A TO Z Literary Principles from History of English Literature: Note 88

A Set of 26 Objective Questions & Answers


Turning Points in English Literary History: Reasoning

A. 597.   In 597 Pope Gregory decided to send a group of missionaries to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. The missionaries began by converting King Ethelbert of Kent, in the southeast part of England. The capital of Kent – “Kenwearabyrig,” or Canterbury – thus became the center of Christianity in England, as it still is. They then moved on, from kingdom to kingdom. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)     If they persuaded the king to convert, the king announced to the people that they were now Christian. The missionaries tried to make the conversion as painless as possible. They turned the old pagan temples into Christian-churches, and they turned the old pagan seasonal festivals like “Easter” and “Yule” into Christian holidays. Within about a century all England had become, at least nominally, Christian.

B. 1476. In 1476 an entrepreneur named William Caxton introduced the newly-invented printing press to England. Both the printing press and the Protestant Reformation encouraged literacy. Printed books were cheaper and more widely available than scribe-written manuscripts. Since printers made more money the more copies of a book they sold (a new concept, they found it was to their advantage to print books that would appeal to the largest public—that is, in England, books in English rather than Latin, French, or Greek. This encouraged translation. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)      The Reformation also encouraged translation. While the Catholic Church had tried to keep the Bible from the hands of the laity, most Protestant groups thought that the Bible (rather than the hierarchy of the church) was the essential source of what Christians needed to know. So people were encouraged to learn to read, and various translators turned the Bible into English. This C. process of translation culminated in the so-called King James Bible of 1611.

C. 1516. More's "Utopia." English philosopher and statesman Thomas More pens Utopia, satirizing British life in a story of a mythical, perfect society. More’s moral beliefs later cost him his life; after failing to support King Henry VIII’s break from Rome, More is executed. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)     

D. 1557. In the anthology known as Tottel's Miscellany, first published in 1557, 96 pieces by Wyatt appear along with 40 by Surrey, and others by different hands. Wyatt has less smoothness and sweetness than Surrey, but his form of the sonnet was much more difficult as well as more correct than that invented by the latter, and afterwards adopted by Shakespeare, and his lyrical gift is more marked.

E. 1590. In this year Spenser’s reputation as a poet was vastly augmented by the publication of the first three books of the Faerie Queen, dedicated to Elizabeth.

F. 1611. James I of England commissions a revision of the English Bible, a 14th-century translation by John Wycliffe. The King James Version OR Authorised Version of the Bible, as it is called, is completed in 1611. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)     

G. 1605. Bacon's "Advancement of Learning." dedicated, with fulsome flattery, to the king. The intellect of Bacon was one of the most powerful and searching ever possessed by man, and his developments of the inductive philosophy revolutionized the future thought of the human race.

H. 1620. Bacon's "Novum Organum."

1644.Milton Argues for Freedom of the Press. English poet and writer John Milton publishes Areopagita, an essay espousing freedom of the press. Milton writes the piece in response to the censorship that is rampant in England at the time.

I. 1667. Milton's "Paradise Lost." English poet John Milton completes his epic poem Paradise Lost in 1674 after becoming blind. The work, which tells the story of Lucifer’s rebellion in heaven and Adam’s fall, is an extended meditation on humanity’s relationship with God, human nature, and the meaning of life. It is considered one of the masterpieces of world literature.

J. 1690. Locke's "Essay on the Human Understanding." British philosopher John Locke argues that the only way to apprehend reality is through the experience of the senses. In his major work entitled An Essay Concerning Human Understanding published in 1690, Locke states that the mind of an individual is a tabula rasa, or blank slate, upon which experience imprints knowledge. This theory forms the basis of empiricism. Locke’s political theories, which place sovereignty in the hands of the people, underpin a good portion of the U.S. Constitution. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)     

K. 1709. In 1709 Steele began to bring out the Tatler, to which Addison became almost immediately a contributor: thereafter he (with Steele) started the Spectator, the first number of which appeared on March 1, 1711. This paper, which at first appeared daily, was kept up (with a break of about a year and a half when the Guardian took its place) until Dec. 20, 1714.1755. Johnson's Dictionary. English writer and lexicographer Samuel Johnson publishes his Dictionary of the English Language. Standardized spelling of English words is one of the benefits that result.

L. 1740. Richardson, who was the originator of the modern novel, did not take seriously to literature until he was past 50 when, in 1740, Pamela appeared. It originated in a proposal by two printers that R. should write a collection of model letters for the use of persons unaccustomed to correspondence, but it soon developed in his hands into a novel in which the story is carried on in the form of a correspondence. With faults and absurdities, it struck a true note of sentiment, and exploded the prevalent idea that dukes and princesses were the only suitable heroes and heroines (Pamela was a maid-servant), and it won immediate and phenomenal popularity.1776-M. 1788. Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." British historian Edward Gibbon publishes the first book of his three-volume The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. This work, considered a masterpiece of historical writing, is admired for its eloquence and flashes of wit. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)     

N. 1790.Edmund Burke Opposes the French Revolution. In 1790 Irish-born British political philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke publishes an influential critique of the French Revolution, Reflections on the Revolution in France. The text, which denounces the revolutionary overthrow of the French government, seemingly contradicts Burke’s earlier support of the American War of Independence (1775-1783).

O. 1798. Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads.  English poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth jointly publish Lyrical Ballads in 1798. The landmark collection contains some of the first great poems of the romantic school in England.

P. 1859. Smiles Popularizes Self-Help Literature. British writer and social reformer Samuel Smiles publishes Self Help, one of a series of best-selling motivational works. In addition to describing the lives of famous and financially successful men, his books encourage readers to pull themselves up to similar success. British readers eagerly snap up the books, which become popular models of the Victorian work ethic. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)     The books, translated into many other languages, strike responsive chords around the world. Smiles sells thousands of copies throughout continental Europe, but perhaps his greatest success is in Japan, where Self Help reportedly sells as many as 1 million copies.

Q. 1902. The Monkey’s Paw by W. W. Jacobs (British writer of sea stories): In this terrifying tale, readers will learn to be careful what they wish for– it might not always be what they want. In fact, Jacobs's tales are usually filled with humor, but his best-known present story, “The Monkey's Paw” (1902), is a widely anthologized tale of horror. His last volume, Snug Harbor, a collection of short stories, appeared in 1931. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)     

R. 1925. The American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald publishes one of the great American novels of the 20th century, The Great Gatsby, in 1925. With insight and human sympathy, the novel reveals the emptiness of the pursuit of happiness through amassing wealth.

S. 1948. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson: this short has been ranked as one of the most famous short stories in American literature– despite its negative reception in some places. Jackson's story collections include The Lottery, or the Adventures of James Harris (1949), The Magic of Shirley Jackson (1966), and Come Along with Me (1968), the last two published posthumously. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions) Their common theme is the evil in humankind hidden beneath a benign or otherwise misleading exterior.

T. 1950.  1967. English is recognized as the next official language after Hindi following the 1950 Constitution of India which declared Hindi the official national language, and English was made the ‘associate’ official language by the 1967 Official Language (Amendment) Act. This means that English would continue to be used alongside Hindi in all official matters at the national level. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)

U. 1954. William Golding is English novelist and a Nobel laureate whose allegorical novel Lord of the Flies (1954) presents man as being responsible for the evil that plagues humanity. He uses as an example a group of British schoolboys, stuck on a deserted island, who try to govern themselves but degenerated into savage acts with disastrous results.

V. 1969. Irish-born novelist-dramatist Samuel Beckett got in 1969 of the Nobel Prize for literature. Long a resident in France, he wrote his laconic, ambiguously symbolic works in French and translated them himself into English (Waiting for Godot, play, 1952; How It Is, novel, 1964).

W. 1985. In 1985 Saro-Wiwa published   a novel, Sozaboy, both dealing with the war years. Its effective use of language and vivid characterization make Sozaboy his most important piece of writing; it was also the first work to win him international attention. Sozaboy tells a story in pidgin of a young man of limited formal education who is forced to fight in the war. This strongly antiwar satire of corruption in Nigerian society set the direction that the rest of Saro-Wiwa’s work would follow.

X. 1988. Salman Rushdie Publishes The Satanic Verses. Salman Rushdie, a British novelist of Indian descent, publishes The Satanic Verses, a sprawling comic fable that merges fantasy with reality in exploring religion, cultural identity, and a host of other subjects. Many Muslims consider it an attack on the Islamic faith and the novel is soon banned in several Islamic countries. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions) In 1989 Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini will declare a death sentence on Rushdie, forcing the writer into hiding for several years.

Y. 1991. Ben Okri , Nigerian novelist, poet, and short-story writer,  o achieved international recognition with his third novel, The Famished Road (1991), which won Britain's top literary award, the Booker Prize.

Z. 1997. In 1997 Arundhati Roy   won the Booker Prize, Britain’s highest literary award, for her novel The God of Small Things (1997), becoming the first Indian writer since Rushdie (with Midnight’s Children) to win the award. The book, set in southern India, uses vivid, compelling language and imagery to tell the story of a once-prominent family’s decline. The excerpt heard here comes from the beginning of the book, when Rahel, the main character, returns to her childhood home after many years away.

Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert     

2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature