American literature

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Autor: studak
Typ práce: Maturita
Dátum: 28.01.2012
Jazyk: Angličtina
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American literature
American literature is most read in the world and has many famous writers, but it isn’t as old as English literature. It roots date back to the 1st colonist in the 17th century.
Captain John Smith – wrote about his explorations
Religious writings – religious both in content and the style (sermons, theological works, religious poems)
PuritansBay Psalm Book – the 1st book published in American colonies
  William Bradford – History of Plymouth plantation
  John Winthrop – A Model of Christian Charity (sermon about ideals of Christian community)
REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD (Age of newspapers)
Benjamin Franklin – writer, printer, diplomat, scientist, he initiated project for the 1st public library, his autobiography isn’t finished. (Invented lightning rod)
Thomas Paine – writer, journalist, political thinker
  Common sense – pamphlet, which urged the declaration of independence
Thomas Jefferson – the 3rd American president
  Declaration of independence – Jefferson was the main co-author
James Fenimore Cooper
The Last of the Mohicans - The story takes a place during the Seven Years' War. One of the main characters is Natty, who tries to rescue the Mohican girls – Cora and Alice. He fails and the girls are killed. Main character is Uncas.
Writings are about the darker side of human experience, influenced by Gothic novels – unlikely events, strange characters, creating symbols.
Nathaniel Hawthorne – had Puritan ancestors, their cruelty, intolerance and pride influenced his writing – allegoric, describes the psychology of the characters, dark part of the human mind, symbols, interpretation is difficult.
  The Scarlet Letter – the 1st American symbolic novel. It takes place in a Puritan village. A young woman, named Hester Prynne, comes to America to settle down. She is waiting for her husband, but she falls in love with a puritan priest. She thinks that her husband died and she gets pregnant with a priest, but she doesn’t want to tell who the father of the baby is. As a punishment she has to wear a big scarlet letter on her bosom (A for Adultery) and she is ignored by the village. Her husband is killed and she marries the priest.
Herman Melville - was a sailor, then came back to America and started to write about his adventures. His heroes search for the truth, are dealing with contradiction which cannot be solved.
  Moby-Dick – Characters and their actions are symbolic. The main character is captain Ahab, who is hunting MD. MD is a sperm-whale and he’s blamed for all the bad things which happened in Ahab’s life. MB bit his leg and now he has an ivory leg. MD represents the evil in this book. At the end captain Ahab and most of the crew die, only Ishmael, the narrator, survives.
Edgar Allan Poe – wrote poetry stories, the creator of the mystery, detective and horror story. Drinking problems, depression, was in debt.
  The Pit and the Pendulum
  The Fall of the House of Usher
  The Raven (repeating phrase “nevermore”)
Walt Whitman – experimented with poetry, optimistic poetry
  Leaves of Grass – poem written in long lines without rhymes, leaves symbolize life
It shows life very realistically, problems are solved pragmatically, no coincidence, characters are industrial workers, ambitious businessmen, prostitutes.
Mark Twain – most popular, never finished the elementary school
  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – adventure book for children
  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – his masterpiece
  The Prince and the Pauper – children’s book
Part of realism, very pessimistic, not real. The philosophy of determinism – everybody is determined by society or nature, man has no free will. Characters are shaped by social, economic or natural forces.
Jack London
  The Call of the Wild – story of a sledge dog taken to Alaska, he become a leader of the pack of wolves
  Martin Eden – autobiographical novel, Martin want to become a successful writer and he succeed, but he isn’t able to come to terms with so much money and fame, starts to drink and gamble, he commits a suicide and dies poor.
  White Fang – Takes place during the Gold Rush on Alaska, describe the life of wolf called White Fang
Theodore Dreiser – purest naturalist among Americans, interested in the conflict of poor and rich world. He educated himself by reading.
  An American Tragedy – based on actual events. The main character is Clyde Griffith. He comes from very poor family, but he’s also very ambitious. He attends evening classes, starts to work in his uncle’s factory as a clerk and falls in love with Roberta. She is poor and works in a factory too. His uncle invites Clyde to parties, among high society and he likes it. When Roberta tells him she’s pregnant, he decides to get rid of her. He drowns her in a lake. In the end he’s caught and condemn to death on electric chair. Naturalistic message:  it’s not Clyde’s fault, society is to blame
Stephen Crane – he wanted to try everything before he wrote about it
  Maggie: A Girl of Streets – poor girl, determined by society, that’s why she must steal
  A Red Badge of Courage – takes place during the civil war, the main character is boy who is sent to war even he doesn’t want to. He’s determined by society.
  The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky – short story
A group of American writers living in Paris during 20s and 30s influenced by WWI. They lost their illusions and ideals; they weren’t able to find a suitable place in society. Primitive people were admired and one of the main themes was withdrawal from society.
Francis Scott Fitzgerald –writer of novels and short stories about wealthy people for whom everything is possible (from middle-class, was very gifted but his schoolmates were much richer then he was, he decided to earn money -> start writing, became one of the best young writers of the time, led bohemian life became an alcoholic, died as a poor homeless in Hollywood)
  The Side of Paradise – Novel about college life
  The Great Gatsby – it shows the modern American life. Gatsby falls in love with rich young girl Daisy and he believes he can marry her when he is rich, so he earns a lot of money as a smuggler in a time of prohibition, but Daisy never falls in love with him. Gatsby dies because of her.
  Tender is the Night - the novel taking place in Switzerland, about a psychiatrist, who fall in love with his patient
Ernest Hemingway - writer of novels and short stories, participated in both world wars and in Spanish civil war, committed a suicide (shot himself), won the Nobel Prize in Literature
Themes: man in a world of war, difficult life situations, relations between men and women
Style: short and simple sentences, minimum of narrator’s commentary and interpretation
  A Farewell to Arms – anti-war love story, tragic; describes love between American ambulance driver Frederick and English Nurse Catherine, Catherine dies in Switzerland
  For Whom the Bell Tolls – takes place during Spanish civil war; antimilitaristic; main character is Robert Jordan who he joins the group fighting against fascists. The novel describes the last 3 days of his life. The group retreat and Jordan, who was wounded in action, can’t go with them and he dies.
  The Old Man and the Sea – very short novel about Cuban fisherman Santiago, who catches a huge fish, but when he’s trying to bring it to the port, the sharks smell its blood and they eat the fish, even though Santiago fights them. Santiago brings home only the skeleton. Fate is hard, but people must never give up their dreams; motto: A man can be destroyed but never defeated.
William Faulkner – born in aristocratic family who lost its property in the Civil War – the family traditions and their way of life was lost in the war – topic of many of his novels. Experimented with multiple narrators (changes people who tell the story)
  Sartoris – describes the relations between a prominent aristocratic family from south, Sartorises and the local community. Sartorises can’t accept the situation after the fall of southern states.
  The Sound and the Fury – about moral and human fall/degeneration of a proud southern family Compsons – they are unhappy, father starts to drink because he’s unsatisfied with the order of the country, and his wife is mentally unbalanced
William Styron
Sophie’s choice – novel taking place during WWII, dealing with problems of Nazis concentration camps
John Steinbeck - writer of novels and short stories, the Nobel Prize in Literature, born in middle-class family, sent to university, didn’t finish it, many jobs, travelled a lot
Setting: his native California and the time of Great Depression
Theme: dignity of the poor and oppressed, tried to uncover the reasons of social injustice, protested against the tragic lives and treatment of poor workers in USA
  In Dubious Battle – a strike of fruit pickers against inhuman conditions
  Of Mice and Man – tragic story of 2 farm workers (friends), cowboy takes care of his mentally insane friend
  The Grapes of Wrath – his masterpiece describing the Depression, shows his interest in poor people. Story about Oklahoma farmers (Joad family) who have to leave their land because of droughts, they go to California to find a better life. The journey is hard and they find out, that California is full of homeless people and there’s no one to help them.
  East of Eden – story of the family from CV to WWI, about 2 brothers based on the biblical story of Cain and Abel (struggle between the good and evil in the man)
Upton Sinclair – from prominent family, well educated, journalist, novelist, social justice
  The Jungle – novel describes the horrible conditions in the slaughter-houses and meat packing industry in Chicago. Main character is polish immigrant.
A group of young writers, mostly university students, in the 50s. They protested against consumer way of life and literature. They created new trends in prose and poetry, hostile to society. San Francisco, NY.
Jack Kerouac
  On the Road – novel describes a lifestyle of the Beats
William Burroughs – controversial writer, gained inspiration while he was under effect of drugs, homosexual, accidentally shot himself
  Queer, Junkie, Naked Lunch
Tennessee (Thomas) Williams focused on disturbed emotions and sexuality, interested in Freud, many of his plays are autobiographical
  A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Arthur Miller – realistic plays, dealing with serious moral and social problems of his time
  Death of a Salesman – tragic story of Willy whose failures are caused by false dreams
  Theatre of the Absurd – the content and the form are absurd – makes no sense, incomprehensible
Edward Albee
 Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Jerome David Salinger
  The Catcher in the Rye – about young people’s conflict with society
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