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Glossary of Literary Theory
by Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown


A term used to describe the classicism that dominated English literature from the Restoration to the late eighteenth century. Modeling itself on the literature of ancient Greece and Rome, neoclassicism exalts the virtues of proportion, unity, harmony, grace, decorum, taste, manners, and restraint. It values realism and reason over imagination and emotion, mobilizing a utilitarian language of common sense, conventional imagery, and accurate diction. Wit and satire flourished in this period, as did the ode and verse written in heroic couplets. The theater featured heroic drama, written in verse, and comedies of manners, written in prose.

© Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown,
University of Toronto
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University of Toronto English Library
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Last modified: March 31, 1997