American Romanticism in Literature Outline

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					                              AMERICAN ROMANTICISM in LITERATURE

Historical Background:
    - American Revolution, authors wrote in the service of politics
    - 1849 – California gold rush
    - 1846 – 1848 – Mexican War
    - 1815 – 50 – Westward expansion

    - Reaction to neoclassicism
    - Primitivism, love in nature, interest in the medieval past, mysticism, individualism
    - Romantic criticism of the society
    - Europe: late 18th century
    - America: beginning of the 19th century
    - Nature – source of inspiration, for European readers something exotic
    - Cult of primitivism => Indians (Cooper)
    - Concept of irrationality, irrational behavior (Poe)
    - New York was a cultural center of American writers – its writers were called
       KNICKERBOCKERS, their name taken from a book by W. Irving, they published Knickerbocker


    -   Studied law, later interested in literature, famous also in Europe
    -   He was not original in his topics, he adopted various legends, myths (from Germany, Spain)
        => criticized for that

   - THE SKETCH BOOK (of Geoffrey Crayon Gent.)=> About 30 stories and sketches. Setting of
      sketches in England – about literature, habits, English past (John Bull), several texts set in
      America => were different – important for development of American short story. Humor
   - In the S.B. => also RIP VAN WINKLE and THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW – set in Hudson
      Valley (Irving lived there) and Catskill Mountains
   - Some of stories – connected with Geoffrey Crayon – connecting feature
      => recorded Spanish history
   - A HISTORY OF NY, BY DIEDRICH KNICKERBOCKER => inspired by Dutch settling to America,
      colonization of the state of NY. Dutch culture, partly based on facts, partly on imagination.
      Partly parody on their culture
   - THE TOUR OF THE PRAIRIES – about traveling which Irving liked
   - TALES OF THE TRAVELLER – about his traveling in Europe
   - ASTORIA – one of the 1st American tycoons = Johan Jacob Astor (German origin, sold fur, in
      Washington town called Astoria)


    -   Created the myth of the American west
    -   Sometimes called “American Walter Scott” (=> like Scott he wrote adventure stories filled
        with historical details.)
    -   His works contain also criticism of American society; Cooper was also one of the first writers
        of sea stories in America. These novels have elements of both romanticism and realism. The
        author is a romantic when he describes the sudden changes of weather, the beauty of the
        ocean, and the mysterious ships and seamen. The realism comes from cooper’s personal
        knowledge of the sea, since he used to be a sailor for some time.
    -   Describes such American character types as the pioneer, the Indian and the Yankee sailor


                                 AMERICAN ROMANTICISM in LITERATURE

       -> Features: 1) stereotypes in plot 2) some improbable situations 3) schematic dialogues – often
       very awkward 4) very touchy, moving description of nature, depiction of fights, narrow escapes
       5) feeling of suspense

       -   THE SPY – novel, set in the period of American Revolution, about man, who sells things to
           both sides (to British and American camps), he is a tragic character, since almost everyone
           knows he is a spy but they don’t know which side he is spying for – actually, he is spying for
           the Americans, but almost nobody knows it)
       -   THE PILOT – novel, set on the sea, inspired by novel of Walter Scott
       -   LEATHERSTOCKING TALES – 5 novels, main character is Natty Bumppo, who is nicknamed
           Leatherstocking, he doesn’t want to live among “white”, he lives somewhere between the
           world of white people and world of Indians, he is their friend, but is not Indian, is alone.
           This book is also about the race conflict – especially between whites and Indians. In general,
           Cooper divides Indians into two types. His “good” ones - like Uncas and Chingachgook
           (Natty’s best friend) – are loyal and affectionate. Some critics say that they are too good
           and that Cooper saw them as “noble savages”. The “bad” ones are filled with evil and
           cannot be trusted. => Cooper created new model – all his novels have one white positive and
           one negative character, the same with Indians.
       -   THE PIONEERS – the theme of American wilderness, 1st novel of that L. tales
       -   THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS – Natty known as Hawkeye (Sokolí oko) – about his traveling
           with Chingachgook, Uncas – colonial wars between the French and English, some Indians
           were French, some English => Indians misused. Characters: Hawkeye (white +), villain (of
           French origin, white -), Chingachgook (Indian +), Magwa (Indian -), 2 ladies – Alice (blond +),
           Cora (partly negative, dark hair) => Cooper accepted Th. Hardy’s conception => dark woman
           – passionate, blond girl – innocent, pure
       -   THE PRAIRIE – Natty very old, novel ends with his death, but readers made him alive – in the
           5th part THE PATHFINDER (stopař)
       -   THE DEERSLAYER – shows Natty as a young man
       -   Chronologically the order of the 5 novels should be rearranged:
       -   1. the Deerslayer
       -   2. – 3. The Last of the Mohicans, The Pathfinder
       -   4. The Pioneers
       -   5. The Prairie (Natty already an old man)

       -   Cooper after his return from Europe became a political conservative. His family had been
           part of the farming aristocracy and he wrote the “LITTLEPAGE (manuscript) TRILOGY” to
           support this group. It consisted of 3 novels, => THE CHAINBEARER, SATANSTOE, THE
           REDSKINS. They are set in Northern State of NY, depicts relations between landlords and
           tenant farmers.
       -   THE CRATER – ideal society established on island in the Pacific Ocean – utopian


       -   Poems with American topics and settings
       -   Love and nature lyrics, nature the key to the truth
       -   One of the 1st nature poets in American literature
       -   He agreed with the Romantic poets of Europe (such as England’s Wordsworth) that the new
           poetry should not simply copy the forms and ideas of the ancient classics. Rather, it should
           break away from the old patterns and it shoul help the reader to understand the world
           through his emotions.
   - His 1st great poem: THANATOPSIS. The title is taken from Greek language (“way to death”),
      expresses st like meditation on death. Written in blank verse. Death – last stage of our life,
      the end of our existence, st natural (even when his parents were Puritans – no life after
   - Wrote also religious poems: TO A WATERFOWL: about nature, God, who controls everything
   - Some poems didactical, very melodious

                        AMERICAN ROMANTICISM in LITERATURE

-   Strongly x slavery, in some poems called for real democracy – THE DEATH OF LINCOLN + THE


Description: A study outline on Romanticism in American Literature. Historical background, three most influential authors of that period - Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, and William Cullent Bryant.