The Enlightenment and its Effect on Succeeding Literary Movements

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The Age of Enlightenment was a societal movement, which began, in the late 17th and 18th century in Europe emphasizing reason was the cause of events in life, rather than religion, tradition or cultural beliefs. During this period, society went under a rebirth, exploring ideas, which took away the authority of the Catholic Church, which up until that point, had been believed by the people as the cause of everything in life. This ideas uncovered in this period transformed the views of people in the so-called Western World of religion and life itself. Between 1714 and 1818, ideas from Europe travelled over the Atlantic Ocean and the thirteen colonies themselves, went through a period of Enlightenment. Thinkers such as Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin gave emphasis to religious tolerance and believed in Deist ideals, which revolved around the thought that Man's fate was in his own hands, not God's. Benjamin Franklin, in particular, put forth some revolutionary ideas regarding how one should live their life. These thoughts carried on with society and directly affected succeeding literary movements such as the Romanticism Period. In Benjamin Franklin's The Way to Wealth, he explores and solidifies the idea that God will not determine how man will be successful, but is up to man's desire for success. He states in this piece, "Sloth, by bringing on diseases, absolutely shortens life." By sloth, Franklin means laziness. This statement emphasizes the point that laziness brings about no success and is basically a disease once it becomes routine. It appears to shorten life because the lazy person has not accomplished anything and spent their time doing something worthwhile. Franklin also emphasizes the point that when... ... middle of paper ... ...gs in the universe but it is better to just accept and view the beauty. Though order puts things into perspective and organizes them as expressed by Benjamin Franklin, both William Wordsworth and Walt Whitman in their respective poems challenge the idea of reason and expressed how order negatively affects man's perspective of nature and the world. In this investigation, the Enlightenment clearly affected future literary movements and the mindset of authors during these periods. Though many processes used today to discover meaning behind nature such as the scientific method gained prominence during the Enlightenment but was immediately downgraded in the Romanticism era, which reflected on how reason conflicted with communion with and perception of nature. The Enlightenment was a period of self-discovery but affected literature in many ways in the coming years.

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