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American Literature What Does This Mean? Traditional American Literary Periods – Why? • We have a need to define. • We have a need to compartmentalize. • Because it is easy. Traditional American Literary Periods • Because we typically align the literature of a period with the history – events taking place at the time the works are composed…history! Traditional American Literary Periods • Significant events in the world tend to shape our mindset at the time, which is often reflected in the writings of the times. • Events such as: War; Economic Depression; Slavery; Civil Rights. Traditional American Literary Periods • 7 distinct time periods within the “Traditional American Literary Periods” • Most occurring within the last 150 years. Literature of Exploration and Colonization • 1492-1760 • Style • Journals and diaries • Personal Writing/Self Writing • Searching for an Identity Colonization – up to 1760 • Puritans - Religion and God very important. • Life was a test. • Failure led to eternal damnation and hellfire. Success brought heavenly bliss. • The world = a constant battle between the forces of God and the forces of Satan. Literature of Reason and Revolution • 1760-1830 • Enlightenment. • Emphasis on rational rather than tradition. • REASON & Scientific Inquiry. • Dedicated to the ideals of justice, liberty, and equality as the natural rights of man. American Romanticism • 1830-1865 • The use of far away places or past times for setting. • Grotesque/Gothicism – preoccupation with gloom, mystery, mysticism, terror. • Society is corrupt. Natural world is good. American Romanticism • Rejected the strict Puritan attitudes (Transcendentalism). • Reaction against the Enlightenment’s Rationalism. • Intuition rather than Reason. American Realism • 1865-1914 • Emphasis on ordinary, average life. • Non-extreme in plot, setting, & character. American Realism • Rejects symbolic writing • Rejects moral struggles • What you see is what you get. Exact truth of the daily picture. American Realism • Character is more important than plot. • Characters are neither all good or all bad. • Morality is the individual’s responsibility. • Multiple levels of truth. American Naturalism • 1890-1914 • Humans are animals in their instinctual reaction to life • Adoption of Darwinian theory • Humans are controlled by heredity and environment. Modernism • 1914-1945 • The Lost Generation - Found no value, no meaning in life. • World War I and the Great Depression had a profound impact on their writing. Modernism • Reaction against positivism. Life isn’t that wonderful. • All cultures are equal. • Awareness of the irrational. Workings of the unconscious mind. • Make it new! Mantra. Post Modern/Contemporary • 1945 – present. • Any thing after WWII. Not really an organized movement. • Black Humor (satire using taboo subject matter such as murder, suicide, disease, war, insanity). • Want to Shock us. • Irony (discrepancy between what is expressed and what is intended).