From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Media, as we know it, first emerged at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Papers, journals, broadsheets, all became widely available in the new created public space of the coffeehouse. [...] The popular market for art and literature liberated writers and artists from the need for court patronage. No longer having to please their sponsors, they could experiment, and speak out as brashly as they wished." --Counterculture Through the Ages (2004) by Ken Goffman, p. 162
"Notable works in the 18th century libertine novel tradition include Les Égarements du cœur et de l'esprit (1736) by Claude Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon; Histoire de Dom Bougre, Portier des Chartreux (1741); Le Sopha, conte moral, (1742), Les bijoux indiscrets, (1748) by Denis Diderot; Thérèse Philosophe (1748); Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782) by Choderlos de Laclos; and L'Histoire de Juliette (1797-1801) by Marquis de Sade.
"The 18th century is also known as the "century of lights" or the "century of reason". In continental Europe, philosophers dreamed of a brighter age. For some, this dream turned into a reality with the French Revolution of 1789, though this was later compromised by the excesses of the Reign of Terror. At first, many monarchies of Europe embraced Enlightenment ideals, but in the wake of the French Revolution they feared loss of power and formed broad coalitions for counter-revolution."--Sholem Stein
"The dividing line seems to fall in the 18th century; there the origins of Camp taste are to be found (Gothic novels, Chinoiserie, caricature, artificial ruins, and so forth.) But the relation to nature was quite different then. In the 18th century, people of taste either patronized nature (Strawberry Hill) or attempted to remake it into something artificial (Versailles). They also indefatigably patronized the past. Today's Camp taste effaces nature, or else contradicts it outright. And the relation of Camp taste to the past is extremely sentimental." --"Notes on "Camp"" (1964) Susan Sontag
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However, Western historians may sometimes specifically define the 18th century otherwise for the purposes of their work. For example, the "short" 18th century may be defined as 1715–1789, denoting the period of time between the death of Louis XIV of France and the start of the French Revolution with an emphasis on directly interconnected events.
To historians who expand the century to include larger historical movements, the "long" 18th century may run from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 to the battle of Waterloo in 1815 or even later. During the 18th century, the Enlightenment culminated in the French and American revolutions. Philosophy and science increased in prominence. Philosophers were dreaming about a better age without the Christian fundamentalism of earlier centuries. This dream turned into a nightmare during the terror of Maximilien Robespierre in the early 1790s. At first, the monarchies of Europe embraced enlightenment ideals, but with the French revolution, they were on the side of the counterrevolution.
Great Britain became a major power worldwide with the defeat of France in the Americas in the 1760s and the conquest of large parts of India. However, Britain lost much of her North American colonies after the American revolution. The industrial revolution started in Britain around the 1770s. Despite its modest beginnings in the 18th century, it would radically change human society and the geology of the surface of the earth.
- Enlightenment, an 18th century counterculture
- the roots of European exploitation
- Venus in the 18th century
- Pompeii rediscovered (1748)
This movement turned its attention toward landscape and nature as well as the human figure and the supremacy of natural order above mankind's will. There is a pantheist philosophy (see Spinoza and Hegel) within this conception that opposes Enlightenment ideals by seeing mankind's destiny in a more tragic or pessimistic light. The idea that human beings are not above the forces of Nature is in contradiction to Ancient Greek and Renaissance ideals where mankind was above all things and owned his fate. This thinking led romantic artists to depict the sublime, ruined churches, shipwrecks, massacres and madness.
- All in all, literature was not so widespread as in the following century, since paper was still quite expensive, see cheap paper.
Literature of the 18th century refers to world literature produced during the 18th century. The 18th century saw the development of the modern novel as literary genre, in fact many candidates for the first novel in English date from this period. Subgenres of the novel during the 18th century were the epistolary novel, the sentimental novel, "histories", the gothic novel and the libertine novel. 18th Century Europe started in the Age of Enlightenment and gradually moved towards Romanticism. In the visual arts, it was the period of Neoclassicism.
The English novel became a popular form in the 18th century, with Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Samuel Richardson's Pamela (1740). Another very popular form was the Gothic novel (The Castle of Otranto, 1764) and its European equivalents the roman noir in France and the Schauerroman in Germany.
There was already literature of subversion such as that from Voltaire and Sade and other libertine writers. In the United Kingdom there was the renegade publisher Edmund Curll known for his radical pamphlets and bawdy books.
A good introduction to this period, one which describes the popular literature of that era in France very well, is The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France.
Feminist thought occurred during The Enlightenment with such thinkers as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and the Marquis de Condorcet championing women's education. Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) is one of the first works that can unambiguously be called feminist, although by modern standards her comparison of women to the nobility, the elite of society, coddled, fragile, and in danger of intellectual and moral sloth, does not sound like a feminist argument. Wollstonecraft believed that both sexes contributed to this situation and took it for granted that women had considerable power over men.
Films about the 18th century