Prof. Cecilia H.C. Liu,
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The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century (1660-1785)

1. 概論General Introduction  and  2. 時代背景Historical Background

The England to which Charles Stuart returned in 1660 was a nation divided against itself, exhausted by twenty years of civil wars and revolution. Early in Charles’s reign, the people were visited by two frightful calamities that seemed to the superstitious to be the work of a divine Providence outraged by rebellion and regicide: the plague of 1665, carried off over seventy thousand souls in London alone, and in September 1666, a fire that raged for four days destroyed a large part of the City (more than thirteen thousand houses), leaving about two-thirds of the population homeless. Yet the nation rose from its ashes, in the century that followed, to become an empire. The Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 established a rule of law, and the Act of Union of 1707, a political alliance, under which England was transformed into Great Britain in fact as well as name—a large country to which people of widely differing backgrounds and origins felt they owed allegiance.

Many scholars think of it as properly three discrete literary eras: the Restoration (1660-1700), dominated by Dryden; the Age of Satire (1700-1745), dominated by Swift and Pope; and the Age of Johnson (1745-1790), dominated not only by Johnson but by a new kind of poetry and a major new literary form, the novel.  n the era of the Restoration, Dryden’s occasional verse, comedy, blank verse tragedy, heroic play, ode, satire, translation, and critical essay and both his example and his precepts had great influence.  In the Age of Satire, the literature is chiefly a literature of wit, concerned with civilization and social relationships, and consequently, it is critical and in some degree moral or satiric. Some of the finest works of this period are mock heroic or humorous burlesques of serious classic or modern modes.

A morbid fascination with death, suicide, and the grave preoccupies the poets of mid-century.  In the typical Gothic romance, set amid the glooms and intricacies of a medireview castle, the laws of nightmare replace the laws of probability.  Forbidden themes—incest, murder, necrophilia, atheism, and the torments of sexual desire—are allowed free play; repressed feelings, morbid fears rise to the surface of the narrative.  The modern novel came into existence in this century. To a large extent, the development of the novel is identical with the attempt to interest the growing number of female readers by shaping their lives into literature.

文體介紹Vocabulary, Language and Style

 Comedy of manners—its concern is to bring the moral and social behavior of its characters to the test of comic laughter.  The male hero lives not for military glory but for pleasure and the conquests that he can achieve in his amorous campaigns. The object of his very practical game of sexual intrigue is a beautiful, witty, pleasure-loving, and emancipated lady, every bit his equal in the strategies of love. The two are distinguished not for virtue but for the true wit and well-bred grace with which they conduct the often complicated intrigue that makes up the plot.

 Mock-Heroic/Mock Epic—A poem in Epic form and manner ludicrously elevating some trivial subject to epic grandeur, juxtaposing high/grand style and low/trivial subject, to make fun of somebody or something.

 The Augustan Poets —A special feature of eighteenth-century poetic language is its emphasis on visualizing or personifying.  Critics of the time all argued that poets showed their genius best by imagining or seeing what they wrote about (not by facility with words or forms or abstract ideas); and readers were skilled at making pictures from very small hints.

Text Source:

John Dryden

John Bunyan

William Congreve

Daniel Defoe

Jonathan Swift

Alexander Pope

Samuel Johnson


Image Source: Religion, Mania & Modernity: John Bunyan & Christopher Smart, Art History Resources on the Web, Gulliver Prone