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Key Themes in American Literature Prepared by Mr. Kevin Cheng.

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Presentation on theme: "Key Themes in American Literature Prepared by Mr. Kevin Cheng."— Presentation transcript:

1 Key Themes in American Literature Prepared by Mr. Kevin Cheng

2 Outline of Key Themes 1. The Colonial Period – Beginnings to 1790 The Colonial Period 2. The New Republic – American Romanticism – American Romanticism 4. The Continental Nation – The Progressive Era – American Lit as part of the mainstream of Western Lit – American Lit as part of the mainstream of Western Lit 7. Cultural Diversity in American Literature – 1945-present Cultural Diversity in American Literature

3 The Colonial Period – Beginnings to 1790 The English came to settle the land. For first 100 years, early settlers were confined to the sea coast from Maine to Florida. The westward movement was not till the late 18 th century. In New England, a public education system was developed which gave rise to the development of literary arts. Their culture helped shape the nation.

4 The Colonial Period – Beginnings to 1790 Puritanism John Smith ( ) Anne Bradstreet ( ) Jonathan Edwards ( ) Benjamin Franklin ( ) Back

5 American Romanticism – American literary Romanticism derives mainly from the English Romantic Poets (Coleridge & Wordsworth), German Romantic Philosophy and Jonathan Edwards (A Divine and Supernatural Light & Images and Shadows of Divine Things)

6 American Romanticism – Five principal Romantic themes: intuition (“truth of the heart”) is more trustworthy than reason to express deeply felt experience is more valuable than to elaborate universal principles the individual is at the centre of life and God is at the centre of the individual nature is an array of physical symbols from which knowledge of the supernatural can be intuited we should aspire to the Ideal, to changing whaat is to what ought to be.

7 American Romanticism – James Fenimore Cooper ( ) Transcendentalism (emerging around 1815) Ralph Waldo Emerson ( ) Margaret Fuller ( ) Nathaniel Hawthorne ( ) Edgar Allan Poe ( ) Henry David Thoreau ( ) Herman Melville ( ) Walt Whitman ( ) Back

8 American Lit as part of the mainstream of Western Lit – After WW1, military, political and business forces created a reactionary climate hostile to new social and artistic ideas. Many young writers left for Europe. They found the freedom to critically scrutinise the values of their own country Discovered new standards of craftsmanship and new techniques originated by an older generation of artists and thinkers.

9 American Lit as part of the mainstream of Western Lit – Poetry – French symboliste poets, Yeats and Pound Novelists – Proust, Joyce and Gertrude Stein Visual Arts – cubism, post- impressionism, dada-ism Concepts –Freud and Einstein Even if their refinement was European, their subject matter was American – presented in American terms without timidity.

10 American Lit as part of the mainstream of Western Lit – Modernism Gertrude Stein ( ) Ezra Pound ( ) and the New Poetry T. S. Eliot ( ) E. E. Cummings ( ) F. Scott Fitzgerald ( ) Ernest Hemingway ( ) Langston Hughes ( ) John Steinbeck ( ) Back

11 Cultural Diversity in American Literature – 1945-present In the early 40s, criticism placed a new emphasis on the purely literary aspects of writing – insisted that the artist work outside of political and social consideration. This position became controversial in the 60’s, and from the 70’s till present, has been the object of increasingly vigorous attack. Many divergent forms of criticism took to the fore in the American literary consciousness.

12 Cultural Diversity in American Literature – 1945-present Tennessee Williams ( ) Arthur Miller (1915-) James Baldwin ( ) Alice Walker (1944-) “Beat” Poets: Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder Anne Sexton ( ) Adrienne Rich (1929-) Toni Morrison (1931-) Sylvia Plath ( ) Maxine Hong Kingston (1940-) Amy Tan (1952-) Back

13 Hmm… What constitutes the main themes and features (i.e. the spirit) of American Lit? Is this spirit the same in the past as in contemporary America? What is a text that is adequately representative of the spirit of American Lit? What mode/genre is representative of American Lit? How does The Crucible measure up as a representative text?

14 Interesting Links American Literature on the Web America’s Library Outline of American Literature tm tm PAL: Perspectives in American Literature ML ML The Cambridge History of English and American Literature The Norton Anthology of American Literature


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