AP Literature Prose Essay Prompts (1970–2015) - MsEffie

The eighteenth century in English literature has been called the Augustan Age, theNeoclassical Age, and the Age of Reason. The term 'the Augustan Age' comes from the self-conscious imitation of the original Augustan writers, Virgil and Horace, by many of thewriters of the period. Specifically, the Augustan Age was the period after the Restoration erato the death of Alexander Pope (~1690 - 1744). The major writers of the age were Pope andJohn Dryden in poetry, and Jonathan Swift and Joseph Addison in prose. Dryden forms thelink between Restoration and Augustan literature; although he wrote ribald comedies in theRestoration vein, his verse satires were highly admired by the generation of poets whofollowed him, and his writings on literature were very much in a neoclassical spirit. But morethan any other it is the name of Alexander Pope which is associated with the epoch known asthe Augustan Age, despite the fact that other writers such as Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoehad a more lasting influence. This is partly a result of the politics of naming inherent inliterary history: many of the early forms of prose narrative common at this time did not fitinto a literary era which defined itself as neoclassic. The literature of this period whichconformed to Pope's aesthetic principles (and could thus qualify as being 'Augustan') isdistinguished by its striving for harmony and precision, its urbanity, and its imitation ofclassical models such as Homer, Cicero, Virgil, and Horace, for example in the work of theminor poet Matthew Prior. In verse, the tight heroic couplet was common, and in prose essayand satire were the predominant forms. Any facile definition of this period would bemisleading, however; as important as it was, the neoclassicist impulse was only one strain inthe literature of the first half of the eighteenth century. But its representatives were thedefining voices in literary circles, and as a result it is often some aspect of 'neoclassicism'which is used to describe the era.

HW: Read Francine Prose essay for Monday, 9/21 and begin National Columnist Project.

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