Romanticism in Print: Periodicals and The Politics of Aesthetics in Restoration Paris, 1814-1830

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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print culture
English Language and Literature
European History
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In 1814 allied forces defeated Napoleon’s armies and restored the Bourbon monarchy to the throne of France. In the wake of over two decades of revolution, empire, and upheaval, France built itself anew by calling on a past seemingly untainted by its recent sins and missteps, and by building toward a (hopefully) prosperous future. The debate over how to rebuild France took place not only in the world of high politics but also at the level of culture, and particularly through the literary debate between romantics and classicists – the bataille romantique. The literary debates between classicists and romantics, with their conceptions of what was ‘French’ and what was not, became entangled with political debates between liberals and royalists, and both classicism and romanticism could be mobilized for various political aims. Such disputes were publicized and crystalized in literary journals, which were both intellectual and commercial products. Through their robust debates about literature, these periodicals put forward competing proposals about how best to rebuild France. This dissertation examines the role of literary journals and other cultural and commercial institutions in the growth of romanticism in Paris between 1814 and 1830. It argues that the creation of romanticism as a genre, especially through its conflict with classicism, was a collaborative process that involved writers, printers, booksellers, readers, and institutions. The literary conflict between romanticism and classicism, which took place not only in the press, but also on stage, and in meeting halls, salons, and living rooms, played an important role in the development of a nascent civil society in early nineteenth-century Paris, and that the debate, along with those institutions of civil society, offered a seemingly non-political avenue through which to debate French society in the face of government restrictions on press freedom and freedom of assembly for political papers and organizations. The bataille romantique took on a particular salience in the Restoration because it paralleled and became entwined with the conflict between revolution and counter-revolution that undergirded all political conflict in the Restoration.

Warren Breckman
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