American Literature: Romantic Period

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Last updated: May 8, 2019

five characteristics to identify American Romantic literature.
Imagination, Individuality, Nature as a source of spirituality, Looking to the past for wisdom, Seeing the common man as a hero

Washington Irving
known as the father of American literature.

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Even though he was influenced by European writers – and especially German folklore and legends – he created a uniquely American voice, one that was both lofty and mocking. He used imagery to help his readers experience the Hudson Valley landscape. His use of pseudonyms adds to his sort of fanciful persona, and it’s under the name Diedrich Knickerbocker that he becomes established as a satirical writer in New York. But it’s using the pseudonym Geoffery Crayon that he publishes The Sketch Book, which contains his most well-known stories, ‘Rip Van Winkle’ and ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.’

William Cullen Bryant
poet during this time, wrote a poem called ‘Thanatopsis.’ An example of looking into nature for spiritual insight.

Fireside Poets
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russel Lowell.

Characteristics of Dark Romanticism
Lots of creepy symbols, Horrific themes, Psychological effects of guilt and sin

American Renaissance
a very specific part of the larger literary period, the American Romantic period.

During which, writers could generally be placed into one of two subgenres, or categories: the Dark Romantics and the Transcendentalists.

Edgar Allan Poe
he creator of the detective story and the modern mystery. He didn’t just write short stories; he also wrote poems, essays, and even a novel and a play. Because he was heavily influenced by many tragedies in his life, his writing was usually dark and morbid. Through the use of diction and terrifying imagery, he was able to take readers into the dark realms of the world as well as the horrifying depths of the mind. He used these techniques in such famous works as ‘The Raven,’ ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ and ‘The Fall of the House of Usher.’

Herman Melville
after starting off strong in his career writing adventure stories, his reputation went south after he began writing complex stories about the metaphysical, or human nature.

A few decades after his death, his popularity was re-instated as people began to embrace his stories, the most famous of which is Moby Dick. Through the use of complex sentences, elaborate diction and an understated sense of humor, he reflects the Dark Romantic perspective that no matter how hard we try to better ourselves, evil will always intervene.

Nathaniel Hawthorne
famous American writer who lived among others who were equally well-known. His writing is heavily influenced by his embarrassment of his Puritan heritage.

He wrote of sinners, guilt, and hypocrisy, all of which were major themes for the Puritan characters in his novel The Scarlet Letter. He also wrote The House of Seven Gables, The Blithedale Romance, ‘Young Goodman Brown’ and ‘The Minister’s Black Veil.’ Through the use of allegory, symbols, and long, elaborate sentences, he makes us question our motivations to better understand ourselves.

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