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The Age of Reason. AKA the Age of Enlightenment AKA the Enlightenment English 11 AP. Basic Definition:.

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The Age of Reason

AKA the Age of Enlightenment

AKA the Enlightenment

English 11 AP


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Basic Definition:

  • The Age of Reason (or Enlightenment) was a movement in Europe and the New World that embraced scientific discovery, personal liberty, religious tolerance, and the notion that REASON was the most important element in our lives.

  • The time-frame varies, but for our purposes we will say that the Age of Reason began around the RESTORATION of Charles II (1660s) and lasted until the French Revolution (1790s).


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Publications:

  • Denis Diderot published an Encyclopedia of Sciences in the 1700s. This was the first text of its kind to explore both scientific discoveries and scientific method.


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More Publications

  • Adam Smith published the “Wealth of Nations”, in 1776, a text which encouraged Meritocracy and suggested a ‘laissez faire’ attitude towards markets and economies. It became the foundation for the modern capitalist system. (The principle is, if left alone, the market will sort itself.)


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The Dictionary

  • In 1755, Samuel Johnson published the first comprehensive English dictionary. It was, at the time, considered one of the most important feats of scholarship in English academia. It took him nine years to write, and is a riot to read. (Example: His definition for “oats” reads “a grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.“) Johnson also wrote poetry, but it was for his dictionary, as well as his literary criticism, that he was well-known. That was the sort of writing that was valued at the time.


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Biography – Boswell’s Life of Johnson

  • James Boswell wrote The Life of Samuel Johnson in the 1760s, and it became the model for all modern biographies. It was only at this point that the biography, as a literary form, became popular in Western literature.


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Scientific Discoveries and inventions during the Age of Reason

  • 1687 – Newton’s Three Universal Laws of Motion

  • 1714 – Fahrenheit – Mercury Thermometer

  • The Flying Shuttle Loom

  • The Steam Engine

  • The Cotton Gin

  • Ben Franklin – Lightning rod – 1752

  • 1781 – William Herschel discovers Uranus


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Philosophy during the Age of Reason Reason

  • People became less focused on the Divine Right of Kings, and more focused on individual rights

  • People used REASON and scientific method to explain their world

  • People believed that reason could improve society

  • People believed in religious tolerance and individual religious practice

  • In the late 1700s Mary Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication on the Rights of Women, widely regarded as the first feminist work ever published.


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Travelogues Reason

  • In the 1600s and 1700s, travelogues were another form of non-fiction texts that were very popular. As European Empires expanded, people were anxious to know more about the world around them.


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Jonathan Swift Reason

  • Swift’s novel Gulliver’s Travels is a fictionalized (and absurdist) travelogue, in the style of the 18th century. In it, he chronicles the adventures of Lemuel Gulliver, who finds adventure on the high seas and learns a great deal about the world around him.

  • Swift’s literary style is decidedly 18th century, with lengthy sentences, long on detail, and many subtle references to the political situations in Europe at the time.