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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What is the origin of the charge that Romantic literature is escapist?

It is somewhat of a cliché that Romantic literature is escapist or at least tends to be escapist. Here is an example: The study and understanding of reasons and nature of the presence of this ...
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Are there well-known examples of “fanfictions” of works written because an author disagreed with the original? [closed]

I wonder if either of these two scenarios ever happened: Author A: writes story Author B: This stinks. writes derivative work of A's work that fixes perceived weakness from the original Or Author A:...
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What is the evidence for the width of the trap in the stage of Elizabethan playhouses?

Scholars of Elizabethan theatre agree that the stage in Elizabethan playhouses could have a trap door, for example in the Globe Theatre (built in 1699) and the Red Lion. In his study Shakespeare: The ...
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Where exactly did Colin Wilson describe Lovecraft as one of the pioneers of the “assault on rationality”?

The Wikipedia article about H. P. Lovecraft contains a section on the critical reception of Lovecraft's work that contains the following unsourced statement: In 1962 Colin Wilson, in his survey of ...
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Origin of the phrase “back when the animals could still speak” in Dutch fables or fairy tales

In Dutch, some fables or fairy tales (or both) begin with the words "[lang geleden] toen de dieren nog spraken / konden spreken", i.e. "[a long time ago] back when the animals still ...
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What is the evidence that Flemish fables or fairy tales began with the words “back when the animals could still speak”?

In an answer to the question Why do many Korean folk tales start with “back when tigers smoked”?, user @Flater, who comes from the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium (i.e. Flanders), claims that the Dutch ...
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Was it traditional to omit the prologue from Shakespeare's plays in the First Folio?

In an older question about the purpose of the prologue in Romeo and Juliet, Cory Howell asked in a now deleted answer: For what it's worth, the Prologue is not included in the First Folio version of ...
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What is an epic and why is there “only one epic in English Language so far”?

I’m quite familiar with novels and stories, if my personal view is concerned I would say that story is just a compact and summarised form of novel. The level of detail in novels is, obviously, much ...
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Did Maupassant and Richepin know each other?

One of the first questions in the Guy de Maupassant reading challenge was Political backdrop to “The Lancer's Wife” (Franco-Prussian War)?. After I was unable to find the story in French, it turned ...
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Who introduced the sonnet to English literature? Wyatt or Shakespeare?

Who brought sonnet to English literature? Thomas Wyatt or William Shakespeare? Their contributions to English literature: Shakespeare wrote a book that contains 154 sonnets, but I couldn't find ...
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Why does literature not have a governing body for content ratings?

(Note this question will be based heavily on my experience as an American and the systems we have in place.) I was reading some questions on this and another SE site about age appropriateness for so ...
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Why is Georg Büchner considered such an important figure in German literature?

Georg Büchner was recently proposed as a topic challenge for Lit.SE, and both that proposal and his Wikipedia page concur that he is considered an important figure in the history of German literature, ...
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Matthew Arnold's anthology of literature for use in schools

While reading Lynette Hunter's lecture text "What Is Literary Value?" (Gresham College, 1997), I came across the following passage (emphasis mine): What gets into and what stays out of the canon is ...
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Who introduced the term close reading in the context of literature?

The Wikipedia article Close reading discusses the history of the concept and the influence of I. A. Richards and others on the New Criticism: American New Critics in the 1930s and 1940s anchored ...
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Did Akutagawa Ryunosuke influence others?

Akutagawa Ryunosuke's suicide is considered the end of the literary tradition of the Taisho period (see the article "The Disintegrating Machinery of the Modern: Akutagawa Ryūnosuke's Late Writings"), ...
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Which publication first defined the theatre convention of the fourth wall?

One of the questions on this site asks Do a lot of Shakespeare characters break the fourth wall? However, assuming a "fourth wall" in English Renaissance theatre appears to be anachronistic since ...
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What is the earliest known concept of a fictional advanced appliance for either cooking or eating?

Robots and automation once again have become very popular, introducing for example cooking robots. What would be the earliest reference to an advanced appliance for either cooking or eating? My two ...
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What evidence is there for the “recession of accent” theory?

In the late 19th and early 20th century, there was a theory that certain oddities in the rhythms of Shakespeare and other early modern English poets could best be explained by recession of accent. ...
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Who was the first scholar who used the term Henriad to refer to a subset of Shakespeare's history plays?

A recent chatroom discussion about how to tag the question Portrayal of Henry Bolingbroke through different Shakespeare plays led to the question what "Henriad" actually means. According to ...
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Frank Kermode's prelude to modernism

Frank Kermode's The Genesis of Secrecy has the following quote: One motive of... modernism was the desire to break with a tradition of writing supposed to have been based on a mistaken or dishonest ...
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Earliest European novel that was set during an epidemic

Wikipedia's list of epidemics shows that epidemics have plagued us for almost as long as recorded history. Some great works of literature describe events caused or triggered by an epidemic, for ...
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What percentage of Latin texts from Antiquity constitute literature?

I recently asked, What percentage of clay tablets found in Mesopotamia contain literature? and was only able to define an upper limit of 4% literature in the overall corpus texts from the Ancient Near ...
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What percentage of clay tablets found in Mesopotamia contain literature?

Most of the major cuneiform tablet discoveries date from the 1840s and later. Cuneiform was used to write several languages, including Sumerian (a language isolate according to the current state of ...
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What is meant by «le Saint-Siège de la rue Sébastien-Bottin et la chapelle Sixtine de la rue Jacob»?

A recent issue of the French magazine Marianne (3-9 January 2020) contained an article entitled Matzneff : de l'écrivain tendance au vieux dégueulasse by Guy Konopnicki. The article contains the ...
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In what tradition are sagas named some variation of the protagonist's name?

I know some novels or sagas where the title of the work appears to be some variation of the protagonist's name. For example, the Aeneid is named after Aeneas. In high fantasy, the Belgariad is named ...
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Earliest work of English literature featuring “human hunting”

George R. R. Martin's first novel, Dying of the Light (1977) contains a manhunt. This is not a manhunt in the context of law enforcement or a military operation, but refers to a “hunting party” in ...
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Was Roald Dahl the first to use the “Hitler twist?”

In his story "Genesis and Catastrophe" [1959] , also called "A fine son", Roald Dahl uses a plot twist that has been done so often that it is an eye-roller: revealing near the end ...
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What does it mean to say “the future of the English language is grand but as far as its literature is concerned it seems bleak”?

An English professor commented that "the future of the English language is grand but as far as its literature is concerned it seems bleak". How can this sentence be interpreted? What exactly is the ...
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What is the origin of the trope of an evil character whose name is not permitted to be spoken?

Many works of fantasy involve an evil leader or "dark lord" whose real name is known but usually not permitted to be spoken, either by his own followers (out of respect?) or by others (out of fear?) ...
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Is A Supplement to the Journey to the West from the 17th century the oldest Chinese work of literature involving time travel?

A Supplement to the Journey to the West is a Chinese novel from around 1640 that was written as a type of addendum to the great classic novel Journey to the West. Journey to the West is set during the ...
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Earliest example of a story where an animal or object gains the ability to talk

I'm looking for the earliest example for a story with an animal or object that gains the ability to talk. Animal/object needs to have a name of their own, and the gaining of the ability to speak is ...
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Lack of Proper Ending in Stories by Old Indian Authors

I have read quite a few stories by old Indian authors who wrote in Hindi and Urdu in the early twentieth century. I noticed a trend of them not completing their stories or providing an ending and ...
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107 views

What is the earliest book where bad spelling is primarily for humor value?

I've enjoyed books like Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans and The BFG by Roald Dahl, where bad spelling and grammar (the BFG's extensive writing on the dream jars) are an integral part of the joke, and ...
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Albert Thibaudet and the Geneva School?

I'm learning about the literary critic Albert Thibaudet. I read on Wikipedia that he was the co-founder of the Geneva School of literary criticism, but I don't remember my tutor mentioning that about ...
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Which literature work took the longest time in its author's life (finished or not)

As far as I know Goethe has that title with Faust (this site tells that it spanned 57 years). So, is it the record; or are there any other works took longer? Unfinished works are also considered to ...
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Why is the title of “Le Morte d'Arthur” in French if the book is in English?

Le Morte d'Arthur, often considered the first English novel, is an early version of the story of Camelot. The book is according, to Wikipedia, written in Middle English. Why, then, is the title of the ...
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393 views

For Saintsbury, which English novelists constituted the “great quartet of the mid-eighteenth century”?

In the anthology Shorter Novels: Elizabethan, first published in 1929, George Saintsbury writes in the introduction that the English novel had something like a false start in the Elizabethan era and ...
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What was the first novel written in the present tense?

Although many novels are still written in the past tense, it seems that many other novels nowadays are written in the present tense. When did this begin? What was the first novel written primarily in ...
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What is the earliest work with the time-loop trope?

The film "Groundhog Day" has a plot centered around a character whose day repeats exactly the same way each day, and upon waking retains memory of the previous day. This is what I call a "time-loop," ...
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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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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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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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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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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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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 the following (from a course ...
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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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179 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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345 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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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 (...