Unit 2

Unit 2
A Growing Nation
American Renaissance
• Industrialism, population growth, economic
changes, and the Civil War had aged a
youthful nation’s spirit, but also gave way
to great American writers like Irving, Poe,
Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, and
19th Century American
1807 – Steamboat
1814 – Iron-tipped plow
1835 – Sewing Machine
1845 – Porcelain false teeth
1857 – Passenger elevator
1863 – Roller skates
1863 - Typewriter
The American Renaissance
• The European Renaissance was the
rebirth of classical art and learning in the
14th-16th Centuries
• The American Renaissance was NOT a
rebirth but more of a flowering or growing
of literary and cultural maturity
– Capital moved to Washington, D.C. from
– Library of Congress founded
Steam, Steel, and Spirit
• Physical and technological growth
• 1803 – Louisiana Purchase doubled
nation’s size
– National pride and self-awareness
– Canals, turnpikes, and railroads expanded
• 1849 – Gold Rush in California
• Factories and Industry in the Northeast
created jobs
– Steel plow and telegraph
Slow March of Democracy
• 1828 – Andrew Jackson – the People’s
– No land ownership required to vote
– Women still not permitted to vote
• 1838 – Trail of Tears forces many Native
Americans west as their tribal lands were
World Stage
• 1812 – War of 1812 convinced Europe that
the US was on the world Stage
• 1823 – Monroe Doctrine warns Europe not
to interfere with Latin America
• 1830s – Conflict with Mexico over Texas
• 1845 – Texas joins Union (Florida
becomes a state too)
• 1861 Civil War
Relationship between Place
and Literature
• Americans inspired by land – size of
nation and vast differences in landscapes
• Americans realized that continent held
many commercial possibilities
• Physical grandeur inspired Americans to
reach for vast possibilities
• Explorers and writers create American
Mythology in the vast wilderness and
Winds of Change
• Prosperity brings problems
– Child Labor
– Unsafe working conditions
– Fierce competition
• Slavery – still a huge issue of contention
– Builds to Civil War in 1861
Renaissance Literature
• American Classics – writers such as Poe,
Hawthorne, Melville, Emerson, Thoreau,
and Dickinson
• American Mythology – writers such as
Irving, Cooper and Longfellow
• Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville – dark side
of human spirit
• Emerson and Thoreau – nature
• Dickinson – local landscape
• Whitman – self and nation
Literature reflecting society
• Technology – bigger, better, faster, and
stronger – Americans want MORE
• America is moving towards a different
democracy – all WHITE MEN can vote
• Slavery is a contentious issue
• Americans still reading British classics like
Dickens and Scott, but American authors
are gaining ground
Three Visions
• Social – How the New World rivaled the Old
– Frontiersman
• Romantic – exploration of private self was as
important as land expansion (imagination
over reason)
– Individualist
• Transcendental – real truth is outside sensory
experience (nature and spiritual merge)
– Seeker
What makes American
literature American?
• Local dialects emerged and local grammar
and syntax change as British English,
Spanish, French, Dutch, and Native American
languages merged
• Colloquial English becomes common – more
informal than stuffy British English
• “Barbaric Yawp” – Whitman’s style that
incorporated all of the languages and dialects
of various areas of the country
• Frontiersmen like Daniel Boone and Davey
Crocket become topics of folktales
• Emphasizes the individual over the institution – Ex.
Hester Prynne vs. Church, Captain Ahab vs. logic and
• American myth started with “a city upon a hill” (Boston)
and eventually becomes a garden as western expansion
makes writers realize there is a vast canvas of possibility
• Romanticism has two faces
– Bright and optimistic – humans are fundamentally
– Dark and shadowed by evil – humans resort naturally
to crime, cruelty, and self-destruction
• Self-reliance – Thoreau and Emerson urged Americans
to trust themselves and think for themselves
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