classes became Anglo-Norman. From then until the 12th century, Anglo-Saxon underwent a gradual transition into Middle English. Political power was no longer in English hands, so that the West Saxon literary language had no more influence than any other dialect and Middle English literature was written in many dialects that corresponded to the region, history, culture, and background of individual writers.
Restoration literature includes both Paradise Lost and the Earl of Rochester's Sodom, the sexual comedy of The Country Wife and the moral wisdom of Pilgrim's Progress. It saw Locke's Two Treatises on Government, the founding of the Royal Society, the experiments and the holy meditations of Robert Boyle, the hysterical attacks on theatres from Jeremy Collier, the pioneering of literary criticism from Dryden, and the first newspapers. The official break in literary culture caused by censorship and radically moralist standards under Cromwell's Puritan regime created a gap in literary tradition, allowing a seemingly fresh start for all forms of literature after the Restoration. During the Interregnum, the royalist forces attached to the court of Charles I went into exile with the twenty-year-old Charles II. The nobility who travelled with Charles II were therefore lodged for over a decade in the midst of the continent's literary scene.
During the 18th century literature reflected the worldview of the Age of Enlightenment (or Age of Reason): a rational and scientific approach to religious, social, political, and economic issues that promoted a secular view of the world and a general sense of progress and perfectibility. Led by the philosophers who were inspired by the discoveries of the previous century by people like Isaac Newton and the writings of Descartes, John Locke and Francis Bacon. They sought to discover and to act upon universally valid principles governing humanity, nature, and society. They variously attacked spiritual and scientific authority, dogmatism, intolerance, censorship, and economic and social restraints. They considered the state the proper and rational instrument of progress. The extreme rationalism and skepticism of the age led naturally to deism and also played a part in bringing the later reaction of romanticism. The Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot epitomized the spirit of the age.
The term Augustan literature derives from authors of the 1720s and 1730s themselves, who responded to a term that George I of Great Britain preferred for himself. While George I meant the title to reflect his might, they instead saw in it a reflection of Ancient Rome's transition from rough and ready literature to highly political and highly polished literature. It is an age of exuberance and scandal, of enormous energy and inventiveness and outrage, that reflected an era when English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish people found themselves in the midst of an expanding economy, lowering barriers to education, and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.
The early Romantic Poets brought a new emotionalism and introspection, and their emergence is marked by the first romantic manifesto in English literature, the "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads (1798). The poems in Lyrical Ballads were mostly by Wordsworth, though Coleridge contributed "Rime of the Ancient Mariner". Among Wordsworth's most important poems are "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey", "Resolution and Independence", "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" and the autobiographical epic The Prelude.
By the mid-19th century, the pre-eminence of literature from the British Isles began to be challenged by writers from the former American colonies. A major influence on American writers at this time was Romanticism, which gave rise to New England Transcendentalism, and the publication of Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1836 essay Nature is usually considered the watershed moment at which transcendentalism became a major cultural movement. Thomas Carlyle had a strong influence on Emerson, transcendentalism, and American writers generally, particularly his novel Sartor Resartus, of which the impact upon American literature has been described as "so vast, so pervasive, that it is difficult to overstate."
The premier ghost story writer of the 19th century was Sheridan Le Fanu. His works include the macabre mystery novel Uncle Silas (1865), and his Gothic novella Carmilla (1872) tells the story of a young woman's susceptibility to the attentions of a female vampire. Bram Stoker's horror story Dracula (1897) belongs to a number of literary genres, including vampire literature, horror fiction, gothic novel and invasion literature.
Though some have seen modernism ending by around 1939, with regard to English literature, "When (if) modernism petered out and postmodernism began has been contested almost as hotly as when the transition from Victorianism to modernism occurred". In fact a number of modernists were still living and publishing in the 1950s and 1960, including T.S. Eliot, Dorothy Richardson, and Ezra Pound. Furthermore, Basil Bunting, born in 1901, published little until Briggflatts in 1965 and Samuel Beckett, born in Ireland in 1906, continued to produce significant works until the 1980s, though some view him as a post-modernist.
Postmodern literature is both a continuation of the experimentation championed by writers of the modernist period (relying heavily, for example, on fragmentation, paradox, questionable narrators, etc.) and a reaction against Enlightenment ideas implicit in Modernist literature. Postmodern literature, like postmodernism as a whole, is difficult to define and there is little agreement on the exact characteristics, scope, and importance of postmodern literature. Among postmodern writers are the Americans Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter S. Thompson, Truman Capote and Thomas Pynchon.
Literary criticism gathered momentum in the twentieth century. In this era prominent academic journals were established to address specific aspects of English literature. Most of these academic journals gained widespread credibility because of being published by university presses. The growth of universities thus contributed to a stronger connection between English literature and literary criticism in the twentieth century.
In both coverage and approach, the exam resembles the historically organized surveys of British, Commonwealth, and postcolonial literature offered by many colleges. It assumes that test takers have read widely and developed an appreciation of English literature, know the basic literary periods, and have a sense of the historical development of English literature.
The exam deals with literature from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present. Familiarity with and understanding of major writers is expected, as is knowledge of literary periods and common literary terms, themes, and forms. Some of the questions on the exam ask test takers to identify the author of a representative quotation or to recognize the period in which an excerpt was written.
English Literature refers to the study of texts from around the world, written in the English language. By studying a degree in English Literature, you will learn how to analyze a multitude of texts and write clearly using several different styles. Generally, literature refers to different types of text including novels, non-fiction, poetry, and plays, among other forms. However, literature is a contested term, as new mediums for communication provide different types of contemporary literature.
Literature is generally defined as writing with artistic merit. However, other types of text such as screenplays, nonfiction, song lyrics, and online communication through blogs and other means, could now be considered literature under the contemporary understanding of the term. The English Literature programs in most major US institutions will largely study the traditional literary texts. An English Literature major will likely examine texts including poetry, drama, and prose fiction, perhaps briefly covering more contested forms of literature in their chosen path.
There are several different paths for careers in literature as a graduate. You can also take graduate courses and become a teacher, lecturer, or journalist, with common crossovers for graduating English students including business, law, and education. Or you can use your analytical skills to move into unexpected careers such as marketing, advertising, or pretty much anything you are willing you adapt to. There are also obvious positions available in the publishing industry, from editor, to proofreader, to literary agent. Many creative writers, including novelists, poets, and screenwriters, among others, start their careers by gaining an in-depth understanding of written English before developing their individual abilities for expression through writing.
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