8 Periods in English Literature A Literary Timeline (Free Printable)

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As we have been studying Shakespeare in our homeschool it has certainly made us question all of the periods in English literature.

We are from England and have been in America for a number of years. It is so wonderful to look back over the books and poems that we studied when we were children.

At the end of the post, you will be able to print out this FREE literary timeline. It can be used in the classroom or at home and is perfect for upper middle school and high school classes.

It will print on 2 x letter-sized paper (if you are printing on A4 just click shrink to fit on the printer settings).

literary timeline

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Periods in English Literature

The Classical Period 1200-455 BCE

I. HOMERIC or HEROIC PERIOD (1200-800 BCE)

Greek legends were talked about, including Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey. This is a chaotic period of warrior princes, wandering sea traders, and fierce pirates. Check out our free Greek Gods family tree and coloring pages for even more on this period.

II. CLASSICAL GREEK PERIOD (800-200 BCE)

Greek playwrights, writers, and philosophers include the likes of, Plato, Socrates, Aesop, and Aristotle. The fifth century (499-400 BCE) in particular is renowned as The Golden Age of Greece. Some of the world’s finest art, poetry, drama, architecture, and philosophy originated in Athens.

III. CLASSICAL ROMAN PERIOD (200 BCE-455 CE)

Rome slid into a dictatorship, after nearly 500 years as a Republic, under Julius Caesar. Then finally into a monarchial empire under Caesar Augustus in 27 CE. This later period is known as the Roman Imperial period. Roman writers include Horace, Ovid, and Virgil. Roman rhetoricians include Cicero and Quintilian. Philosophers include Marcus Aurelius and Lucretius.

IV. PATRISTIC PERIOD (c. 70 CE-455 CE)

This is the period when Saint Jerome first compiled the Bible. Christianity spread across Europe, and the Roman Empire came to an end. Early Christian writers include Saint Augustine, Tertullian, Saint Cyprian, Saint Jerome, and Saint Ambrose.

periods in english literature infograph

The Medieval Period 455CE – 1485 CE

I. THE OLD ENGLISH (ANGLO-SAXON) PERIOD (428-1066 CE)

Also known as the “Dark Ages”. This occurred after Rome fell, and the barbarian tribes moved into Europe. Franks, Ostrogoths, Lombards, and Goths settled in the ruins of Europe, and the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes migrated to Britain moving native Celts into Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Early Old English poems such as Beowulf, The Wanderer, and The Seafarer originated sometime late in the Anglo-Saxon period.

II. THE MIDDLE ENGLISH PERIOD (c. 1066-1450 CE)

This often turbulent period is marked by the Middle English writings of Geoffrey Chaucer. His most famous writing was the Canterbury Tales.

The Renaissance Period 1485-1660 CE

I. Early Tudor Period (1485-1558)

The War of the Roses ended in England when Henry Tudor (Henry VII) claimed the throne. Edmund Spenser is a sample poet.

II. Elizabethan Period (1558-1603)

Queen Elizabeth I. saved England from both Spanish invasion and internal squabbles at home. Her reign is marked by the early works of Shakespeare (see how we teach Shakespeare in our homeschool).

III. Jacobean Period (1603-1625)

The Jacobean Era was the period in English and Scottish history that coincides with the reign of James VI of Scotland who also inherited the crown of England in 1603 as James I. Shakespeare also overlapped the start of this era. Others include John Webster and the famous plays “Fifty Comedies and Tragedies” written by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher were from this era.

IV. Caroline Age (1625-1649)

John Milton (most famous poem, Paradise Lost), George Herbert, and others wrote during the reign of Charles I and his Cavaliers.

The Enlightenment Period 1660-1790 CE

I. Restoration Period (1660-1700)

This period marks the British king’s restoration to the throne after a long period of Puritan domination in England. Its symptoms include the dominance of French and Classical influences on poetry and drama. The Diary of Samuel Pepys is arguably the most famous work. Molière the French playwright famous for The Misanthrope was also from this period.

II. The Augustan Age (1700-1750)

The most famous writer from this time was the French writer Voltaire. The main English writer of the period was Alexander Pope.

III. The Age of Johnson (1750-1790)

Dr. Samuel Johnson and Boswell were the main writers of this period. Johnson in particular was extremely important as he changed the way the modern dictionaries are composed.

Periods in English Literature

The Romantic Period 1790-1830 CE

There are so many famous Romantic poets including Coleridge, Blake, Keats, and Shelley. Though typically not thought of with the Romantic poets, Jane Austen also wrote at this time

The Victorian Period 1832-1901 CE

Writings from the period of Queen Victoria’s reign include world-renowned novels. British writers include Lord Alfred Tennyson (his most famous work is arguably the Charge of the Light Brigade), Charles Dickens (my favorite would have to be Oliver Twist), and of course the Brontë sisters (my favorites include Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights).

The Modern Period 1914-1945 CE

In Britain, modernist writers include Yeats, Dylan Thomas, and Virginia Woolf. In America, this period has the likes of Hemingway.

The Postmodern Period 1945-onward

T. S. Eliot is among the most popular writer of this period, but of course, there are new playwrights and poets on the scene every day. Could you be the next?

Literary Timeline

Make sure you choose the correct paper size and then click on the shrink to fit button. With all of our printables, they work better when printed on cardstock (this is the one we use and love.)

Last Updated on 18 April 2022 by homeschoolof1

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