Literature of the American Revolution.
I d e o l o g i c a l B a c k g r o u n d
- the 18th c. = the age of reason and enlightenment
- development of natural sciences
T h e C o n c e p t o f G o d :
(a) 17th c., Puritan: God = an interfering force
(b) 18th c.: God = a passive force, a personalised image of God comparable to the clockmaker
- man should be active, should understand the nature mechanism
=> the idea of progress, man capable of moral improvement
T h e C o n c e p t o f H u m a n N a t u r e :
- Thomas Hobbes: man as an animal
- J. Locke: human mind as ‘tabula rasa’ [= ‘a blank sheet of paper’], can be inscribed positively or negatively
T h e C o n c e p t o f S t a t e :
- important for the Am. democracy
- John Lock: state = a contract guaranteeing the protection of human rights and responsible to its citizens who can anytime create a new government
- T. Jefferson [see his “The Declaration of Independence”]
T h e W a r o f I n d e p e n d e n c e ( 1 7 7 5 – 8 3 )
-Boston Tea Party (1773): the Br. government rose taxes to cover the costs of the war against Fr., the Am. refuses the taxes, so Br. soldiers were sent to Boston; the Am. patriots threw a cargo of Br. tea into the Boston Harbour, and started the boycott of the Br. trade
- George Washington: commander of the Continental Army
- T. Jefferson: author of the “Declaration of Independence” (July 4th, 1776)
- G. Washington, B. Franklin, J. Madison: authors of the “Constitution” (1789)
T h e F o u n d i n g F a t h e r s
- authors of the most memorable writings of the 18th c., esp. political pamphlets
- practical philos.: aimed to create a happy society based on justice and freedom
- admirers of the Eur. Enlightenment: believed in human intelligence, understanding of both nature and man, and man’s ability to improve himself
- leaders of the Rev. and writers of the Constitution
T h e F e d e r a l i s t
- a series of 85 political essays, known collectively as ‘The Federalist Papers’ (1787 – 88)
- signed ‘Publius’ = the coll. pseudonym for A. Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay
- defended the Constitution to replace the existing Articles of Confederation and demanded its immediate ratification
- argument: a strong central government necessary for security and survival, and compatible with individual liberty
- a high-minded level of political discourse: theoretically complex, often ironic, always lucid and adhering to ‘cool and deliberate’ thinking, seldom indulging in rhetorical flourishes
- orig. to infl. a relatively small group of voters, addressed ‘to the People of New York’ x but: eventually became a central document for historical and judicial interpretation of the Constitution
=> the consummate expression of one of Am.’s most consequential political programs and philos.
- result: the Constitution ratified (1789), A. Hamilton x J. Madison became political opponents
A l e x a n d e r H a m i l t o n ( 1 7 5 7 – 1 8 0 4 )
- a politician and lawyer in NY City
- the chief contrib. to The Federalist
J a m e s M a d i s o n ( 1 7 5 1 – 1 8 3 6 )
- a Virginian
- co-author of the Constitution
- later the 4th US President
J o h n J a y ( 1 7 4 5 – 1 8 2 9 )
- a NY attorney
- later the NY governor
- because of ill health contrib. to the 1st 5 essays only
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.