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American Romantic Literature


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Title: American Romantic Literature

American Romantic Literature
Part III The Literature of Romanticism (
From the end of 18th century to 1865)
  • Historical Introduction
  • Early Romanticism Washington Irving and Henry
    Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Late RomanticismWalt Whitman, Emily Dickinson
    and Edgar Allan Poe (poets)
  • Transcendentalism Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • and Henry David Thoreau (essayists)
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne Herman Melville (novelists)

Historical Introduction
  • Geographically, America expanded its frontier
    through westarward movement. The land and the
    population in the United States was largely
  • Economically, it began the industrialization and
    urbanization.(automation and technology led to
    sharp contrast of riches and poverty)
  • Politically, people enjoyed more freedom.
  • Culturally, cultural nationalism prospered.
  • Literary IdeasRomanticism and Transcendentalism
    (novels, short stories and poems replaced sermons
    and manifestos as Americas principal literary

wars and a period of rapid growth
  • 1812, war with Britain
  • 1830s, a series of wars against native Americans
  • 18461848, war against Mexico
  • 1848, discovery of gold in California, thus the
    Gold Rush
  • 1859, first oil well drilled in Pennsylvania
  • 18611865, Civil War
  • 1869, the first transcontinental railway

Period of rapid growth and expansion
  • In 1810, the population totaled 7,000,000.
    Fifty-years later, at the beginning of Civil War,
    the population reached 31,000,000. A new
    nationalism emerged as a result of this sudden
    influx of immigration.
  • The spread of industrialization filled people
    with optimism. The invention and practice of the
    sewing machine, the flour mill, the cotton grin,
    the telegraph and the assembly line greatly
    increased the production.
  • The discovery of gold in California in 1848
    brought about a Gold Rush, which further pushed
    the frontier to the end. As a result, an
    unprecedented optimistic attitude was prevailing
    among people.

a period of discussion of social issues
  • The womans issue. Some women asked for their
    rights to vote and to own property. In 1837, the
    first womens college was established in
  • The slavery issue. Slavery existed together with
    the anti-slavery conceptions. It was with the
    help of thousands of slaves that the expansion of
    the economy became possible.

American Romanticism
  • Against such a historical and social background
    did American Romanticism emerge. Coming 20 years
    later than its British counterpart, American
    Romanticism was regarded as a period of
    Renaissance in art and literature in the United
  • romanticism remained one of the glories of the
    age. It accelerated the spread of democracy to
    the downtrodden and the poor. It revitalized art
    and established new ways of perceiving humanity
    and the universe. And it remained evident today
    (AAL 1565).

Reasons for flourishment
  • The spread of industrialization, the influx of
    immigration and the westward movement produced an
    economic boom and a strong sense of optimism and
    hope among people.
  • The desire for intellectual independence brought
    about the fertilization of literary milieu.
    Magazines increased in number, which included The
    North American Review, The American Quarterly
    Review, The New England Magazine, The Atlantic
    Monthly, etc. The appearance of these magazines
    provided a media for people to express their
  • European romanticism reached the Continent when
    young people who traveled to Europe to educate
    themselves came back to America. With their help,
    the spirit of romanticism was spread.

  • Such philosophers as Immanuel Kant (German
    idealism ?????? ) and Auguste Comte (French
    positivism ?????? ) were introduced to America,
    whose works were widely read among intellectuals.
  • As far as literature is concerned, influences are
    also obvious.
  • Sir Walter Scott, with his border tales, helped
    toward the development of American Indian romance
    and the romantic description of landscape in
    America literature.
  • The Gothic tradition and the graveyard tradition
    came to America and found their way into the
    works of Poe.
  • Burns, Byron, Wordsworth, with their lyric poems
    of love and passion and their concern for nature,
    added to the nations singing strength

Characteristics of Romanticism
  • an innate and intuitive perception of man, nature
    and societyreliance on the subconscious, the
    inner life, the abnormal psychology
  • an emphasis on freedom, individualism and
    imaginationrebellion against neoclassicism which
    stressed formality, order and authority
  • a profound love for naturenature as a source of
    knowledge, nature as a refuge from the present,
    nature as a revelation of the holy spirit
  • the quest for beautypure beauty
  • the use of antique and fanciful subject
    matterssense of terror, Gothic, grotesque, odd
    and queer

Uniqueness of American Romanticism
  • The Westward Movement, the pioneering into the
    West, provided the American writers with the best
    subject and materials. The wilderness always
    filled them with hope and drove them to look for
    an ideal world.
  • The newness as a nation, with peoples ideals of
    individualism and freedom, their dream that
    America was to be built into a new Garden of
    Eden, was strong enough to inspire romantic
  • American moral values were basically Puritan. As
    a result, many writers tend to moralize more than
    their English counterpart. They intended to edify
    rather than to entertain. Subjects like sex and
    love were particularly shunned.
  • The immigration in large numbers brought in
    mingling of races, which made American literature
    take on a variety in subject matter.

American Romanticism----imitative and innovative
  • . On the one hand, it is derivative. Writers such
    as Washington Irving, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    and Bryant, Whittier and Lowell treated
    traditional literary themes by using traditional
  • On the other hand, it is also independent. James
    Fenimore Cooper was one of the earliest writers
    to deal with American subject matterthe Westward
    Movement. In writers like Emerson and Whitman, we
    do hear voices different from those in the
    European tradition. They not only treated
    American subject matter but also used innovative

Edgar Allan Poe
  • Poet, editor, literary critic
  • The first writer of the detective story
  • He was the father of psychoanalytic criticism
  • a pioneer in poetic and fictional techniques

Life Introduction
  • A foster child by John Allan
  • Life full of disasters
  • psychologically crippling childhood, bitter
    literary squabbles, overwhelming poverty, failed
    publishing ventures and an unsuccessful attempt
    at suicide. After the death of his wife, Poe took
    to drinking and gambling and was always in debt.
    One winter night, he was found unconscious on the
    street and died the next day in hospital.

His literary reputation
  • Poe remained the most misunderstood and the most
    controversial writer in American literary
  • However, Poes achievement as a poet, a short
    story writer and a literary critic cannot be
    neglected. Poe enjoys a higher reputation in
    Europe. Only in recent years, he begins to be
    accepted at home.
  • Poes poetics influenced the devotees of art for
    arts sake. He was the father of psychoanalytic
    criticism and detective story. His position in
    world literature nowadays was secure.

As a Literary Critic
  • For a short story,
  • It must be brief, readable at one sitting, in
    order to ensure the totality of impression.
  • The first sentence should bring out the single
    effect of the story.
  • No word should be wasted.
  • It must reveal some logical truth.
  • It should end with the last sentence, leaving a
    sense of finality with the reader.

  • For a poem
  • It should be short, readable at one sitting.
  • Its chief aim is to produce a feeling of beauty.
    the death of a beautiful woman is,
    unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the
  • Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme
    development, invariably excites the sensitive
    soul to tears. Melancholy is thus the most
    legitimate of all the poetic tones.
  • The artistry of the poem lies in the way it is
  • Poe defines poetry as the rhythmical creation of

Main Works
  • As a Short Story Writer----Gothic tradition,
    marked by terror and horror
  • The Masque of the Red Death
  • The Fall of the House of Usher
  • As a poet
  • To Helen
  • Annabel Lee
  • The Raven
  • As a literary critic
  • The Philosophy of Composition

Main topics in short stories
  • Poe probes into the subconscious condition of the
  • and believes that every mind is half mad or
    capable of
  • slipping into insanity. As a result, his
    characters are mostly
  • neurotics, having no sense of their identity, no
    name, no
  • place nor parentage, wandering from place to
    place and
  • alienated from society. Horror comes form the
    workings of
  • An irrational mind, driven to insanity by a
    perverse, irrational
  • forcean elementary impulse in man.

Analysis of The Raven
Writing Backgrounds
  • Virginia Clemm,his first cousin whom he married
    when she was only 13 years old. Virginia died of
    tuberculosis at a young age of 24. EAP wrote this
    poem during her illness of TB when he felt
    certain of her impending death. TB at that time
    and age was the new plague and struck the
    population in epidemic proportions. It was a
    disease that had no cure.

Discussion Questions
  • Why is this poem entitled The Raven ?
  • In your opinion, what does the raven represent?
  • What does the word Lenore mean?
  • How do you understand the word Nevermore?

Study Objects
  • The poetic form
  • The main idea of each stanza
  • The images (raven and other images)
  • The tone (what contributes to this tone)
  • The symbolic meanings
  • The theme

Structure division
  • Part one (stanza 1-5)
  • Part two (stanza 6-11)
  • Part three (stanza 12-18)

Appreciating The Raven (??)
  • Beauty in form
  • The poem is composed of 18 six-line stanzas, the
    first five lines being trochaic octameter, and
    the sixth line a trochaic tetrameter.
  • Rhyme
  • Internal Rhyme
  • Alliteration
  • Repetition

Part 1 (stanza 1-5)
  • Part 1 (Stanza 1-5)
  • A lonely man tries to ease his sorrow for the
    lost Lenore, by distracting his mind with old
    books of forgotten lore. He is interuppted
    while he is nearly napping, by a tapping on
    his chamber door. as he opens up the door, he
    finds darkness there and nothing more. Into the
    darkness he whispers, Lenore, hoping his lost
    love had come back, but all that could be heard
    was an echo murmured back the word Lenore.

The speakers phychological changes
  • Its some visiter tapping at my chamber door.
  • Thrilled me----filled me with fantastic terror
  • My soul grew stronger hesitating no longer.
  • Wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams
  • All my soul within me burning

Appreciating the changes of findings
  • Only this, and nothing more
  • Nameless here for evermore
  • This it is and nothing more
  • Darkness there, and nothing more
  • Merely this, and nothing more
  • Its the wind, and nothing more

Part 2 (Stanza 6-11)
  • With a burning soul, the man returns to his
    chamber, and this time he can hear a tapping at
    the window lattice. As he flung open the
    shutter, in there stepped a stately raven, the
    bird of ill-omen. The raven perched on the bust
    of Pallas, the godess of wisdom in greek
    mythology, above his chamber door.
  • The man asks the raven for his name, and
    surprisingly it answers, and croaks Nevermore.
    The man knows that the bird does not speak from
    wisdom, but has been taught by some unhappy
    master, and that the word nevermore it is only
    stock and store.

Stanza 7 8
  • ???????,???????????,   ??????????????????  
    ?????????????????   ?????????,????????  
    ??????????????????   ?????,??????  
    ??????????????????,   ??????????????????,  
    ???????,??,????????,   ??????????,???????? 
      ?????????,?????????!   ?????????  

Stanza 9 10
  • ?????????,?????????,   ?????????????????  
    ?????????,?????????   ??????????????????  
    ??????????????????,   ??????????  
    ????????????????????   ????,???????????????  
    ?????????????????   ??????????????????  
    ???????????????????   ??????????  

Part 3 (Stanza 12-18)
  • The man welcomes the raven,and is afraid that the
    raven will ne gone in the morning. However, the
    raven answers, nevermore tha man smiled, and
    pulled up a chair, interested in what the raven
    meant in croaking such a word. The chair, where
    Lenore once sat, brought back painful memories.
  • The man, who now knows that the irrational
    creaure can only utter such a word. But still, he
    anticipates the birds response. Is there balm
    in Gilead? Nevermore. Can Lenore be found in
    paradise----nevermore. Take thy form from off
    my door!---- nevermore. Finally, the man
    concedes, realizing that to continue the dialogue
    would be in pointless. And his soul from out
    that shadow that the raven throws on the floor,
    shall be lifted--- nevermore

Stanza12 13
  • ???????????????????,   ???????????????????  
    ??????????,???????,   ??????,????????????  
    ???????????????????,   ?????????  
    ???????????????????   ??,????????????????  
    ?????????,?????????,   ???????????????????,  
    ???????????????????,   ????,?,????!  

Stanza14?15 16
  • ????,??????,???????,   ????????????????????  
    ????,???,??????????,   ??????????????????  
    ????,????????????!   ????????  
    ??!????!????,???????!   ???????,??????????
    ?,   ???????,??????????   ?????????????,????
       ?????????????,????!   ????????  
    ??!??,??!???????????!   ????????????????
    ?????   ????????????????????  
    ?????????????,?????   ?????????????,??????  

Beauty in Imagery
  • The abudant images in Satnza 14
  • The air grew denser (sense of tactile)
  • Perfumed from an unseen censer (sense of smell)
    olfactory sense
  • Faint foot-falls tinkled (auditory image)
  • The tufted floor (visual image)

Stanza 17 18
  • ???????????,???!?????   ?????????,??????????!
       ??????????????????!   ????????!??????????! 
      ???????????????????!   ????????  
    ???????,?????,????   ??????????????????  
    ???????????????????,   ??????????????????  
    ?????,?????????????   ????????!  

Tone (?)
  • Tone melancholy and sad
  • What contributed to the melancholy tone?
  • Phonetics
  • a. Long vowels and dipthongs
  • b. Echoing effect of consonants (-ing)
    napping, rapping, tapping, repeating, entreating,
    hesitating, wondering, fearing,
  • The image the raven, midnight.
  • Time and space
  • The minimum word nevermore

Symbols and Personification (?)
  • What are the symbolic meanings of the following
  • The Raven
  • The bust of Pallas
  • The chamber door
  • The cushioned seat

  • a. Raven--- as birds of ill-omen, symbolizing
  • Poe used a non-reasoning creature to utter
    the word. It would make little sense to use a
    human, since the human could reason to answer the
    question. It is important that the answers to the
    questions are already known, to illustrate the
    self-torture to which the narrator exposes
  • b. The bust of Pallas --- symbolizing wisdom
  • the raven perched on the bust of Pallas. The
    speaker believed that the raven spoke from wisdom
    and was not just repeating its only stock and
    store. The non-reasoning bird standing on the
    reasoning goddess suggests the corrupted society.

  • c. Midnight and December--- symbolizing the end
    of something
  • d. The chamber door the boundary dividing the
    two lovers into two different worlds.
  • e. The cushioned seat symbolizing their
    beautiful love.

  • The minimum musical word, but has the rich
    connotations in different context
  • The name of the raven and the only word that the
    raven can utter. It seems irreasonable and even
    absurd, but it hightlights the philosophical
  • What people valued in life is like what the raven
    uttered, once lost, never gained?
  • With the word of Nevermore, the speaker pushed
    himself into self-torment.

Theme (?)
  • Sadness over the death
  • Seeking for the lost beauty
  • ??????,????????? ???????????

Summary (1)
  • It is an elegy, expressing the sorrow or grief
    over somebodys sudden death.
  • It is not long, 108 lines, readable at one
  • The poetic theme is the lamentation over the
    death of a beautiful woman.

Summary (2)
  • The general tone of the poem is melancholy.
  • It reads very rhythmical, with different
    varieties of rhymes.
  • The poem is composed of 18 six-line stanzas, the
    first five lines being trochaic octameter, and
    the sixth line a trochaic tetrameter.
  • The repetition of the / / sound at the end of
    different rhymes and the refrain (lines repeated
    at the end of stanzas or a poem for expressive
    effect), nevermore, suggest mourning and grief.
  • The rhyming scheme of the poem is abcbbb.

  • Make a self study of to Helen and Annabel Lee
  • Analyze the gothic elements in The Fall of the
    House of Usher(????????).
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