Post-Revolutionary letters

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Hermione de Almeida - Committee Chair


"Post-Revolutionary Letters" examines the aesthetic transformation of revolutionary ideals and rhetoric in works by Schiller, Shelley, Blake, Byron and Stendhal written after widespread intellectual disillusionment with the French Revolution and with Napoleon's reign. Drawing on two recent forms of inquiry--historical studies focusing on Revolutionary symbolism and rhetoric and post-structuralist theories exploring political or "revolutionary" language--I trace the ambivalence accompanying Romantic attempts to enact revolution in and through poetry. The belief in literature's potential to affect meaningful change shared by the Romantic authors listed above is overshadowed by a realization that the very discourse they employ may be (and had been) appropriated for morally corrupt political purposes. My examination focuses on poetic representations of revolutionary documents and rhetoric (the lettre de cachet, pamphlets, speeches and propagandistic writings) as evocations of the discursive means employed by Robespierre and Napoleon to accomplish their political ends. The recognition that revolutionary rhetoric inspired violent excesses in France haunts the Romantics' aesthetic restoration of the revolutionary ideals perverted during the Reign of Terror and under Napoleon.


Literature, Comparative; History, European; Literature, English

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