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AMERICAN LITERARY HISTORY. THE NEW LAND (1500-1800) LITERARY NATIONALISM(AMERICAN CLASSIC) (1800-1870) NEW FORMS (1870-1915) THE INTERWAR PERIOD (1915-1945) MODERNISM (1945 –1980) POSTMODERNISM (1980 -). THE NEW LAND (1500-1800). HISTORY:

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american literary history

AMERICAN LITERARY HISTORY

THE NEW LAND (1500-1800)

LITERARY NATIONALISM(AMERICAN CLASSIC) (1800-1870)

NEW FORMS (1870-1915)

THE INTERWAR PERIOD (1915-1945)

MODERNISM (1945 –1980)

POSTMODERNISM (1980 -)

the new land 1500 1800
THE NEW LAND (1500-1800)
  • HISTORY:
  • 1498 Columbus arrives > Spanish and English settlements:
  • In the South and Southwest the Spanishestablished settlements(Arizona, Florida, San Francisco, Los Angeles etc. – came to be part of Mexico and werelater lost to the US in 1848)
  • In the North East (’New England’)English Puritans (fledreligiouspersecution in Europe) theirfirst settlement was the infamous ’Jamestown Settlement’
  • In the South East European aristocratsarrived. Theyestablished large plantationsrequiringendlessshiploads of servants and slaves.
the new land values and literary themes
THE NEW LAND – VALUES AND LITERARY THEMES
  • Somecommon elements of the North American experience:

a) Fascination with the wilderness(needed to civilize the new land > ’the lonely hero’ who is able to survive in the wilderness)

b) A devotion to fair government(the European Americans did not want to reinstitute the feudal system of Europe>e.g. large-scalebanking made it possible for middleclasspeople to establishtheirownbusinesses)

c) A concernwithpracticalaffairs(needed to survivewhile ’civilizing’ the new land)

the new land writers and their works
THE NEW LAND – WRITERS AND THEIR WORKS
  • The Chroniclesfrom the exploration of the New Land e.g. John Smith’sDescription of New England (1616) theywerecomposed to attract future settlers and providenews and information for the curious back in England
  • Moral writingsin the North emphasizingPuritanvirtues of practicalwisdom and self-disciplinee.g. Benjamin Franklin’sAutobiographyonhow to attain ”Moral Perfection. Franklin’splainspeaking and down-to-earth humor areconsidered by somecritics to be the keynotes of American Literature
  • Politicalwritings: serving to unify, explain and justify a new American Nation. E.g. The Declaration of Independenceby Thomas Jefferson. In it is the core of American Identity.

In Hector de Crevecoeur’sWhat is an American? The riddle of nationhood and identity is discussed - thiswouldalsobecome a central theme for most American writers to come.

literary nationalism 1800 1870
LITERARY NATIONALISM (1800-1870)
  • HISTORY:
  • The new nation saw the country expandboth:

a) Physically/psychologically: The new settlers had increased the nation by settling/civilizing an increasingnumber of squaremiles and in the minds of peopletherewasalways new land to beexplored and settled. Youwerealwaysable to beginanew.

b) Culturally: America had beencritized for not producing ’American Culture’ and it stung the national pride > appearance of new distinctively American literatureappeared:

literary nationalism american classics writers and their works 1
LITERARY NATIONALISM(AMERICAN CLASSICS) – WRITERS AND THEIR WORKS 1
  • The Myth of the Frontiersman:e.g.James Fenimore Cooper’sThe Leatherstocking Tales and The Last of the Mohicanswherehedepicts his romantic vision of the ’noble savage’, the heroicfrontiersman, and the beauty of the American wilderness.
  • The fireside writers: cosyreading for settlerssitting by ’the fireside’. E.g. Henry WadsworthLongfellowwhotends to celebrate the common man and communalsolidarity
  • The Abolition of Slavery: e.g. David Walker’sAppeal for a blackwar of independence and Black spirituals(songs)
  • (Edgar Allan Poe):was more acclaimed in Europethan in the US. Poe arguedthat American literatureshould not imitate European literature, but hewasalsoconcernedthat it wasbecoming ’merely’ nationalistic as opposed to universal in nature.
  • THEMES EXPLORED BY THE AUTHORS OF THIS PERIOD:

The frontiercharacter/heroic action/The beauty of nature/The celebration of the common/thehumanitarianspirit

literary nationalism american classics writers and their works 2
LITERARY NATIONALISM(AMERICAN CLASSICS) – WRITERS AND THEIR WORKS 2
  • From puritanism to transcendentalism:

The Puritans’ belief in the notion of the original sin and determinismwerereplaced by Emerson’stranscendentalism. The new focuswas upon the beliefs in the basicgoodness and innatefreewill of the individual. The transcendent (or spiritual) reality ratherthan the materialworld, is the ultimate reality. Individualism and self-relianceareimportanttraits.

literary nationalism american classics writers and their works 3
LITERARY NATIONALISM(AMERICAN CLASSICS) – WRITERS AND THEIR WORKS 3
  • Transcendentalists:

a) Ralph Waldo Emerson is thought to have discovered/inventedtranscendentalisme.g. Nature and Self-reliance

b) Henry D. Thoreau was a goodfriend of Emerson’s and healsoopposed the conformity to values of society, when it conflictedwith his ownvalues. Withdrawal and contemplation of nature were his dogmase.g. Walden and Civil Disobedience (M. Gandhi wasinspired by Thoreau whendeveloping his techniques of passive resistance)

  • Otherimportantauthors of the time were: NathanielHawthorne(The Scarlet Letter) and Herman Melville(Moby Dick)
new forms 1870 1915
NEW FORMS (1870-1915)
  • HISTORY:
  • The end of the Civil War – The South wasexploitedduring the reconstruction. The Afro-Americanstended to move North partly due to suppresion in the South, but also due to>
  • Industrialisation(productionwasneeded to reconstruct the country after the war) and accesibletransportation:
  • A) > increasedwealth>increasedgapbetween the rich and the poor>increased immigration(to work in the new industry)
  • CONSEQUENCES:
  • Industrialisation + immigration laid the foundations of modern American society and literature.
  • The growth of a prosperous, literatemiddleclass, whoespeciallythirsted for practical information and fiction representing ’real life’. Therewas an increasedfocusonmaterialism as opposed to spirituality.
new forms 1870 1915 values and literary themes
NEW FORMS(1870-1915) – VALUES AND LITERARY THEMES:
  • America teemedwithsubjects and audiences. Authorswanted to find a new point of departure in theme, in content, in form and in the use of language>
  • Regionalism/realism/naturalism as opposed to ’transcendentalism/romantic’ relationsshipwith nature.
new forms 1870 1915 writers and their works
NEW FORMS(1870-1915) – WRITERS AND THEIR WORKS:
  • The Frontier:was still a themethatfascinatede.g. Huckleberry Finn and otherworks by Samuel Clemens(=Mark Twain). Publishers began to produce cowboy song books and dime novels romanticizing outlaws like Jesse James etc.
  • Civil War literature: e.g. Ambrose Bierce’s An Ocurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
  • Social Satire: The problems of materialism and poverty caused by the industrialization aroused many writers to social satire and protest: e.g. Edith Wharton in The Age of Innocence where her world of New York high society is satirized in its snobbery.
  • Real life in general: Walt Whitman the self-proclaimed ’poet of America’ used bold images, colloquial speech, and symbols drawn from workadaylife to capture a truth of the American experience. Emily Dickinson in her poetrydrewon the small events of householdlife for her commentson the innerself, on the selffacingdeath and onconflictsbetweendoubt and religious faith.
the interwar period 1915 1945
THE INTERWAR PERIOD (1915-1945)
  • HISTORY:
  • Thisperiodwasparadoxicalwith:
  • a) Prosperity(1920s) ><poverty(1930s)

b) Peace><wars (World War I and II)

the interwar period 1915 1945 values and literary themes
THE INTERWAR PERIOD(1915-1945) – VALUES AND LITERARY THEMES:
  • There is a focuson new techniquese.g.:

a) Rearranged time sequences

b) A focusonuneventful, but emotionallycrucial moments

c) Stream-of-consciousnessnarration (inspired by new psychological studies)

  • Imagism = a new stylestressing the prescision and emotionalimpact of carefullyselected images. Poems shouldbe a visualexperience.
the interwar period 1915 1945 writers and their works
THE INTERWAR PERIOD (1915-1945) – WRITERS AND THEIR WORKS:
  • The ’Lost generation’(1920s): e.g. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby(1925) about the lure and corruption of greatwealth. Hemingway’sThe Sun also Rises(1926), which is a portrait of young Americans woundedspiritually and physically by the war, wanderingaimlesslyaroundEuropeseekingboth the pleasures of the moment and meaning for their lives
  • Black and Southern literature: e.g. Jean Toomer’sCane(1923), whichexploresvarieties of blackexperience. William Faulkner usedstream-of-consciousness and poeticlanguage to describe the effects of modernwayson the identity and traditions of Southerners, bothblack and white.
  • The Proletariansympathies(1930s): e.g. John Steinbeck’sGrapes of Wrath(1939) describing a family’sstruggle to survive the great depression.
the interwar period 1915 1945 writers and their works1
THE INTERWAR PERIOD(1915-1945) – WRITERS AND THEIR WORKS:

POETRY:

  • Poetry as art(imagism) especially in the 1920s, with at focusonself-consciousness, world-wearysophistication and complexeties of ironye.g. In Ezra Pound and in T.S. Eliot’sThe Wasteland(1922).

VERSUS:

  • Poetry as a medium for social comment: e.g.Langston Hughes’: Let America be America Again, a cry for change for the Afro-American. Others poets werepreoccupiedwith the social ills of the Depression and the rise of fascism.
modernism 1945 1980
MODERNISM (1945-1980)

HISTORY:

  • The 2nd World Warwas over and the worldfaced a bipolar division of the world: Capitalism vs. Communism and the Cold Warwas a fact.
  • In America the fear of a ’communistturn-over’ wasimmense> McCarthyism>manywriterstookrefuge in despair and cynicism(Faulkner’swarning in his Noble PrizeAddress of 1950)>
  • 1950s was a time of complacency, materialism, politicalapathy and tension and suspicioncaused by the Cold Warpolitics.
  • 1960s saw the rise of a ’counterculture’. The postwar boom gave birth to an affluent society and millions of Americans entered the middleclass for the first time. Theirchildren, the baby-boomersgrew up takingprosperity for granted. Society needededucatedlabor>youngpeopleentered the universities>thisincrease in education + TV as a new unifying media > an awareness of social injustice> fights for minoritygroupse.g. Blacks, women, homosexuals etc..
modernism 1945 80 literary values and themes
MODERNISM(1945-80) LITERARY VALUES AND THEMES:
  • Modernism could be described as the experimentation and fragmentation of the human experience, characterized by deviations from the norms of society
  • Poetry: intellectual objectivity, stylistic complexity, and suppression of emotion or personal statement. Literature must be studied without reference to either the life of its authors or the time in which it was created (intellectual detachment perfect in the 1950s since few writers were willing to commit themselves to any stands> a shrinking audience.
  • Social critique analyzing, and satirizing the ‘plastic’ middle-class culture of status symbols e.g. Henry Miller’s The Death of a Salesman(1949) Sloan Wilson’s The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955)
modernism 1945 1980 writers and their works
MODERNISM(1945-1980) – WRITERS AND THEIR WORKS:
  • Warnovels: e.g.NormanMailer’sThe Naked and the Dead. Irwin Shaw’sThe Young Lionsand Karl ShapiroV-Letter and Other Poems.
  • The Southern Renaissance: e.g. William Faulkner, Alice Walker, William Styronwhosethemesreflect the effectonSoutherners, bothblack and white, of new social patterns and ways of thinking.
  • Rebellion: Baby-boomersbecame the first generation to ”drop out” of the ”system”e.g. Jack KeruacOn the Road (1957) and Allan Ginsberg’sHowl. The Beats cultivated ’cool’ - an attitude of ironicdetachment from social conventions and politicalconcerns – theirwritingwaspersonal, sociallycommited and written in the language of the streets. Theysatirize the ’plastic’ society of suburbia.
  • ’Criticalconformity’: those in flight of alienation and apathy and in search of ideals worthy of commitmentfound inspiration in JFK’swords: ”ask not whatyour country can do for you, but whatyoucan do for yourcountry’>volonteerswithin civil rights/Anti-war. E.g. James Baldwin, Joyce CarolOates.
  • Reexamination of the American Identity: ’It waseasier to become a recognizedauthorifyouwere from a minoritygroupthanifyouwere WASP in thesedays of counterculture’> the rise of many new minoritywriterswhoreflect upon theirpast. After the 60s and 70s they go beyond the politicalconcerns and treatbroad universal themes. Theytend to bereflective and introspective.
postmodernism 1980
POSTMODERNISM(1980>)

HISTORY:

  • Thisperiodsaw the consequences of the disappearence of a ’center’. Untilnowyouifyouwere a Western WASP and male youwereentitled to decidewhatwasconsideredculturally relevant. Youwrote the historybooks. The world had beenrelativelyethnocentric so far.
  • The postcolonialperiod: The worldwasno longer ruled by the colonial powers(France, England etc.) After the 2nd World War the former coloniesgainedtheirindependence>looking for a new and ’independent’ culture, whichwouldbe in opposition to the former colonialrulers >many new centers and a new acceptence of culturalrelativism (oneculturecouldbe as good as the next…)
  • Minoritygroups(women, ethnicgroups, homosexuals etc.) had entered ’the rulingclass’ after the civil rightsmovement of the 60s and 70s. Theyneeded to ’rewrite’ history so that it includedtheirview of the world.
postmodernism 1980 literary values and themes
POSTMODERNISM (1980>) – LITERARY VALUES AND THEMES
  • Postcolonialism after World War II contributed to the idea that one cannot have an objectively superior lifestyle or belief.Philosophers argued that rationality was neither as sure nor as clear as modernists asserted. Postmodernism seemed to be the lack of belief in absolute truth or the idea of a reality constructed
  • Minority groups in the west had an urge to ‘rewrite’ history and reveal it as a piece of fiction, which had been constructed in order to sustain a certain ideology. Especially women and Afro-Americans needed a ‘new history’ to write themselves into the American history(become part of ‘the rulers of ideology’)
  • Everything is constructed and postmodernauthorsareveryaware of the ’author as a creator’. Theywilluseintertextuality to reveal the classics as a creationproducedwithin a certainideologicalcontext.
  • There is not onetruth/center/everything is relative: pop culture/elitistculture/everything is equallygoodor bad – just a construction to satisfyourneeds.
  • New journalismarose to underscore the factthateverything is constructed by an authorwith a specificideological platform.
postmodernism 1980 writers and their works
POSTMODERNISM (1980>) – WRITERS AND THEIR WORKS:
  • The author as a creator: Paul Auster most ofteninclude a meta-narratoror a characterwith his ownpersonaltraits, to underscore the author’splacewithin the ideologicalconstructione.g. A New York Triology(1987)etc.
  • The relative truth andlack of belief in universal rationality. There is more thanoneculture, but postmodernists accept thatwe all live in a homogenousconsumer society e.g. Generation X by Douglas Coupland and BrettEaston Ellis’ American Psycho
  • History as an ideologicalconstruction:e.g. Toni Morrison’sThe BluestEye, whichattacks the wayblacks have beentreated and give voices to ordinaryAfro-American (intra-history><history of events)
post 911
POST 911???
  • Global renaissance of religion?