Questions tagged [history-of-literature]

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 plot device where a character changes negative views about someone after spending time with them?

I feel like this is a common story element. Someone has a negative view about a person/group of people, and their worldview is changed after they are forced to spend time with that person/group. This ...
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Historical King Ina and Shakespeare's King Lear in the writings of Thomas Hardy

In Thomas Hardy's short(ish) story "The Withered Arm", one of his descriptions of the Wessex countryside features the following cryptic allusion: It was a long walk; thick clouds made the ...
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Symbolism and romanticism as literary movements

I'm trying to understand the difference between Symbolism and Romanticism as literary movements. As I understand it, the symbolists explicitly wanted to distance themselves from the romantics. But if ...
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How has knowledge of the Ur-Hamlet evolved over the centuries?

I recently read in an excellent verbose answer that the existence of the Ur-Hamlet, on which Shakespeare's Hamlet is presumed to have been based, is known from a throwaway line of Thomas Lodge, ...
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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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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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Did Borges invent the idea of writing reviews/summaries of imaginary literary works?

In reading short stories by the great Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges, I've noticed a repeated theme: many of these stories are written in the style of a review or summary of a much larger and ...
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Was J.R.R. Tolkien building on a past tradition when relying heavily on languages he made up?

It is a uncontested and well known fact that Tolkien was a linguist, and he wrote Middle-Earth as a setting for his languages. However, what interests me is whether the approach he took was out of ...
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Are there earlier incidences than Merchant of Venice of an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other?

In act 2, scene 2 of The Merchant of Venice, Launcelot Gobbo is conflicted regarding whether to run from Shylock, or continue working for him. Shakespeare expresses this internal conflict by ...
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What arguments have scholars used to characterise Kafka's The Metamorphosis as magical realism?

In comments below the question What style are Kafka's novels?, Peter Shor said, Kafka has been characterized as "magical realism". On the other hand, there are lots of people who disagree ...
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What characteristics make The Faerie Queene an example of Renaissance literature?

Edmund Spenser's epic poem The Faerie Queene was published in the years 1590 (books I–III) and 1596 (books I–VI, i.e. complete). It is primarily an allegorical work, and allegories were not new in the ...
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When was the Holy Grail first depicted as an object to be owned by its seeker?

While the Holy Grail was always depicted as an important or powerful relic, in medieval literature I have never seen a quest to own the Grail, only to seek it in a spiritual sense. In early stories, ...
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What fictional series has the longest release to completion?

I am being inspired by George R.R. Martin and his A Song of Ice and Fire series which is currently at 24 years (A Game of Thrones was released in 1996) since the publication of the first work in the ...
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Were English poets of the sixteenth century aware of the Great Vowel Shift?

The Great Vowel Shift was a series of changes in the pronunciation of English vowel sounds, marking the dividing line between Middle English and Modern English. A wholesale shift of sounds took place ...
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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 (...
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Who coined the term ‘Shakespearean sonnet’?

So far, we have had at least two questions about the early history of the English sonnet: Who introduced the sonnet to English literature? Wyatt or Shakespeare? Why are Shakespearean sonnets called ...
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Why are Shakespearean sonnets called Shakespearean sonnets?

The term Shakespearean sonnet is frequently used for sonnets with a particular verse pattern and rhyme scheme, namely ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. But from what I can find with a little reading online, this ...
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What is the change in the characterization of the explorers in arctic novels in the past two centuries?

Has the general image of explorers or exploring teams in Arctic novels in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries really changed in essence?
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Dickens invented the scary clown?

Today in "Messages from Firefox" (some annoying thing that comes up in my browser), I saw the following which piqued my interest: Dickens invented the scary clown, the ‘80s perfected it. ...
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Examples of Zeus's Immoral Nature [closed]

In The Odyssey, Zeus happily allows Poseidon to turn a ship into stone, killing everyone aboard. I think it's safe to say most people alive today would consider this immoral. What are some other ...
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Was Paradise Lost the first major work of literature to give “sympathy for the devil”?

John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost was first published in England in 1667. While this is long after the Protestant Reformation where alternative ideas about Christianity became slightly more ...
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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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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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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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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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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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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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Was pretending to be an abridgement of a made-up work invented by William Goldman?

William Goldman's The Princess Bride is famous (among other reasons) for a literary device it employs - it pretends to be an abridgment (or "the good parts version") of a longer work by S. ...
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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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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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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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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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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 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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History of Spoilers

I live in the USA, where people react poorly if you spoil a move or a book for them. However, the question What is the benefit in the Prologue "spoiling" the play in Romeo + Juliet? raises ...
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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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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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Why was the text of “HaTikvah” changed?

"HaTikvah," Israel's national anthem, was adopted from an earlier poem called "Tikvateinu," by Naftali Herz Imber. Here is the official text of the anthem (translation and transliteration can be found ...
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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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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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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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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, ...