The Rise of English Summary

The Rise of English

Basic Information: 

Writer: Terry Eagleton (1943-present).

Book: Literary theory. An Introduction. The Rise of English is the 2nd chapter of the Book.

Published date: 1983. 

Genre: Essay.

The topic of Discussion: English in the 18th century onward. 

Ages of Discussion: Neoclassical, Romantic, Victorian, and Modern.Theme: The development of English literature and language.

English Summary 

Background of the Essay: 

Eagleton tells how literature has come to the present age. And how literature prevailed over religion. As well as how the English language and culture have spread across the world. By the mid-Victorian era, people’s faith in religion was decreasing due to advances in science and technology. People were moving away from religion. And at that time the place of religion was taken by literature. And this is what Terry Eagleton discusses in this iconic essay, “The Rise of English”.

English Summary 

So we can know the complete English summary very easily through only 6 points.

1. Concept of Eighteenth-Century English Literature

2. Seventeenth-Century Literature

3. The Culture of Eighteenth-Century Literature

4. Romantic period

5. Victorian period

6. How is literature included in the syllabus?

So let’s discuss these points now.

1. Concept of Eighteenth-Century English Literature

  • The content of the literature

Eighteenth-century literature was not very creative and imaginative. Because no literature would have been written with only these two qualities. Apart from this, society, history, tradition, social values, and politics were all included in literature. It included any letters, poetry and history literature of the time.

  • Entertainment of upper-class people

Literature was used mainly for the entertainment of upper-classes people. That is, if any writer did not include entertainment, test, and value, then the work would not be included in the literature. For this, at that time Literature was called “Polite Letters”. That is to say, eighteenth-century literature was mainly written for upper-class people.

  • Origin and Development of the English Novels

The English novels originated and developed in the eighteenth century. But upper-class people make a judgment about whether it belongs in literature or not. According to them, the novel must belong to literature, but the novel must entertain and glorify upper-class people.

2. Seventeenth-Century Literature

In the seventeenth century, there had a civil war in England. So society collapses and people become lonely. This era was called the New Classical Period. Poets of this period wrote about reason, nature, and social order. And so people began to find their soul satisfaction in literature. They started moving away from religion. And the writers of this era were able to satisfy both the upper class and the middle class with their writings. They rebuilt the broken social system through their writings. They succeeded in bridging the gap between the upper class and the middle class.

3. The Culture of Eighteenth-Century Literature

Literature in earlier ages was mainly oral. But in the eighteenth century, literature began to be publicized in written form. The literature of that time was called coffee house culture. That is, people used to sit in coffee houses and discuss various social issues. And all this becomes the subject of discussion in the literature. Which the writers of that time used to observe very well and presented in their writings.

4. Romantic period

Creative and imaginative writings started to be included in literature during the Romantic period. At this time the influence of Prose and Essay began to wane. And people are interested in the poetry of the Romantic period. There was a reason behind it. People were basically passing the time through misery. And the poems of this romantic era were mainly based on fantasy. So people used to get lost in the world of fantasy to forget their sorrows. The Romantic era began after the French Revolution. Many people died in this revolution and people’s lives became miserable. But in the poems of romantic poets, people got temporary solace. Romantic poets at that time presented politics, various social issues, and social values beautifully through imagination. That is, this time they used symbols to present various political issues. Since many poets of the Romantic era were directly involved in politics, they could very well combine politics with poetry. And so these poems become very popular. People have taken refuge in nature to forget their sorrows. For example, William Wordsworth takes refuge in nature to forget his sorrows, and William Blake in his poetry (Song of Innocence and of Experience) presents many political and psychological issues. John Keats taught about earthly life. P.B. Shelley calls for change in his poem Ode to the West Wind. This is how romantic poets soothed the hearts of people by creating a fusion of fantasy and reality. Because of these reasons, romantic poets played a major role in uplifting English literature. And so the poetry of this era begins the Aesthetic journey.

  • Symbol

Talking about symbols, Eagleton said, through symbols, writers have highlighted many issues of society. And it was the romantic poets who started it first. Poetry started to become more popular mainly from the Romantic era. And so whenever poetry has been criticized, some have defended it from criticism and lifted it up. For example, Sir Philip Sidney’s “An Apology for Poetry” and Shelley’s “The Defense of Poetry”.

Read More: Introduction to Culture and Imperialism

5. Victorian period

Then comes the Victorian period. New scientific inventions have been made here. And so people lose faith in religion. People did not understand whether to believe in religion or science. Because many aspects of religion and science were incompatible and contradictory. Science began to question various aspects of religion. That is why the previous beliefs of religion started to break down and lean towards science. At this place, people became spiritually bankrupt due to the deviation from religious beliefs. People were not getting peace of heart. Literature takes the place of religion. That is, the mental peace that people used to get by believing in religion, now started getting it from literature.

Religious preachers and rulers used to explain everything through religion. But due to scientific discovery, many issues conflicted with religion, so they could no longer explain these things. They could not solve various social problems. The Church was dominating the people. Rulers were using religion as a tool to dominate people. But as religion failed to provide solutions to various social problems, the rulers began to lose their authority. Literature began to provide solutions to all these social problems. Then the ruling class also started using literature again. Matthew Arnold directly gave the place of religion to literature.

  • Contribution of Scrutiny

It was a quarterly journal of literary criticism. Its main task was to point out the errors in the literature of the time. They criticized it but did not provide a solution.¬† In other words, it used to find the mistakes of literature, but this journal did not highlight what would be correct or how to write it correctly. But Scrutiny has contributed very well as a literary critic. Scrutiny also highlighted various problems of that time. But it didn’t solve any problem. So Eagleton describes the work of Scrutiny and its purpose as a failed attempt.

6. How is literature included in the syllabus?

  • For Women

Regarding this, Eagleton said that women in society at that time did not have the opportunity to study science and technology. That is, they were not given that opportunity. They were only allowed to read literature. That is, they were seen with a little neglect. And this is how literature is included in the syllabus.

  • Civil Service Examination

Britain was the superpower of the world at that time. It was said that the sun did not set in the British Empire. Since they had colonies in different countries of the world, those who joined the civil service were taught literature. This is because if they do not know the history, tradition and literature of their own country, then they will not be able to influence their history and tradition in other countries. So literature was taught compulsorily in their civil service exams. By doing this, they could go to other countries and highlight the culture of their own country. And this is how English literature spread around the world and the people of the world came to know about English culture.

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Mottaleb Hossain
Mottaleb Hossain

This is Motaleb Hossain, working on studying, a researcher on English literature and Theology.

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