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A Growing Nation 1820-1865. Before 1800 American writers were not widely read. \ This began to change as American writers began to define the American voice. As America grew as a nation, people called for a national literature.

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a growing nation 1820 1865

A Growing Nation 1820-1865

  • Before 1800 American writers were not widely read.
  • \
  • This began to change as American writers began to define the American voice.
  • As America grew as a nation, people called for a national literature.
  • The primary theme of American writing was the quest of the individual to define himself/herself.
  • The characteristic journey of the 19th century is the journey away from the town or city to the world of nature.
romantic literature
Romantic Literature
  • Romanticism was an artistic movement that dominated Europe and America in the 19th century.
  • Romanticism valued imagination and intuition over reason and fact. Focus on superstition, the past, the mysteries of nature.
  • In ROMANTIC literature, the city was associated with moral ambiguity, corruption, and death.
  • The countryside (and nature) became associated with independence, moral certainty, and health.
  • The idea of the American frontier took on great significance in American literature as it set it apart from European topics.
washington irving 1783 1859
Washington Irving 1783-1859
  • America’s first truly popular professional writer.
  • He was one of the first American Romantics.
  • He is considered one of the “inventors” of the modern short story.
  • Born in New York City
  • Named after George Washington (met him in a shop in NYC) when he was a child.
  • Showed a genius for creating comic, fictional narrators.
irving cont
Irving cont.
  • 1809--Wrote A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty.
    • This work was a hoax narrated by an unreliable narrator named DiederichKnickerbocker. The work’s success established him as a satirist.



At 21 visited Europe—wrote accounts re: his travels. Loved the “Old World.”

  • While in Europe (1815-1832) he read German Romantics.
  • Wrote stories based on German folk tales.
  • Wrote “The Devil and Tom Walker,” based on a German folk tale.
  • “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” were both based on German folktales but were distinctly American--set in rural New York—Hudson Valley

“Rip” and “Legend” were published in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon (Crayon was another comic voice.)

  • The Sketch Book brought him international success.
  • Irving borrowed from Europe but established a new voice for the new nation.
  • Irving spent the final years of his life at “Sunnyside,” his farmhouse in Tarrytown, NY.
  • As schoolboys, Hawthorne and Longfellow were inspired by the success of The Sketch Book.
the devil and tom walker
“The Devil and Tom Walker”
  • The story is based on the legend of Faust or Faustus, a scholar who sells his soul to the Devil. The legend is based on an actual magician who lived in the area of northern Germany in the fifteenth century.
  • Faust
  • Faustian characters/themes appear in many works of literature. Can you think of one?
the legend of sleepy hollow
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
  • Set in Tarrytown, NY.
  • A Yankee school teacher meets “the Headless Horseman.”

“Rip Van Winkle”

-Set in a rural town in New York.

-Rip escapes his abusive wife, and on his journey into the countryside, he falls asleep for 20 years.

-He awakens after the Revolutionary War, a “free” man in more ways than one.

-His awakening parallels America’s awakening as a new nation.

-He is a comic “counterhero,”anunambitious

do-nothing who makes success out of failure.

william cullen bryant 1794 1878
William Cullen Bryant 1794-1878
  • Born in western Mass.
  • Wrote “Thanatopsis” as a teenager.
  • Published Poems in 1821 (27 years old)
  • Made him famous
  • Moved to NYC—became magazine and newspaper editor/owner
  • Helped form Republican Party; supported Lincoln
  • Campaigned to create Central Park
  • Translated The Iliad and The Odyssey in his 70s
bryant s legacy
Bryant’s Legacy
  • Mourned as a great poet and editor.
  • First American poet to receive worldwide critical acclaim.
  • Led the Romantic Movement in America.
  • Discerned moral lessons and a divine presence in the American landscape.
  • Used his role as journalist to advocate for human rights and personal freedoms– advocated for women’s rights; fierce foe of slavery.
james fenimore cooper 1789 1851
James Fenimore Cooper 1789-1851
  • America’s first great novelist (wrote 32 novels plus many other books)
  • He developed the American adventure tale as a new literary mode.
  • Frontier was a uniquely American setting.
  • Natty Bumppo (Hawkeye) from the Leatherstocking series is one the most memorable and imitated heroes in American fiction.
  • Heroic elements: Brave, fautless hero, loyal Indian companion, encounters physical danger as a test of his prowess, hair-breadth rescues
cooper s legacy
Cooper’s Legacy
  • Created a uniquely American form of literature.
  • Created the American Romantic hero upon which future heroes were based.
  • Depicted close friendship between a white man and an Indian.
  • Lamented the suffering of the Mohicans, a tribe described as highly moral and ethical.
  • While Mark Twain criticized Cooper’s writing, the Leatherstocking novels are thought to have had the most influence on Huckleberry Finn.
the leatherstocking series
The LeatherstockingSeries

Consists of 5 novels. They tell story of frontiersman Natty Bumppo (Hawkeye) and his Indian friend Chingachgook.

Common plot elements: guiding women through wilderness, threat of Indian attack, Chingachgook and Natty’s prowess, treacherous characters, etc.

  • The Pioneers (1823)—written first—fourth chronologically in terms of plot—takes place 1793—NY frontier—Natty middle-aged, Chingachgook dies
  • The Last of the Mohicans (1826) (Takes place 1757—second novel in plot--during French Indian War in NY—Natty and his friends rescue two sisters and escort them to their lt. colonel father at Fort William Henry.
  • The Prairie (1827) (Takes place 1804 after Louisiana Purchase—setting—last novel in plot—Natty= The Tapper,” an old man, moves farther west to avoid the sound of trees begin cut down; helps pioneer family, dies.)
  • The Pathfinder (1840) (Takes place 1750s—NY, Canada, third novel in series)
  • The Deerslayer(1841) (Takes place 1740-1745—NY—introduces young Natty. He is contrasted against white mean who want to take scalps. He considers this act unnatural for white men.)
last of the mohicans
Last of the Mohicans
  • FILM
  • Hawkeye and Cora fall in love.
  • Hawkeye is portrayed as Chingachgook’s white son.
  • Uncas has feelings for Alice.
  • Duncan proposed to Cora. She refuses him.
  • Hawkeye and Duncan are enemies.
  • Alice dies, Cora lives, Col. Munro, and Duncan die.
  • Uncas dies.
  • Chingachgook kills Magua.


  • Hawkeye is not a love interest.
  • Hawkeye is a friend and contemporary to Chingachgook, not his adopted son.
  • Uncas is protective of Cora.
  • Duncan loves Alice.
  • Hawkeye and Duncan respect each other.
  • Magua tries to make Cora marry him to exact revenge on Munro.
  • Cora is of mixed race.
  • Cora dies, Col. Munro and Duncan live.
  • Uncas dies.
  • Hawkeye kills Magua.