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What are the general characteristics of the neoclassical school of poetry?

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Neoclassical poetry sought to emulate the values of ancient literature. In terms of subject matter, this meant dealing with human nature, which neoclassical poets such as Pope thought was firm and unchanging. In remaining close to nature, poetry was able to deal with universal themes that transcended time and place. In terms of style, the neoclassical approach involved the use of regular rhymes and meters, in keeping with what was perceived to be objective standards of composition.

Neo-classicism distrusted anything strange, unusual, or in the least bit innovative in relation to both subject matter and methods of prosody. Poetry should be written, it was argued, with an elite audience in mind, a small but sophisticated coterie of readers for whom refinement in literature as well as manners was everything. That being the case, it was thought vulgar and ill-mannered in the extreme for poets to depart from the tried-and-tested standards handed down from the past.

That's why the Romantic era was so revolutionary: because it radically redefined the whole nature of poetry and its intended audience. Romantic poetry was more experimental in its methods of composition and dealt with themes—such as the supernatural and the lives of country folk—that would never have been explored by the Neo-classicists. And in terms of language, the new poetry was firmly rooted in that it was used by the common folk in their ordinary, everyday lives, instead of the relatively artificial, elevated register that was such a notable feature of neoclassicism.

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Neo classical is a mimicry or reimagining of classic Greek and Roman ideas and ideals, derived from French critical models and Pope's "Essay on Criticism" (1711)


In poetry this would mimicry of the balladic style of Greek and Roman epics.  


So taking up the poem in the middle of the action, begins/mentions with the evocation of the muse or classical deity -sometimes even heroes like Achillies etc.  They usually contain a statement of theme, uses epithets, and shows divine intervention.  


The protagonists/mentioned individuals, sometimes the author, is the embodiment of civilisation and there are usually long lists of items, people, places etc.


vast or lofty themes, or on occaision presenting a trivial theme as very important such as Alexander Popes, The Rape of the Lock, which is written like a Homeric epic but is about a woman having her hair cut.


 In terms of structure the poetry was very ordered and tightly controlled with few running lines and little to no free verse.


It favoured elegent expression and 'wit' which was intelligent expression.  The period was marked with an 'obsession' with decorum and propriety

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