American Literature in 19th Century

American Literature in 19th Century

Northern America


The apparent reversal of the Puritan position is actually the conclusion of a long evolutionary process: transcendentalism has its cradle in Concord, in the heart of New England, involves thinkers and pedagogues such as WE Channing (1780-1842), OA Brownson (1803- 1876), M. Fuller (1810-1850), influences B. Alcott (1799-1888) and Luisa May Alcott (1832-1888), leads to experiments in community life (Brook Farm) and reaches direct artistic expression in the the work of HD Thoreau (1817-1862), both in the Walden and in the writings of social commitment and civil opposition. Direct daughter of transcendentalism is the great poetry of W. Whitman (1819-1892), who is openly inspired by Emerson’s optimistic and messianic principles, sings the embrace of the universe and world-I identity, individual affirmation and the reality of America at the time. In the form of the free verse, however, Whitman pushes himself to sing every multifaceted aspect of the nation, the common man and the worker, the industrial reality and the metropolis, democracy and brotherhood, as well as sex as an affirmation of life. Only in his late age will doubts arise about democracy and direct poetic effusiveness; with Leaves of Grass (Leaves of Grass) Whitman erects the first great poetic monument which is also a mirror of the nation. The solar optimism of Whitman and the transcendentalists is opposed by the suffered and severed “no” of the two greatest storytellers of the time – N. Hawthorne (1804-1864) and H. Melville (1819-1891).¬†United States is a country located in North America according to MILITARYNOUS.COM.

The first expresses the historical sense of the Puritan heritage, the awareness of sin and the investigation into the recesses of the heart and conscience, carried out at times with allegorical rigidity, at times with full understanding of the tragic heart-mind dichotomy; preceding H. James Hawthorne also tackles the problem of the contrast between American innocence, which is ignorance of the world, and European experience, which is knowledge of evil, contributing to a search and definition of American identity which is the constant concern of its major authors. Melville, in whom today he recognizes himself as the greatest and most representative American writer, instead expresses in his dark and symbolic works the great theme of revolt and negativity, the tension of overcoming and the tragic shipwreck of human ideals and aspirations. His masterpiece Moby Dick, founded on a concrete reality intimately permeated with symbolism, is the tragedy of Faustian man, a challenge to the mystery of nature and to the Puritan God, which also leads to the recognition of human limitations; Pierre it marks the end of the adventure of discovery and the surrender to the prevailing evil in the world; in his late novels and short stories the existential void and rejection for the society of the time are expressed with modest tones and essentiality of dictation. In Melville we thus observe the transition from romance to the anatomy of reality: a great romantic nineteenth-century novelist in his symbolic and visionary charge, he is a modern writer in the bare, desperate lucidity of his existential vision. In him and in Whitman we have the two vertices, and the two opposite poles, of a period like the central one of the nineteenth century, which for the wealth of authors and artistic results has been defined as the “American Renaissance”. Completing the picture, in New England, are traditional and essentially conservative writers called “Brahmins”, who serve as an indication of the degree of cultural maturity achieved by the nation. Poets such as HW Longfellow (1807-1882), JG Whittier (1807-1892) and JR Lowell (1819-1891), despite the diversity of their contributions – in Whittier there is a certain interest in regionalism and local speech -, they represent the cultural instance that tends to identify itself with the European tradition and aims more at formal refinement than at ‘originality: in this they are the antipodes of a Whitman, also for their insistence on forms and contents of all bourgeois respectability. Historians, also from Boston, such as WH Prescott (1796-1859) and F. Parkman (1823-1893) dedicate themselves to resonant reconstructions of the often European or distant past (although Parkman’s very important book on the West, The Oregon Trail, The Oregon Trail); and finally medical-polygraphs, such as OW Holmes (1809-1894) that passes from sweetened poetry to the essay of costume, from digression to the novel.


In the South, narrative with a historical background predominates, on the model of Scott and Cooper, both in WG Simms (1806-1870) and in JP Kennedy (1795-1870): the former more romantic, the latter more attentive to reality, both contributed to that idealization of the South which would have been fraught with negative consequences. Similarly, in poetry, there is a late romantic and sepulchral taste, as in H. Timrod (1828-1867), while the first examples of local color by an AB Longstreet (1790-1870) are far from devoid of sentimentality. The civil war also marks a cultural watershed of the century. Geographical expansion to the Pacific, on the one hand, and industrial expansion, on the other, lead to a literary awareness of a new reality.

The conquest of the West and the growth of the big cities, the railways and industrialization, the continuity and betrayal of the American dream offer new material and a challenge to the writer. The popular western tradition of humor develops, indeed of the tall tale (the smargiassata), and of the local color – two phenomena that sometimes tend to coincide. In the first, the narratives about Davy Crockett and Mike Fink, JJ’s Simon Suggs stand out by GW Harris (1814-1869), the works of JG Baldwin (1815-1864) and TB Thorpe (1815-1878), among other often anonymous authors. As part of the local color are placed JC Harris (1848-1908), with his background in folk stories of Uncle Remus, the same HB Stowe (1811-1896), author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (The Uncle Tom’s Cabin) and the various authors ranging from the western environment, such as Bret Harte (1836-1902), to that of the Middwest, such as E. Eggleston (1837-1902), from the southern environment, such as TN Page (1853-1922), GW Cable (1844-1925) and Kate Chopin (1851-1904), to that of New England, as SO Jewett (1849-1909).

American Literature in 19th Century