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Neoclassicism . " The Neo-classic Period " of English literature spans the 140 years or so after the Restoration.  (1660-1798). Neoclassic Period The Restoration and Eighteenth Century (1660-1798). 1660: Charles II restored to throne. 1668: The Glorious Revolution.

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"The Neo-classic Period" of English literature spans the 140 years or so after the Restoration.  (1660-1798)

neoclassic period the restoration and eighteenth century 1660 1798
Neoclassic PeriodThe Restoration and Eighteenth Century (1660-1798)
  • 1660: Charles II restored to throne.
  • 1668: The Glorious Revolution.
  • 1776: The American colonies united for freedom.
  • 1789: The French Revolution begin.

Features of Neoclassicism

Neoclassic authors manifested traditionalism and distrusted innovation, in respect for classical writers.


Ars Poetica

The neoclassic ideal was the craftsman's ideal: literature should be an "art" which must be perfected by long study and practice. The neoclassic writer strove for correctness, observed "decorum", and respected "the rules of poetry" established by classical works.



Poet as a maker


Neoclassicism pursued "art for humanity's sake".  Its primary subject matter was human beings as an integrated part of a society. Poetry (=literature) was held to be an imitation of human life, which is designed to give both instruction and pleasure (dulce et utile) to the people who read it.


A prime aim of poetry was to give new and perfect expression to the general nature and shared values of humanity. Poetry needed to balance the typical and the familiar with the qualities of novelty, particularity, and invention.


An individual was viewed as a limited being who ought to undertake accessible goals. Human beings needed to accept their restricted positions in the natural order, or a natural hierarchy, which was called Great Chain of Being at that time.


Alexander Pope(1688-1744)

“True wit is . . . what oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed.”



"The Romantic Period" extends from the publication of Lyrical Ballads in 1798 through the first three decades of the nineteenth century. (1798-1832)

the romantic period 1798 1832
The Romantic Period (1798-1832)
  • 1798:Lyrical Ballads published.
  • 1842: The Reform Bill carried in Parliament.

Features of Romanticism

The romantic writer favored innovation instead of traditionalism in materials, forms, and style of literature.


Wordsworth denounced the poetic diction of neoclassicism and proposed to deal with materials from "common life" in a "selection of language really used by men."


Coleridge and Keats explored the realm of the supernatural and of "the far away and the long ago".



Poet as a seer


Wordsworth described good poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings". To him, the essential element of poetry was the poet's own feelings, and the process of composition was "spontaneous", not unforced, and free of "artificial" rules.


A persistent subject of romantic poetry was external nature, though most of it was ultimately concerned with human problems.


Much of romantic poetry and prose was about the poets and writers themselves, or solitary individuals, often social outcasts who are engaged in a long quest.


Romantic writers, influenced by the spirit of the French Revolution, believed in human possibility. They viewed a human being as endowed with limitless aspiration toward the infinite good envisioned by imagination.

important romantic poets 1
Important Romantic Poets (1)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

William Wordsworth

important romantic poets 2
Important Romantic Poets (2)

Percy Bysshe Shelley

John Keats

George Gordon Lord Byron


Romanticism in the United States

"The American Romantic Period" is available for the era of 1830-1865.


Important Romantic Poets (USA)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Walt Whitman

Edgar Allan Poe


Ralph Waldo Emerson


Transcendentalists asserted the existence of an ideal spiritual reality that transcends the empirical and scientific and is knowable through intuition.

Margaret Fuller

Henry David Thoreau