2. The Outline of American Literature
I Colonial Period (1607—1765)
II Revolutionary Period (1765—1800)
III The Age of Romanticism (1800—1865)
IV The Age of Realism (1865—1918)
V American Modernism (1918—1945)
VI Contemporary Literature (1945-- )
4. American Realism was a literary
movement that emerged in the mid-19th
century and continued into the early 20th
century. It was a response to the idealized
view of life that characterized
Romanticism and aimed to accurately
depict everyday life and the complexities
of ordinary people and their relationships.
5. Realist writers sought to capture the
reality of society and the human condition,
often with a focus on the working class
and urban life.
The movement was characterized by a
focus on detail, objectivity, and a lack of
sentimentality. Realist writers aimed to
show the world as it actually was, rather
than idealizing it or romanticizing it.
6. This resulted in a more nuanced and often
bleak portrayal of reality, with characters
and situations that were far from perfect or
ideal. In American Realism, the focus was
on the inner lives of characters, their
motivations, and the impact of their
7. Two transitional poets:
Beginning Period: Harriet Beecher Stowe;
William Dean Howells; Henry James;
Local Colorism: Mark Twain
American Naturalism (1908—1918):
Crane; Norris; Dreiser; Robinson;
Jack London; O Henry;
8. Walt Whitman
Whitman was one of the great
innovators in American literature. In the
book of poems he called Leaves of
Grass, he gave America its first
genuine epic poem. The poetic style he
devised is now called free verse.
9. Walt Whitman
Leaves of Grass
"Song of Myself"
Differences between Whitman and Dickinson
10. His Life
born of working-class background;
tried at a variety of jobs;
wrote 400-odd poems;
11. His Works
Leaves of Grass 《草叶集》 — nine editions
Drum Taps (1865) 《桴鼓集》 —about civil war
Two Rivulets (1876) 《两条小河》 --dedication to 100th anniversary of US
Democratic Vistas (1870) 《民主的前景》--collection of prose
“Song of Myself” & “I Hear America Singing”
“O, Captain! My Captain!” & “I Sit and Look Out”
In this giant work, openness, freedom, and
above all, individualism are all that
Most of the poems in Leaves of Grass sing
of the "en-masse" and the self as well.
Whitman extols the ideals of equality and
democracy and celebrates the dignity, the
self-reliant spirit and the joy of the common
14. Style and Language
Whitman was a daring experimentalist.
a. The use of the poetic "I". Speaking in the voice of
"I", Whitman becomes all those people in his
poems, and yet remains "Walt Whitman", hence a
discovery of the self in the other with such
b. The use of free verse. Whitman broke free from
the traditional iambic pentameter and wrote free
verse. Free verse is poetry without a fixed beat or
regular rhyme scheme. A looser and more open-
ended syntactical structure is frequently favored.
c. The use of parallelism and phonetic recurrence.
d. The use of colorful words and vivid images.
15. "Song of Myself"
In "Song of Myself"《自我之歌》, Whitman
sets forth two principal beliefs: the theory of
universality, which is illustrated by lengthy
catalogues of people and things. The "I",
beholding nature and man alike. The whole
poem ends on an extremely transcendental
note: "I am large, I contain multitudes（我很
The other belief is in the singularity and
equality of all beings in values.
"Song of Myself" reveals a world of equality,
without rank and hierarchy.
16. His Importance
1) He is the great typical American poet with his theme of an emergent
America, its expansion, its individualism and its Americanness which is
part of “American Renaissance”.
2) Whitman’s great contribution to American literature is his use of free
verse. His poetry added to the literary independence of the new nation
by breaking free of the convention of the iambic pentameter and
exhibiting a freedom unknown before.
3) Not only the form of Whitman’s free verse but also his thought of
democracy have been influential in world literature, and remain the
inspiring source of 20th-century literature.
4) Whitman’s influence over modern poetry is great in the world as well
as in America. His best work has become part of the common
property of western culture. Many later poets are on his debts.
In short, his innovations in diction and versification, his frankness about
sex, his inclusion of the commonplace and ugly and his censure of the
weakness of the American democratic practice—these have paved his
way to a share of immortality in American literature.
17. Differences between Whitman
1) Whitman keeps his eyes on society at large;
Dickinson explores the inner life of individual.
2) Whitman is “national” in his outlook;
Dickinson is “regional”.
3) Whitman’s poetry is in form of endless, all-
Dickinson’s poetry is in form of concise,
direct, and simple diction and syntax.
19. Local color
Term applied to fiction or verse which
emphasizes its setting, being
concerned with the character of a
district or of an era, as marked by
its customs, dialect, costumes,
landscape, or other peculiarities
that have escaped standardizing
20. Local Colorism / Regionalism
A trend became dominant in American literature
in the late 1860s and early 1870s. It is a
variation of American literary realism. It has
such quality of texture and background that it
could not have been written in any other place
or by anyone else than a native. Local colorists
concerned them with presenting and
interpreting the local character of their regions.
Their ultimate aim is to create the illusion of an
indigenous little world with qualities that tell it
apart from the world outside.
21. Background of Local Colorism
1 social climate: marked differences
existed between different parts of the
2 intellectual climate:
(1) the frontier humorists had prepared
the literary ground for local colorism
(2) a good number of periodicals
appeared willing to accept local
22. Mark Twain
1. His Life
2. His Works
3. His views and themes
4. His Style
5. His position
6. Appreciation of The Adventures of
7. Differences among Howells, James and
23. His Life
Brought up in the small town of Hannibal, Missouri,
on the Mississippi River;
Left school at 12 because of the death of his
Once worked as a printer’s apprentice, a tramp
printer, a silver miner, a steamboat pilot, a gold-
washer, and a frontier journalist;
Became nationally famous with “Jumping Frog”;
Went to east where he met Howells and married;
Tragic events of his later life changed him and his
writing a little;
Later been a lecturer, traveler, businessman,
novelist and autobiographer;
Led an active life in the very center of the
24. His Works(1)
1 The Celebrated jumping Frog of Calaveras County
--It is a collection of short stories from oral tales, tall tales that
he heard in the west.
2 Innocents Abroad (1869) <傻子国外旅行记>
3 Roughing It (1872) <艰苦岁月>
4 The Gilded Age (1873) <镀金时代>
--Written in collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner, the
novel explored the scrupulous individualism in a world of
fantastic speculation and unstable values. The novel was an
artistic failure, but it gives its name to the America of the
corrupt post-Civil War period in which it attempted to satirize.
25. His Works(2)
5 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
-- is usually regarded as a classic book written for boys
about their particular horrors and joys. It has become
the image of a peaceful small-town American boyhood
for millions of people, not only in the United States but
throughout the world.
6 The Prince and the Paup (1881) <王子和贫儿>
7 Life on the Mississippi (1883) <密西西比河上>
---- tells a story of his boyhood ambition to become a
26. His Works(3)
8 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
--fathered Modern American literature
--The book marks the climax of Twain's literary creativity. It
is considered as the best book that Twain ever produced.
Hemingway once described the novel the one book from
which "all modern American literature comes".
9 A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
-- a parable of colonization, Twain follows the journey of a
representative of modern technology and ideas into a
historically backward, feudal society.
27. His Works(4)
10 Pudd’nhead Wilson (1893) <傻瓜威尔逊>
11The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg
12 The Mysterious Stranger (1916) <神秘的来客>
-- These works all contain bitter attacks on the human race, or
"damned human race" as Twain referred.
13 Following the Equator (1897) <赤道旅行记>
14 Autobiography (1924) <自传>
28. His Works(5)
15 American Claimant 《美国的债权人》
16 Disgraceful persecution of a Boy
17 Goldsmith’s Friend Abroad again
18 The Treaty with China 《和中国签订的条约》
19 To the Person Sitting in Darkness
29. His views and themes
1) Mark Twain is a part of American.
The two, in many ways, are inseparable.
2) He was essentially an affirmative writer, but
toward the latter life, he changed from an
optimist and humorist to an almost determinist.
3) As a social critic, all his life, he loved life,
people, freedom and justice, felt a pride in
human dignity and advocated brotherhood of
man. He hated tyranny and iniquity, despised
meanness and cruelty.
30. His Style
1) His style was precise,
enviable, and well-crafted.
2) His characters were vivid,
fallible and funny.
3) Vernacular Language
4) Local Color
31. Vernacular Language
His ear was finely attuned to
nuances of dialect and of the
vernacular of different classes
and ethnic groups, and made
colloquial speech an accepted,
respectable literary medium in
the literary history of the country.
32. Local Color
Mark Twain is known as a local colorist, who
preferred to present social life through portraits
of the local characters of his regions, including
people living in that area, the landscape, and
other peculiarities like the customs, dialects,
costumes and so on. So the rich material of his
boyhood experience on the Mississippi valley
and the west became his major theme. His use
of local color and historical setting to illuminate
contemporary society has served a creative
inspiration for generations of writers to come.
33. His position
Mark Twain was called “Lincoln of American
literature”, because it was he who made
the colloquial speech an accepted,
respectable literary medium. He was
declared “the first truly American writer” by
William Faulkner. He fathered modern
American literature, as Ernest Hemingway
noted “all modern American literature
comes” from his masterpiece The
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
35. Portrait of Huckleberry Finn
The novel begins with the description of
how Window Douglas attempts to civilize
Huck and ends with him deciding not to let
it happen again at the hands of Aunt Sally.
The climax arises with Huck's inner
struggle on the Mississippi, when Huck is
polarized by the two opposing forces
between his heart and his head, between
his affection for Jim and the laws of the
society against those who help slaves
escape. With the eventual victory of his
moral conscience over his social
awareness, Huck grows.
36. magic power with language
His words are colloquial, concrete and direct in
effect, and his sentence structures are simple,
even ungrammatical, which is typical of the
spoken language. His characters speak with a
strong accent. What's more, different characters
from different literary or cultural backgrounds
talk differently. Speaking in vernacular, a wild
and uneducated Huck, running away from
civilization for his freedom, is vividly brought to
life. With his great mastery and effective use of
vernacular, Mark Twain has made colloquial
speech an accepted, respectable literary
medium in the literary history of the country.
A great deal of his humor is
characterized by puns,
repetition, and anti-climax,
let alone tricks of travesty
1) In thematic terms
James wrote mostly of the upper reaches of
Howells concerned himself chiefly with middle
Mark Twain dealt largely with the lower strata of
Howells wrote in the vein of genteel realism;
James pursued an “imaginative” treatment of
reality or psychological realism;
Mark Twain’s contribution was his theories of
localism and his colloquial style; (P133)
39. Other local colorists
1 Bret Harte (1836—1902) 布雷特.哈特
2 Hamlin Garland (1860—1940) 哈姆兰.加林
3 Edward Eggleston
4 Harriet Beecher Stowe
5 Sarah Orne Jewett
6 Joel Chandler Harris
7 Kate Chopin (1851—1904) 凯特.肖邦