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Flourishing from 1820-ies to the 1850-ies, Romanticism can be divided into Early Romanticism (the twenties and thirties) and Late Romanticism (the forties and fifties).
The early period began with the romances and short stories of Washington Irving (1783— 1859). These forms were developed later by other American writers. The historical novel began in America with Fenimore Cooper (1789— 1851). Romantic poetry appeared in great variety; most outstanding were the poems of Edgar Allan Рое (1809- 1849).
The Late Romanticism were the years of mature Romanticism in American literature. Characteristic of this period were Cooper's laternovels, Edgar Allan Poe's romances and poems written during the last eight years of his life, the works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 -1882), and the poems by Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892).
Early Romanticists were more optimistic about the American reality than Late Romanticists were. Criticizing the drawbacks of American civilization, they believed that it provided vast possibilities for development.
Late Romanticism developed in an atmosphere of sharp class contradictions, influenced by the development of capitalism in the country. The fiction of Late Romanticists was permeated with a tragic mood, sharp conflicts, confused feelings. American Romanticism as part of world romantic literature played an important role in the cultural life of America. The works of romantic writers of America are still read and admired.
The Transcendentalist movement was a reaction against 18th century rationalism and a manifestation of the general humanitarian trend of 19th century thought. The movement was based on a fundamental belief in the unity of the world and God. The soul of each individual was thought to be identical with the world -- a microcosm of the world itself. The doctrine of self- reliance and individualism developed through the belief in the identification of the individual soul with God.
The American hero -- like Herman Melville's Captain Ahab, or Mark Twain's Huck Finn, or Edgar Allan Poe's Arthur Gordon Pym -- typically faced risk, or even certain destruction, in the pursuit of metaphysical self-discovery. For the Romantic American writer, nothing was a given. Literary and social conventions, far from being helpful, were dangerous. There was tremendous pressure to discover an authentic literary form, content, and voice -- all at the same time. It is clear from the many masterpieces produced in the three decades before the U.S. Civil War (1861-65) that American writers rose to the challenge.
Transcendentalism emerged in the 30ies. This time witnessed noticeable sharpening of capitalist contradictions. People began their strikes, workers uprising and unions helped the appearance of romanticists, who stood agains mercantalism. There began chasses after dollars. The new literary trend leaked upon the aesthetics of romanticism and it was a new branch of romanticism.
In 1836 there was founded «Transcendentalist Club» at the head of which stood Ralph Waldo Emerson. The members of the Club were Henry David Thorean (1817–1862), Teodore Parker, George Reeply, Amos Alcolt, Elizabeth Pibody, Margaret Fuller (1810–1850) and others.
Transcendentalism is a specific American philosophical and literary trend.
To transcend something is to rise above it, to pass beyond its limits.
Transcendentalism is based on the belief that the most fundamental truths about life and death can be reached only by senses. The transcendentalism believed that each and every man and woman living as a true individual, free from restrain dogma and dull habits of thought, could know something spiritual reality but could not know it through logic or the data of the senses.
Transcendentalists did not have a strict doctrine or code. This trend is more a tendency, an attitude, than it is a philosophy.
Nature played an impotant role in the trenscendentalist view. Nature was divine, alive with spirit, the human mind could read nature, find truths in it. To live in harmony with nature, to allow one^s deepest intaitive being to communicate with nature, was a source of goodness and inspiration.
The trnscendentalists believed that deep intaition of a stiritual reality is available to us only if we allow ourselves to be individuals, and Transcentalist writing places a strong emphasis on individualism.
Trenscendentalists assert that the powers of the individual mind and soul are equally available to all people. These powers are not dependent upon wealth or background or education. We all have a potential equality as spiritual beings, and the divinity within each of us can be realized by the learned minister and the scholar. For Emerson every person can be a kind of poet, realising individual imaginative power.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849)
Edgar Allan Poe is certainly one of the best known and most popular of American writers. His stories are read by children, probed with the tools of psychoanalysis by critics, and transformed into films. His poems, notably «The Raven», «To Helen» and «Annable Lee», are widely anthologized. And his critical notion that a poem should be readable in a single sitting so as not to mute its single effect is a familiar critical principle. More importantly, Poe’s poetic theories, outlined in such pieces as «The Poetic Principle», «The Rationale of Verse» and «The Philosophy of Composition, had a profound influence on the French symbolist movement.
Before he became a famous poet and short – storey writer, Poe was known as a journalist and magazine editor. He wrote numerous reviews about works now forgotten while producing his own memerable tales and poems. And though he never realized his dream of founding a literary magazine of his own, be contributed to many, including those he edited. In 1837 he moned his familyfrom Baltimore to New York, where he published his only full-length fictional work, «The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym». In 1840 he published his «Tales of the Grotesqu and Arabesque» (1840). Poe borrowed the terms «grotesque» and «arabesque» from the Romantic poet and novelist Sir Walter Scott, and meant them to suggest the terror associated with the bizarre and the beautiful associated with the poetic. He also meant to suggest that both elements were present in many stories in his collection.
«The Fall of the House of Usher» is among Poe’s most famous and most accomplished tales. The house that falls is both the literal Usher habitation and the family it signifies. The house also represents the mind of Roderick Usher. In its density of detail, bizarre events, and uncanny tone, the story suggest gothic fiction. In its psychological richness and fainted family history, it reaches back to Greek tragedy.
«The Cask of Amontillado» examplifies Poe’s genius at displaying a mad narrator whose intent is to convince his listeners of his sanity. Perhaps Poe’s best – known example of this type is the narrator of «The Tell – Tale Heart». But «The Cask of Amontilado» is an even richer story, with Poe pulling out all the stops in displaying multiple ironies while his narrator fels compelled to tell somebody of the perfect murder he committed fifty years before. The question is why he tells this tale after so many years.
In «The Purloined Letter» Poe gives way to his bent for stories of crime and punishment, this time from the outside point of view of the detective rather than from inside the criminals mind. Rather than considering what he would have done in like circumstances, the detective, Monsieur Dupin, must try to think the way the criminal thought, which is precisely what he does en route to to solving the case. The story celebrates Poe’s appreciation of the rational mind and contains a number of examples of riddles and games in which Poe delighted. It also ends with an elaborate puzzle built on a complex literary allusion, which contains the key Poe uses to unlock the inticacies of the story’s plot.
Poe’s fictional performances delighted audience in his own time continue to engage and intrigue readers today. Even though his style is ornate and his language far from colloquial, he remains a most readable writer, largely because he builds suspense, creates atmosphere, and probes the psychological complexities of his characters’ minds and hearts. If it is the horror of his stories that first draws readers in, it is Poe’s psychological richness and his control of tone that continue to bring them back for repeated readings of some inmatchable stories
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