The Writer’s Habitat

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December 11, 2012 by bradcharlesbeals

British Lit is a survey course, so we jump from one period to the next. Usually the periods are divided at points of reaction to a previous movement. For example, the Romantics of the early 19th C. were writing in reaction against the rational strictures of the neoclassical folks before them. The Victorians were reacting against the Romantics, and the 20th C. began with writers throwing out the Victorians.

And so on…

But the interesting thing about what writers do right now is that they can never get the bird’s-eye view that makes sense of their own work. It is only (with the exception of the few early Romantics who were consciously changing the literature of their time) by the perspective of distance and the establishment of the next big thing, that the current thing–the period I work in now–takes on identity. It is only when we’re done with it that we can see what in the heck we were doing.

The writer in any age must be ok with groping along in the shadows. It is our habitat.

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