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North American Fiction


Submitted By saratg
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Before starting our study of American Fiction we must understand what American Literature is in itself and which pieces of writing we can include within this label. It is believed that when a piece is written in North America, more precisely in the USA, it would automatically be given this epithet. But it should be taken into account that this idea is quite broad and doesn’t reflect the real essence of the term. However, there is also another definition that gathers this essence: American Literature is the one that represents the Americanism, the singularity of the USA philosophy and culture. This way, instead of focusing on who the author is, it is focused on the content of the writing.

In that which concerns Fiction, the following documents are the ones considered as narrative:



Short Stories


Political Documents






The first documents in which the idea of Americanism is very present are the Sermons. They respond to the strict Protestantism settled in the New Continent after the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers and Puritans in the Mayflower (1620) and the Arabella (1630). They established a theocratic community whose main and only point of reference was the Bible. That is why the idea of the ‘city upon a hill’ is still very present in American mentality.

As we all know, their community was also governed by the concept of Predestination. This belief was based in the idea that we are saved or condemned since the very moment we are born or even, since the very moment when the Universe was created. Therefore, the way they confronted Good and Evil was that of effect-cause: if you are one of those who were going to be saved you certainly behaved as they were saints, that is why they always behaved right.

In this context of extreme religiosity, literature didn’t flourish as it did in the Old Continent. The Theatre was forbidden, poetry was confined to the house and personal boundaries, as the one by Anne Bradstreet was. This way, Sermons and Histories or Diaries –such as The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan- were the only texts left which were given some diffusion. However, as I have said above the former ones are the first texts in showing the real nature of the new American people and culture, what we can call Americanism.

Although Sermons were written in order to be listened and read in front of the Community instead of being personally read, some of these sermons were printed due to several reasons:

The congregation wanted to have it.

The preach himself wanted to keep it, as it is the case of Sinners in the Hands of Angry God.

A rich person ordered its publication.

It is true that narratives are traditionally seen as a personal act; reading is personals since everyone gives a different meaning to the significant: the signifier is personal. However, Sermons are a singular literary piece due to its moral component –which is their main purpose- and its religious one. This deep religious meaning has to do with a metafictional concept that was common and had to be explained.

Every Sermon has the same scheme:

Biblical QUOTE: The author chooses a quotation from the Bible regarding what he wants to talk about. Then he reflects on the texts and decides how he is going to preach that, what is called as Locutio.

DOCTRINE: Meaning of the quote.

APPLICATION: or how this doctrine can help us in our life.

Sermons were usually directed to the rationality of the spiritual side of human-beings since preaches were forced to take into account the atmosphere of the time in which the Puritans’ theocratic system was declining in favour of the European Illustration.

The two main examples of sermons in North America are A Model of Christian Charity (1630) by Governor John Winthrop and Jonathan Edward’s Sinners in the Hands of Angry God*. The former one was written at the Puritans Arrival to the New Continent, when Puritanism was in increase whereas the last one dates to a moment when Puritan theocratic values were in decay in America. That is why it is given a threatening tone.

*Its basic message warns Puritans that they cannot be certain of their salvation, so they must constantly think that they are in danger and subsequently behave this way. Since, if they die in sin they will certainly go Hell with no possibility of salvation.




BRIEF BIOGRAPHY: Born in Scotland, Hugh Henry Brackenridge was brought by his parents to frontier Pennsylvania in 1763. Educated in country schools, at 16 he became a schoolmaster at Gunpowder Falls, Md. In 1768 he entered Princeton, where he met Philip Freneau and James Madison. He composed with the help of the former one The Rising Glory of America for their graduation exercises in 1771 and the satirical and picaresque prose book entitled Father Bombo’s Pilgrimage to Mecca (1770). Though teaching and the study of divinity and law occupied the next several years, he wrote A Poem on Divine Revelation on receiving his Master of Arts degree from Princeton in 1774 and two patriotic plays, for presentation by his students, in 1775 and 1777.
In 1776 Brackenridge became a chaplain with the Continental Army, publishing a collection of his sermons as Six Political Discourses Founded on the Scriptures (1778). In 1779 he edited the short-lived United States Magazine, which contained important early writings of Freneau and Brackenridge's serialized allegorical narrative The Cave of Vanhest. A year later he was admitted to the bar and in 1781 settled in the frontier village of Pittsburgh, where he became a prominent, often controversial –he was a Jeffersonian Liberal-, citizen, founded its first newspaper, and opened its first bookstore.
Brackenridge wrote both in prose and in verse on law, politics, and Native American affairs, including A Masque, Written at Warm Springs in Virginia (1784); "The Trial of Mamachtaga" one of the earliest effective American short stories; an eyewitness account, Incidents of the Insurrection in Western Pennsylvania (1795); and Law Miscellanies (1814). MAIN WORKS: In 1815 H. H Brackenridge completed his Modern Chivalry where he compiled his satirical serialized 5 volumes novel concerning The Adventures of Captain John Ferrago and Teague O’Regan, his servant. This is considered to be the first American novel whereas Captain Ferrago and Teague are the first fictional characters in the history on North America. Brackenridge was highly influenced by Don Quixote, understood in his didactic function, as we can see both in the treatment of the characters –they are social outcasts set off on a journey to create a community in the frontier- and reforming morals and manners of the novel which aimed to establish a rational democracy.

The first part, Part I, of the novel (first 3 volumes)deals with the travels of the main characters until they reach Philadelphia. Teague, as Sancho, is offered honors for which he is unqualified.

Part II, on its side, has more to do with a collection of essays* than with a narrative in itself.

*Ralph Waldo Emmerson is one of the main essayists in the history of the USA. He was one of the main figures in the transcendentalist movement.


BRIEF BIOGRAPHY: Charles Brockden Brown was born in Philadelphia into a prosperous Quaker family at an important moment in the development of what would become the United States of America. He became an important novelist, essayist, and printer after having attempted (with ill success because of his own lack of interest) to enter the family business and then the practice of law. Brown formed a lasting acquaintance with members of a New York City literary circle made up of Federalists, and he moved to New York City for a brief time in order to nurture his writing career. His conversations with Federalist-oriented associates, including Timothy Dwight and Elihu Hubbard Smith, along with his reading the works of figures such as Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, would eventually have a significant impact upon much of Brown's writing.

The decade of the 1790s was an important period in Brown's creative life, which allowed him to be the first author to devote his entire life to literature. He wrote stories and then several novels in sequence during this time. He considered women's rights in Alcuin (1798) and then turned to explorations of the imagination in several novels: Wieland, which took up the effects of ventriloquism and scientific phenomena and a critique of religious delusion; Ormond, which celebrated a central woman of high moral character who struggled against the title character, a seducer; Edgar Huntly, which was an unusual and absorbing tale about a sleep-walker; and Arthur Mervyn, which took as its focal point the Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793.

Brown turned, just before the turn into the nineteenth century, to journalism. He founded or took over several journal editorships in succession. He founded and edited The Monthly Magazine and American Review at the turn into the new century (1799-1800),and he then took up the Literary Magazine and American Register (1803-1806) and The American Register, or General Repository of History, Politics, and Science (1806-10). The last periodical he edited had a distinctive social and political vein not available in the earlier publications, thus signaling a shift toward different fare than that of the imagination during Brown's last years. He died of tuberculosis early in 1810.

MAIN WORKS: As mentioned above his main pieces of writings were:

Wieland: The author describes in a psychological Gothic manner –in the way of Hawthorne’s or Poe’s) the main character’s –T. Wieland- obsession with religion which leads him to murdering his family.

Ormond: It is the narration of the vicissitudes of Constantia Dudley and Ormond’s efforts to seduce her.

Arthur Mervyn: fictionalizes the life of a young man in a corrupted world.




BRIEF BIOGRAPHY: Born April 3, 1783, New York, Washington Irving was the youngest son of a wealthy family.He began his career as a lawyer but soon became a leader of the Knickerbocker Group that published Salmagundi (1807), a periodical containing whimsical essays and poems. In fact, Irving is known for using many pseudonyms, highlighting J. Oldstyle, Launcelot Langstaff, D. Knickerbocker and Geoffrey Crayton. After his comic A History of New York by Diedrich Knickerbocker (1809), he wrote little until his very successful The Sketch Book (1819), containing his best-known stories, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle”. This success was followed by a sequel, Bracebridge Hall (1822). After that W. Irving held diplomatic positions in Madrid, Spain, which influenced some of his writings such as The Alhambra (1832, reflecting his interest in Spain's past. Irving died Nov. 28, 1859 (Tarrytown, N.Y).

Washington Irving is considered the first American-born author recognized as such in England, especially due to the influence the Walter Scott exerted over him and the respect he showed for the European Literature as a source. This way he was established as the first model where artistic standards were fixed for future American writers.

‘The Legend of the Sleepy Hollow’ (The Sketch Book, 1819): As said above Irving used to make use of the European literature as a source. In this case he based his short story on a German Folktale.

Among his technical innovations we can highlight the importance of the landscape as reflection of the mood (such as in Cooper), the use of folklore as a source of narration and the use of Gothic elements. His characters belong to a Dutch Community and present the conflict between rationality (Ichabod Crane)and the superstition (Katrina Van Tassel) and lack of sophistication of villagers (Bromm Bones)and how rationality is finally beat by these beliefs.

Traditionally, Crane has been interpreted as the corruption of capitalism and the representation of the puritan origins of Americans –Crane admires Cotton Matter- in a moment when the enlightenment thinkers were in danger influenced by the actual social circumstances.


BRIEF BIOGRAPHY: James Cooper was born on 15 September 1789 in Burlington, New Jersey, U.S.A, the eleventh child born to Elizabeth née Fenimore (1752-1817) and Congressman, Judge, and founder of Cooperstown, William Cooper (1754-1809). A year after James was born the family moved to the banks of Otsego Lake in Otsego County, where William built the first home and founded Cooperstown.
Cooper entered Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut in 1803 but was expelled a few years later. He then worked as a sailor on a merchant ship. In 1808 he joined the United States Navy as midshipman and it was on the seas that he started to seriously think of himself as a writer. After the death of his father, he resigned from the Navy and went back to the land to try his hand at farming.
On 1 January 1811, in Mamaroneck, New York, Cooper married Susan Augusta DeLancey (1792-1852) with whom he would have seven children. After living for a time in New Rochelle, New York State, the Coopers moved to Scarsdale, New York where James built a home. Soon after Cooper was spending much time in New York City, where he founded the 'Bread and Cheese Club' in 1822.
In 1826, the same year he legally added Fenimore to his name, James, Susan and the children moved to Europe. Cooper served as United States Consul in Lyon, France, while also travelling to many other countries including Italy, Switzerland, England, and The Netherlands. In 1833 the Coopers returned to the United States, settling in Cooperstown, although Cooper made many trips to New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. He continued his prodigious output of fiction and non-fictional works including History of the Navy of the United States of America (1839), The Lives of Distinguished Naval Officers (1846), and The Towns of Manhattan (1851).
James Fenimore Cooper died on 14 September 1851 in Cooperstown, New York, U.S.A. He lies buried in the family plot in the Christ Episcopal Churchyard in Cooperstown. His wife Susan survived him by just a few months, and now rests with him. WORKS: Cooper is said to be the ‘principal romancer of the new nation’ (Van Doren, 1921). His output includes:


The Spy (a best seller)

The Leatherstocking Tales: The main character of this collection, Natty Bumppo, is considered the first American hero. Besides, thanks to it Cooper gained international recognition. The Leatherstocking Tales is formed by five novels:

The Pioneers

The Last of the Mohicans (1826) icon of A. Literature.

The Prairie

The Pathfinder

The Deerslayer

The Pilot: A Tale of the Sea

The Red Rover

The Water Witch

The Bravo

The Heidenmauer

The Headsman

A Letter to My Countrymen

Homeward Bound

Home as Found

Ned Myers

The Redskins

The Sea Lions


They can be classified in two groups: those which were written before his trip to Europe and those written after.

1. BEFORE HIS STAY IN THE OLD CONTINENT: The Pioneers, The Last of the Mohicans (1826).

2. AFTER/DURING HIS TRIP TO EUROPE. they are less romantic than the previous and try to prove that domocracy is superior to aristocracy.

Other novels:


The Spy


BRIEF BIOGRAPHY: Hawthorne (July 4, 1804 - May 19, 1864) was born in Salem, Massachusetts, where his birthplace is now a house museum. Hawthorne's father died at sea in 1808 of yellow fever when Nathaniel was only four years old, when his family declined in fortune and social importance. Nathaniel was raised, secluded from the world by his mother, in Raymond, Maine on the shores of Sebago Lake. He described this period as the happiest time of his life, but also when he acquired the habit of solitude. Descendant of J. Hathorne, who was judge during the Salem Trials (1692-1693), he added the ‘w’ to his surname to dissociate from him and that episode.
Hawthorne attended Bowdoin College in Maine at the expense of his uncle, Manning, from 1821-1824, and became friends with classmates Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emmerson –from whom he took the idea of transcendentalism and deism- and future president Franklin Pierce. During this period he decided to become an author while recovering from a ball playing accident. In the 1830’s he published his first tales: ‘Young Goodman Brown’ or ‘The Minister’s Black Veil’, proving his talent as short story writer. Afterwards he became the editor of The American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge.
Hawthorne became engaged in 1838 to the illustrator and transcendentalist Sophia Peabody. Seeking a possible home for himself and Sophia, he joined the transcendentalist utopian community at Brook Farm in 1841; later that year, however, he left when he became dissatisfied with the experiment. He married Sophia in 1842 and they moved to The Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts, where they lived for three years. Hawthorne and his wife then moved to The Wayside, previously a home of the Alcotts. Their neighbors in Concord included Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
In 1846 he was appointed surveyor of the district of Salem and Inspector of the Port of Salem –Inspiration for The Custom House- apart from being Consul at Liverpool during Pierce’s Presidency (1852-1856). The Hawthornes enjoyed a long marriage, and had three children together. Nathaniel Hawthorne died in his sleep on May 19, 1864 in Plymouth, New Hampshire while on a tour of the White Mountains with former president Franklin Pierce. WORKS: Hawthorne stands as an acclaimed author of both novels and short stories.
Fanshave Grandfather’s Chair The Scarlet Letter The House of the Seven Gables The Blithedale Romance A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys

*The Scarlett Letter (1850)

It is described by Hawthorne himself as ‘a hell-fired story into which it’s almost impossible to throw any light’.The author takes into account what is called the Theory of Romance.

Hawthorne uses history as a literary source. The figure of the ‘Custom House’ is of extraordinary importance.

According to Van Doren, The Scarlett Letter means ‘the achievement of deliberate art grown competent and unconscious by careful exercise’. Hawthorne could not profit by a long series of native experiment in art.

(Analysed according to literary critic Richard Chase’s interpretation).

Chillingworth: probing intellect.

Dimmesdale: moral sensibility.

Pearl: unconscious and demonic poetic faculty.

Hester Pryne: fallible human reality as the novelist sees it –plastic, various, inexhaustible, enduring and morally problematic. Her passion and beauty dominates every other person and color each event. She’s conceived as the scene is conceived in the full strength of his feeling for Ancient New England. He’s the Homer of that New England and she’s his most heroic creature. Hester is of a rich complexion that makes modern women pale and thin by comparison and of a dignity that throws into low relief the rest’s features.

*The Custom House: ‘This event throws light on a theme in The Scarlett Letter which is easily overlooked amid the ethical concerns of the book. Every character, in effect, re-enacts ‘The Custom House’ scene. Hawthorne himself contemplates the letter, so that the entire ‘romance’ becomes a kind of exposition on the nature of symbolic reception. Hawthorne’s subject is not only the meaning of adultery, but also meaning in general –not only what the focal symbol means, but also ho it gains significance-’ (Charles Feidelson) The point isn’t on the significance but on the signifier.

This way literature is conceived as a recreation from factual events, a process by which society’s come to that point.


Twice-Told Tales: first important published book. His friend Horatio Bridge paid for its publication, guaranteeing the publisher against any lost. Moses from and Old Manse: written during the 3 years he was living in the Old Manse Concord. ‘Young Goodman Brown’ ‘My Kinsman, Major Molineaux’ ‘The Minister’s Black Veil’: most gothic short story written by Hawthorne. ‘The Maypole of Merry Mount’: recreation of an actual fact*. ‘The Birthmark’ ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter’ ‘Ethan Braud’ The Show-Image and other Twice-Told Stories’ Tanglewood Tales


BRIEF BIOGRAPHY: Edgar Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809 to David and Elizabeth Poe. They had three children, Henry, Edgar, and Rosalie. Elizabeth Poe died in 1811, when Edgar was 2 years old. She had separated from her husband and had taken her three kids with her. Henry went to live with his grandparents while Edgar was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. John Allan and Rosalie was taken in by another family. John Allan was a successful merchant, so Edgar grew up in good surroundings and went to good schools.

When Poe was 6, he went to school in England for 5 years. He later returned to school in America and continued his studies. Edgar Allan went to the University of Virginia in 1826. He was 17. Even though John Allan had plenty of money, he only gave Edgar about a third of what he needed. Although Edgar had done well in Latin and French, he started to drink heavily and quickly became in debt, so he had to quit school less than a year later.

Edgar Allan had no money, no job skills, and had been shunned by John Allan. Edgar went to Boston and joined the U.S. Army in 1827. He was 18. He did reasonably well in the Army and attained the rank of sergeant major. In 1829, Mrs. Allan died and John Allan tried to be friendly towards Edgar and signed Edgar's application to West Point.

While waiting to enter West Point, Edgar lived with his grandmother and his aunt, Mrs. Clemm. Also living there was his brother, Henry, and young cousin, Virginia. In 1830, Edgar Allan entered West Point as a cadet. He didn't stay long because John Allan refused to send him any money. It is thought that Edgar purposely broke the rules and ignored his duties so he would be dismissed.

In 1831, Edgar Allan Poe went to New York City where he had some of his poetry published –Tamerlane and Other Poems, anonymous and signed by ‘a Bostonian’. He submitted stories to a number of magazines and they were all rejected. Poe had no friends, no job, and was in financial trouble. He sent a letter to John Allan begging for help but none came. John Allan died in 1834 and did not mention Edgar in his will.

In 1835, Edgar finally got a job as an editor of a newspaper because of a contest sponsored by the Philadelphia Saturday Courier that he won with his story, "The Manuscript Found in a Bottle". Edgar missed Mrs. Clemm and Virginia and brought them to Richmond to live with him. In 1836, Edgar married his cousin, Virginia in 1822, when she was only 13 whereas he was 27 –what’s given way to psychological speculation.

As the editor for the Southern Literary Messenger, Poe successfully managed the paper and increased its circulation from 500 to 3500 copies. Despite this, Poe left the paper in early 1836, complaining of the poor salary. In 1837, Edgar went to New York. He wrote "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym" but he could not find any financial success. He moved to Philadelphia in 1838 where he wrote "Ligeia" and "The Haunted Palace". His first volume of short stories, "Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque" was published in 1839. Poe received the copyright and 20 copies of the book, but no money.By this time he had joined the staff of Burton’s Gentlemen Magazine.

Sometime in 1840, Edgar Poe joined George R. Graham as an editor for Graham's Magazine. During the two years that Poe worked for Graham's, he published his first detective story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and challenged readers to send in cryptograms, which he always solved. During the time Poe was editor, the circulation of the magazine rose from 5000 to 35,000 copies. Poe left Graham's in 1842 because he wanted to start his own magazine.

Poe found himself without a regular job once again. He tried to start a magazine called The Stylus and failed. In 1843, he published some booklets containing a few of his short stories but they didn't sell well enough. He won a hundred dollars for his story, "The Gold Bug" and sold a few other stories to magazines but he barely had enough money to support his family. Often, Mrs. Clemm had to contribute financially. In 1844, Poe moved back to New York. Even though "The Gold Bug" had a circulation of around 300,000 copies, he could barely make a living. Besides, during this time he was in New York, so Virginia was left alone with her aunt.

In 1845, Edgar Poe became an editor at The Broadway Journal. A year later, the Journal ran out of money and Poe was out of a job again. He and his family moved to a small cottage near what is now East 192nd Street and achieve some popularity thanks to the publication of ‘The Raven’. Virginia's health was fading away and Edgar was deeply distressed by it. Virginia died in 1847, 10 days after Edgar's birthday. After losing his wife, Poe collapsed from stress but gradually returned to health later that year.

In June of 1849, Poe left New York and went to Philadelphia, where he visited his friend John Sartain. Poe left Philadelphia in July and came to Richmond were he gave a lecture on ‘The Poetic Principle’. He stayed at the Swan Tavern Hotel but joined "The Sons of Temperance" in an effort to stop drinking. He renewed a boyhood romance with Sarah Royster Shelton and planned to marry her in October.

On September 27, Poe left Richmond for New York. He went to Philadelphia and stayed with a friend named James P. Moss. On September 30, he meant to go to New York but supposedly took the wrong train to Baltimore. On October 3, Poe was found at Gunner's Hall, a public house at 44 East Lombard Street, and was taken to the hospital. He lapsed in and out of consciousness but was never able to explain exactly what happened to him. Edgar Allan Poe died in the hospital on Sunday, October 7, 1849.

WORKS: Although Allan Poe traditionally stands out as poet his narrative output is also extremely important. It is classified in:

Tales: ‘The Black Cat’, ‘Ligeia’, ‘The Premature Burial’, ‘The Oval Portrait’.

Novel: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838)


Poe’s narrative output has been utterly influential to the point he is considered the father of detective and science fiction literature. It means a more philosophical and metaphysical literature than the one written at that period, being inscribed however within a dark romantic or gothic trend. In this sense the most recurrent themes in Poe’s writing are death, physical signs, the effect of decomposition and the reanimation of dead people. Nevertheless, we can establish a difference between his short stories and his novel, producing the former of powerful effect on the reader in which every detail should contribute to this effect.

POETRY: The basic principles for analyzing are modified but never abandoned. Symbolism is the main point in Poe’s poetry: ideal beauty, use of the atmosphere, command of the musical qualities of language and rationally constructed work. This all contributes to the aesthetic object that he claimed for literature.

CRITICISM: Poe is also pointed out as one of the most important literary critics during the American Romanticism. He carried on a theoretical analysis of these two genres, prose and poetry. According to Poe the plot is the combination of pattern and design, not simply the progression of events.

His criticism, together with his dark, metaphysically mysterious stories, helped to create a literature that made American writing a serious cultural force.


BRIEF BIOGRAPHY: Herman Melvill (later on he added the –e) was born into an eminent family on 1 August 1819 in New York City, New York State, son of Maria Gansevoort (1791-1872) and Allan Melville (1782-1832). After the death of his father at the age of forty, his wife and children fell into poverty and moved to the village of Lansingburg, on the banks of the Hudson River.

In 1835 Melville attended the Albany Classical School for a year, then moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts to work at the farm of his uncle, gentleman farmer Thomas Melville. It was not long however that Melville travelled back to New York and secured his place as cabin boy on a ship bound for Liverpool, England. Upon return to New York he held various unsatisfying jobs until he next set sail on the whaling ship Acushnet in 1841. His stay in the Marquesas Islands (now French Polynesia) with his friend Richard Tobias Greene would provide much fodder for his future novels.
On 4 August 1847 Melville married Elizabeth Shaw, with whom he would have four children: Malcolm, Stanwix, Elizabeth, and Frances. In 1850 the Melvilles moved to what would be their home for the next thirteen years, 'Arrowhead' (now designated a National Historic Landmark) in Pittsfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. It was here that Melville made the acquaintance of fellow New Englander Nathaniel Hawthorne, and to whom he dedicated Moby Dick. It was the beginning of a prolific period of writing for Melville. He wrote sketches for such journals as Putnam's Monthly including "The Piazza" and "I and My Chimney", and started on his masterpiece Moby Dick. The surrounding Berkshire Hills provided the necessary peace and quiet.
After the publication of Moby Dick in October of 1851, Melville was seeing positive reviews of his works in England and America, readers captivated by his authentic story telling of exotic adventures, although he struggled with self-doubt. Many of his works are steeped in metaphor and allegory, at times cynical, others satirical. In previous years he had travelled throughout Europe and the Holy Land; in 1857 he launched into a three year lecture tour of major North American cities where he spoke of his writings and travels.
In 1863 the Melvilles gave up country life and moved to New York City and the home of Herman's brother Allan at 104 East Twenty-Sixth Street. Melville soon obtained a position with the New York Custom House where he remained for the next twenty years. Almost ten years since his last published novel, Melville was now writing poetry; Battle Pieces (1866) was well-received. Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land (1876) was followed by his collection John Marr and Other Poems (1888), and Timoleon (1891). While they are appreciated now, by the time of Herman Melville's death he had slipped into obscurity as a writer. He died at his home on East 26th Street on 28 September 1891 and now rests beside his wife Elizabeth in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York.

WORKS: Herman Melville’s output is formed by a varied fiction written in different genres. They mainly narrate adventures –experiences as a sailor and living with the Indians in the South Seas- and critic the role of the bureaucracy:

Typee: his publishers pressured him to remove several passages in which he had condemned the behaviour of missionaries.

Omoo: well received work. Melville got confident about his future as a writer. It means a criticism of the inefficiency of bureaucrats (Bartleby).

Mardi is a political satire.


White Jacket.

Moby Dick.


The Confident Man: Melville’s masquerade in which he creates a dark picture of the US on the brink of Civil War.

Billy Bud Sailor*.

‘Benito Cereno’

‘Bartleby, the Scriener’

Poetry: small output, published in private editions.

Characteristics of his work:

-Melville often uses the technique of the bildunsromance in his novels (different from the kulsttenromance: a young person decides to become a writer).

-Exploring ideas and opposite points of view.

-Themes: authority vs. individual freedom.

-Young protagonist against the limitations imposed by an authoritarian rule -> tyrannical ship captains.

-Freedom: dark possibility of madness and alienation.

-The pursuit of personal desire cuts off the possibility of happiness.

-Divine authority.

-Importance of symbolism and allusions in his work.


The novel presents the experiences in the South Seas as means to examine the human condition and the metaphysical question that were the center of the author’s troubled worldview.

In the chapter entitled ‘The Quarter Deck’ captain Ahab reveals his real purpose.

Starbuck represents the struggle against fate. It means an opposition and counterbalance to Ahab’s personal pursuit of vengeance. However he is seduced at the end, becoming even more fanatic. Ahab reveals Melville’s belief that the world is operated by a malicious force that works through visible objects.

Ahab’s quest is not only a matter of individual vengeance but an effort to strike at the controlling force of nature.

Ishmael is not presented as a young innocent boy, in fact he does face an initiation into the ways of the world. Instead he is depicted as a young man with a past, who goes to the sea to avoid taking some more drastic action in response to the difficulties he’s faced.


∙ Individual vs. Nature: Mobby Dick is considered a symbol of nature. Melville explores the attributes of natural forces. Are they ruled by chance, neutral occurrences that affect characters arbitrary? Or some form of elementary will makes them capable of using whatever power is at their disposal?

∙ God vs. Religion: Conflict between individual and nature is a representation of religion and God’s role in the natural world. Fight against fat rather than resign himself to a divine providence.

∙ Good and Evil = Female and Masculine: Ahab pick his fight with evil on its own terms, striking back aggressively. The fact that there are any feminine characters leads critics to consider a commentary on the masculine. Ahab is castrated not by the encounter with the whale but by the piercing of his groin by his ivory leg.

∙ Choices and Consequences: Ahab is considered both hero and villain. His obsession chains him to a fate worse than that which might have prevailed had he not so stubbornly pursued his goal.



According to William Dean Howells ‘Realism is nothing more and nothing less than the truthful treatment of material’. The end of the Civil War in North America meant the building of a new nation that demanded a new concept of literature: it had to be less idealistic and more practical, less exalted and more earthily, less consciously artistic and more honest than the one produced when the idea of the American Dream was glowing with greatest intensity and American writers captured on their writings this enthusiasm.

In the U.S Realism encompasses the period from the Civil War to the turn of the century. The main figures in this literary movement thanks to their accurate representation and exploration of American lives in various contexts are:

William Dean Howells

Rebecca H. Davis

Mark Twain

Henry James

The rapid grow of America, together with the increasing rates of democracy, literacy and industrialization allowed the affluence of a middle class which created a fertile literary environment that facilitated the understanding of this cultural shift:

‘Realism is a strategy for imagining and managing the threats of social change’ (Amy Kaplan).

According to what has been said above, Realism managed to encompass the entire country, or at least the Midwest - Joseph Kirkland, E.W Howe and Hamlin Garland, among others- and South –mainly Deforet-, although many realistic authors and critics associated with this movement were based in New England.

Main features of realism:

Reality is portrayed in a comprehensive detail and emphasizes verisimilitude.

Idealization of democracy.

The ethical choices are considered the heart of the plot.

Characters appear in their real complexity.

Importance of class in the development of characters.

Avoiding of sensational and dramatic elements.

Language is vernacular, with a comic or satiric tone that avoids poetic images.

It aims for the ‘redemption of the individual lay within the social world’ (Kenneth Warren, Black and White Strangers)

Howellsian realism fell into disfavour as part of early 20th century rebellion against the ‘gentile tradition’.

In American Realism we can find two different branches:

Local Color or Regionalism: This movement became popular during the last quarter of the 19th century. Main features:

-The setting was usually rural areas.

-It expresses the nostalgia for the past, which constitutes the zeitgeist of narratives.

-Use of the omniscient narrator in order to transmit the particularities of rural life, folklore and singular characters.

-Nature plays an important role, not only as the necessary topography and setting, but also as another character.

-The origin of the conflict in these novels is usually related to the clash between the old traditional rural values and the urban life.

-The protagonists use regional dialects, defend old traditions and are portrayed in a stereotypical way.


-Mark Twain

-Francis Bret Harte: writer of short stories that show the lifestyle in the far west.

-Joel Chandler Harris dealt with the justice of slavery in Uncle Reynolds’ Tales.

-George Washington Cable

-Harriet Becker Stowe: Uncle’s Tom Cabin


BRIEF BIOGRAPHY: Mark Twain was the pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, b. Florida, Mo., Nov. 30, 1835, d. Apr. 21, 1910, who achieved worldwide fame during his lifetime as an author, lecturer, satirist, and humorist. Since his death his literary stature has further increased, with such writers as Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner declaring his works--particularly Huckleberry Finn--a major influence on 20th-century American fiction.
Twain was raised in Hannibal, Mo., on the Mississippi River. His writing career began shortly after the death of his father in 1847. Apprenticed first to a printer, he soon joined his brother Orion's Hannibal Journal, supplying copy and becoming familiar with much of the frontier humor of the time, such as George W. Harris's Sut Lovingood yarns and other works of the so-called Southwestern Humorists.
From 1853 to 1857, Twain visited and periodically worked as a printer in New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati, corresponding with his brother's newspapers under various pseudonyms. After a visit to New Orleans in 1857, he learned the difficult art of steamboat piloting, an occupation that he followed until the Civil War closed the river, and that furnished the background for "Old Times on the Mississippi" (1875), later included in the expanded Life on the Mississippi (1883).
In 1861, Twain traveled by stagecoach to Carson City, Nev., with his brother Orion, who had been appointed territorial secretary. After unsuccessful attempts at silver and gold mining, he returned to writing as a correspondent for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. At first he signed his humorous and imaginative sketches "Josh," but early in 1863 he adopted the now-famous name Mark Twain, borrowed from the Mississippi leadsman's call meaning "two fathoms" deep--safe water for a steamboat.
Twain went to San Francisco in 1864. Dubbed the "Wild Humorist of the Pacific Slope," he achieved a measure of national fame with his story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" (1865). A trip to Hawaii in 1866 furnished articles for the Sacramento Union and materials for the first lecture, on his return, in a long and successful career as a public speaker. The following year he traveled to the Mediterranean and the Holy Land, providing letters to the San Francisco Alta California that, in their revised form as The Innocents Abroad (1869), won immediate international attention.
In 1870, Twain married Olivia Langdon of Elmira, N.Y. After serving briefly as editor and part-owner of the Buffalo Express, he moved to Hartford, Conn., in 1871, abandoning journalism in order to devote his full attention to serious literature. There, and during summers in Elmira, he produced Roughing It (1872), an account of his Western years; The Gilded Age (1873, with Charles Dudley Warner), a satire of get-rich-quick schemes and political chicanery; the new pieces for Sketches, New and Old (1875); and Tom Sawyer (1875), his classic tale of boyhood.
A European sojourn in 1878-79 inspired A Tramp Abroad (1880), soon followed by The Prince and the Pauper (1882), Twain's first historical novel. He later turned to history again in the allegorical satire A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), a powerful fictional indictment of political and social injustice. Meanwhile, he completed Life on the Mississippi (1883) and, after establishing his own firm, Charles L. Webster and Co., published his masterpiece, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in 1884.
Increasingly involved financial problems prompted Twain to move to Europe in 1891, just after finishing The American Claimant (1892). In 1894, following the failure of his publishing company and of the Paige typesetting machine in which he had invested heavily, Twain was forced to declare bankruptcy. During this period he turned out a number of works, generally inferior to his best: The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894), Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894), Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896), and Tom Sawyer, Detective (1896). In 1895, to help recoup his losses, he embarked on a world lecture tour, later described in Following the Equator (1897).
Although his financial situation rapidly improved, additional stress and sorrow came with the deaths of Twain's daughter Susy in 1896 and of his wife in 1904. His writings of the late 1890s and 1900s became more pessimistic than ever; "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" (1898) and What Is Man? (1906) are particularly scathing examinations of human nature. Yet, these works also imply that proper understanding of human motivations can result in progress. Moreover, volumes in the Mark Twain Papers series--Which Was the Dream?, and Other Symbolic Writings of the Later Years (1967), Mark Twain's Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts (1969), and Mark Twain's Fables of Man (1972)--suggest that the period was not the wasteland described by some critics.

WORK: ‘All Modern American Literature comes from one book by Mark Twain’, The Green Hills of Africa, Hemingway.

‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras Country’ (short story)

The Innocents Abroad (non-fictional travel)

The Gilded Ages: A Tale of Today. (Gilded refers to a whole era, the 19th century)

Old Times on the Mississippi

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Prince and the Pauper

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

A Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Mark Twain’s Autobiography (published posthumously).

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

This novel was first published in England in 1884 and afterwards in the U.S in 1885.Since then it is considered one of the greatest American novels, characterizing the American Regionalism. The work has been popular with readers since its publication and it’s usually taken as a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is noted for its colorful descriptions of people and places along the Mississippi river. Twain satirizes a southern antebellum society that had ceased to exist about twenty years before the work was published. The novel is an often scathing look at entrenched attitudes, particularly racism.

Urban Realism:

-Henry James

-Edith Wharton

-Ellen Glasgow

-Kate Chopin: she dealt with the concept of ‘the new woman’ in The Awakening, being this the first feminist novel in American Literature.


BRIEF BIOGRAPHY: Henry James was born on 15 April 1843 in New York City, New York State, United States, the second of five children born to theologian Henry James Sr. (1811-1882) and Mary Robertson nee Walsh. Henry James Sr. was one of the most wealthy intellectuals of the time, connected with noted philosophers and transcendentalists as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, as well as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Thomas Carlyle, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; fellow friends and influential thinkers of the time who would have a profound effect on his son's life. Education was of the utmost importance to Henry Sr. and the family spent many years in Europe and the major cities of England, Italy, Switzerland, France, and Germany, his children being tutored in languages and literature.
After several attempts at attending schools to study science and law, by 1864 James decided he would become a writer. He was always a voracious reader and he now immersed himself in French, Russian, English, and American classic literature. He ventured out on his own travels to Europe, wrote book reviews, and submitted stories –‘A Tragedy of Errors’ published anonymously- to magazines such as the North American Review, The Nation, North American Tribune, Macmillan's, and The Atlantic Monthly which also serialised his first novel Watch and Ward (1871).
James left America and lived for a time in Paris, where he worked as contributor for the NY Tribune, before moving to London, England in 1876. He continued his prodigious output of short stories and novels including Roderick Hudson (1875), The American (1877), The Europeans (1878), Confidence (1879), Washington Square (1880), The Pension Beaurepas (1881), and his extended critical essay Hawthorne (1879). He also wrote the novella Daisy Miller (1879) which he later based a play on; one of many that proved unsuccessful. A Little Tour In France (1884) was followed by The Bostonians (1886), The Aspern Papers (1888), The Reverberator (1888), The Tragic Muse (1890), The Pupil (1891), Sir Dominick Ferrand (1892), The Death of the Lion (1894), The Coxon Fund (1894), and The Altar of the Dead (1895).
In 1897 James retired from the hectic city of London to the quieter town of Rye in East Sussex, where James bought "Lamb House" and continued to write What Maisie Knew (1897), In The Cage (1898), The Awkward Age (1899), The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Beast in the Jungle (1903), The Golden Bowl (1904), Italian Hours (1909), and The Outcry (1911). Autobiographies include A Small Boy And Others (1913), Notes Of A Son And Brother (1914), and The Middle Years (1917).
[pic]In 1904 James travelled to America where he embarked on a cross-country lecture tour, which inspired his series of essays first published in North American Review, Harper's, The Fortnightly Review then in 1907 as The American Scene. When World War I broke out, being an American ex-patriate, James was not happy with America's reluctance to join the war and became a British Citizen in 1915. In 1916 he was awarded the Order of Merit by King George V.
After several years of decline and a stroke a few months earlier, Henry James died of pneumonia on 28 February 1916. His ashes were interred at the Cambridge Cemetery in Massachusetts, United States, his stone inscribed "Novelist, Citizen of Two Countries, Interpreter of His Generation On Both Sides Of The Sea". A memorial stone was placed for him in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey, London, England in 1976. WORK: Henry Jame is the representative figure of Urban Realism in America and one of the key names of the 19th century literature. His view of Art and Literature is expressed in the essay ‘The Art of Fiction’. He emphasizes the importance of the realistic portrait of the character as it’s seen and felt by the narrator. His main influences were Hawthorne and Honoré de Balzac, but unlike them he found out that magazines and newspapers were a good vehicle for his writing, so he decided to publish them in a serialized way as Dickens did in England. There is a positive and a negative side in this kind of publication:

Positive: you can see the reaction of the audience.

Negative: readers’ interference influenced the writing.

As a result, many of his works lacked of the reflection and dedication they deserved, so he revised them at the end of his career.

His novel Watch and Ward (1871) sets the basis for a constant leitmotiv in his works: the portrayal of a group of Americans living in Europe, whereas Daisy Miller (1879), the story of a naïve young American Lady who confronts the sophisticated and rotten European values, is a prelude of his masterpiece Portrait of a Lady (1881). The failure of what the thought would be his greatest novel: ‘The Tragic Muse’, led him to write both plays and short stories, which he described as ‘related forms of expressing art’.

In total Henry James wrote 22 novels, 122 short stories, 15 plays and hundreds of essays and articles. In that which concerns his essay output, the most important piece is ‘The American Sin’, considered both a treaty on the turn of the century and a social portrayal of American society. The author describes the rise of democrats and the impact that free immigration is having in American culture.


Roderick Hudson (1875): Künsterroman and first attempt of the author to write a serialised novel.

Washington Square (1880): Tragicomedy relating the experience of a sweet lady and her dominant father. It is compared and related with the works of Jane Austen.

The Portrait of a Lady (1881): This novel meant the end of the first stage of his career. Following the pattern of Daisy Miller, James carries develops a psychological novel where Isabel Archer affronts her destiny after inheriting a fortune and getting involved with two American expatriates who try to take advantage of her after being influenced by the European values.


The Bostonians: This was the first time James included some subplots concerning political activism.

The Princess Casamassina: Important due to the political activism and the terrorist plot it deals with.


The Winds of the Dope (1892): Deals with the life of an American heiress who suffers an important Diseasse.

The Ambassadors: Considered his best novel –by himself- narrates a trip from America to Europe.

The Golden Bowl: It means a complex study of marriage and adultery.


-Henry James confronts the idea of Europe with that of America: the old world and civilization, often corrupted vs. the New World, which incarnates a more open society, incarnation of virtues.

-The origin in this confrontation is in those Middle Class Americans who went to Europe to become aristocrats.

-Appreciation of the power of relationships between people from different points of view.

-His main characters usually face oppression or abuse, specially his young ladies.

-Critics point out that this duality is a result of his expatriation, which obliged him to live within himself.

-Psychological experiments. In Portrait of a Lady, for instance, the author tries to express what happens when this idealistic young women suddenly becomes rich, as it happens in Them Ambassadors.

American Naturalism: The term Naturalism is applied to novels that defend scientific principles that affect our behaviour and our life. The main difference with Realism is that Naturalism emerges as a result of a philosophical mind linked to determinism and fatalism. Hence the ending states that there is nothing we can do to improve our situation; this situation is led by some forces and social components that determine it. Apart from this, John Steinberg developed other branch of Naturalism which was called the ‘non teleological thinking’: it doesn’t matter what’s happened, don’t look for causes, just live from this moment.

There are three different theories about Naturalism in North America:

-In America doesn’t exist such thing as Naturalism since it’s a European movement, mainly French with Emile Zola (Nana) and Guy de Maupassant as main figures.

-There are some works in American Literature that could be understood as Naturalist works, but they do not belong to a separated movement, different from Realism.

-There is something that can be defined as Naturalism considered as a movement as itself.

The representative figures of what we can call American Naturalism are:

-Theodor Dreysser

-Frank Norris

-Jack London: The Call of the Wild, White Fang.

-Upton Sinclair: The Jungle: this is considered to be the most typical American Naturalist Novel. It presents a worker, a strong and good person who works in a meat factory in Chicago (an industrial city) and is badly paid, and the consequences of this. It is similar to The Mother by Gorky.




-Although Modernism as such started in Europe after the World War I with figures such as Joyce or Woolf, it can be considered one of the first international movements, influencing the style of American authors during the 20’s until the World War II.

-The main stylistic difference with Europe is that American authors wrote more realistically, keeping the aesthetic tradition from the 19th century. However they looked for something new; American authors not longer worried about reflecting what American was. It has to do with ‘the art for the art’s sake’ (Ezra Pound).

-New techniques: alteration of traditional writing, the narrator function changes and it is not longer ‘to inform’, alteration of chronological order, the end stops being tied-up and the inclusion of intertextuality through which the author establishes a dialogue with other authors.

-The ‘truth’ starts being questionable: you cannot trust the narrator no more since he refers to his own truth which has stopped being universal. The use of the first person narrative reflects this lack of universal truth.

-Expression of a sense of ‘modern life’ through art: art is a keystone in the break with the past.

-Sexuality starts being a common feature, main element in novels.

-Gender roles (especially women’s role in society) are also altered and challenged. Literature reflects the change in society, especially in those aspects concerning women’s emancipation.

-Writers start being concerned with questions related to form and structure since some stylistic innovations have to do with the alteration of the traditional syntax and form.

-Use of metafiction: fiction that deals with the process of writing.

-The study of the self is considered one of the main issues in American Literature. Authors prefer to portray anti-heroes who reflect social alienation and who are considered outcasts, being give little or none physical description. They belong to a ‘Lost Generation’ (Gertrud Stain); they suffer of a ‘dissociation of sensibility’ (T.S Eliot) and have a ‘dream deferred’ (Langson Hughes). What distinguishes American Modernism is the unifying theme of a conscious search for identity: what does it mean to be an American?

-Existentialism (Sören Kinkeghart) and Nihilism (Heidenberg ‘we are born to die’) oppose the naïve approach to humanity prior to the W.W I, which meant the End of the Innocence of Human Beings.

-The Great Depression at the end of the 20’s and the disillusionment after the W.W I marked the socio-philosophical seed for the writings of this period.

-All these negative aspects led to new hopes and aspirations, together with a search for a new beginning, not only for the contemporary individuals, but also for the fictional characters in American Modernist literature.


-The economic crisis in America after the Great Depression marked the literary output of John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath ‘29, Of Mice and Men, The East of Eden).

-Gender interaction in a mundane society is the characteristic in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby ‘25).

-Hemingway offers an insight into the psychological wound and spiritual scars of war experience (The Sun Also Rises ’26, A Farewell to Arms).

-Wounds of racism and the singularities of American South characterizes the work of Faulkner (Absalom, Absalom ’20, The Sound and the Fury).

-John Dos Passos expressed America’s post-war disillusionment (Three Soldiers ’20, Manhattan Transfer)

-The Harlem Renaissance: Ethnic literature developed and flourished during the 1920’s. In the Afro-American context the literary core was set in Harlem, N.Y, with authors such as Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes or Zora Neale Hurston among others.


BRIEF BIOGRAPHY: William Faulkner (1897-1962) came from an old southern family and grew up in Oxford, Mississippi. He joined the Canadian, and later the British, Royal Air Force during the First World War, studied for a while at the University of Mississippi, and temporarily worked for a New York bookstore and a New Orleans newspaper. Except for some trips to Europe and Asia, and a few brief stays in Hollywood as a scriptwriter, he worked on his novels and short stories on a farm in Oxford.

Faulkner was encouraged to write by Sherwood Anderson, so he wrote Soldier’s Pay (1926), although the first novel that was widely known was Sanctuary (1931).


-Most of his novels take place in an imaginary ‘country’ named Yoknapatawpha. Each novel contributes to the building of a whole.

-His novels recreate the landscape and the people living in the South, being influenced by history –the historical growth and the subsequent decadence of the South-, his family and the region where he was brought up. To build up this ‘Southern image’ the author turns to the use of certain aspects such as the southern sense of humour, the sense of the tragic position of Afro-American and white people which entails a dilemma.

-Experimental style and distortion of the time through the ‘stream of consciousness’, a complex syntax, convoluted plots, flashbacks and multiple narrators. The author uses different points of view in order to represent this southern microcosm and society.

-Complex stories due to the wide range of characters: former slaves or descendents of slaves, poor white, agrarian or working-class southern and Southern aristocrats.

-The main theme in Faulkner’s work is decay of the old South, as represented by the Sartoris and Compson families, and the emergence of ruthless and brash newcomers, the Snopeses.


The Marble Faun

Soldier’s Pay


The Sound and the Fury: the downfall of the Compson family seen through the minds of several characters

As I Lay Dying: The author develops the ‘stream of conciousness’ and the multiple narrator technique.

Sanctuary: is about the degeneration of Temple Drake, a young girl from a distinguished southern family and her raping with a corncob by Popeye since he is impotent. It’s sequel is Requiem for a Nun.

Light in August: prejudice is shown to be most destructive when it is internalized, as in Joe Christmas, who believes, though there is no proof of it, that one of his parents was a ‘Negro’.

A Green Bough


Absalom, Absalom!: divided in three sections, each one belonging to a different family.

The Unbanquished

The Wild Palms

The Hamlet: First title of the ‘Snopes Trilogy’, all of them tracing the rise of the insidious Snopes family to positions of power and wealth in the community.

Go Down Moses

Intruder in the Dust: Racial plot: A black farmer is accused of murdering a white man.

A Fable (Pulitzer Prize in 1954)

The Town: Second title of the ‘Snopes Trilogy’.

The Mansion : Third title of the ‘Snopes Trilogy’

The River (Pulitzer Prize 1962)


BRIEF BIOGRAPHY: Fitzgerald was born on September 29, 1896 in St. Paul Minnesota. His prename, Francis Scott Key, was given to him to honor his distant ancestor who wrote the National Anthem. Fitzgerald's father, Edward Fitzgerald, was from Maryland while his mother, Mary McQuillan, was the daugher of an Irish-Catholic immigrant.
Fitzgerald entered St. Paul Academy when he was a boy, and started to write for the school newspaper when he was thirteen. During 1911-1913, he attended the Newman School, a Catholic Prep School in New Jersey. There, he met Father Sigourney Fay, who encouraged him to pursue his ambitions and to achieve personal success and distinction. Afterwards, he entered Princeton University, where he grew on his writing abilities by writing for school media. However, he neglected his studies and was put on academic probation.
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In 1917, Fitzgerald joined the army to fight in World War I. In June of 1918, he was assigned to Camp Sheridan in Alabama. There, he fell in love with Zelda Sayre, who would become the most important factor in his writing. After being turned down during a marriage proposal due to his lack of success, Fitzgerald returned to St. Paul to begin work on his novel, This Side of Paradise.
His novel was published in March of 1920, and he instantly became a success. He had gained the kind of success and wealth that he had desired for so long, and in a short time, he and Zelda married in New York. He moved to an apartment in New York City where he wrote his second novel, The Beautiful and the Damned.
After Zelda became pregnant in 1921, they settled down back in St. Paul. And in October of 1921, their daughter, Frances Scott Fitzgerald, was born. Luxurious parties and alcoholics bouts were common in the Fitzgeralds' home, especially among Zelda, which triggered many domestic rows. Alcoholism, as in the case of Faulkner and Hemingway, marked his life and his career.
In order to escape the distractions of New York, Fitzgerald moved to France in 1924 to work on his novel, The Great Gatsby. When the novel was published in 1925, the sales were fairly disappointing, but theater and movie deals brought in more income.
The Fitzgeralds returned to the United States in 1927, but Zelda's unconventional behavior had become very eccentric. During 1930, Zelda's physical and mental condition had deteriorated to the point where she suffered a mental breakdown in April of 1930. She entered the Prangins clinic to receive psychiatric treatment for her mental illness. As a result, Fitzgerald had to suspend his novel writing to write short stories to pay for her costly treatment.
In 1934, Fitzgerald's final attempt at a hit novel, Tender Is the Night, was published in hopes that he could earn enough for Zelda and his daughter. However like The Great Gatsby, its sales were disappointing. And by 1936, Fitzgerald was ill, drunk, and in debt. So he headed off to Hollywood in 1937 hoping to become a prominent screenplay writer. However, the only screen credit he received was for the film, Three Comrades.
After failing in Hollywood, Fitzgerald fell in love with the young columnist, Sheilah Graham. After MGM dropped his options in 1938, Fitzgerald returned to novel writing. He had worked on The Love of the Last Tycoon, but Fitzgerald died from an unfortunate heart attack in Sheilah's apartment on December 21, 1940.
Although Fitzgerald's writing was not considered to be of high quality, because of the long held belief that he was an irresponsible writer. But then during the late 1940's, a revival of Fitzgerald's works made both him and his works more appreciated. And by the 1960s, Fitzgerald had secured a place in literary history as one of the most prominent writers ever. WORK: Fitzgerald’s work was influenced by Naturalism in the sense that the question of Fate is always present. Besides, he presents a great capacity of portraying society, especially the Upper Class, proving to be quite liberal in his attitudes. His work and legend were crucial to the point of inspiring authors ever since he was first published. His relationship with Hemingway proves this, although they broke afterwards.
MAIN WORKS: NOVELS: This Side of Paradise The Beautiful and the Damned: Reflection of the self-destructive extravagance of his time. The Great Gatsby: The American Dream of the self-made man. Tender is the Night: It deals with the story of a young psychiatrist whose life is doomed by his marriage to an unstable woman. The Last Tycoon (published posthumously): unfinished novel edited by Edmund Wilson following star’s rise to power in Hollywood and his conflicts with a rival. SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS: Flappers and Philosophers (1920) Tales of the Jazz Age (1922) All the Sad Young Men (1926) Taps at Reveille (1935) The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1989).

ERNEST HEMINGWAY BRIEF BIOGRAPHY: Ernest Hemingway, was born in the affluent Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, on July 21, 1899. His father was a doctor with whom he had a complex relationship that marked his life; his mother, a musician. He was named after his maternal grandfather, Ernest Hall. As a young man, he was interested in writing; he wrote for and edited his high school’s newspaper, as well as the high school yearbook. Upon graduating from Oak Park and River Forest High School in 1917, he worked for the Kansas City Star newspaper briefly, but in that short time, he learned the writing style that would shape nearly all of his future work.

As an ambulance driver in Italy during World War I, Ernest Hemingway was wounded and spent several months in the hospital. While there, he met and fell in love with a Red Crossnurse named Agnes von Kurowsky. They planned to marry; however, she became engaged to an Italian officer instead.
This experience devastated Hemingway, and Agnes became the basis for the female characters in his subsequent short stories “A Very Short Story” (1925) and “The Snows ofKilimanjaro” (1936), as well as the famous novel “A Farewell To Arms” (1929). This would also start a pattern Ernest would repeat for the rest of his life – leaving women before they had the chance to leave him first.

Ernest Hemingway began work as a journalist upon moving to Paris in the early 1920s, but he still found time to write. He was at his most prolific in the 20s and 30s. His first short story collection, aptly titled “Three Stories and Ten Poems,” was published in 1923. His next short story collection, “In Our Time,” published in 1925, was the formal introduction of the vaunted Hemingway style to the rest of the world, and considered one of the most important works of 20th century prose. He would then go on to write some of the most famous works of the 20th century, including “A Farewell to Arms,” “The Sun Also Rises,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and “The Old Man and the Sea.” He also won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

Ernest Hemingway lived most of his later years in Idaho. He began to suffer from paranoia, believing the FBI was aggressively monitoring him. In November of 1960 he began frequent trips to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for electroconvulsive therapy – colloquially known as “shock treatments.” He had his final treatment on June 30, 1961. Two days later, on July 2, 1961, he committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth with a twelve-gauge shotgun. He was a few weeks short of his 62nd birthday. This wound up being a recurring trend in his family; his father, as well as his brother and sister, also died by committing suicide.

WORK: Hemingway’s style is a legacy to American literature and has been emulated by many writers in and outside the U.S. Economy and understatement are characteristics of his narrative style, using ‘and’ in place of commas for instance. He also coined the ‘Iceberg Theory’ which states that in his writing the facts float above water and the supporting structure and symbolism operate out of sight.
In terms of the main themes, the death is a recurrent one both in his novels and short stories. And those who face death do it with dignity and courage after having lived an authentic life. Likewise, his characters show an authenticity that can be identified with the reader. Besides, many of his works present autobiographic details as framing devices about life. Another important feature in Hemingway’s writing is his treatment to female characters, which some critics classify as misogynistic. His references to homosexual characters are also labeled as homophobic.
In 1954 Hemingway was given the Nobel Prize due to ‘his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style’.
The Torrent of Spring: where he proves his narcissist attitude and ridicules Sherwood Anderson, who had previously promoted his work.
The Sun Also Rises (26) where he shows a nihilistic and existential attitude.
A Farewell to Arms (29)
To Have or Have Not (37)
For Whom the Bells Tolls (40)
Across the River and Into the Trees (50)
The Old Man and the Sea (52)
Islands in the Stream (published posthumously in 1970)
The Garden of Eden (published posthumously in 1986)
True at First Light (published posthumously in 1999)


Three Stories and Ten Poems (23)
In Our Time (25)
Men Without Women (27)
Winners Take Nothing (33)
The Snows f Kilimanjaro and Other Stories (61)
The Fifth Column and Four Stories of the Civil War (69)
The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (published posthumously in 1987)

JOHN STEINBECK BRIEF BIOGRAPHY: John Ernst Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California. He was the third of four children, and the only son born to John Ernst Sr. and Olive Hamilton Steinbeck, of German and Irish descendant respectively. A fourth child, Mary, was born in 1909. Olive Steinbeck had been a teacher in one-room schools in Big Sur, California, before her marriage to John Sr. After their marriage, the Steinbecks moved to Salinas in 1894, where John Sr. became a manager at the Sperry Flour Mill and later served as treasurer of Monterey County.

Family life was apparently secure and happy. Steinbeck’s father quickly recognized his son’s talents and eventually both parents encouraged Steinbeck in his dream to become a writer. Steinbeck’s best-known works of fiction are set in central California, where he grew up. Although Steinbeck’s family was solidly middle class, he had to earn his own money during high school. He worked on nearby ranches during the summer and he also delivered newspapers on his bike, exploring Salinas’s Mexican neighborhood and Chinatown. Later, he would use his boyhood memories of these places in his stories and novels.

He was an excellent storyteller, a lifelong trait that found its natural outlet in his writing. In 1915, Steinbeck entered Salinas High School and began writing stories and sending them anonymously to magazines. He was president of his senior class and graduated in a class of twenty-four students. Steinbeck enrolled in Stanford University in 1919, which he would attend on and off for the next six years. As a result he left Stanford in 1925 without a degree.

During the summers and other times he was away from college, Steinbeck worked as a farm laborer, sometimes living with migrants in the farm’s bunkhouse. After leaving school for good in 1925, Steinbeck took a job on a freighter and went to New York City. There he worked in construction and later as a reporter for The American for twenty-five dollars a week. But he was fired because his reporting was not “objective” enough.

When he failed to find a publisher for his short stories, he returned to California by freighter. In 1930, Steinbeck married Carol Henning and settled in Pacific Grove. While Carol worked at various jobs to support John’s career, he continued to write. Finally, in 1935 his first successful novel, Tortilla Flat, was published. In 1937, Of Mice and Men became an immediate best-seller, and Steinbeck became a respected writer. He adapted this novel into a play, which won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1937.

The stress that came with success and fame hastened the collapse of Steinbeck’s marriage, which ended in 1942. A year later, Steinbeck married dancer-singer Gwen Conger, with whom he had two sons —his only children— before their divorce in 1948. By 1950, Steinbeck had married his third wife, Elaine Scott.

After leaving California in the early 1940s, Steinbeck lived the rest of his life in New York City and on Long Island in New York. His final novel, published the year before he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, was The Winter of Our Discontent. The story focuses on the decline of the moral climate in America. When he won the Nobel Prize in 1962, only five other Americans had received the award: Sinclair Lewis, Eugene O’Neill, Pearl Buck, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway.

Accepting the Nobel Prize in Sweden, Steinbeck said: “The ancient commission of the writer has not changed. He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement. Furthermore, the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man’s proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit—for gallantry in defeat—for courage, compassion, and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally-flags of hope and of emulation. I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man, has no dedication nor any membership in literature.”

Steinbeck wrote no fiction after receiving the Nobel Prize. His reporting on the Vietnam War for Newsday, a Long Island newspaper, in 1967 caused many people to label him a hawk and a warmonger. Steinbeck died following a heart attack on December 20, 1968. He was sixty-six years old. His ashes were buried in Salinas, California.

WORK: Steinbeck’s work was highly influenced by his friendship with sea biologist Ed Ricketts, who introduced him to the idea of the ‘non-teleological thinking’ which claimed the necessity of paying attention to actual reality: we must have our view directed to the future since things are as they are and it’s not worth looking to the past. Steinbeck is considered to be the more naturalist of the ‘Lost Generation’. As a result he mixes features from realism, romanticism and primitivism, portraying the ‘animalistic side of human beings’ due to which he was accused.

He is also labeled as a proletarian author who presents the vulnerability of needed people and a wide range of interests from politics to religion, history, mythology… It is also interesting to point out that most of his works have been adapted into a movie.
Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962.


‘The Red Pony’ (1933)

Tortilla Flat (First novel published in 1935, naturalistic and proletarian.

Of Mice and Men

The Long Valley

The Grapes of Wrath (1939): divided in three sections: Oklahoma, Way to California and California.

East of Eden (1952): Steinbeck uses his own family as a model to write it. He hoped it to be his best novel, filled with a great symbolism, for instance, we can find two groups of characters each of one has a name starting either with C or A, referring to the Biblical names of Cain and Abel. This way Steinbeck presents the great influence that both determinism and fatalism have on his work.

The Winter of Our Discontent

The main difference between Pilgrims and Puritans is the former’s Congregationalist System.

Regarding religion, there was a fraction within Puritanism known as Arminianism. The Arminians were the followers of Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius. They believed that all men would be saved due to God’s never-ending goodness.

This ‘heresy’ given an end by the Puritans pretty soon.

First of all, it is important establish a difference between Fictional and non-fictional literature written during this period (18th century):


Henry Brackenridge Charles Brockden Brown Women Writers: Susanna Rowson Hannah Foster Judith Sargent Murray


Letters from an American Farmer by Jean de Crévencoeur.

Revolutionary period: Poetry and Pamphlets.

Many of them published their work in newspapers which became a constant relationship in the U.S.A.

*After the Puritan’s arrival to North America, they decided to create a Bible-based society with private property. However, some other groups had a different point of view of how society should be. This is the case of Thomas Morton –who arrived to the ‘Promised Land’ a bit after the Pilgrim Fathers and before the Puritans. He and his followers created a colony, Merry Mount, who lived together with the Native Americans with no private property and different non theocratic social principles –religious syncretism.

Maypole stands for a fertility symbol.

Most important ones.

Short stories published in the Putman’s and Harper’s Magazines: tradition in the US


Published posthumously, it means a link between these two main themes in Melville. It tells the story of a young sailor, Billy Bud, who admires Captain +,

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