Introduction to Literature

Periods of British Literature
For ease of study, Literary scholars divide British Literature into segments referred to as "periods." While the exact number, dates, and names of these periods vary, the following list conforms to widespread acceptance. Following the table, in chronological order, is a brief description of each period and major writers within each.

The Old English Period or the Anglo-Saxon Period refers to the literature produced from the invasion of Celtic England by Germanic tribes in the first half of the fifth century to the conquest of England in 1066 by William the Conqueror.
During the Old English Period, written literature began to develop from oral tradition, and in the eighth century poetry written in the vernacular Anglo-Saxon (also known as Old English) appeared. One of the most well-known eighth century Old English pieces of literature is Beowulf, a great Germanic epic poem. Two poets of the Old English Period who wrote on biblical and religious themes were Caedmon and Cynewulf.
The Middle English Period consists of the literature produced in the four and a half centuries between the Norman Conquest of 1066 and about 1500, when the standard literary language, derived from the dialect of the London area, became recognizable as "modern English."
Prior to the second half of the fourteenth century, vernacular literature consisted primarily of religious writings. The second half of the fourteenth century produced the first great age of secular literature. The most widely known of these writings are Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, the anonymous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur.
While the English Renaissance began with the ascent of the House of Tudor to the English throne in 1485, the English Literary Renaissance began with English humanists such as Sir Thomas More and Sir Thomas Wyatt.
In addition, the English Literary Renaissance consists of four subsets: The Elizabethan Age, the...