Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 October 2019
“Neoclassical” is a tricky term in literature. It was not used until the 1870s but is readily applied to some paintings, sculpture and architecture in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and to some music in the early twentieth century. I will use it here to mean a self-conscious defense or adoption of classicism. In this regard, Byron’s life witnesses a singular change of context. Born into a classically based culture, but forced to defend it with increasing explicitness, he recognized himself, in effect, as neoclassical. The classical was customarily distinguished from the “barbaric,” “uncivilized” and “unpolished.” Byron uses terms like this, as we shall see, but eventually finds it harder to do so since the term is increasingly used in contrast with other styles – especially the Elizabethan and the “Romantic.”
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