18th Century Literature

During the Age of sensibility literature reflected the worldview of the Age of Enlightment (or Age of Reason) – a rational and scientific approach to religious, social, political, and economic issues that promoted a secular view of the world and a general sense of progress and perfectibility. Led by the philosophers who were inspired by the discoveries of the previous century (Newton) and the writings of Descartes, Locke and Bacon.
They sought to discover and to act upon universally valid principles governing humanity, nature, and society. They variously attacked spiritual and scientific authority, dogmatism, intolerance, censorship, and economic and social restraints. They considered the state the proper and rational instrument of progress. The extreme rationalism and skepticism of the age led naturally to deism; the same qualities played a part in bringing the later reaction of romanticism
During the end of the 19th century Ann Radcliffe would be the pioneer of the Gothic Novel. Her novel, The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne in 1789, sets the tone for the majority of her work, which tended to involve innocent, but heroic young women who find themselves in gloomy, mysterious castles ruled by even more mysterious barons with dark pasts. The Romance of the Forest would follow and her most famous novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho, is considered the ultimate Gothic Novel of the late 18th century.
Increased emphasis on instinct and feeling, rather than judgment and restraint. A growing sympathy for the Middle Ages during the Age of Sensibility sparked an interest in medieval ballads and folk literature. Ann Radcliffe's novel would embody all of this in The Mysteries of Udolpho.

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