English Literature



9 Questions

Who was the most prominent poet of the Victorian era?

Which poet was not a part of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood?

What was the name of the novel written by George Eliot?

Which poet was not associated with the Romantic movement?

Which poet was known for his dramatic monologues?

Which poet was married to Elizabeth Barrett Browning?

Which poet wrote 'The Lady of Shalott'?

Which poet was known for his odes, including 'Ode to a Nightingale' and 'Ode on a Grecian Urn'?

Which novel by Charles Dickens is set during the French Revolution?


Literary Works in English Language: A Detailed Summary

  • English literature includes works written in the English language from the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, the Republic of Ireland, the United States, and the countries of the former British Empire.

  • The earliest forms of English are called Old English, which developed over the course of more than 1,400 years. Beowulf is the most famous work in Old English.

  • Following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the written form of the Anglo-Saxon language became less common. Under the influence of the new aristocracy, French became the standard language of courts, parliament, and polite society. The English spoken after the Normans came is known as Middle English.

  • Geoffrey Chaucer was a significant figure in the development of the legitimacy of vernacular Middle English at a time when the dominant literary languages in England were still French and Latin.

  • William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and one of the world's greatest dramatists. His plays have been translated into every major living language.

  • The English language spread throughout the world with the development of the British Empire between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time.

  • Old English literature encompasses the surviving literature written in Old English in Anglo-Saxon England, in the period after the settlement of the Saxons and other Germanic tribes in England.

  • Middle English literature was written in many dialects that corresponded to the region, history, culture, and background of individual writers. Religious literature continued to enjoy popularity and Hagiographies were written, adapted and translated.

  • Middle English Bible translations, notably Wycliffe's Bible, helped to establish English as a literary language. Another literary genre, that of Romances, appears in English from the 13th century.

  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a late 14th-century Middle English alliterative romance. It is one of the better-known Arthurian stories.

  • Medieval theatre in the vernacular languages of Europe may have emerged from enactments of the liturgy. Miracle and mystery plays, along with morality plays later evolved into more elaborate forms of drama.

  • The English Renaissance was a cultural and artistic movement in England dating from the late 15th to the 17th century. It is associated with the pan-European Renaissance that is usually regarded as beginning in Italy in the late 14th century.

  • Some of the prominent writers of the Renaissance period include William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and John Donne.English Literature from the Renaissance to the 18th Century

  • The Italian Renaissance influenced the poetry of Thomas Wyatt and introduced the sonnet from Italy into England in the early 16th century.

  • The Reformation produced vernacular liturgy which led to the Book of Common Prayer (1549), a lasting influence on literary language.

  • Edmund Spenser was one of the most important poets of the Elizabethan period, author of The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I.

  • William Shakespeare stands out in the Elizabethan period as a poet and playwright as yet unsurpassed. He wrote plays in a variety of genres, including histories, tragedies, comedies, and the late romances, or tragicomedies.

  • In the Jacobean period, Shakespeare wrote the so-called "problem plays", as well as a number of his best-known tragedies, including Macbeth and King Lear.

  • Ben Jonson was the leading literary figure of the Jacobean era after Shakespeare's death. Jonson's comedies include Volpone and Bartholomew Fair.

  • John Donne was an important figure in Elizabethan poetry and metaphysical conceits, that is far-fetched or unusual similes or metaphors.

  • The King James Bible was the most important prose work of the early 17th century, representing the culmination of a tradition of Bible translation into English that began with the work of William Tyndale, and it became the standard Bible of the Church of England.

  • The Metaphysical poets John Donne and George Herbert were still alive after 1625, and later in the 17th century, a second generation of metaphysical poets were writing.

  • The Restoration period saw the beginnings of two genres that would dominate later periods, fiction and journalism. Religious writing often strayed into political and economic writing.

  • John Milton, one of the greatest English poets, wrote at this time of religious flux and political upheaval. Milton is best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost.

  • The term Augustan literature derives from authors of the 1720s and 1730s themselves, who responded to a term that George I of Great Britain preferred for himself.

  • It was during this time that poet James Thomson produced his melancholy The Seasons and Edward Young wrote his poem Night Thoughts.English Literature from the Restoration to the Romantic Era

Restoration and 18th Century Literature:

  • Alexander Pope was the most outstanding poet of this era, and his works, including Rape of the Lock and The Dunciad, are still considered the greatest mock-heroic poems ever written.
  • George Lillo and Richard Steele produced highly moral forms of tragedy, where the characters and concerns were middle class or working class.
  • The Licensing Act 1737 brought an abrupt halt to much of the period's drama, as the theatres were once again brought under state control.
  • Joseph Addison and Richard Steele's The Spectator established the form of the British periodical essay.
  • Daniel Defoe turned from journalism and writing criminal lives for the press to writing fictional criminal lives with Roxana and Moll Flanders.
  • Henry Fielding began to write prose satire and novels after his plays could not pass the censors.
  • Samuel Richardson produced Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, and Henry Fielding satirized it with Joseph Andrews and Shamela.

Age of Sensibility:

  • Samuel Johnson, often referred to as Dr Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature.
  • The second half of the 18th century saw the emergence of three major Irish authors: Oliver Goldsmith, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and Laurence Sterne.
  • The sentimental novel or "novel of sensibility" is a genre which developed during the second half of the 18th century.
  • Significant foreign influences were the Germans Goethe, Schiller, and August Wilhelm Schlegel and French philosopher and writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
  • Edmund Burke's A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful is another important influence.
  • Ann Radcliffe introduced the brooding figure of the gothic villain which developed into the Byronic hero.


  • Romanticism was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century.

  • The Romantic period was one of major social change in England and Wales, due to the depopulation of the countryside and the rapid development of overcrowded industrial cities.

  • The landscape is often prominent in the poetry of this period, so much so that the Romantics, especially perhaps Wordsworth, are often described as 'nature poets'.

  • The early Romantic Poets brought a new emotionalism and introspection, and their emergence is marked by the first romantic manifesto in English literature, the "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads.

  • Robert Burns was a pioneer of the Romantic movement, and after his death he became a cultural icon in Scotland.

  • The second generation of Romantic poets includes Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Felicia Hemans, and John Keats.Literature of the 19th Century: A Summary

  • Romanticism was a multifaceted and individualistic movement in literature that emphasized moral enthusiasm, individualism, intuitive perception, and the inherent goodness of nature.

  • Sir Walter Scott's historical romances inspired a generation of painters, composers, and writers throughout Europe, and his novel Waverley (1814) is often called the first historical novel.

  • Jane Austen's novels, such as Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Emma (1815), critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and highlight the dependence of women on marriage for social standing and economic security.

  • Mary Shelley is remembered for her novel Frankenstein (1818).

  • Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820) and Rip Van Winkle (1819) were early examples of Romantic Gothic literature in America.

  • The Victorian era saw the rise of the novel as the leading literary genre in English, with women playing a significant role as both authors and readers.

  • Charles Dickens fiercely satirized various aspects of society in works such as Oliver Twist and Bleak House, while William Makepeace Thackeray is known almost exclusively for Vanity Fair.

  • The Brontë sisters, Emily, Charlotte, and Anne, were significant novelists in the 1840s and 1850s, with Jane Eyre (1847) and Wuthering Heights (1847) being their most famous works.

  • The premier ghost story writer of the 19th century was Sheridan Le Fanu, while Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) belong to different literary genres.

  • Children's literature developed as a separate genre, with works such as Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902) becoming internationally known.

  • The leading poets during the Victorian period were Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Matthew Arnold, with the development of the dramatic monologue being a notable feature.

  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Arthur Clough, and George Meredith were other important minor poets of this era.


Test your knowledge of English literature with this detailed summary quiz! From the earliest forms of the English language to the rise of the novel as the leading literary genre in the Victorian era, this quiz covers the major literary movements, prominent authors, and famous works of English literature. Challenge yourself and see how much you know about the history and evolution of the English language in literature.

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