What are the possible societal reasons that there were so many great literary accomplishments during the Victorian Period?
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I would guess that the rise of leisure time gave rise to a greater number of literary achievements. The novel, as we know it, is sometimes said to have been invented in the Victorian era. This is not strictly true. Don Quixote was written well before this era.
Perhaps the reason this idea has gotten so much traction because it was at this time that certain literary giants emerged.
Maybe the answer has more to do with the social upheaval related to slavery around the "imperial world", in the US, Russia, the UK, and French empires...it was at this time that democracy came into being (again) in the Western world and when the institution of slavery fell out of favor.
The Victorian Period (1835-1901) saw the British Empire reach its zenith. The West, in addition to Britian, through the Industrial Revolution saw the rapid development of science, technology, invention, trade, which all tended to increase the standard of living and increase lesuire time; the cost of paper and printing decreased, print media exploded, and masses of people for the first time ever were not only able to learn to read, but to purchase books. The demand for books increased; writers filled that demand. The "novel" was a "new" idea -- readers and writers had time to sit and read and write. Given the age they were in, there was much to write about -- cultural changes induced by industrialization provided topics for many authors.
I think that perhaps the reason so much great literature was being written was possibly because for the first time, people actually had liesure time to write stories. Due to the industrial age, people no longer had to work quite as hard (if you were lucky enough to be in the middle or upper class) and therefore could actually take up careers as writers. Since, writers could actually take the time to observe and write, great stories were beginning produced.
I wonder what specific literary accomplishments you may be referring to.
One often-cited reason is the social repression of sexuality and of women, which (in a very Freudian way) is then assumed to have found expression in literature in a thinly veiled manner: one has only to think of Robert Browning's Dramatic Monologues such as My Last Duchess, Porphyria's Lover, The Laboratory to see explorations of dark and unsettling images of male female relationships and violence; or of the rise of the Gothic within the Victorian era.
One could also cite the expansion of social inequities and awareness, such as that espoused and denigrated by William Blake who is slightly pre-Victorian and Wordsworth. A politically aware and educated class of poets and writers generated a range of fantastic literature, much of which remains pertinent today.
One could cite this as a period of relative calm and peace, allowing for more reflection and leisure writing - unlike the turbulence of the preceding Industrial French and American Revolutions. Personally, however, I believe thqat the more poignant and vehemant writings of the earlier period, informed by and responding to that very turbulence are the more gripping.
One could also suggest the increase in Industrial and Scientific knowledge and discussion that introduced a new inspiration for a generation of writers, starting with Frankenstein and including Jekyll and Hyde.
MAY BE BECAUSE THAT WAS A PERIOD WHERE THE MAIN INTEREST WAS LITERATURE
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