OF THE 17TH, 18TH, AND 19TH CENTURIES
Dr. Charles W. Carter
I. THE LITERATURE OF COLONIAL AMERICA
A. Early Colonial Writers
1. English Heritage
2. Captain John Smith
3. The Pilgrims (Separatists) of Plymouth (1620) and The Puritans of
Massachusetts Bay (1628): A Contrast
B. 17th-Century American Literature
1. The "Plain Style" of the Puritans: General Characteristics
2. Moral Purpose of Puritan Writing: Sermons, Biographies, Narratives
(William Bradford, Mary Rowlandson)
C. American Poetry Before 1765
1. Two Categories
a. That Written to be Memorized: Bay Psalm Book , The Day
of Doom 
b. That Written to Dignify Important Occasions
2. ANNE BRADSTREET (1612-1672), The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up
in America (1650)
3. EDWARD TAYLOR (c.1642-1729), God's Determinations Touching His
Elect and 217 Preparatory Meditations
a. Metaphysical Characteristics
b. Artistic Achievements
II. EARLY AMERICAN LITERATURE: THE 18TH CENTURY
A. Travel Journals, Diaries, and Autobiographies
1. Secular Tendencies: Sarah Kimble Knight, William Byrd II, Benjamin
2. Spiritual Tendencies: John Woolman & Jonathan Edwards
B. 18th-Century American Poetry
1. NeoClassical School of the Connecticut Wits
2. Religious Poetry: Phillis Wheatley
3. Transitional Poets: Philip Freneau and William Cullen Bryant
C. Trends in the Development of the American Novel
1. Fiction of Sentiment and Sensibility
a. William Hill Brown, The Power of Sympathy (1789)
b. Susanna H. Rowson, Charlotte Temple (1791)
c. Hannah W. Foster, The Coquette
2. Fiction Imitating Gothic Romances: CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN,
Wieland (1798), Ormond (1799), Arthur Mervyn (1799), and Edgar
3. Fiction Imitating Mystery/Propaganda Novels: HUGH HENRY
BRACKENRIDGE, Modern Chivalry (1815)
4. Fiction Imitating Social, Domestic Novels and Historical Novels: JAMES
FENIMORE COOPER, Precaution (1820), The Spy (1821), The
Leatherstocking Tales [The Pioneers (1823), The Last of the Mohicans
(1826), The Praries (1827), The Pathfinder (1840), and The Deerslayer
(1841)]--Natty Bumppo & Chingachgook
D. The American Short Story: WASHINGTON IRVING, The Sketchbook (1819)
III. AMERICAN LITERATURE OF THE 19TH CENTURY (1829-1865):
THE AMERICAN RENAISSANCE
A. New England: Changing Concepts of God and Man
1. From Calvinism to Unitarianism: A Contrast
2. American TRANSCENDENTALISM
a. Transcendental Club (1836-44) and The Dial (ed. 1840-42
Margaret Fuller & 1842-44 Ralph Waldo Emerson))
b. Relation to Unitarianism
3. The Transcendentalist Views of EMERSON and THOREAU
4. The Opposing Views of HAWTHORNE and MELVILLE
B. American Prose (1829-1865)
1. Philosophical Prose: RALPH WALDO EMERSON (1803-1882), Nature
(1836), Essays (First Series, 1841), Essays (Second Series, 1844)
2. Philosophical, Symbolic Prose: HENRY DAVID THOREAU (1817-
1862), WALDEN (1854)
3. Autobiographical Prose: FREDERICK DOUGLASS (1817-1895),
Narrative of the Life of . . . An American Slave (1845)
C. American Fiction (1829-1865)
1. EDGAR ALLAN POE (1809-1849), Tales of the Grotesque and
a. Major Influences and Theory of Fiction
b. Artistic Achievements
2. NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE (1804-1864), Twice-Told Tales
(1837), The Scarlet Letter (1850)
a. Major Influences on Hawthorne's Fiction
b. Major Themes and Artistic Achievements
3. HERMAN MELVILLE (1819-1891), Moby-Dick (1855), Piazza Tales
a. Comparison/Contrast to Hawthorne
b. Major Themes and Artistic Achievements
D. American Poetry (1829-1865)
1. EDGAR ALLAN POE, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Other Poems (1829)
The Raven and Other Poems (1845)
2. The American Bard: WALT WHITMAN (1819-1892), Leaves of Grass
(1855 to 1892)
a. General Characteristics: "Song of Myself"
b. Artistic Innovations and Achievements
3. Toward The Modern: EMILY DICKINSON (1830-1886), Poems by
Emily Dickinson (1890), The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (ed.
Thomas H. Johnson, 1960)
a. Contrast to Whitman
b. General Thematic Concerns
c. Artistic Innovations and Achievements
SUGGESTED FURTHER READINGS
17th, 18th, and 19th-Century American Literature
Dr. Charles W. Carter
Professor of English
I. EARLY AMERICAN LITERATURE
Miller, Perry. The New England Mind: From Colony to Province, 1961.
---. The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century. 1961.
Miller, Perry and Thomas H. Johnson, Eds. The Puritans. 2 vols., 1938.
Murdock, Kenneth B. Literature and Theology in Colonial New England, 1949.
Parrington, Vernon L. The Colonial Mind (Vol I of Main Currents in American Thought),
Spiller, Robert E. and others. Literary History of the United States. Revised 3rd Edition,
Tyler, Moses Coit. A History of American Literature During the Colonial Time.
Revised Edition, 1962.
Piercy, Josephine. Anne Bradstreet, 1965.
Stanford, Ann. Anne Bradstreet: The Worldly Puritan, 1974.
--- and Pattie Cowell, Eds. Critical Essays on Anne Bradstreet, 1983.
Grabo, Norman S. Edward Taylor. Revised Edition, 1988.
Early American Literature. Special Taylor Issue, 4 (Winter 1969-1970).
Miller, Perry. Jonathan Edwards, 1959.
Amacher, Richard E. Benjamin Franklin, 1962.
Granger, Bruce I. Benjamin Franklin: An American Man of Letters, 1980.
Van Doren, Carl. Benjamin Franklin, 1938.
Andrews, William D. "Philip Freneau and Francis Hopkinson." American
Literature, 1764-1789, The Revolutionary Years, 1977.
Leary, Lewis. That Rascal Freneau: A Study in Literary Failure, 1941.
Browdin, Stanley, Ed. The Old and New World Romanticism of Washington
Williams, Stanley T. The Life of Washington Irving. 2 vols., 1935.
Hedges, William L. Washington Irving: An American Study, 1965.
JAMES FENIMORE COOPER
Walker, Warren S., Ed. Leatherstocking and the Critics: A Collection of Essays,
Spiller, Robert E. Fenimore Cooper, Critic of His Times, 1931.
WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT
Peckham, Howard H. Gotham Yankee: A Biography of William Cullen Bryant,
II. THE AMERICAN RENAISSANCE
Feidelson, Charles, Jr. Symbolism in American Literature. 1953.
Lewis, R. W. B. The American Adam: Innocence, Tragedy, and Tradition in the
Nineteenth Century, 1955.
Matthiessen, F. O. American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson
and Whitman, 1941. The definitive study of the period.
Stovall, Floyd, Ed. Eight American Authors: A Review of Research and Criticism,
Pearce, Roy Harvey. The Continuity of American Poetry, 1961.
Waggoner, Hyatt H. American Poetry from the Puritans to the Present.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Hopkins, Vivian C. Spires of Form: A Study of Emerson's Aesthetic Theory,
Konvitz, Milton and Stephen E. Whicher, Eds. Emerson: A Collection of Critical
Essays, 1962. Paul, Sherman. Emerson's Angle of Vision: Man and Nature
in American Experience, 1952.
Rusk, Ralph L. The Life of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1949.
HENRY DAVID THOREAU
Harding, Walter. The Days of Henry Thoreau, 1965.
---, Ed. Thoreau: A Century of Criticism, 1954.
---. A Thoreau Handbook, 1959.
Paul, Sherman, Ed. Thoreau: A Collection of Critical Essays, 1962.
Crews, Frederick C. The Sins of the Fathers: Hawthorne's Psychological Themes,
Fogle, Richard Harter. Hawthorne's Fiction: The Light and the Dark, 1964.
Hoeltje, Hubert H. Inward Sky: The Mind and Art of Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1962.
Kaul, A. N., Ed. Hawthorne: A Collection of Critical Essays, 1966.
Male, Roy R. Hawthorne's Tragic Vision, 1957.
Pearce, Roy Harvey, Ed. Hawthorne Centenary Essays, 1964.
Stewart, Randall. Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1948.
Waggoner, Hyatt H. Hawthorne: A Critical Study, 1963.
Arvin, Newton. Herman Melville, 1950.
Chase, Richard. Herman Melville, 1949.
---, Ed. Melville: A Collection of Critical Essays, 1962.
Fogle, Richard Harter. Melville's Shorter Tales, 1968.
Franklin, H. Bruce. The Wake of the Gods: Melville's Mythology, 1963.
Howard, Leon. Herman Melville, 1951.
Newan, Lea B. V. A Reader's Guide to the Short Fiction of Herman Melville,
Ricks, Beatrice and Joseph D. Adams, Eds. Herman Melville: A Reference
Bibliography, 1900-1972, 1973.
Stern, Milton R. The Fine Hammered Steel of Herman Melville, 1957.
Thompson, Lawrence. Melville's Quarrel with God, 1952.
EDGAR ALLAN POE
Carlson, Eric W., Ed. Critical Essays on Edgar Allan Poe, 1987.
Davidson, E. H. Poe: A Critical Study, 1957.
Hoffman, Daniel G. Poe, Poe, Poe, 1972.
Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography, 1941.
Anderson, Charles R. Emily Dickinson's Poetry: Stairway of Surprise, 1960.
Chase, Richard. Emily Dickinson, 1951.
Johnson, Thomas H. Emily Dickinson: An Interpretive Biography, 1955.
Juhasz, Suzanne, Ed. Feminist Critics Read Emily Dickinson, 1983.
Pollak, Vivian R. Dickinson: The Anxiety of Gender, 1984.
Sewall, Richard B. The Life of Emily Dickinson. 2 vols, 1974.
Whicher, George F. This Was A Poet: A Critical Biography of Emily Dickinson,
Allen, Gay Wilson. The Soliary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman,
---. The New Walt Whitman Handbook, Revised 1986.
Chase, Richard. Walt Whitman Reconsidered, 1955.
Erkkila, Betsy, ed. Walt Whitman and the Critics: 1900-1978, 1980.
---. Whitman the Political Poet, 1988.
Matthiessen, F. O. "Walt Whitman." American Renaissance, 1941.
Miller, James E., Jr. A Critical Guide to "Leaves of Grass, 1957.
Outline on American Literature, 1865-1914
Dr. Linda Tate
I. The American Novel, 1865-1914
A. American novels prior to 1865 have commonly been considered romances which
emphasize allegory, myth, and symbolism (e.g., the work of Cooper, Hawthorne, and
B. After the Civil War, American writers turn more of their attention to the realistic
novel with its emphasis on the growing American middle class and on the settling
of American cities and outer regions (e.g., the work of Twain, Howells, James,
Wharton, and Cather).
C. Four areas dominate int his period: womens literature; realism; local color fiction;
II. Womens Literature
A. Prior to the Civil War, womens involvement in literature had been markedly on the
rise--both as writers and as readers. Although Hawthorne had deemed them the
damned mob of scribbling women, authors such as Fanny Fern (Ruth Hall), Harriet
Beecher Stowe (Uncle Toms Cabin), Susan Warner (Wide, Wide World), Maria
Susanna Cummins (The Lamplighter), E.D.E.N. Southworth (The Hidden Hand),
Louisa May Alcott (Little Women), and Augusta Evans (St. Elmo) enjoyed immense
popularity. These novels are known as sentimental novels or domestic novels
and were largely written by women for women. They dominated the U.S. market
from the 1840s until the 1880s.
B. After the Civil War, women continued to make significant contributions to American
literature (see especially Local Color Fiction, below). Writers such as Sarah Orne
Jewett, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Kate Chopin, and Willa Cather helped to push the
novel in new directions, although their efforts were often viewed pejoratively.
A. Social Context
1. Shifting population: country to city, East to Midwest and West, railroads
crisscrossing America, influx of immigrants
2. Increasing industrialization, problems with exploited labor, crowded and
unsanitary living conditions
3. The massively rich vs. the massively poor
4. Social problems increasingly at the fore (womens rights, African-American
fight for civil rights, labor problems, sweat shops, overcrowded tenement
B. The Literature of Argument
1. Writers increasingly believed they had a duty to expose and confront social
issues facing the masses of people.
2. More and more forms of literature being developed: fiction, poetry, drama,
history, sociology, psychology, and philosophy became vehicles for effecting
C. Characteristics of Realism
1. Trueness of detail: specific and local details; local color; exaggerated dialect;
full dialogue; the attempt to capture the world as it is; focus on the immediate
world, the here and now; specific action with verifiable consequences; and the
grounding of the text in the real world.
2. Typical characters: limited character types; normal experience; conflict between
the individual and society; focus on the common man or the middle-class;
socially determined characters; typical characters placed in typical situations in
order to observe their reactions.
3. Objective presentation: avoidance of moralistic or didactic preaching; teaching
of lessons through presentation of the objective, external truth; the showing of
issues facing the masses of people by capturing the world as it is; scientific,
rational approach; avoidance of emotionalism and sentimentality; truthful
treatment of material; simple, natural, honest description; truth, sincerity,
and natural vigor (all phrases from William Dean Howells).
D. Key Figures in American Realism
1. William Dean Howells (1837-1920)
a. The most powerful figure of American letters during his lifetime
b. Editor of Atlantic Monthly and Harpers Monthly
c. Discovered and shaped the careers of several major writers (including
d. As a literary critic, editor, and publisher, Howells felt that fiction should
portray what he called the smiling aspects of life and thus played a
fairly censoring role in the shaping of literature at the time.
e. Author of The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885) and A Hazard of New
Fortunes (1890), among many other novels. Important for his role in
detailing the lives of the emerging middle class.
2. Henry James (1843-1916)
a. Another major figure in the development of realism, particularly
b. The Art of Fiction stands out as his most important piece of literary
criticism and theory, though he was quite prolific in this capacity. Used
his critical writing to work out a theory of realism, which defined the
novel as a personal, a direct impression of life which possesses the
sense of reality and the novelist as someone who has the capacity for
receiving straight impressions and who attempt[s] to render the look of
things, the look that conveys their meaning, to catch the colour, the relief,
the expression, the surface, the substance of the human spectacle (quotes
taken from The Art of Fiction).
c. Author of numerous short stories, such as Daisy Real Thing (1879),
The Aspern Papers (1888), and The Real Thing (1893).
d. Extremely important as the author of novels such as The Wings of the
Dove (1902), The Turn of the Screw, Roderick Hudson (1876), The
American (1877), Washington Square (1881), The Bostonians (1886), The
Princess Casamassima (1886), and, most importantly, The Portrait of a
3. Mark Twain (1835-1910)
a. A major figure in fusing the techniques and aims of realism and local color
b. His literary criticism includes such humorous essays as How to Tell a
Story (which emphasizes the difficulty of communicating the oral
tradition in a written medium) and Fenimore Coopers Literary
Offenses (which outlines Twains demand for verisimilitude and
c. A master craftsman of the American short story, with particular skill in the
area of the tall tale. See, for example, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of
Calaveras County (1865).
d. The author of two autobiographies, Old Times on the Mississippi (1875)
and Life on the Mississippi (1883).
e. The author of several novels, including The Innocents Abroad (1869),
Roughing It (1872), Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and
the Pauper (1882), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1889), Puddnhead
Wilson (1894), and the unfinished The Mysterious Stranger (1916).
f. Huck Finn stands out as one of the best American novels ever written,
debatably the single best American novel. Huck is the quintessential
American hero, an updated Natty Bumppo, the lone individual male
setting out to find himself, lighting out for the territory. Twain
objectively presents the events of the novel and the growing relationship
between Huck and the runaway slave Jim to make a point about a
problematic social issue. Although he warns us at the beginning of the
novel against finding a moral in the story, there is clearly one to be had,
but it is not one that is delivered through preaching, didacticism, or heavy-
handed allegory. Instead, as we get to know Huck and Jim, as we
eavesdrop on their conversations, as we see Hucks growing
understanding of Jim as a human being, we are challenged to consider how
we stereotype and interact with people different from us. Since its first
publication in the 1880s, Huck Finn has remained controversial and people
still argue about whether or not the book should be taught in schools and
should remain on library shelves. This would suggest that Twain still
strikes an uncomfortable chord with many readers and that hes admirably
fulfilling the realists most important goal: to expose social ills and
challenge readers to rethink their positions vis a vis these problems.
4. Edith Wharton
a. Write much in the tradition of Henry James
b. Focuses upon wealthy Americans and seeks to detail their lifestyles; her
works would be considered novels of manners
c. Key works include The House of Mirth (1905), Ethan Frome (1911), and
The Age of Innocence (1920)
IV. Local Color Fiction
A. Characteristics of Local Color Fiction
1. Details the speech, dialect, dress, mannerisms, habits of thought and topography
peculiar to a particular region.
2. Local color fiction used many of the same techniques as realism but tended to be
heavier in its use of humor, sentimentalism, and dialect.
3. Primarily a movement of short stories rather than novels (though there are some
famous exceptions such as Twains Huck Finn, Chopins The Awakening, and
Jewetts The Country of the Pointed Firs).
B. Status of Local Color Fiction
1. Local color fiction is often considered a lesser literary movement, and such
terms as local color and regional are often used to define an authors
2. In some cases, local color fiction exists primarily to portray the people and life
of a particular geographical area. Not surprisingly, this movement develops at a
time when the American nation is expanding and thus at a time when Americans
need information about unfamiliar areas (such as the South, the Appalachian
Mountains, the West and the Midwest, the Creole/Cajun area, rural New
England, and so on).
3. More recently, feminist critics have begun to suggest that local color writers
(who were primarily women) were engaged in creating a serious literary
movement which asked its readers to reconceptualize what they viewed as
important and worthwhile in literature (asking them, for example, to view
domestic and daily affairs as important enough to be at the center fiction).
Jewetts The Country of the Pointed Firs is an important work to consider in
C. Key Writers of Local Color Fiction
1. Rebecca Harding Davis (West Virginia), whose story Life in the Iron-Mills
(1861) should be viewed as a transition into local color and realism (away from
sentimental fiction and romance).
2. Mark Twain (Midwest and South), whose stories and some novels can be
considered local color to a great degree (e.g., The Jumping Frog of Calaveras
County and Huck Finn).
3. Kate Chopin (Louisiana), whose stories are part of this movement (e.g., Bayou
Folk ) and whose most famous work, The Awakening (1899), blends
elements of local color, realism, and naturalism.
4. Sarah Orne Jewett (Maine), whose novel The Country of the Pointed Firs
(1896) stands as the preeminent example of serious, extended local color writing
and as a feminist classic.
5. Mary Wilkins Freeman (New England), whose stories such as were collected in
such volumes as A Humble Romance (1887) and A New England Nun (1891).
These stories heavily reflect local color writing.
6. Charles Chesnutt (African-American South), whose stories of Uncle Julius (as
collected in The Conjure Woman ) challenged and revised the plantation
tales of Joel Chandler Harris (The Uncle Remus Tales).
7. Bret Harte (West), whose collection The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other
Sketches (1870) brought the emerging Wild West to life.
8. Hamlin Garland (Midwest), whose local color writing is included in such
volumes as Main-Travelled Roads (1891) and A Son of the Middle Border
9. Mary Noilles Murfree (penname Charles Egbert Craddock, Appalachian), whose
short story collection In the Tennessee Mountains (1884) stands as the first
important written text from Appalachia.
10. Willa Cather (Nebraska and the Dakotas), whose novels O Pioneers! (1913), My
Antonia (1918), The Song of the Lark (1915), and A Lost Lady (1923) celebrate
the Plains and mourn their destruction as the railroad stretches across the United
States. These novels borrow elements from local color and realism but could
probably be more appropriately seen as forerunners to modernism.
A. Characteristics of Naturalism
1. Very difficult to pin down, both in terms of technique/intent and in terms of
dating (which could be stated as starting int he late nineteenth century and
continuing well into the twentieth century).
2. A basic definition of naturalism: realism infused with pessimistic determinism.
Like realists and local colorists, naturalists insist on documenting everyday life
in true detail but do so with much more insistence on the role of such forces as
heredity, society, environment, and so on.
3. Expanding this definition, we find that the naturalists tend to focus on the
lowest manifestations of the common man, with emphasis on the extraordinary
and excessive in human nature and with the foregrounding of acts of violence
and passion which involve sexual adventure or bodily strength and which
culminate in desperate moments and violent death (quotes from Donald Pizer).
(It should be noted, however, that many works from this period--realist and
naturalist--present bleak endings of death, suicide, and insanity. See, for
example, realist works such as Chopins The Awakening, Jamess Daisy
Miller, and Charlotte Perkins Gilmans short story The Yellow Wallpaper.
See such naturalist works as Dreisers Sister Carrie, Steinbecks The Grapes of
Wrath, and Wrights Native Son.)
4. Naturalists set their novels in the increasingly bleak, dirty, violent, and
industrialized world of the late nineteenth century. Although characters in such
novels might search for some transcendent truth beyond their brutish and harsh
existences, the pessimistic determinism of naturalism almost always makes it
impossible for them to do so. What you find in naturalist novels is an
overwhelming emphasis on the bleak, harrowing, violent aspects of modern life.
See such works as Dreisers Sister Carrie, Cranes Maggie: Girl of the Streets,
Steinbecks The Grapes of Wrath, Wrights Native Son, Norriss The Octopus,
Sinclairs The Jungle.
B. Key Figures in Nineteenth-Century Naturalism
1. Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945), whose novel Sister Carrie (1900) stands out as
one of the true naturalist classics. Reading Sister Carrie would be a good
introduction to naturalism.
2. Stephen Crane (1871-1900), whose novel The Red Badge of Courage (1895) is
a classic statement of naturalism and whose other works (such as The Open
Boat  and Maggie: Girl of the Streets ) bring to fictional life many
of his experiences and observations as a journalist.
3. Upton Sinclair (1878-1968), whose novel The Jungle (1906), about the meat-
packing industry in Chicago, is a prime example of the literature of
argument, an attempt to expose the social ills facing masses of people.
4. Jack London (1876-1916), whose novel The Call of the Wild (1903) could be
considered naturalism in its purest essence.
5. Frank Norris (1870-1902), whose novels McTeague (1899) and The Octopus
(1901) are masterpieces of degradation and despair, the octopus representing
the transcontinental railroad system which Norris felt was squeezing Americans
C. Naturalism in the Twentieth Century (after 1920 or so)
1. Sinclair Lewiss Babbitt (1922) might be considered a naturalist treatment of
the emerging middle-class businessman and the harrowing narrowness of his
2. John Dos Passoss U.S.A. Trilogy (collected 1938) is a sweeping look at the
encroachment of modern life and a representative work of 1930s documentary-
3. John Steinbecks The Grapes of Wrath (1939), which looks at the plight of
Okies forced to move from Oklahoma to California in search of migrant farm
4. Richard Wrights Native Son (1940) and Black Boy (1945), which look with a
harsh, unflinching eye at the plight of African-Americans in the modern United
5. Modernist writers such as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Saul
Bellow are also influenced by naturalism to a great degree, as is dramatist