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 [historical-context] instead. For questions about publication dates of specific works or editions, use [textual-history].

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Why is Russian literature considered part of Western culture when so much of Russia is in the East?

Russia is a country that straddles both the East and West, and is culturally very diverse. Why and how did so much of Russian literature become part of the Western Canon? To put it another way, why ...
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How and why did the story of King Cnut change?

The 11th-century king Cnut/Knut/Canute of Denmark, Norway, and England is today best known for the story of how he sat on the beach commanding the waves to turn back. The original account of this ...
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What is the earliest hybrid graphic novel?

Malice (2009) was the first hybrid graphic novel I read, though I've seen more than one other since. By "hybrid graphic novel," I mean a book that contains passages of both traditional, unillustrated ...
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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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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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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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Earliest second-person novel

What is the earliest novel that makes use of second-person narration through the entire book, excluding choose-your-own-adventure books?
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The earliest novel with a robot who isn't “human enough”

Thomas Jones, writing about the Kazuo Ishiguro novel Klara and the Sun, says: Ishiguro doesn’t get tangled up in the complexities of neural networks, machine learning, algorithms or the difficulties ...
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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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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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Has copy protection ever been used in physical books?

"Digital rights management", DRM, is almost a standard in the e-book industry. Have copyright holders ever tried to protect physical books from scanning, for example in a way how banknotes are ...
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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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What is the cultural history of family “kissing” in Victorian/Edwardian novels?

I read a lot of Victorian/Edwardian fictional novels, mostly books that were geared towards female readers. Often enough, family members are described as kissing each other. Sometimes a kiss on the ...
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Where was the phrase “behind the wind” first used?

In Millennium: A History of the Last Thousand Years, chapter 4 ("The World Behind the Wind"), the second-to-last sentence: On the evidence of the events of the fifteenth century, in the world east ...
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Is it a common motif 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 ...
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How did the Inklings originate?

The (original) Inklings were a group of Oxford academics and writers, their most famous members including J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Hugo Dyson. They used to meet regularly, ...
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Origin of the story of Gilbert and the Saracen maid

A popular legend about the parents of Thomas Becket (1118–1170), Archbishop of Canterbury, is retold by Charles Dickens in A Child's History of England: Once upon a time, a worthy merchant of London, ...
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When did the perspective-switching trend begin?

In many Young Adult novels I have read lately (in the past couple years), the book changes the perspective every chapter (or every page). For instance, The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon (ISBN: ...
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Who was the first author of humorous ghost stories?

Although Pliny the Younger is regarded as the first author of a ghost story, I think these stories underwent a 360-degree turn during 19th century when Charles Dickens or Oscar Wilde started writing ...
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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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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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What classic mystery novels and stories led to “the butler did it” becoming a cliché?

"The butler did it" is a common trope indicating a hackneyed solution to a mystery. I have read several classic mysteries from the 1920s and earlier (Poe, Conan Doyle, Christie, Sayers, etc.)...
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What is the meaning of “Georgian Verse”?

I found the following book on Google Books: The Book of Georgian Verse edited by William Braithwaite, published in 1909. What is the meaning of Georgian? Search engine results provided nothing of use. ...
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Since when has Shakespeare's “Scottish play” been considered unlucky?

In theatrical superstition, Shakespeare's play Macbeth is considered to be unlucky, to the extent that even saying its name more than necessary may bring bad luck: hence the tradition of actors ...
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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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What does postmodernism mean in terms of literature?

In trying to learn about literature I have frequently encountered the idea of postmodernism. But as I have little humanities experience I have had trouble getting my head around the concept. Can ...
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What was the first published book set during a Covid-19 lockdown?

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic changed the world and many people's lives in countries all over the world in 2020. Much has been written about how writers of fiction have needed to change or shelve ...
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Was Anton Chekhov the earliest to use stream-of-consciousness technique in his works?

Anton Chekhov was a famous Russian short story writer and dramatist. Early in his career, he mastered the form of the one-act play and produced several masterpieces of this genre. I remember I ...
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Was metrical feet decided by the native English speakers? [duplicate]

The metrical feet like Iamb, Trochee and others are based on the sound made when someone utters those words, for example a trochee is a two-syllable metrical pattern in which a stressed syllable is ...
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What's the first “reverse” poem?

I recently discovered an interesting type of poetry. When read one way, it says one thing and when read a different way, the opposite, all with the same words. A sub-type of these is known as the ...
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How and when did the term “spoilers” originate?

Nowadays, the word "spoilers" is frequently used to describe a twist, major plot point, or anything which, if known beforehand, might spoil the experience of reading a story. This whole ...
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Etymology of “iamb”, as a genre and a type of metre

An excellent verbose answer says that: Etymologically, the word iambos is related to the Greek word for cripple, with the short syllable representing the lame leg and the long the strong one. ...
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Oldest Native American book?

What's the oldest book written by a Native American? In a language created by a Native American, of course. Specifically I mean any written publication in a invented written alphabet.
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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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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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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 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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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 ...