A GROWING NATION LITERATURE OF THE AMERICAN RENAISSANCE 1800-1870 A Snapshot of the Period French writer Alexis de Tocqueville was so enchanted by the spirit of the young nation. By 1870 industrialism, population growth, economic changes, and the Civil War had all aged the nation’s spirit. Poe, Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, and Whitman all shone their distinctly American light far beyond “the forests of the New World.” Historical Background The European Renaissance- the rebirth of classical art and learning- took place in the 14th, 15th , and 16th centuries. The American version, more like a flowering, took place in the 19th. The nation came of age and entered a literary and cultural maturity. The nation’s capitol was moved and America founded the Library of Congress. Historical Background: Steam, Steal, and Spirit 1803 Jefferson doubled the population with the Louisiana Purchase. Improved transportation helped bind new and old states together. The Gold Rush drew hundreds out West. Major advances in technology spurred social and cultural change. Factories were sprouting everywhere. Historical Background: The Slow March of Democracy 1828 Andrew Jackson “the people’s president, ushered in the era of common man. Only white males could vote. Little attention was paid to women, and the African Americans were still enslaved. The Native Americans tribal lands were confiscated and the “Trail of Tears” began. Historical Background: On the World Stage The first decades of the 1800s were hopeful. The War of 1812 showed the Europeans that America was here to stay. The Monroe Doctrine warned Europe not to interfere with Latin nations. When TX was admitted to the Union, yet another territory was added, ending the war with Mexico. Historical Background: Winds of Change During the mid century the US faced trouble as well as promise. There was fierce competition scarred by child labor and unsafe working conditions. Women gained some rights, but the deepest divide still was slavery. In 1861, the gathering storm surrounding slavery burst into a Civil War. Key Historical Theme: Coming of Age Physical expansion and technological progress lay the foundation for an American cultural flowering. Democracy advanced, although, women, Native Americans, and African Americans did not fully share in it! The conflict over slavery eventually led to a Civil War. Essential Questions Across Time What did Americans discover as they explored the continent? The US gradually extended west. Americans were inspired by the sheer size of the land. There were vast prairies in the Midwest, demanding deserts in the Southwest, unbroken forests in the North, grand mountains and oceans in the West. What attitudes developed toward the American land? • The land demanded optimism and practical invention, calling continuously for steps west. • Commercial possibilities were as wide as the landscape. • Many Americans developed an attitude that went further than practicality. The land struck them in awe. Essential Questions Across Time How Did These Attitudes Show Up in Literature? Explorers recorded facts of their expeditions in colorful words. Irving and Cooper helped to create a mythology by setting tales in a forests and outposts of American landscape. Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville, wrote of the dark side of the wilderness. Emerson and Thoreau emphasized its sublimity. Dickinson explored the local landscape. Whitman merged himself with the entire nation. The American place affected a wide variety of cultural figures. Many found a way to bring nature into every facet of life, including the city. Essential Questions Across Time What Social Forces Shaped America During This Period? TECHNOLOGY- bigger, stronger, faster, America was rolling on the fast track. DEMOCRACY- the white male benefitted in the time. Women, African Americans, and Native Americans suffered. SLAVERY- it was the most profound controversy in America. Essential Questions Across Time What Did American Writers Want to Achieve? SOCIAL VISION- Americans presented how they felt about life publically. Public writing allowed them to defend themselves. ROMANTIC VISION- It made clear that the private self was just as important as the exploration of land. TRANSCENDENTAL VISIONReal truth lies outside the sensory experience. What Makes American Literature American? American English – The American way of speaking and writing took on many unique features. Many Americans coined words to describe their land, weather, plants, animals, and ways of daily life. Triumph of the Colloquial – American English became more informal than British English. The British thought the Americans were ruining the language, but really the language was intensely alive. The Barbaric Yawp- Walt Whitman spread far and wide. His style incorporated the plain and the elegant, the high and the low, the foreign and the native. Whitman’s sound was the American sound. What Literary Character Types Emerged During This Period? The Frontiersman- The men who faced the frontier head on became part of the literary nation’s imagination. Davy Crockett, Paul Bunyan, and Mike Fink helped define the American identity as bold, self reliant, and uncorrupted. The Romantic Individualist – The American hero took on many forms. Such as Hester Prynne’s decision to put love and honor before the repressive rule of her town. The Transcendental Seeker – The person who seeks the feeling of oneness with all that is beautiful and good. Many writers believed it could be reached through nature. What Literary Themes Emerged During This Era? Westering – The idea of Western expansion was a fundamental part of our nation’s identity. Many viewed it as a continental destiny. It became the American right to explore, expand, and exploit. Bright and Dark Romanticism- Romanticism had two faces one bright and optimistic, the other dark and shadowed by evil. Many writers explored both sides of the Romantic impulse. Self-Reliance – “Trust thyself.” Make your own choices and don’t let others choose for you. These principles are built into our democracy and they became fundamental themes in literature.