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American Literature & Culture: 19th Century American Lit

Literature of a New Republic (1800-1830)

The period from 1800 to 1830 in American literature is often characterized by the emergence of a distinctly American voice in literature. This era marks the beginning of the Romantic period in America, though it was still heavily influenced by European literary traditions. American writers began to explore themes relevant to the American experience, such as frontier life, individualism, and the conflict between civilization and nature.

James Fenimore Cooper

Washington Irving

The Romantic Period (1830-1865)

The Romantic period in American literature, spanning from around 1830 to 1865, was marked by a profound emphasis on emotion, nature, and individualism. This era was part of a broader Romantic movement that originated in Europe and significantly influenced American writers. American Romanticism is notable for its celebration of the imagination and intuition over reason, a deep appreciation for the beauty and power of nature, and an interest in exploring the human psyche and spirit.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Herman Melville

Edgar Allan Poe

Romanticism Resources @ MDC

Transcendentalism (c. 1830-1860)

Transcendentalism was a philosophical and literary movement that emerged in the early 19th century in the United States, particularly in New England. It was a reaction against the general state of intellectualism and spirituality at the time. The Transcendentalists believed in the inherent goodness of people and nature, the primacy of individual intuition as a guide to truth, and the potential for individuals to connect with a higher spiritual reality beyond the material world.

Bronson Alcott

Margaret Fuller

Henry David Thoreau

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Walt Whitman

Transcendentalism Resources @ MDC

Mid to Late 19th Century

The mid to late 19th century in American literature, roughly from the end of the Civil War (1865) to the turn of the 20th century, was marked by significant shifts in themes, styles, and concerns. This period saw the transition from Romanticism to Realism and Naturalism, as writers responded to the rapid changes in American society, including industrialization, urbanization, and social upheavals. Authors captured the distinct characteristics of various American regions representing the speech, customs, and landscape of specific areas, contributing to a richer and more diverse national literature. This period also witnessed writers using their works to critique social injustices and advocate for reform. Themes such as poverty, inequality, and the struggles of marginalized groups were common.

Kate Chopin

Stephen Crane

Emily Dickinson

Henry James

Mark Twain

Late 19th Century Resources @ MDC