Free «History of the American Literature» Essay Sample

XVIII Century

The XVIII century passes in America under the flag of struggle for independence. The central place is occupied with the ideas of Education which have come from England and France. In New England cities have grown, universities have been created, newspapers began to leave. There were also first literary swallows. Those were works, created under the influence of the English educational literature and "the Gothic" novel: Henry Brackenridge (1748-1816) – «Modern Chivalry: Containing the Adventures of Captain John Farrago and Teague O'Reagan», Charles Brockden Brown (1771-1810) – "Wieland", "Ormond", "Arthur Mervyn"; poems of Timothy Dwight (1752-1818) – «The Conquest of Canaan», "Greenfield Hill".

The second half of the century was marked by an occurrence of the big group of poets reflecting in the products political passions of an epoch. Conditionally they are divided on sympathizing federalists (the most known group – «university poets») and supporters of revolution and the democratic government. One of the most significant poets, Payne’s adherent, is Phillip Freneau (1752-1832). Political events have been brightly reflected in the country, though they were disappointed in the new American validity later. In the best verses, there were sung of the nature and reflected on an eternal life. Already in creativity of Freneau it is easy to catch rudiments of romanticism which will completely be generated in the USA only in a XIX century.

However, the main property of the American literature of XVIII century was made by its educational publicistic writing with Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Payne's names. These three persons have become history of public thought of America; they have left an appreciable trace in the history of the world literature.

XIX Century

The American romanticists are founders of the national literature of the USA. First of all, it distinguishes them from the European colleagues. While in Europe the beginnings of XIX century national literature have assigned to themselves the qualities which developing within almost whole millennium and have become by their specific national lines, the American literature, as well as the nation were just defined.

In romanticism formation, it is traced three stages. The first stage is early American romanticism (1820-1830 years). The pre-romanticism, developing still within the limits of the educational literature: P. Freneau's creativity in poetry, C. Brockden Brown in the novel, etc., was its direct predecessor. The most outstanding writers of early romanticism are V. Irving, J .F. Cooper, W. C. Bryant, J. P. Kennedy, etc. About the occurrence of their products, the American literature obtains for the first time the international recognition. There is a process of interaction of the American and European romanticism. Intensive search of national art traditions is conducted; the basic themes and a problematic (war for independence, continent development, a life of Indians) are outlined. The outlook of leading writers of this period is painted in optimistic the tone, the wars connected with heroic time for independence and grandiose prospects opening before young republic. Close successive communication with ideology of the American Education remains. It is indicative, as Irving, and Cooper actively participate in a political life of the country, aspiring to influence a course of its development directly.

The second stage is mature American romanticism (1840-1850th years). N. Hawthorne's creativity concerns this period, E. A. Poe, H. Melville, H. W. Longfellow, W. G. Simms, R. W. Emerson, and H. D. Thoreau were writers-transcendentalists. The difficult and inconsistent reality of America of these years has caused appreciable distinctions in attitude and an aesthetic position of romanticists of 40-50th years. The majority of writers of this period test deep discontent with country process. Rupture between the validity and a romantic ideal goes deep, turns to a precipice. Not casually among romanticists of the mature period so many are not understood and not recognized artists rejected by bourgeois America: Poe, Melville, Toro, and later – poetess E. Dickinson.

The third stage is late American romanticism (60th years). It’s a period of the crisis. The romanticism as a method even more often appears not to reflect a new reality in a condition. The strip of heavy creative crisis is entered by those writers of the previous stage who else continues the way to the literature. The most vivid example is destiny of Melville which for many long years has left in voluntary spiritual self-isolation.

The XX Century

In the beginning of XX century, there were the new currents, which have brought the original contribution to the formation of critical realism. In 900th in the USA there is a current «muckrakers». «Muckrakers» is an extensive group of the American writers, publicists, sociologists, public figures of liberal orientation. In their creativity, there were closely interconnected two streams: publicist (Steffens, Tarbell, and Baker), literature and art (Sinclair, Hendrick). At separate stages of the creative way, such great writers approached with movement of muckrakers (as T. Roosevelt in 1906 named them), as J .London, T. Dreiser.

10th are noted by realistic launch in the American poetry, received the name of "the poetic Renaissance". This period is connected with Charles Sandburg, Edgar Lee Masters, and Robert Frost. These poets have addressed to a life of the American people. Leaning against democratic poetry of Whitman and achievement of realists-prose writers, they, breaking out-of-date romantic canons, laid the foundation for the new realistic poetics including updating of the poetic dictionary, developing of prosaic verse, profound psychologism. This poetics met the requirements of time, helped to display by poetic means of the American validity with its variety.

Formation of the American national dramatic art, which has not developed earlier, was in 1920-s. This process proceeded in the conditions of sharp internal struggle. The aspiration to realistic reflection of a life became complicated at the American playwrights modernist influences. Eugene O’Neall is high on the list in the history of the American dramatic art. It has laid the foundation for the American national drama, has created bright conflict plays; and all its creativity has rendered a great influence on the subsequent development of the American dramatic art.

The eloquent and original phenomenon in the literature of 20th was creativity of group of young writers, which terminations of the First World War have entered into the literature right after, and have displayed in the art difficult conditions of post-war development. All of them were united by disappointment in bourgeois ideals. They were excited especially with destiny of the young man in post-war America. They are so-called representatives of "the lost generation" – Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, John Dos Passos, and Francis Scott Fitzgerald. Certainly, the term «the lost generation» is very approximate: because writers, who usually include in this group, are very various on political, social and aesthetic views, on features of the art practice.

In 1929, in the USA, there was John Read, which has united proletarian writers both supporting revolutionary art and the literature first club; and in 30th there were already 35 such  clubs, and, in a consequence, on their basis the League of the American writers was made which have existed with 1935 on 1942. During its existence, four congresses have been called (1935, 1937, 1939, 1941), which have begun association of writers of the USA round democratic public problems, promoted ideological growth of many of them; this association has played an outstanding role in the history of the American literature.

In the late thirties, there is an obvious launch of a critical and realistic direction after appreciable recession in the beginning of a decade. There are new names: Thomas Wolf, Richard Right, Albert Malt?, D. Trumbo, E. Caldwell, J. Farrel, etc. And development of an epic genre, which was formed in the atmosphere of national struggle against monopolies and fascist threat, became outstanding achievement of critical realism in the USA. Here, first of all, it is necessary to call names of such authors as Faulkner, Steinbeck, Hemingway, and Dos Passos.

After World War II, there is some recession in literature development, but it does not concern poetry and drama where creativity of poets Robert Lowell and Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Arthur Miller's playwrights, Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee has received the world popularity.

In post-war years, the antiracist theme goes deep so characteristic for the Negro literature. Langston Hughes’ prose, John Killens’ novels testify to it («Youngblood »), and James Baldwin's ardent publicism, and dramatic art of Lorraine Hansberry. Richard Right («The Son of America») was one of the brightest representatives of Negro creativity.

In 60-70th in the USA on the basis of mass Negro and anti-war movement in the country to a considerable, public problematic, growth obvious turn of many writers was outlined in their creativity of socially-critical moods, return to traditions of realistic creativity.

Among average generation of the American writers, the most popular and considerable are Kurt Vonnegut, Joyce Carol Oates and John Gardner. These writers also possess the future though they have already told the special and original word in the American literature. As to developing concepts, they express various versions of modern bourgeois currents in the American literary criticism.

But, certainly, the modern literature of the USA, which has been already checked up by time, will be studied, estimated and comprehended, maybe, from other positions only after the lapse of a certain quantity of time. This, most likely, will be more authentic from the point of view of development of the American literature as a whole.


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