About This Chapter
Intro to English Literature Chapter Summary
This collection of online video lessons provides you with an overview of critical topics in English literature. Lessons cover all aspects of English literature, including:
- Literary terms (prose and poetry)
- Old and Middle English literature
- Renaissance literature (Shakespeare's plays and sonnets, Edmund Spenser's sonnets, Ben Jonson's poems)
- Romantic prose and poetry
- Victorian literature (works by Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Alfred Lord Tennyson)
- Modern authors and works
These lessons are taught by subject experts and supplement our full-length English courses. Take a look at the complete line of English courses we offer below.
How to Use this Chapter
Use these lessons as a study aid to help you prepare for exams or finish your homework. You can view the lessons in any order, and you'll get a greater understanding of English literature by digging deep into literary topics. English literature themes and characters come to life through the animated video lessons, helping you to remember the key information and learn about important works more quickly.
These lessons can also be used to supplement our other courses. This chapter pairs with our other English courses, including:
- English 102: American Literature
- English 103: Analyzing and Interpreting Literature
- English 104: College Composition
- English 105: Technical Writing
Check out these courses if you want to earn college credit or just want to see more lessons in one of these topics.
1. Byronic Hero: Definition, Characteristics & Examples
In the 19th century, English Romantic poet Lord Byron developed the Byronic Hero archetype, which is defined as a protagonist that tends to reject traditional social values. Learn about the definition, characteristics, and real-world examples of Byronic Heroes in modern-day literature.
2. Neoclassical Literature: Definition, Characteristics & Movement
Neoclassical literature sought to imitate the writers of antiquity and emphasized order, structure, and common sense. Learn the definition of Neoclassical literature and explore the Neoclassical movement, characteristics, and stages.
3. Metaphysical Poetry: Definition, Characteristics & Examples
Metaphysical poetry is not considered a genre of poetry, but rather poetry that shares common characteristics like large doses of wit and pondering serious questions with humor. Discover more literary characteristics of metaphysical poetry (including paradoxes, puns, and conceits), and examples of metaphysical poets including John Donne, George Herbert, and Andrew Marvell.
4. Grendel's Battle with Beowulf: Character & Summary
One of the most significant parts of the epic poem ~'Beowulf~' is the battle between the main character, Beowulf, and the monstrous Grendel. Learn how the famous scene recounts Beowulf's epic and violent triumph over the mysterious Grendel, whose motivations remain unknown.
5. Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God by Edwards: Summary, Analysis & Metaphors
In 1741, Jonathan Edwards preached the sermon now known as ~'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.'~ Identify the three core themes present in the sermon, emphasized by use of metaphors, and analyzes the sermon's use of language.
6. William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation: Summary & Analysis
One of the ways that we know about the history of the United States is William Bradford's text called, 'Of Plymouth Plantation.' The books written by Bradford in the 1600s, after being hidden for about a century, provide current historians with a unique insight into the beginnings of the United States.
7. Literary Genres: Definition, Types, Characteristics & Examples
Literary genres share certain characteristics; in literature, the four main genre types include poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama. Explore these literary genre types and the definition, characteristics, and examples of each.
8. The Castle of Otranto: Summary & Analysis
The Castle of Otranto is a novel written by Horace Walpole in 1764 and is considered the first Gothic novel because of its use of the supernatural and dark setting. Learn more about The Castle of Otranto, its characters, and plot in a summary and analysis of the text.
9. William Wordsworth's The Solitary Reaper: Summary & Analysis
William Wordsworth's 'The Solitary Reaper' is a poem that speaks of the expressive beauty represented by the songs of a lone girl. Discover the poet's background, and understand the analysis of the poem.
10. Death Be Not Proud: Summary & Analysis
'Death Be Not Proud' by John Donne imagines what one would say to Death if it were a real person. Explore a brief background of this poem and improve your understanding through a line-by-line summary and analysis.
11. Charlotte's Web: Summary, Characters & Author
E.B. White's 'Charlotte's Web' is a beloved children's classic about an extraordinary friendship between a piglet and a spider. Review a summary of 'Charlotte's Web,' then meet the author and the book's main characters.
12. Christopher Isherwood: Biography & Books
In this lesson, we will discuss the novelist Christopher Isherwood, more specifically his life events and writing. Learn about this 21st-century writer and how his works affected other artistic genres, then test your knowledge with the quiz.
13. George Meredith: Biography & Poems
Success in life doesn't come easy, especially when you have to make it on your own. But stories like those of Victorian author George Meredith prove it can be done. Learn more about Meredith's story and works in this lesson!
14. Leo Tolstoy: Biography, Works & Quotes
Leo Tolstoy was without a doubt one of the world's greatest writers. His novels, such as 'War and Peace' and 'Anna Karenina,' brought him fame, not only in Russia, but in the world at large. In this lesson, we will look at the life of Leo Tolstoy and observe how he developed as writer.
15. Sir Thomas Malory: Biography & Works
Sir Thomas Malory is an English author who wrote Le Morte D'Arthur, one of the most popular poems during the medieval times. Discover more about Sir Thomas Malory's life and works.
16. Sir Thomas Wyatt: Biography, Poems & Sonnets
You might think of sonnets as 'Shakespearean,' but if it weren't for folks like Thomas Wyatt, Shakespeare might never have written one. Find out more about the life and influential work of a real literary ambassador in this lesson on Sir Thomas Wyatt.
17. The Aspern Papers by Henry James: Summary & Analysis
In this lesson, you will read about the short novel 'The Aspern Papers' by Henry James. The lesson consists of a summary of the important events surrounding the main character's unique literary quest, followed by a brief analysis of the work.
18. The Pickwick Papers by Dickens: Summary & Overview
In this lesson, we will focus on Charles Dickens's ''The Pickwick Papers.'' We will first examine some context on both Dickens and the novel's genre, and then we'll summarize the novel, pointing out its most memorable scenes and characters.
19. The Sword in the Stone: Summary & Characters
The childhood of King Arthur comes to life in ''The Sword in the Stone.'' Review the background, summary, and important characters in this story and explore the plot with a look at the orphan Wart, his studies with Merlyn, and the sword in the stone.
20. The Vicar of Wakefield: Summary, Characters, Themes & Analysis
Oliver Goldsmith's 'The Vicar of Wakefield' is about a disgraced family that tries to climb back into society's graces. Explore a background and summary of the novel, then analyze its characters, themes, and plot.
21. Elements of a Short Story
When you read a short story, have you ever stopped to think about its main elements? This lesson discusses the five main elements of a short story, including characters, setting, plot, conflict, and theme.
22. Romanticism in Short Stories: Definition, Characteristics & Examples
The Romantic Movement was one of the most influential periods in literature, and it continues to influence modern stories. This lesson outlines the traits common in Romantic short stories.
23. Satire in British Short Stories: Elements & Examples
Laughter can be a very powerful force. Read this lesson to discover how British authors have used satire to direct laughter at creating social change.
24. Scientific Romance in 19th-Century British Short Stories
How did science fiction begin? In this lesson, we'll explore one of the predecessors to science fiction, scientific romance. We'll look at what it was, and how British short stories in the 1800s represented the genre.
25. The Chronic Argonauts by H.G. Wells: Summary & Analysis
Every type of story started somewhere. In this lesson, we'll examine the origins of the manmade time machine in literature. We'll explore H.G. Wells' story 'The Chronic Argonauts' and its main character.
26. Influence of Naturalism on American Short Stories
In this lesson, we will learn about how naturalism influenced American short stories. We will discuss the elements of naturalism from the 19th and 20th century, as well as, differentiate it from realism and read about stories that used naturalism.
27. Modernist Short Stories: Characteristics, Writers & Examples
This lesson explores literary modernism during the early 20th century. What influenced the writings of this time? What are the common elements? What are some examples of modernistic short stories? Read ahead to learn more.
28. Analyzing Multicultural Short Stories: Techniques & Examples
In this lesson, we explore the multicultural short story and discuss some techniques and tips that can help you understand the story better. Additionally, we briefly examine an example and discuss how it uses its culture to inform the narrative.
29. Magical Realism in Short Fiction: Definition, Writers & Examples
In this lesson we will learn about magical realism used in literature, where extraordinary things happen in a real life environment. We'll differentiate it from other forms, and also see several authors and stories that employ magical realism.
Earning College Credit
Did you know… We have over 220 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.
To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page
Other chapters within the College English Literature: Help and Review course
- Literary Terms and Analysis: Help and Review
- Poetic Types & Styles
- Old and Middle English Literature: Help and Review
- The Renaissance in English Literature: Help and Review
- 17th and 18th Century English Literature: Help and Review
- Romantic Prose in English Literature: Help and Review
- Romantic Poetry in English Literature: Help and Review
- Victorian Literature: Help and Review
- Turn-of-the-Century Literature: Help and Review
- Modernism in English Literature: Help and Review
- Nonfiction in English Literature: Help and Review
- Historical, Social, & Cultural Aspects of Literature