Cliodynamics of Literature: English Model

     
 
Aligning the cliodynamics of English literature with psychology doesn't even cover the whole of my argument on the reasons why the Saudi and Indonesian readership is 300 hundred years behind the English literature.

I'll be nice and butcher the minor details in the development of English literature as to fit my argument. Thank the Gods of Psychology that Erikson's Psychosocial stages aren't more than 3-10 stages (depending on whom I'm arguing with). 


Mind asking me why I'm doing this? Because I'm a snobbish intellect and I'm frustrated and need to vent in even and logical terms. Okay?

Aligning the History of English literature with Human Psychology
A.D.
Major Events
Major themes
Major works & Authors
Psychological Stage
15th
Gutenberg Printing Press
Religious
Canterbury Tales, KJB
Infancy
(Oh! A foot! A god! A printing machine!)
16th
Witch Trials. Protestant, Catholic, Anglican Church conflict
Religious
Marlowe's Faustus
17th
Elizabethan Golden Age
Metaphysical
Shakespeare
Childhood (Play!)
18th
Expansion of British Empire, American Revolution
Travel, colonialism, slavery
Robert Burns, Declaration of Independence
Adolescence
(I am me. What I am is mine!)
19th
Victorian Era, Industrial Revolution, Civil War
Romantic/Educational
Austen, Dickens
Early Adulthood
(Calm down. Let's be reasonable.)
20th
World War I & II
We're screwed, aren't we?
Conrad, Hemingway
Middle Age
(Oh my foot. OMG)
21st
(So far) Felix Baumgartner, Obama
Yep. We're screwed.
Google
Late Adulthood
(Fuck this shit.)
22nd
Chinese Empire
Gog and Magog arriving
(I would be dead by then, think I'd give a gog?)
Infancy (again) (Because. Chinese)


15th-16th Century
  • The Gutenberg press machine was invented in 1439. This is my starting point because basically literature became a tangible, measurable thing from this point in history. 
  • Writing became trendy when reading became trendy. Reading became accessible because the printing machine made books a lot cheaper and easier to distribute.
  • When a new medium of communication appears, people begin experimenting with their voices. But it was still such an expensive machine and literacy was a thing reserved for the ruling classes.  Only the richest people could afford having their words spread, mainly Kings and Popes.
  • Naturally, the literature that were allowed to spread in those early years were propagandist and religious. The King James Bible, one of the most widely spread books in the world ever, was published around this time.
Comparing this period with Infancy
Talks about God and religion teaches obedience and perfect compliance. It's also the language rulers use when they want to justify their reign. "I am King, under God. You obey Me, you obey God. If you disobey Me, you meet your God," is the underlying motto to support the legitimacy of a ruling government.

And that is the Innocence of Infancy in the history of printed literature. It's that pure state where religion dictates thought, and anything that goes beyond the Holy word is sin and punishable by death. 

17th Century
There was relative domestic stability during the Elizabethan reign. Remember the hierarchy of needs? After fulfilling the basic physiological and security needs, there was room for secondary needs to develop and expand.

Comparing this period with Childhood
The English thought, "Okay, so I've eaten and slept for a few decades, and now I'm bored. Shall we play?" 

After fulfilling the basic and security needs, the people had their esteem and aesthetic needs nagging. They had time to think and daydream and write sonnets. Consider the number of people and props and practice it takes for a theatrical performance to take place. Shakespeare would not have been able to write and his crew wouldn't have performed so many plays, if there was a hint of domestic instability to sustain a theatrical production.

18th Century
I should mention that the French Revolution took place in this century, spreading its effect all over Europe, building momentum and strength until, ultimately, it triggered the American revolution (1775-1783).

Nevertheless, angry Americans at the west of the pond did not stop the eastward spread of the British Empire. While the English colonized, the travelers jolted the folks back home with souvenirs from the new territories, in the seeds of diversity and oriental awareness into the English soil.

Comparing this period with Adolescence  
English literature perfectly embodied adolescence stage of development in England. Just like when a teenager begins to wonder about self and identity, the first realizations that they are not the center of the world, as children would have thought.

19th Century
In the U.S. This country was so new that I shouldn't even bother. But the people spoke and wrote in English, and probably in British accents. The break of the Civil War sent back the development of American literature a few hundred years. Off the top of my head, I'm thinking Hawthorne's "Scarlett Letter". The themes were religious and basic again in the New World. How else would the Union justify slavery?

In England. Queen Victoria was uptight and there was huge emphasis on propriety, but that didn't stop Charles Dickens from writing. In fact, this is my favorite period of English literature. There was censorship, but that was no excuse for the muse to leave the hardworking scribe. In fact, in the hands of a mature society, censorship is like just a door closing and a lot of other windows opening.

20th Century
Comparing 20th century U.K. Literature with Late Adulthood
How many Booker Prize winner novels have you read recently that gave off the feeling that U.K. literaterature is a young boy at the Spring of his life? Exactly.

US Literature's fast progress into Adulthood...No, Late Adulthood
Name one Pulitzer Prize winning Novel that doesn't make you feel really, really old. That's how it feels to read books from the Pulitzer list anyway.

And this is impressive, considering how fast it took for U.S. literature to progress from Puritan Infancy, Romantic Childhood, Civil War Adolescence and early 20th century maturity, then - BANG - foultmouthed Junot Diaz's Oscar Wao.

It did not take long for the US literature to catch up with U.K. literature: Since 1901, there has been as many U.S. Nobel Prize Laurets as the British. It took less than a hundred years since the Civil War for the U.S. to win its first Nobel Prize in Literature (Lewis Sinclair, 1930). 

I attribute the speed by which the U.S. literature developed and matured for the last hundred years on three things: Medium language (English), World Wars: Taking part AND winning, and the deep cultural support upon the craft.

If you're reading this, I congratulate your citizenship of the world, because English the most widely spoken language in the world.

But this wasn't always the case. There was a time when Arabic and Sanskrit were the linguae franca of the ancient world, back in the days. And if I am patient enough, I might tell in another blog why Arabic is not so hot anymore, and why Arabic and Indonesian literature are still in their (Pre)adolescence period.


Yes, it's that damn printing machine's fault!
 
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