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4.5: The Enlightenment (1600-1800 CE)

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    A maturing Europe continued to see a lessening of tension between the church and secular institutions, and the transformation of the Communication field was a reflection of broader cultural shifts. Modernizations, such as the printing press, made the written word more readily available to the masses through newspapers and books thus, forever changing the ways people learned and communicated. This era was the precursor to the industrial revolution and began the rapid changes in the development of our field that were to come.

    Golden, Berquist, and Colemen point to four prominent trends during The Enlightenment. Neoclassicism revived the classical approach to rhetoric by adapting and applying it to contemporary situations. Second, the eclectic method of belletristic scholars offered standards of style for presenting and critiquing oration, drama, and poetry. Englishman Hugh Blair (1718-1800) advocated the notion of good taste and character in communication encounters, and a book of his lectures was so popular that his publisher stated, “half of the educated English-speaking world was reading Blair” (Covino 80). Third, the psychological/epistemological school of rhetoric applied communication study to basic human nature, knowledge, and thought. The Scottish minister and educator, George Campbell (1719-1796), tried to create convincing arguments using scientific and moral reasoning by seeking to understand how people used speech to persuade others. Finally, the elocutionary approach concentrated on delivery and style by providing strict rules for a speaker’s bodily actions such as gestures, facial expressions, tone, and pronunciation.

    Overall, the Enlightenment Period served as a bridge between the past and the present of communication study, the old and the new school. During this period, people used many of the early approaches to further explore communication in ways that would ignite an explosion in the Communication field in the 20th Century. While we’ve quickly covered 2400 years of communication study, let’s look at the 20th century, which witnessed more advances in communication study than the previous 2400 years combined.

    Contributions and Affiliations

    • Survey of Communication Study. Authored by: Scott T Paynton and Linda K Hahn. Provided by: Humboldt State University. Located at: License: CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike

    This page titled 4.5: The Enlightenment (1600-1800 CE) is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Scott T. Paynton & Laura K. Hahn with Humboldt State University Students.