The Quarrel between the Ancients and the Moderns Criticism: Overviews - Essay

Joseph M. Levine (essay date 1984)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “The Battle of the Books and the Shield of Achilles,” in Eighteenth-Century Life, Vol. 9, No. 1, October 1984, pp. 33-61.

[In the following essay, Levine examines the debate between ancients and moderns in Great Britain and France in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, focusing particularly on the two sides' differing assessments of Homer.]

The conventional notion that the beginning of modern times was ushered in by the “revival of antiquity” contains an evident paradox. How was it that the Renaissance humanists, who had deliberately tried to imitate and restore the culture of the distant past, could make so decisive a step into the future? The...

(The entire section is 12411 words.)

Douglas Lane Patey (essay date 1997)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Ancients and Moderns” in The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism. Volume IV: The Eighteenth Century, edited by H. B. Nisbet and Claude Rawson, Cambridge University Press, pp. 32-71.

[In following essay, Patey delineates the history of the English Battle of the Books and the French Quarrel between Ancients and Moderns in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, arguing that the intellectual debate contributed to the development of literary criticism.]

What the ancients have taught is so scanty and for the most part so lacking in credibility that I may not hope for any kind of approach toward truth except by rejecting all the paths...

(The entire section is 19680 words.)