The 18th century is a distinguishing period in British literature. It is a timeline in which classical literary conventions in terms of the literary techniques in different genres are revived. After the Renaissance, a period of exploration and expansiveness came a reaction in the direction of order and restraint. Generally speaking, this reaction developed in France in the mid-seventeenth century and in England thirty years later; and it dominated European literature until the last part of the eighteenth century.
It is a period where counterfeiting and facades are very important; in some ways the country was trying to act like the Interregnum and English civil wars had not happened, and there is both a willful suppression of the immediate past and a glorification of the more distant, classical Roman past which is why it is called the Neoclassical period. Neoclassical writers, such as Samuel Johnson, Moliere and Alexander Pope, sought clear, precise language.
They standardized spelling and grammar, shifted away from the complex metaphors employed by Shakespeare and simplified literary structures. Neoclassical writers often adopted a rigid view toward society. Although Renaissance writers were fascinated by rebels and the Romantics later idealized them, neoclassical writers felt that the individual should conform to social norms. Although society was probably corrupt, individual views could not stand against the truths found in the consensus of society.
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Principals of Neoclassic Age in Alexander Pope’s “essay on man” There are many concepts regarding literary criticism that are instantiated in the first part of Pope’s Essay: the problem of bad writing and criticism, and the greater danger of the latter to the public; the rarity of genius and taste in poets and critics respectively; the impairing of the capacity of critical judgment by unsound education; the causes for the multitude of literary critics (those who can’t write, judge! ; and the critics need to know the limits of his genius, taste, and learning in the exercise of criticism. What is the basis for literary composition and the practice of criticism? What provides the common ground and gives guidance for both? For Pope, the answer was found in a specific eighteenth century understanding of the honorific term and concept of nature. First follow Nature and your judgment frame By her just standard, which is still the same: Unerring nature, still divinely bright,
One clear, unchanged, and universal light, Life, force, beauty, must to all impart, At once the source, and end, and test of Art. (Lines 68-73) Nature is the ultimate authority (Williams 219) in Pope’s Essay, and is presented here as that canon or standard to which both with (creative poetic and literary expression) and critical judgment are to conform. Authors and critics are to write and to judge according to the clear, unchanged, and universal light just standards of inerrant Nature.
In literature and criticism, Nature is all-significant as its source, as its aim, and as its test. Art is from Nature, unto Nature, and by Nature. But what, exactly, does Pope mean by this all-encompassing concept? Williams expresses the eighteenth-century, neo-classical understanding of this doctrine in these terms. Fundamental to neo-classical thought about Nature is the conception of a cosmos which, in its order and regularity and harmony, reflects the order and harmony of the Divine Mind of its Creator.Man can perceive this order and rule in Nature because he has a rational soul made in the image of that Nature’s Creator. In the view which prevails in the period Nature is the manifestation in the visible creation of the Order and Reason behind all things, a reflection of the medieval view that the likeness of God is imprinted in the very matter and organization of the universe (219-20). In concluding Part One of his Essay, Pope is so taken with the natural goodness of the primeval authors that he has difficulty restraining himself in declaring their praise.
The religious nature of their veneration is not only transparent, but also significant literarily. Here in worship before a common altar, divisions and sects and quarrels in criticism are forgotten as men unite in a single congregation. The learned from all climes and ages bring their incense to a common shrine. Pope’s verse rises in full response to the inspiration his age received from a glorious past, a past which was both an inspiration, and a reproach, to the present (Williams 229).
Creation, fall, redemption: this basic biblical schema provides the paradigm for Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Criticism. Just as the focus of the biblical narrative is on the salvaging of a sin-wrecked creation, so the movement of Alexander Pope’s Essay on Criticism is toward the restoration of a fallen classical poetics for eighteenth-century England. This parallel supplies substance and shape to the Essay’s grand purpose and 13 design. And in both the Scriptures and in Pope, the goals of cosmic and poetic restoration are ones for which we can and must give thanks.
Neoclassicism replaced the Renaissance view of man as an inherently good being capable of astounding intellectual growth by the image of man as a sinful and presumptuous creature with a limited intellectual capacity. Whereas the Renaissance had emphasized imagination and mysticism, Neoclasscisim emphasized order, reason, common sense, and conservatism. The widely used prose literary forms were the essay, the letter, the satire, the parody, the burlesque, and the moral fable; and in poetry, the most renown verse form was the rhymed couplet.
Pope's heroic couplets are a prime example of this form. As reason should guide human individuals and societies, it should also direct artistic creation. Neoclassical art is not meant to seem a spontaneous outpouring of emotion or imagination. Emotion appears, of course; but it is consciously controlled. A work of art should be logically organized and should advocate rational norms. The Misanthrope, for example, is focused on its theme more consistently than are any of Shakespeare's plays.
Its hero and his society are judged according to their conformity or lack of conformity to Reason, and its ideal, voiced by Philinte, is the reasonable one of the golden mean. The cool rationality and control characteristic of neoclassical art fostered wit, equally evident in the regular couplets of Moliere and the balanced sentences of Austen. Sharp and brilliant wit, produced within the clearly defined ideals of neoclassical art, and focused on people in their social context, make this perhaps the world's greatest age of comedy and satire.
on Neoclassical Age
CharacteristicsInfluence of Materialism. The proper study of mankind is man!" But Pope echoes only dominant philosophical thoughts here.Imitation of Classics.Concept of Nature.Concept of Man.Literary Forms.Neoclassical Drama.The New Restraint.Age of Reason.Conclusion.
The main difference between neoclassicism and romanticism is that neoclassicism emphasized on objectivity, order, and restraint whereas romanticism emphasized on imagination and emotion.
Neoclassicism is a revival of the classical past. It developed in Europe in the 18th century when artists began to imitate Greek and Roman antiquity and painters of the Renaissance as a reaction to the excessive style of Baroque and Rococo.
The biggest difference between classicism and neoclassicism is timing. Both are art movements that have roots in Greek and Roman antiquity, but by and large classicism happened during the height of these eras and during a brief revival during the European Renaissance,...
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