|I recently scanned the text of this dissertation, The Populist Romance: A Study of Michelet's Le Peuple and Selected Novels of Hugo, James, Zola, and Galdós (University of Texas at Austin, 1980), and have not finished proofing. (Move your mouse pointer over French or Spanish text to see translations.) —David McMurrey|
"Yeah. You know, Larry, I think it's good that you've gone beyond a lot of this hippie stuff, because not that many students really give a shit about real working class people. And I agree with you that PL is pro-working class. But the working class they're for is an imaginary working class. I mean it's completely in their minds."
He stuttered and hesitated. The mask was coming undone. "No-o," he stammered. "I don't think that could be true. You know, they [PL members] live in working-class neighborhoods, and they know a lot of workers," he added, with admiration.
"Yeah, but they're in a dreamworld..."1
A Conversation at Harvard in the late sixties
This study actually begins in a puzzling experience anyone might have had if he had been present to hear the radical oratory of American students on college campuses in the late 60's. Members of SDS, RYM, PL, and a host of other bewildering splinter groups spoke the heated and passionate rhetoric of "the people" to youthful audiences—listeners and speakers both generally unfamiliar with the American working class. The radical orators themselves were for the most part alien to the common people or else had only recently begun, rather artificially, to develop self-conscious proletarian mannerisms, Nevertheless, they could call on middle class, sometimes affluent students to go "the people," join with "the people." They spoke in the name of "the people," translated the real needs of "the people," and sometimes actually identified the students themselves as the true people. Some students, so taken "by the romantic image of the common people, actually left the campuses, in time-honored fashion, took jobs in factories and construction, and sought to merge their identities with the working class.2
American students were only repeating a populist tradition that has been acted out around the world; the Russia of the 1870's was not the only country to have its "to the people" movement.3 There have been similar moments in the national history of such countries as France, Germany, Spain, and many others when individuals—often academics, intellectuals, artists, and writers—left their emphatically unproletarian worlds and journeyed forth to the people. No study concerned solely with this international phenomenon has ever been done—perhaps because of the problems in documentation it would present. However, this tradition of going to the people, sentimentalizing them, seeing them as linked, to some grand, historical process—these elements have often challenged the imagination and the intuition of creative writers. The novels and the novelists to be discussed. here—Victor Hugo in his Les Misérables, Emile Zola in several of the novels of his Les Rougon-Macquart series. Henry James in his The Princess Casamassima, and Benito Perez Galdós in his La Revolución Julio—intuitively reconstruct not only the pattern of going to the people but also the psychology that lies behind it. This larger understanding of the populist phenomenon that these novelists reach is the subject of this study.
By itself the word "people" seems innocent enough, but anyone familiar with the political history and the revolutionary traditions of the 19th and 20th centuries knows better. If one disregards the historical and political connotations, problems immediately arise when the word "people" is simply put with the article "the" and a certain peculiar stress is laid upon that article: the result is an odd semantic situation in which, in the whole set of human beings, some are "the people," and those who are not are relegated to the class of Non-People. This area of potential semantic confusion no doubt has long been exploited such that the phrase "the people," in its familiar, restricted usage, loosely and vaguely signifies the lower classes, the workers, the proletariat, the poor, or the masses.
Obviously, finding a precise demographic and sociological definition for the phrase "the people" would be more of a hopeless task than attempting to do so for its synonyms. For the ancient Romans, the Latin word may have signified simply those who are governed.4 More recent writers however have regularly disagreed as to which classes, occupations, and regional populations comprise the people.5 Jules Michelet, for example, was reluctant to include salaried, factory workers in the new industrial age and preferred traditional artisans and rural peasants as the representatives of the true plebian spirit. Others, particularly those in 19th century Spain and Russia, might refuse to include the urban working classes in their definition of the people altogether, seeing industrialism as a foreign corruption of traditional, national ways.6 And of course the modern communist or socialist, particularly in the United States, often seems hopelessly tied to a restricted vision of the people as those workers in the stereotyped, classical industrial areas such as coal mining and steel and automobile manufacturing.7
Nor does the attempt to define the emotional resonance the phrase in its rhetorical use has acquired, though more fruitful and interesting, prove any less difficult. The phrase can be uttered with a certain hushed reverence or with venomous scorn. There is some evidence that this emotive dimension may have been present even in the etymological origins of the word: the Greek roots of the Latin—populus which becomes the Spanish pueblo, the French peuple, the Italian popolo, and the English people—are the word for a certain type of tree and the word for a species of wild boar. Assuming that many ancient words for abstractions had their origins in metaphorical associations with tangible, physical things of the real world, both the poplar tree, with its multitude of leaves or as a forest, and the wild boar, in its savage, destructive nature, are conceivable metaphoric origins for our term "the people." Indeed the Latin populor, which means to ravage, plunder, or devastate, echoes the Greek πτελεα,"wild boar," though the Oxford Latin scholars refuse to speculate on this sense-development.8
Some ancient Edmund Burke no doubt must have coined this usage as he watched an angry mob pillaging a town or city. Though all of this may well be no more than "folk etymology," the metaphorical association between the people as mob and the wild boar is bluntly echoed by Voltaire in his Dictionnaire philosophique: "La populace est une bête féroce qu'il faut enchaîner par la crainte de la potence et de l'enfer." However, the botanical origins of the word are also echoed in literature: in Le Peuple, Michelet equates the lower classes with the sap, the life-giving force, of a tree. He also speaks of the solitude that can be found in a crowd of people, which he compares to a forest. Galdós in Fortunata y Jacinta draws a remarkable portrait of a Spanish anglophile, Morena-Isla, who is repelled by all things Spanish and enamored of all things British: his death is described as the falling of a dead leaf from an otherwise healthy tree: "Se desprendió de la Humanidad, cayó del gran árbol la hoja completamente seca, sólo sostenida por fibra imperceptible. El árbol no sintió nada en sus inmensas ramas. Por aquíl y por allí caían en el mismo instante hojas y mas hojas inútiles: pero la manana próxima había de alumbrar innumerables pimpollos, frescos y nuevos."11 His poor health and his early death are the result of his detachment from and rejection of the vital spirit of the pueblo. In Victor Hugo's Les Misérables too there are etymologically suggestive moments; the family that Jean Valjean had supported—his sister and her seven children—are described as scattered to the wind like so many dead leaves once he has been imprisoned for his theft of the loaf of bread: "Que devint la soeur? que devinrent les sept enfants? Qui est-ce qui s'occupe de cela? Que devient la poignee de feuilles du jeune arbre scié par le pied?"12 Suggestive too is Hugo's choice of Valjean's trade—tree-trimming or pruning. As the subsequent moral story of the "ortie" shows, Valjean remains in certain ways a symbolic "émondeur" the rest of his life. The "ortie" like the common people is a common weed which, with loving, sympathetic, but firm, paternal, even disciplinary cultivation, can become a highly useful grain for both animal and man.13
Because of the rather unsystematic, individualistic use of the phrase "the people," because of the limitations of a sociological, political or philosophical approach to it, the phrase may be examined best in a literary context. There is of course the sociological approach to literature, which assumes that a literary text can in some degree accurately reflect social reality.14 Defining the literary sociology of the people would be no less difficult than it would be to do so in actual social reality. Nor would the results of such an investigation carried out upon a selection of novels, for example, be of any particular use or interest. One could at best say that such-and-such a novel does or does not accurately reflect social reality or that such-and-such an author has this particular class bias. The same could be said of the "characterological" approach in which working-class characters would be analyzed according to stereotypes and moral values. In his The Working Classes in Victorian Fiction, P.J. Keating's description of the six types of working class characters ("respectable," "intellectual," "poor," "debased," "eccentric," "criminal") illustrates the limitations of this kind of analysis.15 One other likely methodological candidate is the analysis of literature in terms of ideas, in this case, a political or philosophical idea. However, such a discussion of the people—for example, how the people are governed, how capable they are of governing, just what kind of political animal they are—would not be able to get at the specifically literary manifestation of the people and would not constitute literary analysis in any case. The idea of the people ought to be capable of non-ideological, literary study the same as Prometheus, Orpheus, Don Juan, or the Golden Age have been in the past.
The approach that best suits an analysis of the concept or theme of the people is a combination of methods with Northrop Frye's theory of "modes"—romance, comedy, satire or irony, and tragedy predominating. Hayden White, in a chapter on Michelet in his Metahistory, a work which itself applies Frye's theory of modes to the work of the major 19th century historians, has provided the methodological origin of this study.16 There, he views Michelet's idea of the peuple as the hero of a romance written out upon history. This collective hero of Michelet's history of France, the peuple, shares with the typical romance hero the latter's usual superiority in moral and physical terms. This plebian superiority translates as a form of "sociology"—a literary or romantic one—which ascribes heroic virtues to the common people. Here, it is alternately called a romantic sociology, to designate the epoch, and populist, to indicate it is a sociology partisan to the people. The typical story of the romance hero translates as a certain kind of historical drama or narrative in which the common people as a collective, historical hero ultimately triumph. The people must undergo the same plot motifs in their quest as does the romance hero: the descent, the ritual death, the escape, the killing of the dragon, the rescue, the marriage, the assumption of power, and the "happy ending," for example. In this study, this romance narrative structure written out upon history is called a romantic revolutionary view of history to link it with that brand of revolutionism of the earlier part of the 19th century, with which Michelet and Hugo are often loosely associated.17
Every novel considered in this study—or work as in the case of Michelet's Le Peuple—then, can be treated in terms of the limited sociology of the people it presents and in terms of the sense of history—and the people's place within that process—that it incorporates. As will be seen, the people need not always be the hero of the romance, nor indeed Romance always the structuring mode.
However, the discussion of the populist romance requires one other element, already suggested earlier, a treatment of the populist him-(or her-) self. As opposed to the more limited historical or political connotations of the term "populist," the term as used here will simply refer to that individual who is partisan to the people. The following chapters, then, involve an exploration not only of the romantic sociology of the people—or its rejection—and of the people's role in history but also of the populist's relationship to these ideas and to the common people themselves. The novelists examined here combine these elements and present differing versions of one complicated but rather familiar story.
Most important to this exploration of the traditional idea of the people is the thesis that those who harbor romantic notions of the poeple are alien in one way or another to that social realm. The populist romance is the result of these individuals' distortion or transfiguration of social reality, partly as the result of their distance from that plebian world which is the target of their imaginative projections, and partly tne result of their own needs or anxieties. This romantic populist, as he (or she) will be called here, is therefore inevitably an alien to the people, a non-plebian. His romantic view of the common folk. results from a complex, personal psychology composed of guilt feelings at the various forms of the people's suffering and of frustrations with himself and the inadequacy of his own social milieu. His vision of the "lower world" is more a product or a projection of his own internal problems than of careful observation of the social reality of the working classes.
Central to this exploration of the populist romance is an analysis of the romantic populist's own quest—his impulse, spurred on by the inadequacies of his own world and by the imagined allure of the plebian, to journey forth in quest of the people. At bottom, this may be a quest for rejuvenation or for some ascetic's purgatory where the populist's past life of luxury, apathy, and selfishness can be atoned for. At bottom, it is journey toward a Garden of Eden or a Golden Age that has become embodied in a social class. That journey inevitably involves, as some of the works to be analyzed illustrate, a certain self-conscious effort to transform one's identity: language habits, clothing, culinary preferences, political views, living accommodations—all become meaningful and must be skilfully patterned upon plebian culture. Along with the romantic populist's transformation of identity, the journey to the people often involves an erotic dimension. The populist often seeks out the love of a common worker, a plebian man or woman.
At least for the romantics the story might end here, but for the more ironic or skeptic, it continues into a phase in which the populist is for some reason forced to leave the plebian world and drop his working class identity. He or she may tire of the realities of plebian existence, discover a certain loathing in himself for the vulgarities and barbarism of the people, or be frightened away by the hostility of a lower class that can not be fooled by the plebian disguise. Or else the disillusioned romantic populist may discover that he cannot ultimately deny his true class origins and that his carefully acquired working class identity can never be anything hut artificial. Thus, the full cycle of the populist's story can involve his eventual return to his own class, an abandonment of his plebian identity, and even a general disillusionment with the people.
Significant portions of the full cycle of the populist's adventure are embodied in some way in the novels to be examined here. Jules Michelet's Le Peuple is obviously not a novel even though his histories have been treated as such; however, Le Peuple is a work which exposes or articulates some of the most crucial ideas about the people; and he himself, in his private life, acts out some of the most important dilemmas of the romantic populist. Michelet is also important to the study, not only for the theoretical framework his life and ideas provide, but also because of his importance to Hugo, Zola, James, and Galdós. Hugo and Michelet carried on a regular correspondence and share generally similar ideas about the people and history, neither writer influencing the other but both reflecting the general intellectual atmosphere of the pre-1848 period. Allusions to specific aspects of Michelet's and Hugo's works, ideas, and even their names appear in the novels of Zola, James, and Galdós.
Many other novelists and their works would seem to be prime candidates for inclusion in this study, particularly Balzac, Flaubert, Dickens, or Dostoevsky.18 But no attempt is being made here to cover the whole field of novels containing the working-classes. Nor is it enough that a work of fiction merely contain plebian characters. Instead, the novels that are included, in this study contain a rich development of the structures and the variations of the populist romance. No excuse can be made for the absence of the Russian novel—particularly Dostoevsky's The Possessed or Turgenev's Virgin Soil—from this study other than my own severe limitations in the Russian language; however, James's The Princess does in fact duplicate some of the more important themes and situations in these two Russian novels. Other conceivably relevant novels can be excluded because of their imitative or derivative nature, because of their lack of particular thematic elements important to the populist romance, or because they and their creators are of far lesser stature than those treated here. In the first category, Frank Norris's The Octopus in its first pages reads like a translation of Zola's Germinal. In fact, George Gissing in England, and Max Kretzer in Germany, two writers who give substantial fictional space to the lower classes, have been described as English and German Zola's.19 In the second category, certainly such Victorian novels as Charles Dickens's Hard Times or Barnaby Rudge, George Eliot's Felix Holt, the Radical, or Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton seem at first consideration essential. However these works and the Victorian novel in general lack the elements of the populist romance to be discussed in this study. This perhaps can be explained in several ways. British writers, though certainly sympathetic to the plight of the worker, generally have no sympathy or respect for popular revolutionism, fearing in it mob rule and deceitful orators manipulating the people for their own greedy selfish interests. As Raymond Williams and others have remarked, the Victorian novel does seem more conservative than the French, more influenced by the attitudes of an Edmund Burke or a Thomas Babington Macauley; but conservatism alone does not disqualify a novel or a novelist from consideration in this study. To explain the absence of the Victorian novel in another way, England in the 19th century was generally able to compromise its way through social crises in a way that avoided revolution.20 This fact, often noted by historians of Great Britain, is no doubt linked to the absence of the kind of fiery revolutionary traditions in the British worker that are found in the French. The absence of a more widespread, radical, visionary, or "romantic" revolutionism among intellectuals, artists as well as the British people and the absence of the sympathetic portrayal of this climate of opinion in the Victorian novel may be a bit disappointing to us now, though no doubt it made the period a good deal more peaceful and tranquil for those who had to live through it. These observations concerning the social and political climate of Victorian England, the lack of widespread, intense revolutionary idealism reflected in the literature, even the element of disappointment or frustration at this absence, are all borne out in a revealing passage in one of George Eliot's letters:
I would consent, however, to have a year clipt off my life for the sake of witnessing such a scene as that of the men of the barricades bowing to the image of Christ, "who first taught fraternity to men." One trembles to look into every fresh newspaper lest there should be something to mar the picture...! should have no hope of good from any imitative movement at home. Our working classes are eminently inferior to the mass of the French people. In France the mind of the people is highly electrified; they are full of ideas on social subjects; they really desire social reform—not merely an acting out of Sancho Panza's favorite proverb, "Yesterday for you, today for me." The revolutionary animus extended over the whole nation, and embraced the rural population—not merely, as with us, the artisans of the town. Here there is so much larger a proportion of selfish radicalism and unsatisfied brute sensuality (in the agricultural and mining districts especially) than of perception or desire for justice, that a revolutionary movement would be simply destructive, not constructive. Besides, it would be put down...And there is nothing in our Constitution to obstruct the slow progress of political reform. This is all we are fit for at present. The social reform which may prepare us for great changes is more and more the object of effort both in Parliament and out of it. But we English are slow crawlers.21
The same absence of thematic development is true of the 19th century American novel. Lionel Trilling's observations concerning the American novel's "resistance to looking closely at society" or at matters of social class, its hesitance to concern itself with "man in society" and problems of class barriers, prejudice, and money, are particulary relevant—with the notable exception of course of the "Anglo-American" Henry James.22
As for the exclusion of novels and novelists of lesser stature from this study, certainly putting such minor, lesser known, or even forgotten writers as Gutzkow, Kretzer, Disraeli, Charles Kingsley, Besant, or Gissing on the same level with such major, international literary figures as Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Henry James, or Perez Galdós would be questionable. Like Germany's, Italy's 19th century novel is considered generally inferior to other periods and genres in the national literature.23 None of these national literatures, however, are without a significant portrayal of the working classes in their 19th century novel.
This study is divided, into two major parts: first, analyses of two works—Le Peuple and Les Misérables—which embody the populist romance and reflect that spirit of romantic revolutionism in the years leading up to 1848; and second, analyses of several novels from the Rougon-Macquart series, The Princess Casamassima, and La Revolución de Julio, which reflect the "realist" or ironic treatment of the theme in the post-1848 period. Though the two works of Michelet and Hugo are by no means the unique and original voices of the populist romance, they constitute the most widely known and elaborate expression of the theme of any of the works of the Romantic era, and the ideas contained within the works—the works and their authors themselves—play a role in the other novels studied here. While Michelet's work is only literary in a secondary way but essential for its elaboration of the populist romance, Hugo's novel is obviously fully literary and important because of its international reputation as the great "novel of the people." Also, while remaining within the romance mode and creating a familiar version of the populist romance, Hugo's novel affords a significantly different perspective from that of Michelet. This may in part be because Les Misérables was published in 1862 although Hugo had first begun work on the novel in 1845 and even earlier. Though he intended it partly as an attack on the ironic, skeptical tendencies of the latter half of the century, his view of the peuple itself may not have escaped the effect of those same tendencies.
Despite the fact that both Zola and James, though in separate ways, treat the populist romance with an irony that is sometimes harsh and scornful, the tradition as well as its attraction to the modern imagination is not destroyed, as Galdós's La Revolución de Julio shows. Galdós's novel, however, is not a simple return to the populist romance but instead combines elements of both irony and romance in a synthesis that goes beyond both these modes to something resembling tragedy. No strict law of evolution in the literary idea of the people is intended by the sequence of chapters to follow. No doubt any period can contain both the romantic exposition and the ironic rejection of such an idea within itself. In the total field of the fictional portrayals of the people, no doubt fiercely satiric portraits can be found in the Romantic era, and blissfully romantic ones in an age of irony. If nothing else, this study should indicate the continuing, irrepressible attraction of romantic ideas about the people to the modern imagination. Although the tone taken here may appear rather ironic itself toward such ideas, and although we may he living in an age too ironic and.sophisticated to hold such naive ideas, the tradition of seeing in the poor and the common working man or woman a certain heroism, in their culture certain moral strengths, and in their relationship to a nation's history a certain crucial force should not he so readily discarded as simple-minded fantasy. Although the romantic populist's quest and his efforts to transform his identity into a plebian one may seem to us dubious or absurd, individuals in our own century have continued to go forth in search of the people.
1Steven Kelman, Push Comes to Shove; The Escalation of Student Protest (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1970), pp. 151-152.
2In his book SDS, the most thorough and objective history of American student radicalism in the 60's and 70's, Kirkpatrick Sale calls attention to this movement and compares it directly to the populist phenomenon in Russia:
It was as if the American students of the 1960s had heard the words of one Pavel Axelrod, of the University of Kiev in the l870s...For, just as Axelrod and the Russian students had done a century before, a whole body of students now left the universities and went to become one with the lowest strata of the people.
It was an incredible movement. Nothing like it had ever been seen before in American life—not the Populist movement of the 1890s, not the settlement-house movement at the turn of the century, not the Unemployed Councils of the Communists in the thirties. Thousands of students turned from theory to action, from classrooms to slums, going south to register voters in impoverished black communities, organizing unemployed workers in the decaying inner cities, running tutorial projects for black high school students through the North, even joining government approved VISTA projects, poverty-planning centers and cooperatives, or simply dropping out to work and live among the people. It was as many pointed out at the time, very much like the Russian Narodnik movement of the 1860s and 1870s, with much the same mixture of idealism, guilt, asceticism, moralism, selflessness, and hard work...SDS was only a part of the wider neo-Narodnik spirit of the sixties.
Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS (New York: Random House, 1973), p. 96.
3Avrahm Yarmolinsky, Road to Revolution: A Century of Russian Radicalism (London: Cassell, 1957), pp. 168-185. Yarmolinsky describes the Russian populist-students as a "tiny minority, impotent, nearly mute, alienated from their surroundings by education," "alienated alike from the masses and from the emergent middle-class... doomed to spin out theories in a vacuum," "Moved by a feeling of guilt" and sincerely desiring "to humble themselves before the people." The slogan "to the people" was launched by Herzen as early as 1861 and echoed by Bakunin and Nechayev: they all urged "the students to leave their books and 'go to the people,' live among them, merge with them and fight for their interests." The students from the privileged classes were expected to give up their own way of life and "adopt the occupation, dress, food, habits, even Kropotkin for one believed,,..to church-going and keeping the fasts."
4George Boas, Vox Populi: Essays in the History of an Idea (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1969), p. 73. The people are simply the "group that elected its rulers and gave consent to the form of government under which it lives."
5The early 18th century French abbé Gabriel-François Coyer in his Dissertation sur la nature du peuple, for example, argues that the peuple includes "les laboureurs, les ouvriers, les artisans, les négociants, les financiers, les gens de Lettres et les gens de Lois." Cited in Images du peuple au dix-huitiéme siècle. Colloque d'Aix-en-Provence, October 25-26, 1969 (Paris: Armand Colin, 1973), p. 18.
6V.G. Kiernan's essay, "Wordsworth and the People," is an interesting study despite its partisan socialist perspective; it demonstrates Wordsworth's own revolutionary, then populist phases, his frequent use of the romantic phrase the people, and, most importantly, his horrified rejection of the "new factory proletariat." In David Craig, ed., Marxists on Literature (Hammondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1975), p. 175.
7Several books on the left in recent years attempt to call attention to the expanding, changing nature of the American working class: See Stanley Aronowitz, False Promises: The Shaping of American Working Class Consciousness (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973), pp. 10-12; Michael Harrington, The Twilight of Capitalism (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976), p. 317; Michael P. Lerner, The New Socialist Strategy, (New York: Dell, 1973), pp. 7-10.
An example of the chronic inability to see the working class in any other terms than coalminers and steel and auto workers is this or any of the literature of the Progressive Labor Party, which is tied to the more traditional Communist Party: Progressive Labor Party. Revolution Today: U.S.A.: A Look at the Progressive Labor Movement and the Progressive Labor Party (New York: Exposition Press, 1970).
8See The Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon, 1968), p. 1546 and The Oxford Latin Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977), pp. l403-5 for complete etymologies of these words. Although the etymologist Simeon Potter warns against creating fictitious etymologies to support a thesis (for example, Carlyle's explanation of the English word "king" as "one who can," using the German "können"), he does point to the importance of metaphor in a source of word-making. Wallace L. Anderson and Norman C. Stageberg, Introductory Readings on Language (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962), pp. 112-21.
9Cited by Jean Biou, "'Est-il utile de tromper le peuple?'" In Images du peuple au dix-huitiéme siècle. Colloque d'Aix en-Provence, October 25-26, 1969 (Paris: Armand Colin, 1973), p. 189.
10"Je me suis bien surpris souvent à rêver dans 1'obsurité des quartiers les plus populeux de Paris, comme si j'eusse été au milieu d'une forêt." A passage in one of Michelet's journals, cited in Paul Viallaneix, La Voie royale: essai sur 1'idée du peuple dans 1'oeuvre de Michelet (Paris: Flammarion, 1971), p. 99.
11Benito Pérez Galdós, Obras completas (Madrid: Aguilar, 1941), V, p. 461.
12Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, ed. M.-F. Guyard, 2 vols. (Paris: Garnier, 1963), I, p. 109.
13Hugo, I, p. 206.
14Wellek and Warren define this approach as taking "for granted that literature is simply a mirror of life, a reproduction, and thus, obviously, a social document." However, for them, sociological criticism not only worries about the accuracy of representation of society in literature but inevitably succumbs to "the narrowing temptation to praise or condemn a piece of writing" according to the extent the critic agrees with its social and moral implications. René Wellek and Austin Warren, Theory of Literature (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1956), pp. 103-105.
15The Working Classes in Victorian Fiction (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971), pp. 26-27.
16Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth Century Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1973), pp. 162-176.
17Many historians of the 19th century agree about the character of pre-1848 revolutionism and the change it underwent sometime after 1848. Priscilla Robertson speaks of the "wild impracticality in aims," the lofty idealism, and the "romantic dreams which kept Europeans of that period (as perhaps of most periods) from the direct perception of reality" (p. 7). After this turning point of the century, socialist movements were forced to "forget the poetical and discarded 1848 fancies" (p. 416). Robertson believes that little or nothing was accomplished by the radicals of 1848: "Instead men lost confidence in freedom and imagined they had made a great advance in sophistication by turning from idealism to cynicism" (p. 419). Revolutions of 1848: A Social History (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1952).
18Though one would at first expect Balzac to appear in a study of this sort. Balzac was observant, in the words of David Owen Evans, to all "species" in society "with the one exception—the proletariat, l'espéce ouvrière" ; instead, Balzac's preferred focus is the world of "the first financial tycoons in modern history," crooked politicians, shyster lowyers, gangsters, newspapermen, bureaucrats. Social Romanticism in France l830-l848 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1952), p. 79.
19For this view of Gissing, see Keating, p. 6. For the similar view of Kretzer, Werner Friederich, An Outline-History of German Literature (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1948), p. 201.
20Raymond Williams, Culture and Society, 1780-1950 (New York: Harper and Row, 1958), pp. 96-105.
21Cited in Williams, pp. 102-103.
22Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society (New York: Scribners, 1976), pp. 212-214. Trilling continues this idea stating that though America has had its great novels, "the novel in America diverges from its classic intention, which...is the investigation of the problem of reality beginning in the social field. The fact is that American writers of genius have not turned their minds to society. Poe and Melville were quite apart from it; the reality they sought was only tangential to society. Hawthorne was acute when he insisted that he did not write novels but romances—he thus expressed his awareness of the lack of social texture in his work."
23According to Sergio Pacifici, "nineteenth-century fiction in Italy is not overly rich in great works." The Modern Italian Novel from Manzoni to Svevo (Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1967), p. xiv. Considered to be the greatest Italian novel of the 19th century, Manzoni's I promessi sposi (1827), set in the 17th century, is a highly patriotic historical romance, more concerned with Spanish domination of the country than the plight of indidivual classes.
As for the 19th century German novel, Eda Sagarra argues that "the nineteenth century was a period of decline, even decadence, in the history of German literature." Tradition and Revolution: German Literature and Society, 1830-1890 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971), p. 69. Germany in her view simply fails to achieve any distinction in the novel in this period. And, as G. Wallis Field argues, the "German novel continued to focus on the protagonist's inner development, until Fontane, at the end of the century, moved into the mainstream of European fiction, portraying society and social problems," The Nineteenth Century, 1830-1890 (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1975), p. 94. Fontane's Effi Eriest (1895), generally regarded as the masterpiece of the 19th century German novel, is similar in many ways to Madame Bovary and is described by Friederich as "a psychological novel." (p. 182)