Periods of English Literatures
The following survey encompasses the most important movements of literatures written in English in their historical succession. In spite of many discrepancies and inconsistencies, some terms and criteria of classification have established themselves as standard in Anglo-American literary criticism. The convention of periodical classification must not distract from the fact that such criteria are relative and that any attempt to relate divergent texts-with regard to their structure, contents or date of publication-to a single period of literary history is always problematic. The criteria for classification derive from fields such as the history of the language (Old and Middle English), national history (Colonial Period), politics and religion (Elizabethan and Puritan Age) and art (Renaissance and Modernism). The following tables of the most important English and American literary periods provide a preliminary overview before they are dealt with individually.