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The American Renaissance. American writers claim a national literature. No longer imitating the writers of Europe.

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Presentation on theme: "The American Renaissance. American writers claim a national literature. No longer imitating the writers of Europe."— Presentation transcript:

1 The American Renaissance

2 American writers claim a national literature. No longer imitating the writers of Europe.

3 Light Romantics: Transcendentalists - optimists Ralph Waldo Emerson Henry David Thoreau

4 Exhilarated by nature’s beauty and tranquility Harmonious relationship with nature Serves as a source of beauty and inspiration

5 Ralph Waldo Emerson

6 Henry David Thoreau

7 Wrote about man’s unlimited capacity through self- improvement and intellectual improvement Concept of human perfectibility

8 Dark Romantics: Anti- Transcendentalists pessimistic Nathaniel Hawthorne Herman Melville Poe - actually in a class by himself

9 Anti-Transcendentalists: Wrote about the dark side of nature: Nature just looks beautiful and inspiring on the surface but can also be menacing and destructive

10 Wrote about the dark side of human nature Man’s conflict with good and evil Consequences of sin and guilt

11 Extremes and aberrations of the human psyche (obsession and madness)

12 Both groups valued intuition over reason. Saw signs and symbols in nature and in human events

13 Both groups used Symbolism extensively in their literature

14 Both groups thought to know God, universe, the self, anything, one must transcend (go beyond) the everyday existence in the physical world. Intuition is the ultimate tool for discovering truth.

15 Both followed Idealism of Plato in 4 th C BC: true reality is to be found in ideas, not physical world

16 Both valued Intuition: capacity to know things spontaneously and immediately through our emotions rather than through our reasoning abilities

17 However, Light Romantics believed in concept of human perfectibility. Dark Romantics saw humans as incapable of perfection because of sin and guilt.

18 In your groups, complete a Venn Diagram comparing Light Romantics and Dark Romantics.

19 born on July 4, 1804 Salem, Massachusetts, family - prominent in the area since colonial times Nathaniel Hawthorne

20 William Hathorne soldier and judge in early Massachusetts Bay Colony Son Judge John Hathorne: role in execution of 19 people in Salem witchcraft Trials

21 Bowdoin College: classmates were many of the important literary and political figures of the day: writer Horatio Bridge future Senator Jonathan Ciley Henry Wadsworth Longfellow future President Franklin Pierce

22 Can’t talk about Hawthorne without talking about good friend Herman Melville 15 years younger dedicated Moby Dick to Hawthorne

23 Spent 12 years as a recluse in his mother’s attic Refined his writing craft House in Salem where Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804 (photography by Aaron Toleos)

24 Prominent friends supplied Hawthorne with government employment in the lean times, allowing him time to bloom as an author.

25 Hawthorne's fiance Sophia Peabody drew him into "the newness," the Boston-centered Transcendentalist movement, led by Ralph Waldo Emerson

26 In 1841 Hawthorne invested $1500 in the Brook Farm Utopian Community, leaving disillusioned within a year.

27 His later works show some Transcendentalist influence, including a belief in individual choice and consequence, and an emphasis on symbolism.

28 America's first true psychological novel, The Scarlet Letter would convey these ideals; contrasting puritan morality with passion and individualism.

29 Title page of 1878 edition of The Scarlet Letter

30 Bowdoin classmate Senator Jonathon Ciley appointed Hawthorne as measurer of Salt and Coal at Boston Custom- House, but he lost his post in 1849 for political reasons.

31 Exterior of the Salem Custom House, 2000 (photography by Aaron Toleos)

32 The Scarlet Letter attained an immediate and lasting success because it addressed spiritual and moral issues from a uniquely American standpoint.

33 The Scarlet Letter, 1892 edition (courtesy of Dr. Philip Sbaratta}

34 In 1850, adultery was an extremely risque subject, but because Hawthorne had the support of the New England literary establishment, it passed easily into the realm of appropriate reading.

35 The Scarlet Letter represents the height of Hawthorne's literary genius. It remains relevant for its philosophical and psychological depth, and continues to be read as a classic tale on a universal theme.

36 Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter in an astonishingly short period of time—between the fall of 1849 when his mother died and February 3, 1850, when he repeatedly read the conclusion of the novel to his wife.

37 Hester Prynne, a young woman, in the Puritan town of Boston in the mid-1600s. Hester, found guilty of adultery, is sentenced to wear a scarlet letter A on her chest for the rest of her life. The story also involves her daughter, her daughter’s father, and her husband, who arrives in Boston after a prolonged absence. H uses these circumstances as the framework for his novel.

38 Hawthorne weaves around his characters a psychologically powerful tale of the consequences of breaking a moral code. Skillfully, Hawthorne investigates how guilt and sin operate on the innermost workings of his characters’ minds.

39 THE TIME AND PLACE The Scarlet Letter is set in the mid- 1600s in Boston, which had been founded only about two decades earlier. In 1630 hundreds of newly arrived Puritans established a number of settlements in Massachusetts.

40 Literary scholars have hailed Hester Prynne as the first true heroine of American literature. Hawthorne characterizes her as a whole person— woman, mother, sinner, and member of the community— rather than as a stereotype, as so many writers at that time cast their female characters.

41 H Preferred to concentrate on the darker, often hidden areas of the human psyche. He turns a scrutinizing eye on the thought processes and emotions that occur within the mind of the individual.


43 In 1629, some Puritans traveled to the American colonies to gain religious freedom and establish new lives. These residents of Boston in the mid-1600s were much as Hawthorne depicts them—hardworking and devoted to their way of life.

44 Their society had been carved out for them by John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts and a resident of Boston. He established a government based on a combination of religious and civil ideals. The colony was intended to be an ideal Christian community.

45 In literature a stereotype is a character who is a collection of traits and mannerisms that are shared by other people who are members of that group. For example, a stereotyped villain is evil and heartless. The hero or heroine pitted against that villain is often portrayed as compassionate, strong, or good-looking. Most heroes have an unusually well-developed sense of right and wrong.


47 Unlike other writers of his time, Hawthorne avoided stereotypical characters and shallow characterization. He fully developed his characters by examining what made them human. He moved boldly into areas that some readers of the time might have found shocking, such as guilt, adultery, and social judgment.

48 Laws in colonial Massachusetts covered everything from swearing to excessive decoration on women’s caps to murder. Whipping, branding, and other forms of public humiliation were relatively common practices in the colonies. Hester Prynne’s punishment was mild by Puritan standards.



51 Colonial Government The government of Massachusetts was by no means a democracy. Rather, it was a theocracy—a state governed by its church. Only church members could take part in the government of the colony. Ministers’ interpretation of the Bible and their “management” of moral codes and conduct applied to all residents of the colony, whether a lowly freeman or the governor himself.

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