Little Napoleons: Napoleon Worship in 19th Century Fiction

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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 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. Paul examines 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, he concludes 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.

Paul Hanna

Laidlaw Scholar, Columbia University

I'm a second-year student at Columbia University studying Film and Political Philosophy! I'm interested in visual art, film, analytic philosophy, and research on the intersection between the visual/media arts and political philosophy. I also like to write poetry, read, watch films, bake, play the piano, and take photos!

Last summer, I examined Napoleon's influence on the political attitudes present in Le rouge et le noir by Stendhal and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. (he/him)