The enlightenment - The 18th century

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The term ”Enlightenment” characterized the development of sciences and arts as well as the triumph of reason over ignorance and pseudoscience in the 17th and 18th centuries. The English Enlightenment was not uniform, there being 2 tendencies within it: its more moderate wing was represented by Pope, Defoe, Addison, Steele and Richardson; the most outstanding representatives of the more radical, democratic wing were Swift, Fielding, Goldsmith and Sheridan.

The development of the 18th century had 3 stages:

I. Early Enlightenment (in this period are formed the general principles of the Enlightenment Ideology)
II. Maturity Enlightenment (1740-1760);
III. The 3rd Period of Enlightenment – this period also indicates the beginning of the Sentimentalism (– the last decates of the 18th century).

From the artistic point of view, these decades are characterized in poetry by the classical style, whose excellent representative was Alexander Pope.

At the beginning of the century a new literature in prose appeared: the pamphlets of Steele and Addison and the first realistic novels of Defoe and Swift.

The 18th century, dominated both by theology and science, allowed REASON (=human capacity) to emerge as a real genuine and inspiring force (as in the “metaphysical” poetry)
The 18th century is no longer subject either to authority and dogma or to scientific inquiry.

MAN is perceived as an active factor in the historical development. The human mind is now answering to the questions raised by experience. It believes in historical betterment.
GOD becomes an abstraction; a lay picture of the world is now dominant. The doubt expressed by the 18th century mind is shaped into essays.

The political picture of the 18th century shows the collapse of absolutist governments and the rise of the bourgeoisie in politics. The industrial revolution and the use of force make people lose their confidence in man’s capacity to rely solely on reason.

The 18th century is both rationalistic and sentimental, being characterized by:
a) feeling for nature;
b) the reorientation of man’s values towards sentiments and passions.

The 18th century is also the century of common-sense. It relies on wisdom derived from practical activities.
In the Enlightenment period, the novel becomes genre of represented action, a fiction in which characters are presented in unstable, complex relationships. These relationships grow more complex, proliferate and develop; they involve us in the action, make us care for the fate of the characters, make us take interest in the character as such.

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