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Digvijay Pandya, Lovely Professional University     Unit 1: Development of Prose Writing through the Literary Ages

                    Unit 1: Development of Prose Writing through                                   Notes
                                       the Literary Ages

             1.1 Periods of English Literature—An Overview
             1.2 Prose in the Fourteenth Century
             1.3 Chaucer’s Prose
             1.4 Langland and Maundevile
             1.5 Trevisa
             1.6 Richard Rolle
             1.7 Summary
             1.8 Key-Words
             1.9 Review Questions
            1.10 Further Readings


          After reading this Unit students will be able to:
          •   Understand the important period’s of English Literature.
          •   Discuss the development of prose writing through the literary ages.

          This unit covers the period of discovery in the history of English literary prose. It begins with the
          latter half of the fourteenth century, when the writing of prose first assumed importance in the life
          of the English people, and it ends with the first quarter of the seventeenth century, when practice
          and experiment had made of English prose, in the reigns of Elizabeth and James, a highly developed
          and efficient means of expression.
          The origins of English prose come relatively late in the development of English literary experience.
          This apparently is true of most prose literatures, and the explanation seems to lie in the nature of
          prose. Even in its beginnings the art of prose is never an unconscious, never a genuinely primitive
          art. The origins of prose literature can consequently be examined without venturing far into those
          misty regions of theory and speculation, where the student of poetry must wander in the attempt
          to explain beginnings which certainly precede the age of historical documents, and perhaps of
          human record of any kind. Poetry may be the more ancient, the more divine art, but prose lies
          nearer to us and is more practical and human.
          Being human, prose bears upon it, and early prose especially, some of the marks of human
          imperfection. Poetry of primitive origins, for example the ballad, often attains a finality of form
          which art cannot better, but not so with prose. Perhaps the explanation of this may be that poetry
          is concerned primarily with the emotions, and the emotions are among the original and perfect
          gifts of mankind, ever the same; whereas prose is concerned with the reasonable powers of man’s
          nature, which have been and are being only slowly won by painful conquest. Whether this be a

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