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Writing Revolution: British Literature and the French Revolution Crisis, a Review of Recent Scholarship

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Matthew Grenby



The French Revolution had a profound effect on almost all aspects of British culture. French events and ideas were avidly discussed and disputed in Britain. Long-standing British political and cultural debates were given new life; new socio-political ideologies rapidly emerged. The sense of political, religious and cultural crisis that developed in the 1790s was only slowly to dissipate. Generations afterwards, many British thinkers and writers were still considering and renegotiating their responses. The effect of the Revolution Crisis on British literature was particularly marked, something that was widely recognised at the time and has been the focus of much scholarship since. It has become something of a cliché that British literary Romanticism was born out of the Revolution. The last few decades have produced new waves of powerful criticism which has re-examined the relationship between the Revolution Crisis and the works it shaped. Different strands of radical writing have now received detailed investigation, as have equally complex conservative responses. Writing by and for women is now receiving as much attention as writing by men, and previously neglected forms, such as the popular novel, pamphlets and children's literature, are now the subject of an increasing number of studies. The writing of the 1790s and early 1800s has in fact provided many scholars with their test-case for exploring the very nature of the relationship between text and context. It is this profusion of recent, sophisticated and rapidly evolving scholarship which this article surveys.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Grenby MO

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Literature Compass

Year: 2006

Volume: 3

Issue: 6

Pages: 1351-1385

ISSN (print): 1741-4113

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-4113.2006.00387.x


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