English literature

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The term English literature means literature written in the English language.

English literature began in Old English with the epic poem Beowulf, which dates from sometime between the 8th to the 11th centuries. It is not written in language people can understand today, but there are several good translations into modern English. It is the most famous work in Old English, despite being set in Scandinavia. The next important landmark is the works of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343–1400), especially The Canterbury Tales. That is in Middle English 1066 to the middle/late 1400s.

The next stage is Ben Jonson, Shakespeare and John Milton, sometimes described as Early Modern English (1470 to 1650).

William Wordsworth, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf and Ted Hughes are all important English writers in modern English..

Not all English literature was written by writers born in England. Joseph Conrad was Polish, Robert Burns was Scottish, James Joyce was Irish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Edgar Allan Poe was American, Salman Rushdie is Indian, V. S. Naipaul is Trinidadian, and Vladimir Nabokov was Russian. In other words, English literature includes all the varieties and dialects of English spoken around the world.

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