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Literature of the 19th century

The 19th century was perhaps the most literary of all centuries, because not only were the forms of novel, short story and magazine serial all in existence side-by-side with theatre and opera, but since film, radio and television did not yet exist, the popularity of the written word and its direct enactment were at their height. [Jan 2005]

Parent categories: literature - 1800s

Related: novel - serial fiction

Trends: decadent literature - naturalist literature - Realism in French 19th century literature - symbolist literature

Titles: The Crimes Of Love (1800) - The Devil's Elixir (1815/16) - The Sandman (1817) - Frankenstein (1818) - Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1821) - The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) - Le Rouge et le Noir (1831) - Gamiani, ou Une Nuit d'Excès (1833 - Viy (1835) - Histoires Extraordinaires (1840s) - Bartleby the Scrivener (1853) - Les Fleurs du mal (1857) - Madame Bovary (1857) - Artifical Paradises (1850s) - Artifical Paradises (1860) - Salammbô (1862) - The Painter of Modern Life (1863) - Notes from Underground (1864) - Le Spleen de Paris (1869) - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) - Venus in Furs (1870) - Carmilla (1872) - The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1874) Les Diaboliques (The She-Devils) (1874) - Anna Karenina (1877) - Index Librorum Prohibitorum (1877) - Flatland (1884) - À rebours (1884) - The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) - Psychopathia Sexualis (1886) - The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) - La Bête Humaine (1890) - Hunger (1890) - New Grub Street (1891) - The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) - Jude the Obscure (1895) - The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896) - Dracula (1897) - The She Devils (1898) - Torture Garden (1899)

The 19th century and the Novel as the object of great Discussions

At the beginning of the 17th century the novel had been a genre of realism fighting the romance with its wild fantasies. The novel had turned to scandal, then it had been reformed over the last decades of the 18th century. Fiction eventually became the most honourable field of literature. A wave of novels of fantasy culminated this development at the turn of the 18th into the 19th century. Sensibility was heightened in these novels. Women, overwrought and prone to imagining worlds beyond their appointed one, became the heroines of the new world of "romances" and "Gothic novels" creating stories in distant times and places. Renaissance Italy was a favourite of the gothic novel.

The classic Gothic novel is Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794). As in other Gothic novels, the notion of the sublime is central. Eighteenth-century aesthetic theory held that the sublime and the beautiful were juxtaposed. The sublime was awful (awe-inspiring) and terrifying while the beautiful was calm and reassuring. The characters and landscapes of the Gothic rest almost entirely within the sublime, with the heroine the great exception. The "beautiful" heroine's susceptibility to supernatural elements, integral to these novels, both celebrates and problematizes what came to be seen as hyper-sensibility.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the overwrought emotions of sensibility, as expressed through the Gothic sublime, had run their course. Jane Austen wrote a Gothic novel parody titled Northanger Abbey (1803), reflecting the death of the Gothic novel. Moreover, while sensibility did not disappear, it was less valued. Austen introduced a different style of writing — the comedy of manners. However, her novels often are not only funny, but also scathingly critical of the restrictive, rural culture of the early 19th century. Her best known novel, Pride and Prejudice (1811), is her happiest, and has been a blueprint for much subsequent romantic fiction; her other novels feature heroines for whom some modern readers have little sympathy, and may dislike, but her novels are still widely read and, by many, much loved. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novel#The_19th_century_and_the_Novel_as_the_object_of_great_Discussions [Nov 2005]

Russian literature

19th century is traditionally referred to as the "Golden Age" for Russian literature. Romanticism permitted a flowering of especially poetic talent: the names of Zhukovsky and Aleksandr Pushkin came to the fore, followed by Mikhail Lermontov.

Nineteenth-century developments included Ivan Krylov the fabulist; non-fiction writers such as Belinsky and Herzen; playwrights such as Griboedov and Ostrovsky; poets such as Evgeny Baratynsky, Konstantin Batyushkov, Nikolai Alekseevich Nekrasov, Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy, Fyodor Tyutchev, and Afanasij Fet; Kozma Prutkov (a collective pen name) the satirist; and a group of widely-recognised novelists such as Nikolai Gogol, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leskov, Ivan Turgenev, Saltykov-Shchedrin and Goncharov. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_literature#Golden_Age [Jan 2006]

Late 19th century literature

In 1863 Jules Verne published Cinq semaines en ballon (Five Weeks in a Balloon). (Verne's Paris au XXe siècle (Paris in the 20th Century was written, but was not published until 1994). Voyage au centre de la Terre (Journey to the Center of the Earth) came out in 1864 and De la Terre à la Lune (From the Earth to the Moon) in 1865. Verne had by then fully established the "scientific romance" as a genre. Charles Dickens published Our Mutual Friend in installments from 1864 to 1865. Literature by this time was becoming increasingly popular. The European and North American middle-classes were better educated than ever before and more reading was done. At the same time the styles of writing were tending more and more toward plainer language and more broadly understood themes. People were reading about detectives, ghosts, machines, wonders, adventures, tricky situations, unusual turns of fate and romances. Love stories and grudges, explorations and wars, ideas based on scientific positivism and ideas based on nonsense and gibberish were all being published and enjoyed by a readership which could now be termed "the masses".

In 1864 Nathaniel Hawthorne died. Dostoyevski published Notes from Underground (or Letters from the Underworld). Dostoyevski's concerns and style were singularly original and allow the reader entry to a claustrophobic interior world of the psyche. It is probably correct to describe Dostoyevski as the first Existentialist author.

In 1865 Lewis Carroll published Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, combining social satire with nonsense writing and presenting the two of them in the guise of a children's story. Thomas Chandler Haliburton died. Edith Maude Eaton was born.

1866 Dostoyevski published Crime and Punishment, followed by The Gambler (1867). Mark Twain published The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.

Jules Verne published Les enfants du Capitaine Grant (In Search of the Castaways) 1867-1868 and Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers (20,000 Leagues Under the Seas) in 1870.

In 1868 Dostoyevski published The Idiot.

In 1869 Mark Twain published Innocents Abroad. Matthew Arnold set a cultural agenda in his book Culture and Anarchy. His views represented one of two polar opposites which would be in struggle against each other for many years to come. The other side of the struggle would be represented by the Aesthetic, Symbolist or Decadent movement. The chief participants in the cultural opposition at this time included, on the so-called decadent side French poets like Jean Moréas, Paul Verlaine, Tristan Corbière, Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Pierre Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé and, in Britain, the Irish writer Oscar Wilde. On the other side were Matthew Arnold, John Ruskin and the tendency amongst the arts toward a utilitarian, constructive and educational ethic. The views of Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin inspired the Arts and Crafts movement and William Morris. This dispute (art for art's sake versus art for the common good) would continue throughout the remainder of the 19th century and much of the 20th.

The Decadent movement was a transitional stage between romanticism and modernism. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_literature:_Modern_literature#The_late_19th_century [Apr 2005]

Wood pulp in stead of linen pulp (late 1800s)

Using wood to make paper is a fairly recent innovation. In the 1900s, fiber crops such as linen fibres were the primary material source, but a shortage led to experimentation with other materials. Around 1850, a German named Friedrich Gottlob Keller crushed wood with a wet grindstone to obtain wood pulp. Further experimentation by American chemist C.B. Tilghman and Swedish inventor C.F. Dahl enabled the manufacture of wood pulp using chemicals to break down the fibres. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_pulp#History [Jun 2005]

Paper remained a luxury item through the centuries, until the advent of steam-driven paper making machines in the 19th century, which could make paper with fibres from wood pulp. Although older machines predated it, the Fourdrinier paper making machine became the basis for most modern papermaking. Together with the invention of the practical fountain pen and the mass produced pencil of the same period, and in conjunction with the advent of the steam driven rotary printing press, wood based paper caused a major transformation of the 19th century economy and society in industrialized countries. Before this era a book or a newspaper was a rare luxury object and illiteracy was the norm for the majority. With the gradual introduction of cheap paper, schoolbooks, fiction, non-fiction, and newspapers became slowly available to nearly all the members of an industrial society. Cheap wood based paper also meant that keeping personal diaries or writing letters ceased to be reserved to a privileged few in those same societies. The office worker or the white-collar worker was slowly born of this transformation, which can be considered as a part of the industrial revolution.

Unfortunately, the original wood-based paper was more acidic and more prone to disintegrate over time. Documents written on more expensive rag paper were more stable. The majority of modern book publishers now use acid-free paper. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper#History [Jun 2005]

see also: paper - pulp - 1800s

Realism in French 19th century literature

The expression "Realism", when applied to literature of the 19th century, implies the attempt to depict contemporary life and society. The growth of realism is linked to the development of science (especially biology), history and the social sciences and to the growth of industrialism and commerce. The "realist" tendancy is not necessarily anti-romantic; romanticism in France often affirmed the common man and the natural setting (such as the peasant stories of the woman writer George Sand) and concerned itself with historical forces and periods (as in the work of historian Jules Michelet).

The novels of Stendhal (including The Red and the Black and The Charterhouse of Parma) address issues of their contemporary society while also using themes and characters derived from the romantic movement. Honoré de Balzac is the most prominent representative of 19th century realism in fiction. His La Comédie humaine, a vast collection of nearly 100 novels, was the most ambitious scheme ever devised by a writer of fiction -- nothing less than a complete contemporary history of his countrymen. Realism also appears in the works of Alexandre Dumas fils.

Many of the novels in this period (including Balzac's) were published in newspapers in serial form, and the immensely popular realist "roman feuilleton" tended to specialize in portraying the hidden side of urban life (crime, police spies, criminal slang), as in the novels of Eugène Sue. Similar tendancies appeared in the theatrical melodramas of the period and, in an even more lurid and gruesome light, in the Grand Guignol at the end of the century.

In addition to melodramas, popular and bourgeois theater in the mid-century turned to realism in the "well-made" bourgeois farces of Eugène Marin Labiche and the moral dramas of Émile Augier. Also popular were the operettas, farces and comedies of Ludovic Halévy and Henri Meilhac.

From the 1860s on, critics increasingly speak of literary "Naturalism". The expression is imprecise, and was frequently used disparagingly to characterize authors whose chosen subject matter was taken from the working classes and who portrayed the misery and harsh conditions of real life. Many of the "naturalist" writers took a radical position against the excesses of romanticism and strove to use scientific and encyclopedic precision in their novels (Zola spent months visiting coal mines for his Germinal and Flaubert was famous for his years of research for historical details). Hippolyte Taine supplied much of the philosophy of naturalism: he believed that every human being was determined by the forces of heredity and environment and by the time in which he lived. The influence of certain Norwegian, Swedish and Russian writers gave an added impulse to the naturalistic movement.

Gustave Flaubert's great novels Madame Bovary (1857) -- which reveals the tragic consequences of romanticism on the wife of a provincial doctor -- and Sentimental Education, and the short stories of Guy de Maupassant are often tagged with the label "naturalist", although neither author was devoid of comic irony or certain romantic tendancies. Flaubert's romanticism is apparent in his fantastic The Temptation of Saint Anthony and the baroque and exotic scenes of ancient Carthage in Salammbô. Maupassant used elements derived from the gothic novel in stories like Le Horla. This tension between portrayal of the contemporary world in all its sordidness, detatched irony and the use of romantic images and themes would also influence the symbolists and would continue to the 20th century.

Naturalism is most often associated with the novels of Emile Zola (such as his Les Rougon-Macquart novel cycle, which includes Germinal, L'Assommoir, Le Ventre de Paris and La Bête humaine) in which the social success or failure of two branches of a family is explained by physical, social and heriditary laws. Other writers who have been labeled naturalists include: Alphonse Daudet, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Edmond de Goncourt and his brother Jules de Goncourt, and Paul Bourget.

An attempt to be objective was made in poetry by the group of writers known as the Parnassians -- which included Leconte de Lisle, Théodore de Banville , Catulle Mendès, Sully-Prudhomme, François Coppée, José María de Heredia and (early in his career) Paul Verlaine -- who (using Théophile Gautier's notion of art for art's sake and the pursuit of the beautiful) strove for exact and faultless workmanship, and selected exotic and classical subjects which they treated with rigidity of form and emotional detachment (elements of which echo the philosophical work of Arthur Schopenhauer whose aesthetic theories would also have an influence on the symbolists).

Modern science and geography were united with romantic adventure in the works of Jules Verne and other writers of popular serial adventure novels and early science-fiction. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_literature_of_the_19th_century#Realism.2C_Naturalism_and_Parnasse [Sept 2005]

See also: France - literature - 1800s - realism

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