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26 Cards in this Set

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Colonial Period of American Literature
The Colonial Period of American Literature spans the time between the founding of the first settlement at Jamestown to the outbreak of the Revolution. Some of the earliest American literature were pamphlets and writings extolling the benefits of the colonies to both a European and colonist audience. The religious disputes that prompted settlement in America were also topics of early writing. Some poetry also existed. 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. 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 National Period of American Literature
In the post-war period, The Federalist essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay represent an important and historical discussion of government organization and republican values. Thomas Jefferson's United States Declaration of Independence, his influence on the Constitution, his autobiography, and the mass of his letters have led to him being considered one of the most talented early American writers. Fisher Ames, James Otis, and Patrick Henry are also valued for their political writings and orations.

The Early National Period of American Literature saw the beginnings of literature that could be truly identified as "American". The writers of this new American literature wrote in the English style, but the settings, themes, and characters were authentically American. In addition, poets of this time wrote poetry that was relatively independent of English precursors. Three of the most recognized writers of this time are Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, and Edgar Allan Poe.
Romantic Period
The period 1828-1865 in American Literature is commonly identified as the Romantic Period in America, but may also be referred to as the American Renaissance or the Age of Transcendentalism. The writers of this period produced works of originality and excellence that helped shape the ideas, ideals, and literary aims of many American writers. Writers of the American Romantic Period include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Emily Dickinson, and Walt Whitman.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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.
Henry David Thoreau
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.
Nathaniel Hawthorne
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.
Herman Melville
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.
Realistic Period
Following the Civil War, American Literature entered into the Realistic Period. The major form of literature produced in this era was realistic fiction. Unlike romantic fiction, realistic fiction aims to represent life as it really is and make the reader believe that the characters actually might exist and the situations might actually happen. In order to have this effect on the reader, realistic fiction focuses on the ordinary and commonplace. The major writers of the Realistic Period include Mark Twain, Henry James, Bret Harte, and Kate Chopin.
Realism, Twain, and James
Mark Twain
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).
Henry James
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
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.
Gertrude Stein
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".
Ezra Pound
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.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
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
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.
William Faulkner
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.
John Steinbeck
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.
Naturalistic Period
The years 1900-1914 mark American Literature's Naturalistic Period. Naturalism claims to give an even more accurate depiction of life than realism. In accordance with a post-Darwinian thesis, naturalistic writers hold that the characters of their works are merely higher-order animals whose character and behavior is entirely based upon heredity and environment. Naturalistic writings try to present subjects with scientific objectivity. These writings are often frank, crude, and tragic. Stephen Crane, Jack London, and Theodore Dreiser are the most studied American Naturalists.
The Beginnings of Modern Literature
Between 1914 and 1939, American Literature entered into a phase which is still referred to as "The Beginnings of Modern Literature". Like their British counterparts, the American Modernists experimented with subject matter, form, and style and produced achievements in all literary genres.
Contemporary Period of American Literature
1939 marked the beginning of the Contemporary Period of American Literature. This period includes an abundance of important American literary figures spanning from World War II into the New Millennium. These writers include, but are not limited to, Eudora Welty, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, Sylvia Plath, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Ralph Ellison, Gwendolyn Brooks, Zora Neal Hurston, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Maya Angelou.
Beat Movement
During the 1950s, a vigorous anti-establishment, and anti-traditional literary movement emerged. The main writers of this movement, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, are called Beat Writers. Much writing of the 1960s and 1970s, referred to as Counterculture Writing, continued the literary ideals of the Beat Movement, but in a more extreme and fevered manner.
Walt Whitman
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
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?"
J.D. Salinger
J.D. Salinger in the 1950s.The period in time from the end of World War II up until, roughly, the late 1960s and early 1970s saw to the publication of some of the most popular works in American history. The last few of the more realistic Modernists along with the wildly Romantic Beatniks largely dominated the period, while the direct respondents to America’s involvement in World War II contributed in their notable influence.
From roughly the early 1970s until present day, the most well known literary category, though often contested as a proper title, has been Postmodernism. Notable, intellectually well-received writers of the period have included Thomas Pynchon, Tim O'Brien, Don DeLillo, Toni Morrison, and Joyce Carol Oates. Authors typically labeled Postmodern have dealt with and are today dealing directly with many of the ways that popular culture and mass media have influenced the average American's perception and experience of the world, which is quite often criticized along with the American government, and, in many cases, with America's history, but especially with the average American's perception of his or her own history. Many Postmodern authors are also well known for setting scenes in fast food restaurants, on subways, or in shopping malls; they write 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. David Eggers and Chuck Palahniuk are, perhaps, most well known for these particular tendencies.