LITERARY PERIODS AND THEIR CHARACTERISTICS

PERIODS

Genre/Style

Effect/ Aspects

Historical Context

Examples

And style

PURITAN/COLONIAL

1650-1750

Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation

Rowlandson's "A Narrative of the Captivity"

Edward's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"

Though not written during Puritan times, The Crucible & The Scarlet Letter depict life during the time when Puritan theocracy prevailed. The plain style is the simplest of the three classical forms of style. In choosing the plain style, Puritan writers eschewed features common to the rhetoric of the day; they declined to stuff their sermons with the rhetorical flourishes and learned quotations of the metaphysical style of sermon, believing that to be the province of Archbishop Laud and his

 

Instructive

Reinforces authority of the Bible and church

 

Predestination.:

Puritans believed that belief in Jesus and participation in the sacraments could not alone effect one's salvation; one cannot choose salvation, for that is the privilege of God alone. All features of salvation are determined by God's sovereignty, including choosing those who will be saved and those who will receive God's irresistible grace. The Puritans distinguished between "justification," or the gift of God's grace given to the elect, and "sanctification," the holy behavior that supposedly resulted when an individual had been saved; according to The English Literatures of America, "Sanctification is evidence of salvation, but does not cause it" (434)

 

A person’s fate is determined by God

All people are corrupt and must be saved by Christ

Given our situation in the world today, do we still show Puritan influences?

The painful, modern 86-year stretch of losing Boston Red Sox baseball, epitomized as the curse of the Bambino, for the 1918 trade of Babe Ruth to New York, which was broken only a few days ago, was taught by the elders of the Red Sox Nation in Massachusetts and surrounding New England to be a lesson in Calvinism.

This is the notion that bad things will happen to good people

key tenet of Calvinist belief is that God so controls the world that everything in it is pre-ordained, from Billy (For Cipriani :all things connect)

Buckner letting the ball go between his legs to allow the scoring of the winning run in the 1986 World Series, down to the flight of the smallest sparrow.

God knew this was going to happen.

God made it happen.

God always does something like this.

God punishes us for our sins like this

 

The Ivy League schools are the Puritan product of the Puritan need to educate in order to understand God’s light

America today is a product of those Puritans. We need to know where they came from and how they changed from what came before to what we are today.

For excellent ideas providing further research:

 http://www.nhc.rtp.nc.us:8080/tserve/getback/gbpuritan.htm

Their concern for education was important in the development of the United States, and the idea of congregational democratic church government was carried into the political life of the state as a source of modern democracy. Prominent figures in New England Puritanism include Thomas Hooker , John Cotton , Roger Williams , Increase Mather , and Cotton Mather .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROMANTICISM

1800-1860 For all men live by truth, and stand in need of expression. In love, in art, in avarice, in politics, in labor, in games, we study to utter our painful secret. The man is only half himself, the other half is his expression.

The development of the self became a major theme; self- awareness a primary method. If, according to Romantic theory, self and nature were one, self-awareness was not a selfish dead end but a mode of knowledge opening up the universe. If one's self were one with all humanity, then the individual had a moral duty to reform social inequalities and relieve human suffering. The idea of "self" -- which suggested selfishness to earlier generations -- was redefined. New compound words with positive meanings emerged: "self-realization," "self-expression," "self- reliance."

 

Poems and essays of Emerson & Thoreau

Thoreau's Walden

Aphorisms of Emerson and Thoreau

Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" and "The Black Cat"

 

Go further

http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap4/4intro.html

 

 

Value feeling and intuition over reasoning

Journey away from corruption of civilization and limits of rational thought toward the integrity of nature and freedom of the imagination

Helped instill proper gender behavior for men and women

Allowed people to re-imagine the American past

Expansion of magazines, newspapers, and book publishing

Slavery debates

Industrial revolution brings ideas that the "old ways" of doing things are now irrelevant

Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle"

William Cullen Bryant's "Thanatopsis"

Dunbar's "We Wear the Mask"

Poems of Emily Dickinson

Poems of Walt Whitman Romantic ideas centered around art as inspiration, the spiritual and aesthetic dimension of nature, and metaphors of organic growth. Art, rather than science, Romantics argued, could best express universal truth. The Romantics underscored the importance of expressive art for the individual and society. In his essay "The Poet" (1844), Ralph Waldo Emerson, perhaps the most influential writer of the Romantic era, asserts:

 

AMERICAN RENAISSANCE/

TRANSCENDENTALISM

1840-1860

(Note overlap in time period with Romanticism -- some consider the anti-transcendentalists to be the "dark" romantics or gothic)

Writings of Twain, Bierce, Crane

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (some say 1st modern novel)

Regional works like: The Awakening. Ethan Frome, and My Antonia (some say modern)

Transcendentalists:

*True reality is spiritual

*Comes from18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant

* Idealists

* Self-reliance & individualism

* Emerson & Thoreau

Anti-Transcendentalists:

* Used symbolism to great effect

*Sin, pain, & evil exist

* Poe, Hawthorne, & Melville

Today in literature we still see portrayals of alluring antagonists whose evil characteristics appeal to one’s sense of awe

Today in literature we still see stories of the persecuted young girl forced apart from her true love

Today in literature we still read of people seeking the true beauty in life and in nature … a belief in true love and contentment

 

 

Go further

 

http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/oal/lit3.htm

 

Thoreau is the most attractive of the Transcendentalists today because of his ecological consciousness, do-it-yourself independence, ethical commitment to abolitionism, and political theory of civil disobedience and peaceful resistance. His ideas are still fresh, and his incisive poetic style and habit of close observation are still modern.

 

REALISM

1855-1900

(Period of Civil War and Postwar period)

Novels and short stories

Objective narrator

Does not tell reader how to interpret story

Dialogue includes voices from around the country As industrialization grew, so did alienation. Characteristic American novels of the period Stephen Crane's Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, Jack London's Martin Eden, and later Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy depict the damage of economic forces and alienation on the weak or vulnerable individual. Survivors, like Twain's Huck Finn, Humphrey Vanderveyden in London's The Sea-Wolf, and Dreiser's opportunistic Sister Carrie, endure through inner strength involving kindness, flexibility, and, above all, individuality.

 

Social realism: aims to change a specific social problem

Aesthetic realism: art that insists on detailing the world as one sees it

Civil War brings demand for a "truer" type of literature that does not idealize people or plac In 1860, most Americans lived on farms or in small villages, but by 1919 half of the population was concentrated in about 12 cities. Problems of urbanization and industrialization appeared: poor and overcrowded housing, unsanitary conditions, low pay (called "wage slavery"), difficult working conditions, and inadequate restraints on business. Labor unions grew, and strikes brought the plight of working people to national awareness. Farmers, too, saw themselves struggling against the "money interests" of the East, the so-called robber barons like J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller. Their eastern banks tightly controlled mortgages and credit so vital to western development and agriculture, while railroad companies charged high prices to transport farm products to the cities. The farmer gradually became an object of ridicule, lampooned as an unsophisticated "hick" or "rube." The ideal American of the post-Civil War period became the millionaire. In 1860, there were fewer than 100 millionaires; by 1875, there were more than 1,000.

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he U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) between the industrial North and the agricultural, slave-owning South was a watershed in American history. The innocent optimism of the young democratic nation gave way, after the war, to a period of exhaustion. American idealism remained but was rechanneled. Before the war, idealists championed human rights, especially the abolition of slavery; after the war, Americans increasingly idealized progress and the self-made man. This was the era of the millionaire manufacturer and the speculator, when Darwinian evolution and the "survival of the fittest" seemed to sanction the sometimes unethical methods of the successful business tycoon.

 

THE MODERNS

1900-1950

Novels

Plays

Poetry (a great resurgence after deaths of Whitman & Dickinson)

Highly experimental as writers seek a unique style

Use of interior monologue & stream of consciousness

In Pursuit of the American Dream--

*Admiration for America as land of Eden

*Optimism

*Importance of the Individual T he large cultural wave of Modernism, which gradually emerged in Europe and the United States in the early years of the 20th century, expressed a sense of modern life through art as a sharp break from the past, as well as from Western civilization's classical traditions. Modern life seemed radically different from traditional life -- more scientific, faster, more technological, and more mechanized. Modernism embraced these changes.

In literature, Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) developed an analogue to modern art. A resident of Paris and an art collector (she and her brother Leo purchased works of the artists Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Pablo Picasso, and many others), Stein once explained that she and Picasso were doing the same thing, he in art and she in writing. Using simple, concrete words as counters, she developed an abstract, experimental prose poetry. The childlike quality of Stein's simple vocabulary recalls the bright, primary colors of modern art, while her repetitions echo the repeated shapes of abstract visual compositions. By dislocating grammar and punctuation, she achieved new "abstract" meanings as in her influential collection Tender Buttons (1914), which views objects from different angles, as in a cubist painting:

A Table A Table means does it not my
dear it means a whole steadiness.
Is it likely that a change. A table
means more than a glass even a
looking glass is tall.

 

Writers reflect the ideas of Darwin (survival of the fittest) and Karl Marx (how money and class structure control a nation)

Overwhelming technological changes of the 20th Century

Rise of the youth culture

WWI and WWII

Harlem Renaissance

Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

Poetry of Jeffers, Williams, Cummings, Frost, Eliot, Sandburg, Pound, Robinson, Stevens

Rand's Anthem

Short stories and novels of Steinbeck, Hemingway, Thurber, Welty, and Faulkner

Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun & Wright's Native Son (an outgrowth of Harlem Renaissance-- see below)

Miller's The Death of a Salesman (some consider Postmodern)

HARLEM RENAISSANCE

(Parallel to modernism)

1920s

Allusions to African-American spirituals

Uses structure of blues songs in poetry (repetition)

Superficial stereotypes revealed to be complex characters

Gave birth to "gospel music"

Blues and jazz transmitted across American via radio and phonographs

Mass African-American migration to Northern urban centers

African-Americans have more access to media and publishing outlets after they move north

Essays & Poetry of W.E.B. DuBois

Poetry of McKay, Toomer, Cullen

Poetry, short stories and novels of Hurston and Hughes

Their Eyes Were Watching God

POSTMODERNISM

1950 to present

Note: Many critics extend this to present and merge with Contemporary -- see below)

Mixing of fantasy with nonfiction; blurs lines of reality for reader

No heroes

Concern with individual in isolation

Social issues as writers align with feminist & ethnic groups

Usually humorless

Narratives

Metafiction

Present tense

Magic realism

Erodes distinctions between classes of people

Insists that values are not permanent but only "local" or "historical"

] Vision and viewpoint became an essential aspect of the modernist novel as well. No longer was it sufficient to write a straightforward third-person narrative or (worse yet) use a pointlessly intrusive narrator. The way the story was told became as important as the story itself.

Henry James, William Faulkner, and many other American writers experimented with fictional points of view (some are still doing so). James often restricted the information in the novel to what a single character would have known. Faulkner's novel The Sound and the Fury (1929) breaks up the narrative into four sections, each giving the viewpoint of a different character (including a mentally retarded boy).

To analyze such modernist novels and poetry, a school of "new criticism" arose in the United States, with a new critical vocabulary. New critics hunted the "epiphany" (moment in which a character suddenly sees the transcendent truth of a situation, a term derived from a holy saint's appearance to mortals); they "examined" and "clarified" a work, hoping to "shed light" upon it through their "insights."

 

 

 

Mailer's The Naked and the Dead and The Executioner's Song

Feminist & Social Issue poets: Plath, Rich, Sexton, Levertov, Baraka, Cleaver, Morrison, Walker & Giovanni

Miller's The Death of a Salesman & The Crucible (some consider Modern)

Lawrence & Lee's Inherit the Wind

Capote's In Cold Blood

Stories & novels of Vonnegut

Salinger's Catcher in the Rye

Beat Poets: Kerouac, Burroughs, & Ginsberg

Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

 

Postmodern literature argues for expansion, the return of reference, the celebration of fragmentation rather than the fear of it, and the role of reference itself in literature. While drawing on the experimental tendencies of authors such as Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner in English, and Jorge Luis Borges in Spanish - writers who were taken as influences by American postmodern authors such as Norman Mailer, Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut, Don DeLillo, John Barth, William Gaddis, David Foster Wallace, and Paul Auster - the advocates of postmodern literature argue that the present is fundamentally different from the modern period, and therefore requires a new literary sensibility