The Isms in American Literature American Studies Program Skeletal Outline Presentation Essential Questions: What defines a literary movement? Essential Questions: How does literature reflect social climate? Essential Questions: How does literature and an understanding of its chronology and themes show how we as a people, came to be who we are today? Pre- and Early Colonialism to 1776 Colonialism was a way of life based on the belief that the Bible was the Word of God. •Religion should permeate every phase of living. •Man’s only purpose is to glorify God. •Every action, including writing, should further this objective. Hours spent writing were taken away from important tasks such as plowing fields or praying. Pre- and Early Colonialism Writing must serve a practical purpose. 1. Relate the experiences of the settlers and attract interest in the colonies, such as John Smith’s General History. 2. Discuss problems dealing with right and wrong (aids to worship), such as Samuel Sewall’s diaries and Edward Taylor’s poetry. 3. Writing should be utilitarian, unless it imitated English models. Pre- and Early Colonialism Typical Colonial Writers: Anne Bradstreet “To My Dear and Loving Husband” “Upon the Burning of Our House” Jonathan Edwards “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” Edward Taylor “Huswifery” “Upon What Base?” Pre- and Early Colonialism Typical Colonial Writers: William Bradford (Of Plymouth Plantation) Chapter 9 Of their voyage, and how they passed the sea, and of their safe arrival at Cape Cod September 6. These troubles being blown over, and now all being compact together in one ship, they put to sea again with a prosperous wind, which continued divers days together, which was some encouragement unto them; yet according to the usual manner many were afflicted with sea sickness. And I may not omit here a special work of God's providence. There was a proud and very profane young man, one of the sea-men, of a lusty, able body, which made him the more haughty; he would always be condemning the poor people in their sickness, and cursing them daily with grievous execrations, and did not let to tell them, that he hoped to help to cast half of them overboard before they came to their journey's end, and to make merry with what they had; and if he were by any gently reproved, he would curse and swear most bitterly. But it pleased God before they came half seas over, to smite this young man with a grievous disease, of which he died in a desperate manner, and so was himself the first that was thrown overboard. Neoclassic Literature 1776-1820 Neoclassicism is a conscious attempt by writers to interpret the form and ideals of ancient works, especially from Greece and Rome. Neoclassical writers stressed logic, order, correctness, and dignity. Wrote primarily about social life and social interactions. Characteristics of Neoclassic Lit. • • • • Clarity, simplicity, and directness. Dignity and logic. Formality--correct form. Didacticism- the use of works of art to convey moral, social, educational or political messages. A didactic work is one in which the artistic values of the work are subordinated to the message or meaning. Characteristics continued… • Didactic purpose: man can reach perfection if he learns the laws of nature (natural law). • Man needs freedom to study natural laws (hence, emphasis on self-government). • Often, neoclassical writers were satirists. Terms to know: virtue, aphorism, maxims, hyperbole Typical Neoclassical Writers Benjamin Franklin • The Autobiography • Poor Richard’s Almanac • Maxims/Aphorisms Typical Neoclassical Writers Thomas Jefferson The Declaration of Independence The Constitution of the United States Typical Neoclassical Writers Phillis Wheatley • “To His Excellency General Washington” Patrick Henry • “Speech in the Virginia Convention” Thomas Paine • The Crisis Romanticism, Transcendentalism and Anti-Transcendentalism 1820-1860 Essayists and Poets Romanticism Romanticism is both an attitude and a literary style. • It represents a reaction against the formality of neoclassicism. • Imagination, fancy (in the sense of “fanciful”), individualism and revolt against tradition are elements of romanticism. Chief Characteristic: emphasis on emotion and imagination. Romanticism Characteristics • 1. Rebellion against the past, rules, orthodoxy, etc. (not as a subject…the past is often chosen) • 2. A tendency toward inspiration (vs. classics) as subject and method. • 3. A concern with the individual, especially the author. (hence, emphasis on personal emotion) • 4. An interest in untamed nature. • 5. An encouragement of the reader’s imagination. Romanticism Typical Romantic Writers Edgar Allan Poe Nathaniel Hawthorne Herman Melville Romanticism Typical Romantic Writers • • • • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow John Greenleaf Whittier James Russell Lowell Oliver Wendell Holmes Untamed Nature Beauty Imagination Fancy Transcendentalism Transcendentalism was one aspect of romanticism. Definition: Transcendentalism is a philosophy which holds that basic truths can be reached through intuition rather than reason. • Basic truths of the universe lie beyond the knowledge we obtain through our senses. • People must go beyond or transcend what their reason and senses tell them. Transcendentalism Transcendentalists stress: • Beauty of nature • Essential divinity of all people • Primary importance of the human spirit. Leading American Transcendentalists: • Ralph Waldo Emerson • Henry David Thoreau Anti-Transcendentalism Based on three major principles: • Nature is indifferent, unforgiving, and often unexplainable. • People posess the potential for both good and evil. • The truths of existence are elusive. Ant-Transcendentalism Basic Traits: • • • • • • • • Pessimistic Arrogant Fear of nature Evil/mysterious side of nature Villain Selfishness Tragic ending Fiction Ant-Transcendentalist Writings Moby Dick ~Herman Melville The Scarlet Letter ~Nathaniel Hawthorne The Pit and the Pendulum ~Edgar Allan Poe The Rise of Realism, Regionalism, Local Color 1860-1914 Realism Realism is a general term applied to any literary work which shows life as it is. Realistic writers show both the positives and the negatives in life. Realism is a reaction against romanticism, especially its subjects: the past, nature, etc. The subject of the realist is the ordinary person or event. Realism The romantic realist presents life as s/he finds it, but generally seeks out the pleasant side of life Or tempers the unpleasant by • his own emotional feelings • Bret Harte in “The Outcasts of Poker Flat ” • Or his nostalgic recollections • Mark Twain in Adventures of • Huckleberry Finn Realism Some characteristics of realism: • 1. The focus is on the present. • 2. The emphasis is on character and motivation rather than plot. • 3. The realist emphasizes facts. • 4. Specific details are important. The local color movement was part of Realism. Regionalism is an example of Realism. Realism Other Typical Writers: Willa Cather Walt Whitman Anzia Yezierska Naturalism/ Muckraking Naturalism Naturalism is an extreme of Realism which examines life with more objectivity than the “life as it is” technique of Realism. Naturalism The subject of naturalism is usually a social problem or vice. • 1. Characters are often “type” characters--they represent the vice or weakness of a group, so their lives and backgrounds are presented in great detail. • 2. Determinism may be a part of naturalism. (Biological determinism = man’s actions are determined by heredity and he has little choice in his own destiny.) Naturalism Characteristics of naturalism include: 1. Objectivity • The author does not judge his characters; rather, he places them in situations where they behave in certain ways. 2. Candor (reaction against Victorianism) • Man and woman should be studied to discover their deeper instincts. • According to a naturalist, fear, hunger, and sex are the three strongest drives. Naturalism Characteristics of naturalism include: 3. Philosophy of Determinism • A) A complex view that man is a victim, esp. the view that man is an animal, helpless against fate. • B) The philosophy may take three forms: • i. Sociological emphasis (Sinclair’s The Jungle) • ii. Mechanistic philosophy (Dreiser’s Sister Carrie) • iii. Fatalism (Crane’s “The Open Boat”) Naturalism Characteristics of naturalism include: 4. A bias toward pessimism in selecting details (e.g., typical settings are slums, sweatshops, factories, etc.) 5. A bias in the selection of characters. • A) marked physical but small intellectual activity. • B) excited, neurotic temperament • C) strong characters whose wills are broken Naturalism D. Naturalism is sometimes (not always) socialistic or radical in politics. Naturalism D. Typical naturalistic writers: Ernest Hemingway Sherwood Anderson Jack London Modernism The Modern Self • The chief characteristic of the self is alienation. • The modern self is often unable to act, feel or express love. • The modern self has a tormented recollection of the past. Modernism Themes of Modern Literature • • • • • Collectivism versus individualism Anxiety regarding the past Historical discontinuity Disillusionment Violence and alienation Modernism Themes of Modern Literature • Decadence and decay • Loss and despair • Breakdown of social norms and cultural sureties • Race and gender relations • Sense of place, local color Modernism Stylistic Innovations • A disruption of original syntax and form • Stream of consciousness- presents the thoughts and feelings of a character as they occur without regard for chronological sequences or traditional syntax Modernist Writers Ernest Hemingway The Sun Also Rises The Old Man and the Sea A Farewell to Arms T.S. Eliot Prufrock and Other Observations The Waste Land F. Scott Fitzgerald Tender is the Night The Great Gatsby Postmodernism The Difference between Modernism and Postmodernism • Modernism presents a fragmented view of human subjectivity, and presents that fragmentation as tragic, something to be mourned as a loss • Postmodernism still represents a fragmented view of human subjectivity, BUT does NOT lament the idea of fragmentation or incoherence. The world is meaningless? Let’s not pretend that literature can make meaning then, let’s just play with nonsense. Postmodern Writers Allen Ginsberg Toni Morrison Gwendolyn Brooks Essential Questions: What defines a literary movement? Essential Questions: How does literature reflect social climate? Essential Questions: How does literature and an understanding of its chronology and themes show how we as a people, came to be who we are today?