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date: 27 May 2024

classicism, classic, and classical 

The Oxford Companion to English Literature
Dinah BirchDinah Birch

are terms used in several shifting and at times overlapping senses. A ‘literary classic’ is a work considered first‐rate or excellent of its kind, and therefore fit to be used as a model or imitated; and this sense now applies as much to modern works and to those of a ‘romantic’ tendency as it does to the works of Greek and Roman (‘classical’) antiquity formerly known simply as ‘the classics’. Similarly the term ‘classical’ itself has been applied to later literary periods: the 17th century, for instance, being regarded as the classical age of French and Spanish drama. Classicism denotes a particular commitment to and celebration of the lasting value of the Greek and Roman heritage, usually accompanied by or implying some disparagement of subsequent literary achievements and traditions. This critical position commonly favours such values as harmony, proportion, balance, decorum, and restraint, deploring the less regulated products of the vernacular modern literatures. While classicism is a critical position or unstated aesthetic preference, the applied imitation of Greek and Roman models in poetic and dramatic practice, along with the critical justification for such imitation, is more usually known as ... ...

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