American Literary Movements

  • Period: Jan 1, 1580 to

    John Smith

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    (TWO phases: Pilgrims/religion & Patriots/politics)
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    Age of Faith

    I. Historical Context
    A. Puritans and Pilgrims
    1. separated from the Anglican church of England
    2. religion dominated their lives and writings
    B. Work ethic - belief in hard work and simple, no-frills living
    II. Genre/Style
    A. sermons, diaries, personal narratives, slave narratives
    B. instructive
    C. plain style
    III. Major writers
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    Anne Bradstreet

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    Edward Taylor

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    Jonathan Edwards

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    Ben Franklin

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    Thomas Paine

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    Thomas Jefferson

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    Abigail Adams

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    Age of Resons

    I. Historical context
    A. American Revolution; growth of patriotism
    B. Development of American character/democracy
    C. Use of reason as opposed to faith alone
    II. Genre/Style
    A. political pamphlets, essays, travel writing, speeches, documents
    B. instructive in values; highly ornate writing style
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    Washington Irving

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    William Cullen Bryant

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    I. Historical context
    A. Expansion of book publishing, magazines, newspapers
    B. Industrial Revolution
    C. Abolitionist movement
    II. Genre/Style
    A. Short stories, novels, poetry,
    B. Imagination over reason; intuition over fact
    C. Focused on the fantastic of human experience
    D. Writing that can be interpreted 2 ways: surface and in depth
    E. Focus on inner feelings
    F. Gothic literature (sub-genre of Romanticism)
    1. Use of the supernatural
    2. Characters with both evil and good characteri
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    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

    a. his writings helped establish the philosophy of individualism, an idea deeply embedded in American culture
    b. "Nature"
    c. "Self-Reliance"
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    Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)

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    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    “A Psalm of Life”
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    Edgar Allen Poe

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    Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)

    a. The most famous woman of her day
    b. Uncle Tom's Cabin
    (1). most influential book of the 19th Century; 1st to sell 1 mil. copies
    (2). one of the most effective documents of propaganda; helped fuel the Civil War
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    Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

    a. resisted materialism; chose simplicity, individualism
    b. Walden
    1. lived on Walden Pond for 2+ years
    2. a guidebook for life, showing how to live wisely in a world designed to make wise living impossible
    c. "Civil Disobedience": a primer for nonviolent protest
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    Frederick Douglas (1817-1895)

    a. an escaped slave; one of the most effective orators of his day
    b. influential newspaper writer; militant abolitionist; diplomat
    c. autobiography an instant and enduring classic of courage
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    Herman Melville (1819-1891)

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    Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

    a. rejected conventional themes, forms, subjects
    b. used long lines to capture the rhythm of natural speech, free verse, everyday vocabulary
    c. "Song of Myself"
    d. "I Hear America Singing"
    e. "O Captain My Captain"
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    Emily Dickinson

    a. her poetry broke with convention: didn't look right; didn't rhyme; too bold; too radical
    b. concrete imagery, forceful language, unique style
    d. wrote 1775 poems, published only 7 in her life
    e. "Because I could not stop for Death--"
    f. “My life closed twice before its close—“
    g. “The Soul selects her own Society—“
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    Mark Twain (1835-1910)

    a. Samuel Langhorne Clemens is widely thought to be the greatest American humorist and one of our greatest novelists
    b. used vernacular, exaggeration, deadpan narrator to create humor
    c. “Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” (tall tale)
    d. Adventures of Tom Sawyer
    e. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (one of America's most influential novels)
    f. Life on the Mississippi (a memoir)
    g. The Prince and the Pauper
    h. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
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    Bret Harte (1836-1902)

    (1). the Old West
    (2). Outcasts of Poker Flat
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    The Transcendentalists

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    Oliver Wendell Holmes

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    Kate Chopin (1851-1904)

    (1). the Louisiana bayou
    (2). The Awakening
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    The Civil War

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    I. Historical context
    A. Civil War brings demand for a "truer" type of literature that doesn't idealize people or places
    B. People in society defined by "class"; materialism
    C. Reflect ideas of Darwin (survival of the fittest) and Marx (how money and class structure control a nation)
    II. Genre/Style
    A. Realism
    1. a reaction against romanticism; told it like it was
    2. focus on lives of ordinary people; rejected heroic and adventurous
    3. anti-materialism; rejected the new "class" system
    4. view
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    The Frontier (1865-1915)

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    The Local Colorists (1865-1930)

    a. Regional writers tried to capture the essence of a particular area, or its "local color"
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    Edwin A. Robinson

    “Richard Cory”
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    Stephen Crane (1871-1900) (Naturalist)

    a. Crane attacked patriotism, individualism, organized religion; confronted the meaninglessness of the world
    b. Crane's writing known for its images & symbolism
    c. Red Badge of Courage (most famous work; set in Civil War)
    d. The Open Boat (man vs Nature's indifference)
    e. “An Episode of War” (short story)
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    Paul Laurence Dunbar

    “We Wear the Mask”
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    Willa Cather (1873-1947)

    (1). life on the Nebraska prairie
    (2). won Pulitzer Prize
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    Robert Frost (1874-1963)

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    Jack London

    a. pushed Naturalism to its limits
    b. “Call of the Wild” (tame dog forced to revert to his original primitive state)
    c. “To Build a Fire” (survival of the fittest)
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    Carl Sandburg of the Chicago poets
    2. describes everyday Americans, positive tone, simple words, easy to understand, free verse
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    Ezra Pound

    A. Imagism (ordinary language, free verse, concentrated word pictures)
    B. Committed treason
    C. spent a decade in a mental hospital
  • James Russell Lowell

    “The First Snowfall”
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    T. S. Eliot

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    e. e. cummings

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    F.Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

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    William Faulkner (1897-1962)

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    Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

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    John Steinbeck

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    Bernard Malamud 1914-1986

    (The Natural; myth-maker, parables)
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    Ralph Ellison 1914-1994

    (Invisible Man: theme that society willfully ignores blacks)
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    Modernism (1915-1945)

    I. Historical context
    A. Overwhelming technological changes
    B. World War I first war of mass destruction
    C. Grief over loss of past; fear of eroding traditions
    D. Rise of youth culture
    II. Genre/Style
    A. Dominant mood: alienation/disconnection
    B. Writing highly experimental: use of fragments, stream of consciousness, interior dialogue
    C. Writers seek to create a unique style
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    The Harlem Renaissance (1915-1929)

    A. A black cultural movement that emerged in Harlem during the 20's; literature, music and art flourished
    B. Langston Hughes: most successful black writer in America; wrote poetry, drama, novels, songs, movie scripts, etc.
    C. Countee Cullen: the "black Keats" for his youth, skill as a poet, use of traditional forms
    D. Zora Neale Hurston: rediscovered by the women's movement in the 70's
    E. Jean Toomer: "Cane" regarded as one of the most influential works of the era
    F. Claude McKay: poetry evokes
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    Gwendolyn Brooks

    (1st black female poet to win Pul. Prize; We Real Cool)
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    Truman Capote (1924-1984)

    A. In Cold Blood
    B. the nonfiction novel
  • Elie Wiesel b.1928

    (holocaust survivor)
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    Maya Angelou b.1928

    (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; strong African-American women)
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    John Updike (b.1932)

    A. Witches of Eastwick
    B. Protestant small-town middle-class life
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    N. Scott Momaday b.1934

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    Joyce Carol Oates (b. 1938)

    A. great versatility
    B. one of the most productive contemporary writers
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    Maxine Hong Kingston b.1940

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    Alice Walker b.1944

    (The Color Purple: poor oppressed black women in early 1900's)
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    I. Historical context
    A. Media saturated culture: people observe life as media presents it rather than experiencing life directly
    B. Insistence that values are not permanent but only "local" or "historical"; media culture interprets values
    C. Post WWII prosperity
    D. People beginning a new century and new millennium
    E. Social protest
    II. Genre/Style
    A. Lines of reality blurred; mix of fantasy and nonfiction
    B. No heroes/Anti-heroes
    C. Concern with individual in isolation
    D. Detached, unem
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    E. James Thurber (America's most popular humorist in 30's & 40's; The Secret Life of Walter Mitty)
    F. Multicultural Literature
    1. Jewish American literature (50's & 60's)
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    Stephen King (b.1947)

    A. Carrie, The Shining, Salem's Lot, The Stand, etc.
    B. thrilling psychological horror
    C. best-selling novelist ever
    D. pen name: Richard Bachman
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    Julia Alvarez

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    Amy Tan

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    Louise Erdrich b.1954

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    Sandra Cisneros