American Literature

American Literature
Periods of Am. Lit.
Beginning of American Literature:
1607-1776 Colonial Period
1765-1790 The Revolutionary Age
1775-1828 The Early National Period
2. Romanticism,
 1828-1865
The Romantic Period
(Also known as:
TheAmerican Renaissance)
 The Age of Transcendentalism 18651900
3. Realism, Naturalism
The Realistic Period 1900-1914
The Naturalistic Period (extreme realism)
1914-1939 1920s 1920s, 1930s:
American Modernist Period:
Jazz Age,
Harlem Renaissance
The "Lost Generation"
1939-present 1950s 1960s, 1970s
The Contemporary Period:
 The
Beat generation
 American
Literature recognizes works
African-American Writers
Native American Writers
Asian-American Writers
Colonial Period
 Periods
of Am. Literature vary a lot
 It´s impossible to give exact dates
 The first literature started to appear after
founding of the first settlement at
Jamestown in 1607
 It continuoud till the outbreak of the
Literary genres:
 Historical
 Religious themes –
sermons (kázání)
Anne Bradstreet (poet)
Benjamin Franklin (The Way to Wealth)
William Bradford
The Revolutionary Age
 The
greatest documents of American
history were authored:
 Thomas Paine (Common Sense – he
urged independence)
 The Declaration of Independence
(Thomas Jefferson - 1776)
 The
Constitution (1789 - ratified)
The Early National Period
 Beginnings
 The
of true Am. Literature
writers wrote in th English style but
the settings, themes and characters were
authentically American
Irving – he wrote about Am.
Life, biography of G. Washington
 Washington
Fenimore Cooper – The Last of the
 James
 Edgar Allan
E.A.Poe (1809-1849)
 son
of a poor actress (drastic death)
 his father alcoholic
 He was taken by his guardian Mr. Allan
 Studied West Point – kicked out
 Marriage with 13 year-old cousin
 She died of TB ten years later – despair,
grief was reflected in his works
 1849 found delirious in a steet
 The
Raven (poem) - a tired, unhappy
student asks if he ever meets his love
 His doubts are underlined by the raven´s
repetition „nevermore“,
symbol of doubts and longing
 The
Golden Bug
 The Pit and the Pendulum
 The Black Cat
 The Murders in the Rue Morgue
 The Fall of the House of Usher
His work:
 1. realism: detective stories – logical,
brilliant, rational
 2. romanticism – irrationalism, mystery,
violence, criminality, death, passion
Perverse, vulgar, grotesque style.
 American
reflection of European
 Philosophical
The transcendal philosophy was based
Free will
Individual conscience
It glories nature
 All
transcendentalists were isolated people
 They
lived in „Utopian Community“ –
Brookfarm near Boston
 The
individual can transcend the world
and discover union with God and Ideal
Main representatives:
 Ralph
Waldo Thoreau
 Henry
David Thoreau
Other Romantic Writers
 Herman
Melville – symbolist (Moby-Dick)
 Nathaniel
Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter)
the main theme –sin
Hester has te wear letter A – means adulteress
 Walt
Whitman (poet)
 Emily
Dickinson (poet)
Realistic Period
 After
Civil War:
 Social injustice – first millionaires appear
 discoveries in science (railway, telegraph
cable, telephone,…)
 Growth of education
 Twain called this period „gilded age“
 Action
against romanticism
 Main literary form – novel
 Authors accuse romanticism of falsehood
 They describe common things, common
places, everyday life
Mark Twain
 His
real name: Samuel Langorne Clemens
 He spent his childhood on the Mississippi
 Workedon a steamboat on the Mississippi
 Travelled a lot
 He recollects his childhood in his books
 The
Innocents Abroad
 The Gilded Age
 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
 The Advedntures of Huckleberry Finn
Tom likes danger, he´s always able to
avoid problems, Huck represents social
conscience, he´s sensitive to everything
around him
 Derived
from the word nature (interest in
 It has its origin in France – Zola
 Prople are influenced by environmental
forces (outside us) and inner drives (inside
us) – peole can ´t control them
 The main drives of characters: hunger,
fear, sex, …
 Their
writings are often cruel and tragic.
 Stephen
 Jack London (Tjhe Call of the Wild)
 Theodore Dreiser (An American Tragedy)
 Upton Sinclair (The Jungle)
Lost Generation
 A term
applied for Am. Writers born around
1900, who fought in WWI
 The
term comes from Gertrude Stein
 Main
features: description of the loss of
traditional values as the result of the war
other social evils
Ernest Hemingway
 Find
some info. about him
F. S. Fitzgerald
 Connected
with Jazz Age in 20s
 Wrote many stories about wealthy people
 The Great Gatsby – masterpiece
(a rich man earns money by smuggling, he
loves Daisy, but Daisy is married
Nick – a narrator is is disgusted)
American Dream
Other 20th century writers
 The
Harlem Renaissance:
Harlem (N.Y.) was a centre of it
Motto: Let us return to Africa! (in a literary
We all have sth. in common
Main representatives:
 Langston
 Countee
 Richard
The Great Depression
= the end of American Modernist Period
William Faulkner
John Steinbeck
Eugene O´Neil (a playwright)
Dealt with social and political issues
Jewish Writers
Big emigration of the Jews to the US
 Writers explore new themes of identity,
psychological problems
 They are looking at their racial background
Saul Bellow
 J.D. Salinger (The catcher in the Rye)
 Bernard Malamud
 Joseph Heller (Cath 22)
The Beat Generation
 The
main personalities:
 A. Ginsberg, W. Boroughs, J. Kerouac, G.
 Knew
each other, travelled through the US
by taking drugs and having many sexual
 SAn Francisco – cradle of the Beats
Basic Characteristics
 Wanted
to live life without social
 Against supermacy of money
 Their idol = wanderer travelling with his
bag from a state to state, listening to
JAZZ, being spontaneous, free, sincere
 Taking drugs, drinking alcohol
Jack Kerouac
 On
the Road
Written on toilet paper
Journeys from East of States to the West