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Summary of 4th through 18th Century European Literature

New Summary of Important European Literature from the 4th Century through the 18th Century
Including the eras of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Age of Enlightenment  

Other Recommended Reading Lists

Suggested Introductory Information
Historical abstract on Late Antiquity and Fall of the Roman Empire
Historical abstract on the Middle Ages
Historical abstract on the Renaissance
Historical abstract on the Protestant Reformation
Historical abstract on the Age of Enlightenment

Dionysius Cato
(Circa 300 BC)
Summary: Writer of famous words of wisdom and stoic morals.
Biography
Distichs of Cato

Constantine I (272 to 337)
Summary: Legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire.
Biography
The Edict of Milan

St. Augustine of Hippo
(354 to 430)
Summary: One of the most important people in the development of Western Christianity.
Biography
On Christian Doctrine
The City of God
Confessions

Unknown Author(s) (Circa 395)
Summary: Error-prone and controversial historical account of AD 117 to AD 284; the best of what is extant.
Augustan History (Scriptores Historiae Augustae)

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (480 to circa 525)
Summary: Translated Greek philosophy into Latin and applied Christian values; executed for treason.
Biography
Consolation of Philosophy

Unknown Author(s) (circa 900 to circa 1100)
Summary: Ancient Irish epic tale.
The Destruction of Dá Derga's Hostel (e-Book)

Unknown Author(s) (circa 1000)
Summary: Oldest example of Anglo-Saxon literature.
Beowulf

Peter Lombard (circa 1100 to 1160)
Summary: Theologian who reconciled the Bible with writings of Church Fathers and leading Medieval thinkers.
Biography
The Book of Sentences

Unknown Author(s) (circa 1140 to circa 1170)
Summary: Oldest major work of French literature.
The Song of Roland

Archbishop Stephen Langton (1150 to 1228)
Summary: Archbishop of Canterbury and driving force behind the Magna Carta.
Biography
Magna Carta

Thomas Aquinas (circa 1225 to 1274)
Summary:
Biography
Summa Theologiae

Unknown Author(s) (circa 1250)
Summary: Ancient Icelandic "Epic of the North".
The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs

Dante Alighieri
(1265 to 1331)
Summary: Wrote the most important epic poem of Italian literature; wrote in Italian versus Latin or Greek.
Biography
The Divine Comedy - Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso.

Juan Manuel (1282 to 1349)
Summary: The most important writer of prose in 14th-century Spain.
Biography
El Conde Lucanor

Petrarch (1304 to 1374)
Summary: Father of Humanism; coined the term "Dark Ages".
Biography
Il Canzoniere
My Secret Book

Giovanni Boccaccio (1313 to 1375)
Summary: Prolific vernacular writer of stories with realistic, as opposed to idealistic, characters of the day.
Biography
Decameron

William Langland (circa 1330 to 1387)
Summary: Presumed author of Middle English classic.
Biography
Piers Plowman

John Gower (circa 1330 to 1408)
Summary: Writer of epic poems in both Latin and Middle English.
Biography
Vox Clamantis
Confessio Amantis

Jean Froissart (circa 1337 to circa 1405)
Summary: Important French chronicler of the mid to late 14th century..
Biography
Froissart's Chronicles

Geoffrey Chaucer (circa 1343 to 1400)
Summary: The father of English literature.
Biography
Troilus and Criseyde
The Canterbury Tales

Pearl Poet
(circa 1350 to circa 1425)
Summary: The name given to the unknown 14th century English author of the Pearl and other poems.
Biography
Pearl
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Christine de Pizan (1364 to 1430)
Summary: Europe’s first professional woman writer.
Biography
The Book of the City of Ladies

The Book of Three Virtues   

Thomas à Kempis
(circa 1379 to 1471)
Summary: German monk who authored famous book on Christian devotion.
Biography
The Imitation of Christ

Johannes Gutenberg (1398 to 1468)
Summary: Inventor of the printing press.
Biography
Gutenberg Bible

Sir Thomas Malory (circa 1399 to 1471)
Summary: English writer of tales of Camelot, King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
Biography
Le Morte d'Arthur

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 to 1519)
Summary: Italian polymath and archetypal "Renaissance Man".
Biography
Codex Leicester

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463 to 1494)
Summary: Author of what has been called the "Manifesto of the Renaissance".
Biography
Oration on the Dignity of Man

Desiderius Erasmus (circa 1466 to 1536)
Summary: Humanist, thealogian and writer whose works were catalysts for the Reformation.
Biography
The Praise of Folly

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469 to 1527)
Summary: Famed Italian political theorist, poet and playwright.
Biography
The Prince
Discourses on Livy

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 to 1543)
Summary: First astronomer to publish work on the Sun, not the earth, being the center of the solar system.
Biography
On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres

Baldassare Castiglione (1478 to 1529)
Summary: Famed for introducing that a "perfect gentleman" must also be well educated in the classics.
Biography
The Book of the Courtier

Thomas More (1478 to 1535)
Summary: English humanist who coined the word "utopia" and used it to title his seminal work.
Biography
Utopia

Martin Luther (1483 to 1546)
Summary: His writings launched the Protestant Reformation and altered the course of Western Civilization.
Biography
The 95 Theses
To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation
Luther Bible

Pietro Aretino (1492 to 1556)
Summary: Influential Italian satirist who is also the originator of modern European pornography.
Biography
La Cortigiana (A parody of The Book of the Courtier)

François Rabelais (1494 to 1553)
Summary: French priest and major writer of the Renaissance.
Biography
Gargantua and Pantagruel (series of 5 books)

Benvenuto Cellini (1500 to 1571)
Summary: Famed sculpture and goldsmith; author of most famous autobiography of the Renaissance.
Biography
Autobiography

Nostradamus (1503 to 1566)
Summary: One of the world's most celebrated publishers of prophesies.
Biography
The Prophecies (Les Propheties)

Ambroise Paré (circa 1510 to 1590)
Summary: Considered one of the fathers of medical surgery.
Biography
Journeys in Diverse Places
Oeuvres

Konrad von Gesner (1516 to 1565)
Summary: Famed Swiss botanist and zoologist.
Biography
Historia animalium

Luís de Camões (1524 to 1580)
Summary: Portugal's greatest poet.
Biography
Os Lusíadas

Michel de Montaigne (1533 to 1592)
Summary: The French inventor of the essay.
Biography
Essays

Pléiade (circa 1540)
Summary: 16th Century group of French poets.
Description
Deffence et illustration de la langue françoyse (Middle French)

William Gilbert (1544 to 1603)
Summary: Father of magnetic and electric science; coined the word "electricty".
Biography
On the Magnet (De Magnete, Magneticisque Corporibus, et de Magno Magnete Tellure)

Miguel de Cervantes (1547 to 1616)
Summary: Author of the greatest book in the Spanish language.
Biography
Don Quixote de la Mancha

Edmund Spenser (1552 to 1599)
Summary: Elizabethan era poet and celebrated early writer of modern English.
Biography
The Faerie Queene

Sir Walter Raleigh (circa 1552 to 1618)
Summary: Famed English explorer, writer and poet; founded failed English colony on Roanoke Island.
Biography
Selected Poetry

Sir Philip Sidney (1554 to 1586)
Summary: Author of the first famous English sonnet sequence.
Biography
Astrophel and Stella
The Defense of Poesy

Francis Bacon (1561 to 1626)
Summary: Novelist, philosopher and scientist; developed scientific "observation and experimentation" theory.
Biography
Novum Organum
The New Atlantis

Lope de Vega (1562 to 1635)
Summary: Second only to Cervantes in Spanush literature; 425 of his plays survive today.
Biography
Fuente Ovejuna

Christopher Marlowe (1564 to circa 1593)
Summary: Leading English playwright before Shakespeare.
Biography
Doctor Faustus

William Shakespeare (1564 to 1616)
Summary: The greatest writer of English literature.
Biography
The Complete Works

Galileo Galilei (1564 to 1642)
Summary: The father of modern astronomy.
Biography
Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems

Johannes Kepler (1571 to 1630)
Summary: Known for his laws of planetary motion.
Biography
A New Astronomy

John Donne (1572 to 1631)
Summary: A leading Jacobean-era poet.
Biography
Anniversaries

Thomas Dekker (circa 1572 to 1632)
Summary: Prolific and long-careered English writer and dramatist.
Biography
The Shoemaker’s Holiday

Ben Jonson (circa 1572 to 1637)
Summary: The most celebrated Jocobean-era English playwright.
Biography
The Fox
The Alchemist

William Harvey (1578 to 1657)
Summary: English doctor who discovered the circulation of blood.
Biography
An Anatomical Exercise on the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals

John Webster (circa 1580 to 1634)
Summary: Jacobean dramatist known for macabre works that present the darker side of human nature.
Biography
The White Devil
The Duchess of Malfi

Philip Massinger (1583 to 1640)
Summary: English playwright famous for satirical works with well developed plots.
Biography
A New Way to Pay Old Debts
The City Madam

John Ford (1586 tocirca 1640)
Summary: The most significant English playwright during the reign of Charles I.
Biography

'Tis Pity She's a Whore (a.k.a. Giovanni and Annabella)

Thomas Hobbes (1588 to 1679)
Summary: Famed English philosopher of world importance.
Biography
Leviathan

George Herbert (1593 to 1633)
Summary: English poet, orator and priest who coined "his bark is worse than his bite".
Biography
The Temple

Izaak Walton (1593 to 1683)
Summary: 17th century expert on fly fishing and rural English culture.
Biography
The Compleat Angler

René Descartes (1596 to 1650)
Summary: Founder of modern mathematics and philosophy.
Biography
Discourse on Method
Meditations on First Philosophy

Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600 to 1681)
Summary: The foremost Spanish dramatist of his time.
Biography
Life Is a Dream

Sir Thomas Browne (1605 to 1682)
Summary: English author of varied works in many fields of study; debunked superstitions of his day.
Biography
Pseudodoxia Epidemica
Religio Medici

Pierre Corneille (1606 to 1684)
Summary: One of the the most important 17th century French dramatists.
Biography
Le Cid

John Milton (1608 to 1674)
Summary: English epic poet, essayist and philosopher.
Biography
Paradise Lost
Areopagitica

King James Biblical Translation Committees (1601 to 1611)
Summary
King James Bible

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen (1621 to 1676)
Summary: Wrote the first German language adventure novels.
Biography
The Adventurous Simplex (Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus)

Jean de La Fontaine (1621 to 1695)
Summary: The most famous French fabulist and most widely read French poet of the 17th century.
Biography
Fables

Molière (1622 to 1673)
Summary: The greatest French playwright.
Biography
Tartuffe
Le Misanthrope
The Miser

Blaise Pascal (1623 to 1662)
Summary: French mathematician, physicist and religious philosopher.
Biography
Treatment of the Arithmetical Triangle
The Provincial Letters
Pensées

John Bunyan (1628 to 1688)
Summary: English preacher and Christain writer.
Biography
The Pilgrim's Progress

Charles Perrault (1628 to 1703)
Summary:
Biography
Tales of Mother Goose

Christiaan Huygens (1629 to 1695)
Summary: Developed the wave theory of light.
Biography
Treatise on Light

John Dryden (1631 to 1700)
Summary: English poet and playwright who dominated the literature of Restoration England.
Biography
Absalom and Achitophel
All for Love
Marriage A-la-Mode

Baruch de Spinoza (1632 to 1677)
Summary: Dutch philosopher whose works heavily influenced the 18th century Enlightenment.
Biography
Ethics

John Locke (1632 to 1704)
Summary: Prominent English philosopher and social contract theorist.
Biography
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
Two Treatises of Government
A Letter Concerning Toleration
Some Thoughts Concerning Education

Nicolas Boileau
(1636 to 1711)
Summary: French poet and satirist.
Biography
Le Lutrin
Art Poétique (sorry, no link)

Jean Racine (1639 to 1699)
Summary: One of the three great 17th century French dramatists.
Biography
Phèdre

Isaac Newton (1643 to 1727)
Summary: One of the world's greatest scientists; documented laws of gravity & motion; co-invented calculus.
Biography
Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica
Opticks

Gottfried Leibniz (1646 to 1716)
Summary: Polymath who idependently co-invented calculus; one of the three great 17th century rationalists.
Biography
The Monadology (Monadologie)

Jonathan Swift (1667 to 1745)
Summary: The foremost satirist in the English language.
Biography
Gulliver's Travels
A Modest Proposal

Joseph Addison (1672 to 1719)
Summary: Co-founded The Spectator; Cato, his play on liberty, was influential with American Revolutionaries.
Biography
Cato

Richard Steele (1672 to 1729)
Summary: Irish politician, satirist and co-founder of The Spectator.
Biography
The Spectator Club

George Berkeley (1685 to 1753)
Summary: Irish philosopher credited with the development of subjective idealism.
Biography
Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge

Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu (1689 to 1755)
Summary: He is famous for his articulation of the theory of separation of powers in government.
Biography
The Spirit of the Laws

Voltaire (1694 to 1778)
Summary: French philosopher and France's greatest political author.
Biography
Letters on the English
Candide

Henry Fielding (1707 to 1754)
Summary: English novelist and dramatist known for his humour and satirical prowess.
Biography
Tom Jones

David Hume (1711 to 1776)
Summary: Key figure in the history of Western philosophy and of the Scottish Enlightenment.
Biography
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 to 1778)
Summary: Swiss philosopher who influenced the French Revolution.
Biography
The Social Contact
Discourse on Inequality

Laurence Sterne (1713 to 1768)
Summary: Irish novelist and Anglican clergyman.
Biography
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
A Sentimental Journey

Adam Smith (1723 to 1790)
Summary: Defined one of the best-known intellectual rationales for free trade, capitalism and libertarianism.
Biography
Wealth of Nations

Immanuel Kant (1724 to 1804)
Summary: The last major philosopher of the Enlightenment and a key thinker of modern Europe.
Biography
Critique of Pure Reason
Critique of Practical Reason
Critique of Judgement

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729 to 1781)
Summary:
Biography
Laocoön

Edmund Burke (1729 to 1797)
Summary: Anglo-Irish statesman, political theorist, philosopher and author.
Biography
Reflections on the Revolution in France

Oliver Goldsmith (circa 1730 to 1774)
Summary: Irish novelist, playwright and physician..
Biography
She Stoops to Conquer

Pierre Beaumarchais (1732 to 1799)
Summary: Famous for a series of "Figaro" plays.
Biography
The Barber of Seville
The Marriage of Figaro

Edward Gibbon (1737 to 1794)
Summary: English historian and Member of Parliament.
Biography
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Thomas Paine (1737 to 1809)
Summary: English-American intellectual, revolutionary and philosopher; primarily in America and France.
Biography
Common Sense
Rights of Man
The Age of Reason

James Boswell (1740 to 1795)
Summary: English biographer and diarist.
Biography
Life of Johnson

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 to 1832)
Summary: Key figure of 18th/19th century German literature.
Biography
The Sorrows of Young Werther
Hermann and Dorothea

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751 to 1816)
Summary: Irish playwright and Whig statesman.
Biography
The Rivals
The School for Scandal

Robert Burns (1759 to 1796)
Summary: The national poet of Scotland.
Biography
Poems and Songs

Friedrich Schiller (1759 to 1805)
Summary: German poet, philosopher, historian, and dramatist.
Biography
William Tell


   

 

 

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