Literary Timeline

2500 BC

2500 BC

The Epic of Gilgamesh (Mesopotamia)

Gilgamesh was the more than capable ruler of the ancient town of Uruk; his strength and physical beauty were unmatched by any in the land, and his subjects adored him. Although he possessed so much, Gilgamesh wanted desperately to live forever like a god. He was two-thirds god and one-third human, but he refused to accept his destiny to die. If it were his lot to die, he wanted to perform great deeds so that his name would never be forgotten.

Classics:

Greeks

800-400 BC

 

 

750-700 BC

Homer: The Iliad and the Odyssey

 

The Iliad celebrates the heroic deeds of warriors during the Trojan Wars, notably Hector of Troy.

The Odyssey concerns the adventures of Odysseus and his use of wits and trickery to defeat the Trojans.

620 BC

Aesop's Fables

 

Collection of fables credited to Aesop, a slave and story-teller living in Ancient Greece. Aesop's Fables has also become a blanket term for collections of brief fables, usually involving personified animals. The fables remain a popular choice for moral education of children today. Many stories included in Aesop's Fables, such as The Fox and the Grapes, The Tortoise and the Hare and The Boy Who Cried Wolf, are well-known throughout the world.

373 BC

Plato: The Republic

 

A utopia made of 3 classes: merchants maintaining the economic structure, military minding security, and philosopher-kings providing political leadership.

330 BC

Aristotle: Rhetorics & Poetics

 

Problematic theory that breaks the world into part, analyzing each part separately.

Aristotle’s 4 causes:

material (language) found in the Poetics

formal (shape) found in the Poetics

efficient (what makes it)

final (effect on audience) found in the Rhetorics

Classics:

Romans

250 BC- AD 150

 

 

 

70-19 BC

Virgil: Aeneid

A mythological epic in 12 books describing the seven-year wanderings of the hero Aeneas from the fall of Troy to his military victory in Italy.

400-100

Celts over-run Western Europe

c. 85 AD

 

Romans over-run Britain.

Julius Caesar invades Britain in 55 BC

410

Romans abandon Britain

Anglo-Saxon Period

(Dark Ages)

450-1066

 

Literature is oral which helps in uniting diverse people and their myths. Poetry is the most dominant genre with its unique verse forms: caesura, alliteration, repetition and a 4 beat rhythm. Literature demonstrates a strong belief in fate, juxtaposition of church and pagan worlds, and an admiration of heroic warriors who prevail in battle. It also expresses religious faith and gives moral instruction. Life centered around ancestral tribes or clans that ruled themselves. Key literature: Beowulf,  Bede, Exeter Book.

 

 

 

449

Anglo-Saxons invade Britain.

475

Fall of Roman Empire.

c. 600

Beowulf

 

English Epic: An

Anglo-Saxon epic poem about a Scandinavian prince named Beowulf who rids the Danes of the monster Grendel and his mother.  Later as king he dies while killing a dragon who has devastated his people.

656

Holy Quran

1000

Murasaki Shibiku: Tale of Genji (Japanese)

Medieval

1066-1500

 

Plays instruct the illiterate masses in morals and religion. Main content is chivalric code of honor, romances and religious devotion. Oral tradition continues with folk ballads, mystery and miracle plays, and morality plays through which the church instructs its people. The illiterate population is able to hear and see the literature. Crusades bring the development of a money economy for the first time in Britain and trading increases dramatically as a result. William the Conqueror crowned king in 1066. Henry III crowned king in 1154 brings a judicial system, royal courts, juries, and chivalry to Britain. Key literature: Domesday Book, L’Morte de Arthur, Geoffrey Chaucer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1095-1271

The Crusades:

A series of wars by Western European Christians to recapture the Holy Land from the Muslims.

1307-1321

Dante: The Divine Comedy (Italian)

1387-1400

Geoffrey Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

A collection of stories set within a framing story of a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral. The poet joins a band of pilgrims on a journey to Canterbury.

1347-1451

Black Death/ The Plague:

An outbreak of bubonic plague causing a decline of about one-third of the population of Europe.

1450

Gutenberg - Printing in Germany: Beginning of modern printing.

1453

Turks Capture Constantinople.

End of Eastern Empire

1469-1470

Malory: Death of Arthur

 

The first English prose epic telling the story of King Arthur and his legendary knights of the round table.

1492

Columbus discovers America.

While on a voyage for Spain in search of a direct sea route from Europe to Asia, Christopher Columbus unintentionally discovered the Americas.

Renaissance

1500-1660

 

World view shifts from religion and after life to one stressing the human life on earth. Development of human potential is a popular theme. Many aspects of love explored: unrequited, constant, timeless, courtly and love subject to change. Sonnet is the dominant poetic from. Metaphysical poetry is elaborate with unexpected metaphors called conceits. Drama (tragedies, comedies and histories) is written in verse and supported by royalty. Commoners are welcomed at some play productions (like ones at the Globe) while conservatives try to close the theaters on grounds that they promote brazen behaviors. Not all middle-class embrace the metaphysical poets and their abstract conceits. War of Roses ends in 1485 and political stability arrives. Printing press helps stabilize English as a language and allows more people to read a variety of literature. Economy changes from farm-based to one of international trade. Key literature: William Shakespeare, John Donne, Cavalier Poets, Metaphysical Poets, Christopher Marlowe, Andrew Marvell.

 

Elizabethan Age:

1558-1603

 

1603-1625

Jacobean Age

 

1625-1649

Caroline Age

 

 

 

 

 

1554-1586

Sir Philip Sidney

1564-1593

Christopher Marlowe: Dr. Faustus

1558-1603

The Elizabethan Age.

1563-1616

William Shakespeare

1588

Spanish Armada defeated by Q. Elizabeth:

The King of Spain declared war on Britain, sending his troops on board the Spanish Armada, this was defeated by Queen Elizabeth’s fleet.

1589

Edmund Spencer: The Faerie Queen

1599

Globe Theatre built

1605-1616

Cervantes: Don Quixote

The first Western novel narrates the adventures of the main character, an aging man named Don Quixote, who is from a region of central Spain called La Mancha.

1642-1649

English Civil War:

Presbyterian Scots rioted when King Charles imposed the Anglican liturgy in Scotland.

Theatres closed.

1646

Irish Revolution

Neoclassical

1660-1785

 

Emphasis on reason and logic. Harmony, stability and wisdom are stressed. A social contract exists between the government and the people. The government governs guaranteeing “natural rights” of life, liberty, and property. Satire uses irony and exaggeration to poke fun at human faults and foolishness in order to correct human behavior. Other genres are poetry, essays, letters, diaries, biographies and novels. Emphasis on the individual. Belief that man is basically evil. 50% of the men are functionally literate (a dramatic rise). Fenced enclosures of land cause demise of traditional village life. Factories begin to spring up as industrial revolution begins. Impoverished masses begin to grow as farming life declines and factories build. Coffee houses—where educated men spend evenings with literary and political associates. Key literature: Alexander Pope, Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson, John Bunyan,

 

Commonwealth:

1649-1669

 

Restoration

1660-1700

 

Puritan/Colonial Literature USA:

1650-1750

 

Augustan Age (Age of Pope)1700-1745

 

Age of Reason (USA)

1750-1800

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1664

The Plague

1665

Great Fire of London

1667

John Milton: Paradise Lost

1678

Lord Bunyan: Pilgrim's Progress

1702-1414

Q. Anne rules England

1719

Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe

1726

Jonathan Swift: Gulliver's Travels

1750

Industrial Revolution:

A widespread replacement of manual labor by machines as a result of many changes that transformed agricultural economies into industrial ones. This led to the growth of cities as people moved from rural areas into urban communities in search of work.

1775-1863

American War of Independence.

1776: Declaration of Independence

Romantic

1785-1830

 

Literature shows that human knowledge consists of impressions and ideas formed in the individual’s mind, and that in nature one can find comfort and peace that the man-made urbanized towns and factory environments cannot offer. Introduction of gothic elements and terror/horror stories and novels. Lyrical ballads appear in poetry. Evil attributed to society not to human nature. Human beings are basically good. Movement of protest: a desire for personal freedom. Children seen as hapless victims of poverty and exploitation. Napoleon rises to power in France and opposes England militarily and economically. Gas lamps developed. Tory philosophy that government should NOT interfere with private enterprise. Middle class gains representation in the British parliament. Railroads begin to run. Key literature: novelists Jane Austen, Mary Shelley; poets Robert Burns, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, John Keats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1789-1799

French Revolution:

Major transformation of the society and political system of France as the Old Regime was replaced with a series of different governments, enhancing the drafting of several bills of rights and constitutions.

1814

William Wordsworth & Samuel Coleridge: Lyrical Ballads

A book of poetry attempting to use language of everyday speech, thus launching the Romantic movement in Britain.

1792-1815

Napoleonic War

1800

Ireland becomes part of Britain

1809-1849

Edgar Allan Poe

1816

Jane Austen: Emma

1818

Mary Shelley: Frankenstein

1826

James Fenimore Cooper: The Last of the Mohicans

Victorian

1832-1901

 

Conflict between those in power and the common masses of laborers and the poor. Shocking life of sweatshops and urban poor is highlighted in literature to insist on reform. Literature covers country versus city life, sexual discretion (or lack of it), strained coincidences, romantic triangles, heroines in physical danger, aristocratic villains, misdirected letters, bigamous marriages. Novel becomes popular for first time; mass produced for the first time: bildungsroman “coming of age”, political novels, detective novels (Sherlock Holmes), serialized novels. Elegies are common. Poetry is easier to understand. dramatic monologues are common. Comedies of manners appear in drama. Magazines offer stories to the masses. Paper becomes cheap; magazines and novels cheap to mass produce. Unprecedented growth of industry and business in Britain. Unparalleled dominance of nations, economies and trade abroad. Key literature: Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, George Eliot, Oscar Wilde, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Darwin, Charlotte Bronte, Robert Browning.

 

Pre-Raphaelites

1848-1860

 

Age of Realism (USA)

1865-1900

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1830-1886

Emily Dickinson

1833

Emancipation Act: UK

1837

Q. Victoria rules England

1845

Frederick Douglass: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave

1840-1860

Ralph Emerson, Margaret Fuller and others formed the Transcendentalist Club in Boston, influenced by romantic values of self-examination, celebration of individualism, and extolling of beauties of nature and humankind.

1847

Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre

1848

Emily Bronte: Wuthering Height

1850

Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter

1851

Herman Melville: Moby Dick

1857

Gustave Flaubert: Madame Bovary (French)

1858

Darwin's theory of evolution.

1860

Charles Dickens: Great Expectations.

 

1861-1865

American Civil War.

1862

Victor Hugo: Les Miserable (French)

1865

Abolition of slavery. USA

1879

Henrik Ibsen: A Doll's House

1895

George Wells: The Time Machine

1899

Kate Chopin: The Awakening

1900

Walt Whitman: Leaves of Grass

Modernism

Postmodernism

1901-1980

 

Edwardian Period (UK)

Naturalism (USA)

1901-1914

Literature portrays lonely individual fighting to find peace and comfort in a world that has lost its absolute values and traditions. Man is nothing except what he makes of himself. A belief in situational ethics—no absolute values. Decisions are based on the situation one is involved in at the moment. Mixing of fantasy with nonfiction; blurs lines of reality for reader. Loss of the hero in literature. Destruction made possible by technology. Free verse is common in poetry. Epiphanies begin to appear in literature so do speeches and memoir. In novels stream of consciousness appear. Detached, unemotional, humorless, present tense and magic realism distinguish modern novels. Approach to life: “Seize life for the moment and get all you can out of it.” British Empire loses 1 million soldiers to World War I. Winston Churchill leads Britain through WW II, and the Germans bomb England directly. British colonies demand independence. Key literature: James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Graham Greene, Dylan Thomas, Nadine Gordimer, George Orwell, William Butler Yeats, Bernard Shaw.

 

Modernism

1901-1950

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Postmodernism

1950-

 

 

 

 

1901

Q. Victoria dies

1902

Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness

1914-1918

World War I

1916

James Joyce: Portrait of an Artist

1920

Women's Emancipation USA

1925

F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby

1932

Aldous Huxley: Brave New World

1939-1945

World War II

1945

George Orwell: Animal Farm

1945

Atomic Bomb: Hiroshima & Nagasaki

1946

Albert Camus: The Stranger

1954

William Golding: Lord of the Flies

1957

Jack Kerouac: On the Road

1957-1975

War in Vietnam

1961

Berlin Wall erected

1963

Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar

The novel is semi-autobiographical. After Plath's suicide, the novel was published under her real name, and the novel did cause great offense. This resulted in a successful lawsuit by one individual (who is portrayed as "Joan" in the book), where the court ruled that the novel unfairly branded her as homosexual.

1970

Maya Angelou: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Autobiographical journey of the early life of the author exploring the isolation and loneliness and how she coped with that. This book is about the very graphic life of Maya Angelou, involving her rape, growing up, and her travels through racism and sexism

 

1970

Toni Morrison: The Bluest Eye

Details a year in the life of a young black girl, Pecola. The story is told from four perspectives, Pecola's, her friend's, Soaphead Church, and her parents'. Because of the controversial nature of the book, dealing with racism and child molestation, there have been numerous attempts to ban it.

Contemporary

1980-Present

Literature shows concern with connections between people, exploring interpretations of the past, open-mindedness and  courage that comes from being an outsider, escaping those ways of living that blind and dull the human spirit. All genres are represented. Fictional confessional/diaries (50% of contemporary fiction is written in the first person). Narratives: both fiction and nonfiction, emotion-provoking, humorous irony, storytelling emphasized, autobiographical essays, mixing of fantasy with nonfiction; blurs lines of reality for reader. World growing smaller due to ease of communications between societies, A new beginning of a century and a millennium. Media culture interprets values and events for individuals. Key literature: Seamus Heaney, Doris Lessing, Louis de Bernieres, Kazuo Ishiguro, Tom Stoppard, Salman Rushdie. John Le Carre, Ken Follett.

 

 

1989

Berlin Wall dismantled

1991

Communist rule ends in USSR

Compiled from:

http://www.socsdteachers.org/tzenglish/literature_timeline.htm

http://wps.ablongman.com/long_longman_mylitlabdemo_1/0,9668,1606776-,00.html

http://www.studyguide.org/brit_lit_timeline.htm

http://www.wikipedia.org/