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Literature - A Mirror Of Society

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The literature of a country

is affected and influenced by how the people of that

country live. This paper will prove that The French

Revolution greatly influenced 19th Century French

Romanticism. First, the cultural values of the revolution will

be identified. Then, the different aspects of Romanticism

will be presented. The cultural values of The French

Revolution and Romanticism will then be linked. Finally,

literary examples will be shown to support this connection

between the two movements. Before the Revolution, the

citizens of France lived in a strict, confined society with no

freedom to express their feelings. Government had imposed

strong, unfair laws on the common people (Compton's

Interactive Encyclopedia "French Revolution"). They

wanted a voice in a stable government with a strong

economy (Johnson 105) and a strong sense of individuality

and independence within the people. (Moss and Wilson

180) Eighteenth- century literature was much like the

society in which it was produced, restrained. Society was

divided into privileged and unprivileged classes, (Leinward

452) with Eighteenth- century writers focusing on the lives

of the upper class. (Thompson 857) These writers followed

"formal rules"(Thorlby 282), and based their works on

scientific observations and logic (Thompson 895). The

Revolution gave the common people and writers more

freedom to express feelings and stimulated them to use

reason. According to Thompson, The Revolution "had a

major impact on Nineteenth- Century European Life."

(895) It sent a strong wave of emotion and revival

throughout France (Peyre 59). This lead to new laws and

standards for the citizens, including newer, less imposing

literary standards. Romanticism marked a profound change

in both literature and thought. Romanticism, according to

Webster's Dictionary, is defined as "a literary movement

(as in early 19th century Europe) marked especially by an

emphasis on the imagination and emotions and by the use

of autobiographical material." Although this may be true,

there is no single commonly accepted definition of

Romanticism, but it has some features upon which there is

general agreement. First, it emphasized upon human

reason, feeling, emotion, and expression (Compton's

Interactive Encyclopedia, "Romanticism") while

emphasizing the love of nature, beauty, and liberty.

(Leinward 528-529) Thompson defines Romanticism as "

a major literary and cultural movement" that was inspired

by the imaginations, inner feelings, and emotions of the

Romantics. (895) If one term can be used to describe the

forces that have shaped the modern world, it is

Romanticism. (Peyre, 2) Romanticism has had such a

profound effect on the world since the late 18th century

that one author has called it "the profoundest cultural

transformation in human history since the invention of the

city." (Compton's Encyclopedia, "Romanticism") Harvey

and Heseltine state that "The outstanding characteristic of

18th-century French literature had been attached to

reason.... About the turn of the century.... literature became

a matter of senses and emotions." (633) They also say that

the movement of Romanticism "gave practical expression

to the new spirit..." because it recognized that the bounds

on literature were "too rigid". (634) There are many direct

relations how the French Revolution influenced the French

Romanticism that followed it in the Nineteenth- century.

The French Revolution had a major impact on the timeline

and progression of Romanticism. Vinaver states that

"Neither a revolt or a reaction, Romanticism was a

revolutionary fulfillment... And this in turn explains why the

European event known as the French Revolution is at once

the climax [of Romanticism]...It's [French Revolution}

date, 1789, conveniently divides the Pre- Romanticism

[era] from the full flowering of the new culture." (6)

Romanticism starts in about 1774, but does not take off

until the last decade of the 18th- century, the same time as

the Revolution. The French Revolution provided for many

of the problems and basis for many Romantic literary




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