American Literature

18th century

Almanacs were popular at that time for their weather forecasts, calendars and household advice. One of the most popular almanacs was written by Benjamin Franklin – Poor Richard´s Almanac. It was published yearly from 1732 to 1758.

 

19th century

James Fenimore Cooper – famous for books about Native Americans and pioneers (people who went west to settle new areas)

 The Last of the Mohicans (1826)

 

Edgar Allan Poe –  (extra handout)

– poetry:  The Raven (1845) – his most famous poem (on a stormy night a tired and unhappy young man, who has lost his love, asks the raven  if he will ever meet her again. His doubts and despair are underlined by the raven’s repetition of the phrase „Nevermore“.)

– detective stories: The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Purloined Letter

– short stories: The Pit and the Pendulum, The Black Cat, The Fall of the House of Usher etc.

 

Nathaniel Hawthorne – his books deal with the dark sides of human character

The Scarlet Letter (1850) – about sin and guilt. A young woman, Hester Prynne, has an illegitimate child. She refuses to say who the father is. As a punishment she has to wear a scarlet letter A on her dress. (A = adulteress)

 

Herman Melville – used his real life as a sailor to write his most famous novel Moby Dick (1851), a description of an obsessive hunt for a white whale

 

Mark Twain – wrote funny, satirical stories. His novel The Gilded Age (1873) gave the name to the whole period after the Civil War. It’s a bitter satire on greed and political corruption.

His best-known books are based on his own experience along the Mississippi (he worked as a riverboat pilot):

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) – stories and adventures of a young boy, Tom, living with his aunt Polly

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) – stories of Huckleberry Finn and Jim, a runaway slave

 

Walt Whitman – used free verse, was very open about humans and sexuality.

Leaves of Grass (1855) – his most famous poetry collection

 

Jack London  –  became very popular with readers all over the world. His most popular stories are those connected with the Klondike river (Canada) at the time of the Gold Rush .

The Call of the Wild (1903) it’s about Buck, a sled dog, who loves his master. After his master is killed by the Natives, Buck leaves the human civilisation to become the leader of a wolf pack.

White Fang – a sequel to The Call of the Wild

 

20th century

John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath – describes the depression following after the crisis of 1929

other works: East of Eden

Of Mice and Men

 

After WWI a group of writers known as The Lost Generation emerged. Those were writers influenced by WWI. After they came back home, they were unable to settle down, to forget their war experiences.

They describe the feelings of disillusionment caused by the war, sense of loss of their identity and their mistrust towards society.

 

Ernest Hemingway – a novelist, short-story writer, the best-known author of the Lost Generation.

In 1954 he received a Nobel Prize for literature for his novel The Old Man and the Sea.

In WWI he worked as a Red Cross driver, he was badly injured.

In 1961 he committed suicide (most likely).

A Farewell to Arms

For whom the Bell Tolls

 

Francis Scott Fitzgerald  – his most famous book is The Great Gatsby –  a love story between Jay Gatsby and Daisy. Daisy is a picture of Fitzgerald´s real wife, Zelda. The book describes people following the American dream (to become rich and thus successful in society)

 

The Beat Generation (around 1950s)

– a group of writers who were disgusted by the commercial and conventional world around them

– they practised new ways of free life, looking for new experiences through drugs, music and Eastern mysticism  

Allen Ginsberg – Howl and other poems

Jack Kerouac-  On the Road (describing his road trip across America)

 

Tennessee Williams  –  A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Jerome David Salinger – The Catcher in the Rye

Ken Kesey – One Flew Over the Cuckoo´s Nest

John Irving – The World According to Garp

Toni Morrison – The Bluest Eye, Beloved

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