Revolution in Chaos

Revolution in Chaos

I found that the image embedded in this post of the scene from Coleridge’s Kubla Khan (lines 13-30) best exemplifies the concept of revolution in its abstracted depiction of the chaotic, a concept both directly and indirectly addressed in the evocative writings of Richard Price, Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. A commonality in their “A Discourse on the Love of our Country”, “Reflections on the Revolution in France” and “The Rights of Man”, respectively, despite their vast incongruencies regarding the church and citizens’ roles within their government and society, is in their proclamation that disorder and tumult is upon them. Following Britain’s 1866 Glorious Revolution in addition to America’s Revolution in latter half of the eighteenth century was the government’s fear of the sheer power of citizens that became realized in the onset of the French Revolution in 1789.

First, Price’s dissenting piece against the doctrine of the church, though he himself was a preacher, articulates his lack of anticipation of the chaos that would ensue from his speech’s delivery. Harkening back to the Glorious Revolution, he nonetheless unintentionally fueled a sort of fervor regarding the French Revolution whose beginnings were underway at the time of his speech. More specifically, the following quote articulates his ignorance of the disorder that was upon them: “struggle no longer against increasing light and liberality. Restore to mankind their rights, and consent to the correction of abuses, before then and you are destroyed together” (Romanticism 6). Referencing back to the drawing, this quote appropriately coincides with the execution of Coleridge’s vision of “a savage place” “with ceaseless turmoil seething, / As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing” (Coleridge lines 14, 17-18). This notion of underlying impending mayhem percolating beneath the surface is something that is especially portrayed in the cross-hatching in the drawing, as well as in the previous excerpt from Price’s “A Discourse on the Love of Our Country”. Next, Burke’s piece – a response to Price’s – presents a surprising stance unlike the tenets of the liberal revolutionary that unveils his fear of anarchy. The sense of lawlessness that is associated with this extremist type of government that Burke dreads pertains to the chaotic nature of the drawing in that they both mirror a lack of reason and order. In particular, his surprising opinion of excusable murder links to the sense that disorder is upon them: “the murder of a king, or a queen,or a bishop, or a father are only common homicide; and if the people are by any chance or in any way gainers by it, a sort of homicide much the most pardonable, and into which we ought not to make to severe a scrutiny” (Romanticism 13). This almost heretical assertion supersedes the authority of the church and government on the stance of murder and punishment. Much like the drawing, “Reflections on the Revolution in France” exhibits the tension between order and mayhem, the current calm coupled with the inevitable rupture of the sublime. Last, Paine’s “The Rights of Man,” unlike Price and Burke’s pieces, addresses the negativity of the Glorious Revolution in so far as its binding nature of the people, an unnatural characteristic of their rights. This quote depicts this sentiment, as well as the concept of the chaotic French Revolution: “The romantic and barbarous distinction of men into kings and subjects, though it may suit the condition of courtiers, cannot that of citizens – and is exploded by the principle upon which governments are now founded” (Romanticism 27). The language of “barbarous” and “exploded” coincide with the upheaval that the drawing eloquently depicts because of their mutual comprehension of the sublime and its terrorizing characteristics. Thus, this drawing articulates both the subtle and apparent implications of chaos in relation to citizens’ strife for independence.


~ by apocalypse122112 on September 20, 2012.

One Response to “Revolution in Chaos”

  1. You obviously really understood the sublime and the chaos, and I enjoyed how your post elaborated on that. Also, it is a difficult task to relate all the different texts to one another and also tie in the pictures. Revolution is utter chaos and yet, and as you explored, the chaos can often be a part of the sublime.

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