History ofAmerican Literature The history of American Literature started with the settlement of James Town in 1607. True Belle – letters or literature came to be written in America by the close of 18th century. But if recording of human experiences can be termed literature, what the early colonists wrote must be deemed an integral part of literature.
The American spirit is made largely of courage, industry and optimism and the hardships of living conditions, attacks sickness and starvation are reflected in the pages of Smith, Bradford Winthrop. And in spite of innumerable dangers the colonists flourished which is a real tribute to their courage & tenacity and therefore their writings form an important part in American history.
The colonial period extends from 1607 – 1765 and during these years the literary output was scanty. For the settlers survival was the first and most vital problem. For them to fight against the wilderness and to convert the forest into cultivable land, to make oneself safe against adverse forces – were some of the gripping problems were not suited for literary composition. Lack of Leisure accounts for the lack of literature. So it was by the end of colonial period that an atmosphere conducive for the production of genuine literature which could be compared with that of England.
The Literature written during this period was of exploration and adventure. We got a very popular type of literature, namely ‘Travel Literature’ which in the hands of Mark Twain became a rich source of entertainment and information.
Sermons were the most important and most voluminous of all types of literature produced during the colonial period. They are written in a plain style remarkable for the procedure of thought expressed for excellent representation of Puritan Doctrine.
Theological and Polemical Writings claimed a prominent place is the literary field of this period. The greatest among the theologians were – Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards.
Another literary form which achieved prominence was the diary or autobiography because a large number of colonists kept diaries or wrote autobiographies. Some of these diaries were meant by the writers to be passed on to others for edification. As religious controversies swayed the mind of the people, prose got pre – dominance over – poetry, through poetry was not by any chance neglected, and the most important poets of the period were –Anne Bradstreet, Michael Wigglesworth and Edward Taylor.
Some critics are of the opinion that American Poetry before 1765 is negligible. “The Bay Psalm Book”composed by Thomas Weld, John Eliot and Richard Mather was one of the earliest poetic work written in America and certainly the first book to come out of American press. It is written in Ballad meter and the poetic quality is not worth much.
Anne Bradstreet (1612 - 1673) – She was the first puritan poet who immigrated to America at the age of 18 and had a great knowledge of English poets like Sidney and Spenser. By 1650 she won lot of name and fame as a poetess and so her brother – in – law arranged publication of her poems under the pretentious title of “THE TENTH MUSE LATELY SPRUNG UP IN AMERICA”. It consisted of poems “The Four Seasons”, “The Four elements”, “The Four Constitutions”, “The Four Monarchies”.
The poem “Contemplations” is in written with an Alexandrine which shows the influence of Spenser.
“To My Dear and Loving Husband” is an exquisite and tender poem by Anne.
Michael Wigglesworth (1631 - 1705) – He was a minister who studied medicine and has written one of the most terrifying poem “The Day of Doom”.
Thomas Godfreys – He has the distinction of being the author of the first American play written by a native playwright to be produced on professional stage, “The Prince of Parthia” in blank verse with a lot of passion and violence on stage. His poems were produced in two volumes – "The Court of Fancy" and "Juvenile Poems" on various subjects.
Edward Taylor – A physician who did not take himself as a poet and hence requested to leave his poems unpublished.
Puritanism started in the 16th century as a definite religious movement that sought to purify the English church from the traces of Catholicism. All the important types of colonial writings bear the stamp of Puritanism and the literary bulk of this period consisted of sermons, theological writings, autobiographies, biographies penned by Puritans with literary flare. Thus Puritanism exerted a great influence on early American Literature.
American Literature underwent a lot of changes and the social and political conditions transformed making it highly conducive and free from the shackles of theology and religion.
The strain of colonisatation was over and now they kept good contact with one another Travel, communication, telegraph improved a lot and the first sign of journalism appeared. America's first newspaper was “The Boston News” (1704), and soon a number of periodicals sprang up. A very important factor which was responsible for the change was the increase of literate people, private academics, public schools, church schools etc.
Economically, the people and their families were now prosperous and produced their own food, clothes, and shoes. Fisheries, whaling and ship building were the major industries that brought wealth to America. Agriculture also kept pace with the development. All these things had an impact on literature. Leisure and improved standard of living promoted better production of literature.
In the 18th century religious tolerance was great and the very conception of God, man and universe were undergoing changes. Essays of Addison and Steele inspired the use of periodical essays like the ‘Tell Tale’ series written by a group of Howard students.
American poetry of 17th century which was partially formless gained the discipline of the couplet that Dryden and Pope had popularized and all the Neo – Classical trends were properly copied. As a result the literature produced, achieved a surprising maturity, which is evident in the works of Edwards, Crevecoeur, Benjamin Franklin, Freneau, Paine and others.
Impact of Social and Political Factors on American literature from (1765 - 1829)
This period was remarkable in American history as the settlers of different colonies who emigrated from different parts of Europe now began to consider themselves as one. It was also an age of great complexities, problems and rapid changes and a lot of clashes – mercantile vs. free trade, Tory's vs. Whig etc. As the Americans were extremely sensitive to criticism, the idea of inferiority to England was unthinkable. They felt an intense desire to establish a tradition of the true belle – letters. They did not want to lag behind any other country in the field of poetry, fiction and drama.
“The Declaration of Independence” composed by Jefferson remains a classic.
An evaluation of the types of Literature written in America during the Revolutionary Period
The sentiment which swept over America in enriching belle – letters in literature enlightened the public, because the type of literature written earlier – voyages, history, sermons, diaries, were now retiring into the background. Sermons' still occupied a prominent place in the life of the colonies but now it became more polished, and also developed the art of oration.
The political crises that confronted America produced polemical writings. Before the war of Independence the writings were of the nature of literary debates between the Whigs and Tories. The tradition of diarists did not end with Bradford and most important diary of this period was “Wolman.”Autobiographies are also regarded as one of the important literary piece of this period.
A new literary genre came into existence which was called periodical essays. In England Addison and Steele established the importance of essays by the publication of “The Spectator”. It became immensely popular in America because of its brevity, lightness and quality of discussion of any subject. American writers followed the trends of England novelists with the sentimentality of Richardson. Gothic Romance or the novel of sensationalism was popularized by Caleb William, Brockdon Brown and Brackenridge. The Domestic Novels of Jane Austen and Fanny Burney and historical fiction of Walter Scott too found their way in America. But a great success in this field was achieved only by James Fennimore Cooper.
Benjamin Franklin was one of the pioneers in the field of short story writings. Drama was something new in 18th century America. By about 1750 plays were produced in the play houses of the South and the Middle colonies.
Addison’s ‘Cato’ was staged in Philadelphia in 1742 and the first American play ‘The Prince of Parthia’ by Godfrey was presented play in 1767. (Published in 1765)
Staging of plays was prohibited by colonies during America’s freedom struggle. But after the revolution two playwrights emerged. They were Royal Tyler and William Dunlop.
Tyler’s‘The Contrast’ was staged first in New York in 1783 and the plot reminds us of Richard Sheridan's“A school for Scandal”. But the characters and situations in ‘The Contrast’ are typically American.
Dunlop’s plays are ‘The Father' (1789)’, ‘Andre (1798)’; and ‘The Feudal baron (The Mysterious Monk) (1803)’.
The 18th century in the history of American nation is remarkable because of its literature, as the country which was longing for freedom found expression in a number of songs and ballads composed by unknown authors.
At one extreme we have the non - sense verse composed to the tune of ‘Yankee Doodle’, While “Tumbell” by Mifingal is a satire done in imitation of Samuel Butler’s“Hudibras”.
A lot of songs were composed in America during this period which recaptured the spirit of this turbulent time. We also come across genuine inspiration and powerful expression of feeling. “Nathan Hale” is an example.
An outstanding poet of this period was Joel Barlow known for his work “The Vision of Columbus” which is written in nine books, is an epic seldom read and hardly enjoyed. But his shorter poem “The Hasty Pudding” appears delightful to us. Instead of the Heroism of "The Vision of Columbus" we have a delightful mock heroic tone in “The Hasty Pudding” (1796)
Timothy Dwight’s poem “The Conquest of Cannan” is also in heroic mould written in terms of a nation. The Triumph of Infidelity is written 1788.
Next comes Philips Freneau who has been styled “The Father of American Poetry” and “The Father of American Prose”. He is known for his works as “American Liberty”, "A Political Littany; “America Independent” and “The British Prisoner”. The last one was inspired by his own experience as a prisoner on boarding an English ship.
There is much in Freneau that is Wordsworthian though Wordsworth came later. “On a Honey Bee” is a poem that reminds us of some of the best lines of Keats or Burns. Even as a boy Freneau wrote a poem that involves fancy. Truly, Freneau was “fancy's child” in American Literature. He stands like a shining luminary but none of his poems were very long or very serious but all were greatly popular.
19th century: In the first quarter of the 19th century a number of changes were witnessed in American Literary field because by this time literature had finally emerged. The 17th century was primarily religious, 18th century dedicated to politics. It was 19th century that could finally be called belle – letter. The spirit of Romanticism now became evident.
Florida, Texas, California and Alaska had all been acquired and made part of the US expanding the boundary of the nation farther and farther. A lot of improvement was seen in the field of communication thereby connecting the highways and linking the rail and roads from all sections of America and helping to bring together the industrial and cattle producing west. With the speeding up of manufacturing came up the commercial class which had great importance. Discovery of gold in California in 1848 induced a rush of adventures and fortune hunters to that place.
Journalism assumed by now a refreshing change. Among the leading newspapers were – The New York Evening Post (1801); The Sun (1833); The Herald (1835); The Times (1841). Important journals such as The Atlantic Monthly and The Harper’s Magazine came into existence.
Education received greater attention than before. More and more free public schools were established, and colleges and universities multiplied. The eagerness for giving educational advantage to the common man was one aspect of democracy that had great triumph in election of President Andrew Jackson.
With the removal of Puritan strictness, means of amusement gradually became popular so theatre now assumed an important place. Theatrical companies sprang up along with professionals touring the country giving a lot of performances. Though translations of European plays of romantic nature were much in demand, American plays too were staged. Art, such as painting and architecture also flourished. In painting, “Back to Nature” movement was becoming popular.
There were some of the socio – economic and political factors that made the Romantic Movement popular in America. The climate had changed and the atmosphere was congenial now for the production of a purely aesthetic literature which won universal acclaim and held appeal for the common man.
Features of Romanticism in the Literature of 19th Century The spirit of Romanticism that swept over America in the first half of the 19th century meant a breakaway from the rigid restrains of classicism. They revolted against the monotonous heroic couplet and revived a lot of other free forms of versification. In America too appeared an immense variety of literary genres and verses like blank verse, octo-syllabic lines, Spenserian stanza, ode, sonnet, lyric and metrical romances.
The poet William Cullen Bryant expressed the need for freedom and fresh avenues in his essays on American poetry, where he condemns the practice of copying 18th century poetic tradition. Romantics like Thoreau and Emerson rejected the set pattern of 18th century and the liberation of the verse was to be seen in Whitman. Now the significant changes that we saw in the treatment of literature was due to the preference given to imagination which led to the search for the unfamiliar and the strange and even the terrible.
Romantic imagination and Romantic Movement is explained by Wordsworth in the Lyrical Ballads where he talks about the common life situations and what other romantic poets of America like Bryant and Whiteman also emphasized. Edgar Allen Poe taught that the "end of poetry was" to "express the yearning for beautiful" that the desire is not for the beauty we see but the beauty we dream of.
There were poets like Lowell who also held imagination to be a part of romanticism. Nature became very important in American literature which was reflected in the imagery of poetry and the Romantic landscape of Europe. Even before the Romantic Movement nature had found its way in the works of Freneau. But for the 19th century poets’ nature had an important part to play.
In one of the Bryant's poem “Thanatopis” we find the opening lines highly Wordsworthian:
“To him who in the love of nature holds
Communion with her visible words
She speaks a various language”.
A similar type of thought is shown by Emerson in his poem/ book “Nature”. The influence of Sir Walter Scott was also responsible for making the treatment of nature an essential part of literary techniques. Cooper also shares a lot in establishing the romantic landscape in American fiction.
With this new spirit of Romanticism the individual became more important and individualism, which these romantic upheld was quite different from the rational individual of "the age of Jefferson". Joy, love, rapture, longing, fear, regret, hope, faith all these are reflected in the literature of the Romantics. An interest in the ordinary man and familiarity in human experience was a part of the literature they wrote. English poets like Thomas Gray, Burns, Wordsworth, and Goldsmith had shown the sacredness of the common man, an idea which was particularly congenial to American temperament.
WASHINGTON IRVING (1783 – 1859) Irving is best described as the first successful professional man of letters in the U.S. He was the most prominent author of mid 19th century in America.
Appearing on the literary horizon of America at the turn of the 19th century, as a satirist and a famous story writer, Washington Irving (1783-1859), reveals himself as an inheritor of the literary qualities of both the classical and the romantic periods. Though a trained lawyer, he turned to literature and contributed numerous collections of short stories and biographies. He also wrote satires and documentary works.
He was born in New York in 1783. He was mourned as a patriarchal figure whose tales, histories, essays and biographies had helped significantly in the emergence of a distinctive American literature.
He wrote biographies on George Washington, Oliver Goldsmith, and Columbus. His famous short stories are Rip Van Winkle, Tales of Traveller, (collection of essays) Bracebridge Hall. In Rap Van Winkle, he created his own New World great sleeper, who awakens in another time, with strangers around and different values to adjust to. The plot of this story derives from Germany. Its companion piece is “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
His “The Alhambra” (2 vols. 1832) was saluted as his intriguing Spanish Sketch Book. It has retained much of this good reputation since.
He started his career as a neo-classicist and moved towards romanticism. He is truly classical. He did parody of Homer, Cervantes, Fielding, Sterne and many others. His love for nature and super natural shows he was true romantic too.
His short-story The Devil and Tam Walker deals with supernatural. In spite of all these he is through and through individual and original. A warm sympathy, a glowing geniality, a peculiar brand of humor and an overwhelming charm are the qualities that Irving could not have borrowed from anywhere but the depth of his own art. In fact, he was the first man of US to win the international name and fame. He has also been called The Father of the Modern short story in America. His books were read with interest and pleasure even today. His stories are rich in color and they recreate the scene and atmosphere with a complete effect.
The cool detachment with which Irving viewed people made him from refrain from moralizing. Didacticism in its obvious shape is wanting in Irving Tales, though the pleasing satire with which he has filled his work may provide edification for those who are sensitive enough to receive it. He himself pokes delicious fun at those lovers of moralizing for whom a story is incomplete without the moral tag.
He, along with James Fenimore Cooper was among the first American writers to earn acclaim in Europe, and he encouraged American authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, H. W. Longfellow and Edgar Allan Poe. He was also admired by some European authors including Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Thomas Campbell, Francis Jeffrey and Charles Dickens.
As America’s first genuine internationally best- selling author, Irving advocated for writing as a legitimate profession and argued for stronger laws to protect American writers from Copyright infringement. He has a charming way of taking the reader into his confidence. Like Charles lamb, the beloved English essayist, Irving keeps telling to the reader something about himself.
By the mid of 19th century, the cresting of American romanticism was imminent. Never gifted with genius Irving had nevertheless helped prepare the way with unique grace, humor professional integrity and talent especially as an innovative teller of tales.
JAMES FENIMORE COOPER (1789 – 1851) When James Fennimore Cooper appeared on the scene of American literature, the novel was already in existence. The American novel had its serious and Creditable beginning in the books of Charles Brown Brockdon, a famous novelist whose novels like Edgar Huntley, Ormond, Wieland illustrate author’s ability to write fiction of a psychological, introspective turn. But this trend that Brown gave the early American novel seemed to be lost for a while in the development it received at the hands of James Fenimore cooper.
Cooper’s taking to literature was not the result of pre-meditation or an urge to write. It was by sheer accident that he started novel writing. He never wanted to start his career as a novelist but one day when he was reading a novel, commented that this was not a good novel, he could write a better novel than this. His wife commented on him saying that he does not know how to write a novel. The comment from his wife gave him a reason to write novel. Then he started to write a novel and the result was Precaution (1820). It depicts the English society and its manners. Thus, it changed his life. From a good country gentleman, he was transformed into a writer. Between 1820 and 1826 he wrote a number of novels in the manner of Walter Scott all depicting romantic action:-
The Pioneers (1823)
Lionel Lincoln (1825)
The Last of Mohicans ( 1826)
His works like the poetry of Cullen Bryant and the paintings of Thomas Cole are the profound exposition of a great moral vision. Though Precaution is a weak imitation of a British manners novel, his next three books, The Spy, The Pioneers, The Pilot are thoroughly American in subject matter and theme.
After this Cooper lived in Europe for a while. His travels brought about the writing of such works as The Bravo (1831), The Heidennauer (1832), and The Headsman (1833). Cooper seems to have abandoned fiction for a period and was interested in historical and critical works- A letter to His Countrymen, Home as Found, The American Democrat belong to this period.
In 1839, he wrote a fairly reliable work “History of the United States.” Although Cooper is most widely known for his Leather-stocking Tales – five romances of American Frontier; (The pioneers, The Deer Slayer, The Path Finder The Prairie, featuring Natty Bumppo) his range is much wider and greater. Leather stocking tales is “The Pathfinder” set the scene of Lake Ontario, a year or so after the action of Thelast of Mohicans. The following year he concluded the leather stocking tales, “The Deer Slayer (1841)”. It represents leather stocking as deer slayer, a young man.
The Red Rover (1827) and The Water Witch (1830) are exciting tales of the sea in which Cullen Bryant indulged his most Byronic character, and the ship in The Water Witch, commanded by a gentleman smuggler is full of romantic trapping s, including strong suggestion of supernatural.
Unlike Scott’s heroes, Cooper’s ultra romantic heroes are not very heroic after all. They are not all superman: though they do have striking qualities.
His female characters have been criticized as ultra romantic and even unreal. Of all the women that Cooper drew Frances Wharton, (The spy) seems to embody the ideal of American womanhood. But it is Judith Hutter who remains the most interesting woman Cooper has drawn.
Cooper is the earliest important American backgrounds and there is such a speed and gusto about the narrative that even today people like novels, especially the leather stocking tales. He believed that fiction should have great significance and elevating purpose, beyond its value as entertainment.
Mark Twain mercilessly indicated the defects of Cooper in the essay entitled “Fennimore Cooper’s Literary Offense.” In spite of the Mark Twain’s criticism Cooper is still read and enjoyed the world over.
His reputation in European countries like England and France grew steadily. In spite of the hostile attitude of some critics in England, praised by creative power of English writer and novelist like Walter Scott and Joseph Conrad.
WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT (1794 – 1878) Born in Massachusetts, He dominated the whole American province as far as poetry is concerned. He colored his poetry with majesty, charm, dignity, somewhat manner he superseded Freneau. He was quite legitimately the first American poet to win international reputation. He started to write poetry with sublimity which gave him fame and the stamp of Father of American poetry.
Americans were always looking after England whatever they were writing. Somewhere Cullen Bryant’s poetry has the feature of Glorious Romanticism; he was also a poet of classicism. In "North American Review” (a journal) his poems were got published. His poem Thanatopsis made him famous. Thanaptosismeans meditation on death. It is Greek word.
His other collections are:-
The Fountain and other Poems (1842)
The Iliad of Homer (1870)
The Odyssey of Homer (1871 – 72)
The Embargo (Sketches of the times: a satire was a sarcastic attack on President Jefferson) in Heroic couplets.
He was very much influenced by Augustus writer like Alexander Pope and others. J. R. Lowell, a poet and critic got inspiration from his poetry and wrote a poem after 50 years, named “A Fable of Critics” and praised him in the poem.
Bryant wanted to stand supreme. He abided rules and regulations of the time. He wrote in the manner of both classical and romantic fervor.
He is brought up among the hills, nature and woods along with unsophisticated people and moreover he was left behind a lot of pre-romantic poets. He tried to copy Lord Byron as well. He was not Pantheist like Wordsworth yet he was a great lover of nature. He was a great romantic poet of America as he has all the pre-requisite of romanticism. His poem “The Death of the Flowers” presents the death and decay of nature.
He had a great versification quality. “To a Waterfowl” written in blank verse shows his technical perfection.
It was in 6th volume and firstly published in North American Review. MatthewArnold says of this poem that this is the finest short poem in American English language. To a Waterfowl is a poem in “Thanatopsis”.
Like Spenser, the poet’s poet, Bryant exerts a strong influence over young writers of America and as literary critic too, he made invaluable contribution to American literature. He has been called by several names – American Wordsworth, Belated Representative of New England Puritanism. He died in 1878.
Thomas Holley Chives said that only thing Bryant that may be called poetry is Thanatopsis, which he stole line for line from the Spanish. The fact is, that he never did anything but steal – as nothing he ever wrote original.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON (1803 – 1882) He was born in Boston on 25th May, 1803. He was a personality whose writings molded the thought of his age and his writings were like the Bible to men and his admirer. He influenced Thoreau, Mark Twain who were his disciples too.
He went on a trip of Europe where he visited England and met Coleridge, Wordsworth and Carlyle. He returned to America in 1834. In 1835, he settled in Concord. Here he became the leading light of the transcendentalists. He edited the Dial from 1842 – 44. Here he came to be called The Sage of Concord. With his poems, essays he dominated over the philosophical and literary scenes and was foremost among transcendentalism. He was the moral genius of America as Carlyle was of England.
In 1836, he published his lecture ‘Nature’. In the same year he founded the transcendental club. On August 31, 1837 he delivered his lecture ‘The American Scholar’. On July 15, 1838 he delivered The Divinity School Address. In 1841, the first series of his essays was published. In 1844, the second series of essays was published. In 1845, he lectured on ‘Representative Man’.
Love, friendship, prudence, Heroism, Self Reliance etc. are the essays in first series. His self-reliance has epigrammatic style like Bacon.
“Trust thyself” occurs in self-reliance. His essays have same reminiscences of Wordsworth’s Immortality Ode:-
“Man is a stream whose source is hidden.”
(From his essay)
“Trailing clouds of glory do we come?’
From god who is our home.”
(From Immortality Ode by Wordsworth) The Poet- he felt a poet is representative of old time. He must devote himself to beauty. It was an essay by Emerson. His essays are the scriptures of thought. Emerson’s essays are very different from the personal essays of Montaigne or Lamb. His individual experience is every man’s experience. There is generalization feeling in his essays. His essays are remarkable for their dramatic quality. He has the poet’s ear for the music of the words and also possesses the device of the rhythm, the balancing of sound through repetition and contrast.
TRANSCENDENTALISM It is a philosophy propounded in Germany by Kant, Hegel, and Shelling. It emphasizes on idealism and spiritual truth. Idealism is not based on experiences. It is obtained by the study of mental process not by experiences. It goes beyond human knowledge and based on intuition. We can apprehend reality by spiritual insight. Emerson is the founder and father of American Transcendentalism and his follower Thoreau, Whitman, Melville, and Hawthorne acquire partly from Germans, partly from English Coleridge and Carlyle.
In his essay Self-Reliance, he stresses the value of human soul or intuition and moreover his dictum is “Trust Themselves”. Emerson derived some suitable themes and title from Hindu Scriptures. For Example – “Brahma” comes from the Upanishad.
HIS WORKS: “Historical Discourse” is his first literary work.
English Traits (1856),
The Conduct of life (1860)
Society and solitude (1870)
May day and other pieces (1867)
Selected poems (1876).
NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE (1804 – 1864) Novelist and Short-Story writer, born in 1804 in Salem Massachusetts. Hawthorne's ancestors had been prominent Puritans; more immediately, his father was a sea captain who died when Hawthorne was four. Hawthorne attended Bowdoin College in Maine and in 1828 he published his first novel, "Fanshawe". He later withdrew it from circulation and concentrated on writing short fiction. Hawthorne worked at various jobs, including a spell in the Boston custom house, and he lived in the Brook Farm community for 6 months in 1841.
He married Sophia Peabody in 1842 and moved to Concord, where he came into close contact with Ralph Waldo Emerson and other prominent thinkers. Returning to Salem he worked at the custom house until a change in the political administration resulted in his dismissal.
In 1850 he published "The Scarlet Letter", which brought him acclaim; The House of the Seven Gables (1851) and The Blithedale Romance (1852) followed. When living in rural Massachusetts Hawthorne befriended Herman Melville, from whom he embodied the idea that a writer could make a living from writing fiction while maintaining artistic integrity. (Melville’s Moby–Dick is dedicated to Hawthorne).
When Hawthorne's college friend Franklin Pierce's elected, Hawthorne was appointed U. S. counsel in Liverpool (1853-57). He lived in Europe for several years and published his final novel, The Marble Faun, in 1860. He left several unfinished works when he died in Plymouth, New Hampshire, in 1864.
He was considered as modern novelist among American writers. With the publication of “A Scarlet Letter” he earned name, fame, and honor in the realm of American literature. He had real kinship of the modern time. His character portrayal made him a good writer of novels. He used to unfold the story beautifully which became quite appealing. There is no doubt we find a gloomy atmosphere in his novels. In spite of that it became so popular. This novel portrays the story of Hester.
James Joyce recalled that impact of reader is tremendous and he said when this book got published it really made a literary event in U.S.
Imagining his Puritan ancestors in 'The Custom - House', the introduction to The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne declares, 'strong traits of their nature have intertwined themselves with mine'. In his tales and romance, he repeatedly plays out his ambivalence towards Puritanism, and although his work typically has a historical setting, he examines Puritanism as a contemporary force rather than a historical fact. In particular, he often explores the conflict between the attractions of Romanticism or Transcendentalism and the burden of a Puritan belief in humanity's fallen nature.
In ' Hawthorne and His Mosses' (1850) Melville wrote that in Hawthorne's work there was a 'great power of blackness'; 'there really lurks in him, touch of Puritanical gloom'. Hawthorne's ambivalence is evident in his writing style. Rather than a novelist he called himself a writer of Romance, and his use of symbolism and allegory frequently creates powerful ambiguities. The unstable and even duplicitous nature of his writing has often been noted.
He used symbols in his novels but later Henry James criticized his use of symbols. He said that there is over dose of symbols in Hawthorne’s novel. It is not his only style which makes him popular but there is short-coming in him. Contemporary writers criticized him in many references.
If Emerson may be regarded as the greatest of the American positive romantics, Hawthorne is, with Melville one of the great critical romantics. From the point of view of the general reader, He is above all an artist, giving form to the moral, spiritual and psychological tensions that continue to define for us the American character sand ultimately the human conditions.
EDGER ALLEN POE (1809 – 49) Perhaps no other American writer has been subjected to such detrimental critical appraisal as Poe. He was a solid artist and considered part of American Romantic Movement. Wishing to be a poet, he quickly gained recognition as a critic, but his tales of horror and ratiocination contain his most memorable art and also regarded as the inventor of detective fiction.
Alfred Tennyson was a great admirer of Poe. R. W. Emerson called him a jingle man. Lowell remarks that he is three fifth geniuses and two fifth sheer fudges.
Poe was the son of an actress Elizabeth Arnold and David Poe Jr. When he was only 2 years, his mother died. His father deserted his family and he was taken in by John Allan. Edgar Allan enlisted in United States Army but after some time he got bored of it. Then he moved towards writing short-story, journal, poetry, etc. He became editor of “Hams magazine” and “Broadway Journal”.
Poe was inclined towards poetry and regards that poetry should not be so long that reader became bored of it. But he is in favour that poetry should be short. His prose poem “Eureka” is exception as it is a long poem. “The Raven” is his best known poem. His handling of verse is praised by D. G. Rossetti who has admitted that his own poem “The Blessed Domezel” is inspired by The Raven.
Annabel Lee is a poem written on death of his wife, Virginia. His poem, “Lenore” having same theme and is semi – dramatic, his poem “To One in Paradise”, having the theme of desolation felt by lover with death and belief. His “Ulalume” (1847) is based on the theme of The Raven.
His “To Helen” (1831) is a poem influenced by a girl. Poe said about this girl that she is the first pure ideal of my soul. The famous line of this poem:
To the glory that was Greece
And the grandeur that was Rome. This poem has a beautiful blend of theme and form. It is a widely recognized poem.
The Bell is his remarkable poem. It has a striking sound effect of four types of bells silver bell, golden bell, brass bell and iron bell.
His poems are the result of his fantasy because they take the readers on the flights of fancy along with aesthetic delight. His poems are undoubtedly brilliant. These reasons made also Whitman as an admirer of Poe. He wrote some sonnets too.
He was also a short story writer. With the publication of Tales of Grotesque and Arabesque (1840) Poe stormed into popularity. Poe was the first to define the short story in his “Review of Hawthorne Twice Told Tales” (1842).
His famous tales of Arabesque tales are Bernice, Morella, Ligeia, Fleonora and The Fall of House of Usher deals with the death of a beautiful woman.
MS found in a bottle ( Ms stands for manuscript) and A Descent into the Maelstrom is bizarre tales of voyages.
In “The Murders in Rue Mosque” Auguste Dupin is an eccentric scholar and lover of seclusion.
Elenora and The purloined letter are short stories by Poe.
Poe had a genuine interest in science too, so he wrote science narrative with minute details. According to Poe, Ligeia (1838) is his best story. He is one of the greatest short story writers. He is recognized as the Father of Short Stories in America.
HISTORY OF AMERICAN LITERATURE
WASHINGTON IRVING (1783 – 1859)
JAMES FENI MOORE COOPER (1789 – 1851)
W. CULLEN BRYANT (1794 – 1878)
R. W. EMERSON (1803 – 1882)
NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE (1804 – 1864)
EDGAR ALLAN POE (1809 – 1849)
H. D. THOREAU (1817 – 1862)
HERMAN MELVILLE (1819 – 1891)
WALT WHITMAN (1819 – 1892)
EMILY DICKINSON (1830 – 1886)
CLEMENS SAMUEL LANGHORNE (1835 – 1910)
HENRY JAMES (1843 – 1916)
O’ HENRY (1862 – 1910)
THEODORE HERMAN DRESIER (1871 – 1945)
ROBERT FROST (1874 – 1963)
WALLACE STEVENS (1879-1955)
WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS(1883-1963)
H. SINCLAIR LEWIS (1885 – 1951)
EZRA LOOMIS POUND (1885 – 1972)
EUGENE O’ NEIL (1888-1953)
PEARL STEIN BUCK (1892 – 1973)
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD (1896 – 1940)
JOHN DON PASSOS (1896 – 1970)
WILLIAM FAULKNER (1897 – 1962)
EARNEST HEMINGWAY (1899 – 1961)
CLEANTH BROOKS (1906 – 1994)
TENNESSEE WILLIAMS (1911 – 1983)
SAUL BELLOW (1915 – 2005)
ARTHUR MILLER (1915 – 2005)
EDWARD ALBEE (1928 – present)
HAROLD BLOOM (1930 –present)
SYLVIA PLATH (1932 – 1963)
HISTORY OF AFRO-AMERICAN LITERATURE
AFRICAN LITERATURE African literature is literature of and from Africa. This literature consists of a body of work in different languages and various genres ranging from oral literature to literature written in colonial languages (French, English etc.).
Oral literature, including stories, histories, riddles, myths, proverbs and other expressions, is frequently employed to educate and entertain children. Oral histories, myths and proverbs additionally serve to remind whole communities of their ancestor's heroic deeds, their past, and the precedents for their customs and traditions.
Some of the first African writings to gain attention in the west were the poignant slave narratives, Such as the Interesting Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Olaudah Equiano, the African which described vividly horrors of slavery and the slave trade. As Africans became literate in their own languages, they often reacted against colonial repression in their writings.
Since the early 19th Century, writers from western Africa have used newspapers to air their views. After World War-II, as Africans began demanding their independence, more African writers were published. Such writer as in Western Africa Wole Soyinka, Chinua Acheb Ben Okri and in Western Africa. Ngugi Wa Thoingo Jacques Rabemananjara produced poetry, short stories, novels, essays, and plays. All were writing in European languages and often they shared the same themes: the clash between indigenous and colonial cultures, condemnation of European Subjugation, pride in the African Part and hope for the continent's independent future.
In South Africa, the horrors of apartheid have, until the present, dominated the literature, Maphahele, Gordimer, Bessie Head, Coetzee all reflect in varying degrees in their writings the experience of living in a racially segregated society. Much of the contemporary African literature reveals disillusionment and dissent with current events.
DORIS LESSING (1919 -2013) Though she was born in Persia and lived in England since 1949, she is considered an African author because she spent her 25 years in Southern Rhodesia which had a lot of impact on her writing. Her full name is Doris may Taylor, and Pen name was James Somers belonging to British nationality.
It is not only her novels that are set in Africa such as 'Children of Violence' – series or 'The Golden Notebook', (book) but her later works were also influenced by the land of her upbringing.
Her 'African Laughter' is an account of her return visits to her homeland and the first volume of her autobiography 'Under My Skin' covers the years from her birth to her departure for England 1949.
She was born on 22nd October, 1919 in Persia (Now Iran). Later on Lessing wrote an essay entitled 'My Father' where she told that he wanted to leave Persia due to a lot of corruption. The whole family suffered a lot due to extreme poverty.
Lessing married Frank Wisdom in 1939 and had two children Jean and John. She divorced her husband, after four years. In 1945 she married Gottfried Lessing and thereafter she wrote 'A Ripple from the Storm' and 'The Golden Notebook'.
Lessing wrote 18 novels, 6 non – fiction books and many short stories.
Her first novel 'The Grass is singing' (1950) focuses on racial difference/ discrimination. The novels title is taken from T. S. Eliot's Wasteland, and the poems tone echoes throughout this bleak portrait of the Wasteland of white colonialism. The novel is set in Zimbabwe known them as Southern Africa. It became a sudden hit in Europe and United States.
Her novels series are “Children of Violence” is a collection of five novels. “The Canopus in Argus” is also a collection of five novels -Archives, The Good terrorist, The Fifth Child, The Sweetest Dreams, The Grandmothers (2003).
Martha Quest, A Proper marriage, A Ripple from a Storm, Land Locked and last The Four Gated City are all novels from the collection the Children of Violence.
Her novels 'Martha Quest' and 'A Proper Marriage' form the beginnings of a Bildungsroman of five novels 'Children of Violence' (series)
Her most famous novel 'The Golden Notebook' (1962) was acclaimed Worldwide especially by feminists. It was selected by Times as one of 100 English languages from 1923 to present. It was translated into many languages. The Oxford companion to English literature calls it “Lessing’s innermost fiction which exposed mental and social breakdown”. This novel contains anti Stalin message. The novel deals with women’s struggle and conflict with work, sex, maternity and politics.
Essays, reviews and interviews by Lessing are contained in A Small Personal voice
Lessing's most recent novel 'Love Again' is set in England and France. She won the Prix Medici in 1976, she won Shakespeare Prize, Austrian State Prize for European Literature, Palemro Prize and the Premio international Modello and has several times, been nominated for Nobel Prize.
The Grass is Singing is the first novel (1950) which deals with racial politics between whites and Blacks. The novel is set in Zimbabwe known them as Southern Africa. It became a sudden hit in Europe and United States. The title is a phrase from T. S. Eliot’s Wasteland.