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The Enlightenment The Neoclassical Period The Age of Elegance

1660 to 1800


emphasis on reason / logic, scientific discovery and methods saw the universe as ordered emphasis on importance of social tradition, established code of behavior/manners, dress, and class hierarchy renewed interest in classical thought and literature


emphasis on logic and rational thought, not emotions; emphasis on the social/good of the community, not the individual presence of numerous classical allusions; use of satire; use of elevated diction; formal style that adhered to set rhyme schemes, such as couplets; two-dimensional characters or stock types that represent a class or vice Influence of Drama-comic satires rise of literary magazines novel in various forms, including picaresque, gothic, and novel of manners


1702 Queen Anne Period: Anne, Mary's sister, succeeds William to the throne. During her reign, the rival Whigs and Tories dominated Parliament, representing commercial and urban interests. They encourage war with France, which they hoped would lead to British trade dominance. 1714 House of Hanover Anne is succeeded by George I from the House of Hanover, who favored the Whigs; the Whig-dominated House of Commons grows in importance during his reign. With George I and II, Whigs Robert Walpole and William Pitt came advise the king; Pitt in particular advised the king during the 7 Years War (a.k.a. the French and Indian Wars of 1756 1763). In 1760 George III succeeds his grandfather George II and believes that the king should play an active role in politics. Tories sympathizer, he urged an inconclusive peace with France.


1750 Industrial Revolution In England rural cottage industries, where workers produced goods in their homes, give way to urban factories that rely on machine-based manufacturing. 1776 The American Revolution Rebellion in North America results from Tory influence, unfair taxation, and George III's desire to keep the colonies a producer of raw material that was then shipped to England for processing. 1783 Britain recognizes America as a nation. 1789 The French Revolution The Revolution ends the Age of Reason or Neoclassicism by advancing democratic ideals that destroyed the social hierarchy of nobility, landed gentry, merchants & professionals, and the working poor.


1775-1783 American Revolution American independence seen as a divine sign that America and her people were destined for greatness. Military victory fanned nationalistic hopes for a great new literature. Yet except for political writing, few works of note appeared during or soon after the Revolution. 1790 American Copyright Law American books were harshly reviewed in England. The search for a native literature became a national obsession. The copyright law of 1790, which allowed pirating, was nationalistic in intent. Drafted by Noah Webster, the great lexicographer who later compiled an American dictionary, the law protected only the work of American authors; it was felt that English writers should look out for themselves.


Epic, Mock Epic and Satire become the genres that separate American Neoclassical literature from British Neoclassicism

Political Pamphlets / Non Fiction

Hector St. John de Crvecoeur (1735-1813) Thomas Paine (1737-1809); Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) Philip Freneau 1752-1832 Phillis Wheatley (c. 1753-1784) Charles Brockden Brown (1771-1810) Washington Irving (1789-1859) James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851)