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African-American Literature.

A b o l i t i o n i s m  ( 1 9 t h  c e n t u r y )

- started with the Enlightenment – became a large movement in several 19th nations seeking to abolish slavery and the slave trade

- the chief philos. ground for abolitionist: the idea of human rights, of the human being too valuable a property than to be owned, and of human right to control one’s own destiny

- result: slavery abolished 1st in Fr., GB, and throughout the empire (1833)

H i s t o r i c a l  B a c k g r o u n d :

- slavery forbidden in northern states (1789)

- importation of slaves forbidden (1798)

- slave traffic prohibited (1807)

- the Fugitive Slave Act: the duty to report on a runaway slave (1850; the only way to freedom: buying it or having it officially granted by one’s master)

- the Civil War: the Southern Confederation x the Northern Union (1861 – 65)

- A. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: the abolition of slavery (1865)

- NAACP = National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People

A m e r i c a n  A b o l i t i o n i s t s :

- associated with the conflict btw North x South leading to the Civil War

- many abolitionists took an active (and by the laws of the time illegal) role in putting their principles into practice: supported the Underground Railroad, etc.

- after the Emancipation continued to pursue the freedom of slaves in the remaining slave states, and to improve the conditions of Af.-Am. in general

- incl. the most radical opponent of slavery William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, John Brown, Thomas Garret, James Russel Lowell, & oth.


H a r l e m  R e n a i s s a n c e  ( 1 9 1 8 – 3 0 s )

- prominent roughly from 1918 – the early 1930s

- an Af.-Am. cultural movement set in Harlem (north of Manhattan)

- not the 1st appearance of Af.-Am. culture (the legacy of F. Douglass, & oth.) x but: still consid. a sort of curiosities

(a) developed the arts:

- jazz music: the major contrib. to Am. arts, orig. in the South in 19/20th c., and drew wide audiences

- lit.: no single lit. form x but: theatre became increasingly important

- introd. new themes of pride of racial orig., celebration of ethnic groups, absence of legal rights, etc.

(b) developed political and social activities:

- ‘The Great Migration’ from the rural South to the Northwest and East after the Emancipation >> the rise of Chicago and NY communities (1860s), the rise of the Harlem community (1920s)

- incl. the moderate B. T. Washington x the militant W. E. B. du Bois, & oth.

- the NAACP (1909 +) = the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, defended the rights of Af.-Am. in general

- succeeded in winning large audiences, esp. for music, jazz and rock’n’roll became a part of the Am. culture

- the Great Depression (1929+) radicalised the lit., made the social themes most important, and turned the writers to social work

- the shrinking publ. opportunities and readership resulted in the end of the movement


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.


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