Introduction to

American literature

1.The Colonial Period

2.The Romantic Period (the first half of 19th century)

3.The Age of Realism and Naturalism

4.The Period around WWI

5.The Modern Period

I. The Colonial Period (the

early 17th and 18th century)

1. Puritanism:

idealism and opportunism

2. Benjamin Franklin本杰明·富兰克林 :

→ “The Autobiography of Benjamin


→ Poor Richard’s Almanac穷查理历书

(containing witty maxims for achieving wealth as a result of hard work and thrift)

3.Philip Freneau (poem)菲利普·弗伦诺 The Rising Glory of America蒸蒸日上的美洲

American Puritanism

Puritans → The early settlers

☆ founding fathers of the America nation

☆To purify the rituals and lessen the authority of bishops→ escaped to the new world, create a new paradise

→ advocate highly religious and moral principles.

→ American Puritanism was one of the most enduring shaping influences in American thought and American literature.

Chapter Two

American Romanticism and New England Literature

Logic Thread

Representative figures of the time:


Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper库珀


Novelists: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman


Poets: Henry Wadesworth Longfellow,

Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman

Emily Dickinson

Essayists: Ralph Waldo Emerson,

Henry David Thoreau

American Romanticism

The romantic period stretches from the end of the eighteenth century through the outbreak of the Civil War (1790-1865). 1. Background (1) Political background and economic development

Territorial Expansion

Industrial Growth

The Civil War

The “newness” of Americans as a nation is in connection with American Romanticism. → optimism and hope among the people

There is American Puritanism as a cultural heritage to consider.

(2) foreign influence – Romantic movement in European countries

American Romanticism

Romanticism was a rebellion against the objectivity of rationalism.

For romantics, the feelings, intuitions and emotions were more important than reason and common sense.

They stressed the close relationship between man and nature;

They emphasized individualism and affirmed the inner life of the self.

Washington Irving (1783-1859)



A History of New York纽约的历史-----美国人写的第一部诙谐文学杰作;

The Sketch Book见闻札记

→①The Legend of Sleepy Hollow睡谷的传说-----使之成为美国第一个获得国际声誉的作家

→ ② Rip Van Winkle

James Fenimore Cooper 1789-1851



“Leatherstocking Tales”皮裹腿故事集

→a series of five novels, that is

☆the Pioneers拓荒者(I823)

☆ the Last of the Mohicans(1826)最后的莫希干人

☆ The Prairie(1827)大草原

☆ The Pathfinder(1840)探路者

☆ The Deerslayer(1841)杀鹿者 → adventure into the wilderness of the West/

2.The summit of Romanticism---

New England Transcendentalism /

1. Emerson / “Nature”

2. Henry David Thoreau / “ Walden”

3.Whitman / “Leaves of Grass”

4. Hawthorn / “ The Scarlet Letter”

5.Herman Meville\ “Moby Dick”


(New England Transcendentalism)

What is Transcendentalism?

1.Ralph Waldo Emerson(1803-1882)爱默生

→The leading New England Transcendentalist

→ “Nature”论自然-----新英格兰超验主义者的宣言书 ;The American Scholar论美国学者

2.Henry David Thoreau(1817-1862)

→ Transcendentalist \Emerson’s friend

→ Walden

The major features of Transcendentalism

1.The Transcendentalists placed emphasis on spirit, or the Oversoul, as the most important thing in the universe.

2. The Transcendentalists stressed the importance of the individual. To them the individual was the most important element of society.

3. The Transcendentalists offered a fresh perception of nature as symbolic of the Spirit or God. Nature was, to them, not purely matter. It was alive, filled with God’s overwhelming presence.

The Development of Transcendentalism

☆ Nature (in 1836) by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nature’s voice pushed American Romanticism into a new phase, the phase of New England Transcendentalism, the summit of American Romanticism.

Transcendentalist Club

☆ Transcendentalism was indebted to the dual heritage of American Puritanism, the religious idealism of their Puritan past.Transcendentalists’ emphasis on the individual was directly traceable to the Puritan principle of self-culture and self-improvement. Thus there is good reason to state that New England Transcendentalism was Romanticism on the Puritan soil.

☆ New England Transcendentalism was important to American literature. It inspired a whole new generation of famous authors such as Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman and Dickinson.

Nathaniel Hawthorne(1804-1864)

☆ Novels:

Scarlet Letter《红字》 Hester Prynne;

The House of Seven Gables《七个尖角阁的房子》;

The Blithedale Romance《福谷传奇》;

The Marble Faun《大理石神像》

☆Short story collections:

Twice-Told Tales 《故事新编》

Moses from an Old Manse《古屋青苔》

Herman Melville赫尔曼·梅尔维尔1819-1891 

 Moby Dick/The White Whale


Edgar Allan Poe埃德加·爱伦·坡1809-1849

→The first professional writer in America

The first writer of detective story in the world


The Fall of the House of Usher厄舍古屋的倒塌(novel);

→ The Raven乌鸦(poem) Tamerlane and Other Poems帖木儿和其他诗;

To Hellen致海伦 (以诗为诗;永为世人共赏的伟大抒情诗人-----叶芝)    

Walt Whitman(1819-1892)


One of the great innovators in American Poetry

Free verse

Growing up in a working-class background, having little education

Leaves of Grass草叶集

→Song of Myself”自我之歌 reveals a world of equality, without rank and hierarchy.


①Emily Dickinson(1830-1886)

The Poems of Emily Dickinson埃米莉·迪金森诗集(love, death,nature,friendship, and immortality)

② Henry Wadsworth Longfellow亨利·沃兹沃思·朗费罗1807-1882       

→A Psalm of Life生命礼赞(short poem)

→ The Song of Hiawatha海华沙之歌----美国人写的第一部印第安人史诗

③; William Cullen Bryant 1794-1878柯伦·布莱恩特       

→ To a Waterfowl致水鸟-----英语中最完美的短诗

Harriet Beecher Stowe哈丽特·比彻·斯托1811-1896   


Uncle Tom’s Cabin汤姆叔叔的小屋

Chapter 3

The Age of Realism and Naturalism

The three strong advocates of 19th century American realism

William Dean Howells (critic)豪威尔斯

Henry James威廉·詹姆斯

Mark Twain马克·吐温

Henry James


→ James’ novel’s “international situation” are set against a background between America and Europe

→James’ contribution to literary criticism is immense.

To him, “art without life is a poor affair”.

“the aim of the novel is to represent life”.

→ His realism was called as Psychological realism.

He was esp. an observer of the mind rather than a recorder of the times.

The American, Daisy Miller

The Portrait of a Lady贵妇人画像

The Wings of the Dove鸽翼

The Ambassadors大使

Mark Twain马克·吐温

1. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”汤姆·索耶历险记

2. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”

----his masterpiece/哈克贝利·费恩历险记

The Gilded Age镀金时代

3. Famous for his localism, colloquial style,

humor and bitter attacks

American Naturalism :

pessimistic realism

1. Naturalism came from France.

2. Reasons: civil war, social upheavals

☆Darwin’s theory of evolution : the survival of the fittest”

→ Men were conditioned\ dominated by social and economic forces, by heredity and environment.

3. Features of naturalist writing:

A. naturalist writers turned literary creation into a mechanical record of society, in a way of attempting to achieve extreme objectivity and frankness. They never made comments on the characters and their behaviors.

B. The characters were often figures of low social and economic classes

C. They stressed men had no free will, their lives were controlled by heredity and environment.

American Naturalism

4. American Naturalist writers: Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, Jack London, Henry Adams, Theodore Dreiser.

Stephen Crane(1871-1900)


Maggie: A Girl of the Streets街头女郎梅姬(美国文学史上首次站在同情立场上描写受辱妇女的悲惨命运)

The Red Badge of Courage红色英勇勋章

The Black Riders (his first book of poems)

Theodore Dreiser(1871-1945)

Dreiser’s works

Sister Carrie 1900

(A feather in wind, she is totally at the mercy of forces she cannot comprehend and control. She does not seem to possess what may be called a moral fibre in her.)

Jennie Gerhardt 1911

Trilogy of Desire欲望三部曲(Financer金融家1912,The Titan巨人1914,The Stoic斯多葛1915)

An American Tragedy美国的悲剧1925


Frank Norris (1870-1902)


The Octopus 1901


Jack London(1876 - 1916)


Martin Eden—masterwork马丁·伊登

The Call of the Wild野性的呼唤

The Sea-Wolf海狼

White Fang白獠牙

O Henry (1862---1910)欧·享利

1. “The Gift of Magi”

2. “The Cop and the Anthem”

3. Famous for his fascinating plot, humorous touch, interesting puns, localism, and unexpected endings.

American literature in the 1920s and 1930s

1. Poets: T. S. Eliot / “the Waste Land”

Robert Frost

2. Novelists:

Fitzgerald / “the Great Gatsby”

Hemingway / “Farewell to Arms”

Faulkner / wrote about the South

American literature in the 1920s

Poetry: T. S. Eliot The Wasteland.

Novel: Sinclair Lewis Main Street 1920

Theodore Dreiser An American Tragedy 1925, sister carrie

F. S. Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby 1926,

Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises 1926, A Farewell to Arms, 1929,

William Faulkner The Sound and the Fury, 1929,

Drama: Eurgene O’Neill, The Emperor Jones, 1920, Anna Christie, 1921, The Hairy Ape 1922,

Harlem Renaissance.

Jazz Age

Historical Background: WWI, peace-making period/boom time.

After WWI, people found that the war which cost millions of lives failed to provide an abiding solutions to the world’s problems, that the war was just the traps of political leaders. Such a disillusionment about the value of war, accompanied by the booming of American economy drove people to cynical hedonism. People experiment with new amusements. They restlessly pursued stimulus and pleasures, wallow in heavy drinking, fast driving and casual sex. By these, they hoped to seek relief from serious problems.

The Lost Generation迷惘的一代

→a disillusionment about the value of war

→ disgusted by the new frivolous, greedy way of life in America

When the First World War broke out, many idealistic young Americans volunteered to take part in the war and test their own bravery. They discovered that modern warfare was not glorious or heroic.

Disillusioned by slogans of patriotism and glory, disgusted by the new frivolous, greedy way of life in America, many of these young Americas began to write. Some writers left America and formed a community of writers and artists in Paris. They stood aside, as onlookers, and wrote about they saw. They wrote from their own experiences in the war, and their own observations.他们不再相信虚伪的道德说教,而以玩世不恭的生活态度来表示自己的消极抗议。“迷惘的一代”的代表作是海明威的《太阳照样升起》(1926)。

The Lost Generation迷惘的一代

An American woman writer named Gertrude Stein(1874-1946), who had lived in Paris since 1903, welcomed the young American writers to her apartment which was already famous as a literary salon. Gertrude Stein was the advisor, friend of some of the American artists and writers of the time. Ezra Pound joined her group for a few years in the early 1920’s. Together, they encouraged and helped such young writers as the novelist Ernest Hemingway and E.E.Cummings, and F.Scott Fitzgerald. Many other writers were drawn to Gertrude Stein’s home. She called them “The Lost Generation”, a name which stuck to them, because they had cut themselves off from their past in America in order to create new types of writing which had never been tried before.

Ernest Hemingway(1899-1961)

his stories of courage in the face of tragedy

Iceberg Theory

The Sun Also Rises 1926

A Farewell to Arms 1929《永别了,武器》

For Whom the Bell Tolls 1940


The Old Man and the Sea 1952



Hemingway hero

He is sensitive, intelligent. He is a man of action and of few words. He is alone even when with other people. He is somewhat an outsider, keeping emotion under control, stoic and self-disciplined in a dreadful place when one can not get happiness. In a world which is essentially chaotic and meaningless, a Hemingway hero fights a solitary struggle against a force he does not even understand. The awareness that it must end in defeat, no matter how hard he strives, engenders a sense of despair, but Hemingway hero possesses a kind of despairing courage. It is this courage that enables a man to behave like a man, to assert his dignity in face of adversity. This is the essence of a code of honor in which all of Hemingway’s heroes believe.

F.Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

→The literary spokesman of Jazz Age

→ This Side of Paradise 1920


→ The Beautiful and Damned 1921


→ The Great Gatsby 1925

了不起的盖茨比(The American Dream is dead)

→ Tender Is The Night 1934


→ The Last Tycoon 1941最后的巨头

William Faulkner(1897-1962)

get Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930

stream-of-consciousness and multiple point of view.

约克纳帕塔法世系小说 (Yoknapatawpha County)

The Sound and the Fury 《喧嚣与骚动》

As I Lay Dying 《我弥留之际》


Light in August《八月之光》

Absalom, Absalom! 《押沙龙,押沙龙》

Go Down, Moses《去吧,摩西》

Sherwood Anderson(1876-1941) 舍伍德·安德森

Winesburg, Ohio 1919


Poor White 1920穷白人

Death in the Woods 1933



Sinclair Lewis辛·刘易斯


Main Street 1920

Babbitt 1922

The first American writer to get Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930(美国第一个获诺贝尔奖)

Babbitt: presents a documentary picture of the narrow and limited middle-class mind




☆Imagism came as a reaction to the traditional English poetics

☆ to meet the need of expressing the temper of the age. (the rapid change of society)

☆the leader: Ezra Pound

(1) "Direct treatment"

Direct treatment of the “thing”, whether subjective or objective

(2) "Economy of Expression" To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation:

(3) " Rhythm" As regarding rhythm, to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in the sequence of a metronome.

Ezra Pound (1885-1972)


Cantos 诗章

In a Station of the Metro在巴黎地铁站

Robert Frost(1874-1963)

The most popular American poet of the 20th century

The Road Not Taken没有走过的道路


Mending Wall修墙

20th century

☆Little Theatre movement and

George Pierce Baker (47 Workshop at Harvard) →experimental plays by such students as Eugene O’Neill and Sidney Howard

☆the Theatre of the Absurd(荒诞派戏剧)

Eugene O’Neill(1888-1953)


The America’s greatest playwright, and the only one to receive the Nobel Prize

The Emperor Jones琼斯皇

The Hairy Ape 1922毛猿

Beyond the Horizon天边外

Desire under the elms(1923)

The iceman cometh(1946)

Long Day’s Journey into night(1955);送冰的人来了;

Arthur Miller (1915-)


Death Of A Salesman 1949

American literature in the 1930s

Background: a dark decade→The Great Depression

→Left-wing writing become the main stream of 1930’s American literature

☆John Dos Passos

☆John Steibeck

John Steinbeck(1902-1968)

Awarded Nobel Prize in 1962

The Grape of Wrath 1939

Of Mice and Men(1937)

Tortilla Flat煎饼坪1935

In Dubious Battle 1936胜负未决

John Dos Passos1896-1970

→Manhattan Transfer (1925).

→His USA trilogy:

The 42nd Parallel (1930),

1919 (1932)

The Big Money (1936).

(The USA trilogy also included what became known as newsreels )

The big Time最好的岁月

The Grand Design伟大的设想

VI. Modern times

1. A great variety of literary trends

2. Black literature / Alex Haley / “Roots”

3. Jewish writer / Saul Bellow

American literature after World War II

The Beat Generation垮掉的一代

In the middle of the 1950’s, a group of writers in San Francisco put on a concerted and well-publicized rebellion against “official” American life and culture. The leaders were poet Allen Ginsberg and novelist Jack Kerouac. Kerouac杰克·凯鲁亚克 named the group Beat. The Beat Movement was a revolt against the frightened, conservative political mood created by Senator McCarthy, against the greedy, money-seeking “respectable” life of the dominant middle class but particularly against the literary formalism of American writing after the Second World War.

The Beat Generation垮掉的一代

In literature, they took Walt Whitman as their model, who had broken all the literary rules of his time and lived an exuberant, free life.

In rejecting the carefully written works of their contemporary writers, the Beats instead wanted to write with complete spontaneity and honesty. They wanted to express emotion “raw”, exactly as it was felt, rather than “cooked” through memory and translation into art.

Jack Kerouac杰克·凯鲁亚克《在路上》(On the Road, 1957), ;艾伦·金斯堡

The year 1960 “black humor”

The liberation from official standards of correctness gave rise to a burst of satirical, bizarre, ribald novels by new American writers who specialized in as a way to criticize the Army, the bureaucracy and other inflexible, repressive aspects of American society.


约瑟夫·海勒(Joseph Heller)的《第二十二条军规》(Catch-22)

The Naked and The Dead” written by Norman Mailer

Kurt Vonnegut \Slaughterhouse Five五号屠场

Thomas Pynchon品钦\ Gravity Rainbow万有引力之虹

杰罗姆·塞林杰 《麦田捕手》(The Catcher in the Rye, 1951)


杰罗姆·塞林杰 J.D. Salinger (1919--)

《麦田捕手》(The Catcher in the Rye, 1951)

约翰.厄普代克(John Updike)

《兔子,跑吧》(Rabbit, Run, 1960,


伏拉狄米·纳伯科夫(Vladimir Nabokov)《罗丽泰》(Lolita, 1955)

Saul Bellow (1915--)

Dangling Man 1945

The Victim 1947

The Adventures of Augie March 1953

Henderson The Rain King 1959

Herzog 1964

Mr. Sammler’s Planet 1970

Humboldt’s Gift 1975

Norman Mailer (1923--)

The Naked And The Dead 1948

African-American Literature

→Before the Civil War(---1861)(1840-1860)

Slave narratives—Autobiographical records of slavery by escaped slaves

Frederick Douglass: Black leader (abolitionist)

The Harlem Renaissance

→(The first flowering of African-American Literature )

Time: 1920---the early 1930s \Place: the Harlem district of New York\Writers:Langston Hughes

Richard Wright

Ralph Ellison Invisible Man 看不见的人(19520

Toni Morrison

Langston Hughes(1920—1967)

The poet Laureate of Harlem

"The Negro Speaks of Rivers",

The weary blues

“explain the Negro condition in America

黑人作家首部黑人小说即为莱特(Richard Wright)于1940年发表的《土生子》(Native Son);

埃利森(Ralph Ellison) 《隐形人》(Invisible Man);

包德温(James Baldwin) 《向苍天呼吁》(Go Tell It on the Mountain)1953;

Toni Morrison(1931--

The only African-American writer who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993

The Bluest Eye


Song of Solomon

Tar Baby


History of Asian American Literature

Amy Tan and Her Work

Joy Luck Club