Monday, April 29, 2019

When Did I Become a Victorian?

The nineteenth century has always been my era. Always. Even from before I knew what the nineteenth century meant in comparison to other centuries. Or even what a century really meant.

Why, though?

Maybe because my family watched a lot of nineteenth century period films while I was growing up. It wasn't something my parents grew up with--but together we all watched a lot of those family classics like Oliver Twist and A Little Princess (which, granted, is twentieth century, but in that early part of the new century) and Little Women. When my mom suggested I choose one of the American Girl books at the bookstore, I chose Samantha's book--again, Samantha is technically twentieth century, but she was designed as the Victorian American Girl. I watched Wishbone and many of the classics presented in there are Victorian. I discovered Little House on the Prairie on my own and then ended up watching the show, too. In the first place where I volunteered, I would dress up in Victorian garb--because I absolutely loved Victorian garb.

So I don't know. Was the Victorian era just familiar to me because I'd had it around? Or was I naturally gravitating toward it? In high school, I hoped to live in one of the Victorian houses in Prescott someday--and then I ended up giving that dream away to a character in my first published novel. In college, I was able to state that nineteenth century was my focus--which meant that I tried to take the best of the nineteenth century classes but also to make sure that I deliberately took classes outside of that focus, too, while I had the opportunity to dig into topics I had maybe less interest in.

And so when I was working on a project with my Shakespeare and Performance professor, I had already mentioned that I wasn't much of a fan of Shakespeare (and that that very reason was why I was in the class, to gain a greater appreciation of his work--something which I did in fact get, by the way). My professor, as a way of bringing in my personal interest, asked me what it was about the Victorian era that I liked. I had to define it for once. By this point, it wasn't about the dresses or the braided hair anymore. While I don't remember my full answer, I remember mentioning the nature thing and the highly emotional quality of Victorian literature. These qualities also refer to the Romantics (ah, John Keats, the subject of every lit student's literary crush), who are partly in that very beginning of the nineteenth century.

It's funny because Victorians are in some ways known for the exact opposite of those things. Strong expressions of emotion? What about the uptight, morally strict Victorian stereotype? Lots of use of nature? But isn't the Victorian era all about stuff--the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and eclectic designs and complicated architecture?

Ah, yet there it is, the core of the matter. An inside and an outside--that's the thing I love about the Victorian era. The Victorian on the outside is controlled and on the inside feels deeply. The era may be all about advances in technology but the art is all about symbolism in the natural world. Dualities, dualities.

I am a Victorian. Control and chaos both. Use the technology and those aspects of the modern world but also look to the natural world for beauty and inspiration. I've always been a Victorian.

No comments:

Post a Comment