English Literature - Context - The Neoclassical Period

Contextual information and key writers from the Neoclassical Period of English Literature.

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The Neoclassical Period
Years: 16601798
The Restoration: the reign of Charles II, 1630 1660 (after his restoration to the
thrown in 1630 following the English Civil War and Cromwell)
The Age of Enlightenment (the Eighteenth Century)
Emphasis on reason and logic
Stresses harmony, stability, wisdom
Locke: a social contract exists between the government and the people. The
government governs guaranteeing "natural rights" of life, liberty, and property
Letters, diaries, biographies
Emphasis on the individual
Belief that humanity is basically evil
Approach to life: "the world as it should be"
Historical Context:
50% of males are functionally literate (a dramatic rise)
Fenced enclosures of land cause demise of traditional village life
Factories begin to spring up as industrial revolution begins
Impoverished masses begin to grow as farming life declines and factories build
Coffee houses--where educated men spend evenings with literary and political
Key Literature & Authors:
Alexander Pope
Daniel Defoe
Jonathan Swift,
Samuel Johnson
John Bunyan
John Milton
The Augustans ­ 18th Century (Up to 1740s)
Writing characterised by classical ideals, satire and politics. It was a key time
in terms of the development of the novel.
Key writers include: Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Richardson,
Henry Fielding, Laurence Sterne and Tobias Smollett.


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