Views on Imperialism

I agree that Orwell and Yeats did share similar resentments towards imperialism and the social order. However, I think that with Orwell’s high position in society, he understood much more about the values of the imperialists, as he was an insider to most of the underlying conflicts going on during the time. And although he was confused about what his beliefs were and where his place was in society at times, he still did try to see the imperialists for all they are. Though he did not agree and often felt oppressed.

ENGL 2523: Major British Writers II

While George Orwell and William Butler Yeats wrote in different forms, they both hosted feelings of resentment toward the era of imperialism they lived in. Orwell was a police officer during the ties of intense rivalry between that of the British imperialists and the Indian Natives. He also happened to be a mixed-race person which further intensified his anxieties. When writing about his experiences, Orwell draws on imaginative descriptions and literary devices to push across a tone of intense anti-imperialism. On page 2567 Orwell wrote, “I was a sub-divisional police officer of the town, and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling way very bitter.”

It would seem that William Butler Yeats shared feelings of anti-imperialism/anti-British sentiment as exhibited in his poem “The Second Coming.” On page 2183, “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last/Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?” The beast he mentions is…

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Yeats and Orwell: Imperialism and Order

In both William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming” and George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant” the topic of imperialism and what is required to sustain such a cruel system seem to be the main topics for both writers. Context is important here. Yeats’ native Ireland has been under the dominion of England for centuries and was in the middle of fighting for “Home Rule” when he wrote “The Second Coming”. Orwell on the other hand was an Englishman born in India, and later served in a police force in Burma. With these two varying perspectives on imperialism, both arrive at similar conclusions. Orwell describes, during his recounting of an incident involving a mad elephant, the “the futility of white man’s dominion in the East”(2569). His disillusionment with the British Empire may not have been held by many of his contemporaries in Burma, but by acknowledging the worthlessness of the empire and some of its wrongs he already exhibits the kind of foresight we associate him with after writing 1984.

Yeats seems to also foretell the end of Imperial dominion when he writes that “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,” (l. 4-5). This sense of anarchy would have characterized the situation in post-war Ireland perfectly. Some were agitating for political separation, some remained undecided, and others were ready for bloody revolution. Yeats mentions this when he later writes that “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity” (l.7-8) This kind of chaos could also describe Orwell’s time in Burma. Both writers foretell the fall of anarchy and both seem to suggest that it will not fall by peaceful and calm means, but by turbulent and violent ones.

Orwell and Joyce

George Orwell and James Joyce have similar themes in “Araby” and “Shooting an Elephant.” The stories share some common themes even though they were written several years apart. In both stories, we see someone the narrator is trying to please or impress. In “Araby” the narrator is trying to impress the girl, and in “Shooting an Elephant” he is trying to please the people. These stories show the desire to be a part of British Imperialism, but ultimately realizing that it is not all it seemed to be. In “Araby” the boy’s realization comes upon arriving at the bazaar late and attempting to find something for the girl. This is the moment when he no longer is driven completely by lust for the girl, and he realizes what it is really like. This is Joyce’s way of portraying British Imperialism, and what it is like trying to appease those in control. In “Shooting an Elephant” Orwell details his feelings on the matter in a slightly different way. Orwell’s perspective was unique as he was a member of the police in India. Orwell wrote about his experiences, using “Shooting an Elephant” to show the pressure Imperialism puts on him. He says, “The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly.” Both Orwell and Joyce also expressed emotions of regret at the end of their stories. This conveys the point that both are disappointed in what Imperialism had brought them and that they both thought it would be better. Joyce said, “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.” and Orwell said, “In the end I could not stand it any longer and went away.”

Apathetic attitudes toward imperialism

Most imperial authors were strong advocates for the spread of imperialism. William Yeats and George Orwell seemed to take a different approach to the movement. Orwell was a sub divisional police officer during the turbulent time that India was still under British rule. Despite the attitude that might have been expected by an imperialist police officer at the time, Orwell had an attitude of resentment towards imperialism. This was a surprising attitude to adopt at this time, because he himself was a European. The fact that he was chastised daily in the streets by jeering natives, but that he still resents imperialism is a contradiction. He states “All this was perplexing and upsetting. For at that time I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better” (Orwell 2567). In other words even though being a sub divisional police officer was his job it was not one he enjoyed. Just as Orwell thought of imperialism as evil, William Yeats characterized the second coming as the return of Satan. He remarks “When a vast image out of Spirtus Mundi troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert a shape with lion body and the head of a man” (Yeats 2183). Yeats is personifying the pervasiveness of imperialism as the evilness of Satan. Both Yeats and Orwell demonstrate apathetic attitudes toward imperialism.

Views on Imperialism

While George Orwell and William Butler Yeats wrote in different forms, they both hosted feelings of resentment toward the era of imperialism they lived in. Orwell was a police officer during the ties of intense rivalry between that of the British imperialists and the Indian Natives. He also happened to be a mixed-race person which further intensified his anxieties. When writing about his experiences, Orwell draws on imaginative descriptions and literary devices to push across a tone of intense anti-imperialism. On page 2567 Orwell wrote, “I was a sub-divisional police officer of the town, and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling way very bitter.”

It would seem that William Butler Yeats shared feelings of anti-imperialism/anti-British sentiment as exhibited in his poem “The Second Coming.” On page 2183, “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last/Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?” The beast he mentions is presumably a tyrannical force that can be interpreted as an official government.

“Araby” and “Shooting an Elephant”

 

In both “Araby” and “Shooting an Elephant,” there is an important task at hand for both speakers. The speaker in Araby must go to this bazaar in order to impress the girl he likes. As soon as he gets to the bazaar, he is met with defeat. His wish to impress the girl is not fulfilled, because he reaches the realization that he had been deceived by both her and the allure of the bazaar. His hopes were too high and in the end, he was disappointed. This scenario is somewhat comparable to the speaker in “Shooting an Elephant” because the speaker also had expectations for himself that were not met. For example, the speaker did not plan, in the slightest, to kill the elephant. The idea did not cross his mind, and he repulsed by the idea of killing the elephant. Even when he realized that he “had” to kill the elephant in order to please the crowd, he was still against it. I think that both speakers have something/someone that they want to please, but in the end, they are only disappointed in themselves. The final sentence in Araby could easily be added to “Shooting an Elephant” because both speakers are feeling the same way. “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger” (2222) is the point in which the young boy in “Araby” comes to the realization that he is nothing more than a part to the machine. I think that the speaker in “Shooting an Elephant” surely felt the same way after doing something that he considers evil. The speaker in “Shooting an Elephant” comes to the realization that he is nothing more than a puppet being controlled by those who easily outnumber him. The self-reflective nature of both characters is a similarity that stands out the most. Both speakers take a look inside themselves, and come to the conclusion that they ultimately do not like what they see.

Ignorance and Innocence

An important facet to the stories of  both the boy in “Araby” and Orwell in “Shooting an Elephant” is their naivete and ignorance, which ultimately ends in disillusionment. The boy in “Araby” encounters feelings of lust and romance for the first time in his life, being enchanted by Mangan’s sister “I had never spoken to her, except for a few casual words, and yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.” He is so enamored with her that when she mentions going to Araby it becomes a heroic quest for the boy: “The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me.” At the end of “Araby,” however, we see that the bazaar is full of cheap english chotchkies. The story ends with the boy concluding that: “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.” The boy sees now the imperialism of the world he lives in, and simply gives up.

Orwell too has a moment of clarity in “Shooting an Elephant,” during the climax of the story, when faced with the challenge of what to do, he decides to kill the elephant. Not because he believed it was the right thing to do, but rather, because he feared being mocked: “My whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.” Orwell offers himself up as a part of the imperialist machine, “solely to avoid looking a fool.” However, he regrets this action after, and, helpless in aiding the elephant in death, Orwell, “could not stand it any longer and went away.”

In both works, both characters undergo transformation in the unfulfillment of their goals. It is in the disappointment of their quests that they truly see the underbelly of Imperialist Britain, and choose to reject it by running away.

 

Darwin as a Literary Figure

Faulkner said: “Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it.” This is advice is cliché because it is so intuitive: by taking the time to read any given genre of fiction of any given quality, you have an opportunity to either learn from the masters or learn from other writers’ mistakes. Yet, I think this advice can be taken still further. One can learn how to write better fiction by reading non-fiction, and vice-versa. This is part of the reason why we are reading Darwin in our English course: literature encompasses far more than pure fiction.

When Darwin wrote of his first encounters with the Fuegians, he wrote a story. His story’s characters were comprised of Fuegians and Beagle crewmembers; he was the stalwart protagonist. The plot followed actual events as he perceived them. Anybody reading his account in 19th century Britain might have thought the account was interesting because as far as they know, the described events may very well have occurred in real life. What kept people reading, however, was Darwin’s use of provocative language and storytelling—techniques that are more obvious in “pure literature.” Regardless of how interesting a real-life event may be, the efficacy of its conveyance relies upon the same principles as “pure literature.”

Darwin’s Influence

Charles Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle is interesting in the way that it is presented through a scientific mind that challenged the close-mindedness of the Victorians, which greatly influence a movement of deadly curiosity towards a faith of morality. This stems from Darwin’s unique writing style that presents the realities of the unknown with a clear, analytic perceptive with devices such as diction and imagery. For instance, Darwin has very strong, descriptive diction that further pushes curiosity in the minds of the readers. When Darwin presents the Fuegians found on the west coast of Wollaston Island, he describes them as “poor wretches” with “hideous faces” and “filthy and greasy” skin that makes one question how they are “inhabitants of the same world” (1266). Just as he concluded, the appearance of the these people are unbelievable, especially for minds that did not think of the realities of what they considered unknown. Along with this description, in the earlier selections Darwin also presented Fuegians with the same intense astonishment like the previous. When describing his first arrival to Tierra del Fuego, he explains how the natives’ language was compared to someone clearing their throat with many “hoarse, guttural, and clicking sounds” and how they all “posses the power…[the] power of mimicry” (1264). Again Darwin continues to compare the humanity of the natives to the men that have “long civilized” as he claims how this unknown reality is entirely tangible. With this influence, Victorians may question their own set of norms and morals, and how in a sense have been shielded by their own internalized superiority complex throughout the many years of colonization. Regardless of the tone and intention Darwin originally constructed, his works do influence the way one views and concludes about a concept, idea, and so on.

Darwin

Darwin’s work “The Voyage of the Beagle” is applicable to literary analysis through its reflection of the radical transformation of the Victorian beliefs, while still trying to work within them. When Darwin arrives at Tierra del Fuego he immediately establishes his lack of understanding of the world before him, it is something he has never “beheld” (pg. 1262). However, he takes the time to create a barrier between “savage and civilized man”, despite his lack of knowledge (pg. 1263). Darwin is still trying to fit these new experiences within his current Victorian/Colonialism belief system– anything new is inferior and infantile. For example, the party he meets at the island resembles “the devils” from the “plays like Der Freischutz” and the language they speak is barely “articulate”(pg. 1264). He still chooses to hold an entirely different world to Victorian ideals, and fit them with his preconceived notion of what is acceptable. This accurately reflects the Colonial mindset of English superiority and English responsibility to the native inhabitants to “educate them and instruct them in religion” (pg. 1265). When Captain Fitz Roy “bought” a child with a “pearl-button” for this very purpose. This juxtaposes the opposing views of the time period: improve the world through cruel colonization. However, Darwin tries to assuage his guilt with the description of “brutal” husbands and fathers (pg. 1267). This shows the unsustainable belief system trying to work within a world that does not play by the same rules. This same conundrum is paralleled when Darwin tries to explain “inherited habit[s]” in birds and the “natural history of these islands” (1270-72). The conclusions he must draw cannot be made within the same cultural rule book. For Darwin to understand he must break away.

Darwin’s Exploration of the Unknown

Though during his time, he was seen as a mostly controversial figure in the eyes of many, Charles Darwin was one of the first prominent writers who changed the way in which people view tradition and traditional values. Although his upbringing was anything but what his father wanted, he still had high hopes to study natural history. His theories on evolution and marriage were seen to be controversial. On page 1262, he specifically says that “….a wife would provide an ‘object to be beloved and played with-better than a dog anyhow.’ To many people, that statement, and rightfully so, made people angry. Many scholars began to belittle his theories and opinions.

In his work titled, “The Voyage of the Beagle” from Chapter 10. Tierra Del Fuego, he discusses his encounters with the Fuegians, the people native to the archipelago off the southern tip of South America. He says the shore is, “..rugged, inhospitable Staten-land..” and the people  as “..stunted, miserable wretches farther westward..(1263), with only a single cloth for clothes. The “savages” were easily able to catch on to their actions. They are extremely good at mimicking. I think that people during this time didn’t want to believe that there were people out there who only had cloth for clothing or only communicated with hand motions or sounds. Darwin explores and exposes this unknown reality of living to the public through elaborate imagery which makes one feel as if they are truly there. Studying Darwin is key because not only did he set the foundation for all kinds of inquiry and discussion, but to this day, many people still question the idea of evolution because it seems so foreign to us. His ideas and theories are so important to the everlasting progression of the human species. The idea of mimicking especially resonates well because most of us do this without even thinking about it. It’s how we all learned how to walk, run, speak, climb etc.

Darwin’s Significance Within Literature

During the period known as “The Age of Doubt,” Darwin quintessentially influenced the Victorian age, embodying the skepticism that marked this time through his scientific theories and ideas. Though not the first to contradict Victorian conventions, he strongly contributed to the movement. His works helped mark the shift in English values and traditions, especially regarding the bible and its teachings. These new ways of thought certainly provoked numerous responses from the Victorian people (including literary authors), allowing Darwin’s works to cross the line between science and literature. This not only proves Darwin’s significance in both fields; it reveals his significance within the revolution. In his book, The Voyage of Beagle, though not explicitly stated, evolutionary ideas exist within the accounts of his travels. When describing his time in Patagonia among the Fuegians, he questions their abilities to live in the conditions that they do. Upon his reflecting of this question, he states, “Nature by making habit omnipotent and its effects hereditary, has fitted the Fuegian to the climate and the productions of his miserable country” (1267). This statement directly points to natural selection, as he describes the Fuegian ability to adapt to their environment through nature’s methods of turning habit into inherent trait. In Chapter 17, he focuses on the animals of the American Cordillera rather than the people living there. In observing the birds and tortoises of the land, he concludes, “first, that the wildness of birds… is a particular instinct directed against him… secondly, that it is not acquired by individual birds in a short time… but that in the course of successive generations it becomes hereditary.” (1272). Though he doesn’t clearly define evolution in his work (at this point), his observations outright contradict the beliefs derived from the bible, contributing to the doubt of the time. Literature is not the only platform that incites revolution; Beagle, though a scientific account, caused further questions of the values and beliefs held by Victorian people. Though not literature itself, his work influences the readers and authors of it by offering newfound knowledge to supplement the newfound ways of thought.

Darwin’s Imagery

In order to cause a scientific paradigm shift as monumentally large as Darwin’s works were able to cause, your words must be convincing. The works of Darwin are studied in modern context not only for their content, but for their craft as well. Through the lense of an English course, Darwin’s travel writings shine for their evocative use of imagery. Darwin describes the landscape of the Galapagos as “dry and parched, [giving] the air a close and sultry feeling, like that of a stove” (1269). Darwin’s use of imagery and simile is relatable to the Victorian everyman, who is more likely to know the smell of a stove than that of a dry, equatorial island. A strong image can be transformative to a piece of writing, and I believe the images of Darwin’s travel writing is what makes them effective and engaging within their genre.

Beyond the purpose of genre and pleasing its readership, Darwin’s use of imagery serves two other purposes: it both catalogues Darwin’s surroundings and convinces the reader to Darwin’s own beliefs of his surroundings. By using descriptive words, Darwin can successfully catalogue his journey and what he’s seen for future usage. This, of course, will later result in the publication of On the Origin of Species. However, the qualifiers that Darwin chooses also work to convince his audience of several of the points that Darwin asserts within his work. Unfortunately, chief among these assertions are the inferiority of the native peoples he encounters to his own race, the difference between which is said by Darwin to be “greater than between a wild and domesticated animal” (1263).  To accentuate this claim, Darwin uses demeaning qualifiers while describing the people of the islands, such as “miserable wretches” (1263) and the constant “savage” (1266). At one point, Darwin compares the native population to “the devils which come on the stage in plays like Der Freischutz” (1264). This use of imagery serves to demean the native peoples of the Galapagos and therefore, within the mind of an uncritical reader, aids Darwin’s earlier claims of their relative inferiority.

Darwin’s Influence

Darwin’s writings profoundly affected thought and one’s perspective, in England; as such, his ideas would certainly influence English writers. The nineteenth century was a period of turbulence for traditional ideas; Darwin’s writings added to the skepticism of old beliefs regarding humans’ place in the world. For the first time, many began to consider taking the perspective that, perhaps, humankind’s origins lie with the beginnings of all other animals, as Darwin suggests. Such ideas were problematic for religious institutions, as they contradicted the Bible’s explanation of the creation of the universe. While on his voyage, in an attempt to explain why the birds were so docile, Darwin states: “[fear of humans] is not acquired by individual birds in a short time, even when much persecuted; but that in the course of successive generations it becomes hereditary” (Darwin 1272). This quote illustrates the inspiration given to Darwin by the voyage for the idea of natural selection, as he compares the birds he encounters to the birds in England, which do have fear of humans (Darwin 1272). Darwin implies that the laws of natural selection apply to humans, as well: “Nature by making habit omnipotent and its effects hereditary, has fitted the Fuegian to the climate and the productions of his miserable country” (Darwin 1267). Darwin sees the differences between himself and the Fuegian people; he sees how they evolved differently from himself to adapt to their environment. Whereas many once believed humankind to be separate from the rest of the animal kingdom, Darwin’s revolutionary ideas rendered those ideas null to the open-minded people of English society. As Darwin’s ideas influenced English thinking so much, understanding them and the conflicts they created is important in comprehending the writings of writers of the period.

Darwin and his Contradictions

Darwin majorly contributed to a massive culture shift from the previously doctrinaire stance of creationism with his scientific evolutionary innovations. Moreover, the difficulty of accepting such a new principle about the origin of species and humankind was occurring amidst constant social turmoil that the industrial era brought, i.e. “the crisis of religious doubt occasioned by biblical scholarship and scientific discoveries hit Christian belief hard” (1056). Beyond its cultural significance as a consciousness reframing, Darwin’s recording of evolutionary evidence is written as a persuasive— and somewhat contradictory— argument that utilizes common ground with his British audience. For example, when discussing the Feugians, he describes that “they could repeat with perfect correctness each word in any sentence we addressed them, and they remembered such words for some time.” Darwin describes the Feugians as having differences, but also similarities to give them some sort of agency to an audience familiar primarily with justifications for imperialism. Extensively, Darwin moves to make this description even more relatable to his British audience by stating “yet we Europeans know how difficult it is to distinguish apart the sounds of a foreign language” (1264). Darwin is partially reframing the established British understanding about the constructed hierarchy of mankind, but he is doing it in a way that fits within British rhetoric, and he is not abandoning every racist trope— he still refers to the indigenous persons as “savages” and mocks the Fregians for so-called “mistakes” in their English i.e. “I should think there was scarcely another human being with so small a stock of language, for his English was very imperfect” (1268). Darwin was not outside of racist thought, and his method of recording information walks the line between British-fueled imperialist mentality and the changing age of scientific and industrial discoveries.

Darwin’s Literary Thinking

We are reading Darwin in an English course because he thought as any author would think about his writings. Most non-fiction writers you think of write about social issues at the time, mostly political. Especially in England in Darwin’s time period, most writers went to a university specifically for writing. For Darwin, he “spent…three years at Cambridge,” as his father hoped he would become a “country clergyman” (1260). As Darwin “considered his formal education a complete waste,” he instead focused on “natural history,” leading him to evolutionary theory (1260). Although Darwin was a scientist, his paper On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection explains why we read it in an English course. As we read, we look beyond the lines in an English course, making inferences on the writings. Although Darwin wrote a scientific paper, this is exactly what you can do with his work. As he discusses “the inhabitants of this savage land” early in his paper, the reader already knows of his thoughts towards colonialism, in that he sees these “wild…animal[s]” as inferior to the white man (1262-1263). Although he’s very factual, his superiority is inferred by his word choice, and makes for an interesting topic in a literary discussion. He even uses imagery in a scientific paper, as he discusses the “Fuegians…concealed by the entangled forest,” and the reader can visualize these people more easily (1262). This imagery can lead to a further literary discussion about why he uses such imagery throughout his paper, making Darwin an acceptable reading for an English course.

The Revolution of the Individual

While I think it is appealing to say that BLAST is highly revolutionary in its form, and that is probably true, it seems to me that the actual content of BLAST itself is both more subversive and important to the goal of the magazine. BLAST appears to be occupied with the deconstruction of the class divide and an emerging focus on the individuals. BLAST states upfront that it seeks to appeal to “the fundamental and popular instincts in every class and description of people” (7). Furthermore, it asserts that “art has nothing to do with the coat you wear” (8). In the context of this course in particular, this is thematically dissonant from preceding British work that made its goal the restructuring of society (usually targeted at one group in particular). For example, Arnold and Engles want to restructure the working class and their interaction with the rest of the society. Antithetically, BLAST does not want to restructure society, but paint it for the individual’s eyes. Their “blasts” and “blesses” are not lofty, but relatable to the everyman to whom they are addressing. The blessing of the hairdresser in particular comes to time as something that anyone has experience with. The revolutionary aspect of BLAST is its catering to the individual, not to the class structure.

BLAST

Blast is vey unique in the way that it delivers its’ content, yet what was most noticeable was the way it was visually written. In particular, the font size and how the capitalization emphasizes the contradiction of the original definition of the words express the importance of the writer’s message. In the beginning of “Long Live the Vortex,” phrases such as “Reality of the Present,” “Humanity,” and “the Interpreter and Seer” are delivered in a way to express the messy and violent nature of a vortex. The capital letters in Reality and Present make it a contradiction between the two words, promoting the construction of how we link any experience into reality to give it a living. It is mocking the present time and how unreal it is because of the current circumstances of England, and how people seem to lose touch with comprehension. This is similar with the world “Humanity,” and making it seem as if humanity itself is being ridiculed for how much it has disregard the idea of individuality and uniqueness. Lastly, words Interpreter and Seer are very impactful in this section due to the fact that it expresses the essential purpose of individuality and raw human emotion. It is difficult to describe and illustrate raw emotions, yet it still should not be praised based on the objects it is presented on, but by the people who created and inspect the art instead. Those people are the only ones who will understand and be able to feel the raw emotions, not materialistic objects that others use to rely on. The magazine is revolutionary in how it tries to break away from old traditions yet still has classical influences to promote its’ message.

Blast

The content for Blast is the most revolutionary. The content reflects a movement that is a response to another movement; specifically one against new technology and conformity. However, the approach is revolutionary. The page set up and design layout reflect their content perfectly: it is a series of idiosyncratic, self observant, contradictions. The purpose of the magazine is to be “Beyond Action or Reaction”(Blast 31), yet allude to the fact that “Naturalists, Impressionists, or Futurists…depend on the appearance of the world for…art”(Blast 7)–a reaction. They also claim to be “NO-MAN’s” “Cause”(Blast 31), yet consistently allude to current events at the time and “ENGLAND’S history” and state of artistry (Blast 37). These series of contradictions fuel a type of vortex, and at its center is the magazine. This perfectly embodies a movement that is trying to champion the individual, but still requiring unity, and trying to push for self-fueled art, but is at the crux of political turmoil. While many movements in the past have had contradictions create beautiful art, none of them have ever relied on contradictions to produce art. That’s what makes it revolutionary.

BLAST’s Revolution

Both the content and technique of BLAST are revolutionary. The graphics of the magazine are certainly abnormal for the era; rather than focus merely on getting the information on the page, the designers of the magazine used different fonts and sizes to emphasize certain words. The industrial revolution’s innovations in regards to printing certainly aided in the decision of the designers to attempt something so revolutionary. As more became possible with printing, the people composing BLAST decided to take advantage of opportunities unavailable to past magazines by experimenting with graphics.

The content of BLAST was just as revolutionary as the design. “We do not want to change to appearance of the world, because we are not Naturalists, Impressionists, or Futurists … and do not depend on the appearance of the world for our art” (BLAST 7). Essentially, they say that they do not mind if their works have no significant impact on the world; they do not allow the world to influence their works, either. This sentiment seems revolutionary in that most, to this point, would create works which were either based in reality or aimed at affecting reality; their aim seemed to be to do neither.

The Blasted Revolution

BLAST was revolutionary in it’s content and form. Because this article was published two weeks prior to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, it is entirely possible that they predicted it in full. The way in which this article is written reminds me a lot of satire. There are a lot of phrases throughout this article that are capitalized for dramatic effect. The fact that phrases such as, “WE NEED THE UNCONSCIOUSNESS OF HUMANITY” and “WE ONLY WANT THE WORLD TO LIVE….and to feel it’s crude energy flowing through us” are capitalized speaks volumes. During this time, in which this article was written (in the mid-900’s), WW1 was just getting started and a lot of people were terrified of speaking out in opposition to their governments. However, WW1 brought out the best inventing minds of the century. More was done technologically and economically during this time then ever before. Part of this, I believe, is because of article’s like BLAST, which challenge the traditional beliefs of those of higher power and question what we value in our daily lives. BLAST’s content is revolutionary because it makes everyone question what they believe is important in life.

BLAST

While both the content and technique of BLAST are revolutionary, I think the content of Blast is more revolutionary. The physical features such as the graphics and typography are already quite revolutionary, considering there was nothing similar to this design that had been published before. It was very dramatic and draws the reader in right away. They also used the words “Blast” and “Bless” instead of the typical love it or hate it type of lists. On page 31 of blast I noticed how they have somewhat of a desire to “stir up civil war among peaceful apes,” it also states on the previous page their intention of establishing themselves as “beyond action and reaction.” I think these statements are still relatable today, which if they’re relatable nowadays then they must have been quite revolutionary then as well. There are offensive manifestos, sarcastic as well, which makes it enjoyable to read because I feel like a lot of people felt this way but just never really had the courage to do what this team did. It was revolutionary, yet needed to be written.

BLAST’s Revolution

Certainly, BLAST was revolutionary in terms of its form. For example, as far as I can tell, BLAST was a pioneer in popularizing the sans-seriff typeface– and while it is easy to read today, I’m sure it was difficult for Victorian readers so inundated with seriff typfaces to read it nearly as easily as we do today. I think this helped “demoticize” literature as a whole. Common people probably wrote without seriffs for the sake of convenience; any publication using seriff typefaces probably did so to encourage the reader to infer a sense of intellectual sophistication and authority. BLAST made sure to abandon any such false pretensions, opting for a more honest approach to connect with and the gain the trust of its audience.

That being said, I think BLAST had even more to offer in terms of its relentlessly irreverent content. Much of British literature’s Victorian output, explicitly and otherwise, generally valued rationality, “high art,” and British supremacism. Meanwhile, BLAST valued man’s “stupidity, animalism, and dreams.” It’s Manifesto made sure to mention that “No great ENGLISH Art need be ashamed to share some glory with France, tomorrow it may be with Germany.”

Revolutionary or Traditionalist? The Call to Redefine Values

The question of whether or not Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy is conservative or progressive is a difficult one to answer, because, in actuality, it could be considered both. Arnold says “Culture is then properly described not as having its origins in curiosity, but as having its origin in the love of perfection… not merely… the scientific passion for pure knowledge, but also… the moral and social passion for doing good” (1596). His belief in the purpose of culture to be to propagate the value of learning for learning’s sake (the pursuit of what is known as pure knowledge) and his belief that culture should be equally focused on promoting the common good are not new values. The pursuit of knowledge solely for its propagation is reflective of some ancient Greek civilizations, and, in more recent times, the Renaissance, where the arts and sciences flourished. This growth was not due to a need for advancement, but because the focus of the age was on growth in the arts and sciences. His ideas surrounding culture working towards the common good are reflective of revolutionary ideals, which professed the need for a government whose purpose is to protect the rights and freedom of its citizens. Of course, many of the earlier revolutionary writers also clarified that freedom should be allowed only to the extent that one’s own freedom does not impinge on the freedoms of others, which Arnold does note later on. So yes, this could be considered a conservative viewpoint due to the call to remember what was once valued. However, Arnold’s call for reform is also progressive.

Arnold’s argument goes against the very foundations of the society that England has created for itself. He does not claim that the only solution is a “returning to the old ways;” instead, Arnold desires to take the society they have now and make it better. Yes, machinery and technological progress is useful. It opens up doors that previous generations could scarcely dream of. but it should not be achieved at the cost of forgetting to be curious, to be imaginative and discover for oneself what lies beyond the realms of the evident. Progress, that multi-million dollar word, should not be valued above human life, human decency. If his society is progressing, fantastic, but may these advancements contribute to the common good. It is not “every man for himself,” it is not “survival of the fittest,” it is one person and the next and the next- each with their own goals, each with their own needs, each with their own gifts. People, he says, cannot forget their humanity and the humanity of those above and below them. This is important- nay, necessary- for any progress to be made. By seeking these old-made-new values, society can advance towards what Arnold believes to be “perfection.”

Culture and Anarchy

In Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy, Arnold combats the current state of the growing and ever changing social reform movements that are being imposed and sanctioned upon the people by the majority.  Arnold’s emphasis on freedom and independence from tyranny in a progressive statement, “That it is man’s ideal right and felicity” (1597). Arnold’s strong statement here embodies the progressive attitude despite the political and social climate that he possesses. Though Arnold by no means is saying to give full power to the people, in such a bold piece and freedom based argument, he is quite progressive for the given era. Arnold, unlike many of his time, believed in giving power to the state but not in a tyrannical fashion that would lead to anarchy. Arnold’s attitude in such an era is progressive in itself as it seems to go against the norm. Arnold’s views with such an evolving community are hard to pinpoint whether he leads towards being conservative or progressive but I believe this quote is a key example for that argument.