Evolution of English Literature through the Centuries

The English literature has evolved greatly over the years. It boasts with the richest variety compared to literature from other countries, and is a great reflection of the many changes in the English society. If you are to look at the literature pieces of today and compare them to those in the past, you’ll find a big number of differences, all notable in the period the literature was published. 

This is why literature is one of the top subjects for a student nowadays. Thousands of essays and research paper assignments are crafted on literature pieces from the modern world, as well as from centuries back. Students evaluate the work of grand authors of different times. When it gets hard for them to understand the language or the period of the literature piece, they have a simple spell for good grades – a paper writing service to write their essays for them.

English literature is a resource of inspiration and motivation for every person in the world. The life of characters will teach you a lot of lessons.

If you want to get the best teacher comments for students’ writing in your English Literature papers, this article is for you. We’ll go through the evolution of literature through the centuries to give you a better perspective on how to write and what to research. In this article, you’ll learn how to write great essays about literature over the years. Enjoy!

1.    The Earliest Periods

The earliest stages of English literature date back to the Anglo-Saxons i.e. the ancestors of the English people. The ancestors sang at feasts, talking about gods and religion, battles and heroes, as well as things like agriculture and customs. This is where we can note the first poetry in the ancient English lands back when Britain was a Roman province. 

Surely, a lot of these pieces is now lost with only a limited number of fragments left. So, chances are teachers won’t be grading college papers on literature from this period. 

So, let’s move on. 

When the Normans defeated Harold 11 at the Battle of Hastings, they conquered England, which brought on an entirely new epoch in the literature world. The national life was suddenly awakened, and people were more inspired to look forward to the future than ever. 

When the Normans came, they brought artisans, traders, but also scholars. These people revived the knowledge and spread it. This is why we can source old English poetry and hero stories from this period. The big poets of this time are John Gower, Chaucer, and William Langland. 

2.    The Renaissance

Between the ages of 1500 and 1600 was the Renaissance Period, the time when learning was revived after the dark Middle Ages. Great things happened during this period. Columbus discovered America and Vasco De Gama circumnavigated the Earth. 

This also marks the time when people started printing books and systemizing science and philosophy. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I or ‘The Golden Age’, drama thrived more than ever. It was the favorite pastime of the educated high class, which prompted the people of England to enjoy vigor and freshness in the form of writing.

This period brought us the most prominent authors in the world, including Shakespeare with his 37 plays and 154 sonnets, as well as Spencer and Marlowe.

3.    The Puritan and Restoration Age

Let’s move on to the next century now. The Puritan Age or the Age of Milton lasted until the 1660s and was marked with the intellectual awakening of many European countries. Poetry was more metaphysical at this period due to severe religious principles. The authors of this time were Cowley, Donne, and Herrick, as well as the great prose writer, Sir Thomas Browne. 

The Restoration Age lasted from the 1660 to the 1700. This phase was when the monarchy was restored in England after Charles II’s father was executed and he became the king. The poetry was finally renounced and poets started following the French style. 

As a result, poetry became more realistic and rather satirical, and it appealed to the aristocratic class. 

4.    The Classical and Romantic Ages

The 18th century was that of the Classical Age. While the writers in England followed the ancient writers’ noble, classic methods, they rebelled against the fantastic writing style from the past ages. At this period, drama and poetry followed rules. The authors followed the ancient classical writers in the external performance, so they are called pseudo-classicists because they lacked the grandeur and sublimity. 

Next came the Romantic Age, the most fruitful period in the English literature history. It’s when the neoclassical school of thought came into the picture, and the “Lyrical Ballads” by Coleridge were published. 

Romanticism marks the period where the accent was given to freedom of expression and feelings. Some authors of this time are Keats, Coleridge, Byron, Southey, and Shelley.

5.    The Victorian Age

Since 1832 started the Victorian Age, a time when England transferred the power to the middle class. The issue of child labor was finally highlighted in literature in the novels of Dickens and other authors. The authors considered it their duty to make people go back to religion, which can be witnessed in the works of Mathew Arnold, Robert Browning, and Alfred Tennyson. 

6.    The Modern Age and Post-Modernism

The Modern Age started from the start of the 20th century. At this point, nothing is certain and rule-based, and people started working toward realism and freedom of speech. Everything became questionable and nothing was taken for granted. This resembles the English literature of today – a period when the poet’s job isn’t just to ‘create beauty’. 

Lastly, post-modern literature is the reaction to the ideological and stylistic limitations of the modernist literature. The authors speak of the disasters of the first half of the 20th century and the Wars. This period conceptualizes the world in facts and knowledge. 

So many things have changed in English literature over the centuries. It makes you wonder – what comes next?