Survey of American Literature Slide Show

Native American Literature
 Oral tradition
 Iroquois Constitution: Dekanawida, Huron who
established the Iroquois League
 Message of unity: Great Law of Peace
 Song
 “Song of the Sky Loom”: Pueblo people of the
Southwest; interdependence with nature
Early American Writing
 Religion dominant influence/presence
 Types of writing
 Nonfiction
 Sermons (Puritan intellectuals and ministers: Cotton Mather &
Jonathan Edwards)
Impact of European Enlightenment (late 17th century)
empirical (study of the natural world) evidence + human experience = one
needs to feel/experience God, not just intuit his existence from one’s
belief or from the Bible; result: Great Awakening (1734)
 Colonial histories: John Smith’s General history of Virginia, New
England, and the Summer Isles
 Texts: The New England Primer (first textbooks produced in
American; circa 1690) – sold into the 19th century
 Personal diaries
 Poetry
 “To My Dear and Loving Husband” (Anne Bradstreet)
Puritan beliefs
“Puritan Ethic”
 Community service
 Importance of community
 Goal: “city upon a hill” (Biblical reference) - a selfless,
harmonious community directed by God
 Strict moral propriety
 Original sin: all people are born sinful and must be saved by
divine grace
 Hard work
 Predestination (God’s elect)
 Material and social successes are signs of salvation
 So…fate cannot be changed by force of will & watch for
proof of salvation (being among the elect)
What did Puritans write about?
 Explores story of spiritual struggles
 Events are emblems (allegories) of the progress of
souls or of God’s design
 Expressed both:
 official Puritan views & beliefs
 Jonathan Edward’s sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an
Angry God”
 struggles with orthodoxy and conformity
 Anne Bradstreet critical of distorted view of women
The Thinking behind the
Philosophers during the Age of Reason/Enlightenment were
concerned with the perfection of the human being through
 Enlightenment
 Isaac Newton: through reason people could discover the principles that
guarantee social and political harmony
 Joseph Addison– discovery of natural laws can ensure peace and
 Thomas Hobbes, certain natural rights exists and cannot be turned over
to a sovereign
 John Locke - to preserve natural rights, people must balance the power
of the sovereign against the power of Parliament, retain the right to
rebel against oppression
 Jean-Jacques Rousseau (French philosopher) - governments are
instituted as asocial contract between the people and the government
 Didn’t reject, but questioned the heavy reliance on spirituality of
the Puritans
 Romantic movement (18th and 19th century): championed democratic
ideals & rights of the individual
Literature of the
Revolutionary Period
 Articulation of Independence and Liberty
 Speeches
Patrick Henry speech in the Virginia Convention (“Give me liberty or give me
 Declaration
The Declaration of Independence (Thomas Jefferson)
 Letters (John & Abigail Adams)
 Pamphlets
Common Sense and Crisis (Thomas Paine)
 Poetry
Phillis Wheatly “To S.M. a Young African Painter, on Seeing His Works”
Christianity, American independence, abolition of slavery
Cultural & Literary
 Romanticism (18th & 19th centuries)
 Valued private, subjective experience (emotions & creativity)
 Metaphysical truths: A higher form of reason different from
ordinary understanding of the physical world of sense
 Nature not just evidence of the operation and regularity and
laws and life more than practical advancement of social
systems of organization
 Nature: repository and stimulus for intuition of higher truths in
the individuals
 Highest authority: individual conscience rather than authority
and external control
 Transcendentalism (a variation of European
 Established American writers as distinct literary force
 Practical implications
 Goal of these writers: pursuit of forging new ground
 Henry David Thoreau (Walden articulated American
 Utopian communities
 Hawthorne and Poe collectively responsible for the
development of the modern short story: a brief
fictional work designed to create in the reader a
single dominant impression
A change in thinking
 Material success less important (Irving)
 Dismissed tradition and social convention (it may violate the
individual conscience)
 Celebrated the self, rather than deny it; self-awareness not
selfish but a way to understand the universe
 The soul of the individual was a microcosm of the larger
 Study the self to know the universe and its God
 (self-realization, self-expression, self-reliance were coined)
 Respect for multiple, divergent viewpoints
 Optimistic
 Nature/human nature is benevolent and good– Emerson
& Thoreau
The flip side
 Human nature is dark
 Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter (sin)
 Herman Melville (evil and obsession)
 Edgar Allan Poe (psychology of madness and terror)
 Social Purpose: Writers wanted to change society through literature
 Live simple life in nature (Walden)
 Better yourself by changing your thinking and lifestyle (Emerson)
 Fireside poets (Schoolroom poets) wrote about slavery)
 Idealized, romantic, morally uplifting views of the nation
 Created a popular interest in poetry
 Emily Dickinson
Focus on a vivid present/uncertain future
Poems about time, isolation and death
Some humor
Precise/ compressed
19th Century
Robert DiYanni, Pace University claims: These
three writers—Emerson, Whitman, and Dickinson—have
been the primary and seminal influences on the American
poets of the twentieth century:
Emerson for his
philosophical perspective;
Whitman for his public
celebration of the
American themes of
democracy, idealism,
solidarity, equality, and
love of nature;
Dickson for her finely
discriminating probings of
the soul in a spare poetic
style, original in its
elliptical syntax, its
metaphorical daring, and
its unconventional rhythm
and rhyme.
Slavery & the Civil War
Speeches & Debates
Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
Clotel (William Wells Brown, 1st African American to publish a novel)
Our Nig (Harriet E. Wilson, 1st African-American woman to publish a novel)
Spirituals (African + European music in poetic text, Biblical imagery –emphasis on
suffering and hope)
Senatorial candidates Stephen Douglas & Abraham Lincoln
Slavery in Massachusetts” (Henry David Thoreau)
The Liberator (William Lloyd Garrison)
Freedom’s Journal (John Russwurm & Samuel Cornish)
The North Star (Frederick Douglass)
Slave narrative/autobiography
Frederick Douglass
War literature: (Walt Whitman, Ambrose Bierce, Stephen Crane)
 Attempts to restore national identity and hope for unity;
 Key Question: Heroic (honorable, courageous) soldier or human (panicked, accidental
hero,) soldier
“I hear American singing, the varied carols I hear.” Walt Whitman
 Abandonment of Romanticism, New England, scholarly, moralistic
gentlemen; Adoption of writers from a variety of regions
 Regionalism (local color) writing emerges
 Characters more diverse (varied, unsavory)
 Local dialect/regional diversity
 Dime novels (cheap, popular)
 Tall tales (legend of the Wild West)
 Writers
Samuel Clemens (western boom towns, Mississippi River valley)
Bret Harte (West)
 George Washington Cable (Louisiana bayou country)
Joel Chandler Harris (African American in the South)
Edward Eggleston & James Whitcomb Riley (Hoosiers of backwoods Indiana)
Sarah Orne Jewett & Mary Wilkins Freeman (backwoods New England)
 Portraits from life; grim depictions of realties; unsentimental
 Ambrose Bierce (“Chickamauga,” “An Occurrence at Owl Creek
 Mark Twain (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) Individual quest
for freedom
 Dean Howells (Novels: The Rise of Silas Lapham, Annie Kilburn, A
Hazard of New Fortunes, Quality of Mercy) breakdown of
traditional values ; misery of the poor in urban America
 Psychological Realism: exploration of the interior lives of
 Charlotte Perkins Gilman (“The Yellow Wallpaper”
 Henry James (Portrait of a Lady, The turn of the Screw)
 Refinement of Realism
 Based on theories of the French novelist Emile Zola
 Zola inspired by naturalists Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley: people’s actions
and beliefs resulted not from free will but from the arbitrary, outside forces of
heredity and environment
 Novelists could write “scientific” fiction that demonstrated the exact causes of
human behavior.
 Premier American example: Stephen Crane (The Red Badge of Courage and
“A Man Said to the Universe”)
 Crane: Because humans are pawns manipulated by cruel and indifferent forces
of nature & society, humans must unite in kindness and compassion to counter
these forces
 Frank Norris (McTeague and The Octopus)
 Jack London (The Call of the Wild)
 Theodore Dreiser (Sister Carrie; An American Tragedy)
New Forces in the 20th century
 Technology (electric lights)
 Culture (mass
 War (weapons of mass
destruction: atomic,
 Mass media (TV, movies)
 Architecture (suburban
housing, skyscrapers)
 Transportation
(automobiles, airplanes)
 Work (labor unions,
women in the work force)
 Communication (telephone
anywhere in the world)
 Population (explosion)
 Medicine (antibiotics,
 Politics (ideologies of
Communism and Fascism)
Before the War
 Traditional, regional, portraits of life throughout the
country: Regionalism
 Edgar Lee Master Spoon River Anthology (Illinois)
 Edwin Arlington Robinson (poet)
 Jack London (North country)
Impact of WWI
 The Lost Generation (participants in the war)
John Dos Passos
Ernest Hemingway
e.e. Cummings
Gertrude Stein
 Emerging society : chaotic, destructive, meaningless
 The real American had been lost, distorted; feeling of
dislocation or alienation, cut off from the past
 Individuals dominated by environs and dehumanized by
work conditions in modern industry, urban living
conditions in cities for poor immigrants
 Questioned tenets of American dream (Horatio
Alger stories & Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography:
hard work, industry, self-reliance = a piece of the
dream for anyone; ideals of individualism and freemarket capitalism questioned)
 Writers adopted socialist or communist ideals (Karl
Marx, German political theorist argued that the
exploitation of the workers would lead to the
collapse of capitalism and establishment of states in
which workers controlled the means of production.)
 Sympathetic to socialist ideals - even joining in
fighting against fascism in the Spanish Civil War 193637. Disillusioned with Stalin’s socialism that led to
purges of political opponents and his treaty with
Rebellion of the Young
 New York become center of literary scene
 Home to publishing houses, newspapers, magazines
 Home to avant-garde, bohemian writers, artists,
intellectuals (esp. in Greenwich Village)
 Eugene O’Neill
 Thomas Wolfe
 Algonquin Round Table
 Dorothy Parker
 Robert Benchley
 George S. Kaufman
The Expatriates
 More authentic beliefs and forms of expression found
outside the the U.S. (Paris & London, salons and cafes)
 Fitzgerald
 Hemingway
 Stein
 Ezra Pound
 Edna St. Vincent Millay
 T.S. Eliot
Modernism “make it new" Ezra
Pound's credo
 Rejection of literary conventions of the past
 Response to the perceived breakdown of modern culture; attempt to give
order and coherence to the decay; “retreat from new social vision into the
cold comfort of a purely literary or imaginative order” (The American
Tradition 480)
 Irony - signature technique of Modernist literature
 Conveyed a sense of hopelessness
 Experiments in form:
free verse, stream-of-consciousness prose – an example of subjectivism: reality is
not absolute and orderly, depends of the point of view of the observer
1st person
Elimination of narrator or speaker (presenting the experience, sense perception of
the character without the emotions/opinions of the author intruding)
Alienating, understated, ironic, impersonal, lacking in transitions between ideas, full
of odd juxtapositions and sophisticated references, or allusions
 Edith Wharton (the Age of Innocence - the breakdown of traditional ways
of life for the wealthy)
 F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby- disillusionment and ambivalence
about the morality of the “self-made man” in American society)
 John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath – effects of the Great Depression and
Great Dust Bowl of 1930s)
 Upton Sinclair (the Jungle – scathing expose of meatpacking industry)
 Sinclair Lewis (Babbitt, Elmer Gantry – excesses of materialism, hypocrisy &
greed of small-town real estate dealers and showman preachers)
 Richard Wright (Native Son – explosive results of discrimination against
African Americans)
century: golden age of
American women writers
 Edith Wharton
 Shirley Jackson
 Eudora Welty
 Lillian Hellman
 Willa Cather
 Denise Levertov
 Katherine Anne Porter
 Gwendolyn Brooks
 Zora Neale Hurston
 Anne Sexton
 Amy Lowell
 Sylvia Plath
 Marianne Moore
 Alice Walker
 Edna St. Vincent Millay
 Lorraine Hansberry
 Joyce Carol Oates
Another way to look at it…”a
momentary stay against
confusion.” Robert Frost
Find renewal in the United States itself
Used ideas and techniques of Modernism
Not Modernist: traditional forms, expression of traditional values
Postwar regionalists who wrote “American” literature about local, rural areas,
strength and hope in these works
Robert Frost (rural New England)
Sherwood Anderson (Ohio)
Zora Neale Hurston (novels of African American experience in rural South)
William Faulkner (regional settings and lost traditional values)
Southern regionalism: Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, Flannery
O’Connor, Katherine Anne Porter
The Fugitives & New
 The Fugitives (led by John Crowe Ransom, Allen
Tate, Robert Penn Warren)
 Southern literary school rejected northern urban,
commercial value
 Advocated a return to the land, esp. in Southern
American traditions
 New Criticism: close readings and attentiveness to
format (patterns of imagery, metaphors, metrics,
sounds, and symbols) and their suggested meanings
(rather than a focus on history and biography)
The era following WWII
 Prosperity in the United States
High employment as economy reverted to peacetime production
Women = housewives & moms; Men = breadwinners
Urban sprawl (suburbia) developed with better cards
Mobile society facilitated by 33 billion from Congress for an interstate
highway system (Holiday Inn, A & W, drive-in theaters) Auto = success
 Social characteristic: traditional, stable, but undercurrent of
disapproval, distrust and disillusionment with the status quo
 The “Silent Generation”: traditionalists, experimenters, and
iconoclasts (one who attacks widely accepted ideas/beliefs)
The era following WWII
 Television:: Middle-class appeal and ideal families
The Tonight Show (Steve Allen)
Toast of the Town (Ed Sullivan)
Father Knows Best
I Love Lucy
Ozzie and Harriet
 Rock & roll emerges
Bill Haley & the Comets: “Rock around the Clock” (1954)
Elvis: “Hound Dog,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Don’t be cruel”
 Popular Reading
The Cat in the Hat Dr. Seuss
Baby and Child Care: Dr. Benjamin Spock
Pat Boone (the all-American) vs James Dean (the outcast)
Underneath: surface prosperity is turmoil: pervading loneliness (David Reisman: The
Lonely Crowd (1951) & Rebel without a Cause (film with James Dean whose
character laments the adult world that abandoned him): & J.D. Salinger’s 1951
novel The Catcher in the Rye: “the adult word is phony”
Folk Music craze/fold song
 The Kingston Trio (“Tom Dooley”)
 Woody Guthrie (“This Land is Your Land”)
 Pete and Peggy Seeger
 Peter, Paul, and Mary
 Satirical songs about American life
 Guitars & banjoes
 The voice of the youth protest movement (hippies)
and flower children) of the 1960s
The Politics in the era following WWII
 Dwight David Eisenhower & Richard M Nixon 1952 election; Ike reelected 1956
 Cold war (1945- 1989)
Ideological (independence vs collective), political (democracy vs communism),
and economic (market vs command) tensions between United States &
Western Europe vs. USSR and Eastern Europe
 political (conservatism) Liberals were often given epithets: pinko/commie
 Anticommunist paranoia
Hollywood blacklists for Communist Party affiliation ( pressure to identify
communist sympathizers)
 Senator Joseph McCarthy “witch hunt” in the U.S. Senate (inspiration for The
Crucible – Arthur Miller) (mass hysteria and guilt by association)
On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan) suggested that one should “sing” or “rat on”
ones corrupt friends
 Space Race - 1957 Soviet launch of Sputnik leading to U.S. moon landing 1969
 Korean was (1950 – 19593) Sotho Korea 7 its ally U.S. vs North Korea and ally
Communist China
Civil Rights Movement
 African-Americans left in the old and decaying inner cities
where increased poverty and unemployment fostered
social unrest.
 mid-1950s Civil Rights movement had begun
 Rosa Parks (refused to give up her seat on the city bus and
was arrested)
 Martin Luther King, Jr. led the boycott against public
transportation & Supreme Court ruled segregation laws in
Montgomery unconstitutional
 19574 Brown vs.. The Topeka Board of Education: Supreme
Court rules Plessey vs.. Ferguson (“separate but equal”) was
inherently unequal and unconstitutional, so schools had to
be integrated. First major challenge came in Little Rock,
Arkansas in 1957
Emergence of several
black writers
 Richard Wright ( Black Boy 1945)
 Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man 1952)
 James Baldwin ( Go Tell it on the Mountain 1953)
 Gwendolyn Brooks (Bronzeville Boys and Girls 1956)
 Lorraine Hansberry (A Raisin in the Sun 1958)
Literary Scene
 Literature emerging from the war
 Norman Mailer (The Naked and the Dead)
 James Jones (From Here to Eternity)
 Early 20th century writers become powerhouses:
William Faulkner (Nobel Prize for literature 1950)
John Steinbeck (East of Eden 1952)
Katherine Anne Porter
Earnest Hemingway (Nobel Prize for literature 1952)
 New genre: Nonfiction novel:
 Hiroshima (1946) John Hersey combination of journalism and literature
(literary techniques + factual air of reporting to describe real events)
 “The most significant piece of journalism in modern times”
 Jewish writers: the Holocaust and life in America
 Saul Bellow The Adventures of Augie March (1953)
 Henderson, the Rain King 9159
 Seize the Day (1956)
 Bernard Malamud
 The Natural (1952)
 The Assistant (1957)
 “The Magic Barrel 1954
 Isaac Bashevis Singer
 Gimpel the Fool 1953
 The Family Moskat 1950
 Fugitive School: Southern writer’s rebellion against Northern
materialism and against science and progress
 John Crowe Ransom
 Robert Penn Warren
 Allan Tate
 Other Southern Writers
Flannery O’Connor
Walker Percy
Eudora Welty
Truman Capote
John Cheever
John O’Hara
John Updike
Flowering of American
 Arthur Miller
 Tennessee Williams
 William Inge
 Eugene O’Neill
 Lillian Hellman
Postwar Poets
 Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Marianne Moore
 T.S. Eliot (poetry should be “an escape from emotion and personality”) Nobel
Prize for literature 1947
 E.E. Cummings (experimented with parts of speech, capitalization, and
punctuation to explore the essence of language)
 William Carlos Williams (there should “be no ideas except in things”)
Black Mountain School in North Carolina: Charles Olsen, Robert Creeley,
Robert Duncan experimented with the rhythms and sounds of words in
lines based on breath pauses. Poetry itself creates a thing, an artifact
 Confessional poets: John Berryman, Robert Lowell: used haunting, stark
images to reveal intensely personal experiences.
Theodore Roethke: a new romantic, based poetry on childhood experience,
using his father’s greenhouse as metaphor
Berryman & Lowell: inner demons, strained and broken marriages,
Postwar Poets
 The Counterculture begins in the mid-1950s on the West Coast
1955 Six Gallery poetry reading Allen Ginsberg: “Howl” spontaneous composition
written to jazz rhythms that challenged every aspect of American life and language
1953 Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martins: City Lights Bookstore, 1st all-paperback
bookstore in the U.S. & haven for writers
This “new “literati” challenged the social malaise and traditional forms
 Abstract Expressionism
New York Poets: John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch: experimented
with new perceptions & poetry forms; tried to duplicate in words what the
expressionists artists accomplished in paint.
 The Beats (the Beat generation centered in bookstores around the U.S.): Gary
Snyder, Jack Kerouac, Michael McClure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso,
Kenneth Rexroth
Beat poems based on existential and Eastern philosophy; strove to cut through
superficial facades, denouncing and reviling thoughtless conformity, to embrace life
Turbulent sixties
John F. Kenney: Cold War & arms race, civil rights
Bay of Pigs Invasion
Cuban Missile Crisis
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.: Civil Rights Movement & race relations
President Lyndon Johnson
Civil Rights Act 1964
Voting Rights Act 19675
“Great Society” – series of social welfare measures (housing, Medicare, Medicaid, education)
Conservatives: more defense spending; less on domestic programs
Liberals: more spending on domestic programs, less on defense
Expansion of Viet Nam War (“police action”) – divisive; antiwar demonstrations throughout the U.S.
Counterculture rebellion of American youth, prosperous but challenged the war and traditional
materialistic values; extreme styles of dress, speech, of hippie movement)
Race riots: 1965, 1967, 1968
Assassinations: John F. Kennedy (1963); King & Robert Kennedy (1968)
 Richard Nixon elected by landslide; later becomes 1
president to resign from office
 Détente (improved relations) with the Soviet Union
 Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties (SALT)
 Improved relations with China (1972)
 Withdrew from Vietnam (1973)
 Improprieties during the ‘72 lection campaign including
burglary led to resignation
 Vice President Gerald Ford finished the term
 Jimmy Carter elected in 1976, promoted human rights
around the world
 Brought Israel and Egypt to negotiating table
 U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran taken over by Islamic
fundamentalists (Iran Hostage Crisis)
The Women’s Movement
Call for equal rights for women
Women’s movement or women’s lib
Renewed interest in feminism
Spearheaded by found of Ms. Magazine (19781)
Gloria Steinem
Betty Friedna
Bella Absuz
Shirley Chisholm
Nationals Women’s Political Caucus
Gender roles fell under question
Types of literature
 Radical experimentation
 “happenings” – spontaneous expressions of creative
freedom (precursors of performance art)
 Found poems - bits of language collected from the
culture at large (billboards, graffiti, subway posters,
 Concrete poems – designed to appeal to the eye
 Confessional poetry – extremely personal verse that
described intimate, often troubled experiences
Robert Lowell
Anne Sexton
Sylvia Plath
John Berryman
 Topics
Types of literature
Antiwar poetry
Robert Bly
Denise Levertov
Poems about race and discrimination
Leroi Jones (Imamu Amiri Baraka)
Nikki Giovanni
Gwendolyn Brooks
Mari Evans
Fiction/Fact? Novels/Reportage
Truman Capote
New Journalism – volumes of nonfiction reportages the relied
heavily on techniques of fiction or that frequently
manipulated the facts, reshaping them to add to the drama
and immediacy of the story being reported (subjective
valued over the objective).
Tom Wolfe, Ken Kesey, Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer,
John Barth, Richard Brautigan, John Irving
Concern for the absence of morals and ethics; critical of empty
experimentation; rather, fiction should reflect ethical values
that would make sense of the human condition
Walker Percy, Joan Didion, John Gardner
Chronicles of the Vietnam War
 described intimate, often troubled experiences
 Tim OBrien
Types of literature
 “Women’s literature about “women’s issues” as well
as other topics
 Black women made notable advances
 Multicultural literature emerged
 Deconstruction: a tool for evaluating texts
constantly questioned the nature of “reality”
 Reemergence of regionalism: “New Regionalism” decentralization of the
publishing industry
No longer exclusive to New York; now small literary presses and little magazines
emerged funded by colleges and universities or loyal readers, writers and editors
Able to promote new regional and experimental works in ways the big commercial
publishing houses could or would not
More expansive and diverse from East to West
William Kennedy: Albany , New York
Joyce Carol Oates: Northeast
Anne Tyler: Baltimore, Maryland
Pat Conroy: South Carolina low country
Jane Smiley – farms in the heartland
Leslie Marmon Silko and Cormac McCarthy: American Southwest
Wallace Stegner: Far West
Joan Didion: California
Raymond Carver: Pacific Northwest
Playwrights: Sam Shepard, David Mamet, Lanford Wilson, Beth Henley: regional
theater movement
Cultural Events of 1980s
End of American hostage crisis in Iran
Election of Ronald Reagan (end of Jimmy’s Carter’s presidency)
Iran-Contra scandal
SDI (Star Wars)
Family farms in depression
Fall of the Soviet Union/End of the Cold War/Berlin Wall comes down
Increasing Arab animosity for the United States (esp. Libya, Iraq, and Iran)
Economy takes off leading to increase in consumerism
Earth Day revived: manmade disasters includes nuclear accidents in Bhopal, India, Chernobyl,
Ukraine, Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania,
Exxon Valdez oil spill Alaska, emission of greenhouse gases, detection of “hole” in the ozone
layer of Antarctica
Cultural Events of 199s
Boomers (World War II babies) become Yuppies
Valued success in corporate world
Generation X
Nobodies, nameless, depressed, both working parents (poor economy and feminism): selfish, cynical,
dependent, demanding, “materialists”
MTV; consumerism and economic boom
1989: hyper-text-transfer protocol (http) invented
1993: World Wide Web open for public use
Information Superhighway: reality shaped by the information we collect for ourselves
Global Village (Marshall McCluhan) become reality: national boundaries weaken, cross-cultural
marketing and consumerism
HIV: the AIDS virus spreads dramatically
Contemporary Literature
 Writers examine events from perspectives of those
who are not in power and who do not justify the
status quo
 Awareness of diversity yet searching for unity
Contemporary Literature
 Mixed-media forms, performance art and installation art.
Laurie Anderson United States (1984)
 Poetry Slams: open poetry reading contests held in literary
bookstores and cafes
 Performance poetry (rap music)
 New Formalists: champion a return in poetry of form, rhyme,
and meters (19h century themes, contemporary attitudes and
images, musical language and traditional closed forms)
 Multiculturalism: American literature increasingly characterized
by an unprecedented interest in a promotion of diversity
especially women and people of color (vs predominantly white
male literary canon)
Creative Nonfiction
 Definition: creative nonfiction mixes literary
techniques more common to fiction with
 Origins: A term the National Endowment for the
Arts (NEA) began using in the early 1970s to refer
to contemporary nonfiction such as essays,
memories, biographies, and a personalized style of
 Examples: Truman Capote: In Cold Blood, (1965)
Annie Dillard: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974) John
McPhee: The Control of Nature (1990)
 John Berendt: Midnight in the Garden of Good and
Minority literature
 Hispanic-American poets: Gary Soto, Alberto Rios,
Lorna Dee Cervantes, Pat Mora, Jimmy Santiago
 Chicano (Mexican-American) poets: rich oral
tradition in the corrido or ballad, form. Recent works
stress traditions of the Mexican community and the
discrimination it has sometimes experienced from
 Native American writers of poetry and prose:
 vivid evocations of the natural world, almost
mystical; tragic sense of the irrevocable loss of a rich
 Leslie Marmon Silko, Simon Ortiz, Louise Erdrich,
Sherman Alexie
 Poets
Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)
Lucille Clifton
Michael Harper
Nikki Giovanni
Rita Dove
 Novelists
 Toni Morrison
 Alice Walker
 Charles Johnson
 Short Story writers
 Toni Cade Bambara
 Maya Angelou
Asian –American (American writers of Japanese, Chinese, Filipino,
Vietnamese, Koran, Thai all with distinct cultural heritages)
 Poets
Li-Young Lee
Cathy Song
Garrett Hongo
David Mura
Janice Mirikitani
 Prose
Maxine Hong Kingston
Amy Tan
Frank Chin
Sylvia Watanabe
Gish Jen
Gus Lee
American writers
 Poets
Diane Ackerman
Louise Cluck
Phillip Levine
Sharon Olds
Charles Wright
Donald Hall
 Prose
Allan Gurganus
Tim O’Brien
Anne Beattie
Anne Tyler
Barbara Kingsolver
Jane Smiley
Tom Wolfe
Frank McCourt
Garrison Keillor
E. Annie Proulx
Isaac Asimov
Kathleen Norris
John Updike