The History of World
Literature
1000 BC - Present
800BC-400BC: Ancient Greek
Literature
• Forms the basis of liberal arts education, and
has been taught since organized education
began. Includes philosophical treatises, epic
poetry, myths and plays.
• Aristotle, Poetics
• Plato, The Apology
• Sophocles, Antigone
• Homer, The Illiad & The Odyssey
450-1066: Anglo-Saxon (Old English)
Literature
• Primarily consists of poems already circulating
in oral form at the time they were first written
down. The bulk of the prose literature is
historical or religious in nature.
• Beowulf
• The transitional period between Anglo-Saxon
and modern English literature. This time
period saw a flowering of secular literature,
including ballads and allegorical poems.
• Petrarch
Petrarchan sonnets
• Dante Aligheri The Divine Comedy
• Geoffrey Chaucer The Canterbury Tales
1500-1660: The Renaissance
• Influenced by the artistic and cultural
Renaissance, the transformation of both English
language and literature in this period can be seen
to move away from the medieval Middle English
literature period and into the more recognizably
modern Elizabethan literature.
• The period is characterized by the influence of
the classics (in literature, language, and
philosophy), as well as an optimistic forwardthinking approach to the potential of humans.
The Renaissance (cont’d)
• Miguel Cervantes
Don Quixote,
• William Shakespeare plays & sonnets
• Christopher MarloweDr. Faustus, pastoral
poetry
• Ben Jonson:
satirical plays & lyric
poetry
• John Donne:
metaphysical poetry
• Edmund Spenser
The Faerie Queen
• John Milton
Paradise Lost
• A movement whose artists looked to the
classical texts for their creative inspiration in
an effort to imitate classical form. The writers
in particular drew on what were considered to
be classical virtues—simplicity, order,
restraint, logic, economy, accuracy, and
decorum—to produce prose, poetry, and
drama. Literature was of value in accordance
with its ability to not only delight, but also
instruct.
• Voltaire
Candide
• Alexander Pope
epic and narrative poetry,
heroic couplet
• Daniel Defoe
Robinson Crusoe
• Jonathan Swift
Gulliver’s Travels
• In Puritan literature, the writers' purpose is to
show how God works in their lives. Plain style
writing avoids irony, humor, hyperbole, and any
literary device that might keep the reader from
understanding the writer's purpose.
• Anne Bradstreet
To My Dear and Loving
Husband
• Edward Taylor Huswifery
• Jonathan Edwards Sinners in the Hands of an
Angry God
• The 18th-century American “Age of Reason” was a movement
marked by an emphasis on rationality rather than religious
tradition. It’s foremost thinkers, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas
Jefferson, also served as political leaders of the American
Revolution. Some of the most noteworthy characteristics of this
movement were:
• constructive deism — the belief that Reason leads us to some basic
religious truths and that morality is an intellectual pursuit rather
than a religious one.
• scientific inquiry instead of unquestioning religious dogma
• representative government in place of monarchy.
• emphasis on ideals of justice, liberty, and equality as the natural
rights of man
• intellectual pursuit is the highest form of human consciousness.
Faith in human goodness and dignity of humankind.
• Romanticism was an artistic and intellectual movement that originated in
late 18th century Western Europe and quickly spread to America. Some of
the main underlying ideas of the movement are:
• The idea that neither theism nor deism can adequately answer the
question of man’s relationship with God.
• The belief in the natural goodness of man and the idea that man, in a state
of nature, would behave well but is hindered by civilization.
• A revolt against aristocratic, social, and political norms of the
Enlightenment period and a reaction against the rationalization of nature,
in art and literature.
• Influenced by ideas of the Enlightenment, particularly that the past is the
key to the present.
• Romantic artists wished to move away from the formality of the previous
generation. Strong emotion became a source of aesthetic experience,
placing new emphasis on such emotions as trepidation, horror, and the
awe experienced in confronting the sublimity of nature.
Romanticism (cont’d)
British Poetry
• William Blake
• William Wordsworth
• Samuel Taylor Coleridge
• Lord Byron
• Percy Bysshe Shelley
• John Keats
• Alfred Lord Tennyson
British Literature
• Jane Austen
• Mary Shelley
Pride and Prejudice
Frankenstein
American Literature
• Washington Irving
Rip Van Winkle
• James Fenimore Cooper Last of the Mohicans
• Victorian novels tend to be idealized portraits
of difficult lives in which hard work,
perseverance, love and luck win out in the
end; virtue would be rewarded and
wrongdoers are suitably punished. They often
contain a central moral lesson or theme.
Victorian Period (cont’d)
World Literature
• Henrik Ibsen
• Victor Hugo
• Gustave Flaubet
A Doll’s House
Les Miserables
Madame Bovary
British Victorian Poetry
• Robert Browning
• Elizabeth Barrett Browning
British Victorian Literature
• Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre
• Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights
• Charles Dickens
Great Expectations
• A period during which American literature came of age
as an expression of a national spirit. These authors
utilized native dialect, history, landscape, and
characters in order to explore uniquely American
issues. Critics regard some of the short fiction
produced during the American Renaissance as some of
the best American fiction ever written.
• Emily Dickinson
poetry
• Walt Whitman
poetry
• Herman Melville
Moby Dick & Billy Budd
• Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter
1835-1860: Transcendentalism
• The American Renaissance was closely associated with
an intellectual movement known as
Transcendentalism, a philosophy or system of thought
based on the idea that humans are essentially good,
that humanity's deepest truths may be formulated
through insight rather than logic, and that there is an
essential unity to all of creation.
• Ralph Waldo Emerson Nature & Self Reliance
• Henry David Thoreau Walden & Civil
Disobedience
•
1855-1900: American Realism & Regionalism
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A literary movement that attempted to portray an accurate, detailed picture of
ordinary, contemporary life. Some of its main ideas were:
Character is more important than action and plot: complex ethical choices are often
the subject.
Humans control their destinies: characters act on their environment rather than simply
reacting to it.
Renders reality closely and in comprehensive detail: Selective presentation of reality
with an emphasis on verisimilitude, even at the expense of a well-made plot.
Events will usually be plausible: Realistic novels avoid the sensational, dramatic
elements of the Romantic movement.
Class is important: primarily, the interests and aspirations of an insurgent middle class.
Diction is the natural vernacular: not heightened or poetic; tone may be comic, satiric,
or matter-of-fact.
The use of symbolism is controlled and limited: the realists depend more on the use of
images.
Mark Twain
Kate Chopin
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Awakening
1890-1910: Naturalism
(United States)
• Naturalism describes a type of literature that attempts to
apply scientific principles of objectivity and detachment to
its study of human beings. It focuses on the "brute within"
each individual, comprised of strong and often warring
emotions: passions such as lust and greed, the desire for
dominance or pleasure, and the fight for survival in an
amoral, indifferent universe. Naturalist authors viewed
nature as an indifferent force acting on the lives of human
beings.
• Jack London
The Call of the Wild
• Theodore Dreiser Sister Carrie
• Edith Wharton
Ethan Frome
1900-1940: Modernism
• Modernism provided a radical break with
traditional modes of literature. Its main
characteristics were stylistic innovations disruption of traditional syntax and form – and
an obsession with primitive attitudes
(violence, self-centeredness)
1918-1940: The Lost Generation
• A term used to describe the generation of
writers, many of them soldiers, who published in
the years following WW I. These authors were
said to be disillusioned by the large number of
casualties of the First World War, cynical,
disdainful of the antiquated notions of morality
and propriety of their elders and ambivalent
about gender ideals.
• F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby
• Ernest Hemingway
The Sun Also Rises
1918-1930: The Harlem Renaissance
• An explosion of African-American literature, art and music
during the 1920’s. The artists of the Harlem Renaissance
represented the first generation of African-Americans to
receive a formal education, and their ascendance was
predicted by author W.E.B. DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folk:
"One ever feels his twoness - an American, a Negro; two
souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled stirrings: two
warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength
alone keeps it from being torn asunder."
• Langston Hughes poet
• Claude McKay
poet
• Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God
1945-Present: Postmodernism
• Because the postmodernism movement continues to this day, the
period’s definition is constantly changing.
• Unlike Modernism, Postmodernism has no crisis of belief in
traditional authority. Modernist “angst” has been replaced with an
"anything and everything goes" attitude.
• Instead of seeking larger truths that appeal to a wide audience,
literature seeks little truths that hopefully mean something to a
portion of its readers.
• Postmodernist literature doesn't believe there's a “real real” to
represent –everything is a perspective.
• Experimentation with form is no longer considered radical, as in
modernism. Rather, experimentation with conventional forms is
the norm--the convention--in postmodernism. Postmodernist
authors aggressively attempt to mix of forms, genres, disciplines,
and systems all within one work.
Postmodernism (cont’d)
Some of the main ideas of the Postmodern movement are:
• Inaugurated by the Bomb
Psychological effects of Post-Hiroshima America
The Nuclear Age
• New Forms of War
Wars over political ideology (Korea, Vietnam)
Transition from world wars to cold wars & civil wars
Conceptual wars: Drugs, terrorism
• The rise of multinationalism & capitalism
Global village
Global economy
• Multiculturalism
Minorities
Women
Confessional Poetry
• Decline of industry & rise of the Information Age
Internet/Video Games
Technoculture & Hyperreality
1948-1960: The Beat Generation
• The Beat Generation is a term used to describe
both a group of American writers who came to
prominence in the late 1950s and early 1960s
and the cultural phenomena that they wrote
about and inspired (later sometimes called
"beatniks”). Beat Generation literature
highlighted the core values of the movement:
spontaneity, open emotion, visceral engagement
in gritty worldly experiences.
• Allen Ginsberg
Howl (1956)
• William S. Burroughs Naked Lunch (1959)
1958-1965: Confessional Poetry
• Confessional poetry is defined as “the poetry of
the personal”. The confessional poetry of the
mid-twentieth century dealt with subject matter
that previously had not been openly discussed in
American poetry. Private experiences with and
feelings about death, trauma, depression and
relationships were addressed in this type of
poetry, often in an autobiographical manner.
• Robert Lowell Skunk Hour, Father’s Bedroom
• Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar
1930s-Present: Magic Realism
• Magic realism is a type of fiction in which
magical elements are blended into a realistic
atmosphere in order to access a deeper
understanding of reality. These magical
elements are explained like normal
occurrences that are presented in a
straightforward manner which allows the
"real" and the "fantastic" to be accepted in
the same stream of thought.
• Gabriel Garcia Marquez Love in the Time of
Cholera
• Laura Esquivel
Like Water for
1950s-Present: Postcolonial Literature
• Literature by and about authors from former
European colonies, primarily from Africa, Asia,
South America and the Carribean. This
literature aims to challenge Eurocentric
assumptions through intense examination of
culture and identity.
• Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart
• Salman Rushdie
Midnight’s Children
1960’s-Present: Metafiction
• Metafiction is a type of fiction that selfconsciously addresses the devices of fiction,
constantly reminding the reader that he or she is
reading a fictional work. Some examples of
metafiction are:
• A novel about a person writing a novel
• A novel about a person reading a novel
• A novel in which the author is a character
• Characters who express awareness that they are
in a work of fiction. (also known as breaking the
fourth wall.)
• A work of fiction within a fiction.
• Thomas Pynchon
The Crying of Lot 49
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The History of World Literature 1000 BC