The neoclassical period the age of enlightenmentPresentation Transcript
The Neoclassical Period The Age of Enlightenment (aka the Age of Reason) 1688 - 1798
Background Info I The Enlightenment was a movement of intellectuals that began in eighteenth century Europe, and with all the religious upheaval of the times had its primary goal as using reason to reform science and advance knowledge. It opposed abusive, intolerant practices that took place in the church and state. Its centre was in France, and was set in motion by philosophers such as Isaac Newton, Pierre Bayle and John Locke. The political ideals behind it had an impact on the formation of the American declaration of Independence. It was where came the birth of democratic values of freedom and reason over monarchy’s divine right; this would later lead to capitalism and religious tolerance. Science and natural philosophy would replace religion as a way of understanding nature, with the majority of people now becoming committed to secular views.
Background Info II Public Sphere: an area where individuals can come together to freely discuss social problems, and through that discussion influence political action. Habernas: ‘bourgeois public sphere’: everyone is equal, concerns that are common are discussed, and arguments are founded on reason. Reason is valued over all, everything is open to criticism, and there is no secrecy; all areas of politics should be open to the public. The most common place to find a public sphere tended to be coffee houses and cafes. Educated men would spend evenings here with their literary and political associates . They offered journals, books and sometimes popular novels to customers e.g. The Tatler. The first English coffeehouse was in Oxford. Cowan: ‘the coffeehouse was a place for like-minded scholars to congregate, to read, as well as learn from and to debate with each other, but was emphatically not a university institution, and the discourse there was of a far different order than any university tutorial’. View slide
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 associates http://classiclit.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=classiclit&cdn=education&tm=526&f=20&tt=14&bt=0&bts=0&zu=http%3A//www.wsu.edu%3A8080/~brians/hum_303/enlightenment.html http://www.literature-study-online.com/essays/ageofreason.html http://www.angelfire.com/journal/LiteratureOfEngland/AgeOfReason.html View slide
Content Literature was characterised by a highly increased questioning of religion, a rise in empiricism and reductionism. It explored themes of social upheaval, reversals of personal status, political satire, and the ‘comparison between the supposed natural state of man and the supposed civilised state of man’. 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. Emphasis on the individual, belief that humanity is basically evil, approach to life: ‘the world as it should be’.
Example Excerpts from Key Authors Key Authors: Alexander Pope, Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson, John Bunyan, John Milton 1729 - Jonathan Swift: A Modest Proposal, a satirical essay suggesting that the Irish should sell their children as food. The essay mocks callous attitudes towards the poor and British policy in Ireland, and was written during his political campaigning for the Irish. It is seen as one of the best sustained examples of irony throughout the entire history of the English language. Full Title: A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being a Burden on Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick. Read Here 1752 - Voltaire: Micromégas, a satirical short story on space travellers visiting the earth. One of the first science fiction novels, showing the leaning towards the more scientific thinking of the age. This technique of using an outsider, an onlooker to make social commentary on western culture was popular and used again by many others. Read Here
A Modest Proposal excerpt It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabbin-doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for an alms. These mothers instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in stroling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country, to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes. I think it is agreed by all parties, that this prodigious number of children in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom, a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the common-wealth, would deserve so well of the publick, as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation. I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust.
Micromégas excerpt 1 On hearing these words, all the philosophers shook their heads, and one, more frank than the others, candidly confessed that, with the exception of a small number held in mean estimation among them, all the rest of mankind were a multitude of fools, knaves, and miserable wretches. "We have more matter than we need," said he, "the cause of much evil, if evil proceeds from matter; and we have too much mind, if evil proceeds from mind. For instance, at this very moment there are 100,000 fools of our species who wear hats, slaying 100,000 fellow creatures who wear turbans, or being massacred by them, and over almost all of Earth such practices have been going on from time immemorial." The Sirian shuddered, and asked what could cause such horrible quarrels between those miserable little creatures.
Micromégas excerpt 2 "Ah! wretched creatures!" exclaimed the Sirian with indignation; "Can anyone imagine such frantic ferocity! I should like to take two or three steps, and stamp upon the whole swarm of these ridiculous assassins." "No need," answered the philosopher; "they are working hard enough to destroy themselves. I assure you, at the end of 10 years, not a hundredth part of those wretches will be left; even if they had never drawn the sword, famine, fatigue, or intemperance will sweep them almost all away. Besides, it is not they who deserve punishment, but rather those armchair barbarians, who from the privacy of their cabinets, and during the process of digestion, command the massacre of a million men, and afterward ordain a solemn thanksgiving to God."