Dividing literary history into periods is always a tricky matter,
because cultural change never happens all at once. In other
words, people didn't wake up on 1 January 1500 and suddenly
change their habits from medieval to
Renaissance. Besides, literary
and cultural movements rarely coincide with century boundaries.
To make matters worse, periods differ from country to country
by the time England got around to having a Renaissance, Italy's
Renaissance was long since over (and that's to say nothing about
such incommensurable traditions as Sri Lanka or Ghana).
With those caveats in mind, though, we can at least consider the
Some common designations for English literary history: after antiquity, mostly confined to the
literatures of Greece and Rome, come:
American literature doesn't divide up the same way, but there
isn't one widely agreed-upon set of period designations.
From the Guide to Literary Terms by Jack Lynch.
Please send comments to Jack Lynch.
Note: This guide is still in the early stages of development.
Three question marks mean I have to write more on the subject. Bear with me.