What is typical for American literature? General description:

  • has a derivatice character (because it is derived from English literature, it copied English literature for a long time)
  • it is multicultural = so many different origins (black, Spanish, Jewish, Irish...)
  • southern literature
  • the ideas of American dream
  • individualism
  • Indians

1. Colonial Period (1620-1770)

  • Topics:
    • colonization, starting new life - description and maps of new places
    • reasons why they left England
    • religion (freedom)
  • Genres: poem, autobiographies, chronicles, diaries, travel books, religious poems, sermons (kázání).
  • Features:
    • mainly Puritan literature - devotion to God, plain style, no poetic language, to be modest, hardworking industry (= píle, přičinlivost)
    • it has practical purposes - to attract people to go to America, to show what it is like
    • they were mainly writing to British audience
    • they imitated British style and writing
    • they stressed independence and individualism

John Smith

  • A Description of New England - he added maps to it, he wrote it to encourage people to move to America.

William Bradford

  • one of founders of Plymouth colony.
  • Of Plymouth Plantation - the first primitive government (= Civil Body), on the top there is GOD (government in the name of God). The most important part is Mayflower Compact. Desire for freedom. Element of American dream = to survive, to be successful in starting new life (build new houses ...)

John Winthrop

  • He was a governor of Massachusets Colony.
  • The History of New England.

Cotton Mather

  • Very orthodox Puritan writer.
  • Magnalia Christi Americana - history of Puritans in America. Salem - witch trials.

Jonathan Edwards

  • He wrote very powerful and frightening sermons: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
  • Later he became a philosopher (philosophy is a base of Puritanism): Freedom to Will

Roger Williams

  • Bloudy Tenent - a person who can’t find a nice place to live


Anne Bradstreet

  • The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America - about American life

William Byrd II

  • He was very educated. He wanted to be popular - wrote with sense of humour, about frontier between Virginia and wilderness = dividing line:
  • History of the Dividing Line.
  • He had quite liberal opinions on Indians.

2. Revolutionary Period

  • Features: moody society, political literature appeared - spread of American revolution, later of independence.
  • Genres:
    • essays, pamphlets, proclamations, political speeches, songs, poems = political weapons
    • beginning of novels and short stories
  • Topics:
    • politics
    • French revolution
    • enlightenment

Thomas Jefferson

  • Declaration of Independence - written by more authors (Adams ...)
  • He wrote an essay: Notes on the State of Virginia.

Thomas Paine

  • Common Sense, American Crisis = book of essays.

Benjamin Franklin

  • He was a philosopher, a scientist, a politician, a writer, a printer, an inventor . He started the idea of public library, street lightning and cleaning.
  • He was a type of versatile man = able to do almost everything.
  • Poor Richard’s Almanack - published for poor people (farmers), advice how to live, proverbs ..
  • Autobiography - (every autobiography has to have descriptive language, it has to describe subjective, personal, emotional) - it is personal, but has no emotion, its language is very formal - vocabulary and style. He presented himself as very talented = it’s regardes as the first attempt to describe an American dream: he left his house with no money in his pocket and became very successful.
  • Its features:
    • self-confidence
    • work, build, practical skills = pragmatism (practical thinking is the most important)
    • honest
    • bravery, new idea
  • He lived like a monk - strictness and education (when he was 16 years old).

Hector St. John de Crévecoeur

  • What is an American, Letters from an American Framer.
  • He wrote about life and people in America, about American manners.
  • During revolution he was on the side of Britain.
  • He was the first who expressed a modern opinion on what it is to be an American.

Philip Freneau

  • He was a political poet, was captured by British sailors and wrote The British Prison Ship - about brutality and cruel behaviour of British soldiers.

The first group of poets = Connecticut Wits:

  • John Trumbull
  • Timothy Dwight
  • Joel Barlow

First two important novelists:

  • Hugh Henry Brackenridge
    • Modern Chivalry (rytířství) - about frontier lives (similar to Don Quijote) - travelling and experiences.
  • Charles Brockden Brown
    • In his work is much psychology of horror (like Gothic novel).
    • Wieland, Ormond.

3. Romanticism

  • Features:
    • love for nature, love, escape to pass, imagination, spontaneity
    • but in addition there are some typically American features:
      • extreme emphasis on individualism
      • interest in legends and folklor
      • nature = open, vast spaces in America
      • cult of primitivism (interest in Indians - J. F. Cooper introduced their vision: noble sawage = divoch)
      • interest in irrational effects of psychology (represented by Poe)
  • 2 groups - streams:
    1. the Knickerbrockers - the name is taken from the book by W. Irving. They published Knickerbrockers’ Magazine and wrote about N. Y. region (as a state). The representants - W. Irving, J. F. Cooper, W. C. Bryant.
    2. psychology - E. A. Poe

William Cullan Bryant

  • He draw his inspiration in nature = a source of truth for him.
  • Thanatopsis - about a Greek, his view of death. He saw the death as ultimate solution.
  • A question of slavery: The Death of Slavery.

James Fenimore Cooper

  • He imitated novels by W. Scott. He started to use American setting (= place, time) - nature.
  • He became the first American author who became popular in Europe.
  • Precaution.
  • The Spy.
  • The Leatherstocking Tales - the main hero of those books was called Leatherstocking or Hawkeye. It represents American features - freedom, independence, and honesty.
  • Idea of noble sawage - Indian has the most human quality - established the myth of the West. Tales consists of 5 novels about the same hero: The Pioneers, The Last of the Mohicans, The Prairie, The Pathfinder, The Deerslayer (Lovec jelenů).

Washington Irving

  • He is regarded as a Master of description - was very imaginative in description, used irony, unusual vocabulary.
  • He was born in N. Y. City in a merchant family, studied law (but didn’t become a lawyer).
  • He started about English customs - collected stories: The Sketch Book (Rip Van Winkle, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow ... 32 stories).
  • He was also interested in history, travelling: The Life of Voyages of Christopher Columbus, The Conquest of Grenada, The Alhambra - he spent some time in Spain.
  • The importance of Irving for American literature = the creator of American short story. They were humorous writings, he started the tradition of American humour, sometimes it’s (his humour) called poking funstyle (pichlavý).
  • It was combination of folklor and romanticism (his legends).

Edgar Allan Poe

  • His life strongly reflected in his writing.
  • His parents were touring actors and died before he was 3 years old - he was taken to the house of John Allan = stepfather.
  • He studied University of Virginia - only for 1 year because of gambling. He had no money - he amnested in army.
  • Tamerlane and Other Poems.
  • Then he lived in Baltimore and tend more to prose.
  • MS Found in a Bottle (message).
  • He moved to Richmond and got married to Virginia, she was dying long on tuberculosis - this fact reflected much in his work - Annabel Lee.
  • The only longer prose (novel) is The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.
  • Short stories: The Black Cat, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Cask of Amontillado, The Pit and the Pendullum (Jáma a kyvadlo).
  • His short stories can be divided into 2 kinds:
    • a) horror - discover human mind - remote castles, cloud spaces, symbols
    • b) stories of rationalism = logical thinking, kind of detective stories - he is regarded as a founder of detective stories
  • Poetry: he is sometimes called jingle man - he wrote about bells: The Bell, The Raven.
  • He was also very important critic - eg. wrote an essay called The Philosophy of Composition.
  • The Black Cat:
    • story of horror:
      • plot itself
      • vocabulary - makes the atmosphere of horror
      • psychology - not describe only events but minds
      • place - closed spaces, most happened in the house (cellar)
    • symbols:
      • black cat - symbol of bad resolution and endings, symbol of evil
      • the second cat - symbol of punishment, especially its spot - it reminds gallows
      • alcohol - symbol of destruction of human mind, personality
      • perverseness - symbol of doing st forbidden (primitive impulse to do it)
  • Many of Poe’s stories were very bad to read - he wasn’t so popular (except The Black Cat).

4. The Flowering of New England

a) Transcendentalism

  • the centre of literary activity is New England, especially Boston and Concord
  • the half of 19th century
  • culture influenced by Orthodox-Puritanism
  • very productive - sometimes called American Renaissance
  • among young people - new spiritual era - the young intellectuals were dissatisfied with old generation, they weren’t interested in power and wealth of America - weren’t interested in inner life = TRANSCEND = movement of countryside
  • both literary movement and philosophical conception, revolt of young generation against the old one - FEELINGS and BELIEVES were important (not reason).
  • UNITARISM - they don’t believe in Trinity and try to find the truth
  • intuition can help you
  • TRANSCENDENT = st that is beyond our understanding, our senses = intuition, belief
  • NATURE is very important for them
  • they praised hard work, modesty
  • BROOK FARM - they lived there for 4 years

Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • He was a philosopher, a writer, and a poet who lived in Boston.
  • His dominant genre = essay (Essay of self-reliance).
  • His masterpiece is a very long essay Nature:
    • stressed individualism - man has to trust himself
    • stressed originality
    • he believed in human progress, was very optimistic
    • everything is chained and somehow connected together
    • watch around and you will see (rose = nature)
    • everybody can get to the peak (not only man)
    • transcendentalism is sometimes called party of the future
    • it has 3 parts - Nature = body (material thing), Soul = mind (spiritual thing), Oversoul = God (unifying power, tu nemáme v úryvku)
    • Nature is not Me (Me = soul)
    • Nature - unchanged by man, created by God - trees, rivers ...
    • Art - changed by man
    • beautiful in nature is that thing which makes our feeling pleasant: taste = love of beauty, art = creation of beauty
  • Another essay The American Scholar
    • primary man isn’t a farmer, a teacher ..BUT: MAN
    • man is devoted to think
    • the first you should start = nature
    • books - they aren’t meant to sit and study them, they are only inspiration for our thinking

Henry David Thoreau

  • Emerson wrote an essay of him.
  • He never drank, smoked, wasn’t married, was a vegetarian.
  • He was interested in what values people should have and how to live a life. Answer is simplicity.
  • Walden - narrated by himself, his experience from Walden (2 years).

b) Poetry

  • The group Boston Brahmins - cultural club, aristocrats from rich families. They believed Boston is the intellectual centre of the world.
  • They started to publish a magazine Atlantic Monthly (for many years).
  • The most famous was Henry W. Longfellow. Others were prose writers N. Hawthorne, Oliver Wendel Holmes, John Greenleaf Whittier, James Rusell Lowell + historians Prescott, Montley.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  • He used easy rhyme - easy to read, easily understood.
  • He told them what they wanted to hear.
  • American scene, landscape, history and tradition - eg. Indian story Song of Hiawatha - it is of an Indian chief (to live in peace).
  • Voices of the Night = first book of poems.
  • Evangeline - from N. Hawthorne - he gave him a brief outline of the story.
  • The Courtship of Miles Standish.

Walt Whitman

  • He was a founder of modern poetry (he isn’t a modernist, he is their precedent.
  • Leaves of Grass.
  • He was connected with Emerson, but he brought new inventions to his poetry (taboo words).
  • Inovatory in ways of form = free verse, and in contents = not traditional description of nature.
  • He was called a poet of democracy, stressed individualism.
  • One of his features was enumeration (výčet). He uses many metaphors, breaks the sentences.
  • He was a common man, not highly educated.

Emily Dickinson

  • She was a very strange personality, born in Amherst, Mass. - she left her house only for several times. She was a very energic woman.
  • Her poetry = kind of communication for her, express her feelings.
  • She didn’t want to show her feelings to everybody - that’s why not to publish them (only 6-7 were published). She was discovered after her death - The Poems of Emily Dickinson.
    • she spend time walking - devoted to nature
    • she never got married (waiting for some prince to come) - her another stream is love
    • many people around her died (war ...) - another stream is death
  • She immediately wrote her feelings, ideas on anything she had.

c) Prose

Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • He spent very solitary and bookish childhood. He was brought up only by his mother.
  • He started to publish short stories in magazines Twice-Told Tales.
  • He worked at custom house and his experiences - The Blithdale Romance
  • Puritan tales - The Scarlet letter, The House of Seven Gables (Dům se 7 štíty), Mosses from an Old Manse (Mechy ze starého domu).
  • Books for children - A Wonder-Book, Tanglewood Tales.
  • He lived some time in Italy - experiences - The Marble Faun

Herman Melville

  • his father died very soon - he had to work as a bookkeeper, a schoolmaster, a sailor on a ship...
  • One of his travels were on the Marquiza Islands - experiences - Typee, Omoo (names).
  • He was a very closed friend of N. Hawthorne, was influenced by metaphysics and philosophy - Mardi.
  • Other novels Redburn, White Jacket, Moby Dick (many descriptions, very philosophical), The Great White Whale.

5. Realism

The same as in Europe, the end of the 19th century.

William Dean Howells

  • editor of Harper’s Monthly which became very known and powerful literaty magazine (after his leadership) - it was a kind of weapon FOR realism and AGAINST romanticism.
  • one of his ideas - novels should make you think, help you create, be better
  • in the centre of society there is a businessman (industrialism, materialism, money) - that’s why novels should depict them
  • the realism should be interested in common people, you should show the society as it really IS, not nicer nor uglier
  • A Modern Instance (it’s meant divorce) = novel, he blames society of it
  • The Rise of Silas Lapham =a common uneducated man who becomes rich, he has money - so he joined high society, then he had bankrupt - he used to cheat

Theodor Dreiser

  • He mixed naturalism and realism.
  • Sister Carrie - a girl who comes to a large city (Chicago) to be successful there, she believes to be an actress and to have comfortable life. But the money didn’t bring her happiness. (He himself was born in poverty).
  • Naturalistic way - he didn’t explain why st is.
  • Jennie Gerhardt - a young girl (the same topic) to have better life. Morality = evil because in a real life goodness is punished.
  • The Trilogy of Desire (The Financer, The Titan, The Big Money) = new development in his thinking. - that morality is absurd, the stress with power.
  • An American Tragedy - the society causes everything - he is the victim of society.

Special stream of realism = LOCAL COLOUR REALISM - it deals with all the colours, use the customs, habits typical for the region. It has 3 representatives.

Bret Harte

  • The Luck of Roaring Lamp - about gold rush in California in 1850s, about the people who want to find gold, from the mining camps - describing the people (miners, gamblers, prostitutes..)

Sarah Orne Jewett

  • who depicted New England - ordinary people in little towns
  • symbolism -eg. in A White Heron (volavka) - main character is watching herons = symbol of freedom
  • - The Country of the Pointed Firs - a small town where most people never wnt away and are satisfied, poor people who manage to travel are unsatisfied and come back there.

Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

He had 3 different spheres of interests:

  1. comparison of Americans and Europeans The Innocents Abroad - a group of Americans who travel to Europe to learn the culture of Europeans and they don’t like it (unnatural, undemocratic...).
    • Roughing It - from the Far West, describes cowboys - he somehow regrets that the innocent history of early America is away.
    • The Gilded Age = depicted new morality, immorality of business world.
  2. experience of the life on the Mississippi River - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  3. history with A Connecticut Yankee in the court of King Arthur - King Arthur’s Court. Prince and the Pauper.

6. Naturalism

  • in America was influenced by several streams:
    • sociological determinism (the faith of the person is determined by the social condition he was born in)
    • darwinism (the theory of survival of the fittest)
    • marxism
    • pragmatism (everything has its purpose, practical things)
    • Nietzsche - especially his idea of a superman - who is standing above all the others
    • muckrakers (a group of people who were revealing the worst political corruption).
    • Naturalism goes further than realism, shows the worst things of the society. It has 4 representatives:

Stephen Crane

  • Maggie: A Girl of the Streets - is controlled by her environment.
  • The Red Badge of Courage (odznak) - about Civil War, how can war change people and animals. The main character is afraid of being killed, so he deserted and was wounded - then he got a badge.

Frank Norris

  • The Octopus - about the fight between Californian wheat farmers (= nature) and Southern Pacific Railroad (= mechanical) - the farmers are defeated.

Jack London

  • he was especially influenced by darwinism, animals are often heroes of his novels.
  • Call of the Wild - about the dog who is taken from easy life of California to Alaska.
  • Sea Wolf - about the superman, nature governs everything.
  • influenced also by socialist marxism The People of the Abbys.

Upton Sinclair

  • He’s the most famous of muckrakers.
  • The Jungle = a story of an immigrant family who comes to America to have better life - horrors, tragedy, jungle of the society, society is compared to jungle. Characters are described as flat (ne moc dobře).

7. Modernism

  • basic features:
    1. the fail of 19th century ideals (the loss of faith in progress, in human unitness = jedinečnost, in racionality) - 20th century = age of scepticism.
    2. fail of culture (crisis) - doesn’t provide principles how to live according to some ethic values
    3. emphasis on experimentation - in form and content
  • its motto: Make it New (style, form, vocabulary, subject matter ...)
  • signs:
    • flashback
    • stream of consciousness
    • they stressed immediate experience and simplicity
    • foregrounding - they put expressions into foreground (not what they say but how) - language is important.
  • father of American modernism - Walt Whitman - he wasn’t a modernist, he is regarded as their father.

Poetry centres:

a) New England:

Robert Frost

  • formal in style
  • modernist in his imaginary (metaphors, expressing the mood)
  • collection of poems: North of Boston.

Edwin Arlington Robinson

  • loves older forms (sonnets..), quite often imitates or uses old-fashioned forms
  • the sense of loss - he believes the old values are gone
  • he’s best in portraying people.

b) Chicago Renaissance

  • (AmE - renesáns, BE - reneisense)

Carl Sandberg

  • urban poet - writing about cities, skyscrapers (modern civilization)
  • he was very influenced by W. Whitman
  • Chicago Poems
  • Good Morning, America.

Vachet Lindsay

  • she was a travelling poet, influenced by jazz and African culture:
  • The Congo and Other Poems.

Edgar Lee Masters

  • The Spoonriver Anthology.

c) Imagism

  • (according to style, not to a town) = hard, clear image is sensual, they wrote about immediate experience, they did not describe events, used language of everyday life.
  • complete freedom of subject (about everything you want)

Ezra Pound

  • vorticism = imagism developed into it, it is independent on reality, it is another stream, image creates artistic world itself (doesn’t refer to reality, doesn’t reflex it)
  • he was a critic and translator, too.
  • his poetry is conservative and revolutionary at the same time
  • literature is intensification of life.

T. S. Elliot

  • The Wasteland - spiritualism.

William Carlos Williams

  • Paterson = the name of the city, describes ugly landscape destroyed by civilization, from everyday life.
  • interested in language - doesn’t use infite words

Many poets started as imaginist and went on their own way.

d) Experimental Poets

Wallace Stevens

  • Harmonium - he uses words for their sound (not their meaning - it is difficult to undertand).

e. e. cummings

  • his name is written in small letters.
  • for him is important how the poems look like (1×1, & ...)

8. The Attack on Convention

  • at the same time as modernism in poetry, it is in prose
  • modernist in topic especially, they were not satisfied with their life - they were against American establishment = policy, government, attacked Victorian ands Puritan values, attacked lack of culture
  • narrowmindness in small towns (especially Midwest)

Sherwood Anderson

  • he attacked convention and he was unconvential himself, he was a businessman, had a nervous breakdown and left work, family ...
  • he wrote mainly short stories - collection:
  • Winesburg, Ohio - this town doesn’t exist = imaginary (but inspired by real town). This town = kind of prison for the people, the characters are sad, melancholic, looking for some truth (when they find the truth - they live in false, not in reality..)
  • the big difference in a life of dream and reality

Edgar Lee Masters

  • similar topic as Anderson
  • he was a poet of Chicago renaissance
  • his collection:
  • Spoonriver Anthology = imaginative town.
  • Ann Rut Ledge = epitafs, it is an example of a poem, monologue of their life, all of them express sth, talk about waste of opportunities, missing chance, lack of courage. A. R. Ledge was a lover of A. Lincoln - based on contrast of A. Lincoln = strong, successful and Ann = wasty, unhappy.

Sinclair Lewis

  • first American writer awarded the Nobel Prize
  • great satirist and conformist - based on traditions.
  • Main Street = typical symbol of a small town, symbol of everything what happens. An unconvential woman who left her husband goes to a small town, she wants to bring culture to this small town, resignes.
  • Babbit = a name, symbol of comformism, typical member of middle class - businessman going to clubs, married (not with love, he should have to get married, so he did it). He tries to revolt, then he turns back to conform, the kind of return of a lost son.
  • Arrowsmith - young doctor fighting against narrowmindness.
  • Elmer Gantry - uses everything to be successful, to get advantage.

9. Traditionalism

Lost Generation

  • after WWI, Bohemian life, jazz age
  • change of society very quickly - stockmarket, crisis
  • lost faith in meaning of life.

Gertrude Stein

  • lived in Paris (as many Lost Generation’s authors did)
  • they are also part of modernism - new style, new vocabulary ..
  • very experimental - she lost the readers but was appreciated by the writers
  • she experimented with the meaning of words
  • Three Lives - modt readable, about 3 servant women.
  • The Making of Americans.
  • The Autobiography of Alic e B. Toklas - her personal secretary and her lover, it looks as it was written by Alice.

Ernest Hemingway

  • the most important representative
  • In Our Time = collection of short stories, he was an inovator of short stories - simple language, simple syntax, dialogues, they are connected with one character.
  • The Sun Also Rises (Fiesta) - group of young people, they want to enjoy their life.
  • Death in the Afternoon - bull fighting (he was interested in it very much).
  • The Old Man and the Sea.

Francis Scott Fitzgerald

  • The Great Gatsby - the times of the 20s, about a wealthy man, he believes he is able to buy love, too, about immorality of high society.
  • Tender Is Night - love between a doctor (psychiatric sanatorium in Switzerland) and a patient.
  • he wrote about failure of American dream
  • he was quite well-off and in the crise he lost much money.

John Dos Passos

  • Manhattan Transfer - kind of caleidoscopic view of New York. He uses pieces of newspaper articles, classical documents, camera eyes - as you see it.
  • trilogy: USA (Forty-Second Parallel, Ninety-nineteen, The Big Money).
  • Three Soldiers.

10. War Novel

Ernest Hemingway

  • Farewell to Arms - love story
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls - experience from Spanish Civil War

John Dos Passos

  • Three Soldiers - war = a huge machine (WWI) which destroys people

e. e. cummings

  • The Enormous Room

World War II

Jerzy Kozinski

  • The Painted Bird - a small boy walking through Poland during the war.
  • He also wrote Being Here - film with Peter Sellers (česky Byl jsem při tom).

Norman Mailer

  • The Naked and the Dead - picture of exhausted soldiers, nonsense of the war - they are sent to beforehand lost battle.
  • Why Are We in Vietnam - it takes place in Alaska, bear hunting = allegory, indirect attack on the war.
  • The Armies of the Night - non-fictional, anti-Vietnam war protest.

James Jones

  • From Here to Eternity - story of a man who deserts from the army, when he wants to come back, he is killed - on the return (Pearl Harbour).

Joseph Heller

  • Catch 22

Kurt Vonnegut

  • Slaughterhouse - Five (Jatka č. 5) - experience from Dresden and its bombing.

11. Southern Literature

  • feelings connected with the Civil War - people didn’t accept surrendors
  • special social structure - imitating aristocratic system (poor people = slaves)
  • racial tension - it means racism is connected with their lives

William Faulkner

  • the most important representative. He was interested in problems and conflicts of people. He is very open about all the problems - it is sometimes called southern gothic = revealing secrets (they were afraid of writing about violence, sex...)
  • Yoknapatawpha Country - kind of miniworld, fictitious.
  • The Sound and the Fury - destruction of a family. He introduced one of modernist techniques: limited point of view (= through the eyes of only one person) - here it is an idiotic brother.
  • As I Lay Dying - here the technique of limited point of view brought to perfectness. It is about travelling with a coffin. Each chapter bears the name of one member of a family and he/she narrates - different views.
  • He uses present continuous tense - no distinction among present, past, and future.
  • Light in August - about sexual behaviour, racism,... The main character is half-black and half-white - hostility of the society, he kills sb.
  • Absolom, Absolom! - about a family.

Erskine Caldwell

  • national traditionalist, he wrote mainly about poor people: farmers, dependent on an owner = tennants. They have a dream to be rich, very rich - have rich soil,...
  • He also wrote about disabled people, family disintegration - did not bring money to get family together.
  • Tobacco Road
  • God’s Little Acre
  • Trouble in July.

Carson McCullers

  • a woman writer, she wrote short stories and novels. Her typical topic - loneliness and sadness.
  • The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter - about a young girl, people don’t understand her.
  • The Member of the Wedding - a girl dissatisfied with her love, she wants to belong somewhere. It is the wedding of her brother - he is a very important person, but nobody pays attention to her.
  • The Ballad of the Sad Café - a small town, dissapointment of love.
  • Clock without Hands - seriously ill man who is watching clock, how death is coming near and near.

William Styron

  • Lie Down in Darkness, The Long March, Set This House in Fire.
  • The Confession of Nut Turner - black rebellion of N. Turner.
  • Sophie’s Choice.

12. Post-War Poetry

  • The 40s - 50s in American poetry are the period of formalist academic poetry, written by intellectuals (head position at universities..)
  • Form - allusion to history, traditional.
  • One of the most important groups were The Fugitives.

Confessional Poetry

appeared at the beginning of the 50s - new stream. It is very open, very drastically open, very personal, most intimate experience. They were interested in the question of marriage, tensions of close relationships, many of them committed suicide.

Robert Lowell

  • Life Studies.

Sylvia Plath

  • The Bell Jar.

John Berryman

  • Dream Songs - about alcoholism, sin, criem, punishment.

Experimental Poetry

  • from the 50s to now. It is influenced by jazz, abstractness, they live Bohemian lives. They were fighting against official structures adn cultures.
  • Poetry is shocking, very original, new values - turning to old myths, legends, traditional societies - Indian culture.

1) Black-Mountain School

  • in N. Carolina.

Charles Olson

  • theoretical spokesman of a group. Founder of projectivism = theory of a poem, feeling of unclosed, feeling of energy. Energy of poetry is subordinate to voice of a poet - a poem is created in the same way as you speak (když se nadýchneš, uděláš pauzu - bude tedy pauza i v básni).
  • The Maximum Poems.

2) San Francisco School

  • West coast of the USA. Influenced by philosophy and religion of East Asia, Japanese and Chinese poetry. They look for inspiration in nature.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

  • A Coney Island of the Mind.

3) Beat Generation Group

  • against official culture and establishment
  • expressed love for America
  • believe you express in specific moment and in specific way.
  • They were influenced by jazz, buddhism, zen-buddhism.
  • oral character - for reciting - that’s why reading poetry was very common.

Allen Ginsberg

  • Howl.

4) Surrealism

  • they suggested dreams, images
  • want to express sub-consciousness or unconsciousness (podvědomí a bezvědomí).
  • ethnic and women writers.

13. Post-War Prose

  • only the most important representatives:

a) Realism

Jerome David Salinger

  • The Catcher in the Rye - Kdo chytá v žitě.
  • Jewish American writer, doesn’t keep so much Jewish traditions.

John Updike

  • Rabbit Run - one of 4 novels,a bit psychological, picture of society - typical representatives want to be successful.
  • Marry Me - subject of marriage, inner dynamic of husband and wife (sexual question)
  • The Coup (Převrat) - kind of political novel, he was touring Africa - it is about violent African regime.

b) Beat Generation

Jack Kerouac

  • On the Road - a travel from the east to the west and back in a car.

William Burroughs

  • The Naked Lunch
  • Junkie
  • The Soft Machine

Richard Brautigan

  • In Watermelon Sugar - a parallel to American societ, it is made out of sugar.
  • A Confederate General from Big Sur - kind of battle in Civil War BUT instead of it, there is a battle between the book and the story.

Ken Kesey

  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest - fight between the individual and establishment, hospital = machine.

Henry Miller

  • Sexus, Plexus, Nexus = trilogy, celebrate freedom of mind and body.

Vladimir Nabokov

  • Lolita - middle aged man and very young girl.
  • Pale Fire - experimental novel - several levels of reality. The main part is a long poem - it itself is one level of reality, another level = discussion about the poem, another level = world around it (intriques, politics, poets..)

c) Minimalism

  • deals with some basic situation in life (family life, broken family), they deal with minimal amount of everything (words, shorted sentences = language, literal - characters are not developed to details, background isn’t developed, sometimes no names - HE, SHE, deals with one special situation).

Raymond Carver

d) New Journalism

  • imaginations of fact.

Tom Wolfe

  • The Painted Word - about modern art, abstract expressionism, how artists do to become successful. It is a mixture of a novel and documentary prose - he combine both the authenticity of a document with artistic approach.
  • he is a journalist
  • blanding (spojování) fiction and non-fiction - fiction goes to the level of art.
  • common themes - social consciousness (domestic political life, war, life of styles, culture, sport, work of the police, FBI, Vietnam War, science).

Truman Capote

  • In Cold Blood (Chladnokrevně) - family killed by two criminals (he describes how they prepare the murder, with no emotions).

William Styron

  • The Confession of Nut Turner
  • Sophie’s Choice

E. L. Doctorow

  • Ragtime - details about the 20s in America.

Alex Haley

  • The Roots

Norman Mailer

  • An American Dream
  • Why Are We in Vietnam
  • The Armies of the Night
  • The Executioner’s Song

James Baldwin

  • black, about social tensions, how white people do not care about black
  • Nobody Knows My Name
  • The Fire Next Time.

e) Satire and literature of absurdity

Ken Kesey

Richard Brautigan

  • Watermelon

Joseph Heller

  • Catch 22, Something Happened.

Arthur Miller

  • Death of a Salesman.

Kurt Vonnegut

  • Player Piano, The Sirena of Titan, Cat’s Craddle.

Woody Allen

  • Side Effects
  • based on mystification

James Thurber

  • Is Sex Necessary?, Men, Women, and Dogs.
  • He is also a fine cartoonist.

Walter Mitty

  • represents adventurous story, hide from his own unhappy life.

f) Post-Modernism

  • literature tends to non-traditional, against authority, against significations (zařazení, škatulkování)
  • invented many experiment techniques - anti-novel
  • concrete poetry - like pictures.

14. American Theatre and Drama

  • imitated British literature - at first in prose, later influenced poetry, the theatre was the last one - beginnig of the 20th century.
  • melodrama was typical for the beginning, it did not solve big problems, overplaying (přehrávání), simplified characters, lot of sentiment.
  • the first dramatist (in British tradition): Eugene O’Neill
  • theatres:
    • Broadway - musicals - attract large audience, they use a lot of effects, it must be st what earns a lot of money, rich stage and costumes
    • off-Broadway - not in the centre directly, new offers, new forms, small audience
    • off-off-Broadway - a little bit further off Broadway, very small audience, more experiments.

Eugene O’Neill

in his work there are 3 stages:

  1. short plays - mood pieces: Bound East for Cardiff
  2. longer experimental plays - generally influenced by German expressionism, about emotions, express your deepest emotions and feelings
    • Hairy Ape - poor man - distorbed, they look horrified - she calls them apes.
    • Strange Interlude - story about a girl whose father she leaves. The story is broken between dialogues by her inner thoughts. It has 3 different parts and takes 6 hours.
  3. autobiographical plays
    • Long Day’s Journey into Night - takes place in Monte Christo cottage. Mother, father, Eugene and his brother. Father was a very popular actor (and very promissing actor) - he played M. Christo for 20 years and he wasn’t able to play anything else. He comes from a very poor background - that’s why he wasn’t willing to spend money (Eugene mu to zazlíval), Eugene blamed his father not to give money to his mother and brother (mother was ill on tuberculosis), brother = alcoholic.

After WWII there were 2 main streams in drama:

  • 1. Political thinking - Arthur Miller
  • 2. Psychological approach - Tennessee Williams

Political thinking

Arthur Miller

  • comes from the North - he and his plays represent intellect, rational forces, he did with social questions, he uses predominantly male characters, modern tragedies of ordinary people.
  • principal theme - responsibility + irresponsibility.
  • All My Sons
    • responsibility of a person for what he did in the past
    • a wealthy manufacturee who is accused of a murder of his son because he sold defective parts for aircrafts - the aircraft didn’t work well and his son fell with it and died - indirect murder - he must take responsibility for that
  • Death of a Salesman
  • The Crucible - a play about Salem trials, it was written in the 50s attack on McCarthism.
  • All his plays have in common:
    • main theme - responsibility
    • pass information by little steps = we gradually learn the situation about characters

Psychological approach

Tennessee Williams

  • was from the South - he represents senses, irrational forces, did with personal questions, he uses both characters but stresse female ones.
  • Cat on Hot Tin Roof - interested in inner world of characters, personal crises of people, family relations (son - father, husband - wife).
    • fear of reality, destructive power of reality.
  • The Glass Menagerie (Skleněný zvěřinec) - mother, daughter, and son - family relationship.
    • he isn’t able to live in reality - he goes to the cinema
    • his sister is a little crippled (trochu špatně chodí) and she has small glass animals
    • mother - she always speaks about how she used to be beautiful, how her husband used to love her = she lives in memories.
  • A Streetcar Named Desire - two sisters Stella and Blanche.

Theatre of Absurd

Edward Albee

  • he mixes realism and theatre of absurd
  • social criticism in his plays
  • Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf - about the couple who aren’t able to live in reality, they play also in reality - invent stories about each other. They invented a son (they didn’t have a child) - husband realizes it’s dangerous and kills him (that he had an accident) and she feels like he really died.

15. Ethnic Literature

a) Black Literature

  • it occured before Civil War but Afro-American writers were visible in the 20th century.

Frederick Douglass

  • wrote during Civil War, he was a runaway slave (from the South to the North)
  • wrote antislavery novel: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave - his autobiography, he expresses humiliation (ponížení) as a slave, he tells about how he hates slavery, how he ran away¨.
  • he supported antislavery activities.

Richard Wright

  • wrote about how the white society direct the life of the black (20th century) - they aren’t accepted to the society:
  • Native Son, Black Boy.

William E. D. DuBois

  • at the beginning of the 20th century, the most important intellectual leader, the best in writing essays.
  • The Souls of Black Folk - he writes about double identity of black people - African + American. The American society actually depends on the black - they clean the streets, the houses...
  • He believes in equality through education (they must be educated enough)
  • black must be proud to be be black = their advantage
  • he speaks also about black culture - especially poetry and music.

Booker T. Washington

  • a little opposition, economic emancipation - black should go and learn some job.
  • they shouldn’t care of white, start to take care of themselves, provide for themselves.

Harlem Renaissance

  • the 1920s
  • period of jazz, joyness.
  • Harlem became a centre of culture - black culture became very popular (at white, too) - to the beginning of the crisis.
  • The most important representative was:

Langston Hughes

  • he was obsessed by Harlem, wrote poetry influenced by jazz and about the life in Harlem.
  • The Weary Blues.
  • Fine Clothes to the Jew - collection (význam názvu - dát do zástavy k Židům - lichvářům=pawn)

James Baldwin

  • post-war period, inspired very much by R. Wright, wrote essays a lot.
  • peaceful way Nobody Knows My Name - nobody=white people
  • The Fire Next Time - fighting is necessary
  • Go and Tell It on the Mountain - autobiographical novel, relationship between him and his step-father (who is priest) - comparing the life on the street and in the church (black church).
  • Giovanni’s Room - homosexual, later in his life (black + homosexual = disaster!)

Toni Morrison

  • Jazz, Beloved - her pre-Nobel Prize works are much better.
  • She got the Nobel Prize.

Alice Walker

  • The Color Purple.

b) Jewish Literature – immigrant authors

Abrham Cahan

  • born in Russia
  • The Rise of David Levinsky - about Jews living in New York, they live there because of antisemitism in Europe. He was quite successful and forgot about Jews, then was punished - he was lonely.
  • gentiles = non-Jews

Isaac Bashevis Singer

  • from Poland, wrote sad but humorous stories.
  • the most typical: Gimpel the Fool and Other Stories, The Magician of Lublin.

c) Jewish Literature – born in America

Saul Bellow

  • his typical themes = displaced people who feel they are out of the society (nedokáží se zařadit), he is interested in feel of human behaviour, meaning of human = what it means to be human.
  • typical protagonists = social and urban creatures who lost connection to the nature, but the cities make them feel exhausted. They usually have strong sense of religion and family - but because of tradition, they don’t believe in it as much. They feel shame very often, and unfulfilled needs.
  • his novels have very deep meaning, difficult to understand - a little bit different of other Jewish authors, they are usually easy ro read.
  • Henderson, the Rain King - about a Connecticut millionaire who goes to Africa to look for the sense of life.
  • Herzog - of intellectual who lives on the edge of suicide.
  • The Victim - person conflict between a Jew and a gentile.

Bernard Malamud

  • he’s much more readable, interested in impowerish people = loosing everything - about loosers.
  • he wrote about miracles - miracles do occur but they last just a moment and bring confusion - so he is sceptical about them.
  • he also wroteabout Jewish suffering.
  • The Magic Barrel = collection of stories about young man who is confused in his life - to be or not to be with or against the Jewish traditions.
  • The Assistant (Příručí) = novel about a small shopkeeper struggling for survival, he is non-Jew.
  • The Tenants - about deep loneliness, about racial relationship between 2 writers: black and white.

Philip Roth

  • Goodbye, Columbus - typical Jewish humour, about J. Americans who became successful.
  • Letting Go. Portnoy’s Complaint - attacks on Jewish family who didn´t believe in Jewish traditions, son is psychologically ill because of his mother.

Many other Jewish authors do not write about Jewish topics:

  • J. D. Salinger, N. Mailer, Doctorow, J. Heller.