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Humanity's Struggle with Nature in Victor Hugo's Poetry of Progress

Katherine Lunn-Rockliffe
The Modern Language Review
Vol. 107, No. 1 (January 2012), pp. 143-161
DOI: 10.5699/modelangrevi.107.1.0143
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5699/modelangrevi.107.1.0143
Page Count: 19
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Humanity's Struggle with Nature in Victor Hugo's Poetry of Progress
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Abstract

This article examines Victor Hugo's evolving poetic representation of the theme of humanity mastering nature, and shows how his poems on this theme express ambivalence about whether progress is brought about by human effort or by providence. It situates the debate about agency in the context of contemporary ideas, identifies the contrasting poetic techniques that Hugo develops to emphasize God's agency and man's agency respectively, and analyses how he uses metaphor to problematize the agency of progress, particularly in L'Année terrible. Poetic form is shown to be a way of thinking about the tensions inherent in the idea of progress.

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