A literary movement is a general
term which is defined by a variety of authors from a particular time period who
share similar ideas regarding literary works, subjects, approaches, style,
content, philosophy, sociological concerns, art, culture and etc. Usually a
literary movement can be considered a reaction to a current literary movement.
For example, in England, Romanticism (approximately 1789-1832) was seen as a
reaction to neoclassical literature (approximately 1660-1789). Even though
scholars are continually debating the dates and even the “titles” of
the different movements, it can be said that the dates given are often
historically influenced with significant historical events. For example the
launch of Romanticism coincides with the year of the French Revolution, both
indicating new found freedoms and individuality. Some other examples of
literary movements include Classicism and Neoclassicism. Both of these
movements, in the arts, historical tradition or aesthetic attitudes are
grounded in the ancient art of Greece and Rome. In the context of convention,
classicism denotes either to the art produced in antiquity or to later art,
inspired by that antiquity. Likewise Neoclassicism is usually concerned with
the art produced later but is motivated by antiquity or the classics. Hence the terms Classicism and Neoclassicism are often
used interchangeably. The focus of this paper will be on an in-depth analysis
of both Classicism and Neo Classicism as literary movements. This will include
a general definition of both terms, a historical background, characteristics,
the figures and works associated with each movement as well as a brief comparative
study between the two.




Historical Background of Classicism and

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Classicism or the classical period
is generally known to have emerged around 500 BC with great classical
dramatists Euripides, Aeschylus, and Sophocles, in addition to the prominent
philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle and finally the schools of
rhetoric, and the rise of Athenian democracy and power. The classical period (sometimes referred to as
Greco-Roman or antiquity) belonged to the noble works of ancient Greece and
This old period is considered the golden age for literature and arts. The
famous writers belonging to this period consist of all the Greek and Roman
writers and philosophers. These included writers like Homer who wrote epics
like the Iliad and Odyssey fame, and the Roman poet Virgil who authored the
famous Aeneid. The Greek philosophers Plato, Socrates and Aristotle also
associated themselves with this era. Moreover the Greek playwrights Euripides
and Aristophanes also fit into this poet. Among the famous influential poets of
this era included Horace and Ovid. It can be said that all these writers shared
a common feature in their works, which is discussing literature that is
distinctive for its balance, order and reasonableness. For example Aristotle’s
Poetics played a vital role in describing these features for drama. Others
included Horace’s Ars Poetica. With regards to the arts, Classicism is
considered an imitation of the arts of the ancient Greek and Rome. This genre
is considered an inventive genre that has been prevalent throughout a variety
of ages, most prominently in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, hence
continual imitation of the classical authors is where we get the word
neoclassical. Classicism usually portrays its classical principles in art,
literature, architecture, and music, hence artistic excellence and conservatism
are elements of classicism. Moreover, for centuries the study of Greek and
Latin as well as the arts of antiquity became major modules of education.

was first established after the collapse of Byzantium of the Italian Renaissance.
The thrive of education following the medieval age as well as the emergence of
knowledge of Europe’s ancient history, led artists to imitate classical art in
form, symmetry, balance and an overall sense of order. Furthermore the
classical models were particularly expressed in sculpture, drawing and
painting. Some of the chief artists of the Renaissance classicism include Michelangelo,
Raphael, and Correggio.


the 16th and 17th century classicism was more formally
regarded and was given a greater gist of artistic discipline. Art and music establishments
started to acquire lessons for the expanding of classical ideals. The Age of
Enlightenment of the 18th century classicism became a fundamental
component of a formal education. This era’s primary principles of freedom and
democracy were embedded in classical antiquity, especially the democratic
government of ancient Greece. Classicism led to the emergence of neo-classicism,
and even though these words can be used interchangeably, they belong to
different periods; however both movements embody the artistic influence of the
ancient Greece and Rome. Classicism also inspired the arts of the 19th
and 20th centuries.  The Greek
and Roman classical works exhibit characteristics of order and balance and most
commonly they embody classical subject matter.





The Enlightenment is considered to be a time of important invention and development;
hence one of major literary movements that is responsible for the establishment
of the Enlightenment is the architectural and artistic movement of
Neoclassicism. The neoclassicism of the 18th and 19th
century was one that treasured the ancient Greek and Roman ideals.  These ideals which included order, symmetry,
and balance were considered by many European generations as the highest point
of artistic excellence. The classics were always a source of inspiration with
many European movements especially in Neoclassicism.

The rise of Neoclassicism was the result of several events and movements
within the Enlightenment. This includes the expansion, evolution, and
redefinition of the European standard classical education. This increased the
influence and awareness of Greek and Roman art in the studies of the developing
artists, which would soon begin to show in their designs. Moreover, the recent
archeological discoveries of Pompeii and Herculaneum also played a vital role.
The excavation of these sites revealed massive amounts of new
information about the Roman’s everyday life, and it astonished those
who read about or visited these sites.  Moreover,
the development of commissioned art and architecture and the refinement of the
art scholarship also played an important role in the rise of the neoclassical
movement. Finally one of the earliest causes for the rise of this movement was a
reaction to the Baroque and Rococo art style. This art was too busy and
ornamental; hence it was too trivial for the people, making it a necessity to return
to the harsher and more order of the ideals of antiquity.

The Neoclassical movement was a dominant art form which looked back to
the Greek and Roman artists, philosophers, and ideals as the highest point. It influenced
and endured many national revolutions and international wars and due to its strength
and balance, perhaps the era was made all the stronger because of the art and architecture
that was the backdrop for the action of the age.