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What is the Enlightenment?. Circa 1650 – 1780 Also called the Neo-classical Period. “The Enlightenment” begins with a rejection the values and beliefs of the preceding “Renaissance P eriod”. . . . Of dogma Of superstition Of traditional religion Of factionalism

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what is the enlightenment

What is the Enlightenment?

Circa 1650 – 1780

Also called the Neo-classicalPeriod


“The Enlightenment” begins with a rejection the values and beliefs of the preceding “Renaissance Period”. . . .

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

The 1600s had a different ideology--one steeped in supernatural politics.

Alchemy, Angelology, Demonology

The Great Chain of Being

Divine Right of Kings

the war of the roses




The Great Chain of Being…

Divine Right of Kings…

The War of the Roses

. . .but that led to dire political schisms when a monarch died without a clear



The Renaissance saw many countries become Protestant, shattering the fifteen-hundred-year-old spiritual monopoly of Catholicism.

Renaissance Reformation!


Jan Hus

In Eastern Europe

Henry VIII in Britain (created Protestant Church of England)

factionalism lead to religious wars some continuing off and on for a century

Factionalism lead toreligious wars --some continuing (off-and-on) for a century…

England, Germany, and Holland became Protestants allies.

They fought repeatedly against Catholic France, Spain, and

Italy. Later, Protestant groups turned on each other--with Anglican persecutions against Jansenists, Anabaptists, Quakers--and in America, Puritans against Quakers, etc.

and to the auto da f

And to the auto-da-fé

That is the execution of individuals who dissented from standard scriptural

interpretations--usually by public burning. The practice began in 1215 in medieval Catholicism, but Protestants picked it up in Geneva and London in the mid-1500s. John Calvin oversaw the public burnings of Michael Servetus and other theological dissidents. Martin Luther moved away from toleration of

Jews early in his career to increasing

anti-semiticism later in his preaching.

and to ever increasing numbers of witch burnings

…and to ever increasing numbers of witchburnings

Witch trials were actually

higher in number during

the Renaissance reign of

King James I than in any

decade of the medieval

period in Britain.

and the inquisition s growth

And the Inquisition’s growth.

The Inquisition received official Church sanction in 1215, but the height of its activity in Spain and France actually peaked in the 1500s 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.

Not even Galileo was safe.

Western Christian biblical references Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10, and Chronicles 16:30 include text stating that "the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved." In the same tradition, Psalm 104:5 says, "[the LORD] set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved." Further, Ecclesiastes 1:5 states that "the sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.” This meant that the Idea the earth spun on its axis or revolved around the sun was incompatible with literalist readings of scripture--and many medieval and Renaissance church authorities forbade such teachings.

the enlightenment rejected the values and beliefs
“The enlightenment “ rejected the values and beliefs:
  • Of dogma
  • Of superstition
  • Of traditional religion
  • Of factionalism
  • Of (in some cases) monarchy – eg: French Revolution
  • Of disorder
what were the values and attitudes of the enlightenment

The Enlightenment! 1650 – 1760 (approx.)

What were the values and attitudes of The Enlightenment?

(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

What is the Enlightenment socially?

A disdain of “messiness” and “chaos” as being unharmonious.

A preference for democracy.

A preference for civilized, polite discussion of ideas. Conclusions reached by intelligent debate--not force.

A desire to create social standards based on reason--not tradition.

An embrace of monotheistic Deism rather than traditional Trinitarian doctrines.

what were the social values of the enlightenment aesthetically

What were the social values of “The Enlightenment”? Aesthetically…

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 bow before pure geometry. In such a garden, the chaos of nature is tamed to match the orderly design of human intellect.


Straight lines, 90 degree corners, the stuff to warm the heart of an Enlightenment thinker. Thus, hedge--mazes appear across Europe.


Even the untidiness of natural hair disturbs Enlightenment society. Thus, the tradition of the perfectly coiffed wig appears in the age of Washington and Jefferson and Marie Antoinette. Powdered porcelain make-up and other cosmetics become fashionable and artificial “beauty” patches (bits of 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 to Greco-Roman logic and philosophy it is thus also called the “Neo-classic Period.” A similar taste appears in their architecture,their plays and drama. . . .


Take a look at the Arch of Emperor

Constantine, built c. 312-315 CE.


Then look at the French Arc de Triomph du

Carrousel. Note any similarities?


Top Left:

the Parthenon of the

Acropolis, built

c. 447-438 BCE.

Bottom left:

Ragensberg Replica,

Planned in the 1790s

And built 1830 CE.


Cultural value:

Obsessive and rigorous in

standardizing language:

The French Academy

Of Language

Samuel Johnson working

on his dictionary of 1755.


…and artificial grammar rules

based on Latin, or Greek,

or even rules of algebra!

  • ShallversusWill?
  • “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” versuspositives and superlatives?

How do these tendencies

affect the Enlightenment’s


  • In poetry:
  • heroic couplets
  • “perfect”metricalpatterns
  • 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.


Years: 1660-1798

  • The Restoration: the reign of Charles II, 1630 - 1660 (after his restoration to the thrown in 1630 following the English Civil War and Cromwell)
  • The Age of Enlightenment (the Eighteenth Century)
  • Content:
    • 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
  • Style/Genres:
    • satire
    • poetry
    • essays
    • letters, diaries, biographies
    • novels
  • Effect:
    • emphasis on the individual
    • belief that humanity is basically evil
    • approach to life: “the world as it should be”
  • 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
  • A Sampling of Key Literature & Authors:
    • Alexander Pope
    • Daniel Defoe
    • Jonathan Swift,
    • Samuel Johnson
    • John Bunyan
    • John Milton
what came after the enlightenment
What came after “The Enlightenment”?



In 1818, German artist Caspar David Friedrich painted Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, in which a man props his foot up on a wind-whipped mountaintop, looking out over a wild, foggy landscape


Years: 1798 – 1832

  • Content:
    • human knowledge consists of impressions and ideas formed in the individual’s mind
    • introduction of Gothic elements and terror/horror stories and novels
    • in nature one can find comfort and peace that the man-made urbanized towns and factory environments cannot offer
  • Style/Genres:
    • Poetry
    • lyrical ballads
  • Effects:
    • evil attributed to society not to human nature
    • human beings are basically good
    • movement of protest: a desire for personal freedom
    • children seen as hapless victims of poverty and exploitation
  • Historical Context:
    • Napoleon rises to power in France and opposes England militarily and economically
    • gas lamps developed
    • Tory philosophy that government should NOT interfere with private enterprise
    • middle class gains representation in the British parliament
    • railroads begin to run
  • Key Literature/Authors:
    • Novelists
      • Jane Austen
      • Mary Shelley
    • Poets
      • Robert Burns
      • William Blake
      • William Wordsworth
      • Samuel Taylor Coleridge
      • Lord Byron
      • Percy Shelley
      • John Keats