Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The 1600s: Highlights

Voltaire, the Enlightened Frenchman

The 1600s section of the Chronology starts here. The links there will lead you to the Listings.


English literature dominates this period (at least from my English-speaking point of view), and French runs a close second. Giants of English lit at this time include the poet of Paradise Lost, John Milton; satirists Alexander Pope and the Anglo-Irish Jonathan Swift; philosopher John Locke; and scientist Isaac Newton. There are also numerous poets and playwrights, including John Dryden and Andrew Marvell; philosophical thinkers from the physician Thomas Browne to the preacher John Bunyan (The Pilgrim's Progress), and the essayist team of Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, as well as devotionalists Jeremy Taylor and William Penn, and the hymnist Isaac Watts. Novelists are on the rise, as represented by Daniel Defoe; Samuel Pepys's Diary gives valuable insights to the age; and more women emerge from the shadows, including Margaret Cavendish, Aphra Behn, and the English-born American poet Anne Bradstreet.

Over on the continent, we have the Swedish sort-of mystic Emanuel Swedenborg; couple of Dutch painters, Rembrandt and Vermeer; and a couple of German composers, the mighty Bach and the wanna-be Englishman Handel (hallelujah!).

On to France, the home of wit: memoirs (La Rochefoucauld), fables (Jean de la Fontaine), and fairy tales (Charles ); the Thoughts of Pascal and the plays of Moliere and Racine; the too-clever Montesquieu and Voltaire; and the humble lay monk Brother Lawrence, as well as the saucy Madame de La Fayette.

Spain gives us Pedro Calderón de la Barca and his play Life Is a Dream; and Italy offers one philosopher (Giambattista Vico) and one composer (Antonio Vivaldi).

India remains quiet (and will until the 19th century). But interesting things are happening in China (mainly novels and plays) as the Ming draws to a close and the Qing gets off to a rough start. And the uniquely Japanese sensibilities express themselves in the sociology of love, as we simultaneously plumb the depths of Zen and the art of the haiku. And soulfully written puppet shows are all the rage.

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