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A number of seminal works of American literature were written during the s. These include Nathaniel Hawthorne 's novel The Scarlet Letter , depicting the gloomy atmosphere of early Puritanism; Herman Melville 's Moby-Dick , which infused into an adventure tale of whaling days profound symbolic significance; and the rolling measures of Walt Whitman 's Leaves of Grass 1st ed. The crusading spirit against Southern slavery in Harriet Beecher Stowe 's overwhelmingly successful novel Uncle Tom 's Cabin can be compared with the violent anti-Northern diatribes of William Gilmore Simms.

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While the Civil War was taking its inexorable course, the case for reunion was set forth by President Abraham Lincoln in that purest and most exact statement of American political ideals, the Gettysburg Address. Once the war was over, literature gradually regained a national identity amid expanding popularity, as writings of regional origin began to find a mass audience. Wilkins Freeman , the sketches of Louisiana by George W. Cable , even the romance of the Old South woven by the poetry of Henry Timrod and Sidney Lanier and the fiction of Thomas Nelson Page —all were seized eagerly by the readers of the reunited nation.

The outstanding example of genius overcoming any regionalism in scene can be found in many of the works of Mark Twain , most notably in his Huckleberry Finn Drama after the Civil War and into the 20th cent. Realism , however, came to the theater with some of the plays of Bronson Howard , James A.

Herne, and William Vaughn Moody. The Turn of the Century Trends in American Fiction The connection of American literature with writing in England and Europe was again stressed by William Dean Howells , who was not only an able novelist but an instructor in literary realism to other American writers. Though he himself had leanings toward social reform, Howells did encourage what has come to be called "genteel" writing, long dominant in American fiction.

The mold for this sort of writing was broken by the American turned Englishman, Henry James , who wrote of people of the upper classes but with such psychological penetration, subtlety of narrative, and complex technical skill that he is recognized as one of the great masters of fiction.


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His influence was quickly reflected in the novels of Edith Wharton and others and continued to grow in strength in the 20th cent. The realism preached by Howells was turned away from bourgeois milieus by a number of American writers, particularly Stephen Crane in his poetry and his fiction— Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and the Civil War story, The Red Badge of Courage These were forerunners of naturalism , which reached heights in the hands of Theodore Dreiser and Jack London , the latter a fiery advocate of social reform as well as a writer of Klondike stories.

Ever since the Civil War, voices of protest and doubt have been heard in American fiction. By the early 20th cent. Henry Adams was musing upon the effects of the dynamo's triumph over man, and Ambrose Bierce literally abandoned a civilization he could not abide. American Verse Since the midth cent. American poetry had tended to empty saccharine verse—with the startling exception of the Amherst recluse, Emily Dickinson , whose terse, precise, and enigmatic poems, published in , after her death, placed her immediately in the ranks of major American poets.

A revolution in poetry was announced with the founding in of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, edited by Harriet Monroe. Hilda Doolittle , John Gould Fletcher , and their English associates, all declaring against romantic poetry and in favor of the exact word. Meanwhile, other poets moved along their own paths: Edwin Arlington Robinson , who wrote dark, brooding lines on humankind in the universe; Edgar Lee Masters , who used free verse for realistic biographies in A Spoon River Anthology ; his friend Vachel Lindsay , who wrote mesmerizingly rhythmical verse; Carl Sandburg , who tried to capture the speech, life, and dreams of America; and Robert Frost , who won universal recognition with his evocative and seemingly simply written verse.

The Lost Generation and After The years immediately after World War I brought a highly vocal rebellion against established social, sexual, and aesthetic conventions and a vigorous attempt to establish new values. Young artists flocked to Greenwich Village , Chicago, and San Francisco , determined to protest and intent on making a new art. Others went to Europe, living mostly in Paris as expatriates. They willingly accepted the name given them by Gertrude Stein : the lost generation.

Out of their disillusion and rejection, the writers built a new literature, impressive in the glittering s and the years that followed. Language grew so frank that there were bitter quarrels over censorship, as in the troubles about James Branch Cabell 's Jurgen and—much more notably—Henry Miller 's Tropic of Cancer The influences of new psychology and of Marxian social theory were also very strong. Out of this highly active boiling of new ideas and new forms came writers of recognizable stature in the world, among them Ernest Hemingway , F.

Eugene O'Neill came to be widely considered the greatest of the dramatists the United States has produced. Other writers also enriched the theater with comedies, social reform plays, and historical tragedies. The social drama and the symbolic play were further developed by Arthur Miller , William Inge , and Tennessee Williams. By the s the influence of foreign movements was much felt with the development of "off-Broadway" theater. One of the new playwrights who gained special notice at the time was Edward Albee , whose later works again attracted attention in the s.

Important playwrights of recent decades who have imbued the modern world with qualities ranging from menace to a kind of grace in their surreal or hyper-real works include Sam Shepard , David Mamet , and Tony Kushner. The naturalism that governed the novels of Dreiser and the stories of Sherwood Anderson was intensified by the stories of the Chicago slums by James T.

Farrell and later Nelson Algren. Not unexpectedly, after World War I , black writers came forward, casting off the sweet melodies of Paul Lawrence Dunbar and speaking of social oppression and pervasive prejudice. Poetry after World War I was largely dominated by T. Eliot and his followers, who imposed intellectuality and a new sort of classical form that had been urged by his fellow expatriate Ezra Pound.

Eliot was also highly influential as a literary critic and contributed to making the period —60 one that was to some extent dominated by literary analysts and promoters of various warring schools. Among those critics were H. The victories of the new over the old in the s did not mean the disappearance of the older ideals of form even among lovers of the new.

Vincent Millay , and Elinor Wylie. In the later years of the period two poets of unusual subtlety and complexity gained world recognition, though they had been quietly writing long before: Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams. The admirable novels of Willa Cather did not resort to new devices; the essays of E. In this period humor left far behind the broadness of George Ade 's Fables for the acrid satire of Ring Lardner and the highly polished style of Robert Benchley and James Thurber.

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Elements of Modernism in American Literature

The tension, horror, and meaninglessness of contemporary American life became a major theme of novelists during the s and 70s. While authors such as Saul Bellow , Bernard Malamud , Hortense Calisher , and Philip Roth presented the varied responses of urban intellectuals, usually Jews, and John Updike and John Cheever treated the largely Protestant middle class, William Burroughs , Joyce Carol Oates , and Raymond Carver unsparingly depicted the conflict and violence inherent in American life at all levels of society.

Mind Platter

Irony and so-called black humor were the weapons of authors like Roth, Joseph Heller , and Jules Feiffer. Many of these writers have been called postmodern, but the term encompasses a number of charactistics, including multiculturalism, self-reflection, and attention to new means of communication. Although the poets Allen Ginsberg , Gregory Corso, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti gained initial recognition as part of the beat generation , their individual reputations were soon firmly established.

One of the most provocative and active poets of the decade was Robert Lowell , who often wrote of the anguish and corruption in modern life. His practice of revelation about his personal life evolved into so-called confessional poetry, which was also written by such poets as Anne Sexton , Sylvia Plath , and, in a sense, John Berryman.

Accomplished poets with idiosyncratic styles were Elizabeth Bishop and James Dickey. To some degree, poetry has also become polarized along ideological lines, as shown in the work of feminist poet Adrienne Rich. Meanwhile, the bittersweet lyrics of James Merrill expressed the concerns of a generation. The pressure and fascination of actual events during the s intrigued many writers of fiction, and Truman Capote , John Hersey , James Michener , and Norman Mailer wrote with perception and style about political conventions, murders, demonstrations, and presidential elections.

Post— Vietnam War American literature has called into question many previously unchallenged assumptions about life. Annie Proulx , and T. Coraghessen Boyle have explored a wide variety of experiences and attitudes in contemporary American society. The literature of the s and 90s also encompasses the work of African-American e. Scott Momaday , Asian-American e. Bibliography See E. Emerson, ed.

The 20 Greatest American Authors In Literary History

Hassan, Contemporary American Literature, — ; R. Spiller et al. Zyla and W. Aycock, ed. Ludwig and C. Nault, Jr.

Top 5 American Novels

Elliott et al. Marcus and W. Sollors, ed. Whitley, American Bards ; P. Cassuto et al. Graham and J. Ward, Jr. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. September 21, Retrieved September 21, from Encyclopedia. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia. American literature English explorers and early colonists produced literary accounts of North America. Early colonial literature was often an expression of Puritan piety, designed as a moral framework for a religious colony.

Many of the leading figures in the American Revolution , such as Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin , produced important literary works. Early 19th-century writers, such as Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper were influenced by European romanticism. Transcendentalism was the first truly distinctive national literary movement. Walt Whitman's free-verse epic Leaves of Grass —92 is perhaps the most fully realized poetic expression of transcendentalism. Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery story Uncle Tom 's Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century.

Literature of the immediate post- Civil War period is characterized by parochialism. The two great exceptions to the trend and precursors of a new realism were Henry James and Mark Twain. Available for immediate download.


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