What is neoclassicism? – Literary Terms 101

neoclassicism: The dominant literary movement in England during the late seventeenth century and the eighteenth century, which sought to revive the artistic ideals of classical Greece and Rome. Neoclassicism was characterized by emotional restraint, order, logic, technical precision, balance, elegance of diction, an emphasis on form over content, clarity, dignity and decorum. Its appeals were to the intellect rather than to the emotions, and it prized wit over imagination. As a result, satire and didactic literature flourished, as did the essay, the parody, and the burlesque. In poetry, the heroic couplet was the most popular verse form…Neoclassicism survives in the twentieth century in works that exhibit the styles, forms, and attitudes of classical antiquity and that emphasize the importance of universality, objectivity, impersonality, and careful craftsmanship.

Popular writers from this period: John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Joseph Addison, Samuel Johnson.

The NTC’s Dictionary of Literary Terms


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My Take on “Neoclassicism”

So, I would say that if you’re a fan of the fiction/mystery subgenre dark academia, then you’re already into neoclassicism. Wit over imagination surely meets the dark academia standard; knowledge and how you use it will always supersede fantasies unless that act of escapism tickles us intellectually with faint crack of a character’s psyche. I am and always will be a proud aesthete, but as an essayist and student of literary criticism, I’m naturally akin to this movement because it’s naturally noble and disciplined. Especially when I write a research article, objectivity is crucial. I do admire this movement though the more I think about it, the more paradoxical it seems. Technique, balance, and elegance are all good and well, but chaos and all its messes are beautiful too. I think those immersed in this movement knew that, thus the satire, parody, and burlesque.

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