Early American Literature

Early American Literature: A Comparatist Approach

ALFRED OWEN ALDRIDGE
Copyright Date: 1982
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zvbpf
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Early American Literature
    Book Description:

    A. Owen Aldridge shows that early American literature is not an isolated phenomenon, but one affected by the same influences which operated upon other literatures of the period.

    Originally published in 1982.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5309-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. ONE INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-20)

    The theme of national consciousness, a concept that came into being immediately after the American Revolution, has been widely discussed in the literary history of North America. This patriotic spirit, as it flourished in the early years of the republic, may be interpreted as either the expression of a cultural identity distinct from that of England and, consequently, a salutary development, or, conversely, as an induced insensitivity to the rest of the world and, therefore, a deplorable example of intellectual insularity. Even before the period of 1776, the American people existed, according to Thomas Paine, “at a distance from, and...

  6. I. STYLE AND STRUCTURE
    • [I. Introduction]
      (pp. 21-24)

      When settlers go from one country to another they naturally carry with them their cultural traditions, including the predominant literary style of their period. This is true whether they are emigrating to a new world, which has never before been settled, or to an area with well-established communities. When Spanish colonization occurred early in the sixteenth century and English colonization followed over a century later, both Spain and England were in the midst of the Renaissance. This literary movement had traveled to Spain from Italy early in the fifteenth century and to England in the sixteenth. The English colonies at...

    • TWO ANNE BRADSTREET: SOME THOUGHTS ON THE TENTH MUSE
      (pp. 25-52)

      The philosopher Plato, according to legend, bestowed the flattering appelation “the Tenth Muse” upon Sappho, the female poet of Lesbos in ancient Greece. The phrase was subsequently applied in the seventeenth century to two poets of North America, one writing in English, the other in Spanish. In 1650, there appeared in London a book of over 200 pages with the title,The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in AMERICA, or Severall Poems, Compiled with great Variety of Wit and Learning, full of Delight. The author, according to the title page was “a Gentlewoman in those parts,” but she was several...

    • THREE EDWARD TAYLOR AND THE AMERICAN BAROQUE
      (pp. 53-88)

      Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor are ordinarily considered as by far the two best poets of colonial America. Few links other than religious and geographical can be discerned between them, however, even though it appears that the only book of English poetry discovered in Taylor’s library after his death was a copy ofThe Tenth Muse.¹ The subject matter of Taylor’s verse is almost exclusively devotional, whereas Bradstreet’s covers a variety of human concerns, including domestic relationships. Her simple diction and clear syntax contrast sharply with Taylor’s elaborate verbal techniques. Although Taylor’s artificial language may seem to be almost unique...

  7. II. THEME AND IDEOLOGY
    • [II. Introduction]
      (pp. 89-96)

      One of the major Concerns of comparative literature is the tracing of themes in the thought, folklore, and imaginative literature of various nations, in the process of which both major and minor writers are taken into consideration. The two best known of the themes in Western literature derive from purely imaginary characters, Faust and Don Juan. Both of these are far more important to Latin American than to North American letters, perhaps because the story of Don Juan originated in Spain and is closely linked to that of Faust, each having at its core the problem of evil. North American...

    • FOUR THE MANY VERSIONS OF POLLY BAKER: DEISM AND HUMAN RIGHTS
      (pp. 97-130)

      Franklin has been called “a greater and more influential writer than Dr. Samuel Johnson.”¹ The comparison is certainly provocative, and there is no question about its truth from the perspective of comparative literature. Dr. Johnson was a scholar trained in the classics, who progressed through journalism to become a professional man of letters. Dr. Franklin, who was almost entirely self-taught, took up journalism as an adjunct to the printing trade, and developed his literary talents as an aid in his careers in science, politics, and statesmanship. Johnson wrote poetry and literary criticism vastly superior to Franklin’s; Franklin drew upon the...

    • FIVE PAINE AND DICKINSON: POLITICS AND LITERATURE
      (pp. 131-157)

      Balzac in one of his novels establishes a parallel in French letters between conservative political philosophy and Romanticism on one side and between liberal philosophy and classicism on the other.¹ “By a strange anomaly,” he observes, “the romantic royalists call for literary freedom and the abrogation of laws which provide our literature with its conventional forms; while the liberals cling to the unities, regular rhythms in the alexandrine line and classical themes.” It would be difficult to establish for the American Revolutionary and Federal periods a similar relationship between political philosophy and literary theory and practice although ethical ideals obviously...

    • SIX THE CONCEPT OF ANCIENTS AND MODERNS IN AMERICAN POETRY OF THE FEDERAL PERIOD
      (pp. 158-185)

      Ordinarily the expression Augustan Age when applied to the modern world comprises English literature during the first half of the eighteenth century, but an essayist under the name of the Meddler in a Connecticut newspaper of 1791 remarked that “the Augustan age bears greater resemblance to the present, than to any intermediate period.”¹ In reference to what is now called the Federal period of American literature, the Meddler observed, “Under a similarity of circumstances, America has at length become the seat of science, and the great mirror of freedom and politics. Her Attica has produced a Homer, who leads the...

    • SEVEN THE APEX OF AMERICAN LITERARY NATIONALISM
      (pp. 186-208)

      During the period of the American Revolution, many writers considered that the level of intellectual achievement in America was high, and they were not reticent about declaring their opinion to the world. John Dickinson in the seventh of his Farmer’sLettersdescribed the inhabitants of the American colonies as in general “more intelligent than any other people whatever.” Paine in the last of hisCrisispapers maintained that the American Revolution had “contributed more to enlighten the world, and diffuse a spirit of freedom and liberality among mankind, than any human event (if this may be called one) that ever...

  8. III. THE TWO AMERICAS:: NORTH AND SOUTH
    • [III. Introduction]
      (pp. 209-214)

      Many parallels exist between the literature of Latin America and that of English America before 1830. Both areas went through periods of conquest and exploration, colonial domination, struggle for political independence, and national recogition. Although these stages in development are completely parallel, they were widely separated chronologically on the two continents. Conquest and exploration in South America took place in the sixteenth century, but not until a hundred years later in North America. The relationship is noticed in one of the best New England poems of the seventeenth century, but otherwise almost completely ignored.

      The Spanish project working well, tooke...

    • EIGHT THOMAS PAINE AND LATIN AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE
      (pp. 215-260)

      The writings of Thomas Paine provide an outstanding example of literature used for social and political ends. His major works all concern political and social reform, but are not uniform in their purposes and direction. For this reason they met varying fortunes in the several cultures that they penetrated. Paine’s two propaganda tracts for the American Revolution,Common SenseandThe American Crisis, attained a phenomenal circulation in North America, where they were first published; achieved moderate success in France and Germany; but were practically ignored in England. In Latin America they were translated only in part, but used as...

    • NINE THE ENLIGHTENMENT IN THE AMERICAS
      (pp. 261-294)

      Only within recent years has the term Enlightenment been generally applied to the literature of either North or South America. The traditional term has been that of “colonial” in both areas for most of the eighteenth century and that of “revolutionary” for North America after 1776 and for South America after 1810. At the present time historians of Latin American literature speak freely oflas lucesorla ilustración; whereas critics of North American literature still seem hesitant to utilize the term Enlightenment, confining themselves to the more traditional expressions “rationalism” or “Age of Reason.” This is paradoxical since the...

  9. TEN CONCLUSION
    (pp. 295-298)

    Since the foregoing chapters do not pretend to give a comprehensive or synoptic view of early American literature, but present instead a number of selective illustrations of relations with other literatures, a great deal in the way of broad conclusions can hardly be expected. It is clear, however, that the major literary movements of Europe between the beginning of the sixteenth century and the end of the eighteenth, that is, Renaissance, baroque, neoclassicism, Enlightenment, and Romanticism, had repercussions of one kind or another in Anglo-America. Anne Bradstreet was strongly affected by one particular continental author, and Edward Taylor, without attaching...

  10. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 299-314)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 315-322)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 323-323)