Yesterday, when I came home from my parents house, my boyfriend had a few friends over to play some boardgames. I felt a little awkward because Friday nights are usually their guys night, no wives or Kaits invited. (Jonathan and I are the only non-married couple) But it turned out to be interesting. One of the guys there has a PHD in history. I can't remember exactly which period of history he had focused on, but we talked a bit about the Restoration period in England, and also the Victorian era. The Restoration into the 18th century is possibly my favorite period of literature..ever. It was really exciting to be able to share my opinion on something that is so interesting to me with another person who found it interesting, who wasn't one of the two professors at my school who teach it.
The Restoration period refers to the time in England, immediately after the Commonwealth, where the monarchy was restored. Previously, King Charles had been beheaded and the monarchy was taken over by a Republican government. Then there were extremely convoluted political schemes that ended with Charles II restored to the throne. During this time, there were very important literary movements. Forms of journalism that still exist today were brought forth, but more interesting to me is:
The novel was born.
There is actually no set "first" novel. Many argue that it was Aphra Behn's "Oroonoko" (I think I spelled that right?) or Jonathan Swift's "Gullivers travels." There are also a few other contestants, but these are a couple of the main ones.
Even more interestingly is the formation of genres within the novel. Not too long after the start of the novel we get completely different forms of it. For example, there is Defoe's "Moll Flanders" which is written like a biography, or maybe even a travel journal, and then there is Francis Burney's "Evelina" which is a courtship novel, about a young girl's introduction into society.
But we can't forget about all the great comedies of the time either. These are some of my favorite works of literature because they can really capture the image of the Libertine man. Imagine a swave, misogynistic, unfortunately likable character. I maybe shouldn't say misogynistic... he would prefer a woman just like him, who didn't believe in marriage or courting... just sex. It really is a very interesting movement that was repeated in the seventies in America, in a slightly different form. It is all about following the laws of nature. Only their interpretation of what nature's laws are, are horribly skewed. I should make it clear that I don't agree with Libertine ideals as a whole, I just find them fascinating... Almost like a train wreck.
Some of those great comedies are "The man of Mode" aka "sir Fopling Flutter" by Etherege, and John Dryden's "Amphitryon." I think another reason that I love these comedies is because of the language used. I love the word "fop." It is a great way to describe people, but every time I use it, I get funny looks :(
Being able to have a conversation about all this with someone that I barely know really helped me remember why I am an English major. I love literature. I love language. I love history. I love the forms of literature and breaking them down into little analytical pieces. I didn't choose it so I could get a high paying job or make it to the top of a company. I chose it because it is what I enjoy. I may not use it in my future jobs, and most likely won't. But I enjoy it now, and that is what is important.