American Literature: Romanticism 1800-1855

A.Historical Context

  • Expansion of book publishing, magazines, newspapers
  • Industrial Revolution
  • Abolitionist movement

B.Genre/Style

  • Short stories, novels, poetry
  • Imagination over reason, intuition over fact
  • Focused on the fantastic of human experience
  • Writing that can be interpreted two ways: surface and in depth
  • Focus on inner feelings
  • Gothic literature (sub-genre of romanticism): use of supernatural, character with both evil and good characteristics, dark landscape, depressed characters.

C.Major writers

  1. Washington Irving
  2. Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) – wrote about sin and guilt, consequences of pride, selfishness; The Scarlet Letter; Short Stories
  3. Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) – a bad childhood; substance abuse problems; reviled in his day; created the modern short story and detective story; Poems: The Raven, Annabell Lee;  attacked two long-standing conventions: a poem has to be long and it must teach a lesson; Short Stories – Fall of the House of Usher; inspired future detective/horror stories
  4. Herman Melville (1819-1891) – ranked as one of America’s top novelists, but recognized by few in his own time; Moby Dick – America’s greatest prose epic.

 

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