Periods in literature are named for rulers, historical events, intellectual or political or religious movements, or artistic styles. Most literary periods therefore have multiple names. What's worse, some of these names are debated. Is the later 17th Century the Baroque era? The term baroque is an intractable term derived from art criticism, though it may usefully be applicable to some writers as well. Is the early 17th Century the Shakespearean era? Is it the Mannerist era? How widely do we wish to apply the term Elizabethan period? Other questions arise. Does Romanticism begin with Wordsworth? With Blake? In addition, Romanticism has various dates according to the national literature we refer to. In the separate art forms -- music, painting, and even some literary genres -- the dates may vary yet more. Recent histories of literature and the latest Norton Anthology of English Literature offer the latest examples of terms applied to literary periods. Periods of British Literature 600-1200 Old English (Anglo-Saxon) Beowulf 1200-1500 Middle English Geoffrey Chaucer 1500-1660 The English Renaissance 1500-1558 Tudor Period Humanist Era Thomas More, John Skelton 1558-1603 Elizabethan Period High Renaissance Edmund Spenser, Sir Philip Sidney, William Shakespeare 1603-1625 Jacobean Period Mannerist Style (1590-1640) other styles: Metaphysical Poets; Devotional Poets Shakespeare, John Donne, George Herbert, Emilia Lanyer 1625-1649 Caroline Period John Ford, John Milton 1649-1660 The Commonwealth & The Protectorate Baroque Style, and later, Rococo Style Milton, Andrew Marvell, Thomas Hobbes 1660-1700 The Restoration John Dryden 1700-1800 The Eighteenth Century The Enlightenment; Neoclassical Period; The Augustan Age Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson 1785-1830 Romanticism The Age of William Wordsworth, S.T. Revolution Coleridge, Jane Austen, the Brontes 1830-1901 Victorian Period Early, Middle and Late Victorian Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Robert Browning, Alfred, Lord Tennyson 1901-1960 Modern Period The Edwardian Era (1901-1910); The Georgian Era (1910-1914) G.M. Hopkins, H.G. Wells, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, T.S. Eliot 1960- Postmodern and Contemporary Period Ted Hughes, Doris Lessing, John Fowles, Don DeLillo, A.S. Byatt The Old English Period or the Anglo-Saxon Period refers to the literature produced from the invasion of Celtic England by Germanic tribes in the first half of the fifth century to the conquest of England in 1066 by William the Conqueror. During the Old English Period, written literature began to develop from oral tradition, and in the eighth century poetry written in the vernacular Anglo Saxon or Old English appeared. One of the most well-known eighth century Old English pieces of literature is Beowulf, a great Germanic epic poem. Two poets of Old English Period who wrote on biblical and religious themes were Caedmon and Cynewulf. The Middle English Period consists of the literature produced in the four and a half centuries between the Norman Conquest of 1066 and about 1500, when the standard literary language, derived from the dialect of the London area, became recognizable as "modern English." Prior to the second half of the fourteenth century, vernacular literature consisted primarily of religious writings. The second half of the fourteenth century produced the first great age of secular literature. The most widely known of these writings are Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, the anonymous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur. While the English Renaissance began with the ascent of the House of Tudor to the English throne in 1485, the English Literary Renaissance began with English humanists such as Sir Thomas more and Sir Thomas Wyatt. In addition, the English Literary Renaissance consists of four subsets: The Elizabethan Age, the Jacobean Age, the Caroline Age, and the Commonwealth Period (which is also known as the Puritan Interregnum). The Elizabethan Age of English Literature coincides with the reign of Elizabeth I, 1558 - 1603. During this time, medieval tradition was blended with Renaissance optimism. Lyric poetry, prose, and drama were the major styles of literature that flowered during the Elizabethan Age. Some important writers of the Elizabethan Age include William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Ben Jonson. The Jacobean Age of English Literature coincides with the reign of James I, 1603 - 1625. During this time the literature became sophisticated, sombre, and conscious of social abuse and rivalry. The Jacobean Age produced rich prose and drama as well as The king James translation of the Bible. Shakespeare and Jonson wrote during the Jacobean Age, as well as John Donne, Francis bacon, and Thomas Middleton
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