Otázka: British and American literature
British and American literature
Reading is a good way how to enlarge your vocabulary and you can use your imagination while reading. We can divide books into short stories, novels, thrillers, etc. Books are sold in bookshops, but it is possible to lend them in libraries. Some books are also available on the internet, as a free online version.
OLD ENGLISH LITERATURE
- The oldest literary monument of the Old English literature is the old Germanic legend about Beowulf.
- It is written by an unknown writer in the 8th century. Legend is about a hero who killed powerful frightening creatures and becomes a king.
- GEOFFREY CHAUCER was called the Father of English. He wrote Catnbury Tales. It is a portrait of 30 pilgrims who travel from London to Canterbury.
RENAISSANCE AND REFORMATION
- The Renaissance in England culminated during the rule of Queen Elizabeth II.
- WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE was the world’s greatest playwright, He wrote historical plays about Kings of England (Richard II, Henry V), comedies (Twelfth Night, As You Like It) and tragedies (Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear).
REVOLUTION AND RESTORATION
- In 1640, a revolutionary struggle, The Civil War between the King’s army and Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentary forces began.
- JOHN MILTON is the main figure of this period. He is celebrated for his powerful, rhetoric poetry and he is famous for his epic poem Paradise Lost. Besides poems, he published pamphlets defending civil and religious rights.
18TH CENTURY LITERATURE
- 18th century is the time when all branches of science, economy, society and journalism were developed. Novels and drama developed too, and literature became popular among the middle class.
- JONATHAN SWIFT was a sharp critic. He criticizes politics in England, kingdom, corruption, army, bad politicians etc. He uses his black humour and irony in his satirical pamphlets. His most famous work is Gulliver ́s Travels.
- DANIEL DEFOE was a politician, trader, traveller, journalist, pamphleteer and a spy. His most famous work is Robinson Crusoe.
- HENRY FIDGERALD wrote a realistic novel Tom Jones.
- Towards the end of the 18th century and during the first third of the 19th century, romanticism appears in literature with emotions and passions rather than intellectual attitude.
- SIR WALTER SCOTT was Scottish novelist, playwright and poet. He is the founder of the historical novel. He took for his novel themes from Scottish history (Waverly, Rob Roy) and from English history (Ivanhoe).
- MARY SHELLEY wrote Frankenstein, which is the most well−known of the Gothic novels with the horror genre.
- LORD BYRON and PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY represent revolutionary romanticism, unhappy and usually lonely heroes fight for freedom and their fight ends in vain.
- LORD BYRON‘S main work is Childe Harold ́s Pilgrimage and SHELLEY‘S Prometheus Unbound.
- JANE AUSTEN wrote a domestic novel. She wrote Pride and Prejudice.
- During the Victorian Age, writers described English society with all characters.
- Jane Eyre by CHARLOTTE BRONTE and Wuthering Heights by EMILY BRONTE were two of the most original novels of the day.
- CHARLES DICKENS wrote novels Oliver Twist and David Copperfield.
LATE VICTORIAN LITERATURE
- OSCAR WILDE was criticized by London society. He wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray.
- The modern literature was influenced by two world wars, revolution and tension of the world.
- VIRGINIA WOOLF became a representative of modernism. Her main works include Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse.
- JAMES JOYCE is a representative of the modern novel. He wrote an experimental prose. His work Dubliners is a collection of short stories.
- GEORGE BERNARD SHAW is the most famous personality in drama of this period. In his plays he criticizes the false morals of the society. He wrote Pygmalion and he received the Nobel Prize.
- JOHN WAIN was a poet, novelist and critic. He wrote The Young Visitors. He belonged to a group of authors angry young men, who expressed disillusionment and emptiness of intellectuals after WWII. They criticize snobs and people in power.
- KINGSLEY AMIS was the most famous member of this group. He was a novelist, poet, critic and a teacher. He is world famous for his Lucky Jim.
Other famous contemporary writers are:
- J.R.R. TOLKIEN created a phantasy world of Middle-Earth in his works – Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings.
- GEORGE ORWELL wrote allegory novels criticizing totalitarian society, for example Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four.
- ARTHUR C. CLARKE is a well-known science fiction writer. He wrote A Space Odyssey and The Fountains of Paradise.
- SAMUEL BECKETT, a Nobel Prize winner is important for drama and prose. He wrote absurdist play Waiting for Godot.
COLONIAL NON-FICTION LITERATURE
- JOHN SMITH is considered to be the first American writer. He was an explorer and colonist. His A True Relation of Virginia is said to be the first American book written in English.
- WILLIAM BRADFORD was a Puritan writer who described life in the early English settlements. He wrote book Of Plymouth Plantation.
DEMOCRATIC ORIGINS AND REVOLUTIONARY WRITERS AND THE AMERICAN ENGLIHTEMENT 1776–1820
- It is time of the American Revolution against Britain.
- BEJNAMIN FRANKLIN is one of the most important figures of the period. He was a renaissance man” – a person of many skills. He writes about his life, his successes and failures. The Way to Wealth gives the reader advice how to become successful.
- THOMAS PAINE was an English-born essayist and pamphleteer. His pamphlet “Common Sense” is a sharp critique of the colonial system and explains why the Americans should rise against Britain.
- THOMAS JEFFERSON became the 3rd President of the United States of America. He is the main author of the Declaration of Independence.
- WASHINGTON IRVING was America’s first professional writer and the founder of short story in the USA. He wrote A History of New York and The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Cryon.
- JAMES FENIMORE COOPER wrote a Leatherstocking Tales.
THE ROMANTIC PERIOD 1820–1860
- EDGAR ALLAN POE is founder of science-fiction and the detective. His best-known poem is The Raven. In this poem is the raven, as a symbol of death, who repeats the poem’s famous refrain “nevermore”.
- HARRIET BEECHER STOWE
- WALT WHITEMAN is considered as one of the best American poets of all the time. Leaves of Grass is a collection of poems, he compares freedom to grass – it should grow everywhere.
- EMILY DICKINSON is another poet considered as one of the greatest in American history. Her poems do not have any titles.
- HERMAN MELVILLE wrote a long novel Moby-Dick.
- MARK TWAIN wrote novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
- STEPHEN CRANE wrote Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and The Red Badge of Courage.
20TH CENTURY LITERATURE
- In the 20th century, writers were looking for new ways of writing and new topics. Their writings expressed their feelings about living in the modern age.
- The Lost Generation is a group of writers who lost their illusion. They wrote about young people who don’t find any pleasure in everyday life. The group included Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, etc.
- ERNEST HEMINGWAY is probably the most famous representative writer. His novel The Old Man and the Sea earned him the Nobel Prize for literature.
- FRANCIS SCOTT FITZGERALD is well known for The Great Gatsby.
- JOHN STEINBECK wrote about people who fall to the bottom of the society. He wrote a novel Of Mice and Men and novel The grapes of Wath.
- WILLIAM STYRON is best known for Sophie’s Choice.
- Beat Generation is a group of writers, they rebelled against the conventions of mainstream American life and writing. The group included Jack Kerouac, William Blake and more.
- JACK KEROUAC wrote On the Road, which became a kind of a Bible for his followers. It tells stories of people travelling across America.
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