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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 ...