Literary history attempts to group various texts, based on similarities in structure, content, or narrative characteristics, and attribute them to a specific historical period. The following basic overview focuses primarily on English and American literature, but also weaves in movements, authors, and works of international significance from world literature, in order to provide a wider background. This chapter makes no claim to be complete and can only give a summary, not a concise list of all the works and authors that have shaped literature to this day.

Ancient world

3000 BCAD 400

Old English


Middle English


Renaissance and humanism


Colonial period

seventeenth and eighteenth ...

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