There is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow that suggests people don’t focus on subjects unnecessary for survival unless other conditions necessary for survival and sanity are met. According to Maslow, people don’t focus on literature when other they are worried about there own survival. To survive, we need food, water, and shelter, in our society, we also need financial security.
To test this theory, we can follow trends in the major literary genres throughout the last 150 years. Drama, comedy, tragedy, and satire correlate very well with each other, romance varies slightly but generally follows the same overall trend. During the 1860’s, during the Civil War, none of the genres gain any significant prominence, due to the fact that people were concerned with the safety of their friends and family. Starting in 1870, all genres start gaining more prevalance, until about the middle 1910’s, the start of World War I. During WWI, the relative prevalence of all genre’s drops sharply, potentially due to the fact that people are generally more concerned with their own personal safety. During the roaring twenties, the prevalence of all genre’s increases sharply. During this time, the economy was growing rapidly, due to the increased financial security, people where allowed to focus more on literature. The prevalence of each genre begins to drop when the stock market crashes in the late 1920’s, and continues to drop throughout the great depression and World War II. Growth is stagnated during the cold war in the 50’s, and begins to fall sharply as the Vietnam War escalates in mid 60’s to mid 70’s.
The prevalence of all genres continues to slowly decline after the 80’s, except for Romance. I think this decline is due to the decline of printed media as a whole due to the rise of technology and digital media.