Essay: Charge of the Light Brigade -- History

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Charge of the Light Brigade -- History and Literature

What is the relationship between history and literature? Is one subordinate to the other? What can we learn, for example, from the stories you read (be specific)? Does knowledge of history make a story more powerful, more "real?" Does history create literature and, in turn, literature creates history?

The discipline of history is both an art and science, designed to uncover the knowledge of culture, society and motivations of past civilizations. In such, it is beyond the idea of rote memorization of names, dates, and places and focuses more on the establishment of a verifiable past based on appropriate documents, interpretation, and an overall understand of the society in question and its relationship to other societies and future trends. The study includes who wrote what and in what time frame, bias, preconceptions, and audience (Bently, 1994). Literature, on the other hand, is also a process of artistically utilizing the written word in several genres (e.g. nonfiction, fiction, poetry, etc.), but with less stringent research requirements and greater allowances for opinion, fantasy, and speculation. To say that both are interrelated, though, is an understatement. Both not only chronicaol events but give the reader a greater insight into actual individual implications, feedback, and the way grand events impact individuals on a day-to-day basis (Frisina., 1999).

Literature is a medium which allows the witer to take events, be they maco or micro-events, and place them into the human context -- or living history. While individual reactions may or may not be indicative of the broad base of society, literature has the power to make one "feel" events as opposed to reading "about" them. One example might be Boris Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago. Certainly there is historical fact within the novel, the Russian Revolution, Civil War, and disasterous entry into World War I. However, instead of a broad societal picture, Pasternak's novel uses a familial grouping to allow the audience to "feel" the events, the pain, the anguish, and hopelessness, and the way that overt, political events impacted the individual (Rosenberg, 1995).

The paradigm of literature creating history or history creating literature is akin to the chicken and the egg maxim. In some cases, historical events are a basis for literature: poems such as The Charge of the Light Brigade, novels like Doctor Zhivago and Gone with the Wind. However, other novels and pieces of literature have the power to incite, to critically analyze what is happening in society, and to influence historical events; (e.g. Candide or Uncle Tom's Cabin). One must be cautious, however, since it is the victor that often writes the history of an event, and certain aspects of literature tend to glorify and magnify events into almost mythical proportions.

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