Nbb an128 K1 History of English Literature dp



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NBB AN128 K1 History of English Literature 1. DP


(1) From Anglo-Saxon to Renaissance: an Overview of English History and Literature. Contexts for Medieval and Renaissance literature
A concise list of important dates:

  • 800-100 BC: Celts

  • Romans: 55-54 BC: Caesar’s campaign; 43 AD: Roman conquest begins > province of the Roman Empire; 410: end of Roman rule

  • 449: Anglo-Saxon invasion begins

  • the end of the 8th century: Viking raids; 1016: Cnut: the first King of all England

  • 1066: Battle of Hastings, Norman Conquest, William the Conqueror; the beginning of a new period

  • 1215: Magna Carta

  • 1295: First Complete Parliament

  • 1337-1453: The Hundred Years’ War

  • 1455-1485: Wars of the Roses

  • 1485: accession of Henry VII – Tudor Dynasty

  • 1558-1603: Elizabeth I – the Golden Age of England

  • 1603: James VI of Scotland becomes James I of England – the Stuarts


Overview of literary periods:

5th century–1066: Anglo-Saxon or Old English period. The beginnings of literacy in Latin and in English; it is an oral tradition which is written down by servants of the Church


1066: beginning of Middle English period. The proper medieval tradition; 14th century: a revival of interest in English > Middle English Literature
16th century: English Renaissance, belated but of great significance
Contexts for Medieval and Renaissance Literature

Middle Ages: 18th century term, often derogatory, implying transition between two great periods – Classical and Modern. BUT: Christian Europe, gradual change, great achievements (e.g. architecture) in spite of the generally held view of a ‘dark’ period

Renaissance: the beginning of the Modern or the culmination of the Middle Ages? The present-day usage of the word dates only from the 19th century. Not so much opposition but rather development and continuity with shifts in emphasis


  1. Anglo-Saxon Literature – Pagan and/or Christian

ca. 449-1066: Anglo-Saxon Period /Old English/. Invasion of Britain by related tribes of Germanic people – Angles, Saxons, Jutes; pagan and illiterate people, oral culture. Christianity from the 7th century on > literacy in Latin and in English only after this but mainly for the clergy

Anglo-Saxon Literature: from about the 8th century onwards; perhaps the richest literary heritage of early medieval Europe. Types: heroic and religious poetry; prose
Anglo-Saxon literature reflects a predominantly harsh world. Main themes: feasting in the mead hall – thinking of wars, of possible triumph and of more possible failure; the motif of romantic love is totally missing; praising the glory of God and His champions, lamenting the pain and sorrow of this world

Style: special vocabulary – synonyms, repetitions; alliterative verse (lines of four stresses and varying number of unstressed syllables, divided into two half-lines of two stresses by a marked caesura, linked by alliteration of stressed words.)
/ x x / (x) || / x x /

Bid man of battle build me a tomb

/ x x / || x x / x x x /

fair after fire, on the foreland by the sea





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