Native American – The dates for this period are very unclear because we
have absolutely no idea when they started.
Much of the literature of that period were myths, and, of course, the
Native Americans still write today. Most
of what our text calls Native American myths were written long before Europeans
settled in North America.
(1472-1750) – Most of this is histories, journals, personal poems, sermons,
and diaries. Most of this
literature is either utilitarian, very personal, or religious.
We call it Puritan because the
majority of the writers during this period were strongly influenced by Puritan
ideals and values. Jonathan Edwards
continues to be recognized from this period.
– (1750-1800) – Called the Enlightenment
period due to the influence of science and logic, this period is marked in US
literature by political writings. Genres
included political documents, speeches, and letters. Benjamin
Franklin is typical of this period. There
is a lack of emphasis and dependence on the Bible and more use of common sense
(logic) and science. There was not
a divorce from the Bible but an adding to or expanding of the truths found
– (1800-1840) - Romanticism was a
literary and artistic movement of the nineteenth century that arose in reaction
against eighteenth-century Neoclassicism and placed a premium on fancy,
imagination, emotion, nature, individuality, and exotica.
There’s a movement here from personal and political documents to
entertaining ones. Purely American
topics were introduced such as frontier life.
Romantic elements can be found in the works of American writers as
diverse as Cooper, Poe, Thoreau, Emerson, Dickinson, Hawthorne, and Melville.
Romanticism is particularly evident in the works of the New England
– (1840-1855) -Transcendentalism was
an American literary and philosophical movement of the nineteenth century.
The Transcendentalists, who were based in New England, believed that
intuition and the individual conscience “transcend” experience and thus are
better guides to truth than are the senses and logical reason.
Influenced by Romanticism, the Transcendentalists respected the
individual spirit and the natural world, believing that divinity was present
everywhere, in nature and in each person. The
Transcendentalists included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Bronson
Alcott, W.H. Channing, Margaret Fuller, and Elizabeth Peabody.
The anti-Transcendentalist (Hawthorne and Melville) rebelled against the
philosophy that man is basically good. A
third group, the Fireside poets, wrote about more practical aspects of life such
as dying and patriotism.
(1865-1915) - Realism is the
presentation in art of the details of actual life.
Realism was also a literary movement that began during the nineteenth
century and stressed the actual as opposed to the imagined or the fanciful.
The Realists tried to write truthfully and objectively about ordinary
characters in ordinary situations. They
reacted against Romanticism, rejecting heroic, adventurous, unusual, or unfamiliar
subjects. The Realists, in turn,
were followed by the Naturalists, who
traced the effects of heredity and environment on people helpless to change
their situations. American realism
grew from the work of local-color writers such as Bret Harte and Sarah Orne
Jewett and is evident in the writings of major figures such as Mark Twain and
– An outgrowth of Realism, Naturalism
was a literary movement among novelists at the end of the nineteenth century and
during the early decades of the twentieth century.
The Naturalists tended to view people as hapless victims of immutable
natural laws. Early exponents of
Naturalism included Stephen Crane, Jack London, and Theodore Dreiser.
– Another outgrowth of Realism,
Regionalism in literature is the tendency among certain authors to write
about specific geographical areas. Regional
writers like Willa Cather and William Faulkner, present the distinct culture of
an area, including its speech, customs, beliefs, and history.
Local-color writing may be considered a type of Regionalism, but
Regionalists, like the southern writers of the 1920’s, usually go beyond mere
presentation of cultural idiosyncrasies and attempt, instead, a sophisticated
sociological or anthropological treatment of the culture of a region.
Imagism – Imagism
was a literary movement that flourished between 1912 and 1927.
Led by Ezra Pound and Amy Lowell, the Imagist poets rejected
nineteenth-century poetic forms and language.
Instead, they wrote short poems that used ordinary language and free
verse to create sharp, exact, concentrated pictures.
– (1915-1946) – An age of disillusionment and confusion—just look at what
was happening in history in the US during these dates—this period brought us
perhaps our best writers. The
authors during this period raised all the great questions of life…but offered
no answers. Faulkner, Steinbeck,
Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Frost are all examples.
– Part of the Modern Age, The Harlem
Renaissance, which occurred during the 1920’s, was a time of African
American artistic creativity centered in Harlem, in New York City.
Writers of the Harlem Renaissance include Countee Cullen, Claude McKay,
Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes, and Arna Bontemps.
– (1946-present) – great stuff, but not a clear philosophy.
– Classicism is an approach to
literature and the other arts that stresses reason, balance, clarity, ideal
beauty, and orderly form in imitation of the arts of ancient Greece and Rome.
Classicism is often contrasted with Romanticism,
which stresses imagination, emotion, and individualism.
Classicism also differs from Realism,
which stresses the actual rather than the ideal.
– Local Color is the use in a
literary work of characters and details unique to a particular geographic area.
Local color can be created by the use of dialect and by descriptions of
customs, clothing, manners, attitudes, scenery, and landscape.
Local-color stories were especially popular after the Civil War, bringing
readers the West of Bret harte, the Mississippi River of Mark Twain, and the New
England of Sarah Orne Jewett.
Gothic – Gothic
refers to the use of primitive medieval, wild, or mysterious elements in
literature. Gothic elements offended eighteenth-century classical writers
but appealed to the Romantic writers who followed them. Gothic novels feature places like mysterious and gloomy
castles, where horrifying, supernatural events take place. Their influence on Edgar Allan Poe is evident in “The Fall
of the House of Usher.”
Grotesque – Grotesque refers to the use of bizarre, absurd, or fantastic elements in literature. The grotesque is generally characterized by distortions or striking incongruities. Grotesque characters, like those in Flannery O’Connor’s “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” are characters who have become ludicrous or bizarre through their obsession with an idea or value, or as a result of an emotional problem.
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