Tom Jones

January 6, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: History, European History, Renaissance (1330-1550)
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Chapter 2

The Neoclassical Period

I. Historical, social and cultural background

1. Historically It was an age full of conflicts and divergence of values. 2. Socially In society, it was against prejudice, ignorance, inequality, and any obstacles to the realization of an individual’s full intellectual and physical wellbeing.

3. Economically Industrial Revolution Overseas expansion

4. Politically In politics, it was against tyranny; Party politics became more significant throughout the century, with Whigs and Tories competing for power.

5. Ideologically A progressive intellectual movement Enlightenment Movement

6. Religiously In religion, it was against superstition, intolerance, and dogmatism.

7.The impact of European Neoclassicism on English Neoclassicism

II. Literary history of the period 1. Literary trends

◆ Neoclassicism ---It found its artistic models in the classical literature of the ancient Greek and Roman writers like Homer, Virgil, Horace, Ovid. ---A partial reaction against the fires of passion blazed in the late Renaissance, especially in the Metaphysical poetry. ---Prose should be precise, direct, smooth and flexible. Poetry should be lyrical, epical, didactic, satiric or dramatic, and each class should be guided by its own principles. ---Neo-classical writers are: John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, Henry Fielding, Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, Edward Gibbon, etc.

◆The Realistic Novel

---The English middle-class people were ready to cast away the aristocratic romance and to create a new and realistic literature of their own to express their ideas and serve their interests. --- The whole life in its ordinary aspects of the middle class became the major source of interest in literature.

◆ Gothic Novel The English realistic novel as a literary genre flourished in the middle decades of the 18th century. In the late 18th century it gradually gave way to Gothic novel, which tells stories of horror, mystery and supernatural. The setting is always in a Gothic building, the atmosphere is expected to be dark, ghostly, full of madness and superstition. These novels opened up to the later detective novel and science fiction. Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto started this type of novel. Mathew. G. Lewis’s The Monk, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein also belong to this type.

◆ Sentimentalism

---It was a partial reaction against that cold, logic rationalism which dominated people’s life since the last decades of the 17th century. ---A ready sympathy and an inward pain for the misery of others became part of accepted social morality and ethics. ---Sensibility also finds pleasure in the wildness of nature, in the lawlessness of the exotic, and in the sensational indulgence of fear and awe before the mysterious or the inexplicable. --- Thomas Gray’s “An Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” (1750)

◆ Satire

Satire was another typical feature of this period’s writing. It refers to any writing, in poetry or prose, with the purpose to ridicule, censure or to correct the vices, follies and corruptions of society. The best representatives are Pope and Swift, two masters of Satire. The best and most representative works are found in those written by Pope and Swift.

2. Artistic features of English Enlightenment literature

◆ it is politicized and democratic; ◆ It contains a lot of new things, including the material, the characters, the thoughts, and they are often instructive; ◆The genres are various;

◆ Apart from that, the Enlightenment works are mostly religious. And the description of figures is not vivid or detailed enough.

3. Major figures of this period

In Neoclassical period, there emerged some great enlighteners such as Alexander Pope , Jonathan Swift, Daniel Defoe, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Henry Fielding and Samuel Johnson. Among them Daniel Defoe and Henry Fielding were the representatives of modern English novel, esp. Henry Fielding, “Father of English novel ”. In the theatrical world , Richard Brinsley Sheridan was the leading figure among a host of playwrights.

III. Representatives of this period Defoe, Daniel • Defoe, Daniel (1660-1731), English novelist and journalist, whose work reflects his diverse experiences in many countries and in many walks of life. Besides being a brilliant journalist, novelist, and social thinker, Defoe was a prolific author, producing more than 500 books, pamphlets, and tracts.



English author Daniel Defoe gained international fame with his 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe. He also published several works of social criticism, one of which, The Shortest Way with the Dissenters (1702), landed him in jail. Defoe produced more than 500 written works in his lifetime.



Defoe's first and most famous novel, The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner, appeared in 1719, when he was almost 60 years old. The book is commonly known as Robinson Crusoe. A fictional tale of a shipwrecked sailor, it was based on the adventures of a seaman, Alexander Selkirk, who had been marooned on one of the Juan Fernández Islands off the coast of Chile.



The novel, full of detail about Crusoe's ingenious attempts to overcome the hardships of the island, has become one of the classics of children's literature. More novels followed, including Memoirs of a Cavalier (1720), Captain Singleton (1720), and The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders (1722), the adventures of a London prostitute, which is regarded as one of the great English novels.

■Themes of Robinson Crusoe The ambivalence of mastery; The necessity of repentance; The importance of self-awareness

■Artistic features His stories are both credible and fascinating. His sentences are sometimes short, crisp and plain, but sometimes long and rambling. His language is smooth, easy, colloquial and mostly vernacular.

Fielding, Henry Fielding, Henry (17071754), English novelist, playwright, and barrister, who, with his contemporary Samuel Richardson, established the English novel tradition.



Fielding was born at Sharpham Park, Somerset, and educated at Eton College and in law at the Leiden University. From 1729 to 1737 he was a theatrical manager and playwright in London. Of his 25 plays, the most popular was The Coffee House Politician (1730). In 1740 he was called to the bar; as justice of the peace for Westminster from 1748 and for Middlesex from 1749, he worked hard to reduce crime in London.

Tom Jones, the full title being The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling , is generally considered Fielding’s masterpiece.

Tom Jones is a good example of “comic epic in prose”.

■ Themes of Tom Jones Virtue as action rather than thought The tension between Art and Artifice

■Artistic features His style is easy, unlabored and familiar, but extremely vivid and vigorous. It is a combination of the grand with the plain. The sentences are always logical and rhythmic. The structures of his novel are always well planned and often imitations of the classics.

IV. Study questions: 1. How could you define the term Enlightenment? 2. What is Neoclassicism in English literature? 3. What are the features of Defoe’s works? 4. What is the content of Robinson Crusoe? 5. What is the story about Tom Jones?

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