© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

Literature Glossary

Don’t be an oxymoron. Know your literary terms.

Over 200 literary terms, Shmooped to perfection.

Neoclassicism

Definition:

Just replace that o with a w and you've got yourself Newclassicism. And that's just what Neoclassicism is—a movement (literary and otherwise) that was inspired by classical culture. Put simply: these guys loved them some ancient Greece and Rome. Even more than their Renaissance predecessors, if you can believe that.

This all went down during the Enlightenment (18th century-ish). A lot had changed since the days of ancient Western civilization, but Neoclassicist thinkers had the idea that human nature was stable enough that things weren't really all that different—and didn't have to be expressed differently either.

Here's a list of words that were dear to the Neoclassicists' hearts:

  • Order
  • Moderation
  • Limits
  • Structure
  • Reason
  • Bowing to society

Sounds like a bunch of fun party guests, huh? Well, like it or not, this was a successful group of gentlemen. The leader of the pack, Alexander Pope, is actually one of the most important poets of all time. In fact, his "An Essay on Criticism" (1711) sums up the whole Neoclassicist thing pretty nicely if you want to hear it from the horse's mouth.

When you're done here, we suggest you read up on Romanticism. Let's put it this way: these two movements weren't too fond of each other.

Tags: General