Background for Topic 30: American National Literature.
D e v e l o p m e n t o f N a t i o n a l L i t e r a t u r e
- attempts to create the Am. national lit. x but: disagreements about the way:
(a) the Am. lit. lacks national feeling, seeks to express the special character of the nation: the Eur. lit. should serve as a model
(b) the Am. lit. too young to declare its independence from the Br. literary tradition: the Am. lit. should become a new branch of Eur. culture
(c) lit. universal: the national lit. a mistake
- young Am. authors tried to create the national lit. x but: most lit. still imported from En., a number of cultural centres, magazines, newsp, etc.
L i t e r a t u r e o f t h e R e v o l u t i o n a r y W a r :
- aimed to resist the Br., to provide moral leadership, and to evoke the feelings of patriotism
- travel narratives and battles accounts < the Ind. captivity narratives
- relig. journals and sermons
- political satires on public controversies, esp. political pamphlets – T. Paine
- patriotic verse ballads
- occasional essays < highly derivative in structure and themes from Br. models
L i t e r a t u r e o f t h e N e w R e p u b l i c :
- the orig. 13 states suffered under economic and cultural dependence on En, little national sentiment, and political and relig. tensions (the Constitution controversy, Deism x Protestantism, etc.)
- conditions for writers – often portrayed in writing:
(–) materialism: lack of financial resources for artists
(–) inadequate copyright law: reprinting Br. lit. cheaper than buying the Am.
(+) growth of subscription libraries and new magazines
(+) An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), by Webster: outlined the specifics of the newly created independent, purified, and simplified language
- the ‘Connecticut Wits’ incl. P. Freneau, W. C. Bryant, & oth.: adapted the neo-classical form to native subjects x the later originality of W. Whitman & E. Dickinson
- the ‘Knickerbocker School’ incl. W. C. Bryant, W. Irving, and J. F. Cooper = a loosely assembled group of well-to-do and well-read bachelors displaying their wit and sophistication in NY’s taverns: explored Am. subjects and themes
- an urgent need to establ. a specifically Am. historical context, to create a world where the imagination might flourish: W. Irving’s provincial Sleepy Hollow, J. F. Cooper’s woods of the frontier, N. Hawthorne’s Salem, H. D. Thoreau’s Walden Pond, H. Melville’s boundless ocean, and W. Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County
(a) W. Irving: his career as a writer parallel to the new nation’s career as a culture, his work illustr. the struggle of Am. culture for autonomy against the prevailing opinion of the 19th c. that Am. lacks subject matter suitable for lit., his work suggests the Am. experience suitable x but: only resistant to the Eur. forms
(b) J. F. Cooper: establ. frontier as the primary fact of the Am. history, and landscape as the fundamental reality of Am. life
I n d i a n C a p t i v i t y N a r r a t i v e s ( 1 7 t h – l a t e 1 9 t h c . )
- stories of men and particularly women of Eur. descent captured by the ‘uncivilised enemies’ in the form of Native Am.
- often with a theme of redemption by faith in the face of the threats and temptations of an alien way of life
- often based on real events x but: frequently with fictional elements, sometimes entirely fictional
- pop. in both Am. and Eur. from the 17th c. until the close of the Am. frontier in the late 19th c.
> Mary Rowlandson’s A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs Mary Rowlandson
Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.
Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Cambridge History of American Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Cunliffe, Marcus. The Literature of the United States. London: Penguin, 1991.
Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.
McQuade, Donald, gen.ed. The Harper American Literature. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.
Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.
Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.
Peprník, Michal. Semináře: Americká literatura 1. ZS 2004/05.