Writers: Hobbes & von Goethe

by Nicole Steck ~ April 22nd, 2010. Filed under: Chapter 16: The Age of Enlightenment: Rationalism and its Uses.

Nicole Steck

The Enlightenment was a time of overarching societal changes, including a new divergence from formerly influential religious traditions. The Enlightenment, with its emphasis on humanity, fostered a great deal of new literature. Many of the great Enlightenment authors are still widely read and renowned today, including Jonathan Swift, Voltaire, Thomas Hobbes, and Wolfgang von Goethe.

Jonathan Swift was a well-known writer working during the Enlightenment period. An Irish satirist, Swift is mostly known these days for Gulliver’s Travels. Swift was most notable, however, for his satires. One of Swift’s most gruesome social satires was A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making them Beneficial to the Public. A Modest Proposal advocated for the sale of the children of the impoverished to the rich, as food.

Like his contemporary Voltaire, Swift published under pseudonyms. Smith, however, did not take on one name based on his own, but rather switched names often and often took on a name related to his works – for instance, the pseudonym he chose for Gulliver’s Travels was Lemuel Gulliver, the protagonist’s name. In other instances, Swift published works anonymously.

Another important writer of the time was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Von Goethe was, like many authors of the time, not simply an author; he was also an accomplished mathematician who was interested in politics and religion. Von Goethe is famous for his lauded work Faust.

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