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American Literature in 60 Minutes


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Title: American Literature in 60 Minutes

American Literature in 60 Minutes
  • In the four quarters of the globe, who reads an
    American book? or goes to an American play?
    Sidney Smith, 1820
  • Some thinkers may object to this essay, that we
    are about to write of that which has, as yet, no
    existence. Margaret Fuller, in her 1846 essay
    American Literature
  • Ah, yes, American Literature. I must take an
    afternoon and read it some time.Allan Carroll,
    former University of Tennessee English Dept.
    Chair and terminal Brithead

Tale of Two Smithies
  • John Smiths 1608 A True Relation
  • Promotional Literature
  • Smith as 1st-person master negotiator
  • Indians Savage but can be worked with
  • No Pocahontas Rescue story!
  • John Smiths 1624 Generall Historie
  • Captivity Narrative
  • Smith as swashbuckling, 3rd-person hero
  • Indians Savage but subduable
  • Pocahontas Forest Fever

Other Promotional Lit
  • Draytons Ode To get the pearl and gold/And
    ours to hold/Virginia,/Earths only Paradise.
  • Point to get settlers over to work the land and
    make it profitable for joint-stock companies
  • Promotional Literature begins long tradition of
    projecting on the idea of America whatever
    dreams/aspirations/desires an immigrant can

Other Captivity Narratives
  • Mary Rowlandsons Narrative of the Captivity and
    Restoration… (1682) basis, with Smith, of
    nearly all Indian captivity narratives to follow
  • Olaudah Equianos The Interesting Narrative
  • Susanna Rowsons Slaves in Algiers (1794)
  • Herman Melvilles Typee (1842)
  • Frederick Douglass Narrative (1845…)
  • Mocked in Huckleberry Finn (1880)
  • Captivity narratives
  • Gave an illicit peek at the other without fear
    of contamination
  • Helped establish racial categories and, later,
    attitudes toward slavery
  • The most popular type of adventure fiction in
    U.S. popular culture

  • Ed Ward, on Boston, from A Trip to New England,
    1699 The buildings, like their Women, being
    Neat and Handsome. And their Streets, like the
    Hearts of the Male Inhabitants, are Paved with
  • A Captain of a Ship who had been on a long
    Voyage, happend to meet his Wife, and Kist her
    in the Street, for which he was Find Ten
    Shillings, and was forcd to pay the Money. What
    a Happiness, thought I, do we enjoy in
    Old-England, that cannot only Kiss our own wives,
    but other Mens too without the danger of such a

So Why Care About Them?
  • Spiritual Autobiography
  • Jeremiad 3-part sermon form that foreshadowed
    nearly all American political speeches 1)
    listing of community sins 2) threat of utter
    doom 3) call to repentance and promise of future
    return to glory
  • Bradford, Taylor, and Mather (for the test)
  • Women Writers Bradstreet and Rowlandson

William Bradford
  • William Bradford Of Plymouth Plantation (1647)
    The History of How Far We Have Fallen using
    Exodus as his style book, memorializes the first
  • Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea
    of troubles before in their preparation (as may
    be remembered by that which went before), they
    had now no friends to welcome them nor inns to
    entertain or refresh their weatherbeaten bodies
    no houses or much less town to repair to, to seek
    for succour…. And for the season it was winter,
    and they that know the winters of that country
    know them to be sharp and violent, and subject-to
    cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to
    known places, much more to search an unknown
    coast. Besides, what could they see but a hideous
    and desolate wilderness, fall of wild beasts and
    wild menand what multitudes there might be of
    them they knew not.

Edward Taylor
  • New Englands metaphysical poet poems as
    meditations on Calvinist theology
  • Huswifery - Make me, O Lord, thy Spinning
    Wheele compleat      Thy Holy Worde my Distaff
    make for mee. Make mine Affections thy Swift
    Flyers neate,      And make my Soule thy holy
    Spoole to bee.      My Conversation make to be
    thy Reele,      And reele the yarn thereon spun
    of thy Wheele.
  • I Am the Living Bread - In this sad state, Gods
    Tender Bowells run      Out streams of Grace
    And he to end all strife The Purest Wheate in
    Heaven, his deare-dear Son      Grinds, and
    kneads up into this Bread of Life.      Which
    Bread of Life from Heaven down came and stands
         Disht on thy Table up by Angells Hands.

Cotton Mather
  • Wonders of the Invisible World (1693) and
    Magnalia Christi Americana (1702) and about 450
    other printed works.
  • From Wonders Samuel Preston testify'd, that
    about two years ago, having some Difference with
    Martha Carrier, he lost a Cow in a strange
    Preternatural unusual manner and about a month
    after this, the said Carrier, having again some
    Difference with him, she told him, He had lately
    lost a Cow, and it should not be long before he
    Lost another! which accordingly came to Pass for
    he had a Thriving and well-kept Cow, which
    without any known cause quickly fell down and

Anne Bradstreet
  • The Tenth Muse (1678)
  • Prologue I am obnoxious to each carping
    tongue/Who says my hand a needle better fits.
  • The Author to Her Book I washed thy face, but
    more defects I saw,/And rubbing off a spot, still
    made a flaw./I stretcht thy joints to make thee
    even feet,Yet still thou run'st more hobbling
    than is meet.
  • Verses Upon the Burning of Our House
    Farewell, my pelf farewell, my store./The world
    no longer let me love/My hope and Treasure lies
  • In Honour of that High and Mighty Princess,
    Queen Elizabeth She hath wip'd off th'
    aspersion of her Sex,/  That women wisdom lack to
    play the Rex….Let such as say our sex is void of
    reason/ Know 'tis a slander now, but once was

Mary Rowlandson
  • Narrative (1682) I can remember the time when I
    used to sleep quietly without workings in my
    thoughts, whole nights together, but now it is
    other ways with me…. Before I knew what
    affliction meant, I was ready sometimes to wish
    for it. When I lived in prosperity, having the
    comforts of the world about me, my relations by
    me, my heart cheerful, and taking little care for
    anything, and yet seeing many, whom I preferred
    before myself, under many trials and afflictions,
    in sickness, weakness, poverty, losses, crosses,
    and cares of the world, I should be sometimes
    jealous least I should have my portion in this
    life, and that Scripture would come to my mind,
    "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and
    scourgeth every Son whom he receiveth" (Hebrews
  • Compared often to the narratives (written by
    others, esp. Mather) of Hannah Dustan, who killed
    and scalped her captors.

Eighteenth Century
  • Enlightenment
  • Revolution
  • Post-Colonial Inferiority Complex
  • Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography (1771-90) rags
    to riches, program of moral perfection (actually
    a bagatelle)
  • Royall Tyler, The Contrast (1789)
  • Important Poets Phyllis Wheatley, Philip Freneau
  • Novelists you should know Susanna Rowson
    (Charlotte Temple 1794), Charles Brockden Brown
    (Wieland 1798), Hannah Webster Foster (The
    Coquette 1797)

Nineteenth Century Literary Movements as Bumper
  • Romanticism Life is what you make of it!
  • Realism Life is what it is.
  • Naturalism Life sucks and then you die.

Early Romantics Mutability (hence lots of
Death), Pantheism
  • Philip Freneau, poet, The Wild Honeysuckle
    (1785) If nothing once, you nothing lose,/ For
    when you die you are the same/ The space between
    is but an hour,/The frail duration of flower.
  • William Cullen Bryant, poet, Thanatopsis
    (1817) The hills Rock-ribbed and ancient as the
    sun the vales/ Stretching in pensive quietness
    between /The venerable woodsrivers that move/In
    majesty, and the complaining brooks /That make
    the meadows green and, poured round all,/Old
    Ocean's gray and melancholy waste, /Are but the
    solemn decorations all Of the great tomb of man!

Early Romantics in Prose Nature, Sensibility,
Noble Savage, Gothic, Fashion Sense
  • William Fenimore Cooper The Leatherstocking
    Tales are a series of novels written between 1826
    and 1841describing the adventures of Natty
    Bumppo, set in frontier communities west of the
    Allegheny Mountains The Pioneers, The Last of
    the Mohicans, The Deerslayer, The Pathfinder,The
    Prairie. Natty Bumppo is celebrated for his
    closeness to nature, and is the mouthpiece Cooper
    uses to decry the wasty ways of man and the
    twisty ways of the law.
  • Washington Irving His The Sketchbook of
    Geoffrey Crayon (1819) contains his two most
    famous stories, Rip Van Winkle and The Legend
    of Sleepy Hollow. In his dozens of other
    sketches, he celebrates the sentimental over the
    commercial and entertainment over didacticism.
    Invents the old English Christmas in his 5
    Christmas Sketches and in Philip of
    Pokanoket, rewrites Mary Rowlandsons captivity
    narrative from the Wampanoag point of view,
    calling them a native band of untaught heroes.

American Renaissance
  • Term coined by F. O. Matthiessen in his book of
    the same name in 1940. Established the following
    as canonical American writers Ralph Waldo
    Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Edgar Allan Poe,
    Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Emily
    Dickinson, Walt WhitmanMargaret Fuller has since
    been added to this list as major American writers.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Famous for his essays Nature (1836) was used as
    a launching pad for the Transcendentalist
    movement. Most famous for this image Standing
    on the bare ground, -- my head bathed by the
    blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, --
    all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent
    eye-ball I am nothing I see all the currents
    of the Universal Being circulate through me I am
    part or particle of God.

Henry David Thoreau
  • Seen sometimes as the legs of the
    Transcendentalist movementwas more political
    than RWE. Most famous works are Resistance to
    Civil Government (1849) and Walden (1854)  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. I did not wish to live what
    was not life, living is so dear nor did I wish
    to practice resignation, unless it was quite
    necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all
    the marrow of life…

Margaret Fuller
  • Feminist journalist, essayist, travel writer, and
    transcendentalist thinker. Most famous work Woman
    in the Nineteenth Century (1845) We would have
    every arbitrary barrier thrown down. We would
    have every path laid open to Woman as freely as
    to Man. Were this done, and a slight temporary
    fermentation allowed to subside, we should see
    crystallizations more pure and of more various
    beauty. We believe the divine energy would
    pervade nature to a degree unknown in the history
    of former ages, and that no discordant collision,
    but a ravishing harmony of the spheres, would

Edgar Allan Poe Romantic Quadruple Threat (but
NOT a Transcendentalist)
  • Poet The Raven, Annabel Lee,
  • Horror Fiction writer The Tell-Tale Heart,
    The Masque of the Red Deathgreat with
    unreliable narrators
  • Detective Fiction inventor (Auguste Dupin)
    Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Purloined
  • Critic The Philosophy of Composition, The
    Poetic Principlein his newspaper reviews of
    lit, earns nickname The Hatchet Man

Nathaniel Hawthorne THE typical Romantic
  • Novels The Scarlet Letter, The House of the
    Seven Gables
  • Short Stories Young Goodman Brown, The
    Ministers Black Veil like Poe, master of
    unreliable narration

Herman Melville Yarns on the High Seas
  • Moby-Dick, of course, is his most famous novel,
    but his more popular novels were south-sea Island
    captivity/adventure tales Typee and Omoo.
  • Critic who, in Hawthorne and His Mosses in
    1850, sets the adoring critical tone others will
    follow What a mild moonlight of contemplative
    humor bathes that Old Manse!--the rich and rare
    distilment of a spicy and slowly-oozing heart. No
    rollicking rudeness, no gross fun fed on fat
    dinners, and bred in the lees of wine,--but a
    humor so spiritually gentle, so high, so deep,
    and yet so richly relishable, that it were hardly
    inappropriate in an angel. It is the very
    religion of mirth for nothing so human but it
    may be advanced to that.
  • Though he wrote what purports to be poetry, Im
    not convinced.

Walt Whitman a Kosmos
  • Leaves of Grass revised 8 times between 1855 and
    1892. Major poems Song of Myself, Crossing
    Brooklyn Ferry, Out of the Cradle, Endlessly
    Rocking O Captain, My Captain, When Lilacs
    Last in the Dooryard Bloomd
  • Democratic in subject matter, style (free verse),
    and theme I have said that the soul is not more
    than the body,/ And I have said that the body is
    not more than the soul,/ And nothing, not God, is
    greater to one than one's self is,/ And whoever
    walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own
    funeral drest in his shroud…Do I contradict
    myself?/ Very well then I contradict myself,/ (I
    am large, I contain multitudes.)…. I too am not a
    bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,/ I sound my
    barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

Emily Dickinson Your Easiest ID on the Exam
  • Major poet more influential on modernists than in
    her own timemost of her work wasnt published
    until the 1890s. Her work is very easy to spot
  • Hymn meternearly all of her poems can be sung to
    the tunes of either Amazing Grace or The
    Yellow Rose of Texas
  • Slant Rhyme room rhymed with storm, for ex.
  • Dashesher signal punctuation I heard a Fly
    buzz  when I died  / The Stillness in the Room
    /Was like the Stillness in the Air  / Between
    the Heaves of Storm  
  • Death is as overriding a theme in Dickinsons
    poetry as Life is in Whitmans

  • As a reaction against Romanticism, it aimed to
    depict life as it was, ragged edges and all.
  • Much of Realist fiction had a muck-raking,
    political impetus, like Rebecca Harding Davis
    Life in the Iron Mills (1861)
  • Some aimed at a realistic aesthetic in the
    depiction of persons, situations, and language,
    as Mark Twain indicates at the beginning of
    Huckleberry Finn (1880) In this book a number
    of dialects are used, to wit the Missouri negro
    dialect the extremest form of the backwoods
    Southwestern dialect the ordinary "Pike County"
    dialect and four modified varieties of this
    last. The shadings have not been done in a
    haphazard fashion, or by guesswork but
    painstakingly, and with the trustworthy guidance
    and support of personal familiarity with these
    several forms of speech. I make this explanation
    for the reason that without it many readers would
    suppose that all these characters were trying to
    talk alike and not succeeding.
  • Doesnt end with subsequent literary movements
    (Naturalism, Modernism), but informs them.
  • See this link for major concerns and texts

  • Either a branch of realism or a reaction against
    itsome call it realism infused with
  • Economic and Social Determinism the work of
    Marx and condition of American working class
    informs works such as Stephen Cranes Maggie, a
    Girl of the Streets (1893) and Theodore Dreisers
    Sister Carrie (1900)
  • Psychological and Biological Determinism the
    work of Freud and Darwinour behavior controlled
    by our unconscious drives plays on a fear of a
    de-evolutionary state see Frank Norris McTeague
    (1899), Kate Chopins The Awakening (1900), and
    Jack Londons To Build a Fire (1910)

Robert Frost
  • Pre-Modern poet
  • Public image vs. poetic actualities
  • The Road Not Taken

  • Ezra Pounds Make it new is the slogan of all
  • Marked by experimentation in form and content.

Modern Poetry
  • Goals of Imagism Ezra Pound, from A
    Retrospect 1. Direct treatment of the 'thing'
    whether subjective or objective. 2. To use
    absolutely no word that does not contribute to
    the presentation. 3.As regarding rhythm to
    compose in the sequence of the musical phrase,
    not in sequence of a metronome.
  • Pound wanted to get the Victorian slither out
    of poetry.

Imagist Examples
  • Pound In a Station of the Metro (1913)
  • The apparition of these faces in the crowd 
  • Petals on a wet, black bough.
  • (this is the entire poem, pared from a 36-line
  • William Carlos Williams The Red Wheelbarrow
  • so much depends upon
  • a red wheel barrow
  • glazed with rain water
  • beside the white chickens.

Other Important Modernist Poets
  • T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, e.e. cummings,
    Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay

20th Century Poetry after the Modernists
  • http//

New Negro Renaissance
  • Alain Locke, The New Negro
  • Schomburg Exhibition http//

Modernist Fiction
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby (1925)
  • Ernest Hemingway The Sun Also Rises (1926), A
    Farewell to Arms (1929)
  • William Faulkner The Sound and the Fury (1929),
    Light in August (1932)

20th Century Fiction after Modernism
  • http//

20th Century Drama
  • Eugene ONeill and the Provincetown Players The
    Hairy Ape, The Emperor Jones, Desire Under the
    Elms, Mourning Becomes Electra, A Long Days
    Journey Into Night
  • Other dramatists Arthur Miller, Tennessee
    Williams, Edward Albee, LeRoi Jones (Amiri
    Baraka), Tony Kushner, Suzan-Lori Parks