The General Process of British and American Literature in the
Frankly speaking, what I know about British and American literature is almost all hearsay, if you ask me to write about what I do not know, I would have much to say, and then 1600 words is just a piece of cake. But anyway, I have to be serious to ite this essay, so if there’s any mistake or things not that pure, excuse me please. wr
First I don’t want to talk about the experts’ opinions which are so persuasive, I
am going to illustrate my own points of view though it is little likely to be reasonable. I should say, like Chinese ancient literature is mainly related to wars, British and American literature of the earliest time is much related to religions. And for America doesn’t have such a long history as many other countries do, its literature doesn’t
either. So where is American literature of the earliest time from? As many of us know, the US once was a colony of the UK for a long time, so America literature is originally from British literature. Thus, I think, it’s only necessary to discuss about the
earliest period of British literature between British and American. That is, the Old British literature.
The Old British literature is not included in the five periods of British literature. It extends from about 450 to 1066, and a main part of it is the poetic tradition, which has a style of bold and strong, mournful and elegiac in spirit. And also, as I have mentioned above that British and American literature of the earliest time is much related to religions, the Old British poetry consists of two groups, one of which is the religious group. And there are poetic works Genesis A, Genesis B, Exodus and The Dream of the Rood. And they all come from the Testament and contain many doctrines. To be honest, I don’ think most of us ordinary persons will have much
interest in these kind of poems, for they seem to be none of our business, I beg your pardon, I am not showing disrespect to the Old British literature but my personal opinion only. In case I lead you to astray, it’s better for me to change my topic to the
commonly accepted concepts of British and American literature. Seen as followed.
British literature have mainly five periods, but American’ fewer, three periods
For British literature, the five periods are the Renaissance Period, the Neoclassical Period, the Romantic Period, the Victorian Period and the Modern period. The Renaissance marks a transition from the medieval to the modern world, it refers
ththto the period between the 14 and mid-17 centuries. And the Renaissance, which
means birth or revival, is actually a movement stimulated by a series of historical events, such as the rediscovery of ancient Roman and Greek culture, the new discoveries in geography and astrology, the religious reformation and the economic expansion. So it’s simply a wave to introduce new ideas. During this period, a great writer occurred, he is William Shakespeare who has remarkable influences till now. He is famous for his plays and poems, and with his 38 plays, 154 sonnets and 2 long poems, he has established his giant position in world literature. Among all his works,
the 4 greatest tragedies and comedies are most well-known. The greatest tragedies are Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth, and the comedies, The Merchant of Venice,
As You Like It, Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing. All these are classics and
are relatively popular among readers.
The Neoclassical Period is the one in British literature between the return of the Stuarts to the British throne in 1660 and the full assertion of Romanticism which came with the publication of Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge in 1798, while during this period the society was turbulent.
The Romantic Period, which is something not so easy to define, is generally said to have begun 1798 with the publication of Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical
Bellads and to have ended in 1832 with Sir Walter Scott’s death and the passage of the
first Reform Bill in the parliament. And in fact, the Romantic Period is an age of poetry. Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelly and Keats are the major Romantic poets. They started a rebellion against the neoclassical literature, which was later regarded as the poetic revolution. Wordsworth and Coleridge were the major representatives of this movement. They explored new theories and innovated new techniques in poetry writing. For example, they advocated that poetry should be free from all rules. Besides Wordsworth and Coleridge, there were some other excellent leading men in poetry, such as William Blake, George Gordon Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats and Jane Austen. Words of their works are beautiful and inspiring, like” If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” from Shelley’s Ode to the West
The Victorian Period has been regarded as one of the most glorious in the British history, it roughly coincides with the reign of Queen Victoria who ruled over England from 1836 to 1901. During this period, there occurred many writers that we are familiar with today, such as Charles Dickens, The Bronte Sisters, Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy.
Perhaps the most famous literary family in British history are the Bronte sisters. Though they didn’t live long lives, they wrote some best-loved novels in English: Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Emily’s Wuthering Heights. And for the realistic
aspect, there were Elizabeth Gaskell and Charles Dickens. For instance, Dickens was too concerned with the state of the nation, he wrote many well-known novels, including Pickwick Papers, which showed a rare comic gift, Oliver Twist, the story of
an orphan child drawn into crime in the London underworld, David Copperfield, his
own favorite book, and Great Expectations, which trades the growth of Philip Pip
from a boy of shallow dreams to a man of depth and character. And Thomas Hardy
ththlived well into the 20 century but did his major work as a novelist in the 19 century.
Among his better-known novels are The Return of the Native, Tess of the
D’Urbervilles, and Jude the Obscure. Besides, we should not forget that he was also a
The Modern Period can be broadly divided into two stylistic periods: Modernism, which is known as “Realism”, and Postmodernism. These periods
roughly correspond to literature written before the Second World War and literature written after it. Both are characterized by a high degree of experimentation. One of
the most famous English Modernist writers is Joseph Conrad whose most famous novel is The Heart of Darkness, a story of a riverboat journey in central Africa to
investigate an exploitative European ivory trader called Mr.Kurtz. The journey is a symbolic one representing the darkness at the heart of man. And George Orwell is the one who begins “Postmodernism” with its story 1984 written in 1948.
So that is the general process of British Literature in the history, what I must do next is talking about my shallow idea bout American Literature which is strongly influence by foreign culture but still has typical American style.
For American Literature, it has a permanent convention, the desire for an escape from society and a return to nature. And it can be divided into three periods, namely, the Romantic Period, the Realistic Period and the Modern Period. The Romantic Period is one of the most important periods in the history of American Literature,
thwhich stretches from the end of the 18 century to the outbreak of the Civil War. It
started with the publication of Washington Irving’s The Irving’s The Sketch Book and
ended with Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Washington Irving was one of the first
American writers to earn an international reputation, and regarded as an early Romantic writer in the American literary history and Father of the American short stories. Walt Whitman has proved a great figure in the literary history of the US because he embodies a new ideal, a new world and a new life-style, and his influence over the following generations is significant and incredible.
The realistic Period ranging from 1865 to 1914 has been referred to as the Age of Realism in the literary history of the United States, it is actually a movement or tendency that dominated the spirit of American literature, especially American fiction, from the 1850s onwards. As any period will have some outstanding writers, the Realistic Period has Mark Twain, Henry James, Emily Dickinson, and Theodore Dressier. Personally speaking, I like Mark Twain best for I don’t know much about
the rest ones. Of course, Mark Twain is a writer of realism and belongs to regionalism, he has a style of humor, satirize and criticism. And he has rich experiences, so he knows better the feeling of real people which helps him make his story a feeling of reality. So you can see that there’s no doubt Mark Twain is also a great giant in
The Modern Period is related to a social sense of unease and restlessness underneath in spite of the booming industry and material prosperity, that is a bit similar to the British one, I mean, the people have fear in their hearts, fears of wars, declining standards of social moral and so on. It’s common that you find people in this
period holding the idea of “seize the day” or “enjoy the present”, so to my mind, I
would rather take it as a period of people’s thought or feeling than a literature period.
However, that’s not the area where my words matter, the experts, you know, are more professional and have a much better knowledge, it’s their words that weigh much.
There’s another method to show American Literature if you think what I wrote above is too sweeping, I think it’s more detailed and easier to understand. It
summarizes that American literature has recorded the story of a quest which take different forms at different times.
First, Washington Irvin wrote a book named History of New York to solve the
problem that America did not have much of a history. Then some transcendentalists such as Ralph Emerson and Henry David Thoreau advocated that if people study and respond to nature individuals, or think for themselves and be independent, they could reach a higher spiritual state without formal religion. Then some other writers were on
Fall of the their way to imagination and emotion, The Masque of Red Death and The
House of Usher occurred then indicated the imagination and fantasy. But as
mentioned above, a quest, American Literature is a kind of quest, so there are also some later writers finding a new way to carry the literature on, the way they found is reality, or I should say realism, and these writers included the father of free poetry Walt Whitman who published the book Leaves of Grass. And in 1852 Uncle Tom’s
Cabin written by Harriet Beecher Stowe turned out, then followed the Civil War. As you know, wars always bring sadness and sorrow to people, so for a time some people retreated from national themes, but it’s impossible to keep things unchanged forever,
so some pioneers settled new territories in the West, and Mark Twain was the first major American to be born away from the East Coast. As the wounds of the Civil War slowly healed, many Americans became discontented with the growing materialism of the society, the regional writers began to focus on the grimmer aspects of reality and
thgot a deterministic view of life. These writers were called naturalists. When the 20
century came, the life became pressed, I think, so the major literature works expressed this new attitude against the limited life of the typical small American town. And in 1939, war broke out in Europe, the world was embroiled in conflict again, then people were in atmosphere of fear and horror. Then too much discontent with wars and the cruel society, many people felt so disappointed that they seemed to abandon themselves and turned into a bit crazy, they are generally called the beaten generation. But things are not always like this, between 1960s and 1970s, many creative women writers stood out. They revealed the pain and joy of being a woman. Black women writers like Toni Morrison and Alice Walker held the new American voices, they wrote less in protest and more in affirmation.
I know that what I said is not that accurate, but it may be easier to understand. Besides, the essay is just a kind of form of expressing opinions whether new or old. So that’s all the knowledge I managed to get about British and American literature by lots of efforts!