Evolution of American Literature
The evolution started with legends, songs and myths transmitted by word of mouth. It also included the way the Americans related to other cultures, for example, that created by the Indians. The written literature began with the arrival of European pioneers, but it was not available among the other cultures and the Indian languages in the North America. The Native American literature was diverse and connected to different cultures. The narratives of the hunting cultures such as Navajo were different when contrasted to the tales created by the tribes of Acoma Pueblo who were involved in agricultural activities.
The narratives about the Ojibwa lakeside habitats from the North always differed from the tales of the Hopi people in the desert. During the evolution period, various tribes followed their religions that involved worshipping animals, plants, gods, or sacred persons. The government had a system that included democracy, theocracy and the council of elders. The oral literature associated itself with different tribes. The Indian narrations united the physical and spiritual sides. The spiritual factor was about the living nature with spiritual forces. Their main character was plants or animals connected with a certain tribe. The American essay “The Oversoul” by Ralph Waldo takes the reader into the world of the Indian holiness, which passed through a person’s all life (Jones 56).
During the period when Columbus arrived, America had its own beliefs, icons and symbols, which the native people understood perfectly in the society. The U.S. history was pervasive, and in that period people applied facts as a sign of patriotism and a way of identifying the nation. Christopher Columbus played a significant role of the first hero in America who represented the U.S. myth as a whole. Columbus acquired the heroic status in America not because of his accomplishments but based on how he perceived the society. During the pre-colonial period, the indigenous Americans perceived themselves as a diverse society. The representatives of Indian cultures classified the Europeans as primitive people, and in their return, the Europeans derived the word “Indian” as equipment for colonization. This contributes to the reasons why at the present, the Native Americans embraced the spiritual and cultural unity and ethnicity of the Indians. Over the past years, the indigenous Americans also got involved n supporting the societies that advanced in agriculture.
During the colonial period, the American residents treated the arrival of Columbus in 1942 as a disaster. It was in that period that the outbreak of diseases made the tribes suffer when they met the Europeans. The American population decreased. The efforts of the tribes to establish relationships with the Europeans resulted in their torture and massacre by the intruders. The Europeans became strong because of their guns and their Christian beliefs. Historians refer to this period, characterized by the past American cultures, as pre-Columbian. They named the people on the American continent Indians because of the Columbus illusion that he was in India.
During the revolutionary period, there was a hard fight against Britain for the liberation of colonies. The U.S. war for independence, which took place between 1775-1783, revealed the greatness the Americans had aspired to gain. The authors of this age were Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin who targeted at the Americans with democratic ideas. Their purpose of writing is to show the military victory and how it rejuvenated the nation’s hopes for achieving new literature. The writers created an implication that the Cultural Revolution, when contrasted with a military one, could not successfully be made unless there was an element of shared experience.
The writers motivated people when they referred to the revolution as the expressions that came from the people’s heart, growing into sensible thoughts and experience. The revolutionary writers were patriotic in a way that they had self-consciousness, understood the importance of ongoing events and were eager to participate. The writers of that generation knew English, they had their own line of fashion and behavior. There was a time the American audience needed famous European authors. The writers of the period did not cover issues about how the former colonies perceived their previous rulers.
The Romantic period began between 1850s and 1860s. The authors of that stage in the history of American literature named themselves Essayists and Poets. Among the writers of that time, there are Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whiteman, and Emily Dickinson. The Romantic Movement started in Germany and spread to other states such as England before it arrived in America in 1820. The Romantic Movement in America had a connection with the national expansion and the realization of the unique American voice. At that period, the intended audience was the Americans, and the purpose of the trend was to nurture the masterpieces of the “American Renaissance,” solidify the identity of the country and create the real ideas and passion of Romanticism (Madden 288).
The basic Romantic ideas revolved around the aesthetic aspects of nature, spiritual growth, and arts of inspiration. According to Romanticists, the art revealed the universal truth in a better way than science. The Romantic beliefs argued that all men need to express themselves in terms of love. People need to live a true life that is why they must adopt an appropriate lifestyle. Romanticism was close to American poets and suited the democracy in the U.S.A. Romanticism stressed individual issues, it valued common people in a society, inspiring them to gain and appreciate ethical and aesthetic values.
The Realistic period commenced between 1860s and 1914. Its famous representatives were Mark Twain, Henry James, and Stephen Crane. During that time, a civil war struck the U.S., especially the South, the residents of which were involved in agricultural activities. The democratic nation faced exhaustion and lost its optimisms after the conflict. That era targeted at the audience represented by millionaires, speculators, and manufactures. The war boosted the business industry in the North and gave leaders the experience on how to deal with their workers and handle machines. The Americans improved the economy by the use of their natural resources such as gold, silver, and oil. Between 1860 and 1914, the U.S. transformed from a country with small farms to a modern nation with strong industry. This made a great part of the American population migrate to the city.
The 20th century was a period when the American play imitated the English and European theater. During that era, all theaters staged English dramas. The authors of the American drama were Thornton Wilder who wrote a script about life and death and Clifford Odets who worked on “American Tragedy” play. The reason why the Americans liked European actors was that the most important to them was a high status of plays and not the support of local production. In the 20th century, plays adopted aesthetic innovations and gained original forms and expression, the same as current dramas have.
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