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(36) American Poetry before E. A. Poe and W. Whitman: Its Diversity and its Reception in America and Abroad.

A n n e  B r a d s t r e e t

[see B. under ‘28 American Puritanism’]


E d w a r d  T a y l o r

[see T. under ‘28 American Puritanism’]


T h e  C o n n e c t i c u t  W i t s  ( 1 8 8 0 s – 9 0 s )

= Hartford Wits, the 1st poetic circle in Am.

- an informal association of Yale students, tutors, and presidents in the late 18th c.

- orig.: devoted to the modernisation of the Yale curriculum x then: declared the independence of Am. letters

- supported the Am. Rev., shared the Conservative and Federalist beliefs, and attacked their more liberal opponents (T. Jefferson and T. Paine)

- incl. John Trumbull, Timothy Dwight, Joel Barlow, David Humphreys, Lemuel Hopkins, Richard Alsop, and Theodore Dwight

- jointly wrote satirical verses

> The Anarchiad: A New England Poem (1786 – 87), The Political Greenhouse, and The Echo (1791 – 1805)


J o h n  T r u m b u l l  ( 1 7 5 0 – 1 8 3 1 )

L i f e :

- b. in CT

- received uni education (Yale)

- became a tutor at Yale >> lawyer in Hartford

W o r k :

- articulate and erudite

- associated with T. Dwight and D. Humphreys: their Yale curricular reform made way for the study of modern lit.

- wrote essays, poetry, and satire

“The Progress of Dullness” (1772 – 73):

- a satirical poem criticising the Am. education

- wrote as a tutor at Yale

M’Fingal: A Modern Epos (1775 – 82):

- a long Hudibrastic poem satirising the Tory-Loyalist arguments

- comic-heroic in form, celebrating the Rev. in content

The Anarchiad: A New England Poem (1786 - 7):

- in collab. with T. Dwight & oth.

- satirises the disorganisation of the post-war Am.

- expresses a scepticism about the democratic theory and practice

The Echo (1791 – 1805):

- a verse satire attacking the Jeffersonian democracy in favour of the Federalism


T i m o t h y  D w i g h t  ( 1 7 5 2 – 1 8 1 7 )

L i f e :

- b. in Northampton (MA), grandson of J. Edwards

- received uni education (Yale)

- became a tutor at Yale >> army chaplain and Congregational minister at Greenfield Hill (CT) >> president of Yale

W o r k :

- a staunch churchman, moralist, and puritan

- Am. = the land of happiness x Eur. = the land of war and poverty

The Conquest of Canaan (1785):

- a relig. epic

- celebrates the Rev. having made Am. the land of happiness

Greenfield Hill (1794):

- a pastoral derived from Goldsmith x but: unlike G. concl. in a visionary optimism

- proves the Br. verse form applicable to Am. subjects

The Triumph of Infidelity (1798):

- a relig. poem

- condemns Cath. and deism as Satan’s temptation


J o e l  B a r l o w  ( 1 7 5 4 – 1 8 1 2 )

L i f e :

- b. in CT

- received uni education (Yale)

- became an army chaplain to have leisure for writing poetry >> businessman in Fr. >> consul for US

W o r k :

- his early opinions conventional enough to qualify him as one of the Hartford Wits

x but: radicalised by his experience of the Fr. Rev.

- his later works depart from the spirit of his formerly fellow Wits

The Anarchiad: A New England Poem (1786 – 87):

- a major contrib. to the Hartford Wits satirical poem

The Vision of Columbus (1786):

- an Am. epic, famous both in Am. and Eur.

The Columbiad (1807):

- a later revised version of The Vision

Advice to the Privileged Orders (1792):

- his own experience of living through the events of the Fr. Rev. as a friend of T. Paine and a honorary Fr. citizen

- similar in tone to T. Paine’s Rights of Man

“Hasty Pudding” (1796):

- commemorates his contented exile y. as a consul


P h i l i p  F r e n e a u

[see F. under ‘29 Genres in the Lit. of Am. Rev.’]


W i l l i a m  C u l l e n  B r y a n t  ( 1 7 9 4 – 1 8 7 8 )

L i f e :

- practised law

- ed. the NY City Evening Post for almost 40 y.: one of the most respected voices in the 19th c. journalism commenting virtually on every important issue of the time

- associated with the Knickerbocker School

W o r k :

< the classics, the 18th c. Neo-classical poets, and esp. the ‘Graveyard School’

< W. Wordsworth > his early vision of nature characteristic by self-control, emotional distance, and purity of line

- content: lit. nationalism

(a) ⅔ of his poems conc. with the natural world: landscape, flora, and meteorological phenomena

(b) also conc. with historical personages and events, friends, Ind. legends, and few oth. themes

- form: accurately rhymed or sonorously unrhymed blank verse

- used nature and poetry as a tool to create a relig. to sustain himself

- expressed the most consistent vision of the world: meditative, restrained, full of dignified serenity and pleasure in nature

=> founded the Romantic tradition

- extremely pop.: appreciated by E .A. Poe, R. W. Emerson, and W. Whitman

The Embargo; or, Sketches of the Times:

< A. Pope

- an early Federalist satire on President T. Jefferson’s policies


- earned him a very meagre sum of money

- proved poetry to be no alternative as a livelihood

Lectures on Poetry:

- focused on the original, imaginative, moral, and didactic properties of poetry

- sought ‘a luminous style’


< the ‘Graveyard School’

“To a Waterfowl”

“The Prairies”

Also wrote: a transl. of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey


H e n r y  W a d s w o r t h  L o n g f e l l o w

[see H. W. Longfellow under “32 The Am. 19th c. Romanticism”]


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.

Other Sources

Peprník, Michal. Semináře: Americká literatura 1. ZS 2004/05.


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