English Literature

Anglo-Saxon Period 449-1066

The Anglo Saxon Period Literature 449 To 1066 | The old English Period

Anglo-Saxon Period 449-1066
Anglo-Saxon Period 449-1066


            The Old English period is also known as the Anglo Saxon period. The age started in the fifth century when the Jutes, Angles, and Saxons came to England Britain from Germany, defeated the English tribes, and started their reign. The Old English period began around 449 and lasted until 1066. During this period the two tribes – ‘The Angles and Saxons’ contributed a lot to the development of the Anglo-Saxon language and culture. In this period Latin Brooks was translated into Old English and people could read and understand them. The historical events which influenced the literature of this period were –

  • Christianity reached England and the Christianization of the pagan English tribes began.
  • In the 7th century, monasteries were established where a written began. Earlier to this whatever existed as literature was oral.
  • Alfred the Great who reigned over England from 871 to 901 encouraged education and supervised the compilation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

            Old English literature was almost exclusively verse literature in oral form. It could be passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation. Its creators for the most part were unknown. When we talk about poetry in Old English literature, There were two groups of poetry in the Anglo-Saxon Period. The first group was “Pagan Poetry” represented by ‘Beowulf’, and the second group was religious poetry represented by the works of Caedmon and Cynewulf.

Old English or Anglo-Saxon Poetry

Pagan Poetry

                      “Beowulf” is the oldest poem in English Literature. It is a perfect example of Pagan Poetry. Here ‘Pegan Poetry’ refers to a heroic poem celebrating the exploits of a great warrior. It reflects the ideals of that state of society, which we call the ‘Heroic Age’. ‘Beowulf’ is the Oldest surviving epic in English literature. It consists of more than 3000 lines, It has been passed from mouth to mouth for hundreds of years before it was written down in the 10th century or at the end of the 9th century. The main stories in the poem are based on the folk legends of the primitive northern tribes.

Religious Poetry

                        Caedmon is the first known religious poet of England. He is known as the father of English songs. His life story is vividly described in Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica. Caedmon’s first poem was “The Hymn of Praise”. Later on, encouraged by the success of his first poem, Caedmon composed many other poems by winging biblical material.

Cynewulf and His Poem

            Cynewulf lived in the early 9th century. Except for the unknown composer of Beowulf, he is regarded as the greatest Anglo – Saxon poet. On his life story, we know very little. He was probably an ecclesiastical and a scholar. His remains unknown until 1840.

Anglo Saxon Or Old English Prose

            In the 8th century Old English prose appeared. The famous prose writers of that period were ‘Venerable Bede’, ‘Alfred the Great’ and ‘Aelfric’.

Venerable Bede

            When we speak of the Old English Prose, the first name that comes into our mind is Venerable Bede, who is the first scholar in English literature and has been regarded as the father of English learning. His works, over 40 in number, were written exclusively in Latin. The most important of his works in “The Ecclesiastical History of English Literature”. It is in this book that Bede describes Caedmon’s legendary life story.

Alfred the Great

            Alfred the Great King of Wessex Kingdom, is another important figure in the prose writing of the Anglo-Saxon period. During his reign, he tried every means to improve education by founding colleges and importing teachers from Europe. He was a well-known translator. He translated some important Latin works into English, among which, the most important is ‘The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’. This book records the main happenings of the Anglo-Saxon period.


            Aellfric was a clergyman. He wrote a large number of religious works in Greek and Latin. In his works, he introduced lighter, clearer, and more musical prose.

            The Anglo-Saxon or Old English period ended in 1066. A. D. when the last king of Saxon Harold was defeated by William the Conqueror of Normandy at the battle of Hosting.


            Thus, we can see the German effect in Anglo Saxon Period or Old English Period. Angles, Saxons,s and Jutes immigrated in the 5th and 6th centuries and set up kingdoms. So we can see that there are religious cultural and language exchanges in society. People started to convert to Christianity. Women were significant and they had to obey men. There were wars at that time that affected work. Works were oral and monks produced literary works in order to transmit those next-generation church and religious languages that were Latin.

So we can say that the Old English period or the Anglo-Saxon period contributed a lot to the development of English Literature.

Varsha Singh

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Language Of Paradox

Language Of Paradox By Cleanth Brooks

Language Of Paradox
Language Of Paradox


            The “Language of Paradox” is one of the well-known essays, written by a great American critic ‘Cleanth Brooks’. This is the first chapter of Cleanth Brooks’s Book ‘Well-Wrought Urn’. Through this essay, Brooks has shown how the poet conveys his thoughts and ideas by using literary devices like Paradox without employing a direct statement in poetry. According to Cleanth Brooks, Paradox covers all shocking deviations and digressions from common opinions and perceptions. It is not merely a literary device. So he states that.

            “The language of poetry is
             is the language of Paradox.”

Cleanth Brooks, one of the foremost American Literary critics of the 20th century, spent fifteen years as a professor in the English Department. He was a central architect of the ‘New Criticism’ a critical movement that transformed the teaching of literature in the United States. He profoundly influenced American literary studies and shaped successive generations of students and teachers of literature with his work. Brooks taught at ‘Yale University from 1947 to 1975. Brook’s works included – ‘Literary Criticism: A Short History’ (Cowritten with William K. Wimsatt), ‘A shaping joy: Studies in the Writer’s Craft’, and several books on ‘William Faulkner’. Cleanth Brooks was influenced by modern critics like, ‘T. S. Eliot’, ‘I. A. Richard’, and ‘William Empson’.

            Cleanth Brooks asserts that Paradox is the most appropriate and ideal device for poetry in order to convey thoughts as well as emotion. Cleanth Brooks thinks that language employed in science is refined and clear and is free from Paradoxical statements same as Brooks’s opinions that Paradox is the fittest means in poetry.

                       “The paradox is the language appropriate and inevitable to poetry.”

Brooks has employed three diverse examples from English poetry. He has given an example of William Wordsworth’s poems “It is a Beauteous evening calm and Free” and “Composed upon West Minister Bridge” or John Donne’s famous poem “The Canonization” in order to prove his point of view.

Paradoxes in Wordsworth’s Poetry

            Brooks states that the language of William Wordsworth is the language of Paradox. As a romantic poet, William Wordsworth emphasized simplicity of thought and lucidity of expression in poetry. But Cleanth Brooks thinks that Wordsworth’s poem. “It is a Beauteous Evening, calm and free” is pregnant with a Paradoxical statement. The poem begins with the line:

            “It is a beauteous evening, calm and free
            The holy time is quiet as a Nun
            Breathless with adoration.”

            Here the poet has compared a beauteous evening to a nun but it actually has more than one meaning. The poet is filled with a feeling of worship at that holy time of evening but the girl who walks beside him is not in that frame of mind of worship.

            According to Cleanth Brooks Wordsworth’s sonnet “lines composed upon Westminster Bridge” has literary significance and beauty only because of the Paradoxical situation. The poem holds richness, not due to the poet’s skillful handling of images and nobility of emotion but because of the paradoxical situation. Brooks finds in Wordsworth’s poem both ‘awe and wonder’ of English Romanticism. According to Brooks, they are the fantastic Paradoxes employed by Wordsworth.

            In his famous work “Preface to Lyrical Ballads”, Wordsworth expressed his views that his primary goal was to choose incidents and situations from the life of Rural, rustic, and common life.

Paradoxes in Neoclassical Poets

            Neo classic writer like Alexander Pope has also made fine use of Paradoxes along with irony. In his famous work, “Essay on Man” Pope uses Paradoxes.

            According to Cleanth Brooks Paradoxes and irony are cradled in the poet’s language in which both connotation and denotation play a vital role. There is a fine blending of irony and Paradoxes in some of William Wordsworth’s poems also the works of William Blake and Thomas Gray are also no exception. Samuel Taylor, Coleridge in his “The Rime of Ancient Mariner” has dexterously used this poetic device.

            In the poem, “Canonization” the speaker addresses a silent listener who may be deemed as a sign of the Practical world which considers love as a useless and meaningless affair. The two lovers escape from the convention, rules, and bindings of the secular world. The poet says:

            “Or chide my Palsy or my gout,
             My five grey hairs or ruined fortune flout.”

            The lover in these lines tells the listener that he should not consider his love disease immoral and asks him to confine himself to his other flaws, his palsy, and his approaching old age. The secular friend should not find faults in his love affair because no one is affected by a love affair.

            Cleanth Brooks in the conclusion part of the essay states, “I submit that the only way by which the poet could say what “The Canonization” says, is by Paradox”.

 Difference between the language of poetry and Science

            Cleanth Brooks further differentiates between science and poetry. He thinks that it is the tendency of science to make terms lifeless and direct with the help of denotations. In poetry, the poet brings novelty to terms by deviating from the denotative meaning of terms and their dictionary meaning.

            Science makes use of direct expressions which are quite rigid whereas poets hind the message and meaning of their work by employing poetical devices like Paradoxes and irony, the language of poetry cannot be direct. Brooks states that the directness of language is of no use in poetry.


            Cleanth Brooks developed a method of analyzing a literary work by embracing T. S. Eliot and I. A. Richards’s method in New Criticism. His work “Understanding Poetry” produced in collaboration with Robert Penn Warren established the Vogue of New Criticism which emphasized close reading of the text. In brief, Cleanth Brooks regarded Paradox as a virtue of poetry, he has shown how literary devices like Paradox, irony, etc. play a vital role in the meaning of the literary text by examining the works of William Wordsworth and John Donne.

Related Topic: Defence Of Poetry | Defence Of Poesy
The Challenge Of Our Time

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Ancient Indian Literature

Ancient Indian Literature | History Of Indian Classical Literature

Ancient Indian Literature
Ancient Indian Literature


Ancient Indian Literature is one of the most beautiful and voluminous to read and understand. Most of the literature was oral during the ancient period. At the beginning of the literature was transmitted orally from one person to another. There were no written records. Ancient Indian literature consists of four Vedas called ‘Rigveda’, ‘Yajur Veda’, ‘Sama Veda’, and ‘Atharva Veda’.

Ramayana And Mahabharata

            Ramayana and Mahabharata are considered great Indian epic poetry of ancient times. They were originally composed in Sanskrit, but have since been translated into many languages. Ramayana is an ancient epic poem that describes the struggle of Prince Rama to release his wife Sita from the hands of the demon Ravana. The author of Ramayana is Valmiki. It is considered one of the largest epic literature in the world. It consists of 24,000 verses and 500 Sargas.

            Mahabharata is an ancient epic literature that tells the story of the Bharata dynasty. The author of Mahabharata is attributed to Vyasa. It consists of 100,000 verses. Some of the important moral stories in Mahabharata include ‘Bhagavad Gita’ and ‘Damayanti’.

Early Buddhist Literature

            In 483 BC, the teaching of Buddha was rehearsed and validated in the first council, after which were separated into three Pitakas. The teachings of Buddha were written down in Pali. Pali is the language of the oldest Buddhist writings. Dialogues between the Buddha and his disciples make up the Sutta Pitaka. Buddhacharita is a Sanskrit text on the life of Buddha, authored by Ashvaghosha.

            A number of literary works written just prior to the beginning of the Gupta age had secular characters. This period saw the development of poetry and drama. The subject of these works were majorly political events, allegories, comedies romances, and philosophical questions.

Ancient Sanskrit Literature

Ancient Sanskrit literature refers to the vast corpus of texts written in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language, over a period of more than 5,000 years. Sanskrit literature is an integral part of India’s cultural and religious heritage and includes a wide range of texts, such as hymns, epics, philosophical treatises, dramas, and poetry.

The most ancient Sanskrit texts are the Vedas, which are a collection of hymns and other religious texts that were composed between 1500 BCE and 500 BCE. The Rigveda is the oldest and most important of the four Vedas, and it is considered the oldest known religious text in the world

            Kalidasa is considered the greatest poet in Sanskrit literature. He wrote Raghuvansham and Kumarasambhavam along with many other works Meghadootam and Abhijnanshakntalam are the most famous plays of Kalidasa. These are some poets of Sanskrit literature and their works including,

  • “Banabhatta,” wrote ‘Harshacharita’, the biography of King Harsha and Kadambari.
  • “Bhavabhuti,” wrote ‘Uttar Ramayana’.
  • “Vishakadutta,” wrote ‘Mudra Rakshasa’.
  • “Shudraka,” wrote ‘Mriccha Katika’.
  • “Dandin,” wrote ‘Daskumarcharita’.

            There were also a large number of philosophical literature. The most important ones are those of “Sankaracharya”.

            Ancient Indian literature does not only mean the Vedas and the epics, it has much more to understand and learn from it. Ancient literature also clearly explains the duties of a person and how a person shows in character. There were Shastra who dealt with science and math. Kautilya’s “Arthashastra” deals with governance and economic policy which is written in Sanskrit.


            Now we can say that Ancient Indian Literature contributed greatly to the development of Indian English literature. India has a rich cultural heritage. The progress of humanity in the past is the subject matter of history. In order to understand the present we have to trace back its roots to Ancient India. Ancient Indian Literature is the most beautiful and complicated to read and understand. The Vedas, the Shastras, and the Upanishads help human being to develop their character and lead a good life.

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S. T. Coleridge

S. T. Coleridge as a Critic | Samuel Taylor Coleridge as a Critic

S. T. Coleridge
S. T. Coleridge As a Critic


            “S.T. Coleridge” is one of the greatest literary critics and his greatness has been almost recognized universally. He occupies, without doubt, the first place among English literary critics. ‘Saintsbury’ praises him a lot and compared him with Aristotle and Longinus. He is considered the father of impressionistic criticism. He introduced philosophy and psychology into literary criticism. Coleridge is the first English critic to base his literary criticism on philosophical principles. He was a close friend of another Romantic poet ‘William Wordsworth’. Together they co-authored ‘Lyrical Ballads’. Coleridge contributed only four poems to this work. He belonged to the group of ‘Older Romantic Poets’.

            Coleridge himself endeavored ‘to establish the principles of writing rather than to furnish rules on how to pass judgment on what has been written by others. Coleridge was influenced by the thoughts of German philosophers especially ‘Immanuel Kant’ and ‘Joseph Schelling’.

S. T. Coleridge Critical Works

            Coleridge is one of the greatest Poets–Critics that England has ever produced. His fame as a Critic Rests on his two most important critical works –

  • Biographia Literaria
  • Lectures on Shakespeare

“Biographia Literaria” is a critical autobiography by ‘Samuel Taylor Coleridge’ published in 1817 in two volumes of 23 Chapters. It is also an explanation and criticism of ‘Wordsworth’s theory of poetry’. According to poetry. According to ‘Arthur Symons’. Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria is,

            “­_______ the greatest book of
            Criticism in English.”

           ‘Rene Wellek’ is of the view that Coleridge is a link, between German Transcendentalism and English Romanticism.

            I . A. Richard considers Coleridge the forced runner “of the modern science of Semantics”.

            Coleridge says that the subject of the poem, people, and other objects should be chosen from ordinary life. The language of poetry should be the language of real life. It should be taken from the rustic and village life. According to Coleridge, there are two types of poetry:-

  • Natural Poetry
  • Supernatural Poetry

           In ‘Biographia Literaria’ he also discussed the difference between – ‘Fancy and Imagination’ which are two distinct and widely different faculties. ‘Fancy’ merely assembles and juxtaposes images without transforming them. On the other hand, Imagination is a Modifying Power’ and it can transform images into a whole new entity. In contrast to Francy, ‘Imagination is Creative’.

           Primary Imagination is defined as the power of receiving impressions of the external world through the senses – such as sight, touch, smell, hearing, etc. It is a spontaneous act. Secondary imagination makes artistic creation possible. It is more active, more a result of volition, more conscious, and more voluntary than the primary one.

           Poetic talent is the skill and knowledge required for writing poetry. It can be acquired and cultivated. Poetic Genius is superior to poetic talent.

           In the Biographia literaria’s chapter 14, Coleridge talked about ‘Willing Suspension of Disbelief’. It is a formula for justifying fantastic or non-realistic elements in literature.

           “Lectures on Shakespeare” took place between about 1808 and 1819. Coleridge focused on a handful of plays:- ‘Hamlet’, ‘The Tempest’, ‘Richard II’, ‘Othello’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘Love’s Labour’s lost’ and ‘Macbeth’. He admired ‘King Lear’ and ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ but hated ‘Measure for Measure’. In his lectures, Coleridge often compared Shakespeare to other writers such as – ‘Spencer and Motion’.

           Rather than finding fault with Shakespeare for his lack of attention to the classical unities, Coleridge suggested Shakespeare’s plays had their own ‘Organic Regularity’.


               Thus, it was only in the 20th century that Coleridge’s literary criticism has been truly understood and recognition and appreciation followed. Today, ‘Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s reputation stands very high, and many critics are considered “S. T. Coleridge” a source of inspiration and illumination.

            Today ‘Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s reputation stands very high and many critics are considered ‘Coleridge’ a source of inspiration and illumination.

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Structuralism literary theory | Structuralism In Literature

Structuralism in Literature


            “Structuralism” is a modern literary theory or movement developed by ‘Ferdinand De Saussure’. He was a Swiss linguist and philosopher. His ideas laid a foundation for many significant developments in 20th-century linguistics. His main contribution to Structuralism was his theory of a two-tiered reality about language. The first is the ‘langue’, the abstract and invisible layer, while the second, the ‘parole’, refers to the actual speech that we hear in real life. This framework was later adopted by Claude Levi Strauss, who used the two-tiered model to determine the reality of myths.


            Everything in this world has a structure such as – Our solar system has a structure, A building has a structure and our body has a structure. Nothing in this world is without structure. Similarly, literature also follows a structure. When we read plot or drama, both have different structures. The plot is divided into 5 Parts such as – exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. So structuralism is not a new concept. We have been studying structures in literature for a long. But “Structuralism” as a theory came into existence during the 1920s.

Contribution of ‘Ferdinand De Saussure’ in “Structuralism”:

            Saussure was a crucial figure in the development of modern approaches to language study. He was also considered the father of modern linguistics. In the 19th century, linguist scholars mainly focused on the father of modern linguistics. In the 19th century, linguist scholars mainly focused on the historical aspects of language. But it is Saussure in his work. “A Course in General linguistics”, called for a scientific study of a language rather than a historical one. He said in his book ‘A Course in General linguistics:-

            “A language is a system in
             which all the element
             fit together and which the
             value of depends on the
             simultaneous coexistence of
              all the others.”

            Saussure is known as the father of modern linguistics. He is a Structuralist and gave the theory of sign. Saussurean linguistics has three fundamental assumptions:

  1. Arbitrariness
  2. Relational
  3. Systematic

            In order to understand Saussure works, the topic can be divided into the following categories: –

(i) Langue and Parole
(ii) Saussure’s idea of Sign, Signifier, and Signified.
(iii) Structure of language

(I) Langue and Parole:

            By Langue, Saussure meant the language as a system or the grand structure that is complete and independent.

            By Parole, Ferdinand de Saussure indicated the use of language by us as per our requirements. Parole is always dependent on language.

 (II) Saussure’s idea of a sign, signifier, and signified:

            Saussure gave a new concept of sign. The sign means any word or a small unit of language. For example, the word this sign has two parts-  Signifier and Signified. Signifier means the world which we read or the sound which we hear. Signified means the meaning which we derive after reading or hearing the signifier. So there is no fixed meaning attached to the words. The signifier is more important than the signified it is fixed, it does not change Signified keeps on changing from time to time.

(III) Structure Of language:

            Every language has its own structure. If we observe any language carefully, we can find it. When we read or observe the English language we find, the English language follows a certain structure. For example: –

  • Most of the time, the subject of the sentence comes first, the verb comes second, and the objects come last.
  • Capitalize the first letter of the first word in a sentence.
  • End a sentence with a period, question mark, exclamation point, or quotation mark.
  • One can use language using only consonants or using only vowels.
  • The vowel “q” is always followed by “u”, queen, question, query, etc.

            Apart from Ferdinand, there are also some linguists who use structuralism as his ideas, They are – ‘Levi Strauss’, ‘Leonard Bloomfield’, ‘Jean Piaget’, ‘Roman Jakobson’, ‘And David Lodge’.


            Thus now we can say that “Structuralism” is an approach that grew to become one of the most widely used methods of analyzing language, culture, and society in the second half of the 20th century.

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