Length: 1741 words (5 double-spaced pages)
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Beginning in 450 AD, man has started the evolution of literature by taking it to the next step. This period of time is known as the Anglo Saxons era. The foundation for this era was left by the Romans. When invaded by outside forces, the Romans were forced to evacuate, leaving behind them roads, walls, and villas. These assets allowed the Anglo Saxons culture to grow and flourish. It also allowed King Alfred of Wessex to unify the land. During this period, religion was often practiced as a combination of paganism and Christianity. They also change from polytheism to monotheism. In this era, the monks were the only literate people. As a result, it affected the way literature was written. Stories told by bards and scops, old English poet, would be passed on to other. These stories would contain a rhyme scheme to help them retell the stories. Than these stories is written down by the monks. These stories would reflect the point of view and beliefs of the monks. A popular story that was well known during this time is Beowulf. As told by a bard, it is about a warrior killing a monster for fame and glory. But when written down in the manuscript, the theme of the story changed to reflects a well established Christian religion, and not just for self interest.
But frequent attacks by invaders put an end to the Anglo Saxon era and there literature. And giving rise to the Middle Ages.
The Middle Ages era begins with Duke William of Normandy defeat of King Harold of England. The strength of the Middle Ages lie with it great administration ability, which put an emphasis on law and order. In addition, the feudalism was put into place as a system of land ownership and social control. But feudalism began to decline due to the One Hundred Years war and then with Black Deaths. During the Middle Ages, ballads were a popular form of poetry for the common people. Ballads is written as songs and performed with accompanying music. These ballads often romanticized knighthood and contain elements of supernatural. Lord Randall and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight are two pieces of literature of that reflects the era. It both depicts the glory and righteousness of the time period. Like the Anglo Saxon era, the Middle Ages literature is heavily influences by Christianity and the church. Ending in 1485, when the first Tudor King is crowned, the Renaissance began to ascend.
The Renaissance was a period of artistic and intellectual pursuit. The Renaissance is also the rebirth of Greek and Roman Classics. A major advancement of this era was the printing press. The printing press allowed for books to be made inexpensively. As a result, books can be purchased by anybody. This led to an increased in literary rate and independent thoughts. Humanist teachings were very popular in the Renaissance. It was a method of learning, focuses on the study of ancient texts in the original, and appraises them through a combination of reasoning and empirical evidence. Humanists led writers ask the big questions such as “Why are we here?” and “What is the nature of man’s soul?” But asking these questions in their works was an inflammatory political act. Poets were sometime killed for religious writing. Shakespeare is one author who violated the sedition act. He achieved great wealth rewriting medieval drama. His works have humanistic themes, government, and religious corruption. Shakespearean sonnet usually has an iambic pentameter, and it have three to four line units followed by a concluding two line. From the Anglo Saxon, to the Middle Ages, and to the Renaissance, these three eras can be seen a parallel to the first story of 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Dawn of Man. By touching the monolith, the ape man was able to learn to use the stick and gained dominancy over the other. To mankind, the printing press was the monolith, allowing them to think outside the box and gaining more knowledge.
The Enlightenment or The Age of Reason came to be in 1660. With the invention of the printing press, it allowed more people to read and think. Creating the era of reason; people began to ask “How did it take place?” and quit asking “Why did it take place?” And this can be evidently found in there both culture and literature. In 1721, Edmund Halley predicted solar eclipse and the comet’s orbit. King Charles charted a group of philosophers to explain the workings of the world. People bean to see God as the great clockmaker who set the universe in motion and left it alone. These are cultural examples of the impact of the printing press. Authors started to change their writing style, and their works is more profound and insightful. An Essay on Man, a poem written by Alexander Pope. Deal with the evil in world and with the social order God has decreed for man. That man began to believe that “whether is, is right” and “All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.” The technological advancements made up a big part of this era and in the process gave birth to the Romantic era.
Created as counter to the Enlightenment, the romantics saw technologies as the downfall of mankind. During this era, people turned away from technology showed a fascination with nature and innocence. This was caused by many reasons, the conditions of the cities became harsh and unclear, workers have barely enough wages to feed themselves, and child labor. “Art is the tree of life. Science is the tree of death” said by William Blake, one of the many authors the Romantics period. Romantics refer to the interrelationship of nature, the mind, and the imagination. And works such London, The Tyger, and Frankenstein show this relationship. It show that technology lead down the wrong path, that nature is ideal, and that man is falling off from nature. Hal 9000, from 2001: A Space Odyssey is a perfect parallel to the Enlightenment and the Romantic era. Portraying that man created the technology, than realizing that technology lead to man demise. The Romantic era slowly decline and ended in 1830.
The Victorian era can also be considered as the reform era. Started in 1830, people started to move to the rural areas due to the Industrial revolution. As a result, the population exploded to 200 million, and larger more complex levels of middle class were formed. But with a growing population and the industrial waste, it brought diseases and polluted the environment. On the positive side, public schools opened in 1870 thus raising the literacy rate from forty percent to ninety percent, and reforms allowed all working class man the right to vote. The literature of this era is very unique, it idealized the middle age culture, promote chastity and obedience, and it affirmed the values of the age while other works challenged these values. The Lady of Shallot is one work that symbolizes the Victorian era. This is a poem based on the middle age culture about an unmarried woman, who died alone. The unmarried women of the Victorian era were often shunned and seen as dangerous. This theme is expressed in the poem, and that is the reason why it is Victorian literature. Withering in 1901, the Modern era was in full bloom.
The Modern era began in 1901 and has three major influential intellectual. The first influence was Darwin; he believed that ideas brought a new interpretation of man’s existence and coldly analytical look at man as animal. The second influence was Karl Marx; he believed in that religion is opiate of the mass. The last major influences came from Sigmund Freud; his concept state that man has unconscious motivations, which led to the “stream of consciousness” writing style and to deeply personal “psychological” literature. Technology also played a big role in developing the literature of this era. The advancements in warfare cause many to question their faith in God, as well as brining hope of utopian societies and fear of oppressive governmental control. These influences greatly reflect in their literatures. An example would be 1984 by David Orwell, this novel contain many elements of a modern era work. One major element is the “stream of consciousness” writing style used by Orwell. This gave his characters and the book, the characteristic of the era. These elements set up the next stage of the literary progression, the postmodern era.
The current stage of progression is Postmodernism. The Postmodern era literature emphasize on the symbol of simulacra, which is a simulation of reality. In simpler terms, it is artificial reality, something that is made up and is not true. It also emphasize that human is not perfect. These symbols can be found in a lot of postmodern work. Cloud Atlas written by David Mitchell is a novel that contains these symbols. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Jupiter, where David is by himself and he knocked over the glass. This symbolizes that the human form is not perfect, that he is not perfect. The monolith then appears in the middle of the room, and the fetus was then shown. It is saying that the monolith is knowledge, and knowledge can transcend us from the body. As a result, we’ve gained ultimate knowledge. Letting us achieve perfection and there is no longer need for technology.
Literatures have progressively changed throughout time with the help of technological advancements. From the beginning of age to present day, literatures have always been changing constantly. Influence by its surrounding, the religion, and technology. It takes on different views and philosophies, allowing for deeper understanding. Starting with primitive behavior to writing transcending of the mind from the body, technologies have permitted us to increase our knowledge. And that gain in knowledge is shown throughout time in our literature.