By Carmen White,2014-06-03 06:55
15 views 0
literature literature review what is literature western literature british literature serious literature english literature chinese literature fantasy literature sat literature

American Literature

    I The Early American Literature (1620-1781)

    th Puritanism (17 century)

    th Enlightenment (18 century)

    II The Age of American Romanticism and Transcendentalism (1781-1875)



    III The Age of Realism and Naturalism(1875-1914)



    ? Twentieth-century Literature(1914-2000)



    The 17th Century Literature

    Key Words:

     original sin, hard work, redemption拯救thrift节俭, piety虔诚,

     The first settlers came to American out of various reasons: to worship the God in their own way; to escape religious persecution迫害 in England; to seek fortune; to

    find a paradise. They believed that the church should be restored to the ―purity ‖ of the first-century Church as established by Jesus Christ himself. That is, they wanted to purify the Church of England.

     In religion, they accepted the doctrine of predestination, original sin and the salvation of a selected few.

     In daily life, they emphasized hard work, thrift, piety, rejected seeking pleasure. And they regarded joy and laughter as symptoms of sin.

    The 18th Century Literature


     Benjamin Franklin

    a humanist, enlightener, inventor, scientist, essayist散文家, industrialist,

    statesman, diplomat外交家

    The Autobiography(自传)

    the first of its kind in literature. It is the simple yet immensely fascinating record of a man rising to wealth and fame from a state of poverty and obscurity卑微, the faithful

    account of the colorful career of America’s first self-made man. Written with a

    simplicity, frankness, and wit that distinguished it as a classic among its kind, Autobiography realistically described the life of Franklin as a shrewd精明的 and

    industrious勤勉的 businessman, whose rags-to-riches experience became the

    prototype典范 of many American’s dream of success.


    The whole book is an impressive record of a man trying to be of value to mankind.

    through telling a success story of self-reliance, the book celebrates, in fact, the fulfillment of the American dream.

    Autobiography was also a typical embodiment体现 of Puritanism and the

    Enlightenment which were prevailing盛行的 in 18th century America.

    1920s, Jazz Age

Economically, because of the war, American industry developed fast. The

    nation is full of bouncing ebullience, fearful of nothing, confident smug


     Socially, decline of idealism. Patriotism became cynical disillusionment. Unity

    of family weakened. There appeared the revolt of the Younger Generation.

    They escaped responsibility and assumed immorality.

    Jazz Age

     After WWI, people found that the war which cost millions of lives failed to

    provide an abiding持久的 solutions to the worlds problems, that the war

    was just the traps of political leaders. Such a disillusionment about the value

    of war, accompanied by the booming of American economy drove people to

    cynical hedonism. People experiment with new amusements. They restlessly

    pursued stimulus and pleasures, wallow沉溺 in heavy drinking, fast driving

    and casual sex. By these, they hoped to seek relief from serious problems.

    Lost Generation

     refers to those writers who were devoid of faith, values and ideals and who

    were alienated from the civilization the capitalist society advocated. It

    includes the writers such as (Hemingway, F.S. Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe,

    and Louis Bromfield) and poets (like Malcolm Cowley, E. E. Cummings,

    Archibald Macleish, and Ezra Pound), who rebelled against former values and

    ideas, but replaced them only by despair or a cynical hedonism. They were

    totally frustrated by the WWI and returned from that Great War to their

    own country only to find the grim reality that the social values and civilization

    were hollow and affected if compared to the cruel realities of the battleground.

    They felt alienated from American civilization, which was conveyed in their

    lives of exile and expatriation.

     They had cut themselves off from their past and old values in America and yet

    unable to come to terms with the new era when civilization had gone mad.

    They wandered pointlessly and restlessly, enjoying things like fishing,

    swimming, bullfight and beauties of nature, but they were aware all the while

    that the world is crazy and meaningless and futile. Their whole life was

    undercut and defeated. They cast away all past concepts and values in order to

    create new types of writing, which was characterized by disillusionment with

    ideals and further with civilization the capitalist society advocated. They

    painted the post-war western world as a waste land, lifeless and hopeless due

    to ethical degradation and disillusionment with dreams.



     T. S. Eliot The Wasteland.


     Sinclair Lewis Main Street 1920

Theodore Dreiser An American Tragedy 1925,

     F. S. Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby 1926,

     Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises 1926,

     A Farewell to Arms, 1929,

     William Faulkner The Sound and the Fury, 1929, a rose for emily


     Eurgene ONeill, The Emperor Jones, 1920, Anna Christie, 1921, The Hairy

    Ape 1922,

    1930s, Great Depression

    Literature of political and social criticism. The novels mirrored the threats to democratic thought and a strong ideological countercurrent which caused great ideological confusion意识混乱 into Americans.

    Novels: John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath 1939

    Post-WWII, 50s,

    Literature in the 50s

     A new generation of American authors appeared writing in the skeptical, ironic

    tradition of the earlier realists and naturalists. The writers used a prose散文

    style modeled on the works of Ernest Hemingway, and F. S. Fitzgerald,

    narrative techniques of William Faulkner, psychological insights of Sigmund

    Freud. In the 1950s, the Beat writers, in expression of disaffection with

    official American life, were brutally残忍地 and directly歪曲地 dominant

    统治. The so-called Beat Generation, though not expatriate移居国外 like

    the Lost Generation, were alienated疏离feeling like foreigners in their own


    Beat Generation

    Identifies a loose-kit group of poets and novelists, writing in the second half of the 1950s and early 1960s, who shared a set of social attitudesantiestablishment反对

    正流派, antipolitical反传统政治, anti-intellectual反知识分子, opposed to the prevailing

    cultural反对流行文化, and moral values价值观, and in favor of unfettered无拘无束的

    self-realization and self-expression. The Beat writers often performed in coffee-houses and other public places, to the accompaniment of drums or jazz music. The group included such diverse figures as Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the novelists William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac.

    Main work

     Jack Kerouac, On the Road,

     poet Allen Ginsberg, Howl,

     Jewish Writer Saul Bellow, Seize the Day, 1956,

     Black WriterRalph Ellison, Invisible Man 1956,

     Norman Mailer, The Man Who Studied Yoga, 1952,

     J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye麦田守望者, 1951.

    II. Literature in the 1960s.

     1. The writes turned to experimental techniques, to absurd humor, to

    mocking examination of the irrational and the disordered. The black humor

    featured the 1960s.

     Joseph Heller, Catch-22, 1961,

     John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor, 1961, Ken Kesey,

     One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, 1962,

     Thomas Pynchon, Gravitys Rainbow 1973.

    Black humor

     The use of the morbid and the absurd for darly comic purpose in modern

    fiction and Drama. The term refers as much to the tone of anger and bitterness

    as it does to the grotesque and morbid situations, which often deal with

    suffering,anxiety and death. It is a substantial element in the Anti-novel and

    the theater of the absurd. Jeseph Hellers catch-22 is an archetypal example.

    Literature in 1960s

     It was a decade when literature began to diverse in style and form. Various

    themes and different ways of exploration of the meaning of life were


    Psychological realistic novels:

     John Updike, Rabbit Run, 1960,

     Wright Morris, Ceremony in Lone Tree, 1960,

     John Cheever, The Wapshot Scandal, 1984,

     Truman Capote, In Cold Blood, 1966,

     Joyce Carol Oates, A Garden of Earthly Delights 1967,

     Saul Bellow, Herzog 1964,

     Issac Bashevis Singer, The Manor, 1967.

    Southern novels:

     William Faulkner, The Receivers 1962,

     Flannery OConner, The Violent Bear it Away, 1960,

     Poetry: Robert Lowell, Allen Ginsberg.

     Drama: Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams.

    Literature in 1970s

     Literature. The 1970s was a stage on which all kinds of literary art were

    performed. The Southern fiction, Jewish fiction, Psychological fiction,

    African-American Fiction, Science fiction, feminist fiction, etc., completed

    interrelatedly to present themselves, which displayed a prosperous panorama

    of literature. Jewish novelists Saul Bellow and Issac Singer were separately

    awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976 and in 1978. Bellow was

    ranked as one of the most important novelists of the 20th century American

    literature after the WWII.

     Black Literature: Richard Wright, Native Son, 1940, Ellison, Invisible Man,

    1952, Alex Haley, Malcolm X, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison.

     Poetry: poets urged by upheavals of the post-war period participated actively

    all kinds of political or literary movement with their pens, to express their

    views, to utter their uneasiness about the uses of social power and industrial

    power, in poems.

     Theodore Roethke, Robert Lowell, Richard Wilbur, Richard Eberhart, Allen

    Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Sylvia Plath, Delmore Schwarts.

    Plays after WWII

     Plays after WWII survived under the squeeze of movies and especially

    television. Old playwrights like Eugene ONeill continued to produce

    sensational轰动的 plays. New and young playwrights were struggling to

    broaden the ways and forms of theatrical language in the narrowing art space.

    The influence of Europes Theater of the Absurd, Eugene ONeills

    combination of naturalism, expressionism and Greek tragedy, and Broadway

    s commercialization all pushed modern drama to emerge in new faces:

    Middle Drama, Off-Broadway, ―Off-Off-Broadway‖, Black Theater

    and other experimental forms. Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Edward


    Modernism works

     Based on different social realities and influenced by different ideas and

    symbolism, surrealism, thoughts, Modernism has been made up of many facets

    expressionism, existentialism, stream of consciousness, Black Humor, the Theatre of

    the Absurd, and other minor trends.

    Hemingway main works:

    ; Three Stories and Ten Poems, 1923,

    ; In Our Time, 1925

    ; The Sun also Rises, 1926

    ; Men without Women, 1927

    ; A Farewell to Arms, 1929

    ; Green Hills of Africa, 1935,

    ; To Have and Have not, 1937 (change attitude and style)

    ; For Whom the Bell Tolls, 1940

    ; Across the River and into the Wood, 1950

    ; The old Man and the Sea, 1952,

    ; A Moveable Feast, 1962,

    ; Islands in the Stream, 1970.

     The Old Man and the Sea (1952)

    ; Settings

     On land, the action takes place in a small village on the northern coast of

    Cuba, not far from the capital city of Havana. At sea, the action takes place

    north of Cuba in the Gulf of Mexico. The time is the late 1940's. ; Main Characters

    Santiago: a proud old fisherman who refuses to yield to old age and bad luck.

    He is an expert fisherman who knows well the sea and its creatures.

    Manolin :a boy who loves the old man and never loses his faith in him.

; Writing Style

    . Hemingway’s style–developed when he worked as a newspaper reporter and

    orrespondent early in his careeris simple and compact, with short sentences c

    and paragraphs devoid of verbosity. However, this straightforward style often

    conveys complex themes. In the The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway uses

    the third-person-limited point of view in some sections and third-person

    omniscient in others. The book won Hemingway a Pulitzer Prize and later

    helped win him a Nobel Prize.


    ; (1) The sea: a challenge, the universe, the life;

    ; (2) the Marlin: an enemy ;

    ; (3) the sharks: the cruel vicissitudes of life;

    ; (4) Manolin: faith, hope, love, loyalty.


    Although the old man seemingly fails once the sharks steal his fish, they cannot take away the fact that Santiago -- the primary target for the jest and pity of other fishermen -- has done the unthinkable by staying with and catching a fish "bigger than he had ever heard of" (63). According to the "Hemingway Code," based on principles of courage and endurance, the old man has actually triumphed in spite of his loss. In spite of not successfully bringing the fish back, Santiago fights with dignity -- first to land the marlin, then to protect his fish from the sharks -- and in doing so asserts his humanity.

    ; Santiago endures and successfully survives his supreme ordeal, fighting the

    timeless battle of man vs. fate, with honor by remaining resilient in the face of

    triumph and tragedy

    Iceberg theory .

    ; The emphasis on submerging information is the most revolutionary part of

    Hemingways theory of the short story.

    ; If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit

    things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will

    have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. ; the dignity of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.

    (Death in the Afternoon, p192)

    A Clean, Well-lighted Place

    American Romanticism

    1.Background: The rapid growth of population, the westward expansion and the

    spread of industrialism produced something of an economic boom and, with it, a

    tremendous sense of optimism and hope among the people.

    2.American Romanticism shared the general characteristics of European

    Romanticism. In spite of the strong foreign influence, American Romanticism

exhibited from the very outset distinct features of its own:

    Their subjects were often the national ideals of individualism and democracy,

    history, and frontier life of the new nation.

    puritan influence over American romantics was very noticeable 3.Representative writers

    Washington Irving Henry David Thoreau

    James Fenimore Cooper Nathaniel Hawthorne

    William Cullen Bryant Herman Melville

    Edgar Allan Poe Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Washington Irving

    American short story writer, essayist, poet, travel book writer, biographer, and

    columnist, Father of American Short Stories

    The Legend of Sleepy Hollow睡谷传说

     The sketch book见闻札记

     A collection of essays, stretches writer to achieve international

     success. and stories, including Rip Van

    .温克尔),became Winkle‖(里普.

    the first book by an American

    Character analysis

    Rip Van Winkle:

    easy-going, loveable, hen-pecked, good-natured,

     nice to all the ladies except his wife.

     The great error in Rip’s composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of

    profitable labor. In a word, Rip was ready to attend to anybody’s business but his own;

    as to doing family duty, and keeping his farm in order, he found it impossible.

     He would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound His wife

     always complaining, picking, trying to find fault with Winkle. (the representative of European style, the traditional force, a lot of regulation)


     Casual, less-educated, cherishing freedom


     conservative, gentlemanlike, good-mannered, and well-educated. Irving’s style

    First, wrote to amuse and entertain, avoided moralizing说教 as much as possible

    Secondly, he was good at enveloping覆盖 his stories in a Gothic and supernatural


    Thirdly, his characters are vivid and true so that they tend to linger回荡 in the mind

    of the reader.

    Fourthly, the humor filled with the very texture of his writings is so effective that

the readers can not help laughing while reading him.

     Lastly, Irving’s language is so refined and musical that some people read Irving just for the music of his language

The literature of Realism


    Henry James (1843-1916)

    Psychological realistic writer, short-story writer, playwright, critic, essayist (22 novels

    and over 100 short stories and some critical commentaries). the forefather of literature of Stream of Consciousness and modern novel

    criticism. the first theorist of fiction

    Together with Howells, Mark Twain, James contributed to American realistic novels Main works: 3 stages

    ; 1. 1865-1881, international novel. The American 1877, Daisy Miller, 1878,

    The Portrait of a Lady, 1881.

    ; 2. 1885-1897, more English, focusing on realistic social life. The Bostonians

    1886, (a satire account of female emancipation in Boston).

    ; 3. 1895-1916, Major phase: on international theme, develop mature style, on

    peoples psychology when confronted with ethical problems. The

    Ambassadors, 1903, The Golden Bowl 1904.

    Mark Twain1835-1910

    Realistic novelist, humorist, first American writer who used the American vernacular language.本国语

    ; Major Works:

    The Innocents Abroad《傻子国外旅游记》1869

    A Million-Pound Note 《百万英镑》

    Running for Governor《竞选州长》

    Life on the Mississippi 《密西西比河上的生活》1883

    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 《哈克贝利.芬历险记》1884

    ; “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called

    Huckleberry Finn. Its the best book weve had.


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 《汤姆.索亚历险记》1876

    Main Characters

Protagonist主要人物: Huckleberry Finn

    Antagonist对抗: Society and its rules and laws

    Huckleberry Finn Loyal, cheerful, fair-minded Missouri boy. Because his father abuses him, he runs away and teams with an escaped slave during many adventures on a raft ride down the Mississippi. Huck is the narrator of the novel. Jim The escaped slave who joins Huck. He is a simple, loyal, and trusting man whose common sense helps guide Huck.

Pap Finn Hucks drunken, abusive father.

    Widow Douglas woman who takes Huck into her home.

    Miss Watson The widows sister and owner of Jim.

    Tom Sawyer Hucks friend. He likes to stage mock adventures of the kind he reads about in books.

    Judge Thatcher Judge who looks out for Hucks welfare.

    ; Themes

    Theme 1

     All human beings are free, independent, and equal members of society. The

    novel celebrates the spirit of freedom and independence through Huck and Jim, two escapees from oppression.

    Theme 2

    The moral law takes the place of government law. By protecting the black slave

    Jim, Huck breaks man-made law and feels guilty. But he refuses to turn Jim in because his moral instincts tell him he is doing the right thing. Theme 3

    Wisdom comes from the heart, not the head. The educated characters in the novel

    are often deeply flawed in some way--prejudiced, bound to tradition. However, the

    uneducatednamely, Huck and Jimexhibit a natural, intuitive understanding of the world. Though ignorant in many ways, they are wise in the ways that count, relying on conscience, common sense, and compassion to guide them.

    Theme 4

    A little child shall lead them. Twain probably did not have this Bible quotation (Isaiah: Chapter 11, Verses 6-9) in mind when he portrayed Huck as a boy who had a better grasp of morality than the often corrupt civilization around hima boy worth

    imitating for his virtues.

    Theme 5

    The love of money is the root of all evil. This Bible quotation (First Epistle of Paul to Timothy: Chapter 6, Verse 10) also sums up a major theme in the novel. It is the love of money, Hucks, that prompts Pap Finn to gain custody of Huck. It is the love of money that motivates the Duke and the King to work their scams. And, most important of all, it is the love of money that makes southerners retain the institution of slavery.

    American women writers

     Emily DickinsonWilla Cather

     Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton

     Katherine Anne Porter, Joyce Carol Oates

     Alice Walker

     Toni Morrison:

     Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Sula,

     Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Jazz

    Amy Tan: The Joy Luck Club

Emily Dickinson


     1. Emily Dickinsons life and the common themes of her poems:

    religion ,immortality, life, death, love, friendship, marriage, nature,

    literature, music and art, etc.

    Because I Could Not Stop for Death

    Because I could not stop for Death----

    He kindly stopped for me--------

     The Carriage held but just Ourselves---

    And Immortality.

    We slowly droveHe knew no haste

    And I had put away

    My labor and My Leisure too,

    For His Civility

    We passed the School, where Children strove

    At Recessin the Ring

    We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain

    We passed the Setting Sun

    Or ratherHe passed Us

    The Dews drew quivering and chill

    For only Gossamer, my Gown

    My Tippetonly Tulle

    We paused before a House that seemed

    A Swelling of the Ground

    The Roof was scarcely visible

    The Cornicein the Ground

    Since then—‘tis Centuriesand yet

    Feels shorter than the Day

    I first surmised the Horses Heads

    Were toward Eternity Analysis and Commentary

    Because I Could Not Stop for Death reveals Emily Dickinsons calm acceptance of

    death. It is surprising that she presents the experience as being no more frightening

    than receiving a gentleman caller--in this case, her fiancé


     The overall theme of the poem is that death is not to be feared since it is a

    natural part of the endless cycle of nature. Her view of death may also reflect

    her personality and religious beliefs. On the one hand, as a spinster, she was

    somewhat reclusive and introspective, tending to dwell on loneliness and

Report this document

For any questions or suggestions please email