Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Charlotte Bronte and Alexander Trocchi: Silent Revolt of a Millions Minds?

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) and Alexander Trocchi (1925-1984) might not seem to have too much in common as writers, but I wonder whether the famous passage in Jane Eyre about the 'millions in silent revolt' might have influenced Trocchi's coining of the phrase 'invisible insurrection of a million minds'? 

Of course Bronte's version has a more proto-feminist slant - it is the denial of agency to women that is her main point, though she does generalise to the 'masses of life which people earth'. Trocchi's appeal is to those who he sees involved in a diffuse cultural revolt:  'the cultural revolt must seize the grids of expression and the powerhouses of the mind... The cultural revolt is the necessary underpinning, the passionate substructure of a new order of things'. But in both there is this sense of a simmering insurgent intelligence.

'It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags'.  (Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre, 1847)

Bronte in 1854
'Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds...What is to be seized - and I address that one million (say) here and there who are capable of perceiving at once just what it is that I am about, a million potential "technicians" - is ourselves. What must occur, now, today, tomorrow, in those widely dispersed but vital centres of experience, is a revelation. At the present time, in what is often thought of as an age of the mass, we tend to fall into the habit of regarding history and evolution as something which goes relentlessly on, quite without our control. The individual has a profound sense of his own impotence as he realizes the immensity of the forces involved. We, the creative ones everywhere, must discard this paralytic posture and seize control of the human process by assuming control of ourselves. We must reject the conventional fiction of "unchanging human nature." There is in fact no such permanence anywhere. There is only becoming' (Alexandre Trocchi, Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds, first published in the Scottish journal New Saltire in 1962 and then as 'Technique du coupe du monde' in Internationale Situationniste #8, January 1963).

Trochhi in 1967

1 comment:

QPT said...

Google Doodle honoring Charlotte Brontë on her 198th Birthday.