English literary periods are durations of times in which English literature shared various influences such as religious, intellectual, artistic and linguistic. The history of English literature has been categorized differently by various traditions across the world into different time periods with each period having its distinguished authors, exceptional characteristics as well as representative duties (Snodgrass 17). For instance, according to the Western Tradition early periods of literature are divided into three categories comprising The Classical Period of 1200BCE- 455 CE, The Medieval Period of 455CE-1485-CE and finally The Renaissance and Reformation Period of 1485CE- 1660CE.
The Medieval Period 428 CE-1458CE
The Medieval Period commonly referred to as the early middle period that occurred between 428CE and 1458CE was marked by remarkable periods such as The Old English Period or Anglo- Saxon period of 428-1066 CE, the middle English Period of 1066- 1450 CE and The Late or High Medieval Period of 1200- 1485 CE. All these periods were marked by unique characters, reputable authors and different works (Moody and William 16). The Old English (Anglo-Saxon) of 428-1066 CE is marked by the Dark Ages that occurred as a result of the downfall of Rome and the consequent movement of the Barbarian tribes into Europe’s territories. Since the withdrawal of the Roman Empire that offered protection through the Roman Army, the Celts were vulnerable to opportunistic attacks from neighboring warring communities and this led to the invitation of the Jutish siblings who agreed to offer protection against sea raids by settling on the East Coast of Britain (Moody and William 19).
However, the Jutes were not the only community to settle in Britain at the moment as other communities found their ways into the Britain territory. For instance, the Ostrogoths, Goths, Lombards and Franks moved and settled within the ruins of Europe as the Saxons, Angles and Jutes were migrating further into Britain (Lang & Andrew, p.31). The migration of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes into Britain consequently led to the displacement of the native Celts who were forced to move into Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Some of the remarkable events that developed in the Medieval Period include development of early old English poems for instance, The Wanderer, The Seafarer and Beowulf. Additionally, in 800- 850 CE, there was emergence of the Carolingian Renaissance in Europe (Snodgrass 19). Further in Central Europe most of the texts used included both early medieval grammar as well as encyclopedias. On the other hand, The Old English Period is a period that marks the setting of Viking saga in Northern Europe (Saintsbury and George 41).
According to Lang and Andrew (39), the Middle English Period of 1066CE- 1450CE began the transition from Old English to Middle English is marked by different events including the invasion and conquering of England territory by the Norman French Armies under the command of William I of England in 1066 who was initially referred to as Duke of Normandy. This consequently led to the end of the hierarchy practiced by the Anglo Saxon as well as the emergence of the Twelfth Century Renaissance of 1100CE- 1200CE (Saintsbury and George 43). During this period there was an increase in popularity of some of the French chivalric romance poems by authors such as Chretien de Troyes as well as an increase in popularity of French fables by renown authors such as Jeun de Meun and Marie de France. Additionally, other reputable authors such as Abelard among other humanists thrived to produce exemplary theological and scholastic arts of work during this period. During this period under the Norman rule English language sank to the level of a creole in its own country as the language was largely a spoken than a written language. During this period the kings and other nobles of England used Anglo Norman French as their official communication language for over 250 years (Hill and Joyce 104). However, it is imperative to note that despite the use of Anglo-Norman language as the official verbal communication language by the kings and nobilities of England, most of the official records and the Church used Latin language for writing down documents (Saintsbury and George 45).
Late or “High” Medieval Period of 1200 CE- 1485CE is a period that is marked by great known pieces of Middle English writings by reputable authors across the world including Italian and French authors such as Dante, Petrarch, as well as Christine de Pisan. On the other hand, other writers who were famed for contributing immensely to this period includes William Langland, Wakefield Master and Geoffrey Chaucer (Snodgrass 17). The establishment of Cambridge and Oxford universities in the succeeding centuries that is in 1209 and 1167 respectively contributed immensely to the general development in English Literature.
Hill, Joyce. “The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature.” (2000): 101-105.
Lang, Andrew. History of English Literature. BoD-Books on Demand, 2020.
Moody, William Vaughn. A history of English Literature. Read Books Ltd, 2016.
Saintsbury, George. A History of English Literature. BoD-Books on Demand, 2020.
Snodgrass, A. M. The dark age of Greece: an archaeological survey of the eleventh to the eighth centuries BC. Psychology Press, 2000