The Enlightenment 
The Age of Reason 
The Neo-Classical Era 

      -  This period goes by the names "the Enlightenment," "the Age of Reason," and "the Neo-Classical Age."

       - There was a great turning away from religion as primary way of life.

       - People had been caught up in religious schism and sometimes outright warfare from 1534, the year Henry VIII split away from the Catholic church, until the Glorious Revolution of 1589.  England now turned its attention to politics and scientific/logical analysis & reason.

       - belief had been based on authority; restoration brought the scientific method.

       - scientific method - beliefs should be proven through repeated experiments.  Until now, one was to trust the pronouncements of some authority.  In religion, you accepted the dictates of the church; in science, you would turn to a recognized authority like Aristotle, Ptolemy, etc.  Your own experience could mislead you.  The Wife of Bath trusted experience over authority, but she was wrong to do so.  In this era, she would be right.

A valid experiment would be repeatable.  Thus others who turned telescopes toward the skies should observe the same things Copernicus & Galileo did.

       - people wanted proof; did not want to accept an idea as true just because some person of authority said.

       - British Constitution changed when Charles II took the throne; he realized (unlike his father who believed in Divine Right of Kings) that Parliament ruled

       - parties and political factions became stable and more permanent

            - Tories : King's party; conservative & Anglican

            - Whigs : represented $ from rising middle class; Puritans (Protestant Revolution had economical effect)


We can divide the era into three sub-periods.
  1. 1660-1700 Restoration Literature

  2. Dryden was the main literary figure of this period.  He wrote in the modes popular in that time - verse, comedy, tragedy, hero plays, ode, satire, translation, & critical essay.  The style of the time is less ornate than before, with a more plain, straightforward approach.
  3. 1700-1745 The Augustan period

  4. The literature of this era is "chiefly a literature of wit, concerned with civilizatino and social relationships, and consequently, it is critical and in some degree moral or satiric" (Abrams 832).  It is called the Augustan period because the golden era of Roman writing was under the Emperor Augustus.  This period tried to emulate the earlier one.
  5. 1745-1785 The Samuel Johnson period

  6. This was a period of intense prose writing.  Earlier periods had tended to produce great poetry, but not great poetry so much.