Literature of XVIII centure
Literature, poetry and theater of the United States, their distinctive characteristics and development history. The literary role in the national identity, racism reflections. Comparative analysis of the "To kill a mockingbird", "Going to meet the man".
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literature racism mockingbird
In the tenth century brave Scandinavian sailors reached the Western coast of the Present USA. On 12th of October 1492 Christopher Columbus landed on one of the islands (in the region of Cuba). About 1500 Florentine Amerigo Vespuchi came to the shores of the New World. But only at the beginning of the XII century did Europeans begin to open up Western Coasts of the North America. At that time the Spaniards founded settlements along the Atlantic coast (in the territory of the present day Florida, Georgia and South California). The Dutchmen settled in the district of Hudson. In Manhatten island (Hudson-) 1613 the Dutch settlement became New Amsterdam. In 1604 Frenchmen founded the first settlements in Canada. Englishmen set about to colonize America, a little later, the first English colony was Virginia which was founded in 1607. In 1620 «Mayflower» brought from England the first detachment of the colonists = puritans, who founded New Plymouth (near present day Boston). Later near that place there sprang up New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and these united under the name of New England. In 1634 there appeared Maryland and in 1681 William Penn founded the Quaker colony, Pennsylvania.
American Literature can not be captured in a simple definition. It reflects the many religious, historical and cultural traditions of the American people, one of the world's most varied populations. It includes poetry, fiction, drama and other kinds of writing by authors in what is now the US. It also includes non written material, such as the oral literature of the American Indians and folk tales and legends. In addition, American literature includes accounts of American written by immigrants and visitors from other countries, as well as works by American writers who spent all of their lives abroad.
The United States became an independent nation by winning the Revolutionary War in America (1775-1783). Much of the literature of this period addressed issues relating to American independence.
American literature begins with the legends, myths and poetry of the American Indians, the first people to live in what is now the US. Indian legends included stories about the origin of the world, the histories of tribes and tales of tribal heroes. With rare exceptions this oral literature wasn't written down until 1800's.
The earliest writing in America consisted of the journals and reports of European explorers and missionaries. These early authors left a rich literature describing their encounters with new lands and new civilizations. They publicized their adventures, described the New World, and tried to attract setllers in words that sometimes mixed facts with propaganda.
Colonists from England and other European countries began settling along the eastern coast of North America in the early 1600's and created the first American colonial literature. The colonies in Verginia and New England produced the most important writings in the 1600's. In the 1700's, Philodelphia emerged as the literary center of the American colonies.
The topic of the work is «Literature from the 18th century to the 19th century»
Topicality of the diploma work is historical overview and analyzing of the previous and current literature of American. What American nations have before and what have changed today.
The aim of the paper is to find the arguments of literature in formation of the USA and to give some example and analyzing of the ideas of American writers.
On the first part of work we begin with short stories of literal, and they conditions in present day, view the concepts of writers. Then, (second part) explores the influence of literature in formation of USA. Also we tried to pay attention on literature and social life in USA, the contributions of two writers for the formation of USA, the racism reflections in literary works at the 20th century and we tried to give comparative analysis of the novel «To Kill a Mockingbird» Harper Lee and story «Going to Meet The Man» by James Baldwin. Finally, we tried to give our opinion, what means the culture and nation.
The Structure of the paper contains Introduction, two chapters, Conclusion, and Bibliography list.
Introduction describes the content of my diploma work and guides the discussion topics, also tells the topicality and aim of the diploma paper.
1. History of the Literature
1.1 Literature of the United States
«Anything has beginning and end» said one famous philosopher, like that saying the literature of America has its beginning and this is the history. In this part of work we want to pay attention on American history, what the history have during on the formation of USA.
During its early history, America was a series of British colonies on the eastern coast of the present-day United States. Therefore, its literary tradition begins as linked to the broader tradition of English literature. However, unique American characteristics and the breadth of its production usually now cause it to be considered a separate path and tradition.
Some of the earliest American literatures were pamphlets and writings extolling the benefits of the colonies to both a European and colonist audience. John Smith of Jamestown could be considered the first American author with his works: A True Relation of… Virginia… (1608) and The General Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles (1624). Other writers of this manner included Daniel Denton, Thomas Ashe, William Penn, George Percy, William Strachey, John Hammond, Daniel Coxe, Gabriel Thomas, and John Lawson.
The religious disputes that prompted settlement in America were also topics of early writing. A journal written by John Winthrop discussed the religious foundations of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Edward Winslow also recorded a diary of the first years after the Mayflower's arrival. Other religiously influenced writers included Increase Mather and William Bradford, author of the journal published as a History of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-47. Others like Roger Williams and Nathaniel Ward more fiercely argued state and church separation.
Some poetry also existed. Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor are especially noted. Michael Wigglesworth wrote a best-selling poem, The Day of Doom, describing the time of judgement. Nicholas Noyes was also known for his doggerel verse.
Other early writings described conflicts and interaction with the Indians, as seen in writings by Daniel Gookin, Alexander Whitaker, John Mason, Benjamin Church, and Mary Rowlandson. John Eliot translated the Bible into the Algonquin language.
Jonathan Edwards and Cotton Mather represented the Great Awakening, a religious revival in the early 18th century that asserted strict Calvinism. Other Puritan and religious writers include Thomas Hooker, Thomas Shepard, Uriah Oakes, John Wise, and Samuel Willard. Less strict and serious writers included Samuel Sewall, Sarah Kemble Knight, and William Byrd.
The revolutionary period also contained political writings, including those by colonists Samuel Adams, Josiah Quincy, John Dickinson, and Joseph Galloway, a loyalist to the crown. Two key figures were Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine. Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin are esteemed works with their wit and influence toward the formation of a budding American identity. Paine's pamphlet Common Sense and The American Crisis writings are seen as playing a key role in influencing the political tone of the period.
During the revolution itself, poems and songs such as «Yankee Doodle» and «Nathan Hale» were popular. Major satirists included John Trumbull and Francis Hopkinson. Philip Morin Freneau also wrote important poems about the war's course.
Early U.S. literature
The first American novel is sometimes considered to be William Hill Brown's The Power of Sympathy (1789). Much of the early literature of the new nation struggled to find a uniquely American voice. European forms and styles were often transferred to new locales and critics often saw them as inferior. For example, Wieland and other novels by Charles Brockden Brown (1771-1810) are often seen as imitations of the Gothic novels then being written in England.
Unique American style
With the War of 1812 and an increasing desire to produce uniquely American work, a number of key new literary figures appeared, perhaps most prominently Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, James Fenimore Cooper, and Edgar Allan Poe. Irving, often considered the first writer to develop a unique American style (although this is debated) wrote humorous works in Salmagundi and the well-known satire A History of New York, by Diedrich Knickerbocker (1809). Bryant wrote early romantic and nature-inspired poetry, which evolved away from their European origins. In 1835, Poe began writing short stories - including The Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Murders in the Rue Morgue - that explore previously hidden levels of human psychology and push the boundaries of fiction toward mystery and fantasy. Cooper's Leatherstocking tales about Natty Bumppo were popular both in the new country and abroad.
Humorous writers were also popular and included Seba Smith and Benjamin P. Shillaber in New England and Davy Crockett, Augustus Baldwin Longstreet, Johnson J. Hooper, Thomas Bangs Thorpe, Joseph G. Baldwin, and George Washington Harris writing about the American frontier.
The New England Brahmins were a group of writers connected to Harvard University and its seat in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The core included James Russell Lowell, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
In 1836, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), an ex-minister, published a startling nonfiction work called Nature, in which he claimed it was possible to dispense with organized religion and reach a lofty spiritual state by studying and responding to the natural world. His work influenced not only the writers who gathered around him, forming a movement known as Transcendentalism, but also the public, who heard him lecture.
Emerson's most gifted fellow-thinker was perhaps Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), a resolute nonconformist. After living mostly by himself for two years in a cabin by a wooded pond, Thoreau wrote Walden, a book-length memoir that urges resistance to the meddlesome dictates of organized society. His radical writings express a deep-rooted tendency toward individualism in the American character. Other writers influenced by Transcendentalism were Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller, George Ripley, Orestes Brownson, and Jones Very.
The political conflict surrounding Abolitionism inspired the writings of William Lloyd Garrison and his paper The Liberator, along with poet John Greenleaf Whittier and Harriet Beecher Stowe in her world-famous Uncle Tom's Cabin.
In 1837, the young Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) collected some of his stories as Twice-Told Tales, a volume rich in symbolism and occult incidents. Hawthorne went on to write full-length «romances,» quasi-allegorical novels that explore such themes as guilt, pride, and emotional repression in his native New England. His masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter, is the stark drama of a woman cast out of her community for committing adultery. History of modern literature
Hawthorne's fiction had a profound impact on his friend Herman Melville (1819-1891), who first made a name for himself by turning material from his seafaring days into exotic novels. Inspired by Hawthorne's example, Melville went on to write novels rich in philosophical speculation. In Moby Dick, an adventurous whaling voyage becomes the vehicle for examining such themes as obsession, the nature of evil, and human struggle against the elements. In another fine work, the short novel Billy Budd, Melville dramatizes the conflicting claims of duty and compassion on board a ship in time of war. His more profound books sold poorly, and he had been long forgotten by the time of his death. He was rediscovered in the early decades of the 20th century.
Anti-transcendental works from Melville, Hawthorne, and Poe all comprise the Dark Romanticism subgenre of literature popular during this time.
America's two greatest 19th-century poets could hardly have been more different in temperament and style. Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was a working man, a traveler, a self-appointed nurse during the American Civil War (1861-1865), 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….»
Whitman was also a poet of the body - «the body electric,» as he called it. In Studies in Classic American Literature, the English novelist D.H. 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.»
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), on the other hand, lived the sheltered life of a genteel unmarried woman in small-town Amherst, Massachusetts. Within its formal structure, her poetry is ingenious, witty, exquisitely wrought, and psychologically penetrating. Her work was unconventional for its day, and little of it was published during her lifetime.
Many of her poems dwell on death, often with a mischievous twist. «Because I could not stop for Death,» one begins, «He kindly stopped for me.» The opening of another Dickinson poem toys with her position as a woman in a male-dominated society and an unrecognized poet: «I'm nobody! Who are you? / Are you nobody too?»
Realism, Twain, and James
Mark Twain (the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835-1910) was the first major American writer to be born away from the East Coast - in the border state of Missouri. His regional masterpieces were the memoir Life on the Mississippi and the novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain's style - influenced by journalism, wedded to the vernacular, direct and unadorned but also highly evocative and irreverently funny - 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. Cable, Thomas Nelson Page, Joel Chandler Harris, Mary Noailles Murfree (Charles Egbert Craddock), Sarah Orne Jewett, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, Henry Cuyler Bunner, and William Sydney Porter (O. Henry).
William Dean Howells also represented the realist tradition through his novels, including The Rise of Silas Lapham and his work as editor of the Atlantic Monthly.
Henry James (1843-1916) confronted the Old World-New World dilemma by writing directly about it. Although born in New York City, he spent most of his adult years in England. Many of his novels center on Americans who live in or travel to Europe. 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 enchanting American girl in Europe, and The Turn of the Screw, an enigmatic ghost story.
Turn of the century
Ernest Hemingway in World War I uniform.
At the beginning of the 20th century, American novelists were expanding fiction's social spectrum to encompass both high and low life and sometimes connected to the naturalist school of realism. In her stories and novels, Edith Wharton (1862-1937) 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. At about the same time, Stephen Crane (1871-1900), best known for his Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage, depicted the life of New York City prostitutes in Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. And in Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945) 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.
More directly political writings discussed social issues and power of corporations. Some like Edward Bellamy in Looking Backward outlined other possible political and social frameworks. Upton Sinclair, most famous for his meat-packing novel The Jungle, advocated socialism. Other political writers of the period included Edwin Markham, William Vaughn Moody. Journalistic critics, including Ida M. Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens were labelled the The Muckrakers. Henry Adams' literate autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams also depicted a stinging description of the education system and modern life.
Experimentation in style and form soon joined the new freedom in subject matter. In 1909, Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), 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 labelled a group of American literary notables who lived in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s as the «Lost Generation».
The poet Ezra Pound (1885-1972) 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. He influenced many other poets, notably T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), another expatriate. Eliot wrote spare, cerebral poetry, carried by a dense structure of symbols. In «The Waste Land» he embodied a jaundiced vision of post-World War I society in fragmented, haunted images. 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 1948, Eliot won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
American writers also expressed the disillusionment following upon the war. The stories and novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) capture the restless, pleasure-hungry, defiant mood of the 1920s. Fitzgerald's characteristic theme, expressed poignantly in The Great Gatsby, is the tendency of youth's golden dreams to dissolve in failure and disappointment. Sinclair Lewis and Sherwood Anderson also wrote novels with critical depictions of American life. John Dos Passos wrote about the war and also the U.S.A. trilogy which extended into the Depression. Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) 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. 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. The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms are generally considered his best novels; in 1954, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Five years before Hemingway, another American novelist had won the Nobel Prize: William Faulkner (1897-1962). Faulkner managed to encompass an enormous range of humanity in Yoknapatawpha County, a Mississippian region of his own invention. 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.) 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 The Sound and the Fury, Absalom, Absalom!, Go Down, Moses, and The Unvanquished.
Depression era literature was blunt and direct in its social criticism. John Steinbeck (1902-1968) was born in Salinas, California, where he set many of his stories. His style was simple and evocative, winning him the favor of the readers but not of the critics. Steinbeck often wrote about poor, working-class people and their struggle to lead a decent and honest life; he was probably the most socially aware writer of his period. The Grapes of Wrath, considered his masterpiece, is a strong, socially-oriented novel that tells the story of the Joads, a poor family from Oklahoma and their journey to California in search of a better life. Other popular novels include Tortilla Flat, Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row, and East of Eden. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962. Other writers sometimes considered part of the proletarian school include Nathanael West, Fielding Burke, Jack Conroy, Tom Kromer, Robert Cantwell, Albert Halper, and Edward Anderson.
Post-World War II
There were a number of major American war novels written in the wake of World War II. Some of the most well known included Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead (1948), novels by Irwin Shaw and James Jones, and later Joseph Heller (Catch-22) and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (Slaughterhouse-Five).
In the 1950s the West Coast spawned a literary movement, the poetry and fiction of the «Beat Generation,» a name that referred simultaneously to the rhythm of jazz music, to a sense that post-war society was worn out, and to an interest in new forms of experience through drugs, alcohol, and Eastern mysticism. Poet Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) set the tone of social protest and visionary ecstasy in Howl, a Whitmanesque work that begins: «I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness….». Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) celebrated the Beats' rollicking, spontaneous, and vagrant life-style in his masterful and vibrant novel On the Road.
Other writers of the period like J.D. Salinger and Sylvia Plath were starkly individual and cannot be easily classified.
From the early 1960s through the late 1980s, an important literary movement was postmodernism. Important writers, here, are Thomas Pynchon, author of V. and Gravity's Rainbow, among other things, and Don Delillo, who wrote White Noise. Postmodern writers dealt directly with the way that popular culture and mass media influence the average American's perception and experience of the world. They would set scenes in fast food restaurants, on subways, or in shopping malls; they wrote about drugs, plastic surgery, and television commercials. Sometimes, these depictions look almost like celebrations. But simultaneously, writers in this school take a knowing, self-conscious, sarcastic, and (some critics would say) condescending attitude towards their subjects.
Modern humorist literature
From Irving and Hawthorne to the present day, the short story has been a favorite American form. One of its 20th-century masters was John Cheever (1912-1982), who brought yet another facet of American life into the realm of literature: the affluent suburbs that have grown up around most major cities. Cheever was long associated with The New Yorker, a magazine noted for its wit and sophistication. John Updike also continued Cheever's tradition and is best known for his Rabbit series which began with Rabbit Run.
Faulkner was part of a southern literary renaissance that also included such figures as Truman Capote (1924-1984) and Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964). Although Capote wrote short stories and novels, fiction and nonfiction, his masterpiece was In Cold Blood, a factual account of a multiple murder and its aftermath, which fused dogged reporting with a novelist's penetrating psychology and crystalline prose. Another practitioner of the «nonfiction novel,» Tom Wolfe (1931-) was one of the founders of «New Journalism,» who honed his art in such essays as The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby and Radical Chic before he moved on to book-length efforts, such as his history of the American manned space program The Right Stuff and probably his best-known novel Bonfire of the Vanities. Other writers steeped in the Southern tradition include John Kennedy Toole (1937-1969) and Tom Robbins (1936-).
Flannery O'Connor was a Catholic, and thus an outsider in the heavily Protestant South in which she grew up. Her characters are Protestant fundamentalists obsessed with both God and Satan. She is best known for her tragicomic short stories.
African American literature
African American literature is literature written by, about, and sometimes specifically for African-Americans. The genre began during the 18th and 19th centuries with writers such as poet Phillis Wheatley and orator Frederick Douglass. Among the themes and issues explored in African American literature are the role of African Americans within the larger American society, African American culture, racism, slavery, and equality.
Before the American Civil War, African American literature primarily focused on the issue of slavery, as indicated by the popular subgenre of slave narratives. At the turn of the 20th century, books by authors such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington debated whether to confront or appease racist attitudes in the United States.
African American literature saw a surge during the 1920s with the rise of an artistic Black community in the New York City neighborhood of Harlem. The period called the Harlem Renaissance produced such gifted poets as Langston Hughes (1902-1967), Countee Cullen (1903-1946), and Claude McKay (1889-1948). The novelist Zora Neale Hurston (1903-1960) combined a gift for storytelling with the study of anthropology to write vivid stories from the African-American oral tradition. Through such books as the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God - about the life and marriages of a light-skinned African-American woman - Hurston influenced a later generation of black women novelists.
After World War II, a new receptivity to diverse voices brought black writers into the mainstream of American literature. James Baldwin (1924-1987) expressed his disdain for racism and his celebration of sexuality in Giovanni's Room. In Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison (1914-1994) linked the plight of African Americans, whose race can render them all but invisible to the majority white culture, with the larger theme of the human search for identity in the modern world.
Today, African American literature has become accepted as an integral part of American literature, with books in the genre, such as Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley and The Color Purple by Alice Walker, achieving both best-selling and award-winning status. In addition, African American authors such as Nobel Prize winning Toni Morrison are ranked among the top writers in the world.
Jewish American literature
The United States has had a community and tradition of writing by Jewish immigrants and their descendants for a long time, although many writers have objected to being reduced to «Jewish» writers alone. Key modern writers with Jewish origins are Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, Grace Paley, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Chaim Potok, Isaac Asimov, Wendy Wasserstein, and Woody Allen, among others. The New Yorker has been especially instrumental in exposing many Jewish-American writers to a wider reading public.
Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler pioneered gritty detective fiction that has had great influence on other genres and in other countries.
Stephen King has been especially successful internationally with his horror fiction.
The United States has also played a key role in the development of science fiction with authors like Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Robert A. Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, and many others.
Jerome David Salinger (born January 1, 1919) is an American author best known for The Catcher in the Rye, a classic novel that has enjoyed enduring popularity since its publication in 1951. A major theme in Salinger's work is the strong yet delicate mind of «disturbed» adolescents, and the redemptive capacity of children in the lives of such young men. Salinger is also known for his reclusive nature; he has not given an interview since 1980, and has not made a public appearance, nor published any new work (at least under his own name), since 1965.
In the mid 1990s, there was a flurry of excitement when a small publisher announced a deal with Salinger to bring out the first book version of his final published story, «Hapworth 16, 1924,» but amid the ensuing publicity, Salinger quickly withdrew from the arrangement.
1.2 The Poetry of the United States
The poetry of the United States naturally arose first during its beginnings as the Constitutionally-unified thirteen colonies (although prior to this, a strong oral tradition resembling of poetry existed among Native American societies). Unsurprisingly, most of the early colonists' work relied on contemporary British models of poetic form, diction, and theme. However, in the 19th century, a distinctive American idiom began to emerge. By the later part of that century, when Walt Whitman was winning an enthusiastic audience abroad, poets from the United States had begun to take their place at the forefront of the English-language avant-garde.
This position was sustained into the 20th century to the extent that Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot were perhaps the most influential English-language poets in the period during World War I.  By the 1960s, the young poets of the British Poetry Revival looked to their American contemporaries and predecessors as models for the kind of poetry they wanted to write. Toward the end of the millennium, consideration of American poetry had diversified, as scholars placed an increased emphasis on poetry by women, African Americans, Hispanics, Chicanos and other subcultural groupings. Poetry, and creative writing in general, also tended to become more professionalized with the growth of creative writing programs in the English studies departments of campuses across the country.
Poetry in the colonies
One of the first recorded poets of the British colonies was Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672), who remains one of the earliest known women poets in English. Her poems are untypically tender evocations of home and family life and of her love for her husband. In marked contrast, Edward Taylor (1645-1729) wrote poems expounding Puritan virtues in a highly wrought metaphysical style that can be seen as typical of the early colonial period. This narrow focus on the Puritan ethic was, understandably, the dominant note of most of the poetry written in the colonies during the 17th and early 18th centuries.
Another distinctly American lyric voice of the colonial period was Phillis Wheatley, a slave whose book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, was published in 1773. She was one of the best-known poets of her day, at least in the colonies, and her poems were typical of New England culture at the time, meditating on religious and classical ideas.
The 18th century saw an increasing emphasis on America as fit subject matter for its poets. This trend is most evident in the works of Philip Freneau (1752-1832), who is also notable for the unusually sympathetic attitude to Native Americans shown in his writings. However, as might be expected from what was essentially provincial writing, this late colonial poetry is generally technically somewhat old-fashioned, deploying the means and methods of Pope and Gray in the era of Blake and Burns.
On the whole, the development of poetry in the American colonies mirrors the development of the colonies themselves. The early poetry is dominated by the need to preserve the integrity of the Puritan ideals that created the settlement in the first place. As the colonists grew in confidence, the poetry they wrote increasingly reflected their drive towards independence. This shift in subject matter was not reflected in the mode of writing which tended to be conservative, to say the least. This can be seen as a product of the physical remove at which American poets operated from the center of English-language poetic developments in London.
The first significant poet of the independent United States was William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), whose great contribution was to write rhapsodic poems on the grandeur of prairies and forests. Other notable poets to emerge in the early and middle 19th century include Ralph Waldo Emerson, (1803-1882), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), James Russell Lowell (1819-1891), and Sidney Lanier (1842-1881). As might be expected, the works of these writers are united by a common search for a distinctive American voice to distinguish them from their British counterparts. To this end, they explored the landscape and traditions of their native country as materials for their poetry.
The most significant example of this tendency may be The Song of Hiawatha by Longfellow. This poem uses Native American tales collected by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, who was superintendent of Indian affairs for Michigan from 1836 to 1841. Longfellow also imitated the meter of the Finnish epic poem Kalevala, possibly to avoid British models. The resulting poem, while a popular success, did not provide a model for future U.S. poets.
Another factor that distinguished these poets from their British contemporaries was the influence of the transcendentalism of the poet/philosophers Emerson and Thoreau. Transcendentalism was the distinctly American strain of the English Romanticism that began with William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Emerson, as much as anyone the founder of transcendentalism, had visited England as a young man to meet these two English poets, as well as Thomas Carlyle. While Romanticism mellowed into Victorianism in post-reform England, it grew more energetic in America from the 1830s through to the Civil War.
Edgar Allan Poe was probably the most recognized American poet outside of America during this period. Diverse authors in France, Sweden and Russia were heavily influenced by his works, and his poem «The Raven» swept across Europe, translated into many languages. In the twentieth century the American poet William Carlos Williams said of Poe that he is the only solid ground on which American poetry is anchored.
Whitman and Dickinson
The final emergence of a truly indigenous English-language poetry in the United States was the work of two poets, Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). On the surface, these two poets could not have been less alike. Whitman's long lines, derived from the metric of the King James Version of the Bible, and his democratic inclusiveness stand in stark contrast with Dickinson's concentrated phrases and short lines and stanzas, derived from Protestant hymnals. What links them is their common connection to Emerson (a blurb from whom Whitman printed on the first edition of Leaves of Grass), and a daring quality in regard to the originality of their visions. These two poets can be said to represent the birth of two major American poetic idioms-the free metric and direct emotional expression of Whitman, and the gnomic obscurity and irony of Dickinson-both of which would profoundly stamp the American poetry of the 20th century.
The development of these idioms can be traced through the works of poets such as Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935), Stephen Crane (1871-1900), Robert Frost (1874-1963) and Carl Sandburg (1878-1967). As a result, by the beginning of the 20th century the outlines of a distinctly new poetic tradition were clear to see.
Modernism and after
This new idiom, combined with a study of 19th-century French poetry, formed the basis of the United States input into 20th-century English-language poetic modernism. Ezra Pound (1885-1972) and T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) were the leading figures at the time, but numerous other poets made important contributions. These included Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), William Carlos Williams (1883-1963), Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) (1886-1961), Adelaide Crapsey (1878-1914), Marianne Moore (1887-1972), E.E. Cummings (1894-1962), and Hart Crane (1899-1932). Williams was to become exemplary for many later poets because he, more than any of his peers, contrived to marry spoken American English with free verse rhythms.
While these poets were unambiguously aligned with High modernism, other poets active in the United States in the first third of the 20th century were not. Among the most important of the latter were those who were associated with what came to be known as the New Criticism. These included John Crowe Ransom (1888-1974), Allen Tate (1899-1979), and Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989). Other poets of the era, such as Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), experimented with modernist techniques but were also drawn towards more traditional modes of writing. The modernist torch was carried in the 1930s mainly by the group of poets known as the Objectivists. These included Louis Zukofsky (1904-1978), Charles Reznikoff (1894-1976), George Oppen (1908-1984), Carl Rakosi (1903-2004) and, later, Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970). Kenneth Rexroth, who was published in the Objectivist Anthology, was, along with Madeline Gleason (1909-1973), a forerunner of the San Francisco Renaissance. Many of the Objectivists came from urban communities of new immigrants, and this new vein of experience and language enriched the growing American idiom. Another source of enrichment was the emergence into the American poetic mainstream of African American poets such as Langston Hughes (1902-1967) and Countee Cullen (1903-1946).
World War II and after
World War II saw the emergence of a new generation of poets, many of whom were influenced by Wallace Stevens. Richard Eberhart (1904-2005), Karl Shapiro (1913-2000) and Randall Jarrell (1914-1965) all wrote poetry that sprang from experience of active service. Together with Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979), Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) and Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966), they formed a generation of poets that in contrast to the preceding generation often wrote in traditional verse forms.
After the war, a number of new poets and poetic movements emerged. John Berryman (1914-1972) and Robert Lowell (1917-1977) were the leading lights in what was to become known as the confessional movement, which was to have a strong influence on later poets like Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) and Anne Sexton (1928-1974). Both Berryman and Lowell were closely acquainted with modernism, but were mainly interested in exploring their own experiences as subject matter and a style that Lowell referred to as «cooked», that is consciously and carefully crafted.
In contrast, the Beat poets, who included such figures as Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997), Gregory Corso (1930-2001), Joanne Kyger (born 1934), Gary Snyder (born 1930), Diane Di Prima (born 1934), Denise Levertov (1923-1997), Amiri Baraka (born 1934) and Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born 1919), were distinctly raw. Reflecting, sometimes in an extreme form, the more open, relaxed and searching society of the 1950s and 1960s, the Beats pushed the boundaries of the American idiom in the direction of demotic speech perhaps further than any other group.
Around the same time, the Black Mountain poets, under the leadership of Charles Olson (1910-1970), were working at Black Mountain College. Somewhere between raw and cooked, these poets were exploring the possibilities of open form but in a much more programmatic way than the Beats. The main poets involved were Robert Creeley (1926-2005), Robert Duncan (1919-1988), Ed Dorn (1929-1999), Paul Blackburn (1926-1971), Hilda Morley (1916-1998), John Wieners (1934-2002), and Larry Eigner (1927-1996). They based their approach to poetry on Olson's 1950 essay Projective Verse, in which he called for a form based on the line, a line based on human breath and a mode of writing based on perceptions juxtaposed so that one perception leads directly to another. Cid Corman (1924-2004) and Theodore Enslin (born 1925) are often associated with this group but are perhaps more correctly viewed as direct descendants of the Objectivists.
The Beats and some of the Black Mountain poets are often considered to have been responsible for the San Francisco Renaissance. However, as previously noted, San Francisco had become a hub of experimental activity from the 1930s thanks to Rexroth and Gleason. Other poets involved in this scene included Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) and Jack Spicer (1925-1965). These poets sought to combine a contemporary spoken idiom with inventive formal experiment. Jerome Rothenberg (born 1931) is well-known for his work in ethnopoetics, but he was also the coiner of the term «deep image». Deep image poetry is inspired by the symbolist theory of correspondences. Other poets who worked with deep image include Robert Kelly (born 1935), Diane Wakoski (born 1937) and Clayton Eshleman (born 1935).
The Small Press poets (sometimes called the mimeograph movement) are another influential and eclectic group of poets who also surfaced in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1950s and are still active today. Fiercely independent editors, who were also poets, edited and published low-budget periodicals and chapbooks of emerging poets who might otherwise have gone unnoticed. This work ranged from formal to experimental. Gene Fowler, A.D. Winans, Hugh Fox, Paul Foreman, John Bennett, Stephen Morse, Judy L. Brekke, and F.A. Nettelbeck are among the many poets who are still actively continuing the Small Press Poets tradition. Many have turned to the new medium of the Web for its distribution capabilities.
Just as the West Coast had the San Francisco Renaissance and the Small Press Movement, the East Coast produced the New York School. This group aimed to write poetry that spoke directly of everyday experience in everyday language and produced a poetry of urbane wit and elegance that contrasts strongly with the work of their Beat contemporaries. Leading members of the group include John Ashbery (born 1927), Frank O'Hara (1926-1966), Kenneth Koch (1925-2002), James Schuyler (1923-1991), Richard Howard (born 1929), Ted Berrigan (1934-1983), Anne Waldman (born 1945) and Bernadette Mayer (born 1945).
John Cage (1912-1992), one-time Black Mountain College resident and composer, and Jackson Mac Low (1922-2004) both wrote poetry based on chance or aleatory techniques. Inspired by Zen, Dada and scientific theories of indeterminacy, they were to prove to be important influences on the 1970s U.S avant-garde.
James Merrill (1926-1995), off to the side of all these groups and very much sui generis, was a poet of great formal virtuosity and the author of the epic poem The Changing Light at Sandover (1982).
Tomas O'Leary published Fool at the Funeral in 1975 and The Devil Take a Crooked House in 1990. These two critically acclaimed books established O'Leary as a reknowned poet in the New England States.
American poetry now
The last thirty years in United States poetry has seen the emergence of a number of groups and trends. It is probably too soon to judge the long-term importance of these, and what follows is merely a brief outline sketch.
The 1970s saw a revival of interest in surrealism, with the most prominent poets working in this field being Andrei Codrescu (born 1946), Russell Edson (born 1935) and Maxine Chernoff (born 1952). Performance poetry also emerged from the Beat and hippie happenings, and the talk-poems of David Antin (born 1932) and ritual events performed by Rothenberg, to become a serious poetic stance which embraces multiculturalism and a range of poets from a multiplicity of cultures. This mirrored a general growth of interest in poetry by African Americans including Gwendolyn Brooks (born 1917), Maya Angelou (born 1928), Ishmael Reed (born 1938) and Nikki Giovanni (born 1943).
The most controversial avant-garde grouping during this period has been the Language poets (or L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, after the magazine that bears that name). Language-centered writing is extremely theoretical, discounting speech as the basis for verse, and dedicated to questioning the referentiality of language and the dominance of the sentence as the basic unit of syntax. The idea appears to be that language when stripped of its normal associative and denotative meanings becomes closer to the source of language and may actually provide insights that might not otherwise be possible. Those critical of the Language movement point out that taken to its logical conclusion this abandonment of sense and context creates a poetry that could be just as well be written by the proverbial infinite sized room full of monkeys with an infinite number of word processors.
The Language poets movement includes a very high proportion of women, which mirrors another general trend; the rediscovery and promotion of poetry written both by earlier and contemporary women poets. In addition to Language poets, a number of the most prominent African American poets to emerge are women, and other prominent women writers include Adrienne Rich (born 1929) and Amy Gerstler (born 1956).
The Language group also contains an unusually high proportion of academics. Poetry has tended to move more and more into the campus, with a growth in creative writing and poetics programs providing an equal growth in the number of teaching posts available to practicing poets. This increased professionalization and abundance of academic presses combined with a lack of any coherent process for critical evaluation is one of the clearest developments and one which seems likely to have unpredictable consequences for the future of poetry in the United States.
The 1980s also saw the emergence of a group of poets who became known as the New Formalists. These poets, who included Molly Peacock, Brad Leithauser, Dana Gioia and Marilyn Hacker, write in traditional forms and have declared that this return to rhyme and more fixed meters is the new avant-garde. Critics of the New Formalists have compared their traditionalism with the conservative politics of the Reagan era. It is intended as an insult.
Many poets (A growing group of poets loosely called Outlaw Poets or Small Press Poets) ignore what they see as the extremes and academic elitism of the self-proclaimed avant-garde of both poetic groups, choosing to use both traditional and experimental approaches to their work.
Concurrently, a Chicago construction worker named Marc Smith was growing bored with increasingly esoteric academic poetry readings. In 1984, at the Get Me High Lounge, Smith devised the format that has come to be known as slam poetry. A competitive poetry performance, poetry slam opened the door for a new generation of writers, spoken word performers, and audiences by emphasizing a style of writing that is edgy, topical, and easily understood.
Poetry slam has produced noted poets like Alix Olson, Taylor Mali, and Saul Williams, as well as inspired hundreds of open mics.
Academy of American Poets
The Academy of American Poets is the preeminent organization in the United States dedicated to the art of poetry. The academy was created in 1934 in New York City by Mrs. Marie Bullock with a mission to «support American poets at all stages of their careers and to foster the appreciation of contemporary poetry.» In 1936, the academy was officially incorporated as a non-profit organization. Ms. Bullock was the president of the academy for the next half a century, running the academy out of her apartment for thirty of those years. She started the academy after her return from her studies at the Sorbonne in Paris. Returning to America, Ms. Bullock was dismayed at the lack of support for poetry in her home country. Taking advice from friends such as Edwin Arlington Robinson and Joseph Auslander, Ms. Bullock raised plans and funds to create the academy and help support and nature the American poet.
Now celebrating over 70 years of existence, the academy fulfills its goals in two ways. The first, to «support American poets», is accomplished by the myriad of awards handed out by the academy. There are seven major awards handed out by the academy and over 200 college awards handed out at schools across the country. To «foster the appreciation of contemporary poetry,» the academy runs numerous programs, including Poets.org, the most popular site about poetry on the web; National Poetry Month (April), the largest literary celebration in the world; an array of Awards & Prizes for poets at every stage of their careers; American Poet, a biannual literary journal; and the Poetry Audio Archive, hundreds of audio recordings of poetry readings dating back to the early 1960s.
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