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A Review of American Literature – from the beginning to Now. AP English Review Mrs. Dibble. A New Land, A New Literature. The Puritans - not essential to American Literary tradition however, the American character was shaped by the moral, ethical, and religious convictions of the Puritans
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A Review of American Literature – from the beginning to Now AP English Review Mrs. Dibble
A New Land, A New Literature • The Puritans - not essential to American Literary tradition however, the American character was shaped by the moral, ethical, and religious convictions of the Puritans - the 1st Puritans arrived in 1620 and by 1640, 20,000 Puritans had arrived - who were the Puritans? Protestants who wanted to “purify” the Church of England. Wanted simpler form of worship – for them religion was a personal, inner experience
Cont. - Believed in predestination and the ideas of original sin. Believed that Jesus was sent to earth to save a select group (the elect). - They believed you could feel grace arriving and that after receiving grace, you were reborn - valued self-reliance, industriousness, temperance, and simplicity - Bible was guiding force and most literature referred to and paid reverence to God - Anne Bradstreet – 1st published poet - Edward Taylor – America’s best Puritan poet - John Smith – helped lay foundation for American Literature
The American Revolutionary Period 1750-1800 • Writing was meant for a public audience • Consisted of letters, pamphlets, declarations, speeches, and essays • Abigail Adams’ letters were an early campaign for women’s rights • Hector St. Jean de Crevecoeur’s Letters helped establish national identity and coined the term “melting pot” • Ben Franklin became symbol for success gained by hard work and common sense – known for his autobiography and Poor Richard’s Almanac • Thomas Jefferson considered finest writer of the era • Thomas Paine’s The Crisis helped propel us into war
True American Literature – the Romantic Period 1800-1840 • Values feeling and intuition over reason • Places faith in inner experience and the power of the imagination • Shuns the artificiality of civilizations and seeks unspoiled nature • Prefers youthful innocence to educated sophistication • Champions individual freedom and the worth of the individual • Contemplates nature’s beauty as a path to spiritual and moral development • Looks backward to the wisdom of the past and distrusts progress • Finds beauty and truth in exotic locales, the supernatural realm, and the inner world of the imagination • Sees poetry as the highest expression of the imagination • Finds inspiration in myth, legend, and folk culture
Time Line of Events • 1803 Louisiana Purchase extends nation’s territory to Rockies. • 1804 Lewis and Clark begin exploring and mapping West. • 1807 Fulton’s steamboat makes 1st rip from NYC to Albany. • 1812 US declares war on Great Britain; early battles are at sea. • 1814 Bombardment of Fort McHenry – “The Star Spangled Banner” • 1820 Missouri Compromise – No slavery in new territories • 1825 Erie Canal success – canal building spurred throughout US • 1837 Samuel Morse patents telegraph. • 1838 Cherokee “Trail of Tears” – Georgia to Oklahoma • 1846 Mexican War begins • 1848 California Gold Rush begins • 1848 Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, NY
Historical Background • In 1800, the US consisted of 16 states, all clustered on the east coast • L.P. doubled the size of the US • This rapid growth = national pride and self-awareness • Canals, turnpikes, and railroads boomed. • Steamboats and sailing packets helped speed people and goods to destinations.
Writers to Know • Washington Irving – Father of American Romanticism • Nathaniel Hawthorne – a dark Romantic • Edgar Allen Poe – a dark Romantic • Herman Melville – a dark Romantic • James Fennimore Cooper – creator of the Romantic hero
Washington Irving 1783-1859 • Father of American Literature - featured American settings and American “types” • 1st American writer to achieve international reputation and was the central figure in the American lit scene til Civil War. • Wrote short stories, travel books, and satires. • His most famous works – “Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” “Rip Van Winkle,” and “The Devil and Tom Walker”
Nathaniel Hawthorne 1804-1864 • The dark Romantic • Cornered the market on sin and guilt, including consequences of pride, selfishness, and concealed culpability • Known for endings that are ambiguous • Almost all of his work, including The Scarlet Letter, deals with people who are torn between tragic evil of human nature and a human sympathy for our natural passions • Showed keen psychological insights that paved the way for his friend Melville and the 20th century novelist William Faulkner
Edgar Allen Poe 1809 - 1849 • Despite a lousy childhood and some serious substance abuse problems, Poe wrote landmark criticism and memorable poetry • Created the modern short story, with its unity of character, detail, and mood • Created the detective story • His psychotic murder stories paved the way for such pop-culture icons as Norman Bates and Freddy Kruger. • Famous works include “The Tell-tale Heart,” “The Black Cat,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Raven,” “The Gold Bug,” and “Murders in the Rue Morgue”
Comments by his Contemporaries • Uneasy with Poe’s strong use of rhythm, the famous 19th century philosopher Emerson called him “the Jingle Man” • Novelist Henry James though an enthusiasm for Poe was “the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection” • Poet T.S. Eliot said Poe’s intellect was that of a “highly gifted young person before puberty • Writer James Russell Lowell characterized Poe as “three-fifths genius and two-fifths sheer fudge” • “To me, Poe’s prose is unreadable – like Jane Austen’s,” Mark Twain said. “No, there is a difference. I could read his prose on salary, but not Jane’s.”
Authors influenced by Poe • New England poet E.A. Robinson • Novelist Frank Norris • Novelist Theodore Dreiser • Southern writer William Faulkner • British mystery writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle • Irish playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw • Horror master Stephen King
Herman Melville 1819-1891 • Though recognized now as one of America’s top novelists, Melville was not recognized by many of his peers for his genius • Born into a distinguished family but due to his father going bankrupt when he was young, finances went sour – he ended up going out to sea when he was 20 as a cabin boy. Later was out on whaling boats, spent time on islands inhabited by cannibals, roamed the South seas, ended up in US Navy • Moby Dick is considered America’s greatest prose epic – a tale of man’s pursuit of revenge
James Fenimore Cooper 1789-1851 • America’s first successful novelist – although he wrote about both the sea and novels of manners, his most famous are a series of 5 novels about Natty Bumppo (1st American hero) – The Pioneers, The Last of the Mohicans, The Prairie, The Pathfinder, and The Deerslayer • He raised the American frontier experience to epic proportions and helped define the American character as we know it today • His prose was laden with description of truly American places – much centered around upstate NY
Characteristics of the American Romantic Hero • Is young or possesses youthful qualities • Is innocent and pure of purpose • Has a sense of honor based not on society’s rules but on some higher principle • Has a knowledge of people and of life based on deep, intuitive understanding, not on formal learning • Loves nature and avoids town life • Quests for some higher truth in the natural world
The Transcendentalists – Part of Romanticism but to a New Level • Also known as the American Renaissance • A reaction to a too rational Unitarian religious movement • Consider all characteristics of Romanticism and remember that no movement “just happened” - also remember that Romanticism was also going on in Europe • Nature is always going to be key • Ralph Waldo Emerson • Henry David Thoreau • Walt Whitman • Emily Dickinson • Louisa May Alcott • Harriet Beecher Stowe
Characteristics of Transcendentalism (to go beyond) • Everything in the world, including human beings, is a reflection of the Divine Soul • The physical facts of the natural world are a doorway to the spiritual or ideal world • People can use their intuition to behold God’s spirit revealed in Nature or in their own souls • Self-reliance and individualism must outweigh external authority and blind conformity to custom and tradition • Spontaneous feelings and intuitions are superior to deliberate intellectualism and rationality
Ralph Waldo Emerson • Born in Boston in 1803 to a family that was cultured but poor • Dad died when he was eight, but Mom took in boarders to make money • Family decided he would follow the eight generations of Emersons before him – he would be a minister. He reluctantly obeyed. • Entered Harvard at fourteen • An indifferent student , read widely (philosophy and religion) • With hesitance, became a minister
Cont. • Married his love – 17 year old Ellen Tucker who was already sick with T.B. • When she died, his skepticism in religion increased, he quit the church, went to Europe, and observed life. • Came back to US in 1833, remarried, and supplemented his income by lecturing – “Let us unfetter ourselves of our historical associations and find a pure standard in the idea of man.” • Believed individual souls were part of something bigger – the Over-Soul • Due to his growing fame, Concord, Mass. became a Mecca for intellectuals who considered Emerson their guru. • Although his lectures are optimist, the death of his five year old son, Waldo, caused him to fall into depression and later he started to lose his memory
Most Famous Works • Nature • “…the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me, I am part and parcel of God.” • “If the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come round to him.” • Self-Reliance • “To be great is to be misunderstood.” • “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide.”
Henry David Thoreau • Born in Concord; dad was a pencil-maker; mom took in boarders; he spent his free time in the woods, often with a fishing pole, seldom with a gun. • Went to Harvard; was eccentric (it was required to wear a black coat to chapel, so he wore a green one). • Got mediocre grades but read lots and was into the ideas of transcendentalism
On Walden Pond • Emerson offered Thoreau some of his land on Walden Pond and that is where he went to find a simple life. • Thoreau’s most famous work – Walden – spoke of his view that man’s most “vital facts of life” lay literally in their own back yards. • He protested the Mexican War, which he saw as an attempt to extend American slaveholding territory, Thoreau refused to pay taxes. • He helped escaped slaves make it to Canada and was a supporter of John Brown, the radical abolitionist who staged a raid at Harper’s Ferry. • His essay “Resistance to Civil Government” later inspired Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Salvadorian people transformed his ideas into their pursuit of civil rights. • Opponents of the Vietnam War adapted his idea’s on Civil disobedience when they burned draft cards, staged sit-ins, and demonstrated non-violently
Thoreau • “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” • “The government is best which governs not at all.”
Walt Whitman • Whitman created new poetic forms and subjects to fashion a distinctly American type of poetic expression • He rejected conventional themes, traditional literary references, allusions, and rhyme – all the accepted customs of the 19th century • He used long lines to capture the rhythms of natural speech, free verse, and vocabulary drawn from everyday speech. • “I Hear America Singing” – catalog poem • Song of Myself – empathized with all people (black, Indian, women). Didn’t care about race or sexual orientation. • “O Captain, My Captain” – a tribute to the fallen Lincoln
Emily Dickinson “Success is counted sweetest By those who ne’er succeed. To comprehend a nectar Requires sorest need.” • An agoraphobic – afraid of open spaces – from age 23 until her death 33 years later – dressed only in white and never left her house (rarely her room). • Wrote nearly 2,000 poems in her lifetime, but published only seven – each anonymously • Her poems were published posthumously, by her sister Lavinia • Her Five Main Themes: LOVE , NATURE, FRIENDSHIP, DEATH, and IMMORTALITY • Considered one of the founders of Modern American Poetry
Her Poems Were Different… • They looked different – where were the sentences, the commas, semi-colons, the periods? Why all the dashes???? • Her poems didn’t rhyme – used slant rhyme • Her figures of speech were too striking for the day • Her ideas were too radical – she didn’t stick with warm and fuzzy topics. Favored startling images and outlooks. Paved the way for the Imagists of the 20th century.
Louisa May Alcott • Her dad had been friends with Emerson • Worked, like Whitman, as a nurse during the Civil War. There, she contracted typhoid, from which she never completely recovered
Harriet Beecher Stowe • Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the most influential book of the 19th century. It was the first book to sell a million copies and touched readers across the globe. • Uncle Tom’s Cabin is one of the most effective documents in American literature and helped fuel the Civil War • Stowe was the most famous American woman of her day.
The American Romantic Poets • Much of their ideas were European and they echoed much of the European techniques - William Cullen Bryant - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - John Greenleaf Whittier - Oliver Wendell Holmes
Regionalism and Realism • From 1860 to 1914, the US was transformed from a small, young, agricultural ex-colony into a huge, modern, industrial nation. A debtor nation in 1860, by 1914, America had become the world’s wealthiest country. Our population had more than doubled, rising from 31 million in 1860 to 76 million in 1900. • As industrialization grew, so did alienation. Characteristic American novels of the period, including Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, Jack London’s Martin Eden, and Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, depict damage that economic forces and alienation wreak on the weak and vulnerable. Survivors, like Twain’s Huck Finn, London’s Vanderveyden, and Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, endure through luck, pluck, and strength.
Mark Twain - The Master of Satire “ In 1861, Samuel Clemens avoided the brewing Civil War by going west. He took his first writing job as reporter at the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. Serious news was often mixed with “reports” that had to be taken with a grain of salt. Soon, he began using the name Mark Twain and affixing it to sketches, reportage, and an occasional hoax. It was a time when he first discovered his talent, his calling, and his voice. His work pokes fun of many human foibles. He is also known for his extremely accurate use of dialects. In
More Twain Though his most famous novel is criticized for being racist, Mark Twain never expected nor intended the controversy that arose with the publication of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain was not racist, but depicted life in his times. Other famous works include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Prince and the Pauper, and Puddn’head Wilson
The Naturalists • A romanticist would say “Isn’t nature glorious?” • A realist would say “That’s the way the cookie crumbles.” • A naturalist would say “He was fated to die this way – that it’s the inescapable effects of the man’s environment and heredity.” • Naturalism, also called literary determinism, denies religion as a motivating fore in the world and instead perceives the universe as a blind machine. This results in a bleak, realistic depiction of lower-class life.
Characteristics • An individual’s life is determined by environment, heredity, and chance • Conditions, not people, are at fault for the way things turn out • As a result of some crisis, the veneer of civilization can be stripped away, leaving us with the animal within • Survival of the fittest and natural selection govern people as well as nature
So why was this time period so grim? • In 1860, most Americans lived on farms or in small villages, but by 1919, half of the population was concentrated in about 12 cities. This resulted in poor, overcrowded housing, unsanitary conditions, and inadequate restraints on business. • Labor unions grew out of this, and strikes brought the plight of the working people to national awareness. Farmers struggled against robber barons like Morgan and Rockefeller. • Eastern banks controlled Western development and agriculture, while railroad companies charged high prices to transport farm goods to cities. • Robber barons ruled; no effective legislation was on the side of the laborer. • Over 23 million foreigners – German, Scandinavian, and Irish in the early years and Central and Southern Europeans thereafter – flowed into the US. Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino contract laborers were called in for businesses on the West Coast. This flood of laborers made it easier for industrialists to keep salaries and working conditions at the rock bottom.
Key Terms to Associate w/ Naturalism • Atavism- the reappearance in an individual of characteristics of some distant ancestor that have not been present in intervening generations, such as a hand like a hairy paw • Darwinism- people who are best adapted to survive are chosen through the process of natural selection • Determinism- all events follow natural laws • Nativism- the belief that the “true” Americans were those of earlier Anglo-Saxon descent, and that this “race” was under threat from the growing influx of Central European and Asian immigrants • Nietzscheism – Friedrich Nietzsche’s belief in the “will to power” as the primary force of society and the individual • Racialism- A false science that argued different races possessed distinguishing traits that determined their particular behavior and achievement in society • Scientism- the primacy of science over religious, mythical, or spiritual interpretations in life • Social Darwinism- Applying the evolutionary ‘survival of the fittest’ concept to a world marked by struggle and competition.
Realists vs. Naturalists • Naturalists are generally more pessimistic than realists. A realist believes that people can make moral choices, while a naturalist does not. • Naturalists believe that all actions are determined by heredity and/or environment, and that individuals are “trapped” by driving forces such as money, sex, and power. Realists, in contrast, do not believe in determinism.
Stephen Crane 1871-1900 “A man said to the universe: ‘Sir, I exist!’ ‘However,’ replied the universe, ‘The fact has not created in me A sense of obligation.’” • Crane was a literary terminator, attacking long-standing traditions with a bold new style and theme. He smashed through patriotism, nationalism, individualism, and organized religion to confront the meaninglessness of the world. • Died of t.b. and malaria at age 28, but published an amazing amount of work: five novels, two volumes of poetry, three big story collections, two books of war stories, and countless works of short fiction and reporting.
Cont. • Born in Newark, NJ to a preacher and a fertile mama (he was kid #14). • Didn’t start school until he was 8 – liked baseball more than books • Encouraged to be preacher but transferred from seminary to military school to SU • Was part of school newspaper. Published first novel by 22 and was a major success by 24 when he published The Red Badge of Courage.
Cont. • Big on satire • Is considered to be one of the first naturalists because of his belief in determinism: the effects of environment, heredity, and chance on human fate. • Crane is most famous for writing The Red Badge of Courage, a novel set in the Civil War • His works are generally VERY anti-war • His writing is celebrated for its images and symbolism
What did these folks concentrate on? • Habits • Speech • Customs • Beliefs Although other Romantic/Realistic writers did try to truly portray their areas of the country, local colorists stepped it up by rendering a given location, as well as being scrupulous in their factual, realistic writing
Jack London • Original rebel without a cause and highest paid writer of his day (earned more than $70,000 a year). • Considered himself a socialist – ran repeatedly on the socialist ticket in Oakland, CA. • Lived hard and died young, 40. • Spent the winter of 1897 in Yukon, giving himself tons to work w/ in his stories • His most famous works are The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and The Sea Wolf.
Frank Norris 1870-1902 • Also lived hard and died young • Scorned the pale, bloodless romances of his time, which he dismissed as the literature of ‘chambermaids’. • Norris embraced a red-blooded plunge into reality, where nothing exists but force. Under his hand, American fiction turned from tentative realism to in-your-face naturalism. • Norris’ most famous novel – McTeague, a Story of San Francisco – is a naturalistic tale of moral degeneration under economic pressures. The novel shows how a man’s long-suppressed animal instincts can break through his civilized veneer.
Theodore Dreiser 1871-1941 • The 12th of 13 kids, and only one of two who didn’t end up a drunken bum • Considered by many to be the leader in American naturalism. Remembered for his stinging criticism of the genteel tradition. • In his fiction, Dreiser deals with social problems and w/ characters who struggle to survive • His style (unfortunately) is known for being sprawling, shapeless novels and clichéd writing. His most famous novel is An American Tragedy. • Wanted to show how life in America was indeed tragic.
Local Colorists – Still part of Realism but with local connections • Drew America’s attention to undiscovered parts of the country • “Local colorists” used their skill to preserve customs and culture of their special corners of America. By the end of the century, there were local colorists from Maine to California, from the northern plains to the Louisiana bayous. • Most famous local colorists: Bret Harte, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Sarah Orne Jewett, Kate Chopin, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Willa Cather
Bret Harte 1836-1902 • Helped create America’s impression of the Old West with such stories as “The Luck of Roaring Camp” and “The Outcasts of Poker Flat.” • Probably the best-known local colorist because of his romantic version of the gun slinging West. • Also one of the first writers to introduce lowlife characters – cunning gamblers gaudy prostitutes, and uncouth robbers – into serious literary works. • Inspired such shows as Gunsmoke, Bat Masterson, and Bonanza. • His two main techniques for conveying flavor of the place and times: dialect and description
Mary Wilkins Freeman 1852-1930Sarah Orne Jewett 1849-1909 • These ladies cornered the market on New England’s local color. • Most famous works of Freeman: A New England Nun and Other Stories and A Humble Romance and Other Stories • Her characters , usually mature New England women, generally confront their poverty w/ independence. • Jewett’s characters, showed Maine characters and settings, and her stories revolve around characters and their crucial choices. Usually set in the past. • Her work emphasized idiomatic language, conservative values, and imagery/vivid descriptions of rural New England
Kate Chopin 1851-1904 • Husband died after 12 years, and she ended up back in St. Louis, writing to support her kids. • Chopin’s style is memorable for its vivid, economical style, rich local dialect, and penetrating views of the culture of south Louisiana. • Was popular until publication of The Awakening in 1899 (way too scandalous for the times!). Although banned, this piece alone solidified Chopin’s literary talent.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman 1860-1935 • Dad went out to get cigs and never came back • Married, reluctantly when she was in her early 20s but that marriage lasted only 4 years • Had a daughter, a nervous breakdown, and let her ex-hub retain custody. Her reputation was ruined. • Married George Gilman and they were happy for 34 years. • Got breast cancer and killed herself • Most famous work : “The Yellow Wallpaper” – a short story about a woman who has a nervous breakdown when she has a child Not, Charlotte…