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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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. ...
DVK's user avatar
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19 votes
1 answer
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When did men dressed as women stop being the norm in English theatre?

This excellent answer by Joshua Engel draws a comparison between men dressed as women in Shakespeare-era plays and perspective jumps in modern cinema: The audience would, of course, have been aware ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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15 votes
1 answer
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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 (...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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11 votes
1 answer
489 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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11 votes
1 answer
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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, ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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6 votes
1 answer
316 views

What is the oldest preserved stage direction?

A recent answer from Gareth Rees mentioned that: If Classical Greek drama ever had stage directions, our manuscript sources do not preserve them Which made me wonder: what is the oldest stage ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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6 votes
2 answers
4k views

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 ...
Literaturer's user avatar
49 votes
1 answer
2k views

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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21 votes
2 answers
3k views

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 ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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17 votes
2 answers
901 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 ...
user1398948's user avatar
12 votes
1 answer
2k 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 ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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8 votes
1 answer
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Oldest library in America?

What’s the oldest free public library in North America?
Abraham Ray's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
272 views

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 ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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4 votes
1 answer
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How long has Kalevipoeg been considered the Estonian national epic?

According to Wikipedia, Kalevipoeg is "an epic poem by Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald held to be the Estonian national epic". Kreutzwald based his epic on existing oral stories that had been ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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2 votes
0 answers
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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 ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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29 votes
2 answers
4k views

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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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27 votes
1 answer
4k views

Why are haiku usually of 17 syllables?

One of the characteristics of Haiku is that the poems are usually of 17 syllables (5-7-5). Exceptions exist, of course, but 17 is the norm. Why 17? How did the originators of Haiku come to settle on ...
muru's user avatar
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26 votes
2 answers
1k views

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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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20 votes
1 answer
983 views

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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17 votes
8 answers
1k views

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 ...
Skooba's user avatar
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14 votes
1 answer
967 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 ...
user31078's user avatar
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9 votes
2 answers
579 views

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 ...
rosends's user avatar
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9 votes
2 answers
2k views

Since when did Merlin have an owl?

I was reading some ten-year-old comments on a Q&A about owls in Harry Potter and learned that some versions of the Arthurian legend have the wizard Merlin possessing an owl which is called ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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9 votes
2 answers
1k 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 ...
Frames Catherine White's user avatar
7 votes
2 answers
305 views

Distinction between author and narrator/speaker

Has a distinction always been made between the narrator/speaker of a poem, novel etc. and the author? Or is this more of a modern concept? Did critics and readers in, say, the Victorian age ...
user392289's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
139 views

Was Ibsen really so influential in the history of theatre?

One passage of Ibsen's Wikipedia page reads as follows: Ibsen had completely rewritten the rules of drama with a realism which was to be adopted by Chekhov and others, and which we see in the theatre ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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6 votes
1 answer
292 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 ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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6 votes
0 answers
261 views

(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 ...
Cahir Mawr Dyffryn æp Ceallach's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
1k views

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 ...
KittenWithAWhip's user avatar
5 votes
0 answers
231 views

When was the first time a Holocaust memoir or diary was exposed as a fraud?

In my previous question, I asked Who rebutted Raul Hilberg's allegation that Man's Search for Meaning was a deception? Viktor Frankl's book is not generally regarded as a deception or a fraud. Several ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
168 views

The Beat-Generation and anti-intellectualism

We can read on the Wikipedia article of the Beat Generation that this movement has been considered unintellectual/anti-intellectual: The Beat Generation was met with scrutiny and assigned many ...
Starckman's user avatar
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5 votes
3 answers
316 views

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 ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
426 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....
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
566 views

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: ...
AAM111's user avatar
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5 votes
0 answers
2k views

To what extent did Defoe attempt to apply formal realism in Robinson Crusoe?

I recently finished writing a paper on Robinson Crusoe for my English class on the rise of the novel. We had read the novel concurrently with excerpts from Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel, in which ...
HDE 226868's user avatar
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3 votes
0 answers
51 views

The American Transcendentalism and the European Romantic movement of the 19th century

In the paragraph concerning the American Transcendentalism movement, the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy lists the following features defining this movement: emphasis on the subjective nature of ...
Starckman's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
93 views

Which literary movement do Pushkin's Little Tragedies belong to?

Some say Pushkin quit Romanticism in year 1825. To which literary movement do his Little Tragedies (1830) belong to, then?
Marina's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
598 views

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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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1 vote
0 answers
39 views

In what way is Jorge Amado's novel Jubiabá a modernist novel?

The Wikipedia article about Jorge Amado describes the author as "a Brazilian writer of the modernist school" and adds that he was "one of the founders of the Modernist 'Rebels' Academy&...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
111 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?
Abraham Ray's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
152 views

Does romanticism tend towards anti-science and anti-technology?

Talking about English, German and French romanticism. Romanticism started with someone like Rousseau who wrote Discourse on the Arts and Sciences (1750), "which argued that the arts and sciences ...
Starckman's user avatar
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1 vote
0 answers
82 views

What is the ethical philosophy of European Romanticism?

The ethics of (secular) humanism is consequentialist 1, arguably epicurean 2 . I believe the ethics of the European Enlightenment could be said epicureanism also. But what is the ethics of European ...
Starckman's user avatar
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