Engels literatuur geschiedenis

Datum 31 juli 2010
Uploader Breda
Vak Engels
Niveau VWO

Deze samenvatting bevat een overzicht van het Engelse literatuur geschiedenis. Ideaal voor het leren van het engelse literatuur. De samenvatting is in het engels. Onderwerpen die o.a. aanbod komen zijn: old english, middle english, renaissance, the augustus age en meer.

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Old English or Anglo-Saxon period (500-1066)

Also called Dark ages
It ends in 1066 when the French king invades England
Language and literature;
-epos; tells the history of a country with heroic deeds; Beowulf (Odysseus) -alliteration

The Middle English period (1066-1450)

Begin 1066 when William the Conqueror (king of Normandy) becomes king of England. French speaking king on the English throne and brings with him the French language and people. He gives all the important places to his “friends” So the new official language was French. He also brought his culture and literature with him. (Everything became French or like in the France) The old English was only spoken by the poor people (farmers) This situation lasts for 300 years (1066-1350) The “new” English is spoken again because of the French-England war (hundred years‟ war) The English was new, because the French influence Language and literature;
New things introduced by the French people
– Romance (written) = successor of the epos, but 1 difference; in romances the knights don‟t do heroic deeds to become famous, but for the love of a lady. (Forerunner of nowadays novel (roman))
Most famous; King Arthur
– Allegory (written) = a story with 2 meanings. The first one is the surface story (only facts) and the second a moral message underneath it.
-ballads (ballet, only different spelling) Song which is preformed in a dance. With love as most important theme. (Mostly lost of love, death of love and so on) It was never written down, so there‟re many different forms of one ballad
– Rhyme at the end of the line.

Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400)

Father of the English language.
He was a civil servant at the court of the English king. Main task; amuse the royal household (entertainer) He was highly respected. He studied French, Latin and Italian. He also was sent on diplomatic journeys.
He uses a new form of writing; heroic couplet (10 syllable(=lettergeep) lines, rhyming in pairs)
Influence; Boccaccio “De camerone”
First frame story in the literature. Frame; the Black Death. 10 people from the aristocratic decide to run away from the city and tell each other stories. (Canterbury Tales is also a frame story. The frame is the pilgrimage and the pilgrims decide each to tell 2 stories)

Middle Ages

Term Middle Ages is a invention. After the collapse of the Roman Empire was a barbarity dark time and after that the renaissance followed. So they called this dark time the Middle Ages.
After discovering some literature this view of a dark time changed.

Literature; King Arthur. A romance. Source is French. – Chrètien de Troyes wrote the story of the holy Grail King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table

–  King Arthur (with his sword Excalibur)
–  Sir Lancelot (who loved Guineverre, the queen)
–  Sir Gawain (his strength grows with the sun–>more sun…stronger) It was also the first

story with character development and there was no rhyme in this story but alliteration.
–  Sir Galahad (Finds the holy grail)
–  Sir Morderd (nephew of Arthur, becomes his enemy because he took over the throne

and at the end they are both killed)

Renaissance (1500-1660)

Means; rebirth–>people are interested again in the classics (culture, literature and philosophy)
Church in the Middle Ages was too strong so that the people couldn‟t study the Classics. It would undermine the authority of the Church.
Important changes;
– Crusades;
1. Became all a complete failure (they were set off by the Church so people didn‟t belief anymore in its power)
2. had brought people into contact with the Arabian culture (the eyes of the mediaeval people were opened to new things and worlds)
– City of Constantinople (Istanbul)
1453; fall of Constantinople; people flew to Western Europe with the Greek and Roman literature.
– Art of printing
Ideas of the Renaissance could spread faster through Europe

The scientific study of the Classics resulted in a new view of life and men him self: Humanism (Erasmus and Thomas More)

–  made people critical of the established authority (church)
–  changed their attitude towards life on earth because life was no longer seen as a

preparation to the afterlife
–  individuals were important
–  stimulated people to look beyond their borders
–  exploring the world, discover new countries
–  earth no longer centre of the universe
–  Reformation; foundation of a new church (protestant)

Effects of all this can be seen in the literature in two genres; Drama and Poetry Drama
In the Middle Ages was it religious and it always had a moral
Now it was comedy and tragedy

New form; Sonnet
The origin of a sonnet is Italy
The poet expresses his personal emotions (lyrical poetry) First 8 lines; 2 quatrains form a octave
Last 6 lines; 2 tercets form a sextet


In the first place he‟s a dramatist (37 plays) secondly a poet (154 sonnets) His drama can be divided in 3 groups;

–  Comedy (As you like it/Midsummer night dreams)
–  Tragedy (Hamlet/Macbeth/Antony and Cleopatra/Romeo & Juliet)
–  Historical (Richard II/Henry IV)

He also invented a new form of sonnet; 3 quatrains and a couplet. The couplet rhymes and is a short summary of the rest of the sonnet

Characters are all destroyed by flaws in their personality (typical Renaissance > Everything is your own fault, it‟s not fate)

The plays were preformed in (open air) theatres. Only men actress, women weren‟t allowed on stage.
Theatre was always outside the city; so epidemics (Black Death) couldn‟t spread and because of the riots

Christopher Marlowe

He was Shakespeare‟s example. He wrote dr. Faustus, about a scientist with a lot of knowledge who sells his soul to the devils because he wants eternal life. He only gets 25 years extra and is than dragged to hell
He invented a new kind of verse; blank verse. It was poetry without rhyming, but it had the other elements of poetry (rhythm, meter, sounds)

Shakespeare’s plays

Characters are all destroyed by flaws in their own character (everything is you own choice –> not Gods will) Individual is responsible for their own acts/deeds.

Plays were preformed in theatres (open-air) and now longer on the streets.
Women didn‟t play –> all men (young boys or men with high voices for the female parts) Theatres were outside the city because of the fear for epidemics (like Black Death) and riots.

The metaphysical poets

Drama became less important, as result of the Reformation the power came into the hands of the puritans (right-wing Protestants) They thought that theatres had a bad influence.
Poetry became important again.
Metaphysical poetry was a reaction against the sonnet. It was very irregularly (uses speaking voice with unexpected pauses and stresses) and conceits (far-fetched comparison, taken from the new fields of sciences)

Important poets;
–  John Donne
–  George Herbert
–  Andrew Marvell

The Augustan Age (1700-1745)

England became the new world empire like the Romans under Augustus. In literature; start to imitate the writers of that Roman period. This explains why Augustan literature is moralising and satirical (criticizes bad social manners)
Period of rationalism: believe in reason instead of emotions & Emotion and imagination were controlled by reason.

Prose became important –> novel
As a result of the industrial revolution there‟s a new class (middle class) looking for a place in society. They wanted prose and no poetry, because they wanted to be different. Poetry was the literature of the aristocracy.
The prose was written in magazines. The short stories developed into the novel.

The first novelist in English literature is Daniel Defoe. His „Robinson Crusoe‟ is a character with whom the new middle class easily could identify, because he‟s only interested in the material aspects of life and he‟s a good example of somebody who becomes successful by relying on his common sense. (ratio)

The second novelist is Jonathan Swift with his „Gulliver‟s Travels‟ Quite different from Defoe is Swift a writer of satire which for him is a way to express emotions. In his novel all characters represent mankind but Swift turns everything upside down. One moment you completely agree with Gulliver and the other moment with his opponents: nobody is safe in Swifts satire.
The book consist of 4 stories (Voyages) of which the first two are the most famous;
– Voyage to Lilliput (dwarves)
– Voyage to Brobdingnag (giants)

Jane Austen (1775-1817)
First female novelist. She belongs to;
The 18th century;

and the 19th century;
– Augustan Age (1700-1745)
– Pre-Romantic Period (1745-1798) – Romantic Period (1798-1830)
– Victorian Age (1830-1900)
Jane Austen is partly a 18th century (rationalism) writer and partly a 19th century (Romantic) writer. She‟s a romantic novelist, because her subjects are romantic (>love, marriage, young women in search for a man) The way in which she writes about this subject makes her a 18th century writer. She uses very often irony and satire in describing her characters and especially those that are stupid, vulgar, not sincere and have no good social manners. Jane Austen‟s characters are constantly struggling between common sense (18th) and deep feelings (19th) Her most famous novels are;

–  Pride an prejudice
–  Emma
–  Mansfield Park
–  Sense and Sensibility (makes fun of sentimental novels)
–  Northanger Abbey (makes fun of the new horror stories)

The Bronte sisters

Charlotte (1816-1855) Emily (1818-1848) Anne (1819-1849)

Most of the time it‟s not important to know things about the writers family, but the Bronte sisters write about the things that happened in their lives.
In the first place there‟s a similarity between Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. Just as Jane Austen has characteristics of the 18th and 19th century, the Bronte sisters write in two different  periods. Their novels were published in1847, the Victorian Age, but their books belong (in literature) to the Romantic because they write about love and passion.

The Bronte family lived in North-England, close to the Scottish border. The area in which they lived was very unhealthy (marshes, heath) and very often bad weather (rain, mist). You could easily catch a cold (and die). The family consist of 5 daughters and 1 son. It was a very close community, with almost no contacts outside the family. The youngest daughter was born in 1819 and their mother died in 1920. They were sent to a public school, where the hygiene was very bad and the discipline strong. The eldest daughters (Maria and Elisabeth) died of tuberculosis. In Jane Eyre this can be found back and partly in Wuthering heights. The brother (Patrick) was addicted to opium, drinking and gambling (this comes back in Wuthering heights) Their father had a very extended library and the read many books. This way they had the fantasy to write their own books, because they never experienced it self. So all the happenings in the books are all made-up and based on the books they had read and what happened in their lives.

Currer Bell
Ellis Bell
Acton Bell
These are pseudonyms for Charlotte, Emily and Anne, because in the Victorian Age women weren‟t suppose to write prose, only poetry.

(Emily) Wuthering height is most important. It was the first novel with different points of view. It‟s about passion and revenge. In the book there‟s written about love in a negative way, and it has much of different emotions, because of the different point s of view.
(Charlotte) Jane Eyre is a pure romantic story, about a girl in search for a good man
(Anne) Agnes Grey is a very revolutionary book, because it‟s about a woman who deliberately steps out of her marriage.