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During the 18th century, the literary period that was most pronounced was the Neoclassical Period (or the Enlightenment Period). This period began around 1660 and extended through 1790.
The classics pieces that emerged during this period addressed the importance of logic and showed contempt for concern with superstition.
To a certain extent Neoclassicism represented a reaction against the optimistic, exuberant, and enthusiastic Renaissance view of man as a being fundamentally good and possessed of an infinite potential for spiritual and intellectual growth. Neoclassical theorists, by contrast, saw man as an imperfect being, inherently sinful, whose potential was limited. They replaced the Renaissance emphasis on the imagination, on invention and experimentation, and on mysticism with an emphasis on order and reason, on restraint, on common sense, and on religious, political, economic and philosophical conservatism. They maintained that man himself was the most appropriate subject of art, and saw art itself as essentially pragmatic — as valuable because it was somehow useful — and as something which was properly intellectual rather than emotional.
Hence their emphasis on proper subject matter; and hence their attempts to subordinate details to an overall design, to employ in their work concepts like symmetry, proportion, unity, harmony, and grace, which would facilitate the process of delighting, instructing, educating, and correcting the social animal which they believed man to be. Their favorite prose literary forms were the essay, the letter, the satire, the parody, the burlesque, and the moral fable; in poetry, the favorite verse form was the rhymed couplet, which reached its greatest sophistication in heroic couplet of Pope; while the theatre saw the development of the heroic drama, the melodrama, the sentimental comedy, and the comedy of manners. The fading away of Neoclassicism may have appeared to represent the last flicker of the Enlightenment, but artistic movements never really die: many of the primary aesthetic tenets of Neoclassicism, in fact have reappeared in the twentieth century — in, for example, the poetry and criticism of T. S. Eliot — as manifestations of a reaction against Romanticism itself: Eliot saw Neo-classicism as emphasising poetic form and conscious craftsmanship, and Romanticism as a poetics of personal emotion and "inspiration," and pointedly preferred the former.
Here is a reference from a pdf which provides the main authors of the Neoclassic Period:
-Restoration Period (1660-1700): Sample writers include John Dryden, John Lock, Sir William Temple,
Samuel Pepys, and Aphra Behn in England. Abroad, representative authors include Jean Racine and
-The Augustan Age (1700-1750): The principal English writers include Addison, Steele, Swift, and Alexander Pope. Abroad, Voltaire is the dominant French writer.
-The Age of Johnson (1750-1790): Major writers include Dr. Samuel Johnson, Boswell, and Edward Gibbon who represent the Neoclassical tendencies, while writers like Robert Burns, Thomas Gray, Cowper, and Crabbe show movement away from the Neoclassical ideal. In America, this period is called the Colonial Period. It includes colonial and revolutionary writers like Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine.
I truly hope this helps. This period was one in which authors felt there was hope for change. They found it necessary to speak to the masses.
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