What is theEnlightenment? (also called the Neoclassical Period)
It begins with a rejection. . . . •Of dogma •Of superstition •Of traditional religion •Of factionalism •Of (in some cases) monarchy •Of disorder
The 1600s had a different ideology--one steeped in supernatural politics. Alchemy, Angelology, Demonology The Great Chain of Being Divine Right of Kings
. . .but that led to dire political schisms when a monarch died without a clear heir.The War of the Roses,anyone?
The Renaissance saw many countries become Protestant, shattering the fifteen- hundred-year-old spiritual monopoly of Catholicism.Renaissance Reformation!
Martin Luther in GermanyJan HusIn Eastern Henry VIII inEurope Britain
But that dreadedfactionalism lead toreligious wars--some continuingoff-and-on for acentury.England, Germany, and Holland became Protestants allies.They fought repeatedly against Catholic France, Spain, andItaly. Later, Protestant groups turned on each other--withAnglican persecutions against Jansenists, Anabaptists,Quakers--and in America, Puritans against Quakers, etc.
And to theauto-da-féThat is the execution of individuals whodissented from standard scripturalinterpretations--usually by publicburning. The practice began in 1215 inmedieval Catholicism, but Protestantspicked it up in Geneva and London inthe mid-1500s. John Calvin oversawthe public burnings of Michael Servetusand other theological dissidents. MartinLuther moved away from toleration ofJews early in his career to increasinganti-semiticism later in his preaching.
And to ever increasing numbers of witch burningsWitch trials were actuallyhigher in number duringthe Renaissance reign ofKing James I than in anydecade of the medievalperiod in Britain.
And theInquisition’s growth.The Inquisition receivedofficial Church sanction in1215, but the height of itsactivity in Spain and Franceactually peaked in the1500s and 1600s--i.e,Renaissance times.
Not even Galileo was safe. The church arrested Galileo For heretical ideas such as heliocentricism. Threatened with torture, he publicly recanted his science and lived his last days under permanent house arrest.Western Christian biblical references Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10, and Chronicles 16:30 include textstating that "the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved." In the same tradition, Psalm 104:5says, "[the LORD] set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved." Further, Ecclesiastes1:5 states that "the sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.” This meant thattheIdea the earth spun on its axis or revolved around the sun was incompatible with literalist readingsof scripture--and many medieval and Renaissance church authorities forbade such teachings.
The printing press dazzledthe early Renaissance . . .
But the overflow of new ideas was alsofrightening--leading to nationalcensorship, book burnings, the indexlibrorum prohibitorum, pamphlet wars.
Worn out by 200 years of thisbickering, warfare, dissension, andfanaticism, Europe was ready for achange by the late 1600s and early1700s. “I said, a change, a change, would do you good.” --Cheryl Crow, “A Change.”
That change was theEnlightenment! What is the Enlightenment attitude? (1) A desire for rationality, logic, consistency. (2) A rejection of emotionalism (3) A preference for evidence, not faith (4) Increased interest in science, mathematics, geometry (5) An admiration for Greece and Rome and an abhorrence for everything medieval. (6) A preference for the artificial over the natural, technology over wilderness.
What is the Enlightenment socially?(1) A disdain of “messiness” and “chaos” as being unharmonious.(2) A preference for democracy.(3) A preference for civilized, polite discussion of ideas. Conclusions reached by intelligent debate-- not force.(4) A desire to create social standards based on reason--not tradition.(5) An embrace of monotheistic Deism rather than traditional Trinitarian doctrines.
What is theEnlightenmentaesthetically? (1) A desire for geometric shapes, orderly repetition in mathematical patterns. (2) A disdain of “messiness” and “chaos” in art and clothing and hairstyles as being unharmonious. (3) Greco-Roman architecture (4) Endless Heroic Couplets (5) Satire as a means of social critique
Here, the “messiness” of the natural world must bowbefore pure geometry. In such a garden, the chaos ofnature is tamed to match the orderly design of humanintellect.
Straight lines, 90degree corners, thestuff to warm the heartof an Enlightenmentthinker. Thus, hedge--mazes appear acrossEurope.
Even the untidiness of natural hair disturbs Enlightenment society. Thus,the tradition of the perfectly coiffed wig appears in the age of Washingtonand Jefferson and Marie Antoinette. Powdered porcelain make-up andother cosmetics become fashionable and artificial “beauty” patches (bitsof black cloth with adhesive) are used to create artificial moles or freckles(or to hide natural ones.) It is an age of absolute artifice.
The Enlightenment is so devoted toGreco-Roman logic and philosophy it isthus also called the “Neoclassic Period.” Asimilar taste appears in their architecture,their plays and drama. . . .
Take a look at the Arch of EmperorConstantine, built c. 312-315 CE.
Then look at the French Arc de Triomph duCarrousel. Note any similarities?
Top Left: the Parthenon of the Acropolis, built c. 447-438 BCE.Bottom left:Ragensberg Replica,Planned in the 1790sAnd built 1830 CE.
We also see it in theirobsessive andrigorous attitudes tostandardizing language: The French Academy Of Language Samuel Johnson working on his dictionary of 1755.
…and artificial grammar rulesbased on Latin , or Greek,or even rules of algebra! Shall versus Will? “It is I,” or “It is me”? Count Nouns versus Non-Count Nouns?Double negatives?Reflexive pronouns?Split infinitives?Standardizing spelling based on etymology?“Incomparables” versus positives and superlatives?
How do these tendenciesaffect the Enlightenment’sliterature? In poetry: heroic couplets and “perfect” metrical patterns and a return to classical Greco-Roman epics. Cf. Pope’s The Rape of the Lock. In both poetry and prose, a focus on satire--the use of mockery to point out social stupidities.