Songs of the Sea: An Intimate Look at the Birth of Capitalism Through Eighteenth Century Song
This paper, currently in development, explores the commercial potential of nautical imagery common to eighteenth century literature and how accurately these images encapsulated the everyday experiences of mariners and merchants. Utilizing the Eighteenth Century Collection Online, a comprehensive digital humanities primary source archive which contains all known books printed in England during the period, this paper takes as its primary text a fascinating volume of sea songs which were not only sung by sailors, but were also performed at pleasure gardens and theaters throughout London, as well as being sold in book form. A close reading of several songs will illuminate images common to this period, such as setting sail for a New World, the shattering of tradition and the redemption of virtuous consumption. The paper will also draw from a number of contemporary critical sources for support and, in turn, will offer the reader a new perspective on the culture and literature of eighteenth century England.