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The history of literature in the Modern period in Europe begins with the Age of Enlightenment and the conclusion of the Baroque period in the 18th century, succeeding the Renaissance and Early Modern periods.
In the classical literary cultures outside of Europe, the Modern period begins later, in Ottoman Turkey with the Tanzimat reforms (1820s), in Qajar Persia under Nasser al-Din Shah (1830s), in India with the end of the Mughal era and the establishment of the British Raj (1850s), in Japan with the Meiji restoration (1860s), in China with the New Culture Movement (1910s).
- Main article: 18th century literature
The early 18th century sees the conclusion of the Baroque period and the incipient Age of Enlightenment with authors such as Immanuel Kant, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau or Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. European cultural influence begins to spread to other continents, notably Edo period Japan, with notable authors of the period including Ueda Akinari and Santō Kyōden. Early American literature appears towards the end of the century, e.g. with The Power of Sympathy by William Hill Brown (1789). The late 18th century in Germany sees the beginning Romantic (Novalis) and Sturm und Drang (Goethe und Schiller) movements.
- Main article: 19th century in literature
The 19th century was perhaps the most literary of all centuries, because not only were the forms of novel, short story and magazine serial all in existence side-by-side with theatre and opera, but since film, radio and television did not yet exist, the popularity of the written word and its direct enactment were at their height.
The early part of the centuryEdit
- Main article: Romantic literature
The romantic movement was well under way and along with it developed the splintering of fiction writing into genres and the rise of speculative fiction. There was a romantic tendency toward the exploration of folk traditions and old legends. In 1802 Sir Walter Scott published Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. Amelia Opie, another romantic, was publishing poetry in the early 19th century and was an active anti-war campaigner. Anne Bannerman (1765–1829) reworked legends of King Arthur and Merlin. William Blake worked in words and pictures to share his visions and mysticism. In 1807 Thomas Moore published Irish Melodies. Lord Byron produced many influential poems during this period. In 1808 Goethe published part one of Faust. In 1810 Sir Walter Scott published Lady of the Lake. Percy Shelley published a gothic novel: Zastrozzi. The term "Gothic" had, by this time, come to mean a desire for a romantic return to the times before the renaissance. Percy Shelley also published a gothic novella: St. Irvyne in 1811.
North Americans who would later produce great literature were being born in the first third of the century. In 1803 the great American poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson was born (May 25) in Boston and in 1804 Nathaniel Hawthorne. In 1807 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and then Edgar Allan Poe in 1809. Phillipe-Ignace François Aubert du Gaspe, author of the first French Canadian novel was born in 1814 followed by Henry David Thoreau in 1817 and Herman Melville in 1819. Canadian poets Octave Crémazie and James McIntyre were both born in 1827. In 1830 was the birth of Emily Dickinson and, just over a third of the way through the century, in 1835 Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) arrived in this world. Before all of them was Washington Irving, said to be the first American "Literary Lion" and mentor to several other American writers. Washington Irving wrote "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (a short story contained in his collection The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon) while he was living in Birmingham, England and it was first published in 1819.
In 1807 Charles and Mary Lamb published Tales from Shakespeare, a simple retelling of some of Shakespeare's plays in the form of little stories accessible to a child readership. Along with all the other genres born in the 19th century came the genre of Children's literature.
In 1812 George Crabbe published Tales in Verse. Byron published Childe Harold's Pilgrimage Cantos I and II. Samuel Taylor Coleridge published Remorse. On February 7 Charles Dickens was born. On May 7 Robert Browning was born in London. On October 4, in London, Percy Shelley first met William Godwin (3 March 1756 - 7 April 1836), an English writer, husband of feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft and father of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (who would eventually marry Shelley and become Mary Shelley).
In 1813 Jane Austen published (anonymously) Pride and Prejudice. Byron published The Giaour and The Bride of Abydos. January 23 Drury Lane reopened with Coleridge's Remorse. In May Percy Shelley published his poem Queen Mab. In September Sir Walter Scott declined the offer of being made Poet Laureate, Robert Southey accepted the post. Wilhelm Richard Wagner born 22 May.
In 1814 Sir Walter Scott published Waverley. Jane Austen's Mansfield Park was published anonymously. Robert Southey published Roderick, the Last of the Goths. An English translation of Dante's Divine Comedy appeared. On July 28 Percy Shelley and Mary Godwin (Mary Shelley) eloped. Mikhail Lermontov was born.
In 1816 Thomas Love Peacock published Headlong Hall. Coleridge published Christabel and Kubla Khan. Jane Austen anonymously published Emma. E. T. A. Hoffmann published Undine. Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley went to Geneva and met Byron (with his physician John Polidori). At Byron's villa they told ghost stories and invented the basic ideas which led eventually to Mary Shelley's book Frankenstein and Polidori's novel The Vampyre. Their stay at Byron's villa was one of the most famous events in the Gothic/Romantic movement.
In 1818 Mary Shelley anonymously published Frankenstein which came to be known, eventually, as the first science fiction novel and the template for the mad scientist subgenre. Byron published Childe Harold Canto IV. John Keats published Endymion. Thomas Love Peacock published Rhododaphne and Nightmare Abbey. Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published posthumously. Sir Walter Scott published Rob Roy. Ivan Turgenev was born.
In 1820 John Keats published Lamia, Isabella and Hyperion. Percy Shelley published Prometheus Unbound. Elizabeth Barrett published The Battle of Marathon. Sir Walter Scott published Ivanhoe, The Abbot and The Monastery. James Catnach: Street Ballads. A gothic novel, Melmoth the Wanderer was published by Charles Robert Maturin.
In 1821 February 23: John Keats died. Percy Shelley published Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats and Epipsychidion. Byron published The Prophecy of Dante. Sir Walter Scott published Kenilworth. Fyodor Dostoevsky was born.
In 1823 Mary Shelley published Valperga. Byron published The Age of Bronze and The Island. Charles Lamb published Essays of Elia. Sir Walter Scott published Quentin Durward. An English translation of Jacob Grimm, Grimms' Fairy Tales appeared.
In 1824 Sir Walter Scott published Redgauntlet. Byron died in Greece.
In 1826 Mary Shelley published The Last Man, a novel set in the 21st century.
In 1828 Leo Nikolayevitch Tolstoy was born 9 September.
In 1831 Sir Walter Scott published Castle Dangerous. Edgar Allan Poe published a poem: "The City in the Sea".
In 1832 Percy Shelley published his poem The Masque of Anarchy, a reaction to the Peterloo massacre. Johann Wolfgang Goethe published part II of Faust. On March 20 Goethe died. Jerrold Douglas published The Factory Girl, The Golden Calf and The Rent-Day.
The middle of the centuryEdit
- Main article: Victorian literature
In the mid-19th century magazines publishing short stories and serials began to be popular. Some of them were more respectable, while others were referred to by the derogatory name of penny dreadfuls. In 1844 Alexandre Dumas, père published a novel The Three Musketeers (Les Trois Mousquetaires) and wrote The Count of Monte Cristo which was published in installments over the next two years. William Makepeace Thackeray published The Luck of Barry Lyndon. In Britain Charles Dickens published several of his books in installments in magazines: The Pickwick Papers, followed, in the next few years, by Oliver Twist (1837–1839), Nicholas Nickleby (1838–1839), The Old Curiosity Shop (1840–1841), Barnaby Rudge (1841), A Christmas Carol (1843) and Martin Chuzzlewit (1843–1844). In America a version of the penny dreadful became popularly known as a dime novel. In the dime novels the reputations of gunfighters and other wild west heroes or villains were created or exaggerated. The western genre came into existence. James Fenimore Cooper began a series of stories featuring the characters Hawkeye and Chingachgook. These stories were not only "westerns" but also historical novels, the earliest setting being approximately 100 years earlier than the year James Fenimore Cooper was writing it. The series was called the Leatherstocking Tales and comprised five volumes: The Deerslayer (1841), The Last of the Mohicans (1826), The Pathfinder (1840), The Pioneers (1823), The Prairie (1827).
In 1838 Edgar Allan Poe published a short story: "Ligeia" and a novel: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Elizabeth Barrett published The Seraphim. Lady Charlotte Guest published Mabinogion, a collection of ancient Celtic stories from Wales.
In 1841 Phillipe-Ignace François Aubert de Gaspé died. Edgar Allan Poe published two short stories: "A Descent into the Maelström" and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue". The latter introduced the fictional detective C. Auguste Dupin. Mikhail Lermontov was killed in a duel.
In 1843 the transatlantic author Henry James was born. Edgar Allan Poe published a poem: "Lenore" and four short stories: "The Gold-Bug", "The Black Cat", "The Tell-Tale Heart" and a C. Auguste Dupin short story called "The Mystery of Marie Roget".
In 1846, Elizabeth Barrett married Robert Browning. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë published Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Edward Lear published his Book of Nonsense. Fyodor Dostoevsky published Poor Folk.
In 1847, Anne Brontë published Agnes Grey, Emily Brontë published Wuthering Heights, and Charlotte Brontë published Jane Eyre. Rymer published Varney the Vampire; or, the Feast of Blood. Edgar Allan Poe published the poem "Ulalume".
In 1848, William Makepeace Thackeray's novel, Vanity Fair was published. Elizabeth Gaskell published Mary Barton. Anne Brontë published The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Grant Allen was born. Edgar Allan Poe published a book-length essay he called a prose poem: Eureka: A Prose Poem.
In 1849, both Anne Brontë and Edgar Allan Poe died. Poe's poems "Annabel Lee" and "The Bells" were published posthumously. Dostoyevski published Netochka Nezvanova. The poet Emma Lazarus was born 22 July in New York City.
Between 1849 and 1861, Charles Dickens' prolific creative outpouring gave us David Copperfield (1849–1850), Bleak House (1852–1853), Hard Times (1854), Little Dorrit (1855–1857), A Tale of Two Cities (11 July 1859) and Great Expectations (1860–1861).
In 1854, Oscar Wilde was born 16 October.
In 1859 George Eliot published her first novel Adam Bede. Dostoyevsky published The Village of Stepanchikovo (or The Friend of the Family). Arthur Conan Doyle was born 22 May; Knut Hamsun was born 4 August; and Washington Irving died 28 November.
1860 Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (Анто́н Па́влович Че́хов) was born 29 January.
In 1862 Victor Hugo published Les Misérables. Ivan Turgenev published Fathers and Sons. Henry David Thoreau died. Edith Wharton was born. Dostoyevsky published The House of the Dead and A Nasty Story. Christina Rossetti published Goblin Market and Other Poems.
The late 19th centuryEdit
In 1863 Jules Verne published Cinq semaines en ballon (Five Weeks in a Balloon). (Verne's Paris au XXe siècle (Paris in the 20th Century) was written, but was not published until 1994). Voyage au centre de la Terre (Journey to the Center of the Earth) came out in 1864 and De la Terre à la Lune (From the Earth to the Moon) in 1865. Verne had by then fully established the "scientific romance" as a genre. Charles Dickens published Our Mutual Friend in installments from 1864 to 1865. Literature by this time was becoming increasingly popular. The European and North American middle-classes were better educated than ever before and more reading was done. At the same time the styles of writing were tending more and more toward plainer language and more broadly understood themes. People were reading about detectives, ghosts, machines, wonders, adventures, tricky situations, unusual turns of fate and romances. Love stories and grudges, explorations and wars, ideas based on scientific positivism and ideas based on nonsense and gibberish were all being published and enjoyed by a readership which could now be termed "the masses".
In 1864 Nathaniel Hawthorne died. Dostoyevski published Notes from Underground (or Letters from the Underworld). Dostoyevski's concerns and style were singularly original and allow the reader entry to a claustrophobic interior world of the psyche. It is probably correct to describe Dostoyevski as the first Existentialist author.
In 1865 Lewis Carroll published Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, combining social satire with nonsense writing and presenting the two of them in the guise of a children's story. Thomas Chandler Haliburton died. Edith Maude Eaton was born.
In 1869 Leo Tolstoy published War and Peace. Mark Twain published Innocents Abroad. Matthew Arnold set a cultural agenda in his book Culture and Anarchy. His views represented one of two polar opposites which would be in struggle against each other for many years to come. The other side of the struggle would be represented by the Aesthetic, Symbolist or Decadent movement. The chief participants in the cultural opposition at this time included, on the so-called decadent side French poets like Jean Moréas, Paul Verlaine, Tristan Corbière, Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé and, in Britain, the Irish writer Oscar Wilde. On the other side were Matthew Arnold, John Ruskin and the tendency amongst the arts toward a utilitarian, constructive and educational ethic. The views of Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin inspired the Arts and Crafts movement and William Morris. This dispute (art for art's sake versus art for the common good) would continue throughout the remainder of the 19th century and much of the 20th.
The Decadent movement was a transitional stage between romanticism and modernism.
In 1872 Dostoevsky published The Possessed (or Demons or The Devils). Lewis Carroll published Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice Found There. Samuel Butler published Erewhon, an early science fiction novel. Jules Verne published Le tour du monde en quatre-vingt jours (Around the World in Eighty Days).
In 1873 Alfred Jarry was born (8 September).
In 1874 Jules Verne published L'île mystérieuse (The Mysterious Island).
In 1884 Mark Twain published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
In 1887 Oscar Wilde published The Canterville Ghost. Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta Ruddigore, or, The Witch's Curse was staged. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes story and the beginning of crime fiction as a genre. H. Rider Haggard published She first serialized in The Graphic from October 1886 to January 1887.
Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas The Gondoliers, or, The King of Barataria (1889), Utopia, Limited, or, The Flowers of Progress (1893) and The Grand Duke, or, The Statutory Duel (1896) were all staged.
Lewis Carroll's last novel, the two-volume Sylvie and Bruno, was published in 1889 and 1893 respectively. In 1889 Oscar Wilde published The Portrait of Mr. W. H..
Oscar Wilde was in prison for "gross indecency" from 1895 to 1897.
In 1896 Giacomo Puccini's opera La Bohème was staged, as was Chekov's play The Seagull. H. G. Wells published The Time Machine and The Island of Dr. Moreau. William Morris died 3 October. Mark Twain published Tom Sawyer, Detective. Alfred Jarry, only 23 years old, wrote his highly influential play Ubu Roi, which is often cited as a forerunner to the Theatre of the Absurd.
In 1899 Chekov's play Uncle Vanya was staged. Mark Twain published A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. H.G. Wells published When The Sleeper Wakes. Grant Allen died. Oscar Wilde staged his plays The Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband one year before his death in 1900.
- Main article: Modern European Literature
See also: List of years in literature:
- Main article: 20th century in literature
- Main article: Modernist literature
Modernist poetry is a mode of writing characterised by technical innovation in the mode of versification (sometimes referred to as free verse) and by the dislocation of the 'I' of the poet as a means of subverting the notion of an unproblematic poetic 'self' directly addressing an equally unproblematic ideal reader or audience. In English, it is generally considered to have emerged in the early years of the 20th century.
These two facets of modernist poetry are intimately connected with each other. The dislocation of the authorial presence is achieved through the application of such techniques as collage, found poetry, visual poetry, the juxtaposition of apparently unconnected materials, etc. In the best examples of modernist writing, these techniques are used not for their own sake but to open up questions in the mind of the reader.
Modernist poetry in English is often viewed as an American phenomenon in origin, with leading exponents including Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, H.D., and Louis Zukofsky, but there were a number of important British modernist poets, including David Jones, Hugh MacDiarmid, Mina Loy, and Basil Bunting.
The influence of modernism can be seen in such later poetic groups and movements as the Objectivists, the Beat generation, the Black Mountain poets, the deep image group, the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets and the British Poetry Revival.
The Modernist form of prose began from the styles of writing popular in the mid-to-late 19th century: The nonsense books of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll were one influence. Another was the dark gothic brooding of Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and Dostoyevski. These tendencies toward rebellious nonsense and morose introspection were, to some extent, reactions against the science and positivism of the Victorian era mindset. At the same time, however, science continued to influence writers to adopt a spirit of experimentalism.
In 1902 Joseph Conrad published Heart of Darkness, which threw representations of civilised society into sharp contrast with representations of the jungle and played both of them in relation to the human heart and soul.
In the first half of the 20th century writers such as Franz Kafka and James Joyce experimented with dislocations of conventional wisdom in their creations of distorted characters, locations and narrative styles. Literary experiments in form, matching those taking place in modernist painting and sculpture of the same period, challenged the reader to re-examine and deconstruct preconceptions about the world. Bertholt Brecht created modernist theatrical productions according to his theory of the alienation effect which was supposed to make the audience think and feel in new and critical ways by removing comfortable assumptions and not permitting the narrative to appear too much like reality.
Structuralism, Deconstruction, Poststructuralism, Postmodernism and Post-ColonialismEdit
- Main article: Hypertext fiction
- Main article: 21st century in literature
- History of theater
- History of science fiction
- History of ideas
- Intellectual history
- Literature by nationality
- Western canon
- List of years in literature: