Eras in American Literature

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Transcript Eras in American Literature

Eras in American Literature
GEEN 2312
Puritanism: 1620- late 17th century
• Puritans believed in Original Sin. They also
believed strongly that Jesus Christ had been
sent to save particular people only (the
"elect"). Since Puritans couldn't be sure who
was a part of the saved crowd, they all
behaved in an exemplary fashion in order to
assure themselves a place in Heaven. Puritans
valued self-reliance, industriousness,
temperance, and simplicity, and these values
can clearly be seen in their writings.
Puritanism: 1620- late 17th century
• Puritans modeled their writings on the Bible,
and frequently used their own writings as a
way to examine their emotional and physical
lives for signs of God. Diaries and histories
were the most plentiful type of Puritan
writing, and writers usually focused on the
acts of God. Puritan writers avoided complex
figures of speech and stressed clarity above all
Rationalism/Deism: late 17th centurylate 18th century
• Rationalists believed that humans could find
truth through reason, rather than relying on
religion, faith, intuition, or past scholars. The Age
of Reason in Europe was founded on Rationalist
thought. Rationalists believed God gave mankind
Reason as a gift, and set about using it freely. In
early America, the Age of Reason was seen in the
forced mechanations necessary to survival- man
had to use reason to find ways of simply surviving
in the difficult environment.
Rationalism/Deism: late 17th centurylate 18th century
• Deists basically were Rationalists who believed specifically
that God made it possible for all people at all times to
uncover natural laws by using their power of reason. Deists
thought the universe was orderly and good, and people
were inherently good. Deists also believed that God's
objective was the happiness of his creations. So, a major
goal of deism was to help make the happiness of others
possible. Rationalist/Deist writings exhibit a benevolent, if
not altogether positive view, of humanity. These writings
do not focus upon God, but rather upon logic and reason.
Rationalist/Deist writings also tend to either act as didactic
works, or as a way of helping others to help themselves
achieve happiness.
American Romanticism: 1800-1860
• Romanticism is the journey away from the
corruption of society, civilization, and the limits of
all rational thought; the journey leads toward
nature and all its integrity and the overall
freedom of the imagination. Romanticism
believed that intuition, imagination, and emotion
marked a clearer route to truth than reason
alone. Romanticism believed poetry to be
superior to science, and that the contemplation
of the natural world is the means of discovering
the "truth".
American Romanticism: 1800-1860
• Romanticism exhibited a distrust of industry and city
life, and the idealization of rural life and the
wilderness. Romanticism also explored a deep
interest in the supernatural Romantic writing
frequently uses the countryside as a backdrop, the
perfect symbol of freedom and moral clarity.
However, some Romantic writers (like Poe) used
purely fictional locations as their "countryside".
Romantic literature often involves an escape from
civilization and responsibility, frequently leading to a
more simplistic life. Prominent Romantic writers
journeyed to the understanding of higher truth
either by exploring the past/exotic/supernatural
realms, or through the contemplation of the natural
American Renaissance: 1840-1860
• The American Renaissance brought about the exploration
of the darker side of human existence. This period marked
the distinct breaking of American writers from their
European counterparts. This period produced a number of
classic American writers and their masterpieces. Like the
European Renaissance, this time period also produced a
noticeable cultural vitality and push toward social
improvement. The American Renaissance was born at the
end of the Romantic age. Major writers of this time period
fell into one of two categories: Transcendentalist or AntiTranscendentalist. Anti-Transcendentalists did not hold
that all things in nature and mankind were inherently good.
American Renaissance: 1840-1860
• Transcendentalists held that God can be found
in every aspect of nature (including humanity),
and that everyone is capable of reaching God
through intuition. Transcendentalists also
believed that nature itself is a reflection of the
Divine Soul, and that self-reliance and
individuality must outweigh conformity.
American Renaissance: 1840-1860
• Transcendentalist writings often assert a positive
spiritual reason behind each occurrence in
nature. Transcendentalist writings frequently hail
the beauty of rebellion, the rejection of society,
and the struggle toward inner peace and
understanding. The Anti-Transcendentalists , also
known as Dark Romantics, valued intuition over
logic and reason (like the Transcendentalists).
Whereas Transcendentalism held a very
optimistic view of the world,
American Renaissance: 1840-1860
• Anti-Transcendentalists did not hold that all
things in nature and mankind were inherently
good. Anti-Transcendentalist writers explored
the struggle between good and evil, the
psychological impact of guilt and sin, and
American Renaissance: 1840-1860
• Anti-Transcendentalists did not hold that all
things in nature and mankind were inherently
good. Anti-Transcendentalist writers explored
the struggle between good and evil, the
psychological impact of guilt and sin, and
Realism: 1850-1900
• Realism marked a straying from the idealized view of
mankind and the unrealistic portrayal of humanity
toward a brutally honest portrayal of mankind and life.
The movement aimed to realistically portray life, without
altering it through layers of personal feelings,
romanticism, or idealism.
• Realist writers described the environment and manners
of everyday life, the challenges, the hardships, and the
small victories. Realist writers also sought to explain why
ordinary people behave the way they do- and used
biology, physiology, and sociology to do so, along with
personal observation and insight. Regionalist writers, a
form of Realism, focused on one small region of the
Realism: 1850-1900
• Regionalist writers attempted to not only
accurately portray a small geographic area, but
also the speech and manners of that particular
region. Naturalists, another leg of Realism, relied
more heavily on psychology and sociology, and
frequently attempted to objectively dissect the
psyche of their characters throughout their work.
• Naturalist writings made it clear that behavior
was determined by one's environment, and that
mankind was helpless against the natural laws of
the universe.
Modernism: 1900-1950
• The Modernist era is marked by disillusionment
with tradition and the loss of innocence. This era
heralded experimentation and the total rejection
of traditional themes and styles.
• Modernist writers typically embraced one of three
ideas, collectively known as the American Dream:
admiration for America as a new Eden, optimism,
and the ultimate triumph of the individual.
Modern writers tend to blend these three distinct
beliefs throughout their writings, while also
conveying the disappointment inevitably following
such high expectations. In poetry, two forms of
Modernism evolved:
Modernism: 1900-1950
• Symbolism (use of representation of ideas
through concrete objects) and Imagism (using
imagery and visual interpretation to project
ideas). The Harlem Renaissance, helped to
revolutionize American poetry by introducing
ghetto speech and jazz and blues rhythm into
verse. Modernist writers challenged and
communicated the American dream, while
continuing to ask fundamental questions about
the purpose and meaning of existence.
Contemporary Literature: 1950- present
• Contemporary Fiction, also known as Postmodernism, tends to
allow multiple interpretations of the work itself. The writings in
this period reflect the rapidly changing technology, atomic
concerns, and many scientific possibilities that loom in the
future. Contemporary Literature frequently mesh reality and
dreamlike worlds. Characters may tell different versions of the
same story, allowing the reader to extract multiple
interpretations of the same work.
• Postmodernist writers often structure their work in
nontraditional formats, and blatantly break from conventional
rules of fiction. Contemporary fiction also frequently comments
upon itself. Contemporary writers also blend cultural diversity,
sometimes blend fiction and nonfiction, and fearlessly use the
past to explore subjects, images, and themes.
Four Main Literature Eras and
Historical moments
1066 - The Norman Invasion, and the birth of
early modern English. At this time, works like
"Beowulf" and "Sir Gawain and the Green
Knight" were written in early modern English.
Late 1500s, Early 1600s
• Late 1500s, Early 1600s - Elizabethan Era, and
the time of Shakespeare and the Globe
Theatre. Plays become big in this era as a form
of entertainment. Also, the birth of Romantic
Poetry comes from around this time.
Revolutionary Late 1700s
• Revolutionary Late 1700s, Early 1800s - The
rise of Industry, and the rebellion against it.
There is also the Revolutionary War, and the
rise of anti-French sentiments in England. Also
this is the birth of America, and thus American
novelists like Mark Twain.
Post War 1919-1949 • Post War 1919-1949 - The end of the World
Wars, and rise of individualism. There is also
an insurgency of British Authors called the
"Angry Young Men" who write rebellious
stories, poems, and plays.