English literature III (1st Term)
1. THE NOVEL AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY: JANE AUSTEN
Romantic period (1780 – 1832)
Why 1832? This was a very important year for two reasons: Queen Victoria ascended to the throne and the first Reform Bill was made. This was the beginning of the democracy because finally the vote was given to the middle class. But one group was excluded: women.
In 1867 the skilled workers (trabajadores cualificados) were able to vote and in 1884 even the non-skilled workers. In 1920 the vote was finally granted to the women. This period was a period of enormous political, economical and social changes; the French revolution, the American revolution … (America got independent from Britain). Great Britain lost America but conquered and consolidated a huge empire in other areas of the world. It is the beginning of the Commonwealth. Britain conquered India, Canada, Australia, South Africa, the Caribbean… these were the years of the big expansion.
England was the engine of Europe; it takes place the Industrial Revolution in England. British society changed drastically and we can see this in literature too. A national identity was formed.
At the beginning of this period, Britain had an agrarian economy, the Industrial Revolution was the beginning of the change but the great majority of the people lived in the country and worked in the land or in the domestic service. There was no real class conscience. There was a limit aristocracy (a number much smaller than in the rest of the European countries) and very few rich landowners.
On the top of the hierarchy there were the big landowners (tiny majority), then the poor aristocracy or minor aristocracy and finally the rest of the population. In the late 18th and beginning the 19th, the things change drastically as a result of the industrialisation. Consequences:
Population increase more than double
Increase in the demand for goods and services
Acceleration of the Industrial Process and the Process of Organization Population in large towns and cities (many people left the countryside and emigrated to the city to find a job)
In the past they had an open – field system; the land was in hands of a few people with huge extensions of land, there were no fences. With the passing of time many peasants left the countryside and went to the city and this change the open – field system. Now we have enclosure system or scientific agriculture; that is few people worked in the land because few people are required as a result of the mechanisation of the land. The growth of the population involved the urbanization. By the end of the period, England was the first organized society of the world. It was the era of building new
roads, new canals and the rail-way system, all promoted the expansion of the industrialization.
In addition to the emergence of a new middle class, the Industrial Revolution created a new working class who haven’t got any class conscience. This class conscience was the result of the development of the Industrial Revolution. It’s now that the class conscience emerged. In this new society, we have on one hand the bourgeoisie who have more and more power. On the other hand we have the “hands”, people that only have the hands for working. The skilled – workers were degraded to produce products made by hand. They lost the roots and their jobs were routine jobs. The new working classes also included women and children.
Middle class (aristocracy) ‘s mentality was imposed in all the aspects of life, including literature. Popular culture was a threat. Middle class was not interested in this because of practical and religious reasons. The public spaces were controlled and popular festivities were abolished. The workers had to work, no distraction. There was a revival of the evangelical mentality and the utilitarianism and this influenced the middle class; “no festivities, no drinking, no gambling, no distraction”. This situation was...
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