Checking in a bit early today. Usually I rush off the Friday post real quick at seven pm.
Anyway, the "zeitgeist" is the "spirit of the age", the unique character of a specific historical period. It can include the feelings and motivations of the people living in the age, but I most often use it to refer to the dominant popular art of a time. Like, Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin", that appealed to a specific mindset and a specific time. It was first published March 20, 1852, just about 166 years ago, and apparently it sold 300,000 copies in the first three months. Those are killer numbers, even today.
As an aside I'll point out I think it's funny that the pejorative "Uncle Tom" has been swimming about for 166 years and there has been no effort on anyone's part to come up with a new pejorative.
So Stowe was living in Cincinnatti and she met some fugitive slaves in 1850. Two years prior to publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin was the Fugitive Slave Act, which abolitionists hated. All escaped slaves not only had to be returned to their owners, but citizens and officials of free states had to comply in their return. There was a big counter-reaction to the Act, and both the law and people's reactions informed the zeitgeist. Uncle Tom's Cabin gave words to the feelings a lot of abolitionists had, and the book was influential in shaping the American view of slavery.
Star Wars. For some reason in the 70s people needed a science-fiction story of good and evil.
The Beatles' ouvre. A confluence of rock evolution and the Kennedy assassination shook the American conscious and the Beatles dominated alongside Elvis.
Probably "The Great Gatsby" came along at the right time and the right place. So did "The Wizard of Oz".
It's interesting. Sure, there are probably zeitgeists other than popular artistic works. Like, there were probably zeitgeists for architecture, or even for business management. However, since I'm largely blind to these things, I focus on artistic works.
I'm wondering whether we're functioning under a zeitgeist here in 2018, and what it is. And how can it help me to sell my books? Should congress pass a law or something?