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Studies in American Fiction

The Fireside Poets also known as the Schoolroom or Household Poets were some of America's first major poets domestically and internationally. They were known for their poems being easy to memorize due to their general adherence to poetic form standard forms , regular meter , and rhymed stanzas and were often recited in the home hence the name as well as in school such as " Paul Revere's Ride " , as well as working with distinctly American themes, including some political issues such as abolition.

Longfellow achieved the highest level of acclaim and is often considered the first internationally acclaimed American poet, being the first American poet given a bust in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner. Walt Whitman — and Emily Dickinson — , two of America's greatest 19th-century poets could hardly have been more different in temperament and style.

Walt Whitman was a working man, a traveler, a self-appointed nurse during the American Civil War — , and a poetic innovator. His magnum opus was Leaves of Grass , in which he uses a free-flowing verse and lines of irregular length to depict the all-inclusiveness of American democracy. Taking that motif one step further, the poet equates the vast range of American experience with himself without being egotistical. For example, in Song of Myself , the long, central poem in Leaves of Grass , Whitman writes: "These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they are not original with me In his words Whitman was a poet of "the body electric".

Lawrence wrote that Whitman "was the first to smash the old moral conception that the soul of man is something 'superior' and 'above' the flesh. By contrast, Emily Dickinson lived the sheltered life of a genteel unmarried woman in small-town Amherst, Massachusetts. Her poetry is ingenious, witty, and penetrating. Her work was unconventional for its day, and little of it was published during her lifetime. Many of her poems dwell on the topic of death, often with a mischievous twist. One, " Because I could not stop for Death ", begins, "He kindly stopped for me.

Who are you? American poetry arguably reached its peak in the early-to-midth century, with such noted writers as Wallace Stevens and his Harmonium and The Auroras of Autumn , T. Cummings , Edna St. Vincent Millay and Langston Hughes , in addition to many others. Mark Twain the pen name used by Samuel Langhorne Clemens , — was the first major American writer to be born away from the East Coast — in the border state of Missouri.

Twain's style — influenced by journalism, wedded to the vernacular, direct and unadorned but also highly evocative and irreverently humorous — changed the way Americans write their language.

His characters speak like real people and sound distinctively American, using local dialects, newly invented words, and regional accents. Other writers interested in regional differences and dialect were George W. A version of local color regionalism that focused on minority experiences can be seen in the works of Charles W. Many of his novels center on Americans who live in or travel to Europe.

Nineteenth-Century Southern Literature

With its intricate, highly qualified sentences and dissection of emotional and psychological nuance, James's fiction can be daunting. Among his more accessible works are the novellas Daisy Miller , about an American girl in Europe, and The Turn of the Screw , a ghost story.

Realism began to influence American drama, partly through Howells, but also through Europeans such as Ibsen and Zola. Although realism was most influential in set design and staging—audiences loved the special effects offered up by the popular melodramas—and in the growth of local color plays, it also showed up in the more subdued, less romantic tone that reflected the effects of the Civil War and continued social turmoil on the American psyche.

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The most ambitious attempt at bringing modern realism into the drama was James Herne 's Margaret Fleming , which addressed issues of social determinism through realistic dialogue, psychological insight, and symbolism. The play was not successful, and both critics and audiences thought it dwelt too much on unseemly topics and included improper scenes, such as the main character nursing her husband's illegitimate child onstage.

At the beginning of the 20th century, American novelists were expanding fiction to encompass both high and low life and sometimes connected to the naturalist school of realism. In her stories and novels, Edith Wharton — scrutinized the upper-class, Eastern-seaboard society in which she had grown up. One of her finest books, The Age of Innocence , centers on a man who chooses to marry a conventional, socially acceptable woman rather than a fascinating outsider.


And in Sister Carrie , Theodore Dreiser — portrayed a country girl who moves to Chicago and becomes a kept woman. Hamlin Garland and Frank Norris wrote about the problems of American farmers and other social issues from a naturalist perspective. Political writings discussed social issues and the power of corporations. Edward Bellamy 's Looking Backward outlined other possible political and social orders, and Upton Sinclair , most famous for his muck-raking novel The Jungle , advocated socialism. Journalistic critics, including Ida M.

American literature - Wikipedia

Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens , were labeled "The Muckrakers". Henry Brooks Adams 's literate autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams also depicted a stinging description of the education system and modern life. Race was a common issue as well, as seen in the work of Pauline Hopkins , who published five influential works from to The s brought sharp changes to American literature. Many writers had direct experience of the First World War, and they used it to frame their writings. Experimentation in style and form soon joined the new freedom in subject matter.

In , Gertrude Stein — , by then an expatriate in Paris, published Three Lives , an innovative work of fiction influenced by her familiarity with cubism, jazz, and other movements in contemporary art and music. Stein labeled a group of American literary notables who lived in Paris in the s and s the " Lost Generation ".

The poet Ezra Pound — was born in Idaho but spent much of his adult life in Europe. His work is complex, sometimes obscure, with multiple references to other art forms and to a vast range of literature, both Western and Eastern. Eliot — , another expatriate.

American Literature: The Puritan Period

Eliot wrote spare, cerebral poetry, carried by a dense structure of symbols. Like Pound's, Eliot's poetry could be highly allusive, and some editions of The Waste Land come with footnotes supplied by the poet. In , Eliot won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Henry James, Stein, Pound, and Eliot demonstrate the growth of an international perspective in American literature.

American writers had long looked to European models for inspiration, but whereas the literary breakthroughs of the midth century came from finding distinctly American styles and themes, writers from this period were finding ways of contributing to a flourishing international literary scene, not as imitators but as equals.

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Something similar was happening back in the States, as Jewish writers such as Abraham Cahan used the English language to reach an international Jewish audience. American writers also expressed the disillusionment following upon the war. The stories and novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald — capture the restless, pleasure-hungry, defiant mood of the s.

Fitzgerald's characteristic theme, expressed poignantly in The Great Gatsby , is the tendency of youth's golden dreams to dissolve in failure and disappointment. Fitzgerald also elucidates the collapse of some key American Ideals, such as liberty, social unity, good governance and peace, features which were severely threatened by the pressures of modern early 20th century society. John Dos Passos wrote a famous anti-war novel, Three Soldiers , describing scenes of blind hatred, stupidity, and criminality; and the suffocating regimentation of army life.

Ernest Hemingway — saw violence and death first-hand as an ambulance driver in World War I, and the carnage persuaded him that abstract language was mostly empty and misleading.

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He cut out unnecessary words from his writing, simplified the sentence structure, and concentrated on concrete objects and actions. He adhered to a moral code that emphasized grace under pressure, and his protagonists were strong, silent men who often dealt awkwardly with women. William Faulkner — won the Nobel Prize in , after Hitler was defeated in World War II: Faulkner encompassed an enormous range of humanity in Yoknapatawpha County , a Mississippian region of his own invention.

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He recorded his characters' seemingly unedited ramblings in order to represent their inner states, a technique called " stream of consciousness ". In fact, these passages are carefully crafted, and their seemingly chaotic structure conceals multiple layers of meaning.

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He also jumbled time sequences to show how the past — especially the slave-holding era of the Deep South — endures in the present. Among his great works are Absalom, Absalom! Although the American theatrical tradition can be traced back to the arrival of Lewis Hallam 's troupe in the midth century and was very active in the 19th century, as seen by the popularity of minstrel shows and of adaptations of Uncle Tom's Cabin , American drama attained international status only in the s and s, with the works of Eugene O'Neill , who won four Pulitzer Prizes and the Nobel Prize.

In the middle of the 20th century, American drama was dominated by the work of playwrights Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller , as well as by the maturation of the American musical , which had found a way to integrate script, music and dance in such works as Oklahoma! Depression era literature was blunt and direct in its social criticism.

John Steinbeck — was born in Salinas, California , where he set many of his stories.