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American Literature and the Search for Identity

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  1. American Literature and the Search for Identity Introduction to Catcher in the Rye English 11 Spring 2014

  2. The United States is a nation made up of many different cultures. • Each culture provides a differing view. • Questions arise about what it means to be an American, what the identity of an American is, and how one can classify him or herself in that society. • Let’s review what we’ve read so far . . . Identity

  3. American Society Literature: Poetry: Ann Bradstreet, Edward Taylor – reflected life in the service of God. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God: We are all survivors because our vengeful God hasn’t deemed it necessary for us to die. The Scarlet Letter: Each character defined him/ herself in terms of his or her sins, place in society determined by those sins. • Based around the New England area • Founded by those escaping religious persecution. • Government and way of life centered on a belief in a stringent God. • People identified themselves according to their beliefs, how they fit into the rigorous moral code. Early America: The Puritans(ca. 1620 – ca.1800)

  4. American Society: Literature: Walden: H.D. Thoreau – philosophy of life after spending two years living at Walden Pond – SIMPLIFY! SIMPLIFY! Emerson: Focus on Self-reliance, God in Nature “To thine own self be true.” • New idea of God in Nature • Reliance more on self than on society • Identifying oneself in terms of society was corrupting • Urged people to avoid conformity • Westward Expansion- charting/ settling new territory. Romantic Period: Transcendentalists(ca. 1800 – ca. 1860)

  5. American Society: Literature: Emily Dickinson: Themes of unrequited love, nature, religion Walt Whitman: I am an American, “I Sing America,” Song of Myself. Frederick Douglass: (Slave Narratives) Told his stories, used them to establish where he’d come from • Contrasting ideas of states rights put Americans at odds with one another. • Involvement in war shaped literature. • Slaves attempting to establish their identities as newly freed citizens • The nation struggled to rebuild after the war. Civil War Period and Reconstruction(ca. 1850 – ca. 1900)

  6. American Society: Literature: More regionalism in writing. Harlem Renaissance: Art and literature of the African American experience (Langston Hughes) The Lost Generation: Ex-Pats in Paris, among them F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby: Struggle for finding one’s own version of the American Dream, creating oneself into what is expected by society’s standards. • The economy moved from agrarian to industrial. • More population moving toward city life. • Conflict over World War I, The Roaring Twenties, The Great Depression, World War II. • Americans had more wealth than ever before, and lost more of it than ever before. • More regionally separated, but more connected as a whole by radio. Industrial Age/ Modern Age(ca. 1900 – 1950)

  7. Published by JD Salinger in 1951 • Bildungsroman (“Education” “Novel”) – a coming of age story. • Holden Caulfield struggles with his own search for identity – what is expected of him, what he wants, what he fears about his impending adulthood, and his wish to escape it all. • Has been considered an influence on Steven Chbosky’sThe Perks of Being a Wallflower. The Catcher in the Rye