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date: 16 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Restoration and eighteenth-century British culture avidly sought improvement and saw poetry as an engaging source of information, guidance, exhortation, and critique. Poetic theory suggested poetry should instruct and delight, combining aesthetic with ethics and rhetoric. Didactic poetry was distinct for its declared intent to consider the poet a teacher who used persuasive arts to instruct and guide society. A dynamic pedagogical mode in British poetry motivated a wide range of styles and practices. The poet’s most reliable instructional methods were the precept, a succinct statement of rules or practices, and the exemplum, an illustrative example of moral character. A successful poem deftly combined preceptive and exemplary elements, and enlivened them with poetic devices designed to delight and to move. Styles and practices sought to balance particularity with enduring ideas: for example, details enlivened a precept, or sensory impressions led to a discovery of enduring truths.

Keywords: poetry, education, affective literary theories, didacticism, ethical-rhetorical, exemplarity, passions, precept

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