The augustan age and the novel
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The Augustan age and the novel. ANTONIO SAGGIOMO E VINCENZO CONTALDI (IVB). What does it mean?.

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The Augustan age and the novel

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The augustan age and the novel

The Augustan age and the novel


What does it mean

What does it mean?

  • The Augustan age was also known as the Enlightenment, a movement based on the faith in human reason and in the progress and evolution of mankind: reason was considered the instrument to free man from fears, prejudices and mistakes of the past; reason could light the way of man towards progress . As a consequence , Augustan writers celebrated man` s reason; man was seen as a rational being, whose reason had to be severely controlled and whose emotional spiritual part had to be banished from literature. The worst error for an Augustan writer was to allow is emotion to influence what he wrote reason was the only guide to good conduct and good taste.

Historical events

Historical events

  • The Restoration period ended with the exclusion crisis and the Glorious Revolution, where Parliament set up a new rule for succession to the British throne that would always favor Protestantism over sanguinity. This had brought William and Mary to the throne instead of James II, and was codified in the Act of Settlement 1701. James had fled to France from where his son James Francis Edward Stuart launched an attempt to retake the throne in 1715. Another attempt was launched by the latter's son Charles Edward Stuart in 1745. The attempted invasions are often referred to as "the 15" and "the 45". When William died, Anne Stuart came to the throne. When Anne died without issue, George I, Elector of Hanover, came to the throne. George I never bothered to learn the English language, and his isolation from the English people was instrumental in keeping his power relatively irrelevant. His son, George II, on the other hand, spoke some English and some more French, and his was the first full Hanoverian rule in England. By that time, the powers of Parliament had silently expanded, and George II's power was perhaps equal only to that of Parliament.

  • In this period middle class people obtained importance; in fact they tried to acquire a proper education in various ways, especially from the newspapers and magazines, which from the beginning of 18th century became very popular in Britain. In them writers taught their writhers what to think and how to behave and talk. Clubs and coffee-houses were also important for the middle class: people went to clubs not only to drink but to meet, discuss and write.

Philosophy and literature

Philosophy and literature

  • The 18th century had a vigorous competition among followers of Locke. Bishop Berkeley extended Locke's emphasis on perception to argue that perception entirely solves the Cartesian problem of subjective and objective knowledge by saying "to be is to be perceived." Only, Berkeley argued, those things that are perceived by a consciousness are real. For Berkeley, the persistence of matter rests in the fact that Godperceives those things that humans are not, that a living and continually aware, attentive, and involved God is the only rational explanation for the existence of objective matter. In essence, then, Berkeley's skepticism leads to faith. David Hume, on the other hand, took empiricist skepticism to its extremes, and he was the most radically empiricist philosopher of the period. He attacked surmise and unexamined premises wherever he found them, and his skepticism pointed out metaphysics in areas that other empiricists had assumed were material. Hume doggedly refused to enter into questions of his personal faith in the divine, but his assault on the logic and assumptions of theodicy and cosmogeny was devastating, and he concentrated on the provable and empirical in a way that would lead to utilitarianism and naturalism later.

  • The literature of the 18th century—particularly the early 18th century, which is what "Augustan" most commonly indicates—is explicitly political in ways that few others are. Because the professional author was still not distinguishable from the hack-writer, those who wrote poetry, novels, and plays were frequently either politically active or politically funded. The best literary form to express the ideas of the time during the Augustan age had been prose . The Augustan age so in the novel and journalism the better instruments of knowledge for middle class people; the novel was the cultural expression of the new leading class, it sang the deeds of the bourgeois hero in order to provide the middle class with models teaching them how to behave in different situation. In poetry Augustans modelled their work on ancient writers such as Virgil, Ovid and Horace.

The novel

The Novel

What is it?

The most profoundly innovative genre in 18th century literature was the novel. The novel is a fictitious prose narrative or tale presenting a picture of real life. The novel`s readers mostly came from the ranks of the commercial and mercantile middle class, whose outlook was practical and realistic. It demanded original stories relating ordinary experience. The modern idea of realism is reflected in the fact that novels deal whit recognizably contemporary objects, language and situations, and not whit extraordinary, fantastic or magical events told in highly-refined language. The language of the novel also reflect this realistic trend: it is plain and factual.

The characters may be stereotyped or realistic, more like real people.

The novel1

The Novel

Causes of novel`s rise

There are several reason that cause the novel`s rise:

  • The rise of philosophical rationalism. The philosophical theories of Rene` Descartes and John Locke for example, focused on the experience of the individual who could discover the reality of the world around him through his senses and perception. The novel is the form of literature which most reflects this individualist approach.

  • The influence of Puritanism and later Methodism. Puritanism preached the idea that man must save himself by living a virtuous life and by own efforts. Methodism was the application of the Puritanism to ordinary life.

  • The expansion of the reading public. The increasingly affluent middle class were beginning to buy more books and newspaper, which also brought with them the advent of fact-based journalistic writing on the events of the day. The new reading public were not interested in romances or in fantastic tales but they wanted to read real stories which reflected their own interests and problems with characters they could more or less identify with.

The novel2

The Novel

Effects of novel`s rise on the society

Novel`s rebirth caused some effects on the society during the Augustan age but the principal was people`s life changing. The man has always needed to improve himself, not only physically, but specially mentally because life asked him. So people wanted to read real stories which reflected their life, their social position because they searched models to follow. They wished to pursue the truth, to escape from a caotic life, to became independent from the tradition of past so they wished to enrich their own culture reading these tales. For example women realized this because, thanks this devotion to read novels, they were free from the prison of domesticity (and often from the prison of marriage).

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