Classicism refers generally to a high regard for a classical period, classical antiquity in the western tradition, as setting standards for taste which the classicists seek to emulate. Classicism is a specific genre of philosophy, expressing itself in literature, architecture, art, and music, which has Ancient Greek and roman sources and an emphasis on society. It was particularly expressed in the Neoclassicism of the Age of Enlightenment.
- Rely on reason rather than imagination
- Style is known by its simplicity and clarity.
- Unity of design and purpose
- Logically organized
- Respect for tradition
The Renaissance also explicitly returned to architectural models and techniques associated with Greek and Roman antiquity, including the golden rectangle as a key proportion for buildings, the classical orders of columns, as well as a host of ornament and detail associated with Greek and Roman architecture. They also began reviving plastic arts such as bronze casting for sculpture, and used the classical naturalism as the foundation of drawing, painting and sculpture.
Proponents of the Theory
The term “classicism” was first applied to literature by Aulus Collins in his book, Noctes Allecea, in the 2nd century A.D. He coined the term ‘scriptor classisus’, which he is opposed to ‘scriptoria proletarius’. By his term, that is the former, he means an ‘aristocratic’ writer, and that is the author who writes for a happy few! Referred to as a ‘happy few’ are the educated people. It is because of this that the works of such authors are said to be read in the classroom or school. He is opposed to the latter term, which covers the works meant for general consumption. (Shipley, 1970:46).
Steinberg (ed) (1953), agrees with Shipley (1970) and adds that the social implication brought a change to the meaning which simply means a work of the first class grade and this means that it is work of high quality. During the renaissance, only the great works in the Greek and Roman literatures were considered of first class quality and considered worthy of emulation. Since the acceptance of this idea, the view has persisted so much that classicism implies the reveal of the forms and traditions of the ancient world. We can agree that the Greek’s culture is classical because their literature attained formal perfection, contains humanitarian sprit and appeals to various nations. We can see these in the works of Homer, Plato, Aristotle and others.
Both words from which the adjectives were derived were sourced from the Roman tax law. The first means the member of the highest income brackets whereas the second means the wage earner with income that is below the taxable minimum. He borrowed the term from the tax collectors to enahce the social distinction as noted in social sciences wehrer the division between the rich and the poor is clearly noted with the term of the ‘proletariat’ and the ‘bourgeoisie’.
The third meaning is used to denote ‘Greatest’ or ‘Standard’ works of literature which also means periods of eminent literary development. This idea which is the current definition in both Germanic and Roman languages was first developed in the 19th century. In Thema Sebiller’s Art Poetique Francoys (154), he writes of Alain Chartier and Joan de Moung as “bons et classiques poetics francoy “ which means standard or model authors.
The Fourth meaning is specifically the limitation of ancient authors. As the authors of criticism and Roman antiquity become increasingly standardized, both as models for imitation and as school texts a fused meaning of a writer of high quality; what is read in the school and the standard works of all literature become the current meaning in the 17th century. Classics was made anonymous with the imitation of critics and Roman authors who in turn captured the appellation, “classics” as a collective term for their works. At present, the meaning remains acceptable. In the 20th century, critics used it to designate two different practices. It is sometimes used to denote the imitation of criticism and literary themes in the modern literatures.
The fifth meaning is that it is adapted as the antithesis of romanticism. The autonomy-classicism versus romanticism was first coined by Frendric Von Schlegel (1772-1829). He saw classicism as an effort to express infinite idea and emotions in finite form. Schlegel envisaged a finite poetics co-existing within own idea of romanticism that is a progressive universal poetry in the making of which the poet was low unto himself. It was Mine de Steal (1766-1817) in his De l’Allemagre, who brought the antimony to the attention of both French and English critics. He drastically rejected classicism as a sterile form of literary creation. According to him, it is a mechanical imitation by means of predetermined rules.
The aesthetic and general classicisms in literature have had to be reconstructed from hindsight. In this respect, historians of French literature have had the easiest task since the polemics of French romanticism clearly defined what its contrary, classicism, was and the canon of Boileau’s precursors and followers created a clear-cut vocabulary for purposes of grouping and analysis. In the histories of French literature and in the works on general and comparative literature from a French point of view, the period 1660-1700 is noted as high point of French classicism.
There was an influence of its critical theory and works upon the literatures of 18th century. Europe consists an international age of classicism, the aim of French classism was not conscious of classical revival, its aim was nationalist. Its intention was to produce a literature that is French to the core, which was worthy of the Greece and classical ideal.
Classicism refers to a high regard for a classical period, as setting standards for taste which the classicists seek to emulate. This implies a canon of widely accepted ideal forms. As a theory of fiction, is the possession of a high literary quality by a work in such a way that it is adjudged standard and used as a perimeter for measuring other works subsequent work tend to imitate it. Irrespective of different ideas or notions about classicism, the general idea about its meaning borders on high quality, which is a masterpiece that is a standard worthy of emulation.