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Poetry and the Making of the English Literary Past1660-1781$
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Richard Terry

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780198186236

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198186236.001.0001

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Classicists and Gothicists: The Division of the Estate

Classicists and Gothicists: The Division of the Estate

Chapter:
(p.286) 9 Classicists and Gothicists: The Division of the Estate
Source:
Poetry and the Making of the English Literary Past
Author(s):

Richard Terry (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198186236.003.0010

This chapter discusses the rivalry between the classical and gothic literature that still animates our own perception not just of our literary past but also of our present-day literary possibilities, though the space of the non-classical has since been lost to gothic and has instead been commandeered by the upstart term ‘Romanticism’. This new understanding of English literature as an estate divided unhappily between the classic and the gothic represents a loss of cultural innocence, as the native literary heritage has for the first time to encompass the fact of difference and relativism. One way of approaching developments in literary history in the mid-18th century is through the fortunes of the Renaissance poet, Edmund Spenser. The battle between the gothicists and classicists produced an obvious casualty, Alexander Pope: no clearer example exists of a revolution in aesthetic taste leading to a major author being ousted from, or at least being relegated within, the literary canon.

Keywords:   English literature, poetry, literary history, Edmud Spenser, John Milton, Alexander Pope, Geoffrey Chaucer, literary canon, classical literature, gothic literature

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