American Literature– Chapter One American Romanticism

American Literature– Chapter One
American Romanticism
 social and personal background
 focus:
 To let the students understand something the
romantic period writers (Irving, Hawthorn,
Longfellow, Allan Poe, Emerson, Thoreau).
 the difficult points:
 American transcendentalism and Free Verse
American Romanticism spanned three decades
from 1830 to 1865. it was the period between
the “second revolution” of the Jacksonian Era
and the close of the Civil War in America in the
first half of the 19th century, a tremendous
change in American’s political life was the
development of Jacksonian democracy.
In literature it was America’s first great creative
period, a full flowering of the romantic impulse
on American soil.
Matching the emerging political and economical
development of the nation, native American
writers won increasing national and
international fame.
 Washington Irving’s Sketch Book became the
first work by American writer and by the 1830s
Irving was judged the nation’s greatest writer;
James Fenimore Cooper, father of American
novelists created a mythical west that
transcended the reality of life on the frontier.
Nathaniel Hawthorne in his short stories and
his four novels created a fiction that began in
allegory but grew to a complex form of
Romantic symbolism.
Herman Melvill wrote personal narratives of his
experiences in remote places and in his masterpiece
Moby-Dick produced a work of great energy and
The poetry of the period was predominantly romantic
in spirit and form. Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, a
powerful epic of the self in strongly cadenced free
verse embodies the individualism, the love of freedom
and the striving for personal expression that are of the
base of Romanticism.
In the essay and on the lecture platform the new
England transcendentalists– Emerson, Thoreau,
Margaret Fuller, and Alott- carried the literary
expression of Philosophical and religious ideas to a
high level.
Some influential writers
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804--1864)
Herman Melville (1819--1891)
Edgar Allan Poe
Ralph Waldo Emerson(1803-1882)
 Henry David Thoreau (1817--1862)
 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
 Walt Whitman(1819-1892)
Influential writers– Nathaniel Hawthorn
Main works:
 Twice-Told Tales
 Mosses from an Old Manse
 The Snow-Image and Other Twice-Told
 The Scarlet Letter
 The House of the Seven Gables
 The Blithedale Romance
 The Marble Faun
 Young Goodman Brown
Hawthorne’s extraordinary literary craftsmanship.
As a man of literary craftsmanship, Hawthorne
is extraordinary.
 The structure and the form of his writing s
are always carefully worked out to cater for
the thematic concern.
 Hawthorne is also a great allegorist.
 Hawthorne is a master of symbolism, which
he took from the puritan tradition and
bequeathed to American literature in a revivified
Hawthorne’s artistic features:
 1. form: he chose romance as his novel form.
 2. his tone: serious, ironic, humorous.
 3. his words or diction: old Anglo-Saxon
language sentences with many long
 4. Rhetoric Devices: exaggeration, irony and
 5. Plot: omniscient(全知的), third-person.
into a well-to-do
Main works:
Billy Budd
White Jacket
Bartleby, the Scrivener
Bentito Cereno
The Confidence-Man
His achievements
Symbolism is not the only way in
which Melville has articulated,
shaped, and presented the mighty
theme of the book, Melville’s great
gifts of language, invention,
psychological analysis.
One Edgar
of the most
 The Fall of the House of Usher, a story in Tales
of the Grotesque and Arabesque, first collection
of 25 stories , published in two volumes in 1839.
 The Raven, first published in 1845, was an
immediate success and has remained one of
Poe’s enduring works.
 Poe is the poet and short story writer. To the
modern age he stands as one of the foremost
writers of America, and he is now, nearly a
century and a half after his death, one of the
most popular authors in the world.
we can
never ignore New England Transcendentalism,
which is unanimously agreed to be the summit
of the Romantic period in the history of
American literature. And the chief spokesman of
this spiritual movement is Emerson.
 Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Emerson
formed a club known as the Transcendental
Club, and the unofficial manifesto for the club
was Nature. .
Emerson is generally known as an essayist.
 Emerson is the most representative of the
philosophical and literary school which is
American Transcendentalism and it inspired in
his lifetime a whole generation of famous
authors like Thoreau.
Emerson’s Transcendentalist idea and his view
of nature
His Transcendentalist idea
1. actually a philosophical school that absorbed
some ideological concerns of American
Puritanism and European Romanticism.
2. Focus on the intuitive knowledge of human
beings to grasp the absolute in the universe
and the divinity of man;
3. Religion based on an intuitive belief in an
ultimate unity, Oversoul;
Emerson’s view of nature:
1. Nature is emblematic 象征性的of the
spiritual world, alive with God’s
overwhelming presence;
2. Nature exercises a healthy and restorative
influence on human mind.
Henry David Thoreau(1817-1862)
A prose stylist and transcendentalist, won his
place in American literature by adventuring at
home– traveling, as he put it, a good deal in
 He published two books and some essays
during his life time. The majority of Thoreau’s
works was published after his death.
Thoreau believed that most men, in their
frantic pursuit of the means for living, had
lost sight of the true ends of life. In the
matter of literary style, two points
concerning Thoreau’s cultural heritage
have to be kept in mind. One is his attitude
to nature that is obviously quasi准的religious and the other is the Christian
terms and symbols that carried great
emotional power.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Longfellow was born atlife
Portland, Maine on February
22, 1807, he was brought up in an atmosphere of
cultivated blood breeding. More immediately
significant to him, was the actual contact with a
romantic past that contrasted appealingly for him,
with the apparent barrenness of his own country.
His success in teaching was rewarded with the
appointment as the Smith professor of modern
languages at Harvard.
The closing years of his life were satisfying. His 75th
birthday was celebrated nation-wide. Longfellow died
on March 24, 1882, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
1845, the Poets and Poetry of Europe
1839, Voices of the Night, a prose romance based on his
second journey abroad.
1841, Ballads and Other Poems
1842, Poems on Slavery
1843, the Spanish Student, a poetic drama. Evangeline,
his narrative poem.
1845, The Belfry of Burgues
1849, Kavanagh, a semi-autobiographical prose
1855, Hiawatha, based on American Indian legends.
1858, the courtship of Miles Standish
1863, Tales of a Wayside Inn.
1879, The Gross of Snow.
Point of view:
 1. the milder aspects of the romantic movement.
Strongly influenced by the German romantic
 2. cultural ambassador: transplant to American
literature some of the colored and melody and
romantic charm of the complex European
literature, he had studied.
 3. consistently high-minded, high-moral,
sublime(崇高的) but conventional, untouched by
the religions and social struggles except
interest in anti-slavery.
Artistic features
From: mainly regular lyrics, narratives.
Tone: earnest, optimistic, enthusiastic.
Words: simple but graceful, polished, common,
Rhetorical device: comparison, metaphor,
General impression: gentleness, sweetness,
Longfellow’s advice for living.
 His optimism which has characterized much of
his poetry, also endeared many critics to him.
He seemed to have persevered despite tragedy.
In his poem, “the Psalm of Life”, he writes: Life
is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its
goal!. This is the cry of the heart, “rallying from
depression”, ready to affirm life, to regroup from
losses, to push on despite momentary defeat.
born into
a working-class
 Main works: Leave of Grass (it is always been
considered a monumental work which
commands great attention because of its
uniquely poetic embodiment of American
democratic ideals as written in the founding
documents of both the Revolutionary War in the
United States and the Civil War, and the author
of the book is a giant of American letters.)
 Songs of Myself
 Drum Taps
1. The use of the poetic "I."
 To
dramatize the nature of these new
poetical feelings, Whitman employed
brand-new means in his poetry, which
would first be discerned in his style
and language.
 2.
The form of his poetry—free verse
 Whitman is also radically innovative in
terms of the form of his poetry. What
he prefers for his new subject and
new poetic feelings is "free verse,"
3. The rhythm of his poetry.
 However, there is still a strong sense of the
poems being rhythmical.
 So when we read his poems, we can feel the
rhythm of Whitman's thought and cadences of
his feeling. Parallelism and phonetic recurrence
at the beginning of the lines also contribute to
the musicality of his poems.
4. His language
 Contrary to the rhetoric of traditional poetry,
Whitman's is relatively simple and even rather
crude. Most of the pictures he painted with
words are honest, undistorted images of
different aspects of America of the day.
Some terms
Transcendentalism: it is the most clearly
defined Romantic literary movement in the
Romantic Period of American literature.
It was started by a group of people who were
members of an informal club– the
transcendental Club in New England in the
1830s. It was from the very beginning a local
phenomenon restricted only to those people
living in New England, who carried out the
movement as a reaction against the cold, rigid
僵直的,教条的rationalism of Unitarianism上帝
一位论 in Boston. Gradually its influence began
to spread all over the country, especially among
the intellectual and the literary men of the USA.
Free verse it is a form of poetry. It means
that the poetry is without a fixed beat or
regular rhyme. A looser and more openended syntactical structure is frequently
favored. Lines and sentences of different
structure are left lying side by side just as
things are, undisturbed and separate.
Some exercises
Some exercises
1. The Romantic Period in American literature started from the publication of
Washington Irving‘s __A____ and ended with Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.
A. The Sketch Book
B. Tales of a Traveller
C. A History of New York D. The Scarlet Letter
2. At the middle of 19th century, America witnessed a cultural flowering
which is called “__C___”。
A. the English Renaissance B. the Second Renaissance
C. the American Renaissance D. the Salem Renaissance
3. As a philosophical and literary movement, the main issues involved in
the debate of Transcendentalism are generally concerning ______A.
A. nature , man and the universe
B. the relationship between man and woman
C. the development of Romanticism in American literature
D. the cold, rigid rationalism of Unitarianism
4. In the history of American literature, __C____ is usually agreed to be
the summit of the American Romanticism.
A. the Harlem Renaissance
B. England Transcendentalism
C. New England Transcendentalism D. New Transcendentalism
5. About the novel The Scarlet Letter,which of the following statements is
not right:
A. It‘s very hard to say that it is a love story or a story of sin.
B. It‘s a highly symbolic story and the author is a master of symbolism.
C. It‘s mainly about the moral, emotional and psychological effects of
the sin upon the main characters and the people in general.
D. In it the letter A takes the same symbolic meaning throughout the
6. The great sea adventure story Moby-Dick is usually considered___A___.
A. a symbolic voyage of the mind in quest of the truth and knowledge of
the universe.
B. an adventurous exploration into man‘s relationship with nature
C. a simple whaling tale or sea adventure
D. a symbolic voyage of the mind in quest of the artistic truth and beauty
7. In his poems, Walt Whitman is innovative in the terms of the form of his
poetry,which is called “____A__.”
A. free verse B. blank verse
C. alliteration D. end rhyming
8. After the Civil War America was transformed from __ ____ to ____
A. an agrarian community … an industrialized and commercialized
B. an agrarian community … a society of freedom and equality
C. a poor and backward society … an industrialized and
commercialized society
D. an industrialized and commercialized society … a highly developed
9. Which of the following is said of the American Naturalism?D
A. They preferred to have their own region and people at the forefront of
the stories.
B. Their characteristic setting is usually an isolated town.
C. Humans should be united because they had to adapt themselves to
changing harsh environment.
D. Their characters were conceived more or less complex combinations
of inherited attributes, their habits conditioned by social and economic forces.
A:1 Graham Greene
2. Iris
Murdoch 3. Aldous Huxley
 4. John Fowles5. Kingsley Amis 6. Washington Irving
 7. James Fenimore Cooper 8. Edgar Allan Poe9.
Henry David Thoreau
 10. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
 B. a. Under the Net
b. Brave New World
 c. The Power and the Glory
d. The French Lieutenant’s Woman e. “The Raven”
f. The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon
g. the Leather-Stocking Tales
h. Walden i. “The Song of Hiawatha” j. Luck Jim
1—5 c d b d j 6-10 f g e h i
Why did Hawthorn choose romance as his novel form?
He chose romance as his novel form, because he
intended to discuss the latent evil in man’s heart, thus
he has to get to the truth of the individual psychology.
To him, this is more important than the actual truth and
the overt 公开的reality. To show the truth of the
individual psychology, he has to go back to puritanical
period– the original sin. Romance gives him the
freedom, to move away from the novelistic realism, to
create a certain atmosphere, to help to show the truth
of heart (sth. Not clearly show very emotional and
symbolic. The atmosphere that he created is the
shadow– a middle place between actual and imagery,
where both history and reality can meet, so he can
change actual event with his imagination, in order to
reach analyzing psychology truth.)