The Age of Reason

Report
The Age of
Reason
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LOGO
contents
1. Historical Background
2. Literature of the Period
3.The main characteristics of the 18th Century Literature
4. Some Lesser Writers
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1.Historical Background
 1. The Tories and the Whigs greatly influenced the
country.
The Whigs
The glorious revolution
The parliament
The Tories
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 After the Glorious Revolution, the monarch was deprived
of ruling power and Parliament took its place and
became the actual leader of the country. The Tories and
the Whigs, though representing the interest of different
strata, both supported commerce and the policy of
moderation and tolerance. The two parties rivaled with
each other for seats in the House of Commons, and for
40 years the Whig was the party in office, passing many
acts in the interests of the moneyed class.
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 2. England developed into a powerful naval country.
During the reign of Queen Anne, George I, George II,
and George III, England fought wars with France, the
greatest enemy of it of the day. These wars included the
War of Queen Anne in which England fought with France
over the succession of the Spanish Crown, the War of
Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War with
France. Through those wars, England became the most
powerful naval country in Europe.
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Queen
Ann
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Seven Years'
War
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 3. The ascent of the bourgeoisie cultural life underwent
remarkable changes.
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A. The flourish of political writings
B. The growth of newspapers
C. Coffeehouse
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The Spectator & The Tatler
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 4. The ruling class had desire as well as power to put the
“ newly-seized ” country into order. In the 18th century,
the bourgeois class had seized the ruling power of the
country. As all new ruling classes would do, the
bourgeois class thought that it was time to set up their
new rules, both political and moral, social and literary. As
a secularized class who had suffered much from the past
feudalism, the bourgeois class thought it necessary to
enlighten the world with the light of modern philosophical
and artistic ideas. So they put great emphasis on reason,
morality, education, equality and science while they were
striving to clear away the feudal remnants.
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 5. The development of science and technology promoted
the development of literature of this century.
Isaac Newton's famous law of
gravitation helped people to get
rid of the medieval conception
that was guided by divine will
and thus did much in bringing
about people's belief in science
and reason.
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John Locke proved the
function of reason and its
relationship with senses
and truth. He also
contributed a lot to helping
people to have firm belief
in reason.
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 6. The French influence also played an important part in
completing the whole picture of the 18th century English
literature.
The very literary trend
known as classicism first
originated in France during
the reign of Louis XIV when
France was the most
powerful country of the
world.
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2. Literature of the Period
 (1)The Dominant Ideology in the Literary Field.
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The 18th century England is also known as the Age of
Enlightenment or the Age of Reason. So the idea of
Enlightenment prevailed the whole 18th century.
 The Enlightenment Movement
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French Enlighteners :
Voltaire
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Montesquieu
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Diderot
 Enlighteners in England:
 John Dryden
 Alexander Pope
 Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele
 Jonathan Swift
 Daniel Defoe
 Henry Fielding
 Samuel Richardson
 Richard Brinsley Sheridan
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(2) Neoclassicism

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 should be moulded after the classical works of the ancient
Greek and Roman writers and those of the contemporary French
ones. They believed that order, logic, restrained emotion and
accuracy should be the most important elements of artistic creation,
and that literature should be judged in terms of its service, mainly
moralization and entertainment to human beings. This belief led to
seeking proportion, unity, harmony and grace in literary works. Thus
the aim of literary creation was to delight, instruct and correct human
beings, primarily as social animals.
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
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Cicero
Virgil
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 The characteristics of neoclassicism can be summed up
as follows:
 A. An Interest in Fixed Rules
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Prose :
precise, direct, smooth and flexible;
poetry :
lyrical, epical, didactic, satiric or dramatic,
Drama :
write in Heroic Couplets;
observe the three unities of time, space and action
followed regularity in construction
create type characters instead of individuals
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 B. An emphasis on Reason
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Neoclassicists emphasized reason rather than
emotion, form rather than content. They took great pains
to repress emotions and enthusiasm as found in the
works of Elizabethan Age and to use precise and elegant
methods of expression.
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
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C. An Aim to Instruct
As reason was stressed, most of the writings of the
age were didactic and satirical, and their aim was to
entertain, instruct and correct human beings, who were
thought by the neoclassicists as ignorant and in need of
education. Accordingly, elegance, correctness,
appropriateness and restraint were preferred in literary
writings.
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D. An Interest in Urbanity
Neoclassicist literature is almost exclusively a kind
of “ town ” literature, catering to the interest of the
“ society ” in great cities. The humbler aspects of life are
neglected and this “ town ” literature shows little love for
nature, landscape or country people.
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 E. A Revolt against Subjectivity
 An important characteristic of neoclassicism is its
objectivity.
 The neoclassical period witnessed the flourish of English
poetry in the classical style
 The poetic techniques and classical graces such as
order, appropriate form, unified structure, clear, precise
and simple language, which flourished in this period,
have become a permanent heritage.
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(3). The Development of Modern English
Novels
 The mid-century witnessed the rise and development of
a new literary form — modern English novel.
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Contrary to the traditional romance of aristocrats,
modern English novels give a realistic presentation of life
of the common English people. This is the most
significant phenomenon in the history of the development
of English literature in the 18th century. It is a natural
product of the Industrial Revolution and a symbol of the
growing importance and strength of the English middle
class. Among the pioneers of modernist novels were
Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding,
Laurence Sterne, Tobias George Smollett and Oliver
Goldsmith.
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 The novels written by Defoe, Swift, Fielding and Smollett
in a sense are realistic novels as well as English travel
novels. Those by Lawrence Sterne and Oliver Goldsmith
can be classified as novels of Sentimentalism. And
Sterne was a pioneer of modernism, for he used many
modernistic writing techniques in his Tristram Shandy.
Samuel Richardson was famous for his psycho-analytical
novel Pamela and for his epistolary technique employed
in his Pamela and Clarissa.
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Defoe
Realistic
novels
Swift
Fielding
Travel
novels
Smollett
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Lawrence Sterne
Sentimental
novel
Oliver Goldsmith
psycho-analytical
novel
Richardson
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(4)English Drama and Prose of the
18th Century
Drama
Prose
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Jonathan Swift
Oliver Goldsmith
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A Modest Proposal
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 In the theatrical world, Richard Brinsley Sheridan was the
leading figure among a host of playwrights. He and
Oliver Goldsmith were both famous for their comedies of
manners. Sheridan's The School for Scandal and The
Rivals and Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer are the
best representatives of English comedies of manners. In
the prosaic field, those witty and satirical proses by
Jonathan Swift are especially worth mentioning. Swift's A
Modest Proposal is generally regarded as the best model
of satire in the whole English literary history.
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(5). Sentimentalism
 Definition
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natural and spontaneous in thought and language.
emotions and sentiments
interest in nature as well as natural relations between man and
man
 Representatives
 The Novelists: Oliver Goldsmith and Lawrence Sterne
 The poets :Thomas Gray and George Grabbe.
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Other poets
James Thomson
William Collins
William Cowper
Robert Burns
William Blake
The flourish of the Gothic novels. The Gothic novels were mostly stories
of mystery and horror which take place in some haunted or dilapidated
Middle Age castles and were written profusely by both male and female
writers.
The Castle of Otranto (1765) by Horace Walpole,
The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and The Italian (1797) by Mrs. Ann
Radcliffe,
The Champion of Virtue, a Gothic Story (1777) by Clara Reeve,
The Monk (1796) by M. G. Lewis became very popular.
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3. The main characteristics of
the 18th Century Literature
 1. Reason is the key word in understanding English literature in the
18th century.
 The 18th century is also called the Age of Reason. Neoclassicism in
which reason played an important role dominated almost all the 18th
century. So reason is the key word in understanding the 18th century
English literature. Reason is the key note of neoclassicism: the
modern novelists such as Fielding, Defoe and Swift showed the
importance of reason either in the process of their main characters'
self-education or in getting rid of the young follies resulted from the
lack of reason. Sentimental and Romantic writings can be taken as a
kind of expression of the writers' dissatisfaction with and revolt
against the exclusive emphasis on reason and thus represent a
revival of the interest in emotions and sentiments.
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 2. The 18th century saw the flourish of various forms of
literature.
 As literary trend is concerned, neoclassicism reached its
climax in this century; Sentimentalism came into being
and became mature in the last few decades; the last
decade of the 18th century also witnessed the
forerunners of Romanticism. As literary forms or genres
are concerned, poetry flourished, modern novels came
into beings and developed and other forms of literature
such as periodical essays and comedies of manners also
came into beings and developed in the Age of Reason.
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4. Some Lesser Writers
Samuel Richardson(1689 ~ 1761)
one of the founders of
modern English
novels
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1. Life
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2.Works
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(1). Life
 Samuel Richardson was born in Derbyshire in 1689.
Little is known about his education. He may have
attended Christ's Hospital or Merchant Taylors' School.
He married twice and had 12 children. After 1706 he
worked for several years as a compositor and corrector
in a London printing office. In 1719 he became the
proprietor of his own printing firm in Fleet Street (and
afterwards in Salisburg Court). In 1736 ~ 37, he became
the printer of the Journal of the House of Commons, of
the Daily Journal and in 1738, the printer of the Daily
Gazetteer. In 1754 he became Master of the Stationers'
Company. In 1760 he bought half the patent of “ law
printer to his majesty. ” He died on July 4, 1761.
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(2).Works
 The History of Charles Grandison
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Introduction
Pamela, Clarissa
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Story
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 Introduction
 Pamela consists, like them, entirely of letters and
journals, of which Richardson presents himself as the
“ editor. ” He believed he had hit upon “ a new species of
writing ” but he was not the inventor of the epistolary
novels, several of which already existed in English and
French. He did, however, raise the form to a level
hitherto unknown, and transformed it to display his own
particular skills.
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 Story
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 Samuel Johnson (1709 ~ 1784)
the last great neoclassicist
after Pope in the 18th
century
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 Samuel Johnson (1709 ~ 1784) was born in Richfield, son of a book-seller.
The boy was sent to the Richfield Grammar School where he remained for 8
years and acquired a solid foundation in Latin. In 1728 he went to Oxford
and studied there, on and off, until 1731 when his father died and he had to
quit the university without taking a degree. In 1735 he married a rich old
widow. In hope of establishing himself in society, Johnson first made a futile
attempt to set up a school and then went to London to try his fortune as a
literary adventurer. The years between 1737 and 1755 were very difficult for
him: he did translations, wrote poems, essays and accounts of
parliamentary debates for the book-sellers and edited magazines, but
earned no more than enough to maintain a meager living. It was only after
the publication of his Dictionary that his financial status took a turn for the
better. And in 1762 the government gave him a special pension which freed
him from the burden of “ writing for a living. ” So during the last twenty years
of his life he could talk about and comment on literature and literary men in
his famous Literary Club, where he was surrounded with respect by the elite
of the literary circles.
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 Johnson was an energetic and versatile writer. He had a hand in all the
different branches of literary activities. He was a poet, dramatist, prose
romancer, biographer, essayist, critic, lexicographer and publicist. His chief
works include poems: London (1738), and The Vanity of Human Wishes
(1749); a romance: The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia (1759); a
tragedy: Irene (1749); several hundred essays which appeared in the two
periodicals under his editorship — The Rambler and The Idler; and literary
criticism as found in the preface to his edition of Shakespeare and in his
comments on 52 poets in Lives of the Poets (1779 ~ 1781). As a
lexicographer, Johnson distinguished himself as the author of the first
English dictionary by an Englishman — A Dictionary of the English
Language (1755), a gigantic task which Johnson undertook single-handedly
and finished in over seven years.
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 Johnson was the last great neoclassicist enlightener in the later
eighteenth century. He was very much concerned with the theme of
the vanity of human wishes and almost all of his major writings bear
this theme. He tried to awaken men to this folly and hoped to cure
them of it through his writings. In literary creation and criticism, he
was rather conservative, openly showing his dislike for much of the
newly rising form of literature and his fondness for those writings
which carried a lot of moralizing and philosophizing. He insisted that
a writer must adhere to universal truth and experience, i.e. Nature;
he must please, but he must also instruct; he must not offend against
religion or promote immorality; and he must let himself be guided by
old principles. Like Pope, he was particularly fond of moralizing and
didacticism. So, it is understandable that he was rather pleased with
Richardson's Pamela but was contemptuous of Fielding's Tom
Jones.
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 Johnson's style is typically neoclassical, but it is at the
opposite extreme from Swift's simplicity or Addison's
neatness. His language is characteristically general,
often Latinate and frequently polysyllabic. His sentences
are long and well structured, interwoven with parallel
words and phrases. However, no matter how complex
his sentences are, the thought is always clearly
expressed; and though he tends to use “ learned words, ”
they are always accurately used.
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The End
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