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Poetry, Politics and Pictures

Culture and Identity in Europe, 1840–1914

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Edited By Ingrid Hanson, Jack Rhoden and Erin Snyder

This collection offers new perspectives on the connections between politics, identity and representation in art and poetry in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Britain and Europe. Contributions explore questions such as the following: what was the effect of the reciprocity of political, religious and artistic influence in nineteenth-century Britain and Europe? How were key political moments or movements influenced by or influential on literary and artistic form? How did the styles and forms of the past shape the political expressions of the nineteenth-century present? By what means did politically inflected art and literature shape the emerging construction of national, class or religious identities in the nineteenth century?
Ranging across not only Britain but also France, Germany, Belgium, Finland, Spain and Italy, the essays draw on different discourses and art forms. They all utilise concepts of cultural materialism to shape an understanding of the contingent relationships between national and international public discourse and identity, political change and cultural production as well as the reproduction, translation, influence and dissemination of both politics and culture in art and literature.

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Ingrid Hanson, Wilfred Jack Rhoden and Erin Snyder Introduction

Extract

On 24 March 1888, the Socialist League journal, Commonweal, carried an inserted cartoon by the British artist Walter Crane. It depicts two work- ing men, one holding aloft the f lame of enlightenment, the other carry- ing labouring tools jauntily over his shoulder, a phyrgian cap in his other hand; both are saluting a draped female figure who holds a banner reading ‘Vive La Commune’! The cartoon is captioned: ‘An English Tribute to the French Commune: Dedicated to the Workers of Both Countries’ (Crane 1888). The newspaper itself of fered a report on the annual London celebra- tion of the Commune alongside a round-up of ‘The Labour Struggle’ in Britain and across Europe. In a similarly internationalist vein, the equiva- lent March issue of the previous year of fered a translation of a poem by the revolutionary German writer Georg Herwegh, a feature on socialism in Denmark and an advertisement for a book by the veteran Chartist John Sketchley, entitled A Review of European Society (Commonweal, 26 March 1887, 101; 97–8; 104). These snapshots of socialist journalism in late Victorian Britain sug- gest some of the ways in which this nascent political movement drew on a combination of literature, visual art, and revolutionary history to create an internationalist, British working-class identity in the pages of its newspa- pers. Earlier in the century, essays and poems by Georg Weerth, described by Friedrich Engels in 1883 as ‘the German Proletariat’s first and most important poet’ (1976: 402), drew on his experiences...

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