The French Revolution (1789-1799) was an essential era in the history of French, European and Western civilization. The French revolution was a revolt against the natural order in Europe. It was not just a revolt against the Kings of the time, it brought an entire new way of viewing the world and human society. The theme of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” hit the streets and spread all over Europe. Even though the Revolution didn’t successfully carry out its theme, it has partially made our world what it is today.
(Francois) The French Revolution is the largest, most far-reaching and broadest debate in literary and cultural history, a war of ideas that encompasses philosophy, theories of history, the study of language, the history of art, gender stereotypes, religion as well as a much broader spectrum of literature than might be thought in terms of subject, genre, style and chronology. (Lisa) Before the French Revolution the citizens of France lived in a confined society with no freedom of speech nor freedom to express their feelings.
The government imposed very tough and unfair laws on the common man. The literature of any country is affected by how the citizens live. As common people before revolution were not in a position to think of literature or art as they are struggling for their identity and freedom. At that time the people in France were divided into the privileged and the un-privileged class. The writers of eighteenth century were focused on the lives of upper class and lower class didn’t have any impact on writers. The literature was, like the people, highly restrained.
The French revolution gave the common people more freedom to writers of the time, the citizens of the day and sent a strong wave of creativity. This in turn, leads to new laws for the citizens which included a newer, less imposing literary standard. The upheavals of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era were accompanied by new intellectual trends. Romanticism, greatly influenced by the philosophy of Rousseau, was a major literary and cultural movement that was inspired by the inner feelings, imaginations and emotions of the great Romantics.
Romanticism commences in approximately 1774 but does not really take off until the last decade of the 18th century. French revolution divides the pre-romanticism era from the fully blossoming new culture. Romanticism marked a profound change in both literature and thought. Romanticism is defined as a literary movement (as in early 19th century) marked especially by an emphasis on the imagination and emotions and by the use of autobiographical material. Thompson defines romanticism as a major literary and cultural movement that was inspired by the imaginations, inner feelings, and emotions of the romantics.
The period saw the transformation from romanticism to the realism, the romantics and realists alike wrote of the painful discovery of self awareness and the torments of the inner life and, in differing degrees, concerned themselves with contemporary social moves. The French revolution was like a bomb, to the making of which every liberal thinker and writer of the 18th century had lent a hand, and which, when it exploded, destroyed its creators. Beginning in the last decades of the 18th century, it transformed poetry, the novel, drama, painting, sculpture, all forms of concert music (especially opera), and ballet.
It was deeply connected with the politics of the time, echoing people’s fears, hopes, and aspirations. It was the voice of revolution at the beginning of the 19th century and the voice of the Establishment at the end of it. The Revolutionary period judged by literature is an ending and not a beginning. Almost all its authors are the aboutissement of earlier influences, so that many of them, Chenier, Delille, Lebrun-Pindare, Condorcet, or Volney, have already been dealt with.
The new period originates little except in political oratory and journalism. (Wright, 587) The prominent men of the Revolution were not all orators or journalists alone. The Emmanuel SieyA? s (1748-1836), though a member of the Etats-GA©nA©raux and the Convention, was more often silent than a speaker. President of the Directoire and responsible for Napoleon’s coup d’etat of the eighteenth of Brumaire, he became one of the three consuls, count of the Empire, ambassador, and president of the Senate.
His importance rests on his work in the committees of the Constituents and his fame on his great pamphlet on the Tiers-Etat, “really all, hitherto nothing, seeking to be something. ” By this document Sieyes may almost be said to have precipitated the Revolution, just as he later made Napoleon. Sieyes was an a priori theorist, a metaphysician drawing up constitutions, inapt at government, yet holding important positions and responsible for great changes such as the trans- formation of the Etats-Generaux into Assemble National, and the division of France into departments.
(Wright 594) The period from 1815 to 1850 was one of complete reconstruction in all the spheres of French existence. The revolution had destroyed the old civilization, and its successor, the Empire, had merely testified to the instability of a substitute. The theories of innovation were, to an important degree, founded on the imaginative impulses ultimately traceable to Rousseau, and corresponded to those which, in their literary aspect. Romanticism is, in truth, in its full conception, much more extensive than is assumed by ordinary historians of literature.
Even after 1850 it often merges into Realism, instead of being antithetical to it, as it is to Classicism. It occupies fully as important a part of the nineteenth century as Classicism, the School of 1660, did of the seventeenth. Romanticism, which appeared after the French Revolution in an environment of growing absolutism at the turn of the 19th century, was a reaction against the rationalism of the Enlightenment and the stilted forms, schemata, and canons of classicism and, at times, sentimentalism.
Paramount features of romanticism were idealism, a belief in the natural goodness of the individual person, and, hence, the cult of feeling as opposed to reason; a predilection for the more ‘primitive’ expressions of human creativity as being closer to the fundamental goodness of the person and, hence, an enthusiasm for folk art, poetry, and songs; a belief in the perfectibility of the individual person and, hence, a predilection for change and the espousal of ‘striving’ as a mode of behavior; and a search for historical consciousness and an intensified learning of history (historicism), coupled at times with an escape from surrounding reality into an idealized past or future or into a world of fantasy.