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When Light Shines on Literature

In: English and Literature

Submitted By mchurch1
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When the Light Shines on Literature
The Enlightenment Era is a period of philosophic and scholarly excitement which took place globally in the early eighteenth century. In a historical context, the American Enlightenment led to the American Revolution, American Independence, and the creation of the Constitutional Republic of the United States America (Bailyn 26-27). Influenced by those of the European Enlightenment, such as John Locke and Isaac Newton, and fueled by the colonist’s growing frustrations with the English Crown, the literary soil of the New World was a fertile garden. From this newly enriched land sprung both flowers of poetry and the nutritious fruits of the realistic pen that were deeply inspired by the American Enlightenment. The literature of the Enlightenment period was powerful indeed, as it motivated people to think and to take action.
Two superlative examples of American Literature and the influences of the Enlightenment Era are Philip Freneau’s poetry and Thomas Paine’s prose. The influence of enlightenment ideas is in the works of both of these important literary figures.
Philip Freneau was the poet of the American Revolution (Bowen 213). From Freneau’s naturalistic poetry, such as “The Wild Honeysuckle, we can see the Enlightenment idea that nature is a revelation of God that holds instructions for mankind. “The Wild Honeysuckle" was America's first major poetic account on the themes of life and death. The poem begins by discussing the types of death that a flower might encounter; “No roving foot shall crush thee here, / No busy hand provoke a tear” (Freneau 5-6) Freneau considers nature to be an altruistic being that cares for a flower as a gardener. Even with the best of care from Nature, the flower’s lifespan is not infinite. In Freneau's idealizing poetry, early America may have been akin to Eden; however, even the flowers of the…...

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