The Age of Reason, also known as the Enlightenment, was a period in American literature that spanned from the mid-18th century to the early 19th century. This era was marked by a shift in thinking and a rejection of traditional authority and beliefs. Instead, individuals began to rely on reason and scientific inquiry to understand the world around them.
The Characteristics of the Age of Reason
During this time, writers focused on logic and reason over emotion and imagination. They believed that knowledge should be based on observation and experimentation rather than divine revelation or superstition.
The Influence of European Thinkers
Many American writers during this era were influenced by European thinkers such as John Locke, Voltaire, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. These philosophers stressed the importance of individual liberty, reason, and progress.
The Role of Literature
Literature played an important role during the Age of Reason. Writers used their works to promote rational thinking and criticize traditional authority. They also explored themes related to nature, science, and morality.
Important Writers of the Age of Reason
Some notable writers during this period include Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. Franklin’s “Autobiography” is an example of a work that promotes self-improvement through hard work and rational thinking. Paine’s “Common Sense” is a political pamphlet that argues for American independence from British rule based on reason rather than emotion.
During this time period, literary forms such as essays and political pamphlets became popular due to their ability to convey ideas clearly and logically. Fiction also began to gain popularity with works such as Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” which critiques old world values through humor.
In conclusion, the Age of Reason was a period in American literature that emphasized rational thinking and individual freedom. It was characterized by an emphasis on logic, reason, and observation over traditional authority and beliefs.
Writers during this time used their works to promote these ideas and explore themes related to nature, science, and morality. The impact of the Age of Reason can still be seen today in American culture and literature.