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19th CENTURY AMERICAN LITERATURE

Critic F.O. Matthiessen (opening sentence!)
wrote American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman
in it he claims that America had great literature similar to England’s found in the writings of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, and Whitman. Other critics have noted that he tended to exclude the significant contributions of both women and African Americans and failed to attend political and social issues such as slavery and immigration. He also tended to overemphasize the separateness of English and American Literature

Influences of American Romanticism
1. a spirit of optimism brought on by the promise of opportunity for territorial expansion, population growth, and freedom that the frontier offered
2. immigration brought new cultures and perspectives
3. growth of industry
4. a revolt against the age of reason

In Romanticism, nature serves as…
1. a refuge in a busy society
2. a source of instruction
3. a source of delight
4. nourishment for the soul
5. a way to look back to the past
6. a way to find one’s self

Characteristics of American Romanticism
1. values feeling and intuition over reason
2. inner experience and imagination
3. champions individual freedom and the worth of the individual
4. contemplates nature’s beauty as a path to spiritual and moral development
5. looks backward to the wisdom of the past and distrusts progress
6. finds beauty and truth in exotic locales, the supernatural realm, and the inner world of the imagination
7. finds inspiration in myth, legend, and folk culture

American vs. English Romanticism
1. American has more of a stress on individuality
2. American has more optimism from the frontier

Washington Irving
“Rip Van Winkle”
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
both great examples of legends and myths, sleepy hollow has common man or low-class character in Ichabod Crane, a school teacher

Nathaniel Hawthorne
The House of the Seven Gables

The House of the Seven Gables
contains many elements of Romanticism:
1. the Gothic- both the interior and exterior of the house itself is dark and gloomy with shadows casting everywhere
2. The supernatural- The Pyncheon family is cursed
3. Values feeling and intuition over reason- Hawthorne’s accursed characters, like Judge Pyncheon, prefer the head to the heart, whereas the sympathetic characters like Phoebe are more empowered by the heart.
4. Looks to the past- the story is grounded on the Puritan past.

Edgar Allan Poe
“The Philosophy of Composition”- all art should appeal to emotions, subjects should affect the reader in a manner which they could not encounter in real life (living corpses, frightening experiences, horrors that startle the reader, unimaginable situations)
“The Purloined Letter”- Dupin relies on intuition over rationality
“The Tell-Tale Heart”- narrator dominated by emotion
“The Black Cat”- narrator dominated by emotion
“Ligeia”- setting is in remote abbey in England
1. all use the Gothic, dealing with dark and mysterious subjects, death, murder, horror, curses
2. settings are unknown or obscure or distant time in the past, remote castles or abbey
3. strange subject matter, bizarre, unusual

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Herman Melville
Moby Dick
emotional tendencies overcoming reason. Captain Ahab is driven almost to insanity through the search of the white whale that took his leg

Characteristics of Transcendentalism
1. respected the individual spirit and the natural world, believing that divinity was present everywhere, in nature and in man
2. In this sense, man can reach a God-like state through his own genius, imagination, self-reliance, and connection to nature
3. transcendentalists were against the mistreatment of women, native americans, the war with mexico, and slavery, believing that the soul of each individual is identical with the soul of the world and made up of the same things.
4. rejected orthodox religions and big institutions

Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The American Scholar”
“Nature”

Fugitive Slave Law of 1850
encouraged northerners to return slaves to their southern masters

“The American Scholar” (opening sentence!)
often referred to as the nation’s “declaration of cultural independence”, this essay was first delivered as a lecture to Harvard’s Phi Beta Kappa Society and called on American writers to begin writing a new national literature that was separate from England.

“Nature”
1. men should break away from reliance on secondhand information, upon the wisdom of the past, upon inherited and institutionalized knowledge
2. unity of God, man, and nature- man, in his physical existence, is a part of the material world. But throughout the essay, Emerson refers to man’s separateness from nature through his intellectual and spiritual capacities. Nature’s purpose is as a representation of the divine to promote human insight into the laws of the universe, and thus to bring man closer to God.
3. stresses the importance of intuitive comprehension, which he refers to as “reason”

Margaret Fuller
Woman in the Nineteenth Century

“Woman in the Nineteenth Century”
The transcendentalists were known for taking progressive stands on women’s rights, abolition, education, and other important causes. Fuller played a large part in her group by running the transcendentalist’s periodical, the Dial, and by writing her famous feminist tract “Woman in the Nineteenth Century”, which states that it is important for each person to be an individual and self dependent. For women to become individuals, men need to remove their dominating influence and women need to claim their independence and step out from under man’s influence. This essay calls for brave women to come forth and help teach each other this concept.

Henry David Thoreau
Walden

Walden
details Thoreau’s experiences over the course of two years, two months, and two days in a cabin he built near Walden Pond, amidst woodland owned by his friend and mentor Emerson, near Concord, Massachusetts. The work is part personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, satire, and manual for self-reliance.

Walt Whitman
“Song of Myself”

“Song of Myself”
a poem which attempts to liberate both the poet and reader from the restraints of convention by thoroughly exploring and emphasizing transcendentalist beliefs of a common soul or spiritual state, known only in an individual’s intuition, which encompasses and goes beyond the materialistic and physical world. “I celebrate myself, and what I assume you shall assume, for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you”. To Whitman, the self is both personal and universal. Every person is an individual with their own identity and own idea of their self, however, the world also maintains the idea of a unified, universal self, in which everything is indistinguishable and interconnected.

Emily Dickinson
Selected poems
She was true to herself and was an individual at all costs, as opposed to conforming to a world of followers. Keeping her reclusive tendencies in mind, one could say that in her lifetime she was neither a leader nor a follower. She never tied herself to a particular school of thought or philosophy, she was simply herself. Like Poe, she also explores the dark and hidden part of the mind, dramatizing death and the grave. Yet she also celebrated simple objects–a flower, a bee. Her poetry exhibits great intelligence and often explores thought-provoking concepts such as religion, the mind, and society.

The Civil War
Americans failed to anticipate that a war of this nature would bring unimagined bloodshed, eventually killing over six hundred thousand Americans before Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant.

Realism Influences (opening sentence!)
1. a reaction against Romanticism
2. An interest in the scientific method
3. The influence of rational philosophy
Some claim that American Realism was the product of a country shaken by war combined with technological advances and increased consciousness of nationhood.

Realism Characteristics
1. Portraying life as it is, without idealization, without rendering things as beautiful or pleasant or optimistic when they are not.
2. Strive to portray common people in every day life
3. reflect a society that is far more industrialized and urban than Romanticism

Mark Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Samuel Clemens wrote Huck Finn under the pseudonym of Mark Twain, a story which brings readers face to face with the issues of slavery, education, and morality.
The novel is realistic in its use of vernacular speech (also regionalism) and its parade of characters from ordinary walks of life.
The lynching scene also serves as a good example of a very real social issue that was happening after the Civil War. Huck Finn is also faced with difficult moral decisions by helping the black runaway slave, Jim.

Naturalism Characteristics
1. introduces characters from the fringes and depths of society
2. fates are determined by heredity, environment, and bad luck and people cannot change their destinies
3. Man is often looking for order in the universe that does not exist

Stephen Crane
“The Open Boat”

“The Open Boat”
1. This short story serves as a great example of how nature can be seen not necessarily as hostile, but as completely uncaring and indifferent to humans.
2. Lack of order in the universe is seen when the men spot land and begin wondering if they have come this far and spent all their hard work, far past the point of exhaustion, only to be drowned when they finally catch a glimpse of the land. Surely if there was any order in the universe they would certainly have deserved to make it to land.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper
A fictional first person account of a young mother’s mental deterioration based on Gilman’s own experiences with post-partum depression. Like Gilman, the unnamed protagonist of the story is advised, based on medical theories of the time, to abstain from any and all physical activity and intellectual stimulation. She is not allowed to read, write, or even see her new baby. To carry out this treatment, the woman’s husband takes her to a country house where she is kept in a former nursery decorated with yellow wallpaper, which eventually drives her crazy. The story is both realism and naturalism. It tells of the real struggles that women were going through in this time period but it also shows that the woman in the story is not in control of her destiny and that other forces are pressing on her, eventually causing her to go insane.

Regionalism Characteristics
1. the tendency among certain authors to write about specific geographical areas.
2. many writers present the distinct culture of an area, including its speech, customs, beliefs, and history.

Sarah Orne Jewett
The Country of the Pointed Firs

The Country of the Pointed Firs
Jewett’s masterwork is a short story series or sketches which can be read as a study of the effects of isolation and hardship experienced by the inhabitants of the decaying fishing villages along the Maine coast.

Kate Chopin
The Awakening

The Awakening
Chopin was a regional writer interested in the customs, language, and landscapes of both the Louisiana countryside and urban New Orleans. She memorializes the relaxed and sensuous way of life of the Creole population. Because Creole women were expected and assumed to be chaste, they could behave in a forthright and unreserved manner. Exposure to such openness liberates Edna from her previously prudish behavior and repressed emotions and desires.Edna’s relationship with Adèle begins Edna’s process of “awakening” and self-discovery, which constitutes the focus of the book. At first, the relationship between Robert and Edna is innocent. They mostly bathe in the sea or engage in idle talk. As the summer progresses, however, Edna and Robert grow closer, and Robert’s affections and attention inspire in Edna several internal revelations. She feels more alive than ever before, and she starts to paint again as she did in her youth. She also learns to swim and becomes aware of her independence and sexuality.

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