This is the Age of Enlightenment and its most important authors are Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant and Adam Smith. The second half of the century sees the beginnings of Romanticism with Goethe.
In Britain, the 19th century is dominated by the Victorian era, characterized by Romanticism, with Romantic poets such as William Wordsworth, Lord Byron or Samuel Taylor Coleridge and genres such as the gothic novel. Charles Dickens, perhaps the most famous novelist in the history of English literature, was active during this time and contributed to the novel's emergence as the leading literary genre of Victorian England.
In Germany, the Sturm und Drang period of the late 18th century merges into a Classicist and Romantic period, epitomized by the long era of Goethe's activity, covering the first third of the century. The conservative Biedermeier style conflicts with the radical Vormrz in the turbulent period separating the end of the Napoleonic wars from the Revolutions of 1848.
In Denmark, the early 19th century Golden Age produced prolific literary authors such as Sren Kierkegaard and Hans Christian Andersen.
In the later 19th century, Romanticism is countered by Realism and Naturalism. The late 19th century, known as the Belle poque, with its Fin de sicle retrospectively appeared as a "golden age" of European culture, cut short by the outbreak of World War I in 1914.
The main periods of 20th century literature are captured in the bipartite division, Modernist literature and Postmodern literature, flowering from roughly 1900 to 1940 and 1945 to 1980 respectively, divided, as a rule of thumb, by World War II.
Popular literature develops its own genres such as fantasy and science fiction. Ignored by mainstream literary criticism, these genres develop their own establishments and critical awards, such as the Nebula Award (since 1965), the British Fantasy Award (since 1971) or the Mythopoeic Awards (since 1971).
- The Literary Encyclopedia