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									        The Eight Periods of
        American Literature
• Late 1500s-1620 Native American & Age of
• 1620-1720 The Puritan Age
• 1720-1820 The Age of Enlightenment
• 1820-1865 The Romantic Age
• 1865-1895 The Age of Realism
• 1895-1920 The Age of Naturalism
• 1920-1945 The Age of Disillusionment
• 1945-Present The Age of Anxiety
    Native American Literature
• Primarily oral-
   – Passed down from generation to generation through
     storytelling and performance
• Includes myths to explain creation and tales of
  heroes and tricksters
• Originally over 200 distinct groups and 500
• Collected in early 1900s by anthropologists
  (study human culture and growth over time)
• (Ever play telephone?)
   Emphasis in N.A. Literature
• Nature is “alive and aware”
• Kinship with animals, plants, heavenly
  bodies, the land, and the elements
• Humans and non-humans part of a sacred
• Humans do NOT have control over nature
  – must act to maintain a right relationship with
           Trickster Tales
• Mythic folk tales
• Often involved a coyote or fox. Why?
• Use animals or humans who engage in
  deceit, violence, and magic
• Explains features of the world
             First Explorers
• European’s traveled for
  – Adventure and recognition
  – To Find great riches
     • Had been to India and China
     • Looking for Trade
     • Slave Trade began with Portuguese in 1400’s
  – To find land-commissioned for their country
  – To avoid religious persecution
  – To spread Christianity
         Explorers and Slavery
• Travel to East Indies brought first African slaves
• Africans with most Spanish and Portuguese
• Indians were to vulnerable to European diseases
• English in Jamestown brought first African
  Indentured servants in 1600’s
   – By 1640, first American-built slave ship
           First Explorers
• Written Accounts-Historical & Personal
  – Christopher Columbus- for Spain
  – Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca
     -Spanish to Florida
  – William Bradford-Plymouth, MA
  – John Smith -VA
  – Olaudah Equiano-slave narrative
         Historical Narratives
•   Audience/Point of View
•   Details
•   Diction
•   Author’s Purpose
•   Primary and Secondary Sources
       Puritan Literature
• Devotional in nature
• Non-Fiction
• Sermons, essays, speeches,
  prayers, instructional;
  minimal poetry
• Anne Bradstreet, Edward
  Taylor, Jonathan Edwards
           Puritan Beliefs
• Predestination-an unfolding of God’s
• Elect-very few are saved and will go to
   – Knowledge of salvation from
     religious conversion
• Original Sin-human beings are
  inherently evil
   – Repentance (showing regret)
     depended on grace of God
   – Sin could never be completely erased-
     guilt and remorse were signs of
           Puritan Beliefs
• Divine Providence-belief God
  intervenes in daily life
• Hard Work-a life devoted to
  service and duty
  – Christian Commonwealth-each
    person puts the good of the group
    ahead of personal concerns
  – Education- primary way to fight
    atheism and instill the value of hard
           Puritan Beliefs
• Theocracy-the Bible was the
  supreme authority on Earth –
  including government
• Preoccupied with punishing and
  wiping out sinfulness even in
  other Christians
  – believed in witches as instrument of
    the devil
  – Intolerant of other viewpoints
  – Execution
  – Excommunication
           Puritan Beliefs
• Rules of morality were severe and
  – No play on Sundays
  – Relations between the sexes
  – Adultery, theft- punishable by death
  – Blasphemy and disrespect to one’s
    elders led to public whipping; the
    pillory on the gallows
• Faith in natural goodness-born without sin
• Helping others
• Possible to improve oneself-birth,
  economy, religion, politics
• Caused Writers to search into all aspects of
  the world
• Interested in the classics as well as the
• Optimism
• Sense of personal responsibility for success
• Writing celebrated nature rather than civilization
• Nature is beautiful, strange, and mysterious
• Romantics valued imagination/emotion over
  rationality and reason
• Emotion and Creativity more important in
  individual than reason
• Irrational depths of human nature explored
• Human potential for social growth
     Romantics: Friends to the
• Transcendentalism: literary, philosophical,
  spiritual movement during the Romantic Period
  (transcend: to move beyond or across)
• Perceived truth through intuition-a spiritual
  reality which goes beyond the empirical and
• Oversoul-universal soul shared by God,
  humanity and nature. Since humanity shares a
  soul with God and nature-man intuitively knows
  things about them
• Nature worlds are within our inner worlds-all is
  symbolic of the spirit
Romantic and Transcendentalist
•   Washington Irving
•   Edgar Allen Poe
•   Margaret Fuller
•   Ralph Waldo Emerson
•   Henry David Thoreau
•   Nathaniel Hawthorne
•   Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
• Literature moves away from nature,
  spirituality, and creativity
• Accurate and detailed portrayal actual life
  typical to middle and lower class
• Class is important
• Ugliness of war, poverty, and resulting sin
• Stephen Crane, Mark Twain, Ambrose
  Bierce, Bret Harte
• A branch of Realism
• Writers focused on how natural
  environment and instinct influence human
• Fate of humans is beyond an individual’s
• Humans are products of their environments
• Disillusionment-to become disenchanted or
  disappointed; to be stripped of an illusion
• Writing mimics confusion of the time
• Stream of Consciousness, free verse poetry
• Ending left for readers to figure out based on
  clues in the novel or short story
• Themes implied-reader feels uncertain about
• Reflects feelings of loss of innocence because
  reality of situation becomes clear
• Examples:
     Writers during the Age of
• F. Scott Fitzgerald
• William Faulkner
• Ernest Hemingway
        The Age of Anxiety
• Social changes for women, African-
  Americans, Japanese-Americans,
  Communist Americans
• J.D. Salinger, James Thurber, E.B. White,
  W. H. Auden, Tennessee Williams,
  Truman Capote, Arthur Miller

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