Variations and Departures1870-1915 • Authors: • Walt Whitman • Emily Dickinson • Mark Twain • Ambrose Bierce
var·i·a·tion (vâr'ē-ā'shən, vār'-) : Marked difference or deviation from the normal or recognized form, function, or structure. de·par·ture (di-'pär-ch&r): divergence or deviation, as from a standard, rule, etc.
Variations and Departures1870-1915 What’s going on? The North has won the civil war, the slaves are freed, the South is impoverished, and the president was assassinated. Things are not going so well. Mark Twain wrote: “The eight years in America from 1860 to 1868 uprooted institutions that were centuries old, changed the politics of a people, transformed the social life of half the country, and wrought so profoundly upon the entire national character that the influence cannot be measured.” In other words, the civil war left America a changed nation.
Variations and Departures1870-1915 Between 1870 and 1915 America did experience explosive growth. Symbolic of this growth was the development of the railroad. The 35,000 miles of track in 1965 had increased to about 200,000 miles by the end of the century. In 1869 the Union Pacific Railroad which, in effect, linked America from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean, was completed.
Variations and Departures1870-1915 In his writing “Passage to India,” Walt Whitman called for a spiritual achievement to parallel the amazing engineering achievements of the age—and he had good reason! This period was a time of plunder and exploitation, of greedy materialism and political corruption, of financial piracy and labor strife.
Variations and Departures1870-1915 Great fortunes were accumulated while some people went hungry in the growing cities. Immigrants from Europe poured into the United States in search of fortune, but most found themselves laboring on railroads or in sweatshop factories for low wages. Magazine and book publishing flourished with the growth of a prosperous, literate middle class, who thirsted for practical information and for fiction representing “real life.”
Variations and Departures1870-1915 Why is this time period called “Variations and Departures?” Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and Emily Dickinson departed from previous themes, contents, forms, and use of language
Variations and Departures1870-1915 Three Literary GIANTS! • Walt Whitman • Emily Dickinson • Mark Twain
Variations and Departures1870-1915 Walt Whitman: --Self-proclaimed “poet of America” --invented free verse --used bold images and symbols taken from everyday life --tried to capture the truth of the American experience
Variations and Departures1870-1915 Emily Dickinson: --discovered ideas for her poetry from the garden next to her house --also found ideas in the small events of her household work --used slant rhymes and bizarre word patterns
Variations and Departures1870-1915 Mark Twain: --Set his stories along the Mississippi River and used things from daily life in his stories --brought humor to the novel that was not embraced before
Variations and Departures1870-1915 Each in his or her own way brought the American language of farms and streets, steamboatmen and Westerners, into novels, poems, and essays that Americans would read. The language was simple and direct, sometimes slangy, and different than the “literary” and British language that previous American writers had used.
Variations and Departures1870-1915 Realism Realism is a type of writing during this era where authors tried to re-create everyday reality to help the readers “experience” real life. These authors believed the truth of experience was to be found in events described accurately and objectively, undistorted by the writer’s imagination.
Variations and Departures1870-1915 One part of realism was the use of something called “local color.” Local color: Authors would set their writing in a specific region and incorporate local speech, customs, setting, regional character, temperament, and dress into their writing.
Variations and Departures1870-1915 Naturalism The new theories of Darwin, Freud, and Marx were suggesting that biology, psychology, and economics determine each individual’s destiny. Naturalistic writers took these ideas and applied them to their presentation or interpretation of the human experience.
Variations and Departures1870-1915 Writers like Ambrose Bierce and Stephen Crane tended to depict life as grim, the universe as cold and spiritless, and the individual as a victim of heredity, society, and natural forces. Naturalism was pretty much the opposite of Romanticism and Transcendentalism. All information is taken from “The United States in Literature,” pages 291-293