american literature

Beginnings Start: a colony in 1662, Queen Elisabeth had been dead for years, James Stuart on
the throne, enemy of Puritans, The Mayflower, immigrants, wrote utilitarian writings: travel
accounts and religious writings, biographies, etc.
First settled in New England.
No literary tradition: room for experiment
Am. Lit. Characteristics:
 Individualism
 Democracy
 Provincialism
 Optimism
1776 Declaration of Independence
C18: movement towards a less rigid religion. American Revolution or War of Independence
1775-1783 to break free of the British Empire towards independence.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence about human rights.
C19 Forerunners from C19: It was a small world and most writers knew each other.
Broadening democratic concept and the development of an American culture.
 Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne (influenced by Romantics from England)
 Herman Melville (Moby Dick, naturalistic novel)
 James Fenimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans)
 Mark Twain (Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn)
 Walt Whitman (poetry, free verse): believed in the splendour of the common man
 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (intellectual poetry) professor at Harvard
 Emily Dickinson (poetry)
1848: revolutions galore in Europe, change in the air. Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom’s
Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter
1861-1865 American Civil War: Eleven Southern Slave states declared their secession from
the United States and formed the Confederate States. Pres. at the time Pres. Abraham Lincoln.
End of the war meant end of Confederacy and end of slavery and strengthened federal
government. After the war industry became increasingly important, factories rose and cities
The Fin-de Siècle (1880-1914)
Prosperity, industrialism, urbanisation, recovering from Civil War
American national identity, the West was peopled, USA became a world power.
Prose: Henry James (about Americans in Europe)
Poetry: Carl Sandberg, Edward Robinson
20th cent Am. Lit. char.: individualism, national vernacular.
2 main tendencies:
realistic-naturalistic movement
reaction to realism: denial of objectivity
Interbellum (1918-1941)
Roaring Twenties: cynicism because of WWI. But very creative period in literature and arts.
Jazz music, dancing, Art Deco, industrial growth. Break with traditions. Modern technology:
cars, movies, radio. Consumerism.
New technology, immigration, 1919 Prohibition, the rise of the speakeasy and gangsters, the
sexual revolution,
Ezra Pound
Thomas Stearns Eliot
Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises about American expatriates in Europe.
F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby)
This period ended by 1929 Great Depression.
Depression Era: new social consciousness and political responsibility. Protest literature.
John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath
Ernest Hemingway: A Farewell to Arms,
William Faulkner: The Sound and the Fury
Post-War (from 1945)
Trad: Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye (1950s), John Updike
Black American Writers: James Baldwin
Jewish American Writers: Bernard Malamud, Saul Bellow
Normal Mailer
Beat Generation: from 1950: Their goal: the continual challenge to the limits of free
expression. Rejection of mainstream American values, experiments with drugs and sexuality,
interest in Eastern spirituality. The members developed a reputation as new bohemian
hedonists, who celebrated non-conformity and spontaneous creativity. First in New York,
later they moved to San Francisco. Ended in 1960 with the rise of the “hippie” culture.
William Carlos Williams is closely linked to this group and looked up to by them. He taught
many of this group.
Jack Kerouac (On the Road), William Burroughs (Naked Lunch). Allen Ginsberg (Howl)
These 3 novels all went to trial for obscenity.
Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
An absurd world: Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse Five
Joseph Heller – Catch 22
Post-War Drama:
Tennessee Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire (southern background)
Arthur Miller: Death of a Salesman, View form a Bridge
Edward Albee: Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf
Poetry: Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings,