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Augustan literature

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  1. Read the text and find the answers to the following questions:

· Why is Augustan literature called so?

· What is characteristic of literature in this period?

· What are the most prominent works of this period?

· What can you say about British periodical essay?

· Who were the most notable men of letters of that time?


The term Augustan literature derives from authors of the 1720s and 1730's themselves, who responded to a term that George I of England preferred for himself. While George I meant the title to reflect his might, they instead saw in it a reflection of Ancient Rome's transition from rough and ready literature to highly political and highly polished literature. Because of the aptness of the metaphor, the period from 1689 - 1750 was called "the Augustan Age" by critics throughout the 18th century (including Voltaire and Oliver Goldsmith). The literature of the period is overtly political.

The most outstanding poet of the age is Alexander Pope, with his serene, seemingly neo-Classical approach to poetry. It is also the era that saw a serious competition over the proper model for the pastoral. In criticism, poets struggled with a doctrine of decorum, of matching proper words with proper sense and of achieving a diction that matched the gravity of a subject. At the same time, the mock-heroic was at its zenith. Pope's “Rape of the Lock” and “The Dunciad” are still the greatest mock-heroic poems ever written.

In prose, the earlier part of the period was overshadowed by the development of the English essay. Joseph Addison and Richard Steele's “The Spectator” established the form of the British periodical essay, inventing the pose of the detached observer of human life who can meditate upon the world without advocating any specific changes in it. However, this was also the time when the English novel, first emerging in the Restoration, developed into a major art form. Daniel Defoe turned from journalism to writing fictional criminal lives with “Roxana” and “Moll Flanders”. He also wrote a fictional treatment of the travels of Alexander Selkirk called “Robinson Crusoe” (1719).

Jonathan Swift was a master of another type of prose. He was a profound skeptic about the modern world, but he was similarly profoundly distrustful of nostalgia. He saw in history a record of lies and vanity, and he saw in the present a madness of vanity and lies. Swift's “A Tale of a Tub” announced his skeptical analysis of the claims of the modern world.

Drama in the early part of the period featured the last plays of John Vanbrugh and William Congreve, both of whom carried on the Restoration comedy with some alterations. However, the majority of stagings were of lower farces and much more serious and domestic tragedies. George Lillo and Richard Steele both produced highly moral forms of tragedy, where the characters and the concerns of the characters were wholly middle class or working class.



might – могущество, сила

rough and ready – сделанный небрежно, незамысловатый

aptness – соответствие, пригодность

overtly – открыто, откровенно

advocate – пропагандировать, рекомендовать

“A Tale of a Tub” – «Сказка бочки»


  1. Look through the text again and find words and constructions you may use in your professional discourse (scientific terms etc.). Translate and memorize them.
  2. Find the transcription of the following words and practise pronouncing them: overshadow, nostalgia, achieving, zenith, metaphor.
  3. Decide whether the following statements are true or false according to the text:

· During the Augustan Age novel was the leading genre.

· Jonathan Swift was equally skeptical of both the past and the present.

· The Augustan Age saw the appearance of tragedies meant for and dealing with the problems of lower classes.

· The Augustan Age broke away with the Restoration literary tradition.



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