The French Revolution Debate in English Literature and Culture

By Lisa Plummer Crafton | Go to book overview

Introduction

Lisa Plummer Crafton

It may not be exaggerated to say, as did the London Corresponding Society in 1789, that the debate in England over the French Revolution was the topic to which "all thinking minds were drawn" during the decade of the 1790s. Certainly, the effects of the French Revolution upon English culture in the last decade of the eighteenth century has been a topic to which many scholarly minds have been drawn in the late twentieth century, especially during the last ten years. Romantic studies in particular have served to interpret the alliance between the Romantic movement and the Revolution since at least M. H. Abrams 1963 essay "The Spirit of the Age." Abrams's thesis has had such impact that recently Abrams noted that his speculations have become attributed to him as almost a formula for defining Romanticism. Responding to such reductionism, Abrams reaffirmed his point by quoting from the original essay: "I do not propose the electrifying proposition that 'le romantisme, c'est la revolution.' Romanticism is no one thing. It is many very individual poets, who wrote poems manifesting a greater diversity of qualities it seems to me than those of any preceding era."1 That being said, Abrams goes on to reaffirm his belief that the complexities of the Revolution of 1798 clearly shaped intellectual and imaginative discourse.

More recent evidence of the continuing interest in the interrelationships between this phenomenal historical event and a range of intellectual and cultural disciplines, literature in particular, came in the form of three scholarly meetings in the United States (as well as four significant bicentennial conferences in England in 1989-1990) in the past nine years: the Indiana Symposium on Romanticism, held in February 1988 in conjunction with "William Wordsworth and the Age of English Romanticism," a highly praised exhibit which emphasized "The Age of Revolutions"; the 1990 conference "Revolutionary Romanticism 1790- 1990," a Bucknell University meeting sponsored by the Wordsworth Trust America; and the National Endowment for the Humanities

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The French Revolution Debate in English Literature and Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions to the Study of World Literature ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Notes xv
  • Chronology xvii
  • Burke's Perception of Richard Price 1
  • Notes 21
  • Religion and Politics in the Revolution Debate: Burke, Wollstonecraft, Paine 27
  • Notes 38
  • The "Ancient Voices" of Blake's The French Revolution 41
  • Notes 53
  • Arguing Benevolence: Wordsworth, Godwin, and the 1790s 59
  • Notes 76
  • "Great Burke," Thomas Carlyle, and the French Revolution 83
  • Notes 103
  • Politics of the Episteme: The Collapse of the Discourse of General Nature and the Reaction to the French Revolution 107
  • Notes 118
  • Representations of Revolutionary Women in Political Caricature 123
  • Notes 131
  • Postscript: The French Revolution and Romanticism 137
  • Select Bibliography 145
  • Index 149
  • About the Contributors 155
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