American Traditions and our Histories of Literature Author(s): Thomas M. Pearce Source: American Literature, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Nov.
, 1942), pp. 277-284 Published by: Duke University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2920976 . Accessed: 19/09/2011 09:07
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Duke University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to American Literature.
The University New Mexico of
firstpermanentsettlement Jamestown. I. Close on its heels is the next statement. If an exactdate forthedivergence be set at I607. Americanliteraturestems Englandand is stillstemming fromseventeenth-century firmly critical a basisforviewingthebeginnings -have established of Americanliterature in fromtheirEnglishbackgrounds Europe.
1930).sentback and is usuallyregarded a pamphlet Englandwhichwas published to of literature. Literatuire This (i919). 1-2. the year of the foundingof the first permanent AmericanwriterBritish colonyin the new world . ed. the first . as on to elements theliterary in history of has made fewconcessions other thiscountry." wroteL.
the extends from COLONIAL periodof our literature
.the British of NorthAmerican literature some of the roots mightnot be Brit'History of American Literature (Chicago. and variously is as analyzed.AMERICAN TRADITIONS AND OUR HISTORIES OF LITERATURE
THOMAS M.-2 Captain JohnSmith(I568?-I63I) colonyin I607.Captain JohnSmith. ments. A History of American Literature (rev. New York.in I607 to the calling of the Stamp Act Congressin I765.of course..' of Payne. in i6o8 a memberof the Jamestown colony. . thatit is conventional colonialventure to read: "The literature Americawas an offshootfromthatof of it mustbe given. Cairns." The antecedents this as "the first book in American so were English. I9I9). 2 William B.] in i6o8. Cappoints-the Jamestown The threespotting tain JohnSmith'sA True Relation[etc. in his History American Jr. at Virginia. standard opening in literary historiesof the United States of that America. may England. . repeated a variously phrased beginning.
pp. new bibliography by and by new perspectives about England and Americaat thattime. p. This basishas beenexpandedbythediscovery new colonialdocuof aboutCaptainSmithand his collaterals. W. it is carried by theEnglishlanguage. were among the first suggest that to Oddly enough..
This may have been further of to culture him.
. What distinction been made towardsuch in of literatures withinthe borders the UnitedStates? A pioneerstatement an Americancriticthatliterary expresby came from George stemfrom other thanEnglishsources sionmight Literature ColumbiaUniProfessor Comparative in of Woodberry. he does not mention withinthe territory the and literature culture of Spanish-American accretion foreign of United States.
." refers thefascination to but the tionsand conquestheld forPrescott. othernon-English Spanish-American.1620-1880 (Edinburgh.". one meets a termthat in of sounds strangein a history theseUnited States: "As Virginia life. upon theirown nativebooks. Spanish-American in the is life Woodberry moreforeign United Statesis older than Anglo-American. it is necessaryto take account
nation..1882). and 1903).
. The compound "AngloAmerican" distinguishes the traditionof English lettersfrom litand German-American. Professor English of ish."
He mentions specifically the German population. In an historical of Literature the University Glasgow. of a of the vast accretions our populationfromforeign of different and languagefromthe race which foundedthe ancestry to whichmay depend"even in the secondgeneration somedegree. pp.278
sketchby JohnNichol. in I882 it is nized as the earliest speak of Virginiaas the of singularto have a professor literature mother of Anglo-Americanletters. 215-235. p.butfromtheviewpoint thenativein thatculture thanhe. vastaccretions peoplefrom or failedto shareeitherthe earlyPuritanism eign lands probably thelaterTranscendentalism New England and thatthestandard of from of traditions thisnationwas as divorced view of the literary itself. thesentiment ideasthatflow whichthe SpanishexploraHe literature.
Anglo-American literature. of forthat book Americain Literature.on Goethe and Schiller. . An 'America Literature in (London New York. .4 as the lifetraditions was a good deal of theliterature lands.so it was the parentof was the parentof Anglo-American Americanaccounthas been recogthatCaptain JohnSmith'sfirst but book in Americanliterature."
ProfessorNichol goes on to say
ProfessorWoodberry writes.first Harper'sand thenin his versity. . .At what point the
8AmericanLiterature: HistoricalSketch. in who in I903 pointedout.and their from for and manyminorcompatriots. has eratures America.
wheredoes fromthenon as foreign everything begin? history literary American tell let by history chronology.sun. English reportsabout the New World and then segregate first accretions? First. and his culturewere as hostileto the inroadsof the EngArthur as lish invaders the AmericanIndians and theirway of life were to European invadersa thousandyearslateron.singingof with the ancient peace and beautyand earth. poetic liturgy the sourcematerials. at all. If a greatbody of this materialis rewill place it earlyin the Irishhistories fromoral tradition. About six hun-
. neither dominant. breath the lightof day.It is discussed thebeginning. whichbeginwiththe histories.and others. if and lyricin Americaare mentioned.French. or eighteenth nineteenth folk lore. of darkness. adjustedto the "American" embracing thenis to be done about Americantraditions. British and literary themes dated by its primitive records.Yiddish.English. Mythof theZuni of and splendor thePsalms. Indian mythology. of veryold The Irish Folk Lore Commissionis busy recording Gaelic songs and stories. theliterature the If we mustwrite in of story the land. he does not show awareof ness thatthe Indians may have any literature theirown worth substanthat theymightcontribute or considering the possibility the to tiallyto our artsand literature. when the nineteenth becameawareof them.too.German. no Englishtranslation made until I837. The Englishepic Beowulf foundno mention publisheda garbledsummary untilan antiquary Englishliterature was in I705. This is our earliest centuries and twentieth in the literature: greatpoetry the Navajo Night Chant.It has been customary treat to something be of population." Indians. or theCreation truth the of of Indians with its story the progress man through worlds and breathingand the mud to wings water-moss.sky.Spanish. Yet we do of as Beowulf into English histories literature the not introduce as centuries. and stars. and our literary Negro. by about Indianswritten the mentions literature Woodberry fessor but Cooper and otherAmericanwriters. Prothoughthe English is culturally in the country.as "accretions foreign norm.and Our Historiesof Literature AmericanTraditions
withAmericanEuropeanstockbecamestamped of traditions either line can claim to be an exclusive but ism is fundamental. What as theydo the Indian. covered form.
architecture the last design. she probably too. Two important anthologies. French.
30I. thingof the culture that crafts. American varies Literature. and Yiddish writings the United States.6
Novel (rev. whichoccurred twelfth-century in be writings viewed Second. We have had fourhundredyearsto learn somewhichpreceded and thereare manyindicaus. I933).
. editedby Dr. "Carl Van Doren. tionsin literature.and is a scholcalled "Aboriginal. to showeda disposition walk in new paths. publishedbetween1930 and 1940. The American A A (5 American Literature: PeriodAnthology vols. p.nor can New Mexiconeglect treasured in Spanishaccounts. Christian grail.with splendid historicalanpagan foes in searchof a began to lead his erstwhile achronism. Oscar Cargilland others. folkmaterial to the represents kindof awakening early half-century England."5 The literary the Frenchby itsnatives.280
dred years elapsed beforeArthur." The firsttreatedof German. ed. I940). Quite as significant German. Olaf's who by Collegein Minnesota. It was written a Norwegian-American.I thinkMrs. in by was prepared MaryAustin." Indian modes of weighty treatment representative arlyif somewhat to of expression with theirpossiblesignificance modernAmerican felt literature. Carl Van Doren has called R6lvaag'sGiants as in the Earth "as much a part of Americanliterature of Norof writings history Louisianacannotneglect wegian.how should the so-called"foreign" of and in our literary histories anthologies? Some indication a new came in 1921 when the pointof view towardAmericantraditions Historyof AmericanLiterature fourth volumeof The Cambri'dge called appeared.New York. The Easternand Midwestern The CambridgeHistory of American Literatureoverlookedit entirely. taughtat St.. in a distinguished novelaboutSouthDakota was published Norway. The second chapter.thatshe was luckyto have but felt.French. At the end of this volume were two chapters "Non-EnglishWritings. painting. The periodanthology.. New York. or Yiddish literature the UnitedStatesis the Spanishliterature for editorsof throughfour centuries. Austinprobably at the timeshe wrote chapter thisexcellent chapter last thatit shouldhave been the first in thehistory. In 1924-1925. as a chanceto writeit at all. of Language does not seem a logical bar to recognition nonof English materialas literature the United States.
in 'Spanish Explorers the SouthernUnitedStates. of by written a member On-ate's aboutany partof the UnitedStatesby someonewho poem written had beenthere. Swarthmore. Hebbel and Hoyt H. The Rootsof National Culthe familiar arranges of RobertE. III. excerpts
. History of Early American 8Ibid. Poetryof the EnglishRenaissance 1932).] (I624). Spiller. Knight:"VirI poet in Americanliterature. ture: to I830. 10 In thisrespect. My proposal.History bertoEspinosa (Los Angeles:The QuiviraSociety.1528-I543. it of each volume.8 Castanfeda's would do well to consider anthologists Under "The Settlement" the New Mexico. 1019. in "OriginalNarratives Series" (New York. Indian folkmateperiodanthology. translated Gil9 Gaspar Perez de Villagra.I540-I54I. Professor fromthe recordsof a "Prologue" in which he places selections Columbus.and Samuel de ChamChristopher of we plain. III. Spiller in the notes reads: "The Department the Interior a of publishes bibliography Indian Legends. of Dr. Hudson. 12-126. take issue with the following by statement GrantC.which describes Gaspar de Villagra'sHistoryof of settlement villagesin the Rio Grande Valley in I598 and I599. Then under "The Settlement" meet later writings Captain Smith.9 It is a long epic poem. W.. lead pennedby An important Curtis'sThe Indian Book (I907).and of Traditions Our Histories Literature American
formulae.'0 in Professor Spillerhas also includedIndian material Volume I "Folk Literaof representative America. is thatIndian material. (New York. to belles lettres by an adoptedAmerican"(AmericanLiterature Cf. For Volume I. 1929). History a representing selectionfromHenry Rowe Schoolcraft's two prose storiesand six shortsongs fromNatalie (I85I-I857)." BetweenThe Camin bridgeHistoryof AmericanLiterature 192I and the Macmillan in AmericanLiterature. and Culture. also J.Thomas Hakluyt. is and certainly the first company.whose ginia can claim the first made was the earliestgenuine contribution of (I626) translation Ovid's Metamorphoses New York. 1933).] (I630) and The General would be Equally significant Historieof Virginia[etc.
from Cabezade Vaca'sNarrative.
Narrativeof the Expeditionof Coronado.as well as manyother on bulletins variousaspectsof Indian life. by of New Mexico (Alcala. This was George Sandys. thoughstillat the back as now. 1933. 1907).The True Travels [etc. 28I-387. p. rial movedfromVolume IV to Volume I. Under of thiscollection ture" and at the end of the volume are eightpages of material. in The book was published Spanishat Alcala (i6io) and has been by well translated GilbertoEspinosa.
Ralph H. Mary Matilda Coxe Stevenson." The anthologists a deserving label suchas "The Anglobook from triedto keep their to Saxon Mind." per centcould be called "Non-English" and two Indians appear. . politicalindependence. front. F. Warfel.Frank Cushing.Humanists.Baptists. I937). the list can widen represented still. in literary progress relationto Americanintellectual as materials will clarify changingAmericanconceptsof religion.of 222 which I was able to classify as Englishand 23 as non-English. Challengingis the editorialdescription the were drawn: ". So has fromtwo Negroes Contributions and widenedthe beadrollof Americanwriters. Deists. by Professors of and last were professors Williams. Unitarians. They introduce the editorsannouncea distinctive not material representing only New England Puritansand Transbut also "Quakers.Methodists. heading.and StanleyT. . selections ing.education and newspapers. . fromso-called suband literary theory . under some such appear in Volume I. in manyuniversities volumeis rerather thantheEnglish. cendentalists have Roman Catholics. Spanish-American to its importance us."'"' books. Neitherthe Indian nor the Negro is adequately in culture. Such an introduction theliterary and Statesof Americawould be more significant more beautiful from which we select those firstdetails of than the chronicles and settlement. Mind (New York. In any case.whether of Poetic Backgrounds and Legends of the AmericanContinent. Lummis. Gabriel.as AmericanBeginnings. This means about9 the including "Aboriginal. spite of new emphasisupon here. Natalie Curtis.the secondwas a professor history. democracy. is ignoredwhereit is closestto us: rightin of our own country. of history theUnited to America.. Austin. conquest.C. Myths prologueor not." I counta totalof 245 contributors the book.
. Mind. His weightseems the for to have been important.magazines. progress . literary
" The American p. seminar served thehistory in pointof view.282
has been recoveredby WashingtonMatthews. Preface. . the writings of area fromwhich the selections and illustrating American Americans the purposeof defining for . and here. iii. The Scotchand Irishwere listedas English. humanitarian striveconomics.and others. exploration. edited of The secondanthology note was The American HarryR.thoughthe first of English.
are theycould well
12See contra. When the young Spanish-American storyteller (and he is with us now) looks for the history his tradition Americanliterature. When the educatedIndian looks in our literary histories his for long.like Americanvalour in war. Parrington. complaint thatcritics My is have not brought the same breadthof view to surveying rootsof our literature the thattheyhave brought surveying contemporary to the scene. When new histories are written and new literary collections compiled." Volume IV. GranvilleHicks. Everybook has its literary but . JohnMacy. may finda of in he blank unlesshe searches regionalcollections in wherehis contributionis known. Van Wyck Brooksdefendcontemporary Americancriticism from preoccupation with esthetics and ivory-towerism. of V. I do not believesuch a view will weaken the esthetic tinction our letters will strengthen of but it. If writing."
. which is precisely Japanese. F.he maybe amusedto findit under "Non-EnglishWritings. You can definecertainpeculiarities American politics. .12 Anything of worthyin the oral and written recordof the peopleswho have lived wherethis of nation has been formedbecomespart of the history national disletters.long American poeticpast. .and great mothers oftenprolific are of anaemic offspring.he will see how fartheinterpretation efforts movedfrom has of literary "sphere highart"and thoughts of and elevatingratherthan merelyknowledge that are "inspiring giving." Here lies the cruxof the whole matter. one is of theartsclosest theaspirations humanity. . valuedprimarily of to in forits successin showingfullythe folk traditions a country of theirhighestformas theymake for betterhuman relationships.Its 'American'characteristics-no of given a good accountof them. Every . Americanliterature English literature . . The discerning critical studies such men as V. Our viewpoint has begun to mend. Its nineteenth-century characteristics evidentand can be analyzed and discussedwith are criticthat I know has ever some degree of certainty. 3-5: "Literature a succession books frombooks." Volume I. . or "Folk Literature" after "The Progressof Romanticism. parentage. Americanpublic schools. uniquelyAmericanin Americanliterature? . even Americanreligion. . pp. novel was suckledat the breastsof older novels. 1913). But what is Americanagriculture. . is made in this country. L. Calverton. The Spiritof AmericanLiterature (New York. The Americanspiritin literature a like the valour of Italians and myth.AmericanTraditions and Our Historiesof Literature
with dictionary If one comparesthis statement definitions of literature manyyears not ago. Artistic is of expression springs fromlife ultimately not immediately. is . of thenthe social tradition outweighs artistic the continuity letters and even considerations language.
. dreamwhichhas once been entertained actualhuman or minds."13
(London. The Renaissance
p. by no voices. I890). . that nothingwhich has ever interested livingmen and women can whollylose its vitality-nolanguage nor oraclebesidewhich theyhave hushedtheir theyhave spoken. If we substitute the faith. . wordscan serveas of Pater'sfinedescription Mirandola's of today:"For the essence Amerischolar a creedfortheAmerican canism is that belief. 51.284
with which the Italian humanist of borrowsomething the fervor in Mirandolaregardedthe treasures the ancientpast of his native for "Americanism" "humanism"in Walter land.nothingabout which theyhave ever been passionate. expendedtimeand zeal.