British Literature

British literature refers to literature associated with the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Channel Islands: English literature; Welsh literature (Welsh-language literature and Welsh literature in English); Scottish literature; Literature of Northern Ireland, etc. By far the largest part of British literature is written in the English language, but there are bodies of written works in Latin, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Scots, Cornish, Manx, Jèrriais, Guernésiais and other languages. Northern Ireland has a literary tradition in English, Ulster Scots and Irish. Irish writers have also played an important part in the development of English-language literature.

Literature in the Celtic languages of the islands is the oldest surviving vernacular literature in Europe. The Welsh literary tradition stretches from the 6th century to the 21st century. The oldest Welsh literature does not belong to the territory we know as Wales today, but rather to northern England and southern Scotland. Although it is dated to be from the 6th, 7th, and 8th centuries, it has survived only in 13th- and 14th-century manuscript copies.

Definitions of British literature are bound up with historical shifts of British identity. Territories in which British literature have been written have never been subject to a single statehood, nor been defined by a single language. The historical spread of the English language brought about labels such as "Anglo-Irish literature" now considered anachronistic. Changing consciousness of English national identity, Scottish national identity, Welsh nationalism, and the effects of British imperialism have altered interpretations of how the literatures of the isles have interacted. The impact of Irish nationalism that led to the partition of the island of Ireland in the 20th century means that literature of the Republic of Ireland is not considered to be British - although the identity of literature from Northern Ireland, as part of the literature of the United Kingdom, may fall within the overlapping identities of Irish and British literature where "the naming of the territory has always been, in literary, geographical or historical contexts, a politically charged activity". Welsh literature in English (previously called Anglo-Welsh literature) is the works written in the English language by Welsh writers, especially if their subject matter relates to Wales. It has been recognised as a distinctive entity only since the 20th century. The need for a separate identity for this kind of writing arose because of the parallel development of modern Welsh literature in the Welsh language.

The use of the label "Celtic fringe" as applied to non-English, or traditionally non-English-speaking, territories to marginalise these cultures is now analysed as a colonial attitude, and literatures of Ireland, Scotland and Wales may be studied through the methodology of postcolonialism. But a legacy of Britishness also survives around the world: a shared history of British presence and cultural influence in the Commonwealth of Nations has produced a substantial body of writing in many languages, known as Commonwealth literature.

Read more about British LiteratureLatin Literature, Early Celtic Literature, Old English Literature 449–1066, Late Medieval Literature, From The Renaissance To A United Kingdom in 1707, 20th Century, 21st Century Literature, Translations, Literary Institutions

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