Spinning off Margaret’s post on revolutionary songs, we’re proud to present some of our favourite revolutionary books. The truly wonderful thing about compiling a list of titles is coming to understanding that revolution takes all forms and covers many different grounds, from oppressive governments to racial bigotry to animal prejudice. Another great thing: there are so many books, and it will take us a few posts to tell you about most of them! Revolution remains a part of literature, and while it rises up against so many different oppressions, revolution always starts in the same place.
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay is a staunch defence of individualism. A positive, affirming connection to our true selves – that which may have been buried beneath layers of societal conformity – can ultimately lead to positive changes in society. Self-Reliance shows us that revolution starts from within oneself, who can sometimes be the most difficult person to convince.
‘Howl’ by Allen Ginsberg
Ginsberg believed that, of all the people in the world, the poet is the bringer of truth. His poem, in all its obscene and uncovered glory, is as shameless of its frank and honest nakedness as a man ‘dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts.’ ‘Howl’ was and still is met with resistance and shielded eyes by those unwilling to see it for what it really is: the uncovered, naked soul of the poet before the world.
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Woolf explores why fiction has predominantly been written by men throughout human history. She concludes that because women have traditionally borne the burdens of family and household, they had neither the mental nor physical space to produce creative works. Thus, A Room of One’s Own is a call to action for women to find rooms of their own in which to write. That Woolf, being a woman, could not even enter the Cambridge library alone whilst there to deliver her lectures (upon which this essay was based) shows just how revolutionary her ideas were at the time – and they remain so today.
The quintessential cautionary tale in favour of revolution. Not only is it expertly written and perhaps the most visionary novel of its time, it illustrates gravely what could happen if we all just stopped, settled, and surrendered. And even there, in the totalitarian regime of Oceania, the spark of hope is never, ever fully snuffed.