To what literary period does "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett belong?I'm confused about the concept of literary periods. Mainly about whether or not it concerns when the book was written,...

To what literary period does "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett belong?

I'm confused about the concept of literary periods. Mainly about whether or not it concerns when the book was written, or when it was set. I'm assuming it's when it was written. 
Also, what are the characteristics of this literary period?
Thanks for your time.

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

the simple answer is "contemporary", but, as you point out in your note, that doesn't tell us much.

Literary "period" is a really interesting problem. It normally refers to the period in which a work was written. An historical novel, such as Death of the Fox, written in the 20 century by George Garrett, but about the topic of Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth is considered a 20th century "southern" novel, because Garrett was a writer who lived and worked in the southern US during the 20th century.

Literary periods, however, are much more than just dates. They are really ways to identify similar groups of books written in a specific tradition and sharing characteristic styles, themes, or structures. So, for example, we would call T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound "modernists", because they were early 20th century writers who used similar avant garde techniques of writing, but Robert Frost, who lived in the same period, and wrote more traditional verse, is not a modernist.

Often terms are specific to national literatures as well. "Victorian", "Elizabethan", and "Restoration" are purely British terms, named after British monarchs. "Augustan" can refer to the period in roman literature under the principate of Augustus or the 18th century British writers who imitated Latin Augustan writers.

Some of the links below describe major literary periods.

 

Sources:

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