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Zykova E.P. Evolution of Classicism in the 18 th century and the English novel. Studia Litterarum, 2018, vol. 3, no 3, pp. 26–45. (In Russ.) DOI: 10.22455/2500-4247-2018-3-3-26-45

Author: Ekaterina P. Zykova
Information about the author:

Ekaterina P. Zykova, DSc in Philology, Leading Researcher, A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Povarskaya 25 a, 121069 Moscow, Russia.
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Received: December 06, 2017
Published: September 25, 2018
Issue: 2018 Vol. 3, №3
Department: World Literature
Pages: 26-45

UDK: 821.111.0
BBK: 83.3(4Вел)51
Keywords: classicism, rococo, reason and passions, “art of life,” Pope, Richardson, Fielding


The article discusses changes that took place in the classicist concept of personality at the beginning of the 18 th century, due to the new social environment (the rise of the middle class and its cultural requirements, change of the martial ideals by private life values and codes of genteel behavior). It mainly focuses on A. Pope’s “Essay on Man.” The essay argues that the motifs of struggle between reason and passion become transformed into the motifs of interaction between them, passions being not thwarted but disciplined under the guidance of reason. This inner harmony leads to the flowering of various skills, enables a person to fulfil social roles and to reach happiness. The author stresses connection of this concept with the humanist tradition and comments on its creative nature as manifested in the idea of the “art of life.” In what follows, the essay analyzes how Richardson’s and Fielding’s novels draw from the concept of personality explicitly expressed in the “Essay on Man.” The author argues that it is not productive to view Richardson as a sentimentalist. His Pamela and Clarissa known for their psychological subtlety present a curious parallel to the 17 th century classicist concept since both novels center on the conflict between duty and passions whereas The History of Sir Charles Grandison embodies the new classicist concept of personality. The art of Fielding combines two styles — classicist and rococo. Unlike Richardson, Fielding condescendingly treats many human frailties, which is a trait of the rococo style. Yet, his positive character, a good-natured man (such as Tom Jones or captain Booth), passes through various trials and temptations, educates himself in the “school of life,” comes to realize the value of prudence, and learns to take responsibility for his actions. This means that he also harmonizes his reason and his passions in order to come closer to human perfection.


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