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1. Excessive trust in reason seen as the instrument through which man could explain every aspect of reality. 2. Through reason man might achieve a Golden Age. Great optimism and strong belief in progress and the validity of the human mind. 3. The true knowledge can be achieved thanks to experience (based on the Empiricism of Locke). 4. Strong belief in the Future, lack of faith in the past above all in the Middle Ages seen as a period of fanaticism and superstition. 5. Use of a refined language, the so called "poetic diction". There is more interest in the form than in the content. 6. Rejection of every kind of revelation or religion. Acceptance of a natural theology "Deism", based on the doctrine of nature.

A. Return to nature expressed through an interest in the picaresque, the wild, the grandiose, the lonely and the desolate. B. The cult of sensibility and melancholy, characterized by certain typical manifestations: love for ruins and graveyards, the idealizations of solitude and meditations on man's unhappy destiny. C. The cult of the primitive , a longing for a lost earthly Paradise in which man lived in communion with nature. Diffidence as regards civilization. D. Love for the strange, the exotic, the sublime. E. An interest in the Middle Ages, looked upon as barbarous and mysterious. F. Insistence on the claims of taste and imagination as against the rigid precepts of reason. G. An interest in Gothic architecture as typical expression of the medieval feeling.

In the third quarter of the 18th century, Neoclassicism finally crumbled under the pressure of ideas and techniques introduced by writers known as Early Romanticist or Pre-romantics. The term itself is arbitrary and vague, since it is often applied to those midcentury authors who first reacted against Neoclassicism with their innovations and experiments.

Main characteristics.
At the end of the 18th century the first signs of a new approach to literature began to appear in the isolated sporadic manifestations of a small group of individual writers who were against the Artificiality, Formality and Intellectual elegance of the Augustans and believed in Imagination against Realism, Feeling against Reason and Pathos against Common sense.

Philosophical ideas.
This new attitude was above all the result of the new aesthetic and social theories of Edward Young and J.J. Rousseau. They claimed that it was above all in the Primitive Ages of society that originality and inspiration flourished.

Rousseau's ideas.
There was the exaltation of the spontaneous expressions of feelings displayed by the most "natural people" who were also the most ignorant: the savage, the peasant and the child, while our false civilization, through the institution of private property, created inequality, envy and evil.

The idea of man.

Man is naturally good, only institutions made him bad, so it was necessary to return to Nature, the Primitive, the First Social State when man lived innocent and happy.

In this period the focus is on the idea of: Democracy: interest in the poor and in the lower classes. Imagination: opposition Ideal-Real. Melancholy: the difference between Dream and Reality led men to depression.

The Gothic novel was a more or less conscious revolt against the realism of such writers as Richardson and Fielding. it aimed at thrilling reader rather than amusing or educating him.

Main features.
Its plots are usually set in an imaginary past time, usually the Middle Ages, and strange unfamiliar countries, with episodes full of horrible murders, extraordinary situations and supernatural events quite often occurring in haunted castes, prisons convents and any other type of "Gothic" building.

In order to create the so-called "Gothic gloom", these buildings were endowed with secret passages, long dark corridors and dreadful dungeons, and were usually surrounded by thick forests and impenetrable woods so there was a predominance of obscurity and darkness.

Moreover natural phenomena, such as ghastly moonlights and thunderstorms, were essential ingredients of Gothicism. There is an intense relationship between the characters and the immediate environment. The description of the castle has the function of keeping suspense alive, of communicating a real sense of mystery.

Beginning of the Genre.

The Gothic novelist discovered the charm of horror and the power of sensation, now connected with the grotesque, the supernatural and a great use of superstition. The beginning of the Gothic novel is usually traced back in 1764, the year of the publication of Horace Walpole's "Castle of Otranto".

Anne Radcliffe.
Anne Radcliffe's novels are based on very complicated and improbable plots in which wicked villains pursue the good heroine who embodied the myth of the persecuted maiden begun by Richardson's "Clarissa". The story is narrated by a third person omniscient narrator, the characters are mostly "flat", and the protagonist has simply the function to fell emotions, in fact all the events are filtered through her senses above all the eyes and the ears.

The innovation introduced by Mrs. Radcliffe in her novels is the final rational explanation of what had appeared to be supernatural events. This explanation is, however, often delayed in order to maintain the reader's involvement till the end of the story. Her masterpiece is "The Mysteries of Udolpho", often considered the first thriller in British literature.

Mary Shelley.
But the most popular Gothic novel of all, was a small book written by a young girl not yet twenty, Mary Shelley, the second wife of the Romantic poet Shelley. This book was "Frankenstein, or the modern Prometheus", which was published in 1818 and immediately became a best-seller. The plot of the novel is well known: Frankenstein, a Swiss scientist, succeeded, after a long study, in creating a living human being who, strong and powerful as he is ugly and revolting, eventually turns into a murderer and destroy his own creator.

The work is less simplicistic than is generally believed, however, since, for the first time, a gothic novel was concerned with moral and ethical questions, the main one being the misuse man can make of science. As a "modern Prometheus", Frankenstein actually manipulates nature, but his "creature" soon gets out his control. The science theme, which make Mary Shelley precursor of modern science fiction, interweaves with others such as social injustice or Rousseau's conception of man as originally good.