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LITERARY PERIODS IN AMERICAN LITERATURE

AN OUTLINEAMERICAN LITERATURE
Puritan Times 1650-1750
Content: Errand into the wilderness; be a city upon a hill; Christian utopia Genre/Style: sermons, diaries; personal narratives; captivity; narratives jeremiads; written in plain style Effect: instructive reinforces authority of the Bible and church Historical Context: a person's fate is determined by God all people are corrupt and must be saved by Christ

Puritan writers stressed religious and didactic themes


The first book published in America was the Bay Psalm Book: The Whole Book of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre (1640). AUTHORS: William Bradford (1590/1657) History of Plymouth Plantation (pub. 1856); John Smith (1579/1631) The Generall Historie of Virginia (1624) William Byrd (1674/1744) History of the Dividing Line (composed and reworked from 1728 but not published until 1841). Jonathan Edwards(1703-1758) Sinners in the hand of an angry God

Rationalism/ Age of Enlightenment 1750-1800


Content: national mission and American character democratic utopia use of reason history is an act of individual and national self-assertion Genre/Style: political pamphlets; travel writing; highly ornate writing style; fiction employs generic plots and characters; fiction often tells the story of how an innocent young woman is tested by a seductive male Effect: patriotism grows; instills pride; creates common agreement about issues; shows differences between Americans and Europeans Historical Context: tells readers how to interpret what they are reading to encourage Revolutionary War support instructive in values

Authors
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) "first great man of letters," embodied the Enlightenment ideal of humane rationality. Practical yet idealistic, hardworking and enormously successful, Franklin recorded his early life in his famous Autobiography. Hector St. John de Crvecoeur (1735-1813) Another Enlightenment figure is Hector St. John de Crvecoeur, whose Letters from an American Farmer (1782) gave Europeans a glowing idea of opportunities for peace, wealth, and pride in America. Thomas Paine (1737-1809) pamphlet Common Sense Washington Irving (1789-1859) The Devil and Tom Walker; The Legend of the Sleep Hollow; Rip Van Winkle James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) The Last of the Mohicans

American Renaissance/Romanticism 1800-1855


Content: writing that can be interpreted 2 ways, on the surface for common folk or in depth for philosophical readers; sense of idealism focus on the individual's inner feelings; emphasis on the imagination over reason and intuition over facts; urbanization versus nostalgia for nature burden of the Puritan past
Genre/Style: literary tale; character sketch; slave narratives; political novels; poetry; transcendentalism Effect: helps instill proper gender behavior for men and women; fuels the abolitionist movement; allow people to re-imagine the American past Historical Context: expansion of magazines; newspapers; and book publishing; slavery debates

Authors
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) essay "Self-Reliance" Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) essay "Civil Disobedience" Walt Whitman (1819-1892) His famous Leaves of Grass (Oh!
Captain My Captain) -1855

and other writers

Gothic sub-genre of Romanticism 1800-1850


Content: sublime and overt use of the supernatural; individual characters see themselves at the mercy of forces our of their control which they do not understand; motif of the "double": an individual with both evil and good characteristics often involve the persecution of a young woman who is forced apart from her true love Style: short stories and novels; hold readers' attention through dread of a series of terrible possibilities; feature landscapes of dark forests, extreme vegetation, concealed ruins with horrific rooms, depressed characters

Effect: today in literature we still see portrayals of alluring antagonists whose evil characteristics appeal to one's sense of awe; today in literature we still see stories of the persecuted young girl forced apart from her true love
Historical Context: industrial revolution brings ideas that the "old ways" of doing things are now irrelevant

AUTHORS
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) Dickinson's 1,775 poems continue to intrigue critics, who often disagree about them. Some stress her mystical side, some her sensitivity to nature; many note her odd, exotic appeal. One modern critic, R.P. Blackmur, comments that Dickinson's poetry sometimes feels as if "a cat came at us speaking English." Her clean, clear, chiseled poems are some of the most fascinating and challenging in American literature. Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) The House of the Seven Gables; The Scarlet Letter (1850) Herman Melville (1819-1891) Moby-Dick
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) "The Raven" (1845); Annabel Lee; The Bell. Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840) : The Black Cat; The Fall of the House of Usher Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; An American Slave

Realism

1855-1900

Content: common characters not idealized (immigrants, laborers); people in society defined by class society corrupted by materialism; emphasizes moralism through observation Style: novel and short stories are important; prefers objective narrator; dialogue includes many voices from around the country; does not tell the reader how to interpret the story Effect: social realism: aims to change a specific social problem; aesthetic realism: art that insists on detailing the world as one sees it Historical Context: Civil War brings demand for a "truer" type of literature that does not idealize people or places

AUTHORS
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) (1835-1910) Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Life on the Mississippi Henry James (1843-1916) The Portrait of a Lady (1881); The Bostonians (1886) Stephen Crane (1871-1900) The Red Badge of Courage Jack London (1876-1916) The Son of the Wolf (1900); The Call of the Wild (1903) and The Sea-Wolf (1904) Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945) An American Tragedy

Naturalism (sub-genre of realism) 1880-1900


Content: dominant themes: survival fate violence taboo; nature is an indifferent force acting on humans; "brute within" each individual is comprised of strong and warring emotions such as greed, power, and fight for survival in an amoral, indifferent world. Genre/Style: short story, novel; characters usually lower class or lower middle class; fictional world is commonplace and unheroic; everyday life is a dull round of daily existence; characters ultimately emerge to act heroically or adventurously with acts of violence, passion, and/or bodily strength in a tragic ending Effect: this type of literature continues to capture audiences in present day: the pitting of man against nature Historical Context: writers reflect the ideas of Darwin (survival of the fittest) and Karl Marx (how money and class structure control a nation)

AUTHORS
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) developed an abstract, experimental prose poetry. collection Tender Buttons (1914) Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) The Sun Also Rises(1926) F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) The Great Gatsby; This Side of Paradise William Faulkner (1897-1962) The Sound and the Fury (1929) Poets: Ezra Pound (1885-1972); T.S. Eliot (1888-1965); Robert Frost (1874-1963);

Modernism 1900-1946
Content: dominant mood: alienation and disconnection; people unable to communicate effectively; fear of eroding traditions and grief over loss of the past

Genre/Style: highly experimental; allusions in writing often refer to classical Greek and Roman writings; use of fragments, juxtaposition, interior monologue, and stream of consciousness; writers seeking to create a unique style
Effect: common readers are alienated by this literature Historical Context: overwhelming technological changes of the 20th Century; World War I was the first war of mass destruction due to technological advances; rise of the youth culture

Harlem Renaissance (runs parallel to modernism) 1920s


Content: celebrated characteristics of African-American life; enjoyment of life without fear; writing defines the African-American heritage and celebrates their new identity as Americans Genre/Style: allusions in writing often refer to African-American spirituals; uses the structure of blues songs in poetry (ex-repetition of key phrases) ; superficial stereotypes later revealed to be characters capable of complex moral judgments Effect: this period gave birth to a new form of religious music called "gospel music; blues and jazz are transmitted across America via radio and phonographs Historical Context: mass African-American migration to Northern urban centers. African-Americans have more access to media and publishing outlets after they move north.

Authors
Harlem Renaissance:

Jean Toomer (1894-1967) Cane (1923) Richard Wright (1908-1960) his autobiography Black Boy (1945);Native Son (1940) Zora Neale Hurston (1903-1960) Mules and Men (1935) Toni Morrison (1931- ) Beloved (1987)
Modernism 1900-1946

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) Babbitt (1922). John Dos Passos (1896-1970) The 42nd Parallel (1930), 1919 (1932), and The Big Money (1936). John Steinbeck (1902-1968) The Grapes of Wrath (1939); Of Mice and Men(1937)

Postmodernism 1946-Present
Content: people observe life as the media presents it, rather than experiencing life directly; popular culture saturates people's lives; absurdity and coincidence Genre/Style: mixing of fantasy with nonfiction; blurs lines of reality for reader; no heroes; concern with individual in isolation; detached, unemotional usually humorless; narratives; metafiction; present tense; magic realism Effect: erodes distinctions between classes of people; insists that values are not permanent but only "local" or "historical" Historical Context: Post-World War II prosperity; media culture interprets values

Contemporary (continuation of Postmodernism) 1980sPresent


Content: identity politics; people learning to cope with problems through communication; people's sense of identity is shaped by cultural and gender attitudes; emergence of ethnic writers and women writers Style: narratives: both fiction and nonfiction; anti-heroes; concern with connections between people; emotion-provoking; humorous irony; storytelling emphasized; autobiographical essays Effect: too soon to tell Historical Context: people beginning a new century and a new millennium; media culture interprets values

AUTHORS
James Baldwin (1924-1987) Go Tell It On the Mountain (1953) Saul Bellow (1915- ) The Victim (1947) Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953) Long Day's Journey Into Night (1956) Arthur Miller (1915- ) Death of a Salesman Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) The Glass Menagerie (1944) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1947). Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) Ship of Fools (1962) John Updike (1932- ) Rabbit, Run (1960) Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) On the Road (1957) Tom Wolfe (1931-) The Right Stuff (1979), and a novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987) Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; Minority Report Walter Mosley (1952 -) Devil in A Blue Dress (1990) A Red Death (1991);White Butterfly (1992) Gone Fishin(1997); Bad Boy Brawly Brown (2002) Edward Albee (1928- ) Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962)

ELEMENTS OF FICTION
5 MAJOR ELEMENTS

Plot Theme Setting Characters Point of View

PLOT

The main point of intrigue or suspense -- what happens in the story. Unlike the storys theme (which can be applied to life situations), the plot is unique to each story. The plot usually involves several steps: EXPOSITION: Introducing the characters, establishing the setting, and laying the groundwork for a problem to develop CONFLICT: the major problem -- may be both External and Internal COMPLICATIONS: Just as it says, problems pile on. CLIMAX: the highest point of conflict RESOLUTION: everything winds down to the conclusion.

THEME
The broader subject or topic of the story. What type of universal statement is the author making? What is this story really about? Is it about the dangers of jealousy? the consequences of your decisions or actions? Is the author concerned about nature? survival? prejudice? the importance of making independent decisions?

SETTING
WHEN and WHERE the story occurs. If the author doesnt tell you exactly, look for hints. For example, if it occurs on Mars, chances are that the story takes place in the future in space. Be sure to note whether it takes place in the past, present or future and whether it takes place on land, in the water, in the air, or in space. Then add more details to be as specific as possible. Setting is critical in establishing the mood (atmosphere) and making the story and characters credible.

CHARACTERS
In a short story, there may be only one character. If there are quite a few, chances are that only one or two are the main characters. In a novel, there are usually several major characters as well as several minor characters. Why are certain characters considered to be major? Are the characters static or dynamic (do they remain the same or do they change?) Are the characters round (multi-dimensional) or flat (one-dimensional)?

POINT OF VIEW
This is NOT your opinion of the story. It refers to who is telling the story. A story can be told from different points of view. You are probably most familiar with the first person (I) narrative and with the omniscient narrative (where the story changes viewpoint, depending on who is talking or thinking). Get in the habit of looking at the point of view; sometimes you learn more about the story that way