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American literature is connected to the historical influences of our nation.
1. 1600’s - The first American settlers were focused on survival in a new land.
Their writings consisted mainly of __histories, diaries,journals________
There were no works of entertainment. In fact, it was illegal to read drama or fiction. The early
Puritans wrote some poems, but these poems had to express a __spiritual_ message..
2. 1700’s - After America was settled, Americans began to develop a sense of unity and purpose.
A period called the Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason, developed. Americans recognized
that human beings could arrive at truth by using their ____reason________________ Those who held this
belief were called ___Rationalists________________ Man’s reason was considered God’s special gift to
humanity, and reason enabled man to discover both scientific and spiritual truth.
During this time, America was ready for its independence from English rule.
Writings during this time period consisted of ___political speeches, scientific and medical
essays, biographies, autobiographies_
There were still no _novels or short stoeies
1800’s -
written in America.
During this time the first novel and short story were written.
Notes taken from pages 142-145:
During the 1800’s America was well-established. The Rationalists from the 1700’s saw the city as a place to
find ___success and self-relaization___. However, the Industrial Revolution brought disease, “squalid cities,
and wretched working conditions” (143)
A new school of thought called
To the Romantics, the city was a place of
____corruption, immoratlity, and death________
Romanticism does not mean the focus was on love. Romantics recognized that man’s reason his was
Romantic writers valued ___feeling (emotion)_____________ and ______intuition________________
over ___reason________________. “The romantics believed that man’s imagination was able to understand truths
that the rational mind could not. These truths were usually accompanied by powerful ___emotion____ and
associated with natural and unspoiled beauty. To the Romantic sensibility, the
___imagination__________________, ___spontaneity___, ___individual feeling___, and ____wild nature________
were of greater importance than reason, logic, planning, and cultivation” (143)
Overall, (see bold on page 144), the
Romantics “emphasized ___feeling_______________ and ___inyuition______________ over
___reason______________, sought wisdom in _____natural beauty________________________., and valued
___________poetry__________________ above all other works of the imagination” (144).
P. 144 “To the Romantic mind, ___poetry____________________ was the highest and most sublime embodiment
of the imagination.” Through poetry, man could express his emotions and contemplate the beauty and wisdom of
nature. The most commonplace object or event in nature could bring personal insight about life.
p. 149 – Fireside Poets – American poets still followed the literary traditions of the
_____Europeans_______because they did not want to appear like “unsophisticated hicks.” They followed the
standard meter and diction of the great English poets. The most popular group of poets became known as the
___Fireside___Poets because their poems were commonly “ read aloud at the fireside as family entertainment.”
The subject mater of these poems consisted of love, patriotism, nature, family, God and religion_____
Although these early poems were not unique and innovative, , the poems were comforting and easy to read.
p. 146 – Writers did create a uniquely American hero in their novels. (See bold on p. 146) – “American novelists
looked to ____westward expansion ____ and the development of the _____frontier_______ for inspiration….”
p. 147 – NOVELS: The American hero was different from the sophisticated European hero. Describe the
characteristics of the Romantic hero.
Innocent, unsophisticated, youthful, intuitive, loves nature, honorable
Romantic writers tried to “rise above the dull realities of everyday life” by tapping the imagination and the
emotion. Romantic writing will not have every characteristic associated with romanticism. In fact, Romanticism
took many forms.
* Some Romantics focused on the worth of the individual and his inner experience and intuition.
*Some writers glorified nature and saw it as a path to spiritual and moral growth.
*Some writers believed man was not inherently good but flawed. These writers were called
Dark Romanticists. Their writing is often filled with the supernatural and mysterious events ,characters, and
settings. Gothic writing, for example, began during the Romantic period.
*Some writers liked to explore legends and folk tales.
CHARACTERISTICS OF ROMANTIC WRITING (learn these and be able to apply to the stories and poem
we read. The stories and poems will not have all of these characteristics.)
Characters and plots are imaginative, unrealistic , idealized, and exaggerated
Stories often contain supernatural and/or mysterious events and characters
Romantics found inspiration in legends, myth, and folklore
Individual emotions and intuition are valued over reason.
Settings: exotic locales, the supernatural realm, picturesque (picture-perfect)
Unspoiled nature, the wilderness, and the frontier are idealized; the city is viewed
as corrupt..
The Romantic poets glorified nature; nature was a path to spiritual and
moral development.
Inflated words, overly descriptive passages