Intellectuals and Intellectualism
Devotion to the exercise or application of the intellect was important to the neoclassical writer. This tendency is a natural outgrowth of the classical tradition these writers sought to imitate. Writers like Dryden, Johnson, and Pope, not wanting to limit themselves to one genre, engaged in experimentation to broaden their own intellectual abilities, imitating the conventions of classical poetic verse, drama, and rhetoric. In addition, these writers commented on a wide range of topics—political, historical, and social—demonstrating a wealth of personal knowledge. Intellectual expression was of greater value to the neoclassicist than the expression of feelings, and out of this desire came the satire and various forms of didactic (instructional) literature.
Often the writings of these authors were a printed form of warfare, intellectual contests in print and journalism. Satirists would compete with one another, relying on a keen sense of wit to savagely expose their adversary. When John Dryden wrote Of Dramatick Poesie: An Essay, he criticized the current trends of the English theater. Sir Robert Howard immediately responded to the essay with some criticisms of his own. The result was a scathing rebuttal, A Defence of An Essay of Dramatick Poesie, in which Dryden attacks Howard’s comments. Howard’s response was fairly mild, almost as if he were surrendering.
(The entire section is 631 words.)
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