Neoclassicism literature: what it consists of, characteristics, development and representatives.


What was Neoclassicism literature?

The literary neoclassicism in which several artistic expressions were developed, including literature, was a movement that appeared in the eighteenth century and lasted until the nineteenth century. Its main construction base will be the aesthetic and philosophical values, which it will take from the Classical Antiquity, as well as an important cult of reason, which was interpreted as a kind of guide for posterity.

What was Neoclassicism literature

This movement was born in France at a time that was known as “The century of lights”, where the French Revolution will be another of the most important points for the emergence of Neoclassicism literature, given the social processes that develop during this time, in addition to the arrival of Romanticism that influences the eighteenth century.

Let’s know more about this literary movement and its importance in the evolution of this literary manifestation.

History of Neoclassicism Literature

The origin of literature in the neoclassicist movement was preceded by three fundamental processes: on the one hand the Enlightenment whose objective defends reason, also the discovery of the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii that dusts off the interest in Greco-Latin culture and finally the Industrial Revolution, followed by the French Revolution that promotes equality and freedom.

At the end of the XVII century in France, Rococo prevailed in the court, however the values of the Enlightenment managed to influence its styles, although with others against it because they considered its forms excessive and overloaded, often related to religious fanaticism. Hence, neoclassicism began its origin as an artistic movement that had a series of its own forms in reaction to the immediate artistic tradition that arrived. In this way the literature of Neoclassicism emerges as a kind of revolution both in philosophy and in the aesthetic axis of literature.

On the other hand, Neoclassicism literature also emerges as a counter response to the predominant style of the Baroque at that time, this time with a focus on society, including themes such as freedom, opposition to monarchies, religious tolerance, among other central themes.

Development of Neoclassicism Literature

It is important to mention that one of the most important features of Neoclassicism literature is directly related to the field of philosophy, a discipline that occupied most of the literary production. Thus, during this movement, literary creations focused on the cult of reason, an aspect that rejected religious dogmas in an important way.

Within its literature it is possible to identify genres that stood out during its development, such as fables in narrative, but also poetry played an important role as one of the most popular genres. The theater also occupied great importance with a selection of elements that allowed the spectators to resort to reason for its understanding, especially if we look at the most important themes of literature, in addition to the importance of the didactic character that with this genre was more widespread.

Literary works

In short, the literature of this movement is the reflection of authors who prioritize elegance in their works, also an important amount of texts and essays in which they begin to spread ideas with moralizing intention. Their works are distinguished by handling a simple language, which allows them to reach a larger number of readers facilitating their understanding, the civic duty will be one of the most important axes, as well as honor.

On the other hand, it is important to mention that literary genres will also undergo important changes. This is to the extent that new formats and styles were articulated within already established elements, as happened in satire, parodies, essays, letters, melodramas and diaries. The essay is one of the most important genres in which the main function is the transmission of philosophical thought. Thus, fable and poetry use characters and animals that occupy the role of protagonists in order to provide a teaching.

Main Characteristics of Neoclassicism Literature

In order to learn more about this literature, as well as to define its most important bases, we present below a series of key features for its identification and distinction from other literary movements. These are:

Reason and emotion

One of the predominant features in the development of Neoclassicism literature is the importance of reason over emotion. Thus, with a strong influence of the Enlightenment, the authors of this movement are interested in prioritizing reason, leaving aside emotions. The cult of reason will be the first element of distinction, considered as the secret for the construction of a project of civilized modernity combating ignorance.

Purpose of the neoclassicist movement

One of the most important points of this literature had to do with the purpose of neoclassicism, oriented mainly by education, but at the same time also intended by the moralization of the society to which it was addressed. This is due to the search for a construction with its elements for the project of modernity. Thus, the authors considered that their works allowed them a greater diffusion of the values needed for the construction of a cultured and at the same time moral and rational society, overcoming ignorance.

Values of neoclassicism

From its moralizing and educating intention, a series of fundamental values are also defined, among them are freedom, heroism, the spirit of sacrifice, self-mastery, the idea of homeland and liberty. They were considered universal values that should be present in society.

Inspiration from Classical Antiquity

It is important to keep in mind that the literature of Neoclassicism retakes elements, however, not with the intention of repeating them faithfully, but from their own interpretation they promote the values they rescue. Thus, Classical Antiquity is interpreted as an expression worthy of being a universal, cultured model, which allows it to know nature.

Importance of the written text

Another aspect that we cannot leave aside are the written texts, particularly the literature of neoclassicism, the encyclopedia. During this movement the dissemination of ideas was determinant, in the Enlightenment the encyclopedia was the format for it. In these compendiums it was possible to find political, scientific and philosophical texts that would easily become public domain, facilitating the access of the people to knowledge. In this way, both knowledge and literature would cease to be limited and subject to private power or control.

works of the neoclassicist movement

Main representatives and works of the neoclassicist movement

Among the most important authors of Neoclassicism literature we can identify the following: Alexander Pope , Samuel Johnson, Jean de la Fontaine, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, Pierre Corneille and Jean Racine. On the other hand, other authors also stand out with the following works: Jean de la Fontaine with “The Fables”, Jonathan Swift and his work “Gulliver’s Travels”, Alexander Pope with “Essay on Man”, José Cadalso and his work “Letters from Morocco”, Daniel Defoe and his work “Robinson Crusoe”, Montesquieu with “The Spirit of the Laws” and Voltaire and “The Death of Caesar”, among others.

To learn more about other important movements in literature, don’t forget to keep visiting our section dedicated to this artistic field in Types of Art, where you will find much more information to learn more. You will also find more information about other artistic manifestations.