English Literature

English literature Definition, History

What is English Literature, Origin, Definition, History, Periods, and Authors

English literature Definition, History
English literature Definition, History

Definition Of English Literature

English literature is the study and analysis of written works produced in the English language. It encompasses a wide range of texts, including poetry, novels, plays, and non-fiction, spanning from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present day.

Literature simply refers to any piece of writing that is valued as a work of art. In a general sense, it is the expression of human thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Literature can display both good and bad aspects of society. Hence, literature can be regarded as a mirror of society whatever changes the society undergoes they will be reflected in contemporary literature in one way or the other. Literature then is a successful medium to express human emotions: sadness, happiness, pleasure, pain, love, hate, fear, disgust, and anger such human emotions in literature are expressed artistically through language. It means literature needs to be beautiful and trustworthy.

Origin Of Literature

The word “literature” originated from the Latin word “literatura” which means “learning, writing, grammar.” This word was formed from “litera” which means “letter” or “character.” It was used in the context of education and learning, specifically the study of written texts. In the Middle Ages, the term “literature” was used to refer to the works of scholars and poets, and it was not until the 18th century that the term began to be used more broadly to refer to all written works.

Authors

One of the most iconic works of English literature is William Shakespeare’s plays. His plays are still performed and studied all over the world. Other notable works include the epic poem Beowulf, the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Geoffrey Chaucer (1340s – 1400) has been called the “father of English literature“, or, alternatively, the “father of English poetry“.

Study Of English Literature

The study of English literature can encompass many different elements, including literary history, literary theory, literary criticism, and literary analysis. It can also encompass the study of literary movements and genres, such as the Romantic period, the Gothic novel, and the sonnet.

In addition to studying the literary texts themselves, the study of English literature also often involves the examination of the historical, cultural, and social contexts in which the texts were produced. This can include studying the life and times of the author, as well as the cultural and political climate of the period in which the text was written.

The study of English literature can also encompass the analysis of literary form and technique, such as the use of symbolism, imagery, and metaphor. It can also encompass the study of literary genres, such as novels, poetry, and drama.

Overall, the study of English literature is a diverse and multifaceted field that offers a wide range of opportunities for exploration and analysis. Whether you are interested in the literary texts themselves, the historical and cultural contexts in which they were produced, or the technical elements of literary form and technique, there is something for everyone in the field of English literature.

History Of English Literature

English literature and history are closely intertwined, as the literature of a particular time period is often a reflection of the historical and cultural context in which it was produced.

Old English Period (Anglo-Saxon Period) 449 to 1066

The history of English literature dates back to the Anglo-Saxon period, which lasted from the 5th to the 11th century. During this time, literature was primarily oral and was passed down from generation to generation through storytelling and song. Some of the most notable works from this period include the epic poem Beowulf, which tells the story of a heroic warrior and his battles with monsters, and the poem The Seafarer, which reflects on the themes of exile and the sea.

Middle English Period (1066-1500)

The Middle Ages, which lasted from the 12th to the 15th century, saw the emergence of written literature in the form of Chaucerian poetry, as well as the emergence of the first plays and dramas. Some of the most notable works from this period include The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer and the plays of William Shakespeare.

Renaissance Period (1500-1600)

The Renaissance Period, which lasted from the 16th to the 17th century, saw a renewed interest in the classical literature of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as the emergence of the novel as a literary genre. Some of the most notable works from this period include the plays of Shakespeare, the poetry of John Milton, and the novels of Daniel Defoe.

Neoclassical Period (1600-1785)

The 18th century, also known as the Age of Enlightenment, saw the emergence of the novel as a dominant literary form and the rise of the novel of sensibility, which focused on the emotional experiences of characters. Some of the most notable works from this period include the novels of Jane Austen, the poetry of William Wordsworth, and the plays of Oliver Goldsmith.

Romantic Period (1785-1832)

The 19th century, also known as the Romantic period, saw a renewed interest in nature and emotion, as well as the emergence of the Gothic novel. Some of the most notable works from this period include the novels of Jane Austen, the poetry of Lord Byron, and the plays of Oscar Wilde.

Modern History Period

The 20th century saw a continuation of the trends established in the 19th century, with the emergence of the modernist movement and the rise of the novel as a dominant literary form. Some of the most notable works from this period include the novels of James Joyce, the poetry of T.S. Eliot, and the plays of Samuel Beckett.

The history of English literature is also closely tied to the history of England. Many of the literary works from different time periods reflect the political and social changes that were taking place in the country at the time. For example, the literature of the 18th century reflects the rise of the middle class and the emergence of new economic and political systems, while the literature of the 19th century reflects the industrial revolution and the rise of the working class.

It’s important to note that English literature and history are not limited to England alone, it also encompasses the literature and history of the British Isles and its colonies. This includes literary works produced in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, as well as literature produced by writers of the British Empire, such as Rudyard Kipling, Chinua Achebe, and Joseph Conrad.

English Literature As A Subject

English literature refers to written works produced in the English language. It encompasses a wide range of texts, including poetry, novels, plays, and non-fiction, from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present day. The study of English literature includes literary history, literary theory, literary criticism, and literary analysis of the texts themselves, as well as the examination of the historical, cultural, and social contexts in which the texts were produced.

Literature also encompasses the analysis of literary form and technique, such as the use of symbolism, imagery, and metaphor, as well as the study of literary genres, such as the novel, poetry, and drama. Additionally, the study of English literature also encompasses the analysis of contemporary literature and popular culture, including the study of film, television, and digital media.

Conclusion

Thus, literature is a vital record of what men have seen in life, what they experienced of it, and what they have thought and felt about those aspects of it
that have the most immediate and enduring interest for all of us. It was thus fundamentally an expression of life through the medium of language. Literature could be said to be a sort of disciplined technique for arousing certain emotions.

It begins with the creative possibilities of human language and the desire of human beings to use their language creatively. Literature enriches our lives because it increases our capacities for understanding and communication. It helps us to find meaning in our world to express it and share it with others. And this is the most humane activity of our existence.

Overall, the study of English literature and history offers a rich and diverse field of exploration, providing insight into the cultural, political, and social contexts of different time periods and the literary works that were produced during those times. Whether you are interested in the literature itself or the historical and cultural contexts in which it was produced, there is something for everyone in the field of English literature and history.

Are you struggling to keep up with your English Literature Coursework? Do you need detailed, customized English Literature Notes to help you better understand the texts you’re studying? “Look no further! Our customized paid notes will help you achieve your study goals quickly.

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Metaphysical Poetry in English Literature | Metaphysical Poets

Metaphysical Poetry and Poets
Metaphysical Poetry and Poets

Introduction

            Metaphysical poetry is a genre of poetry that deals with deep spirituality, religion, etc. It is a highly intellectual form of poetry and presents the world to its readers in a different way. It asks questions that science can not answer. Metaphysical poetry prompts the readers to question their reality and existence. The word “Meta” means “After” so the literal translation of metaphysical is ‘After the Physical’. Basically, metaphysics deals with questions that can’t be explained by science. Such as –

  • Does God exist?
  • Is the soul eternal?
  • Is fate real?
  • Is our world real or a projection?
  • Is everything that happens already predetermined?

Some Characteristics of Metaphysical Poetry

  • Metaphysical poetry talks about deep things, such as – Love, Soul, religion, etc.
  • The most important characteristic of Metaphysical poetry is the combination of feelings and thoughts.
  • Another characteristic of such poetry is that it is unclear. Every person will take something different out of the same poem based on their belief and understanding.
  • The unusual comparison of things in poetry is one of its unique and most intreating characteristics.
  • Another unique feature of this poetry is platonic love. It is non-romantic. It is spiritual love and is mainly for God.

            In the book “Lives of the most Eminent English poet”, the author ‘Samuel Johnson’ made the first use of the word “Metaphysical Poetry”. He used the term Metaphysical poets to define a group of poets of the 17th century. This group’s most prominent poets include:

  1. John Donne
  2. George Herbert
  3. Andrew Marvel
  4. Henry Vaughan
  5. Abraham Cowley

John Donne

Donne was the most influential metaphysical poet. Most of his work centered around his personal relationship with spirituality. Donne’s Poem “The Good Morrow” uses wit or conceits in comparing the unconscious lovers and the seven sleepers who slept for two hundred years, between two lovers and two hemispheres. These odd comparisons are a signature characteristic of metaphysical poetry. Some of his metaphysical poetry include – The Flea, The Sun Rising, A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning and Death Be Not Proud.

George Herbert

                  George Herbert is the name that follows next to Donne. None of his poems were published during his lifetime. He is the saint of the Metaphysical School. Professor Palmer says about him “Herbert the first in English Poetry who spoke face to face with God.” Some of the great metaphysical poetry by Herbert are – The Collar, The Pulley, Easter Wings, and The Temple consist of over one hundred fifty poems.

Andrew Marvell

Andrew Marvell was a puritan Songster. In Marvell’s most recognized love poem “To His Coy Mistress” we see how the poet uses wit in its full force. His another poem that is included in Metaphysical poetry is – Winter Tale, Gallery, The Nymph, The Definition of Love, and Upon Appleton House

Henry Vaughan

Henry Vaughan was also a Metaphysical poet. He is perhaps the only 17th-century poet who was scorned in his early career but who was widely esteemed in his later life. He wrote “Selix Scintillans” which is a famous metaphysical poem.

Criticism

Johnson’s assessment of “metaphysical poetry” was not at all flattering:

The metaphysical poets were men of learning, and, to show their learning was their whole endeavor; but, unluckily resolving to show it in rhyme, instead of writing poetry, they only wrote verses, and, very often, such verses as stood the trial of the finger better than of the ear; for the modulation was so imperfect, that they were only found to be verses by counting the syllables… The most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together; nature and art are ransacked for illustrations, comparisons, and allusions; their learning instructs, and their subtlety surprises; but the reader commonly thinks his improvement dearly bought, and, though he sometimes admires, is seldom pleased.

Conclusion

                        Thus, Metaphysical poetry is to be read with an open mind. It is not purposely trying to convince readers to think in a certain way but it provides a new way of thinking. Besides these above-mentioned poets, there are several minor Metaphysical Poets such as – Richard Crashaw, Abraham Cowley, Richard Leigh, and several others. English Literature is highly indebted to these above-mentioned Metaphysical poets and their poetry.

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Samson Agonistes Summary

Samson Agonistes Summary and Analysis

Samson Agonistes Summary
Samson Agonistes Summary

Introduction

            “Samson Agonistes” is a closet drama published in 1671 by English poet and political activist ‘John Milton’. It was published alongside Milton’s Paradise Regained, a poem that follows his most famous work the epic ‘Paradise Lost’. Milton declared Samson agonistes is a tragedy written in the style of ancient Greek drama. The genre of closet drama denotes plays not written for the stage. It is written in blank verse.

About the Poet

            John Milton the poet of Samson Agonistes was an English poet and man of letters commonly considered “One of the preeminent writers in the English Language”. One of the most knowledgeable men of his time he was fluent in English, Latin, Greek, and Italian, writing his works in all of these languages. Among his world-famous works included – Paradise Lost, Samson Agonistes, Areopagitica, and Lycidas. He is described as the “greatest English author” by biographer ‘William Hayley’. Poets such as William Blake, William Wordsworth, and Thomas Hardy were much influenced by John Milton.

The setting of the Play

            The play takes place in a prison in Gaza, where Samson is enslaved by Philistines who have also gouged out his eyes and blinded him.

The theme of “Samson Agonists”

          The play Samson Agonists has several themes, some of which are major themes – Blindness, Temptation, Violence, the commitment to God, Politics, and Misogyny.

About the Samson Agonists Play

            The play is based on the Story of Samson from the biblical Book of Judges, a son of Israel who was endowed with unparalleled strength. When Samson marries his second wife, the Philistine Delilah, she betrays him to cut his hair while he sleeps. The play focuses on the final of Samson’s life after he has been betrayed by his wife and lost his superhuman strength.

            Samson belongs to Israel and helps the Israel people from any trouble with his supernatural power. Philistine often attacks Israel but Samson protected them. Philistine people make plans to defeat Samson. They send Delilah, the most beautiful girl of Philistine to entrap Samson. Delilah succeeds in her plan and Samson get agrees to marry Delilah. After marriage, once Delilah comes to know that all the power of Samson is in his hair.

So Delilah makes a plan and sends a servant to cut his while he sleeps. When Samson losses all his power then he has been captured by the Philistines and put into a prison in Gaza and his eyes are cut out. Now in prison, Samson laments how he was once a great warrior and how he has been reduced to a blind prisoner. He is upset that he shared the secret of his strength with Delilah who betrayed him.

            Now in Gaza, Chorus comes to meet Samson. The Chorus is comprised of Samson’s admirers and friends. He explains that before he met Delilah, he married a Philistine because God told him that an alliance with Philistines would help him in his mission to defend the Israelites Samson and Chorus both agree that if the Israelites had sent troops to support him, they would have been freed.

Manoah, Samson’s father, arrives and is stunned to see his son in his current state. Samson explains to his father that it is his own fault for telling Delilah the secret of his strength. Samson has no wish for a long life – he seeks only God’s forgiveness for being prideful. Manoah does not want Samson to stay in Prison and plans to bribe an official to release Samson.

            Delilah arrives and cries over Samson’s state. She apologizes and offers to help, but Samson, no longer trusting her, just asks her to leave. She tells him that the Philistine will praise her through the generations, and leaves. Samson’s next visitor is “Harapha”. Harapha claims that Samson’s strength is sourced from magic, but Samson insists that it is from the Israelite’s God. Harapha leaves and an officer arrives to bring Samson to the festival to prove Dogon’s greatness but Samson refuses. But when the second officer arrives, Samson agrees to go. However, he soon feels a change within himself and agrees to go with the messenger.

            Manoa returns just in time to hear what Samson has done, he killed every Philistine, and himself, by destroying two large pillars and collapsing the entire structure of the theatre where the celebration was held. Manoa and the Chorus lament Samson’s death but celebrate his heroism.

            “Those who die for others live forever.”

In this way, Samson Agonistes set a great Sacrifice by giving up his life but eliminating his rivals.

Thus, We can say Samson Agonistes is one of the greatest Drama of John Milton.

Are you struggling to keep up with your English Literature Coursework? Do you need detailed, customized English Literature Notes to help you better understand the texts you’re studying? “Look no further! Our customized paid notes will help you achieve your study goals quickly.

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