Neoclassical literature and its impact (1660-1798)

Two big names out of the Neoclassical movement included Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope (but there were many more). I had become familiar with the former due to “A Modest Proposal” (1729), but there is so much in that early movement that I thought it would be a good idea to take a short dip into the waters of this part of literature history.

What was the neoclassical literature period?

The era in which this period thrived seems to be somewhere between 1660 and 1798 and features three important sections, that include the Restoration period, the Augustan period, and the Age of Johnson. This is also knowns as the “Enlightenment Period.” The Neoclassical literature era was marked by an attempt to mimic the Greek and Roman writers of the past and to blend the ideas of enlightenment into the overall writing style of the time. As states: “The neoclassical movement in literature was based on classical ideal, skepticism and satire.”

Important Works and Themes

Some works that popped up during this time included “The Dunciad” by Alexander Pope (which he published anonymously as it was an unsavory look at his critics) and “Gulliver’s Travels” by Johnathan Swift. It was also the time of wit and cynicism; and, writing was reaching more people, which was great for the down-trodden because education, a factor in reformation, was now at their fingertips! As such, themes of social needs and the belief in society, religion, and government were important aspects in the books being published.

As writes of the era: “Neoclassical literature was defined by common sense, order, accuracy, and structure. In the literature of the renaissance period, man was portrayed to be good,” but now, in the neoclassical era with its focus on society, the writers, “showed man to be flawed and relatively more human.”

Works Cited