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English literatureFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaSelected English-language writers: Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, Vladimir Nabokov, Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie.The focus of this article is on literature in the English languagefrom anywhere, not just the literature of England, so that it includes writers from Scotland, the whole of Ireland, Wales, as well as literature in English from former British colonies, including the US. However, up until the early 19th century, it deals with the literature written in English of Britainand Ireland.English literatureis generally seen as beginning with the epic poemBeowulf, that dates from between the 8th to the 11th centuries, the most famous work in Old English, which has achieved
national epicstatus in England, despite being set in Scandinavia. The next important landmark is the works of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer(c. 1343–1400), especially The Canterbury Tales. Then during The Renaissance, especially the late 16th and early 17th centuries, major drama and poetry was written by William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, John Donneand many others. Another great poet, from later in the 17th century, was John Milton(1608–74) author of the epic poemParadise Lost(1667). The late 17th and the early 18th century are particularly associated with satire, especially in the poetry of John Drydenand Alexander Pope, and the prose works of Jonathan Swift. The 18th century also saw the first British novels in the works of Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, and Henry Fielding, while the late 18th and early 19th century was the period of the Romantic poetsWordsworth, Coleridge, Shelleyand Keats.It was in the Victorian era(1837–1901) that the novel became the leading literary genrein English,dominated especially by Charles Dickens, but there were many other significant writers, including the Brontësisters, and then Thomas Hardy, in the final decades of the 19th century. Americans began to produce major writers in the 19th century, including novelist Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick(1851) and the poets Walt Whitmanand Emily Dickinson. Another American, Henry James, was a major novelist of the late 19th and early twentieth century, while Polish-born Joseph Conradwas perhaps the most important British novelist of the first two decades of the 20th century.Irish writers were especially important in the 20th century, including James Joyce, and later Samuel Beckett, both central figures in the Modernistmovement. Americans, like poets T. S. Eliotand Ezra Poundand novelist William Faulkner, were other important modernists. In the mid 20th century major writers started to appear in the various countries of the British
Commonwealth, several who have been Nobel-laureates. Many major writers in English in the 20th and 21st centuries have come from outside the United Kingdom. The term Postmodernliterature is used to describe certain tendencies in post-World War II literature. It is both a