Neoclassical Literature

Topics: Robinson Crusoe, Novel, Daniel Defoe Pages: 13 (4949 words) Published: September 30, 2012
Chapter II The Neoclassical Period (1660---1798)
The eighteenth-century England is also known as the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason. The Enlightenment Movement was a progressive intellectual movement which flourished In France and swept through the whole Western Europe at the time. the movement was a furtherance of the Renaissance of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Its purpose was to enlighten the whole world with the light of modern philosophical and artistic ideas. The enlighteners celebrated reason or rationality, equality and science. They held that rationality or reason should be the only, the final cause of any human thought and activities. They called for a reference to order, reason and rules. They believed that when reason served as the yardstick for the measurement of all human activities and relations, every superstition, injustice and oppression was to yield place to “eternal truth,” “eternal justice” and “natural equality.” The belief provided theory for the French Revolution of 1789 and the American War of Independence in 1776. At the same time, the enlighteners advocated universal education. They believed that human being were limited, dualistic, imperfect, and yet capable of rationality and perfection through education. If the masses were well educated, they thought, there would be great chance for a democratic and equal human society. As a matter of fact, literature at the time, heavily didactic and moralizing, became a very popular means of public education. Famous among the great enlighteners in England were those great writers like John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele, the two pioneers of familiar essays, Jonathan Swift, Daniel Defoe, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Henry Fielding and Samuel Johnson. In the field of literature, the Enlightenment Movement brought about a revival of interest in the old classical works. This tendency is known as neoclassicism. According to the neoclassicists, all forms of literature were to be modeled after the classical works of the ancient Greek and Roman writers and those of the contemporary French ones. They believed that the artistic ideals should be order, logic, restrained emotion and accuracy, and that literature should be judged in terms of its service to humanity. This belief led them to seek proportion, unity, harmony and grace in literary expressions, in an effort to delight, instruct and correct human beings, primarily as social animals. Thus a polite, urbane, witty, and intellectual art developed. Neoclassicists had some fixed laws and rules for almost every genre of literature. Prose should be precise, direct, smooth and flexible. Poetry should be lyrical, epical, didactic, satiric or dramatic, and each class should be guided b its own principles. Drama should be written in the Heroic Couplets (iambic pentameter rhymed in two lines); regularity in construction should be adhered to, and type characters rather than individuals should be represented.

John Bunyan
Like most working men at the time, Bunyan had a deep hatred for the corrupted, hypocritical rich who accumulated their wealth “by hook and b crook.” As a stout Puritan, he had made a conscientious study of the Bible and firmly believed in salvation through spiritual struggle. It was during his second term in prison that he wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress, which was published in 1678 after his release. Bunyan’s style was modeled after that of the English Bible. With his concrete and living language and carefully observed and vividly presented details, he made it possible for the reader of the least education to share the pleasure of reading his novel and to relive the experience of his characters. Bunyan’s other works include Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666), The Life and Death of Mr. Badman (1680), The Holy War (1682) and The Pilgrim’s Progress, Part II (1684) As Milton was the chief Puritan poet, so Bunyan was the...
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