New classicism refers to the habit of imitating the great authors of antiquity as a matter of aesthetic principle and the acceptance of the critical precepts, which emerged to guide that imitation. Up to the last quarter of 17th-century neoclassicism had little influence in England except for Samuel Johnson. No important writer paid strict attention to the rules humanist critics had formulated Dryden also produced all for love (1677) which has been called the only correct neo-classical tragedy in English, but the fashion was outdated.
The usual excuse of rules was that they helped writers to be true to nature. Alexander Pope wrote, those rules of old discovered not devis’d, Are Nature still but Nature methodized, and implicit in his view was the assumption that ‘nature’ consisted in what was generally true. Following the list of ideas and characteristics as mentioned by M. H. Abrams was shared, between 1660 and late 1700 by authors such as John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, and Edmund Burke. These may serve as an introductory sketch of some prominent features of new classic literature.
These authors exhibit a strong traditionalism which was often joined to a distrust of radical innovation and was evidenced above all in their great respect for classical writers. Literature was convinced to be primarily an ‘art’ that is a set of skills, which though it requires innate talent, must be perfected by long study and practice, and consist mainly in the deliberate adaptation of known and tested means of the achievements of foreseen ends upon the audience of readers.
Human beings as an integral part of a social organization were regarded as the primary subject matter of literature. Poetry was held to be an imitation of human life- is a common phrase a mirror helps us to nurture. And by the human action it imitates, and the art form it gives to the imitation. Poetry is designed to yield both instruction and aesthetic pleasure to the people who read it. Not art for art’s sake but art for humanity sake was the central idea of neo-classic Humanism
Both in the subject matter and the appeal of art, emphasis was placed on what human beings possess in common. Neo-classic writers viewed human beings as the limited agent who ought to set themselves only accessible goals. Many of the great works of the period satiric and didactic, attack human pride.
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