Ancients and Moderns: a Contrapuntal Enlightenment?

England was an outlier in the age of Enlightenment. It saw neither the emergence of an adversarial intelligentsia nor the rise of a new science of society. If there was an English Enlightenment, it was understated, unobtrusive and of a peculiarly conservative cast. These lectures approach the topic by way of eighteenth-century England’s acknowledged fascination with classical antiquity, focussing in particular on critical philology, pagan philosophical schools and ancient genres.

Lecture 2: Ancients and Moderns: a Contrapuntal Enlightenment?

The battle of the books between the ancients and the moderns at the turn of the eighteenth century provides a useful point of departure, not least because the quarrel raged on both sides of the Channel. How far did the pioneering scholarship of the Modern Richard Bentley shape a more distinctively critical and philological Enlightenment in England? On the other hand, their cultural conservatism notwithstanding, were the Ancients necessarily an anti-Enlightenment party?


Peculiarities of the English Enlightenment: Ancients, Moderns and Pagan Pasts


19 January - Peculiarities 

26 January - Ancients and Moderns: a Contrapuntal Enlightenment?

2 February - Modern Paganism Revisited

9 February - The Warburtonian Moment

16 February - Platonists and deplatonizers

23 February - Words and Things