Periods of English Language and Literature


Our topic is to talk about Periods of English Language and Literature.In general there are fourteen periods of the English Literature,but we have covered only five of them of which we thought are the most important ones.Periods that we have developed are the following:

  • Old English language and literature
  • Middle English language and literature
  • Elizabethan Period
  • Romanticism ,and
  • Modern Period.

These periods are named according to intellectual, political movements,historical events, artistic styles, etc.

Each of the themes follows the same structure, including,a discussion of its, definitions, main charachteristiches, contracts, main representatives, and in the end a short conclusion.

This topic was chosen on purpose as that during those periods the most important things of Language and Literature happened and the most important people lived e.g.: William Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, Lord Byron, Virginia Woolf, etc.

Old English language and literature


Old English is the father of English language because it is the oldest written and spoken in English language.It started from the year 600 and it finished in 1200.Old English is called Anglo - Saxon (Saxons being the biggest tribe in England).

English is classified genetically as a Low West;Germanic language.Germanic language branch is on of the Indo-European family of languages. From Germanic language resulted: German, English, Dutch, Afrikaans, Yiddish, and the Scandinavian languages (Fennell as cited in Wagne, 1997-2009a).


Beowulf is the most important work of this period with national epic status in England (story about Beowulf and a monster).However the poem Cadman's Hymn in 7th century is the oldest extant work of English literature(This hymn hasn't any specified date by Bede ).


Then another characteristic is: Old English had more influence and from Latin because Germany was invaded from Latin tribes and also when they were converted into Christianity, Latin language had more influence, because bible was written in Latin. Celtic didn't have any big influence on English; just some place names are of Celtic origin, till Danish did contribute in vocabulary words.(Wikipedia, 2009b).

Comparison with other periods

Old English didn't sound like the Standard English of today. Many English people now have problem to understand Old English. E.g. words : be, strong and water, for example, derive from Old English; and many non-standard dialects such as Scots and Northumbrian English have retained many features of Old English in vocabulary and pronunciation. Old English was spoken until 12th or 13th century.

Middle English language and literature


Period of Middle English starts with Norman invasion in 1066.Middle English was drawn from French, romance language.Middle English was influenced by French, Scandinavian language, and it was dominated of London dialect.Then Middle English literature was influenced by Italian and French literature (but much of drama, prose and poetry are without author.(encyclopedia 2009a),(Wikipedia 2009c).


Then this period has had and some authors, but the main authors were:

  • Geoffrey Chaucer
  • John Gower
  • Margery Kempe
  • William Langland etc.

But the most important author is Geoffrey Chaucer with his work:

Canterbury Tales, Husband and Wife? Also he wrote Poem and Prose.

Chaucer was an author, poet, diplomat. The first work of him was '' The book of the duchess '' this book was an agley. His work '' Canterbury tales '' is considered the greatest epic world literature.


The main characteristics are in writing, system changed so much in Middle English:

  • and were replaced by th (and sometimes y, as in ye meaning the)
  • c before i or e became ch
  • sc became sh
  • an internal h was added after g
  • hw became wh
  • cw became qu
  • The new symbols v and u were added; v was used word initially, and u was used everywhere else
  • k was used much more often (cyning became king)
  • New values were given to old symbols too; g before i or e was pronounced? Became j, and c before i and e became s in some cases
  • A historical h (usually not pronounced) was added to some words (it was assumed that these words had once begun with an h): honor, heir, honest, herb, habit
  • Sometimes words were written with o but pronounced as [?] but later were pronounced [?]: son, come, ton, some, from, money, honey, front, won, one, wonder, and the pronunciation changes to''.

Comparison with other periods

There are some big differences from Middle English to Old English in grammar

Old English has some grammatical rules but Middle English hasn't, those rules are:' In Old English, words tended to have inflectional endings that described their role in the sentence. For example, a noun would have a different ending if it was the subject or object of a sentence, if it was possessive, etc. The word order in an Old English sentence wasn't as necessary to determine what the sentence meant as it is now.

Another difference is the lexicon.Old English is mostly West Germanic with a few borrowings from Latin, and then later it was influenced by Old Norse.Middle English has an Old Norse influence, and started taking on Norman French loan words''

Elizabethan period


Elizabethan period is stretch during Elizabeth reign 1558-1603 .Elizabethan literature refers English literature.

This period is called Elizabethan period because Elizabeth was queen and is considered golden age in English history.

It was the age of the Renaissance, of new ideas and new thinking.And the greatest literature is created during the Elizabethan Period.This period end in 1603 when Elizabeth die. (M.J.Peters, n.d).


During Elizabethan period in England - the best authors of all English literature lived, so it was a golden period .The main authors were:

  • William Shakespeare
  • Christopher Marlowe ( Dido,Queen of Carthage(drama),Tamburlaine(play).
  • Ben Jonson (Sejanus and Catiline(drama),Campion and Harvey(poetry).
  • Edmund Spenser
  • John Fletcher
  • Thomas Nashe
  • John Webster
  • John Donne
  • Philip Sidney

But the main author and the best of all was William Shakespeare.

He is considered the greatest writer of the English literature .He is known for his imagery and characters and is famous for his Comedy (Troilus and Cressida, As You Like It etc ) his history ( Henry 4,5,6,7,King John, Richard 2 and 3 ),his tragedies Hamlet ,Macbeth , Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar etc ).And sonnets are the most famous from Shakespeare poetry . (Asido.T,Apr.27, 2007),( Hilton.J,1993).


Elizabethan period has and some characteristics:literature continues to be influenced by literature in Italy, style is often romantic, and also it was dominated by spirit and romance includes works of many kinds. Then, another characteristic about this period is author wrote mostly tragedy, drama, plays e.g. William Shakespeare,Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe etc.

Comparison with other periods

Elizabethan period differences from other periods in various forms.For example the difference between Elizabethan period and Old English are: Romanticism is dominated from spirit and romance - Old English is dominated from epic spirit.Old English is influenced by German and Latin language -Elizabethan period is influenced by literature in Italy and France.



Romanticism in England begins in the second half of 18th century, until in 19th century during industrial revolution.

Romanticism as word is used to name poets, authors and others what worked during this time.For much intellectual romanticism was age of Enlightenment.Also in England it was rich period not just in literature but and in art, music and in all parts of life.Birth of romanticism in England is in 1798 of Wordsworth and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads.


Romanticism is also rich with poets, works, during this period had work and live greatly poets but the main authors were: John Keats. Percy Bysshe Shelley. Lord Byron.

One of Mary Shelley's gothic romances of course is ''Frankenstein'' in 1818? But the main author is Lord Byron, he is very famous, the best writer of Romanticism.He was born in 1788 and died in 1824 warring for Greek independence.He is famous for his poems: '' She Walks In Beauty '','' Don Juan '' etc.

Also this English poet was to visit Albanian place and wrote for Albanian with god words .He describes Albanian people as very hospitable and very lovely.(in his book "Child Harold ''.Wikipedia (2009f-g).


Main Characteristics of Romanticism are:

Love of nature, love of the common man ,neo -classicism , the supper natural,nationalism ,heroism , strange and far-away places than what other characteristic is individualism ( poets wrote also for them self ) but ,imagination , love , freedom are more important characterizes of this period.In romanticism authors didn't tell the truth but that what they feel, what did they like, and they had express love for everything.(Bailey.P,2009),(Brians.P,June 21,2005b).

Comparison with other periods

Period of romanticism has and some comparison with other periods and why romanticism date from Elizabethan era .Romanticism authors was focused in them self.It is different from other periods from nature of writing .In this period everything was imaginative , spiritual ,exactly love for everything what other periods didn't have this nature of writing.

Period of romanticism has and some comparison with other periods and why romanticism date from Elizabethan era .Romanticist authors was focused in them self. It is different from other periods from nature of writing .In this period everything was imaginative , spiritual ,exactly love for everything what other periods didn't have this nature of writing

Romanticism is period without grammatical changes, what was in Middle English, and then another difference is nature of writing, in romanticism authors also wrote about they self , they feeling but in Middle English nature of writing wasn't like in romanticism ,authors wrote epical , drama creations , etc.

And let's finish this period with Byron's cited:''maybe Albanian people are the best race in all world''( Literature of Albanian ...)

Modern Period


Modern Period started in 1901 until 1960.This movement was influenced by the ideas of Romanticism and Victorian era.Object of modernism was the truth.It is period between two world wars .Impressionism and cubism were inspiration for modernism writers, but also this period was influenced by Karl Marx's political writing. Wikipedia (2009h).


The main author of this period is Knut Hamsun (his novel Hunge is the first modernist novel), and the other authors are: Mikhail Bulgakov, T. S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, H.D., Dylan Thomas, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ezra Pound, Mina Loy, James Joyce, Hugh MacDiarmid, William Faulkner, Jean Toomer, Ernest Hemingway, Rainer Maria Rilke, Franz Kafka, W. B Yeats,, Virginia Woolf, Thomas and Graham Greene.

Virginia Wolf is the first woman novelist of this period (the greatest woman of this period), she addressed problems of gender such as the issue that women can be writers.In her essay she said''.It is necessary to have five hundred [pounds] a year and a room with a lock on the door if you are to write fiction or poetry.''Page 1.Wikipedia (2009j-i).


Main Characteristics of modern period are Authors were inspired from pessimism and factionalism , this period included lesbian and gay writers and the other characteristics are :Free indirect speech , Stream of consciousness, Juxtaposition of characters , Wide use of classical allusions , Figure of speech , Intertextuality , Personification , Satire , Hyperbole etc.Wikipedia (2009k).(Ledwell.J (2001-01-07).

Comparison with other periods

Modernism in English literature began in 1901 until 1960 and romanticism began in 18th century till 19th century. Modernism is interesting for free indirect speech which wasn't present in Romanticism , in Modernism object was the truth but not in Romanticism , in Romanticism object was imagination , then writers in Modernism were inspirited from pessimism and factionalism but in Romanticism writers were inspirited from''love for everything''also they wrote about they self.Then another difference is nature of writing , in modernism authors wrote about common man , mankind , in one way about true things in life , what preoccupied people,but this things wasn't and in Romanticism , was things like love for man , love for nature etc.Also,nature of writing was all imaginative, inspirited all in lovely things.Wikipedia (2009l).


So how we can see , periods in English literature are very important .All English literature is based in these periods , everything starts with Old English from year 600 to 1200 (is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written ).But now is very difficult to speak or write in Old English and is not useful at this time. Then we wrote also for Middle English (1200 - 1500), this period begins with Norman invasion and is interesting about big changes in grammar .Then next period what we wrote was Elizabethan Period ,the richest period of all periods of English Literature .It's called Elizabethan Period because Elizabeth was queen.

Then in this period has lived and worked the main author of all times in England,William Shakespeare are not just in England but in word.

Romanticism it's period who starts in 18th century during the Industrial Revolution.Main Characteristics of this period are: Love of nature, Love of the common man ,so love for everything

And, last period is Modernism.Modernist literature is the literary expression of the tendencies of Modernism, especially High modernism and its period between two world wars.Also, in this period was included lesbian and gay writer what maybe is the main characteristic of this period.


Old English

  • Wikipedia(2009a).Old English .Retrieved December 12, 2009 from:
  • Wagner, J.(1997-2009).History of English. Retieved December 12, 2009 from:
  • Wikipedia (2009b).Old English literature. Retrieved December 12, 2009 from:

Middle English

  • Encyclopedia (2009a).No author .Retrieved December 13,2009 from:
  • Wikipedia (2009c).Geoffrey Chaucer .Retrieved December 12, 2009 from:
  • (Liukkonen.P,Pesonen.A 2008).Geoffrey Chaucer.Retireved 12, 2009 from:
  • Wagner,J.(1997-2009).Charachteristiches of Middle English. Retrieved December 13, 2009 from:
  • Wikipedia (2009d).Middle English.Retrieved December 13, 2009 from:

Elizabethan period

  • (M.J.Peters, n.d).Elizabethan Period.Retireved December 15, 2009 from:
  • (Asido.T, Apr.27, 2007).William Shakespeare Biography.Retireved December, 15 2009 from:
  • (Hilton.J, 1993).William Shakespeare works.Retireved December 15,2009 from:


  • Wikipedia (2009e).Romanticism.Retireved December 13,2009from
  • (Brians.P, June 21, 2005), Romanticism Period .Retrieved December 16,2009)from:
  • Wikipedia(2009f).Romantic poetry.Reterived December 13,2009 from:
  • Wikipedia(2009g).George Gordon Byron.Retireved December 13,2009 from:,_6th_Baron_Byron
  • (Bailey.B,2009).San Antonio College. Romantic Literature.Retireved December 16, 2009) from:
  • (Brians.P, June 21, 2005), Charachterstiches of Romanticism.Retireved December 16,2009)from:
  • (Encyclopedia-English literature, 2009b).The Romantic Period.Retireved December 16,2009) from:
  • (Bailey.B,2009).San Antonio College.Romantic Literature.Retireved December 16, 2009)from:

Modern Period

  • Wikipedia (2009h).Modernism.Retirived December 13, 2009 from:
  • Wikipedia (2009i).Modernism.Retireved December 13, 2009 from:
  • Wikipedia (2009j).Modernism literature .Retrieved December 13, 2009 from:
  • (Ledwell.J (2001-01-07).Introduction of modernism. Retrieved December 13, 2009 from:
  • Wikipedia (2009k).Modernism.Retireved December 13, 2009 from:
  • Wikipedia (2009l).Modernism .Retrieved December 13, 2009 from:

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