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Poets During The 17th And 18th Centuries

3732 words - 15 pages

Poets during the 17th and 18th centuries, which were also referred to as the Neo-Classical period, focused on a revival of classical forms and restraints. Two well known Neo-Classical poets were John Dryden and Alexander Pope, who both used heroic couplets and stanzas, satire, and other epic tropes to create mock heroic poetry with strict form. By the turn of the 19th century, poets began to loosen the restraints on forms that were enforced during the Neo-Classical period. Mary Wollstonecraft and Elizabeth Barrett Browning were among the female authors during the years surrounding the romantic period that wrote in condemnation of the strict expectations English society had placed on women. Another female author, Joanna Baillie, was an influential source of admiration for well-known Romantic poets such as Lord Byron and William Wordsworth. In opposition to the formal regulations that the Neo-classical poets upheld, Romantic poets focused on experimenting with form as a way to express their radical ideas that explored freedom in politics, society, education, nature, and imagination.
Romanticism was a literary movement in response to the Enlightenment ideals of the Neo-classic period. Rather than being in direct conflict, the authors of the two periods simply took different approaches to support a needed critical assessment of their society through their writing. Janko Lavrin’s book, Studies in European Literature, began with a chapter entitled “On Romantic Mentality” where Lavrin defined the Romantic period in relation to the Neo-classical period; “[a]fter an age of fermentation and chaos there follows a period of organizing discipline; and when this ‘conservative’ period threatens to become stale and stagnant, a new centrifugal or revolutionary impetus is needed in order to avert the danger of social petrefaction” (Lavrin 7). In lieu of defining the Romantic period as being in an open competition with the writers of the Neo-classical period, Lavrin believed that the two periods were part of a revolving cycle that was necessary to maintain overall order. Lavrin’s belief can be proven to be true throughout literary history; when a society became too carefree, their attitude was represented in their literature and a literary reformation of structure took place. This reformation tightened the constraints on authors and readers, placing an emphasis on regulations such as strict form and specific uses of language. Eventually, Neo-classicalism ceased being effective as a means of expression for European authors and they began to revolt against the constraints that the former generation’s society had placed on the population. These revolutionary Romantic poets began to experiment with form as a way of expressing their criticisms of the European political and social constructs.
In his book What is Romanticism?, Henri Peyre began defining Romanticism by discussing and contradicting the commonly accepted notion of Romanticism being concretely connected to...

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