New criticism became the dominant American critical approach in the s and s. Modern American Drama in the USA was always incapable of keeping pace with the progress in other branches of literature. Although by the 19th century, the puritan prejudice again of theatre had completely vanished and a great many plays had been produced, they were anything but significant.
The majority of the plays seldom transcended mediocrity. If the plays were poor, the playwright was also neglected. The tyranny of the actor and the producer held sway in America too, as it did in England. By the American theatre had come to mean New York and the small number of nearby cities where plays opened before their New York premieres.
In New York itself the boom nineteen-twenties introduced a period of cut throat competition and insensate speculation on theatre profits. The playwrights became increasingly aware of the richness of the American Scene. Themes of wide interest and contemporary significances found their way into the theatre by this time. Edward Shield on his play the Nigger has as its theme racial tension, whereas in the Boss, we find as the central idea the antagonism between labor and capital.
Augustus Thomas another playwright sought to dramatize regional peculiarities thus introducing local color into drama. All these writers however were handicapped by a tendency towards sentimentality and a readiness to follow theatrical convention. The fashion prevailed of rendering successful novels into plays.
Even when men of talents like W. Howells wrote plays, they were not found very valuable. The standards of drama had fallen and the theatre had become impoverished by the end of the nineteenth century.
English drama had felt the invigorating influence of Strindberg and Ibsen. A sudden revival in drama took place, and George Bernard Shaw, more than any other single playwright contributed to this revival.
But the American theatre was found far behind the times. By the next decade, playwrights became increasingly aware of the richness of the American scene. Modern American Drama originates from the Little Theatre Movement of the second decade of the 20th century. In February , an enthusiastic group of young amateurs calling themselves The Washington Square Players waved a solemn manifesto in the face of New York Drama Critics and opened the Bandbox theatre near the corner of 57th street and Third Avenue.
Just a year and a half later, another group equally young and equally enthusiastic came home from a summer on Cape Cod to take possession of a table in MacDougal Street to be known thereafter as the Provincetown Theater. Most Critics had at least one resident stock company; major metropolitan areas had several. For the most part, these companies presented standard, traditional dramatic fare, mixed with an occasional new play, on a repertory.
Visiting stars, bravura actors traveling alone from city to city, were regularly engaged to supplement the resident company. This system had been in place since the s.
Beginning in the mids, the organization of theatrical performance changed significantly, stars would remain a permanent fixture in the theatrical cosmos, but the stock system was steadily eroded, initially by the traditional fare to attract audiences.
A run of one hundred continuous performances soon became benchmark for a commercially successful production. Curiously, however, his character was rarely so on. Instead, they felt the tug of a divided self that eludes the mind. Believing in reason, they responded to emotion; hungering for freedom, they were haunted by memory, defeated by reality, they were driven by illusion.
Yet one wonders whether the audience attends the theater rather to be entertained than take the plunge into the depths of self-knowledge. One of our most introspective playwrights suggests that the mind comes alive by turning outward and responding to change and contingency. That view, however, was one he expressed as a youth.
Ancient Greek thinkers believed in the self revelatory potential of the theatre. Not only did they build the architecturally splendid New Theatre, but they endowed or subsidized its operations, presumably freeing its management and repertoire from commercial interests. Some mainly commercial producers also occasionally aimed beyond mere financial success. Certain external forces also impacted the commercial theatrical establishment and theatrical tastes.
In the Second decade of the new century, a number of non-profit, mostly amateur theatrical groups, collectively called Little Theatres, began springing up across America. The founders of Little Theatres were usually dissatisfied with commercial theatrical fare. They modeled their organization. By , there were hundreds of such little theatres scattered across America. Some would retain an amateur community theatre status, while others became semi or fully professional. Although after a few seasons, some of its members were paid, the Provincetown players remained mainly amateur and resolutely experimental.
But it established a growing reputation for inventive staging of compelling dramas. Without the Provincetown Players, plays of this sort probably would not have been produced. The Washington Square Players was founded in to present realist and symbolist plays, preferably new plays in these styles by American authors. During four seasons, they presented over sixty productions, predominantly one-act plays.
Back then, some of the American literature were pamphlets and writings extolling the benefits of the colonies to both a European and colonist audience. Captain John Smith could be considered the first American author with his works: The religious disputes that prompted settlement in America were important topics of early American literature. Edward Winslow also recorded a diary of the first years after the Mayflower 's arrival. This work outlined the ideal society that he and the other Separatists would build in an attempt to realize a "Puritan utopia".
Other religious writers included Increase Mather and William Bradford , author of the journal published as a History of Plymouth Plantation, — Others like Roger Williams and Nathaniel Ward more fiercely argued state and church separation.
And still others, like Thomas Morton , cared little for the church; Morton's The New English Canaan mocked the religious settlers and declared that the Native Americans were actually better people than the British. Puritan poetry was highly religious, and one of the earliest books of poetry published was the Bay Psalm Book , a set of translations of the biblical Psalms ; however, the translators' intention was not to create literature, but to create hymns that could be used in worship.
Nicholas Noyes was also known for his doggerel verse. John Eliot translated the Bible into the Algonquin language. Of the second generation of New England settlers, Cotton Mather stands out as a theologian and historian, who wrote the history of the colonies with a view to God's activity in their midst and to connecting the Puritan leaders with the great heroes of the Christian faith.
Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield represented the Great Awakening , a religious revival in the early 18th century that emphasized Calvinism. Less strict and serious writers included Samuel Sewall who wrote a diary revealing the daily life of the late 17th century ,  and Sarah Kemble Knight. New England was not the only area in the colonies with a literature: The diary of William Byrd and The History of the Dividing Line described the expedition to survey the swamp between Virginia and North Carolina but also comments on the differences between American Indians and the white settlers in the area.
As the colonies moved toward independence from Britain, an important discussion of American culture and identity came from the French immigrant J.
This same period saw the beginning of black literature, through the poet Phillis Wheatley and the slave narrative of Olaudah Equiano , The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. At this time American Indian literature also began to flourish. The Revolutionary period also contained political writings, including those by colonists Samuel Adams , Josiah Quincy , John Dickinson , and Joseph Galloway , the last being a loyalist to the crown.
Two key figures were Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine. Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin are esteemed works with their wit and influence toward the formation of a budding American identity. Paine's pamphlet Common Sense and The American Crisis writings are seen as playing a key role in influencing the political tone of the time.
Major satirists included John Trumbull and Francis Hopkinson. Philip Morin Freneau also wrote poems about the War. During the 18th century, writing shifted from the Puritanism of Winthrop and Bradford to Enlightenment ideas of reason. The belief that human and natural occurrences were messages from God no longer fit with the new human-centered world.
Many intellectuals believed that the human mind could comprehend the universe through the laws of physics as described by Isaac Newton. One of these was Cotton Mather. The enormous scientific, economic, social, and philosophical, changes of the 18th century, called the Enlightenment , impacted the authority of clergyman and scripture, making way for democratic principles. The increase in population helped account for the greater diversity of opinion in religious and political life as seen in the literature of this time.
In , the population of the colonies numbered approximately , Thirty years later it was more than , By , it reached 1,, These new ideas can be seen in the popularity of Benjamin Franklin 's Autobiography.
Even earlier than Franklin was Cadwallader Colden - , whose book The History of the Five Indian Nations , published in was one of the first texts critical of the treatment of the Iroquois in upstate New York by the English.
Colden also wrote a book on botany, which attracted the attention of Linnaeus, and he maintained a long term correspondence with Benjamin Franklin. In the post-war period, Thomas Jefferson established his place in American literature through his authorship of the United States Declaration of Independence , his influence on the United States Constitution , his autobiography, his Notes on the State of Virginia , and his many letters.
The Federalist essays by Alexander Hamilton , James Madison , and John Jay presented a significant historical discussion of American government organization and republican values.
Fisher Ames , James Otis , and Patrick Henry are also valued for their political writings and orations.
Early American literature struggled to find a unique voice in existing literary genre, and this tendency was reflected in novels. European styles were frequently imitated, but critics usually considered the imitations inferior. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the first American novels were published. These fictions were too lengthy to be printed as manuscript or public reading. Publishers took a chance on these works in hopes they would become steady sellers and need to be reprinted.
This scheme was ultimately successful because male and female literacy rates were increasing at the time. Brown's novel depicts a tragic love story between siblings who fell in love without knowing they were related. In the next decade important women writers also published novels. Susanna Rowson is best known for her novel, Charlotte: A Tale of Truth , published in London in Charlotte Temple is a seduction tale, written in the third person, which warns against listening to the voice of love and counsels resistance.
She also wrote nine novels, six theatrical works, two collections of poetry, six textbooks, and countless songs. Although Rowson was extremely popular in her time and is often acknowledged in accounts of the development of the early American novel, Charlotte Temple is often criticized as a sentimental novel of seduction. Hannah Webster Foster 's The Coquette: Or, the History of Eliza Wharton was published in and was also extremely popular.
Eliza is a "coquette" who is courted by two very different men: Unable to choose between them, she finds herself single when both men get married. She eventually yields to the artful libertine and gives birth to an illegitimate stillborn child at an inn. The Coquette is praised for its demonstration of the era's contradictory ideas of womanhood. Both The Coquette and Charlotte Temple are novels that treat the right of women to live as equals as the new democratic experiment. These novels are of the Sentimental genre, characterized by overindulgence in emotion, an invitation to listen to the voice of reason against misleading passions, as well as an optimistic overemphasis on the essential goodness of humanity.
Sentimentalism is often thought to be a reaction against the Calvinistic belief in the depravity of human nature. Charles Brockden Brown is the earliest American novelist whose works are still commonly read. These novels are of the Gothic genre. The first writer to be able to support himself through the income generated by his publications alone was Washington Irving. James Fenimore Cooper was also a notable author best known for his novel, The Last of the Mohicans written in He followed in with one of the country's first science fictions, A Voyage to the Moon: After the War of , there was an increasing desire to produce a uniquely American literature and culture, and a number of literary figures emerged, among them Washington Irving , William Cullen Bryant , and James Fenimore Cooper.
Bryant wrote early romantic and nature-inspired poetry, which evolved away from their European origins. Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales about Natty Bumppo which includes The Last of the Mohicans were popular both in the new country and abroad. In , Edgar Allan Poe began writing short stories — including " The Masque of the Red Death ", " The Pit and the Pendulum ", " The Fall of the House of Usher ", and " The Murders in the Rue Morgue " — that explore previously hidden levels of human psychology and push the boundaries of fiction toward mystery and fantasy.
In , Ralph Waldo Emerson , a former minister, published his essay Nature , which argued that men should dispense with organized religion and reach a lofty spiritual state by studying and interacting with the natural world. Emerson's work influenced the writers who formed the movement now known as Transcendentalism , while Emerson also influenced the public through his lectures. Among the leaders of the Transcendental movement was Henry David Thoreau , a nonconformist and a close friend of Emerson.
After living mostly by himself for two years in a cabin by a wooded pond, Thoreau wrote Walden , a memoir that urges resistance to the dictates of society. Thoreau's writings demonstrate a strong American tendency toward individualism. As one of the great works of the Revolutionary period was written by a Frenchman, so too was a work about America from this generation.
Alexis de Tocqueville 's two-volume Democracy in America described his travels through the young nation, making observations about the relations between American politics, individualism, and community.
These efforts were supported by the continuation of the slave narrative autobiography, of which the best known examples from this period include Frederick Douglass 's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave and Harriet Jacobs 's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. The Celebrated California Bandit , which is considered the first Native American novel but which also is an early story about Mexican American issues.
In , the young Nathaniel Hawthorne — collected some of his stories as Twice-Told Tales , a volume rich in symbolism and occult incidents. Hawthorne went on to write full-length "romances", quasi-allegorical novels that explore the themes of guilt, pride, and emotional repression in New England.
His masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter , is a drama about a woman cast out of her community for committing adultery. Hawthorne's fiction had a profound impact on his friend Herman Melville — , who first made a name for himself by turning material from his seafaring days into exotic sea narrative novels.
Inspired by Hawthorne's focus on allegories and psychology, Melville went on to write romances replete with philosophical speculation. In Moby-Dick , an adventurous whaling voyage becomes the vehicle for examining such themes as obsession, the nature of evil, and human struggle against the elements.
In the short novel Billy Budd , Melville dramatizes the conflicting claims of duty and compassion on board a ship in time of war. His more profound books sold poorly, and he had been long forgotten by the time of his death.
He was rediscovered in the early 20th century. Anti-transcendental works from Melville, Hawthorne, and Poe all comprise the Dark Romanticism sub-genre of popular literature at this time. American dramatic literature, by contrast, remained dependent on European models, although many playwrights did attempt to apply these forms to American topics and themes, such as immigrants, westward expansion, temperance, etc.
At the same time, American playwrights created several long-lasting American character types, especially the "Yankee", the "Negro" and the "Indian", exemplified by the characters of Jonathan , Sambo and Metamora.
In addition, new dramatic forms were created in the Tom Shows , the showboat theater and the minstrel show. The Fireside Poets also known as the Schoolroom or Household Poets were some of America's first major poets domestically and internationally.
They were known for their poems being easy to memorize due to their general adherence to poetic form standard forms , regular meter , and rhymed stanzas and were often recited in the home hence the name as well as in school such as " Paul Revere's Ride " , as well as working with distinctly American themes, including some political issues such as abolition.
Longfellow achieved the highest level of acclaim and is often considered the first internationally acclaimed American poet, being the first American poet given a bust in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner.
Walt Whitman — and Emily Dickinson — , two of America's greatest 19th-century poets could hardly have been more different in temperament and style. Walt Whitman was a working man, a traveler, a self-appointed nurse during the American Civil War — , and a poetic innovator. His magnum opus was Leaves of Grass , in which he uses a free-flowing verse and lines of irregular length to depict the all-inclusiveness of American democracy.
Taking that motif one step further, the poet equates the vast range of American experience with himself without being egotistical. In his words Whitman was a poet of "the body electric". Lawrence wrote that Whitman "was the first to smash the old moral conception that the soul of man is something 'superior' and 'above' the flesh. By contrast, Emily Dickinson lived the sheltered life of a genteel unmarried woman in small-town Amherst, Massachusetts. Her poetry is ingenious, witty, and penetrating.
Her work was unconventional for its day, and little of it was published during her lifetime. Many of her poems dwell on the topic of death, often with a mischievous twist. One, " Because I could not stop for Death ", begins, "He kindly stopped for me. American poetry arguably reached its peak in the early-to-midth century, with such noted writers as Wallace Stevens and his Harmonium and The Auroras of Autumn , T. Cummings , Edna St. Vincent Millay and Langston Hughes , in addition to many others.
Mark Twain the pen name used by Samuel Langhorne Clemens , — was the first major American writer to be born away from the East Coast — in the border state of Missouri. Twain's style — influenced by journalism, wedded to the vernacular, direct and unadorned but also highly evocative and irreverently humorous — changed the way Americans write their language. His characters speak like real people and sound distinctively American, using local dialects, newly invented words, and regional accents.
Long before settlers arrived in America, explorers reported on their voyages to the continent. Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci provided some of the earliest European descriptions of the American continent. The writings of Captain John Smith, an explorer whose travels took him up and down the eastern seaboard of America, represent a shift from exploration narrative toward early history.
Early histories, however, were written mostly by settlers rather than by explorers. Another important historian of early America was Thomas Morton, whose New English Canaan used humor in portraying what he considered to be the overbearing and intolerant qualities of the Puritans.
Histories of early America, especially in New England, were filled with references to the Bible and to God's will. Nearly all events could be explained from this religious perspective: Foul weather and diseases were perceived as God's wrath; a bountiful harvest represented God's blessing. It presents a dramatic tale of suffering and of Rowlandson's efforts to make sense of that suffering. Her story became the model for a new genre of early American literature: Such accounts became staples of American literature and eventually provided material for American fiction.
The events of American history are very much connected to the influence of American literature and what it has become today. The inspiration that a writer needs is mostly gathered by the effects of the world around him/her, and this is how the geography and history of /5(17).
Essay on Literacy in African-American Literature - Levels of Literacy in African-American Literature - Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Song of Solomon, and .
American Literature Essay Anne Bradstreet was a British-American poet, born in Northampton, England. She was a daughter of Thomas Dudley, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Essay title: History of American Literature The history of American Literature starts well before this land was even called America. It has been a great evolution to come from tribal symbols and drawings to today’s Stephen King and Danielle Steele/5(1).
Common Themes in American Literature Common Themes throughout American Literature Many authors contributed to American literature between and Although these authors came from all over the country and lived different life styles, they still managed to include similar themes in their works. More literature essay samples, world literature essay samples Symbolism in Great Gatsby – Essay Sample The novel Great Gatsby is a novel about a self-made man; a man who lived the American Dream, but whose money and wealth never made him truly happy.