Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Victorian Literature

Victorian literature was, in some ways, a continuation of romanticism. Pride in the individual, the importance of freedom and social mobility, love of nature and excitement in the supernatural (nadprirodzenosť) - writers have used these concepts all the way to the present.

There were three defining characteristics of the Victorian Age. First was optimism, coming from England's new industrial age, economic boom, scientific progress, and colonial expansion. People felt England was getting stronger and life was getting better, even considering the large numbers of poor people. New laws were made to help the poor, limiting child labour and creating a maximum number of work hours per week. So, there was a sense of hope and progress.

Second was Evangelicalism, a conservative movement calling for order, modesty and righteousness. Many people today consider Victorians to be prudes (cudný) because of their strong religious beliefs.

And, third was fear, stemming from changes that came toward the end of the Victorian age. These changes included socialism, a radical new political ideology that threatened the capitalist establishment in Europe, Russia, and even England, which witnessed a new Labour party, and the unionization of its workers. Also, Germany grew and consolidated power (upevnil moc), becoming a new threat to the British Empire.

Additionally, new advances in science threatened the dominance of organized religion. Geologist Sir Charles Lyell proved that the world was millions of years old, far older than suggested in the Bible. And, Charles Darwin put forth his theory of evolution through natural selection (prirodzený výber), a theory that linked all life on Earth together in a chain that also took millions of years to develop. Many viewed this as an attack on religion, and it's still controversial today in some places.

Novels and prose were the main mode of Victorian literature. Rather than describe the distant past, Victorian novels explored modern life and problems. Victorian literature saw the rise of popular fiction, with new genres like detective stories, horror and ghost stories, science fiction, fantasy, lost worlds, and children's stories. Plots were divided into episodes and sold in serials and newspapers. Writers could see how readers responded, and change their stories to better give fans what they wanted.

Victorian poets were strongly influenced by the romantics, but felt a strong social obligation, and wanted to address all the modern fears and problems mentioned above. Victorian poetry was a time of experimentation, with no real school or movement, except for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which had more to do with painting.

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