Major texts of the 18th century: autobiographies, journals, essays, articles, political documents, sermons. Fiction appears towards the end of the century.
Four classics: B. Franklin: The Autobiography; Thomas Jefferson: Notes on the State of Virginia; John Woolman: The Journal; J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur: Letters from an American Farmer
Bestsellers: B. Franklin’s Poor Richard's Almanack (“The Way to Wealth”), Thomas Paine’s Common Sense;
Political texts: B. Franklin: “Rules by which a Great Empire May be Reduced to a Smaller One” (1774); ThomasPaine: Common Sense (1776); Thomas Jefferson: “Summary View of the Rights of British America”; The Declaration of Independence (1776).
Drama: Royall Tyler’s The Contrast (1787);
Poets of transition: Philip Freneau, William Cullen Bryant, Joel Barlow;
Fiction: Hugh Henry Brackenridge: Modern Chivalry (published in parts: 1792-1815)
Charles Brockden Brown: Alcuin: A Dialogue (1798); Wieland; or the Transformation (1798); Ormond (1799); Edgar Huntly, or Memoirs of a Sleepwalker (1799) Beginnings of 19th century: The Age of Early Republicanism
The forming of an independent national literature – the frontier as a forming factor
American topic combined with English highbrow style
Aim: documentation and symbolism
What is English periphery becomes American mainstream
Washington Irving (1783-1859): “The Father of American Literature”
Used pseudonyms, Diedrich Knickerbocker, Geoffrey Crayon; First American writer acknowledged abroad, but felt out of place in America as an author. Spent 17 years in Europe
The History of New York (1809) by Diedrich Knickerbocker
turning fact into fiction; grotesque-humorous piece about the colony-founding Dutch ancestors
The Scetch Book (1818)
includes he famous stories “Rip van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
Peacefulness of Dutch communities contrasted with the noisy bustle of American towns.
It is not possible to write in a country where there are no legends or superstitions.
Used European sources for tales.
elements of the Gothic)
international standard, breaking with puritanism, humor, as opposed to:
James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851)
New topic: tried to use American sources (esp. history) although there was a “poverty” of materials. Turned to nature and pioneers as a subject
New national hero: Natty Bumppo (Leatherstocking: a scout and hunter; the gentleman of the forest) + the noble savage
Romantic, Rousseauist concept
Major themes: conquest of the wilderness, the destruction of the native population, the formation of a new type of white population
The Deerslayer 1841 - young hero, hunter, helps the white travellers
The forming of a national hero in American literature takes place in 3 stages:
1. B. Franklin in Autobiography,
2.The Dutchman in Irving's writings,
3. The frontiersman in Cooper's novels.
Cooper's self-contradictory philosophy continues in transcendentalism, trying to solve the problems of wilderness vs. civilization and individual vs. society.
The American Renaissance – the classical literary period in American literature between 1845-1855, when many notable poets, writers appeared on the literary scene (Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, the Transcendentalists, etc.)