The oldest literature monument of the Anglo-Saxon period is old Germanic legend about Beowulf (from the 8th century). This heroic poem is about the strong hero Beowulf.
During the Middle Ages Roman Catholic church was strongly criticised by John Wyclef a professor of Oxford University. With his student he translated the whole Bilbe into English. He influenced Master John Huss and our Hussite movement very much.
The end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of Renaissance in literature is marked by Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. It's a brilliant portrait of 30 pilgrims who travel to Canterbury and each tells 4 stories. In this way we are given a picture of the 14th century society.
In 1476 William Caxton introduced printing in England which helped spread literature and philosophy. The Middle ages philosophy was under theological influence, while the Renaissance philosophy turned to Plato and Aristotle philosophy and formed new philosophical learning - humanism. It went hand in hand with interests in education and social reforms.
Sir Thomas More wrote the Utopia, a vision of imaginary island with perfectly organized society.
The greatest personality of English renaissance is William Shakespeare. Between his master piece belong The comedy of errors, Henry VI or Romeo and Juliet. Now, I will talk about tragedy Romeo and Juliet. It is tragedy about love between two young people - Juliet Montec and Romeo Capulet. Their families live in Verona and they don't like together and so they don't grudge them. Julie likes Romeo in so far, that she pretences, that she makes suicide, but Romeo sees that and makes suicide real. It has bad end - it is tragedy.
In 18th century, with the development of the society and economy, journalism, novels and drama developed very much. Literature became popular among the middle class and first authors were from these circles.
Jonathan Swift was sharp critic. He was a dean in Dublin. He wrote satirical pamphlets on all unfair events in British society, but his most popular work is Gulliver's Travels.
Daniel Defoe was a politician, traveler and journalist. His most famous work is Robinson Crusoe. Robinson, shipwrecked on island, represents the qualities which middle class needed in capitalist competition to be successful.
Henry Fielding was a journalist and lawyer. He wrote a realistic novel Tom Jones, History of a Foundling. There are many characters through whom Fielding describes the life in the 18th century.
Characteristic topics for Romanticism are: historical topics, love country, nature, detail, description of weather… We can divided writers in this era to two groups.
First are "Lake poets". To this group belong William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge
They wrote about nature, mood, lyrical balads. They lived in Lake District. Second group are George Gordon Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats. To this group belong Sir Walter Scott. He is founder of historical novel. He wrote Ivanhoe - old legend.
Victorian age produced great novels critizing various evils of prosperous, but imperialisctic society. Best author of this era is Emily Bronte - Wuthering Heights and Charotte Bronte - Jane Eyre. Charles Dickens descibed truly life of poor people. He combines comic and serios situation. He wrote Little Dorit, The Pickwick papers and Oliver Twist. William Makepeace Thackeray wrote novels against snoberry. His main novel is Vanity Fair.
Thomas Hardy together with D. H. Lawrence represents the naturalistic trend in first half of 20th century. He understands hard life of common people. D. H. Lawrence was the son of minor so he knew crulty and humilitation of the working people. This was shown in many novels such as Sons and lovers. In Lady Chatterley's Lover he analyzes sexuals relations between a man and a woman. Oscar Wilde is biggest representant of this era. He was influenced French theory "l'art-pour-l'art" and founded the aestethic cult in London. He wrote Picture of Dorian Gray and The Happy prince. Rudyard Kypling was awarded as first british writer . He wrotes stories about India and The Jungle Book.John Galsworthy was a critical novelist. He described the decay of the Victorian upper middle class in Forsyte saga. James Joyce together with Marcel Proust and Franz Kafka mark the turning point in modern novel. Joyce, born in Dublin, wrote an experimental prose Dubliners. The most famous representant of this era is G. B. Shaw. He attacked the whole society. In his plays he critizes the false morals of the society. In second half of 20th century rolled in group of writers, which hated social systém. They called Angry Young men. To this group belong Kinglsley Amis and his Lucky Jim and John Braine with "Room at the top". Nowadays we speak about experimntal writing. This represents William Goldwing and his "Lord of the flies" and Geroge Orwell and "Animal farm".
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