Little Napoleons: Napoleon Worship in 19th Century Literature

Paul K. Hanna, Dr. Alexandra Watson, and Dr. Liza Knapp, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, 1116 Amsterdam Ave, 10027

A sociopolitical approach to Post-Napoleonic literature, this project explores the political context following Napoleon's rule as represented in the texts Le Rouge et le Noir by Stendhal and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. The main characters of both texts, Julien Sorel and Pierre Bezukhov, glorify Napoleon. A common trope that defines all three: young men who come from an impoverished provincial background attempting to rise to some form of glory, also known as “The Young Man from the Provinces” as identified by Lionel Trilling. After his reign, Napoleon existed as an unpopular social and political figure across Europe, prompting a shift to reactionary political conservatism throughout European governments, a direct impact of their fear of another Napoleon. I examine how Julian and Pierre, both Napoleon-wannabes, are led to failure in their respective journeys because the geopolitical context in which their lives take place will not accommodate the rise of another Napoleonic figure. Thus, I conclude it is a battle of their intrinsic political identity and the populist society which ensures they are not successful rather than simply their own ineptitude. Furthermore, this complicates Lionel Trilling's trope, indicating that the "Young Man from the Provinces" fails because he develops a political identity that is atypical, being raised in the country yet seeking success int the city. It is important to consider the subconscious political identity in further literature studies, as with today, politics has always been inescapable for the individual. Literature as a humanity means that in studying literature, we also study human society. Thus, it is important to ensure that the society is not severed from the human.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Paul Hanna

Institution: Columbia University

Type: Poster

Subject: English & Literature

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 6
Date/Time: Tue 2:00pm-3:00pm
Session Number: 4629