Love through the ages

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This booklet contains:

A suggested reading list

  • Identify the authors or periods you are unfamiliar or unconfident with first and read these.

A list of terminology useful for the exam.

  • Complete the table with definitions and examples and become comfortable with using them.

An overview table to summarise the major periods that we have covered on this course.

  • Fill the rest of the table in chronologically to create a time line of periods.

A list of points to look for when analysing poetry.

  • This will complement the terminology well if you revise from and become familiar with it.

A range of poems and extracts from prose and drama taken from the periods that we will cover.

  • Use these extracts to practice your annotation and analysing skills and to help you become acquainted with progressions through literature.

  • You should annotate at least one piece from each period

Examples of the type of questions that you will face in the exam along with a mark scheme. The mark scheme will show you what will be expected in the exam for you to achieve good grades.

  • Attempt at least one of these questions

  • Use the mark scheme to identify any areas where you may lack confidence and work on these.

(the bullet points are activities that you should be completing outside of lessons and during holidays)





Little liar


Something with more than one meaning


Blank Verse



Courtly Love



Dramatic Monologue


the omission of a vowel at the end of one word when the next word begins with a vowel

‘Whiles crooning o'er an auld Scots sonnet’



Free Verse


Tragedy, Comedy

(Poetry, Prose, Drama)


Iambic Pentameter







Saying something ‘is’ something else















Pointers For Analysing Poetry, Prose and Drama

  • Identify the genre – poetry, prose, drama

  • Can you identify the period?

    • If so, what are the characteristics associated with the period? Does the extract exemplify them?

  • Centre your analysis around the three main areas of Content, Structure and Language.


  • What is the extract about? Is there a story?

  • Can you identify any major themes?

  • Are there characters? What are their roles?

  • Is there a historical, social or political context?


  • Does the extract have a specific structure or is it random?

  • Is there a specific style that the author has chosen which may affect the structure i.e. a Shakespearian sonnet will have 14 lines, a set pattern and it will be written in Iambic Pentameter


  • Are there any types of words which are used a lot? i.e adjective, adverb

  • Are there any particular words or phrases that you find interesting or significant?

  • Does the author employ any specific techniques when writing? E.g. metaphors, alliteration

  • What atmosphere is created/ tone is put across?

Other Advice

  • Don’t be afraid to include your own opinion

  • Always link your points back to the text

  • Make sure you refer to wider reading

Are there any more questions that you would add to this list that would make your annotating and analysing of the extract more affective?

Add them to the sheet
The Middle English Period (Medieval Period)

Years:  1066-1485 (roughly)

  • plays that instruct the illiterate masses in morals and religion

  • chivalric code of honour/romances

  • religious devotion


  • oral tradition continues

  • folk ballads

  • mystery and miracle plays

  • morality plays

  • stock epithets

  • kennings     

  • frame stories

  • moral tales


  • church instructs its people through the morality and miracle plays

  • an illiterate population is able to hear and see the literature

Historical Context:

  • Crusades bring the development of a money economy for the first time in Britain

  • trading increases dramatically as a result of the Crusades

  • William the Conqueror crowned king in 1066

  • Henry III crowned king in 1154 brings a judicial system, royal courts, juries, and chivalry to Britain

A Sampling of Key Literature & Authors:
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl

Domesday Book

L’Morte de Arthur

Geoffrey Chaucer

The Renaissance

Years: 1485-1660
The Elizabethan Period: the reign of Elizabeth I, 1586-1603

Jacobean Period: the reign of James I of England, 1603-1625

  • world view shifts from religion and after life to one stressing the  human life on earth

  • popular theme: development of human potential

  • popular theme: many aspects of love explored

  • unrequited love

  • constant love

  • timeless love

  • courtly love

  • love subject to change


  • poetry

  • the sonnet

  • metaphysical poetry

  • elaborate and unexpected metaphors called conceits

  • drama

  • written in verse

  • supported by royalty

  • tragedies, comedies, histories


  • commoners welcomed at some play productions (like ones at the Globe) while conservatives try to close the theatres on grounds that they promote brazen behaviours

  • not all middle-class embrace the metaphysical poets and their abstract conceits

Historical Context:

  • War of Roses ends in 1485 and political stability arrives

  • Printing press helps stabilize English as a language and allows more people to read a variety of literature

  • Economy changes from farm-based to one of international trade

A Sampling of Key Literature & Authors:

William Shakespeare

Thomas Wyatt

Ben Jonson

Cavalier Poets

Metaphysical Poets  

John Donne

Christopher Marlowe

Andrew Marvell

Robert Herrick

Katherine Phillips

The Neoclassical Period

Years: 1660-1798
The Restoration: the reign of Charles II, 1630 - 1660 (after his restoration to the thrown in 1630 following the English Civil War and Cromwell)

The Age of Enlightenment (the Eighteenth Century)

  • emphasis on reason and logic

  • stresses harmony, stability, wisdom

  • Locke: a social contract exists between the government and the people. The government governs guaranteeing “natural rights” of life, liberty, and property


  • satire

  • poetry

  • essays

  • letters, diaries, biographies

  • novels


  • emphasis on the individual

  • belief that humanity is basically evil

  • approach to life: “the world as it should be”

Historical Context:

  • 50% of males are functionally literate (a dramatic rise)

  • Fenced enclosures of land cause demise of traditional village life

  • Factories begin to spring up as industrial revolution begins

  • Impoverished masses begin to grow as farming life declines and factories build

  • Coffee houses—where educated men spend evenings with literary and political associates

Key Authors:
Alexander Pope

Daniel Defoe

Jonathan Swift,

Samuel Johnson

John Bunyan

John Milton

The Romantic Period

Years:  1798 – 1832

  • human knowledge consists of impressions and ideas formed in the  individual’s mind 

  • introduction of Gothic elements and terror/horror stories and novels  

  • in nature one can find comfort and peace that the man-made urbanized towns and factory environments cannot offer


  • poetry

  • lyrical ballads


  • evil attributed to society not to human nature  

  • human beings are basically good

  • movement of protest: a desire for personal freedom

  • children seen as hapless victims of  poverty and exploitation

Historical Context:

  • Napoleon rises to power in France and opposes England militarily and economically

  • Tory philosophy that government should NOT interfere with private enterprise

  • middle class gains representation in the British parliament

  • railroads begin to run

Key Authors:
Jane Austen

Mary Shelley

Robert Burns

William Blake

William Wordsworth

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lord Byron

Percy Shelley

John Keats

The Victorian Period

Years:  1832-1900

  • conflict between those in power and the common masses of labourers and the poor  

  • shocking life of workhouses and urban poor is highlighted in literature to insist on reform  

  • country versus city life

  • sexual discretion (or lack of it)  

  • strained coincidences

  • romantic triangles

  • heroines in physical danger

  • aristocratic villains

  • misdirected letters

  • bigamous marriages


  • novel becomes popular for first time; mass produced for the first time

  • bildungsroman

  • political novels

  • detective novels (Sherlock Holmes)

  • serialized novels (Charles Dickens)

  • elegies

  • poetry: easier to understand  

  • dramatic monologues

  • drama: comedies of manners

  • magazines offer stories to the masses


Historical Context:

  • paper becomes cheap; magazines and novels cheap to mass produce  

  • unprecedented growth of industry and business in Britain
    unparalleled dominance of  nations, economies and trade abroad

Key Authors:
Charles Dickens Thomas Hardy

Rudyard Kipling Robert Louis Stevenson

George Eliot Oscar Wilde

Alfred Lord Tennyson Charles Darwin

Charlotte Bronte Robert Browning

The Modern Period
Years: 1900-(subject to debate)


- Breakdown of social norms

- Realistic embodiment of social meanings

- Separation of meanings and senses from the context

- Despairing individual behaviours in the face of an unmanageable future

- Spiritual loneliness

- Alienation

- Frustration when reading the text

- Disillusionment

- Rejection of history

- Rejection of outdated social systems

- Objection to traditional thoughts and traditional moralities

- Objection to religious thoughts

- Substitution of a mythical past

- Two World Wars' effects on humanity

- poetry: free verse

- epiphanies begin to appear in literature  

- speeches  

- memoirs  

- novels  

- stream of consciousness

- Literature attempts to search for ‘truthes’ and discover the deep ideas and meanings behind

Historical Context:

- British Empire loses 1 million soldiers to World War I

- Winston Churchill leads Britain through WW II, and the Germans bomb England directly

- British colonies demand independence

Key Authors:

James Joyce Virginia Woolf

T. S. Eliot Joseph Conrad

D. H. Lawrence Graham Greene

Dylan Thomas George Orwell

William Butler Yeats Bernard Shaw

The Post Modern Period

Years: 1945(ish) – present

It is very difficult to determine the exact beginning or evolution of modernism into the realm of postmodernism. It is a general assumption that postmodernism started after WW2 in a time of great social, political and cultural upheaval. What is important is the term postmodernism is revealing in the sense that it is not a new movement, devoid of links with modernism but a reaction to it. Below is a list of characteristics displayed within post-modern literature, all of which are contrasted to modern literature.

  1. Whereas Modernism places faith in the ideas, values, beliefs, culture, and norms of the West, Postmodernism rejects Western values and beliefs as only a small part of the human experience and often rejects such ideas, beliefs, culture, and norms.

  2. Whereas Modernism attempts to reveal profound truths of experience and life, Postmodernism is suspicious of being "profound" because such ideas are based on one particular Western value systems.

  3. Whereas Modernism attempts to find depth and interior meaning beneath the surface of objects and events, Postmodernism prefers to dwell on the exterior image and avoids drawing conclusions or suggesting underlying meanings associated with the interior of objects and events.

  4. Whereas Modernism focused on central themes and a united vision in a particular piece of literature, Postmodernism sees human experience as unstable, internally contradictory, ambiguous, inconclusive, indeterminate, unfinished, fragmented, discontinuous, "jagged," with no one specific reality possible.  Therefore, it focuses on a vision of a contradictory, fragmented, ambiguous, indeterminate, unfinished, "jagged" world.

  5. Whereas Modern authors guide and control the reader’s response to their work, the Postmodern writer creates an "open" work in which the reader must supply his own connections, work out alternative meanings, and provide his own (unguided) interpretation.

A Sampling of Key Authors:
Margaret Atwood Martin Amis

Jean Baudrillard Jorge Louis Borges

William S. Burroughs Albert Camus

Bret Easton Ellis Gabriel García Márquez

Jack Kerouac Vladimir Nabokov

George Orwell Sylvia Plath

Tom Stoppard Salman Rushdie

Kurt Vonnegut Jeanette Winterson

The following is a selection of very brief examples of the main literary figures from the different literary periods. It should serve as a jumping off point for some class discussion and for students to be proactive in investigating and researching the various authors/periods.

Medieval Period – 5th – 15th Century

Can be further broken down – Anglo-Saxon Period – 5th-11th Century

- Middle Ages – 11th-15th Century (1066-1485)

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400)


n English author, poet, philosopher, bureaucrat, courtier and diplomat, Chaucer was born in London during the 14th Century. He was a regular at court and was the patron of many of the noblemen and Kings of the period. He is best known for his unfinished frame narrative ‘The Canterbury Tales’ and his works of epic poetry.

Troilus and Criseyde (written between 1381-86)

(Song of Troilus from Chaucer’s epic poem. Troilus is tormented by love)
If no love is, O God, what fele I so?

And if love is, what thing and which is he?

If love be good, from whennes cometh my wo? (whennes, whence)

If it be wikke, a wonder thynketh me, (wikke evil)

Whan every torment and adversite

That cometh of him may to me savoury thinke, (savoury thinke seem)

Foe ay thurst I, the more that ich it drynke.
And if that at myn owen lust I brenne, (brenne burn)

From whennes cometh my waillynge and my pleynte? (pleynte

If harm agree me, whereto pleyne I thenne? complaint)

I noot, ne whi unwery that I feynte. (I noot I do not know)

O quikke deth, O swete harm so queynte,

How may of the in me swich quaintite,

But if that I consente that it be?
And if that I consente, I wrongfully

Compleyne, iwis. That possed to and fro (iwis indeed)

Al stereless within a boot am I (stereless rudderless; boot

Amydde the see, bitwixen wyndes two, boat)

That in contrarie stoned evere mo.

Allas, what is this wondre maladie?

For hete of cold, for cold of hete I die.

1066 Battle of Hastings (Norman Conquest)

1485 Henry Tudor defeats and kills Richard III ending the War of the Roses (1455-1485)

1476 William Caxton opens the first printing press in Westminster

The Renaissance – 1485 – 1660 (dates differ, for example, ending in 1650)

Tudor Period – 1485 – 1603 (Henry VIII reigning from 1508-1547)

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