Безбородова Ю.К.

МОУ Львовская средняя общеобразовательная  школа №4,

п. Львовский Подольского муниципального района

Учитель Травкина О.В.

The purpose of my research was to trace the development of English Literature, to point out the main features of each stage, to name the representatives of each trend.

The tasks of my research were

1. To find and study literature on this topic.

2. To find out the main stages of English Literature, to point out the main features of poetry of each period.

3. To point out their main representatives.

4. To find out how Russian children know English poetry.

I suppose that knowing the features of each period of the development of English poetry, it is possible to understand the authors’ ideas more deeply.

The working methods were:

1. The study of the history of English Poetry;

2. A comparison of their role, plot, structure, morality, the characteristics of the main characters;

3. A survey.

4. An analytical study.

The first period is known as Old English. English, as we know, descends from the language spoken by the North Germanic tribes who settled in England in the 5th century A.D. They had no writing (except runes) until they learned the Latin alphabet from Roman missionaries. The earliest written works in Old English were probably composed orally and may have been passed on from speaker to speaker before being written. We know the names of some of the writers of that time - Elfric and King Alfred. But most writings are anonymous. Old English literature is mostly chronicle and poetry - lyric, descriptive but first of all narrative or epic.  The best – known text of the period is Beowulf, an epic poem by an unknown Anglo – Saxon author. The events described in the poem take place in the late 5th century in Scandinavia after the beginning of the Vikings’ migration to England. It describes battles and struggles. The poem deals with legends, was composed for entertainment, and does not separate between fictional elements and real historic events.

This period was followed by Middle English, which started in 1066 with the Norman invasion. Ideas and themes from French and Celtic literature appear in English writing at about this time, but the first great name in English literature is Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400). He introduces a language in which rhyming is probably much easier than in English, thanks to the frequency of terminal vowels. Some of Chaucer's works are prose and some are lyric poetry, but his greatest work is mostly narrative poetry, which we find in Troilus and Criseyde and The Canterbury Tales. Other notable mediaeval works are the anonymous like Gawain and the Green Knight (probably by the same author). He is called one of the founders of the English Literature as he was the first to write in English but not in Latin.

The period of the Renaissance can be divided into several trends. 

Tudor lyric poetry begins in the early 16th century with the work of Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-1547). Wyatt, who is greatly influenced by the Italian poetry introduces sonnet and a range of short lyrics to English, while Surrey (as he is known) develops unrhymed his own verse form - blank verse. The best period of lyric poetry in the reign of Elizabeth comes with such writers as Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), Edmund Spenser (1552-1599), Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618), Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) and William Shakespeare (1564-1616). The major works of the time are Spenser's Faerie Queene, Sidney's Astrophil and Stella and Shakespeare's sonnets. 

The first great English dramatist is Marlowe. Before the 16th century English drama meant the performances of Bible stories on big public holidays. Marlowe's plays (Tamburlaine; Dr. Faustus; Edward the Second and The Jew of Malta) use the five act structure and the structure of blank verse, which Shakespeare finds so productive. Shakespeare develops and virtually exhausts this form.

The greatest of Elizabethan lyric poets is John Donne (1572-1631), whose short love poems are characterized by wit and irony. Questions of love, death and religious faith mark out Donne and his successors who are often called metaphysical poets. The best known of the other metaphysicals are George Herbert (1593-1633), Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) and Henry Vaughan (1621-1695). 

The other trend is Epic poetry. John Milton (1608-1674) who was Cromwell's secretary, set out to write a great biblical epic, was unsure whether to write in Latin or English. John Dryden (1631-1700) also wrote epic poetry, on classical and biblical subjects. Dryden's work is not so readable today; it leads to a comic parody of the epic form, or mock-heroic. The best poetry of the middle 18th century is the comic poetry of Alexander Pope (1688-1744). Pope is the best-regarded comic writer and satirist of English poetry. Among his masterpieces, one of the most accessible is The Rape of the Lock. The serious poetry of this period is well represented by the neo-classical Thomas Gray (1716-1771) whose Elegy was written in a Country Churchyard. 

A movement in philosophy and in literature, romanticism is the revolt of the senses or passions against the mind and of the individual against the consensus. It paid attention to emotions and aesthetic categories. The first representative is William Blake. He was an English painter, poet and printmaker. Largely unrecognized during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. The publication of Lyrical Ballads by the poets William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) in 1798 was a significant event in English literary history, though the poems were poorly sold. Actually, the attempts to render the speech of ordinary people are not wholly convincing. Robert Burns (1759 -1796) wrote lyric verse in the dialect of lowland Scots. His Auld Lang Syne is still sung on New Year's Eve. 

The work of the later romantics John Keats (1795-1821) and his friend Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822; husband of Mary Shelley) is marked by an attempt to make language beautiful, and by an interest in remote history and exotic places. George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) uses romantic themes, sometimes comically, to explain events. Romanticism begins as a revolt against established views, but eventually becomes the established outlook. 

  The main poets of the Victorian era are Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) and Robert Browning (1812-1889). Tennyson makes extensive use of classical myth and Arthurian legend, and has been praised for the beautiful and musical qualities of his writing. Browning uses blank verse in writing dramatic monologues. His subjects are both historical individuals (Fra Lippo Lippi, Andrea delSarto) and representative types or caricatures (Mr. Sludge the Medium). Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) is notable for his use of what he calls “sprung rhythm”; as in Old English verse syllables are not counted, but there is a pattern of stresses. Hopkins' work was not praised until very long time after his death. 

The best known Early 20th century poets are William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) and Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965). Yeats was Irish; Eliot was born in the USA but settled in England, and took UK citizenship in 1927. Yeats used different lyric forms, he also tried to connect modern themes and classical and romantic ideas. Yeats maintained his cultural roots, featuring Irish legends and heroes in many of his poems and plays. In 1923 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Eliot tried new forms and structures in his greatest works. Eliot's main works are The Waste Land (1922) and Four Quartets (1943), which are long and complex. We can say that he belonged to a modernist movement. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948 "for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry”. Other representatives, who became known during the First World War, are Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), A.E. Housman (1859-1936), Edward Thomas (1878-1917), Rupert Brooke (1887-1915), Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967), Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) and Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918).  I can’t help mentioning Rudyard Kipling because we mainly know him as the author of our favourite tales from “The Jungle book”. Kipling received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Between the two wars we can witness a revival of romanticism in poetry. It is associated with the work of Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-73), Louis MacNeice (1907-63) and Cecil Day-Lewis (1904-72). Auden seems to be a major figure on the poetic landscape. His poetry dealt with actual problems of society, philosophy and religion. The Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas (1914-53) is notable for strange effects of language, changing from extreme simplicity to massive overstatement. Among poets who have achieved celebrity in the second half of the century is the 1995 Irish Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney (born in 1939). 

I haven’t studied the poetry of the 21st century yet. It’s the theme for the following examination.

In my research I‘ve come to the following conclusion:

1.Each era of English literature had its own tasks and themes, its peculiar features.

2.Poets of one period did not use the same forms and methods.

3.Almost in all epochs poets couldn’t avoid discussing moral problems, love and nature.

4.There are also some epic poems in each period. 

5.Almost all described their life and their surroundings.


1.Hecker M., Volosova T., English Literature, Second edition/ Moscow, Prosveshcheniye, 1969

2.Gray, M.  A Dictionary of Literary Terms/ London. O.U.P,  1985

3.Stephen M.  An Introductory Guide to English Literature / London, Longman. 1984

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