How Revolutions Changed the Literary World
The 18th and 19th centuries were a time of chaos and great change. They brought forth many drastic changes in terms of cultures, societal ideologies, and personal belief systems around the world. Prior to the 18th century, people had As nations began to expand and empires collapsed, people of all different nations began to focus on independence and . This was a great change from which was previously a lengthy period of classicism, introducing core ideas that can be seen translated into the literary works of Romantic Era authors and poets, such as Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson. These romantic authors wrote literary works that exemplify the
Ideas such as independence and personal freedom sprung forth from the American and French Revolutions. However, in order to evaluate the extremity of the shift brought by these events, it is necessary to take a look at the cultural and political ways of thinking preceding these revolutions. The period leading up to the era of revolutions is the classicism era (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica), where people’s typical “way of life was represented by superstition, an angry God, and absolute submission to authority” (US History).Many societies around the world heavily relied on religion and submission to God in order to glue their communities together. The basic principle of being a homogenous body of people was maintained in order to function. This can be seen in the early American colonies, where each colony remained largely homogenous within itself. For example, the New England colonies had a large population of Puritans, causing them to maintain stricter laws in society than several of the other colonies, such as the communities of Baptists in the southern colonies. These colonies functioned as a body of sovereign states, each implementing their own rules and traditions so as to preserve their small homogenous bodies of people. Furthermore, during this era of classicism, people lived like sheep under authority figures, blindly following the word of the leader without a second thought, as articulated in The Emergence of Literary Criticism in 18th-Century Britain written by Sebastian Domsch. Though not his main focus, Domsch evaluates how large bodies of people in the 18th century had a “tendency to blindly follow established authorities”, rather than deviating from the social norm and composing their own opinions and ideas. This typical way of thinking reached an abrupt stop at the end of the 18th century, which was the beginning of the era of revolutions.
Revolutions in the 18th century were the catalyst for the shift we can see in the world. The American Revolution signaled the beginning of this Era of Revolutions. It was a quintessential example of people joining together to fight a major authority figure and deviate from the societal norm. The American colonies had been in a period of salutary neglect, which “was Britain’s unofficial policy, initiated by prime minister Robert Walpole, to relax the enforcement of strict regulations, particularly trade laws, imposed on the American colonies late in the seventeenth and early in the eighteenth centuries” (Henretta). This unspoken agreement between England and the colonies came to an abrupt stop after the end of the Seven Years War, during which England had accumulated major debt which caused them to tighten the reins on the American colonies in order to pay it off. While regaining control of the colonists, King George III ignored the rights of the colonists which had been inscribed in the Magna Carta as well as The Rights of Englishmen/English Bill of Rights. Many of the colonists became outraged and became patriots who banded together, formed militias, and overcame the British in a fight for independence. They fought for the idea that “Kings did not rule by divine right, they had an obligation to their subjects” (US History), and stressed the idea of the rights of people as individuals. The American patriots went against the loyalists and British crown to do what they knew was right, refusing to comply to the harsh and unlawful acts implemented by the British monarch and British Parliament.
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Shortly after the end of the American Revolution in 1983, the French Revolution began. The French Revolution was another pivotal event for the making of our modern world as it took the same ideas from the American Revolution and applied them to internal struggles within a country. It lasted for 10 years, beginning in 1789 with The Storming of the Bastille and finally drew to a close in 1799. The Bastille was a large prison in Paris where several of its prisoners were being held unjustly as a result from the tyrannical power that laid in the hands of King Louis XVI. The French revolutionaries stormed the Bastille as an act of rebellion, protesting the lack of involvement that they were given in the French government. King Louis was allowing the peasants to live in treacherous living conditions, lacking
The common revolutionary ideas from the American and French revolutions founded the Era of Romanticism. Romanticism was built by the themes of independence and patterns of nonconformity that are heavily expressed in the American, French, and Latin American Revolutions. The Romantic Era began towards the end of the 18th century and lasted until the middle of the 19th century, during which writers from all over Europe and the United States wrote haunting tales that conveyed themes of justice with a dark, supernatural twist. After coming out of this revolutionary time period, the European and American writers translated not only the ideas of the revolutions, but also the events of the wars into their writing. This is specifically seen in the works of Edgar Allan Poe who was a trailblazer for this darker, macabre style of writing during the Romanticism era. These romantic authors and poets rejected the cultural and societal norms by writing in a style of macabre, which was typically darker than most other literature at the time.
Emily Dickinson lived from 1830 to 1886 and was a poet during the tail end of the romantic era. She used her words to write poems that convey the Romantic themes of self-identity and nonconformity. In her poem “I’m Nobody, Who are You?”, she expresses individuality, a key idea in revolution thinking. Though this poem is short, it easily exemplifies important traits of romantic era writing. Dickinson writes “How dreary to be somebody!”, showing how she favors the idea of people expressing themselves, rather than following the crowd. Additionally, the idea of “nobody” in this poem further exemplifies how romantic writers believe people should go against the societal grain and live as their own person. This is drawn from the core value of noncompliance in the American Revolution, where the colonists were fighting for the ability to have control over their government rather than having to conform to the strict orders that came from England. Dickinson also writes in her poem “Hope is a Thing with Feathers” about a metaphorical description of a bird as “hope, the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul”. She uses her imagination to escape from the struggles of society and or life, and seeks answers through spirituality in nature. The “soul” is a symbol that stands for the essence of our being, or individuality. Furthermore, !!!!!!Dickinson also uses the imagery of feathers in our mind to create a symbol for “hope”. Feathers represent the “hope” that will enable us to escape to a new beginning. The colonists relied on hope to win the American Revolution. They lost many battles to England because they to a lack of trained militias,