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Questions tagged [history-of-literature]

Use this tag for questions about historical development within literature: for example, the history of a particular literary theme or idea, or of literature in a particular country or context. For questions about real-world history as it relates to literature, use the [historical-context] tag instead.

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Children raised out of human society - ancient stories

I am interested in the theme of human children raised out of human society (e.g. Mowgli or Romulus and Remus), whether by animals, gods, flowers, aliens, etc. What is the oldest story where such a ...
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1answer
34 views

Oldest children’s library in America?

I’ve already asked about the oldest free public library: now what’s the oldest children’s library in America?
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1answer
84 views

What is the oldest mention of a unicorn in English literature?

Since Stack Overflow thought it would be fun to use a 1990s style featuring a unicorn to celebrate this First of April, let me post a question that fits the theme: What is the oldest mention of a ...
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(How) have the interpretations of Macbeth's ending evolved over time?

I just attended a performance of Macbeth that ended on a much more ambivalent note than Shakespeare's original text. Instead of Malcolm and his posse picking up the shambles and Malcolm motivating his ...
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1answer
112 views

When was Shakespeare's The Tempest first analysed from a “post-colonial” perspective?

A recent answer from verbose mentioned: Postcolonial approaches to The Tempest cast Prospero as colonizer, exercising imperial control over the original inhabitants of the island: Caliban and Ariel....
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1answer
75 views

What is the first work of literature to reference existentialism?

Taking a class on existentialism and literature and I'm curious how far back the idea has been referenced in literature. What is the first work of literature to express the ideas of existentialism?
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29 views

What does this line about Foucault's job being to “historicize discourse and textualize history” mean?

I found a line in my book which says something like this: Michael Foucault's main job is to historicize discourse and textualize history. The context of this quote is: After discovering the ...
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1answer
52 views

How did the story of Robin Hood pass from oral literature to written?

Robin Hood is a famous figure of English folklore, whose existence or fictionality is still a subject of debate. The stories about him started off as folk tales transmitted orally (ballads), but by ...
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Can the success of “The Day of Doom” be attributed to above average literacy in colonial America?

"The Day of Doom" has been described as America's first bestseller, but can that be attributed to the above-average literacy rate among Puritans and in America overall? Would this poem have been less ...
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131 views

Are political dystopias becoming less popular?

After reading Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four I was looking for more dystopias that are similar to it. But the trouble is, most of them are becoming more sci-fi based rather than politically based. Don'...
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259 views

Was Harry Potter the first magic series to use wands?

Was Harry Potter the first magic series to use wands? I can't really think of any other series that used them.
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135 views

Why did iambic pentameter become so 'standard' in classical English poetry?

Iambic pentameter is probably the most prevailing and widely used meter in classical English poetry, and it's the 'standard' form of verse in many forms of poetry such as sonnets. From Wikipedia (...
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Is there really a single “Old Babylonian version” of the Epic of Gilgamesh?

From the Wikipedia article about the Epic of Gilgamesh: From the diverse sources found, two main versions of the epic have been partially reconstructed: the standard Akkadian version, or He who saw ...
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Why are Dwarfs almost always technologically advanced compared to other races?

In almost every fantasy world Dwarfs are almost always shown to have superior technology compared to other races. Why is that?
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1answer
49 views

Use of Fraktur in 19th Century English Print

Context: I live in Germany. I'm fond of shopping for old books at fleamarkets, second-hand-shops, and online. Mostly interested in English 19th century or early 20th century printed books (date of ...
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46 views

Why did Carl Jung write “Man and his symbols” in English?

Any specific reasons for Jung and his colleagues to write this book in English? The majority of his writings seem to be in German and most of his colleagues seem German speaking as well. I'm not sure ...
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1answer
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What qualifies something as “Lovecraftian”?

I often hear the term "Lovecraftian" used in reference to describe certain elements of horror literature or film. I do understand this to be a reference to H.P. Lovecraft and his style of horror, but ...
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40 views

When did the first Dramatis Personae appear outside of theatre?

According to the Wikipedia article about Dramatis Personae, Dramatis Personae began in plays and later moved into the other forms of literature. This led me to ask: When did Dramatis Personae first ...
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119 views

What is the highest number a comic book issue ever achieved naturally?

Action Comics #1000 was first published in the US earlier this year. I got the impression that this seemed to be an unheard of before milestone. Most likely due to the fact that such a daunting ...
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1answer
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What was the earliest novel that invented a language without words for “I” or “me”?

We recently had a questions about the usage of pronouns in Nalo Hopkinson's story "Shift". In that story, one of the characters uses the pronoun "you" to refer to himself. This is a consequence of ...
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1answer
66 views

What was the earliest diary by a European poet, dramatist or novelist?

The earliest surviving diary by a poet is probably the Tosa Diary by the tenth-century Japanese poet Ki no Tsurayuki. More details about this diary can be found on the Diary Review blog. The Diary ...
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51 views

What was the first book that taught readers how to analyse and interpret literature?

Books about literaty theory have a long tradition; Aristotle's Poetics dates back to the 4th century BC. Books about how to write literature also go back a long way, for example, Horace's Ars Poetica (...
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1answer
59 views

First Dutch children's bible

In the second half of 1943, Anne Frank received a children's bible from her father. Her older sister Margot objected to the idea of giving Anne a Bible on Hannukah, so her father thought giving it on ...
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1answer
894 views

When did people begin to regard Gulliver's Travels as a children's book?

Jonathan Swift published Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of several Ships in 1726 as a satire on human nature. ...
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1answer
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Modern British English novels suitable for learning English [closed]

I am learning English and for that purpose (among other things) I want to read a few novels. I have made a list of novels selected by personal taste, but since I am still learning, I am afraid that ...
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46 views

What is the literary origin of the ability to sense somebody else's powers or “force”?

"The force is strong with this one" is apparently a trope and its meaning has already been discussed in Science Fiction & Fantasy SE. The Star Wars franchise started in 1977, but the ability to ...
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1answer
93 views

Where was the first English playhouse outside London built?

When reading about English Renaissance theatre, discussions centre on authors, theatre companies and theatre buildings in and around London. For example, the first English playhouses were the Red Lion,...
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1answer
65 views

Oldest library in America?

What’s the oldest free public library in North America? I personally think that this question will be of at least some interest to regular users of this board,as well as some history buffs!
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1answer
544 views

Origin of symbolic interpretation of Prospero's breaking of his staff?

At the end of The Tempest, which is generally believed to be the last plays that Shakesepare wrote alone, Prospero breaks his staff and drowns his book. This has often been read as Shakespeare telling ...
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3answers
161 views

Earliest work of fiction in which characters using telepathy can't lie

In Liu Cixin's novel The Three-Body Problem (2006/2008), the inhabitants of the planet Trisolaris communicate with each other using telepathy and are unable to lie. In Ursula Le Guin's novel The Left ...
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1answer
53 views

What texts are the sources for the difference between “sometime were” and “some time are” in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar?

The Pelican Julius Caesar has I.2.140 as men at sometime were masters of their fates (even noting the archaic meaning of "sometime" as at one time) while the Arden Julius Caesar has it as men ...
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1answer
72 views

What is the oldest non-biographical work of literature in which the author is also a protagonist?

Dante's Divine Comedy, written in the years 1308-1320, is a long narrative poem in which the poet is also a protagonist in the story. The story also includes many real characters, such as Virgil and ...
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27 views

What does 'reflection of love for the soul' intend to say?

Source: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (2013 1 ed). p. 90. From the medieval period through the Renaissance, Plato's argument that physical beauty should be seen as ...
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326 views

Is it a common theme in (western) storytelling that the antagonists are located to the east?

I'm not sure if this is the correct place for this question. I was reading some Lord of the Rings-lore the other day and it got me thinking about the location of "evil" in storytelling. In LOTR, ...
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Antecedents for Hawthorne's Dr. Rappaccini

In the short story Rappaccini's Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Dr. Rappaccini uses his own daughter as a subject in his great experiment, resulting in her living a life of isolation and eventually ...
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1answer
245 views

Why did homophobia become a feature of detective fiction in the mid-20th century?

About 10 years ago I read the Maltese Falcon. It was a good read, but I remember being shocked by the blatant homophobia. Raymond Chandler's the Big Sleep was more subtle about it, but definitely ...
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1answer
91 views

Did medieval romances develop into modern romances?

I'm reading Arthurian texts and I know that it's considered a romance, but there is there such a big difference between modern romance, love stories, and medieval romances, which can be tales of ...
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1answer
151 views

What happened to the epic poem?

It's so strange to me that we all praised and adore things, but would never consider supporting them in a modern setting. There are many examples of this: poetry (very unpopular nowadays; not in the ...
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46 views

Predecessors/Inspirations of Scheinriesen (Illusionary Giants)

A "Scheinriese" (illusory giant), most notably Mr. Tur-Tur from Michael Ende's Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver, is a being which when seen from a distance appears to be a giant, inadvertently ...
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1answer
280 views

How did contemporary readers respond to coincidence in 19th century novels

Reading 19th century literature in the 21st century, it is often striking how often the plot turns on often quite outrageous coincidences. Frequently this happens when a relatively small cast of ...
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1answer
70 views

Stories From the Year Without a Summer

I have seen the story many times: Percy and Mary Shelley (not yet wed) paid an a visit to Lord Byron in 1816. Attributed now to the eruption at Mount Tambora, this year was unseasonably cool. Spending ...
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1answer
577 views

Use of “limited third-person point of view”, vs “omniscient third person point of view” over the past century or so

I notice that a lot of popular recent fiction, for example Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" , and George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" are written in limited/subjective third-person point of ...
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Comparison of the portrayal of the female role in society between Jane Eyre and Tess?

I really can't get the differences of the female role in society and how they are seen by their families and by the society in general. How can we compare the portrayal of the female role in society ...
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Romanticism in 20-21st century

Romanticism in a nutshell is about individual, emotions and imagination. An era that takes is situated in the 18-19th centuries. My question is why can't we label 20-21st century works that put the ...
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What's the origin of the rhyme “My friend Billy had a ten foot willy”?

A simple rhyming song which I heard growing up and which still gets stuck in my head every so often: My friend Billy had a ten foot willy. He stuck it through the neighbour's door. OR He showed ...
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1answer
257 views

Why did attitudes change towards tragedy?

Views on whether or not tragedy provides a fulfilling end to a work have changed over the centuries and it has slipped in and out of popularity in contemporary works of a given period. Great literary ...
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1answer
124 views

First English Renaissance play where women disguise as men?

In several of Shakespeare's plays, women disguise as men (for a variety of reasons). For example, In The Merchant of Venice, Portia disguises as a lawyer; Jessica disguises as a man when eloping with ...
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971 views

Why was/is James Joyce's writing revolutionary for its time?

I love his writing, but I don't know why he is considered one of the great fiction writers in English. Why was James Joyce's writing so "revolutionary" for its time? I know that at one time ...
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1answer
305 views

How many manuscripts of English Renaissance plays have survived?

During the English renaissance, plays were primarily written for performance and play manuscripts were usually not sold to a printer before the play had had a successful run in the theatre. A number ...
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1answer
106 views

“It might be for years, and it might be for ever,” - What is the original novel this quote appeared in?

There are many novels of the same period that have this quote in them based on my perusal through the Internet Archive but could anyone please tell me what the original source of the quote was? Thanks....