British Literature

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This lesson is a continuation of the study of British literature and will focus on literature from the Neoclassical Period to today. This lesson is only an overview of some of the authors and literary works produced in England during a particular period. There are many other authors that made important contributions to the literature of this time period. The periods of British Literature are:

Classical Period (1200 BC to 455 AD) Medieval Period (455 AD to 1485) Renaissance and the Commonwealth Period (1485 to 1660) Neoclassical Period (1660 to 1790) Romantic Period (1790 to 1830) Victorian Period (1832 to 1901) Edwardian Era (1901 to 1910) Modernism (1914 to 1945) Post-Modernism Period from 1945 to the present

Neoclassical Period (1660-1790)
The Enlightenment (also referred to as the Neoclassical Period or the Age of Reason) was based on the concept that people could find perfection and happiness through reason and knowledge. This essentially humanist vision was characterized by a resistance to religious authority. The Enlightenment began during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe and eventually spread to America. The Restoration, the Augustan Age, and the Age of Johnson were time periods that were included in the Enlightenment. Literature from the colonial period and the beginning of the revolutionary period in American literature developed during this time. Two prominent American authors of the era were Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. During the Restoration, British monarch Charles II was restored to the throne (hence the name of the era), marking the decline of the Puritan influence on British literature.

Writers of the Neoclassical Period
John Dryden
Dryden (1631-1700) was an English poet and dramatist. Some of his famous poems include "Astrea Redux," "Absalom and Achitophel," and "The Hind and the Panther." He is also known for his play All for Love. Dryden was the British poet laureate from 1670 to 1689. John Locke

Locke (1631-1704) was an English philosopher who wrote the essay "Concerning Human Understanding." He believed that the only way a person could gain knowledge was through experience. Locke's Two Treatises on Government promoted ideas about democracy.

William Wycherley
Wycherley (1640-1716) was an English dramatist whose works include Love in a Wood, The Country Wife, and The Plain Dealer. Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a government official and writer who lived in England. His famous Diary is an important source of the lifestyles and history of the English people. Aphra Behn
Behn (1640-1689) was an English novelist and dramatist and the first female to make a living from her writing. Some of her works include Oroonoko, The Forced Marriage, The Rover, and The Lucky Chance.

The Augustan Age (1700-1750), named for the Roman emperor Augustus, witnessed a return to the Latin literature of the ancient Roman Empire. British writers were influenced by the works of the ancient Roman poets Horace and Virgil during this era. Writers of the Augustan Age

Joseph Addison
Addison (1672-1719) was an English poet, essayist, dramatist, and member of Parliament. One of his well-known literary works was the poem "The Campaign." Sir Richard Steele
Steele (1672-1729) was an essayist and dramatist from Ireland. With Joseph Addison, he founded the journals The Tattler, The Spectator, and The Guardian. He was elected to Parliament and was later knighted. Two of his plays include The Funeral and The Conscious Lovers.

Jonathan Swift
Swift (1667-1745) was an Irish satirist who used Juvenalian satire to criticize the society of his day in Gulliver's Travels. Some of his other works include A Tale of a Tub and A Modest Proposal. In 1694, he was ordained in the Church of England. Alexander Pope

Pope (1688-1784) was a poet and writer of satire who was famous for his use of the heroic couplet in his writings. Some of his works include The Rape of the Lock, The Temple of Fame, An...
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