Literary Movements and Periods

a philosophy that values human freedom, choice, and personal responsibility.

Jean-Paul Satre, Kierkegaard, Albert Camus, Nietzsche, Kafka, and Simone de Beauvoir

Transcendentalism (c. 1835-1860)
a literary movement in mid-nineteenth century in New England.Emphasized a reliance of intuition and conscience and focused on protesting the puritan ethic and materialism. Emerson, Thoreau, Hawhorne, Longfellow, Holmes.

Best services for writing your paper according to Trustpilot

Premium Partner
From $18.00 per page
4,8 / 5
Writers Experience
Recommended Service
From $13.90 per page
4,6 / 5
Writers Experience
From $20.00 per page
4,5 / 5
Writers Experience
* All Partners were chosen among 50+ writing services by our Customer Satisfaction Team

Absurdist Lit/Theatre (1930-1970)
Dramatic works of the mid twentieth century — by authors like Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, and Jean Genet — who wrote about the absurdity and meaninglessness of the human condition. Also writing about this idea: French existentialist Albert Camus (The Stranger and “The Myth of Sisyphus,” nonfiction work of philosophy, 1942).

the period of history from around 3,000 B.C. to the fall of the Roman empire(476 AD) followed by the middle ages

Bloomsbury Group (c. 1906-1930s)
Group of thinkers, artists, and writers living in the district of London known as Bloomsbury, near the British Museum in the 1920s and 1930s. The group began meeting in 1907 and were a powerful force in British literary and intellectual life.

Members: Virginia Woolf, Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry, E. M. Forster, Duncan Grant, David Garnett.

Style, attitudes, and ideas in art and literature inspired by, and including, the culture of classical antiquity (ancient Greece and Rome). The values of included harmony, proportion, clarity, elegance, simplicity, restraint, ideality and universality.

Enlightenment (c. 1660-1790)
European literary and philosophical movement. Also called the Age of Reason.

Central ideas: belief in the power of reason to understand nature and guide the human existence, emphasis on moderation, proportion, and balance, belief in the equality and dignity of all people and in basic human rights to freedom and happiness. Challenged ignorance, superstition, deception, tyranny, and oppressive traditions. Primarily associated with nonfiction writing, such as essays and philosophical treatises.

Major writers include Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, René Descartes.

A Renaissance philosophical and educational movement emphasizing the importance and dignity of the human existence. Characterized by: seeking knowledge and understanding of all matters pertaining to earthly, secular life, interest in the educational philosophies of classical antiquity, the development of human virtue and potential, and reform of culture to improve human life. Originated in Italy in the 14th century in the work of Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarch, and Giovanni Boccaccio.

Modernism (1890s-1940s)
Term referring to art, literature, and music of the late 19th and the 20th century. Characterized by: protest against industrialized, bureaucratic nature of the modern world, breaking away from rules and conventions, experimenting with form and style, interest in subjectivity and the internal life of characters.

Naturalism (c.


An extreme form of Realism. Greater emphasis on the depiction of social, political and economic struggles and contains scientific accuracy in the representation of graphic, and at times unpleasant aspects of human existence. Most notable of the writers was Émile Zola (1840-1902). Also: Stephen Crane, Jack London, Frank Norris

Neoclassicism (c. 1660-1798)
Styles and ideas in European art and literature during the 17th and 18th centuries inspired by classical antiquity; a reaction against the enthusiasm of the Renaissance; reverence for order, reason, and rules. Closely associated with the ideas of the Enlightenment. Notable writers of this period include Edmund Burke, John Dryden, Samuel Johnson, Alexander Pope, and Jonathan Swift.

Postcolonialism (c.


A cultural, intellectual, political, and literary movement of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries characterized by the representation and analysis of the historical experiences of the victims (both individuals and nations) of colonial power. Attempts to understand the emergence of colonial power and its lasting consequences. Prominent works include Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, V.

S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas, and Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) provided an important theoretical basis for understanding this genre of literature.

Postmodernism (c. 1945-present)
A cultural and intellectual trend of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries characterized by emphasis on the ideas of the fragmentation of meaning and coexistence, of different cultures and perspectives. Tries to deal with the despair of modernism with playfulness, irony, and black humor: yes, the world is fragmented and let’s play with that idea. Julian Barnes, Don DeLillo, Toni Morrison, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Pynchon, Salman Rushdie, and Kurt Vonnegut are among many who are considered authors within this movement.

Realism (c. 1830-1900)
A style in art and literature emphasizing verisimilitude (the accurate representation of life and social reality.) Artists focused on the plight of the poor and the working classes and called for social reforms. Preferred subjects: the normal, everyday, humble, practical.

Encouraged an objective, detached perspective by the author. Many of the 19th century’s greatest novelists, such as Honoré de Balzac, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Gustave Flaubert, and Leo Tolstoy, are classified within this movement

The period of Western history from about 1453 A. D. (fall of Constantinople to the Turks) to about 1650. Characterized by renewal of interest in the cultures of Antiquity (particularly Greece and Rome), surge of intellectual, scientific, and artistic activity.

Emphasis on the self, the enjoyment of earthly life, exploration, discovery, and empirical methods. Followed by the Enlightenment.

Aestheticism (1835-1910)
A late-19th-century movement that believed in art as an end in itself.

Authors such as Oscar Wilde and Walter Pater rejected the view that art had to posses a higher moral or political value and believed instead in “art for art’s sake.”

Angry Young Men (1950s-1980s)
A group of male British writers who created visceral plays and fiction at odds with the political establishment and a self-satisfied middle class. John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger (1957) is one of the seminal works of this movement.

Beat Generation (1950s-1960s)
A group of American writers in the 1950s and 1960s who sought release and illumination though a bohemian counterculture of sex, drugs, and Zen Buddhism. Writers such as Jack Kerouac (On The Road) and Allen Ginsberg (Howl) gained fame by giving readings in coffeehouses, often accompanied by jazz music.

Commedia dell’arte (1500s-1700s)
Improvisational comedy first developed in Renaissance Italy that involved stock characters and centered around a set scenario. The elements of farce and buffoonery, as well as its standard characters and plot intrigues, have had a tremendous influence on Western comedy, and can still be seen in contemporary drama and television sitcoms.

Dadaism (1916-1922)
An avant-garde movement that began in response to the devastation of World War I.

Based in Paris and led by the poet Tristan Tzara, these authors produced nihilistic and antilogical prose, poetry, and art, and rejected the traditions, rules, and ideals of prewar Europe.

Elizabethan era (c. 1558-1603)
A flourishing period in English literature, particularly drama, that coincided with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and included writers such as Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, Sir Philip Sidney, and Edmund Spenser.

Gothic fiction (c. 1764-1820)
A genre of late-18th-century literature that featured brooding, mysterious settings and plots and set the stage for what we now call “horror stories.

” Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto, set inside a medieval castle, was the first major novel in this genre. Later, the term grew to include any work that attempted to create an atmosphere of terror or the unknown, such as Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories.

Harlem Renaissance (c. 1918-1930)
A flowering of African-American literature, art, and music during the 1920s in New York City. W. E. B. DuBois’s The Souls of Black Folk anticipated the movement, which included Alain Locke’s anthology The New Negro, Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, and the poetry of Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen.

Lost Generation (c. 1918-1930s)
A term used to describe the generation of writers, many of them soldiers, that came to maturity during World War I. Notable members of this group include F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, and Ernest Hemingway, whose novel The Sun Also Rises embodies the generation’s sense of disillusionment.

Magic realism (c. 1935-present)
A style of writing, popularized by Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez, Günter Grass, and others, that combines realism with moments of dream-like fantasy within a single prose narrative.

Metaphysical poets (c. 1633-1680)
A group of 17th-century poets who combined direct language with ingenious images, paradoxes, and conceits. John Donne and Andrew Marvell are the best known poets of this school.

Middle English (c.


The transitional period between Anglo-Saxon and modern English. The cultural upheaval that followed the Norman Conquest of England, in 1066, saw a flowering of secular literature, including ballads, chivalric romances, allegorical poems, and a variety of religious plays. Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales is the most celebrated work of this period.

High modernism (1920s)
Generally considered the golden age of modernist literature, this period saw the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs.

Dalloway, and Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.

Nouveau Roman (c. 1955-1970)
A French movement, led by Alain Robbe-Grillet, that dispensed with traditional elements of the novel, such as plot and character, in favor of neutrally recording the experience of sensations and things.

Pre-Raphaelites (c. 1848-1870)
The literary arm of an artistic movement that drew inspiration from Italian artists working before Raphael (1483-1520).

Combined sensuousness and religiosity through archaic poetic forms and medieval settings. William Morris, Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Charles Swinburne were leading poets in the movement.

Romanticism (c. 1798-1832)
A literary and artistic movement that reacted against the restraint and universalism of the Enlightenment. This movement celebrated spontaneity, imagination, subjectivity, and the purity of nature. Notable English writers of the movement include Jane Austen, William Blake, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and William Wordsworth. Prominent figures in the American movement include Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, William Cullen Bryant, and John Greenleaf Whittier.

Surrealism (1920s-1930s)
An avant-garde movement, based primarily in France, that sought to break down the boundaries between rational and irrational, conscious and unconscious, through a variety of literary and artistic experiments. Poets, such as André Breton and Paul Eluard, were not as successful as their artist counterparts, who included Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, and René Magritte.

Victorian Era (c. 1832-1901)
Though remembered for strict social, political, and sexual conservatism and frequent clashes between religion and science, the period also saw prolific literary activity and significant social reform and criticism. Notable novelists of the period include the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, William Makepeace Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, and Thomas Hardy, while prominent poets include Matthew Arnold; Robert Browning; Elizabeth Barrett Browning; Gerard Manley Hopkins; Alfred Lord Tennyson; and Christina Rossetti.

Notable nonfiction writers include Walter Pater, John Ruskin, and Charles Darwin, who penned the famous On the Origin of Species (1859).

a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts. In literature, the style had its beginnings with the publication Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil, 1857) by Charles Baudelaire. The works of Edgar Allan Poe, which Baudelaire admired greatly and translated into French, were a significant influence and the source of many stock tropes and images.

Celtic Renaissance (Irish Renaissance or Celtic Revival)
identifies the remarkably creative period in Irish literature from about 1880 to the death of William butler Yeats in 1939. The aim of Yeats and other early leaders of the movement was to create a distinctively national literature by going back to Irish history, legend, and folklore, as well as to native literary models. The major writers, however, wrote not in the native Irish (one of the Celtic languages) but in English, and under the influence of various non-Irish literary forms; a number of them also turned increasingly for their subject matter to modern Irish life rather than to the ancient past.

Notable poets in addition to Yeats were AE (George Russell) and Oliver St. John Gogarty. The dramatists included Yeats himself, as well as Lady Gregory (who was also an important patron and publicist for the movement), John Millington Synge, and later Sean O’Casey. Among the novelists were George Moore and James Stephens, as well as James Joyce, who, although he abandoned Ireland for Europe and ridiculed the excesses of the nationalist writers, adverted to Irish subject matter and characters in all his writings.

As these names indicate, the Celtic Revival produced some of the greatest poetry, drama, and prose fiction written in English during the first four decades of the twentieth century.