A Growing Nation 1820-1865

A Growing Nation 1820-1865
•Before 1800 American writers were not widely
•This began to change as American writers began
to define the American voice.
•As America grew as a nation, people called for a
national literature.
•The primary theme of American writing was the
quest of the individual to define himself/herself.
•The characteristic journey of the 19th century is
the journey away from the town or city to the
Romantic Literature
Romanticism was an artistic movement that dominated
Europe and America in the 19th century.
Romanticism valued imagination and intuition over
reason and fact. Focus on superstition, the past, the
mysteries of nature.
In ROMANTIC literature, the city was associated with
moral ambiguity, corruption, and death.
The countryside (and nature) became associated with
independence, moral certainty, and health.
The idea of the American frontier took on great
significance in American literature as it set it apart from
European topics.
Washington Irving 1783-1859
America’s first truly popular professional
 He was one of the first American Romantics.
 He is considered one of the “inventors” of the
modern short story.
 Born in New York City
 Named after George Washington (met him in
a shop in NYC) when he was a child.
 Showed a genius for creating comic, fictional
Irving cont.
1809--Wrote A History of New York from the Beginning of
the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty.
◦ This work was a hoax narrated by an unreliable narrator
named Diederich Knickerbocker.
The work’s success established him as a satirist.
At 21 visited Europe—wrote accounts re: his travels.
Loved the “Old World.”
While in Europe (1815-1832) he read German
Wrote stories based on German folk tales.
Wrote “The Devil and Tom Walker,” based on a German
folk tale.
“Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
were both based on German folktales but were distinctly
American--set in rural New York—Hudson Valley
“Rip” and “Legend” were published in The Sketch Book of
Geoffrey Crayon (Crayon was another comic voice.)
The Sketch Book brought him international success.
Irving borrowed from Europe but established a new voice for
the new nation.
Irving spent the final years of his life at “Sunnyside,” his
farmhouse in Tarrytown, NY.
As schoolboys, Hawthorne and Longfellow were inspired by
the success of The Sketch Book.
“The Devil and Tom Walker”
The story is based on the legend of
Faust or Faustus, a scholar who
sells his soul to the Devil. The
legend is based on an actual
magician who lived in the area of
northern Germany in the fifteenth
 Faust
 Faustian characters/themes appear
in many works of literature. Can
you think of one?
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
Set in Tarrytown, NY.
 A Yankee school teacher meets
“the Headless Horseman.”
“Rip Van Winkle”
-Set in a rural town in New York.
-Rip escapes his abusive wife, and on his journey into
the countryside, he falls asleep for 20 years.
-He awakens after the Revolutionary War, a “free” man
in more ways than one.
-His awakening parallels America’s awakening as a new
-He is a comic “counterhero,”an unambitious
do-nothing who makes success out of failure.
William Cullen Bryant 1794-1878
Born in western Mass.
Wrote “Thanatopsis” as a teenager.
Published Poems in 1821 (27 years old)
Made him famous
Moved to NYC—became magazine and
newspaper editor/owner
 Helped form Republican Party; supported
 Campaigned to create Central Park
 Translated The Iliad and The Odyssey in his
Bryant’s Legacy
Mourned as a great poet and editor.
 First American poet to receive worldwide
critical acclaim.
 Led the Romantic Movement in America.
 Discerned moral lessons and a divine
presence in the American landscape.
 Used his role as journalist to advocate for
human rights and personal freedoms–
advocated for women’s rights; fierce foe
of slavery.
James Fenimore Cooper 1789-1851
America’s first great novelist (wrote 32 novels plus many
other books)
He developed the American adventure tale as a
new literary mode.
 Frontier was a uniquely American setting.
 Natty Bumppo (Hawkeye) from the
Leatherstocking series is one the most
memorable and imitated heroes in American
 Heroic elements: Brave, fautless hero, loyal Indian
companion, encounters physical danger as a test
of his prowess, hair-breadth rescues
Cooper’s Legacy
Created a uniquely American form of
 Created the American Romantic hero upon
which future heroes were based.
 Depicted close friendship between a white
man and an Indian.
 Lamented the suffering of the Mohicans, a
tribe described as highly moral and ethical.
 While Mark Twain criticized Cooper’s
writing, the Leatherstocking novels are
thought to have had the most influence on
Huckleberry Finn.
The Leatherstocking Series
Consists of 5 novels. They tell story of frontiersman Natty Bumppo
(Hawkeye) and his Indian friend Chingachgook.
Common plot elements: guiding women through wilderness, threat of Indian
attack, Chingachgook and Natty’s prowess, treacherous characters, etc.
The Pioneers (1823)—written first—fourth chronologically in terms of plot—takes place
The Last of the Mohicans (1826) (Takes place 1757—second novel in plot--during French
The Prairie (1827) (Takes place 1804 after Louisiana Purchase—setting—last novel in plot—Natty= The
The Pathfinder (1840) (Takes place 1750s—NY,
The Deerslayer (1841) (Takes place 1740-1745—NY—introduces young Natty. He is contrasted against
1793—NY frontier—Natty middle-aged, Chingachgook dies
Indian War in NY—Natty and his friends rescue two sisters and escort them to their lt. colonel
father at Fort William Henry.
Tapper,” an old man, moves farther west to avoid the sound of trees begin cut down; helps pioneer family, dies.)
Canada, third novel in series)
white mean who want to take scalps. He considers this act unnatural for white men.)
Last of the Mohicans
Hawkeye is not a love
Hawkeye is a friend and
contemporary to
Chingachgook, not his
adopted son.
Uncas is protective of
Duncan loves Alice.
Hawkeye and Duncan
respect each other.
Magua tries to make Cora
marry him to exact
revenge on Munro.
Cora is of mixed race.
Cora dies, Col. Munro and
Duncan live.
Uncas dies.
Hawkeye kills Magua.
•Hawkeye and Cora fall in
•Hawkeye is portrayed as
Chingachgook’s white son.
•Uncas has feelings for Alice.
•Duncan proposed to Cora.
She refuses him.
•Hawkeye and Duncan are
•Alice dies, Cora lives, Col.
Munro, and Duncan die.
•Uncas dies.
•Chingachgook kills Magua.

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