Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

Background for Topic 28: Early American Literature.

E x p l o r a t i o n  W r i t i n g s

- Bjarni: (a Norseman) blown off course (985)

- Leif Ericsson: establ. a settlement ‘Vinland’ [= ‘Newfoundland’ >> New En.] (1000)

- Christopher Columbus: not recognised (1492)

- Amerigo Vespucci: landed in Brasil (1501), wrote Mundus Novus [= The New World] (1503)

- Martin Waldseemueller: incl. ‘America’ in his world map (1507)

- Richard Grenville: planted a colony at Roanoke (NC) (1585)

- John White: illustr. the 2nd ed. of Thomas Harriot’s A Brief and True Report of Virginia (1580), incl. an account of the Lost Colony

- genres: travel reports, business letters, and descriptions

C o l o n i a l  A m e r i c a  W r i t i n g s 

- hardly any lit. for entertainment

- prose genres: Puritan histories, autobiog., biography, journals, diaries, sermons, and pamphlets, later Ind. captivity narratives [= women captured by Ind. (J. F. Cooper) <=> the Jews]

- poetry genres: earliest Puritan poems on relig. themes and extremely pop. didactic poems

( 1 )  T h e  S o u t h  -  V i r g i n i a :

(a) the rich and plentiful virgin land, the ‘vale of plenty’ – J. Smith and T. Morton

‘This country is only as God made it when he created the world. With diligent cultivation it might equalise any of those famous kingdoms, in all commodities, pleasures.’ (J. Smith)

(b) the pastoral garden of Eden, ‘a paradise improved’ – R. Beverley and W. Byrd

( 2 )  N e w  E n g l a n d  -  t h e  P u r i t a n s :

(a) ‘a howling wilderness’ encountered from the board of the Mayflower (Sep., 1620)

(b) ‘a Citty upon the Hill’: the Puritans felt privileged and believed ‘eyes of all people are upon them’ – W. Bradford, C. Mather, and J. Winthrop

T h e  P u r i t a n  H e r i t a g e

- the Am. political rhetoric and symbolic mode of perception:

(a) the sense of mission and being the elect nation

(b) the sense of community in crises brought together and drawing strength from adversity

(c) the Alternative Am. = ‘the only true America’ (H. D. Thoreau), alternative to the dominant Am. way

M y t h s :

- myth of Arcadia = a pastoral landscape of natural beauty, simplicity, and harmony of life as an ideal space in contrast to the city of ambition and corruption

- myth of the Fall

- Atlantis or the Garden of Hesperides, Avalon

T y p e s  -  B i b l i c a l  A n a l o g i e s :

- Exodus = Israelites wandering in the wilderness and settling in the Promised Land to build the New Jerusalem <=> Manifest Destiny, new frontiers – Samuel Danforth’s Errand into the Wilderness (1670)

- the Elect nation = in the ‘last days’ would defeat the Antichrist and prepare the way for the 2nd coming

- conversion – St Paul and St Augustine’s Confession


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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