You are on page 1of 18

EARLY AMERICAN LITERATURE TO 1900

(Summaries units 1-2, First term)

THE 17TH CENTURY


Unit 1:
John Smith (1580-1631)
From The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles. Book
III, Chapter 2. ( Published in 1624)
Captain John Smith was the author of the first books in English to chronicle the early days of the
English colonization of America. Reporting and mapping his adventures, his books did encourage
colonization. He arrived in the New World with the Virginia Company for commercial purposes.
Undoubtedly, his military training was of great help when coping with the difficulties caused by
the resistance of the Native People. A lively account of his military adventure with the Native
Americans -whose authenticity many critics doubt- is narrated in his General History of Virginia,
New England, and the Summer Isles (1624) where he often mixed fact and fiction.
The author seems more interested in describing events, actions rather than characterization. No
physical descriptions of the whites are provided. On the contrary, physical descriptions of the
Indians tend to be derogatory (they are inferior, ignorant, brutish, savages, etc.). Besides, their
sometimes contradictory behaviour attacking or being king- presents them as unreliable. Never
uses either direct or indirect speech and described precisely how his captors moved. Often
justifies and defends himself.
Paying close attention to the writers choice of vocabulary, readers perceive the authors military
training (soldiers, sergeants, weapons ).
Using the third person narrative to describe a personal experience shows the writers attempt to
proclaim some objective distance to reinforce his heroicism. The more dangerous the fight, the
greater the triumph. Facts are embellished, therefore distortioned, and the interpretation of
those facts is also distorted. For new geographies demand new heroes.
Style: formal, ornate, with quotations from classical writers (Seneca) classical resources to
demonise natives and present them as devils and compare their dwellings to hell.
Use of military lexicon, technical terms and words from Native language.
He uses 3rd person singular to distance himself from narrative voice (1 st person) and give the
impression that his account of events objectively reflect what happened. (1st person narratives
are suitable to express subjective impressions and opinions but are less effective that 3 rd person
narratives when authors want their statements to be accepted as if they were universal truths).
In other words, he omits the personal pronoun I and writes of himself in the third person singular.
(HE=SMITH).
Fusion of fact and fiction. Subjective point of view.
Informative and entertaining purpose.
Unit 2:
William Bradford (1590-1657)
He embodied the Puritan dream of building a new political as well as religious system in the New
World, the City of God on earth. Their religious pilgrimage to the promised land America- was
backed up by a civil compact, the Mayflower compact, in order to secure the survival of all,
Puritans and non-Puritan alike. Bradfords history Of Plymouth Plantation provides a unique
portrait of the trials undergone on crossing the Atlantic Ocean and in arriving, settling and
accommodating to the new landscape. Puritan narratives tend to illustrate divine providence in
their exemplary tales, written with a religious didactic purpose.
Both John Smith and William Bradford wrote travel narratives in which they described their
personal encounter with the Native Americans. Both render a similar portrayal of the Indians

(brutish, friendly at times, hostile at other moments, not to be trusted, as non-human, savages,
primitive, not civilized, ignorant, etc.) However, they narrative strategies attest to their
differences.
Both writers provide a personal account, that is, an autobiographical narrative, but they address
the audience differently, according to the different effects they want to produce on their reading
audiences. Captain John Smiths third person narrator wants to provoke admiration, whereas
Bradford wants to convert and convince. Bradfords choice of first person narrator conveys an
immediacy with the reader and a confidentiality that are lacking in Captain John Smith. John
Smiths military approach and economic interests contrast with William Bradfords religious
stance, for the Puritans believed that God was in charge of the universe and they interpreted all
events as symbols with spiritual meanings. Gods will and intervention in human life was
described in terms of reward or punishment. Prosperity was a mark of Gods support (reward),
whereas failure (sickness, death, Indian attacks) was considered to indicate Gods displeasure
(punishment). However, in the case of John Smith, success depends on Captain Smiths heroic
intervention. John Smiths vivid and lively descriptions of the riches and the beauties of the New
World are absent in Puritan literature. Smiths interest in Indian life, customs, clothes, etc; is
illustrated by the use of some native words, but are not seen in Bradfords accounts. Both use
Seneca, which proves their classical learning. However, Bradford is continually making biblical
allusions, writing a providentialist historiographical account of the Plymouth settlement.
Concerning style, Smiths is much more elaborate intending to show his learning-, whereas
Bradfords is quite plain, attempting to be more didactic, always interpreting historical facts in a
religious way.
Text 1: From of Plymouth Plantation, Book I, Chapter IX (ten chapters). Of Their
Voyage and How They Passed the Sea; and of Their Safe Arrival at Cape Cod. Wrote
in 1630, published in 1857. This excerpt is about the hardships the Pilgrims or Puritans
experienced during their travelling and during their 1 st autumn, when they arrived, in which
they did not have food nor shelter and the bleak impression they received of the New World,
The author refers to natives as barbarian savages making a comparison with the apostle
Pauls shipwreck in which according to him, the natives were barbarians but not savage
barbarians with arrows like the ones the found. Bradford describes the new world as desolate
wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men.
Text 2: From Book II of Plymouth Plantation, Chapter XII. Anno 1621. Written in the
form of annals from 1620-1646. It reflects the authors disappointment at the gradual
decline of his community. It was written when the colony was firmly established, during the
2nd autumn. Of 102 passengers only 51 survived the 1st winter. Made friendly contacts with
Indians. Had enough supplies to survive and recovered strength. The wilderness of the 1st
passage turns into civilization in the 2nd one.
Tone: The prevailing tone of both passages is dignified.
Plain style: unsophisticated writing with humble modes of verbal expression that were
intended to inform and instruct, not to please. Puritans condemned ornamental style.
1st person singular: I as a member of the Pilgrims voyage, as a witness to their adventures.
(1st person narrator)
3rd person plural: they to refer to community as leader of Puritans to emphasise the welfare
of the cohesive community.
Use of biblical sources mainly although he also uses quotations of Seneca.
Providential interpretations of the facts were most events were regarded by Puritans as a
manifestation of Gods judgement (e.g. the 1 st man who is haughty in 1st passage,1st book
and gets punished by God by getting smitten by disease).
Subjective point of view. Spiritual concerns.
Plymouth Plantation pays almost no attention to the beauty of the N. worlds flora and fauna
and shows little interest in native culture.
Bradford regarded the Pilgrims as the new Israelites or chosen people and America as the
promised land.
Compare and contrast the narrative strategies used by John Smith and William Bradford
(focusing on the texts selected in units 1 and 2).

John Smith

William Bradford

Explorer

Settler

Emphasis on the individual self third person


singular

Emphasis on the welfare of community. 3rd


person plural and 1st person narrative as a
witness.

Political intent
Secular concerns
Classical sources
Fusion of fact and fiction Subjective (this refers
to historical sources)
Ornate style
informative and entertaining
self promoting not reliable. Lack of other
testimonies.

Religious intent
Spiritual concerns
Biblical sources mainly.
Providential interpretation of facts
Subjective (this refers to historical
sources).
Plain style.
Didactic

We can find many differences on the narrative strategies used by these two authors.
Regarding their attitude to the colonial undertaking, is possible to see that both of them had a
different goal when they embarked on their voyages. John Smith was a proud, self-made man
that travelled to the New World with the aim of getting wealthy as soon as possible. On the other
hand, Bradford wanted to settle, to start a new life where he and his community could practice
their religion without being persecuted (they were religious dissenters to the Crown). However,
no matter their goal, both had a negative attitude towards the Natives, since they were
described as savages on many occasions (Smith lines 1, 5, 9, 25; Bradford, line 53). Wilderness
also had a negative sense as described by Bradford as being full of wild beasts and wild men
(line 59). Although they had such a negative view on the New World, Smith started writing with
the purpose to encourage others to come to conquer that land, so his target audience could
include brave, active people, such as soldiers, warriors or adventurers. Bradford, instead, wrote
for its community, to have an account of the events happening to the settlement. In addition,
while both of them wrote an autobiography, Bradford did it with the format of a diary, keeping
the exact date and he started writing some years after he had settled on the new land. Despite
this, his work was not published until 1857. Smith, on the contrary, started writing a personal
letter to a friend in 1608 and at the same year, this was published as a pamphlet, although
Smith did not intend to publish his work. In Smiths writing we can see how he highlighted that
his destiny was in his hands. It was his courage and intelligence what kept him alive. The way he
described himself was showing a heroic behaviour. In the case of Bradford, Providence, ruled his
and every mans destiny (lines 12-16). He and his community were in Gods hands.
Regarding style, we can observe more differences. Maybe, the most obvious one is the
narrative voice. Smith used the third-person-singular to give the impression that the events
narrated by him were objectively described. In spite of this, Bradford used the first- personsingular, which allowed him to give his personal opinion and to be more subjective. Another
point to be made is that on Smiths narrative, the style is ornamental with military and native
vocabulary (lines 29, 30, 36). Probably, he wanted to make his writing more accurate, interesting
and authentic. By contrast, Bradfords style is plain with shorter grammar sentences and very
simple syntax, and at the same time, full of biblical allusions (lines 37, 51, 61). This shows us the
didactic purpose of his writing and how the Puritan thought was present at his mind.
These are the most significant similarities and differences on both writers regarding their
narrative strategies.
UNIT 3:
Anne Bradstreet(1612-1672)

The Author to Her Book preface (published in1678)


To My Dear Loving Husband
Upon the Burning of Our House
On My Dear grandchild Simon Bradstreet
She was the first and only woman to publish her poetry at a time when literary writing was a
male territory. Furthermore, her Puritan upbringing considered the senses and imagination as
unreliable and dangerous. In fact, literature was accepted as long as it had a didactic purpose.
Since poetry is a literary genre mainly intended to deal with private feelings, it seemed to go
against the Puritan sense of social and communal work. It might not be by chance that her
poetry is marked by tensions that show her internal conflicts in her attempt to reconcile her
needs and desires with those of the community she belonged to, and her inner struggles to
control her impulses and cope with her religious doubts. Instead of Puritan plain style she
preferred the more elaborate rhetorical strategies of her European contemporary writers, which
she blended with Biblical allusions and also classical quotations. She repudiated prejudices
against women using a skilled manipulation of ironic self-deprecation (self-mockery). She also
avoid criticism of her auditors as she lived in a deep patriarchal society. Besides, many of her
poems deal with her domestic experiences, which she thus elevates to poetic height.
Her public voice is more imitative and therefore she uses an artificial style for her Philosophical
and religious poems. Her private voice instead is more original, more appealing to modern
readers. They are witty poems on subjects of daily life.
Fusion of the Puritans plain style with the Renaissances ornamented style, influenced by
sixteen-seventeen century poets such as Sidney, Spenser John Donne.
Was prone to use elaborate conceits and strained metaphors.
The 4 poems belongs to her last 2 decades in which she developed her own techniques our of
the aesthetic of conventions using mainly her own personal experiences.
The Author to Her Book preface( published in1678)
The speaker is the poet herself, likened to a mother whose child is her book of poems. Her
book/child sprang from her mind, not her womb, and was conceived without the intervention of
any masculine force.
She presents her book as poor and illegitimate, and presents herself as powerless mother who
lacks the resources to care for her family. In order to assure readers that her writings are not
intended as a challenge ( ironic self-deprecation = autodesprecio )
Much of the coyness and dismissal throughout Bradstreet's preface was a common strategy of
the writers of the Renaissance.
Poem written in heroic couplets or rhyming couplets (rhyme on consecutive lines, in pairs) With
the rhythm of the pentameter iambic( five feet formed by an unstressed syllable followed by an
stressed one). This balance and control are the main characteristics of the heroic couples in this
poem.
Use of metaphors ( comparison of one thing with another, suggesting analogy between them)
Use of pun (paronomasia) Play of similar words that have different meanings.
Tone reflects the attitude of the poet's to the theme and to the reader. In this poem is apologetic
and self-deprecation and self-mockery in order to offset(contrarestar) negative criticism and to
avoid literary suspicion (recelo) because she was a woman. It was a skilled manipulation to say
what she wanted to express.
Use of irony and ambiguity is the manner of discourse in which the meaning is contrary to the
words. One thing is stated, but the opposite is implied.
Bradstreed express herself as an independent woman because she conceived the book/child
without the male's help and she is able to take care of her domestic duty as a woman.
To My Dear Loving Husband
The speaker is the poet herself, express her passionate and ardent love for her husband, love
that outlast death.
Provides a contrasting image with the popular view of the Puritan reserve and restrain.
Use of highly allusive biblical language( song of Solomon)
Bradstreed likens the love in and earthy marriage to the mystical marriage of Christ, as a
bridegroom, and the church.
Use heroic couplets in rhymed iambic pentameters and metaphoric style.

Comparison between love and riches of the East, in spite of the fact that Puritans rarely mention
such material purposes , and emphasize the spiritual ones. Use of imagery of wealth
(indebtedness)
She doesn't convey the idea of mutual love within the marriage.
Upon the Burning of Our House
Clear example of the tension the poet experienced between her domestic concerns and her
spiritual aspirations.
Rhyming couplets formed by rhymed iambic tetrameters.
Recalls to prized material possessions(her burning house in the big fire of London 1666) and
turns to the Bible to find comfort in the promise of a permanent house in heaven.
Use of biblical references.
Events were interpreted by puritans as divine messages and all disappointments could serve as
corrections for one's fault. But seems that Bradstreet rather than interpreting the burning of the
house as a divine message, she is just looking in heaven for relief to her misfortune. So she
pretends to show that she will be fine without her material goods, but actually her position is
very ambivalent.
On My Dear grandchild Simon Bradstreet
(Who died on November,1669)
Bradstreet does not break with tradition of Christian elegies, which are supposed to close with
consolation and the affirmation that death is part of divine plan, but she does not easily accept
with pious (piadoso) resignation the death of her own grandchildren as part of the Puritans
providential scheme.
In this elegy Bradstreet express how hard it is for her to reconcile the deep love she feels for her
deceased grandson and her duty to maintain her faith in spite of her suffering.
The poem can be interpreted as a direct criticism of the goodness of God.
Is written in rhymed iambic pentameter.
Unit 4:
Mary Rowlandson (1637-1711) (exam sample 7)
From a Narrative of the Captivity & Restauration of Mrs. Rowlandson (1667-1668)
At present, she is celebrated for her role in the development of both the captivity narrative and
American womens autobiography. Indebted to the tradition of the American jeremiad, it recited
afflictions that helped to make sense of the horrors faced by the colonists. In fact, the political
and economic reasons for the Native attacks were disregarded (they were starving and their
lands taken off), focusing rather, on Indian attacks as Gods punishing any break in their religious
covenant, where the natives are just instruments used by God.
Both John Smith and Mary Rowlandson wrote captivity narratives based on their personal
experience when they were captured, and later escaped, were freed, or ransomed from their
Native Indian captors. The great success of this narrative genre was due to its depicting the
anxieties and fears of the colonists. Whereas Smiths History emphasized his active role first,
and then provided a romantic explanation for his freedom, Rowlandsons account, A Narrative of
the Captivity of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, subtitled The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, stressed
its religious dimension. That is, her captivity started and ended according to Gods will. She
interpreted it as a trial (ordeal) God had sent her to prove her faith. Both agree with Bradford in
providing dehumanized representations of the Indians in negative terms (wolves, ravenous
beasts ). Contrary to Smith, Rowlandson expresses her anxiety, and does not represent herself
as a heroine. Besides, Smiths captivity narrative forms part of a larger narrative. Rowlandsons
is a full-length text. Interestingly enough, by demonizing the Indians, all of them were thus
justifying and legitimating Indian genocide.
Until her capture she had led the ordinary life of a Puritan housewife.
Her own voice and style dominate the text.
Didactic purpose. Divine providence is the all pervading principle of the Narrative, of which God

is the centre of everything that happens. Allusions to scriptural passages. She assumed that her
readers would be familiar with the Biblical passages thats why she didnt cited them in full.
Her attitude and descriptions towards the Indians changes along the Narrative from considering
them as company of hell-hounds to distinct individuals, some better than others, just ordinary
humans. There was a gradual transformation in Rowlandson: trade with an old Indian, a squad
gave food to her, thy were pagans but thy were kind to her, she got used to their food.
She used Plain style to communicate her ideas marked by a didactic intention.
The narratives projects stereotypes which supported the religious and political aims of the
colonists. And give the colonist the excuse to expand their western territory. They were not
considered humans so they did not have the right to poses the land.
Prevails the report throughout the narrative and there is just one example of speech.
Both Bradstreet(1612-1672) and Rowlandson(1637-1717) in their writings conveyed losses and
psychological hardships they endured, and depicted themselves as being physically and
emotionally tough, though they also acknowledged their spiritual weakness. Showing sometimes
feelings which exemplified frequent tensions between faith and doubt.
Smith's text is focused on his adventures, his captivity was part of his book, he presents himself
as a hero using an ornamented language with Latin and Greek quotations drawn from the work
of secular author. However Rowlandson's is centred on her religious ordeal adopting a plain style
using quotations from the Bible. Both depicted their captor as diabolical savages. She tried to be
as accurate as possible whereas Smith bend fact and fiction.
Both Rowlandson and Bradford sheared a puritan vision of the world, they interpreted all
historical events in providential terms and considered history as a continuum moving toward a
particular outcome.
Rowlandson candidly(francamente) depicted the colonists as the innocent victims of the
unbridled(desenfrenado) cruelty inflected on them by their enemies, overlooking how the
Algonquian tribes were suffering the devastating effects of disease and starvation.
When compared to Smith and Bradfords presentation of history, Rowlandsons is closer to the
latter, to providentially historiography. Smiths emphasis on personal agency mans destiny lies
in his own hands- leaves Gods intervention outside.
When compared with Anne Bradstreet, they only share their self-presentation. Bradstreets is
much more elaborate and ironic, whereas Rowlandsons complies with Puritan rules.

THE 18TH CENTURY

THE AMERICAN ENLIGHTENMENT


Enlightenment: an eighteenth-century philosophical movement characterized by reliance on
reason and experience rather than on traditional dogma, and by emphasising on humanitarian
principles and social progress. Its ideals were justice, liberty and equality.
Rationalism: the belief that knowledge of the world can be obtained primarily through reason,
so that logic leads to truth. Rationalism was opposed by Empiricism (the theory that sensory
experience is the only source of knowledge. It opposes rationalism).
Unit 5:
Jonathan Edwards ( 1703-1758) (exam sample 9)
Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God
Jonathan Edwards, philosopher and theologist with a decisive impact on the development of

American culture, the greatest advocate, in spite of his subtle critique, of the so-called Great
Awakening. Most well-known by his brilliant use of rhetorical strategies to move audiences
whose immediate reaction he wanted to provoke. In fact, he struggled to reconcile reason with
emotion. In his opposition to Deism, which supported a rational religion, that is, the existence of
God could be proved without the aid of the Bible, Edwards focused upon the importance of the
emotional side of religious conversion. Therefore, he communicated his ideas in a language of
sensory experience so as to make his audience not only understand but feel. The essential
imagery is kinaesthetic, basic on bodily motion, rather than visual. To this end, he uses a spider
to better illustrate, convince and persuade his audience (Exploratory question 9, shift of verb
tenses, shifts in personal pronouns).
His most well-known sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God follows the tripartite
structure of a Puritan sermon: Text, Doctrine and Application. The Text is a Biblical quotation. The
Doctrine, after the main thesis is established, a series of considerations (reasons) placed in a
logical order abound in demonstrating its truth. The Application consists in applying those
principles to everyday affairs. At the end, a simple (plain) conclusion is added.
Imagery: consumed by fire, by sin in the flames of hell. Nature: Slippery places, man liable to
fall remember that in English fall is a synonym for sin. Slippery declining grounds, pit, fire
(glowing flames), bottomless gulf, falling rock, spiders web, storm, thunder, fury of a whirlwind,
floods, spider (loathsome insect), venomous serpent (snake = Satan), flames of wrath all
images are negative, either of destructive natural phenomena or destructive animals. However,
the sermon concludes in a positive light: there is still time to repent and convert
The focus of the sermon is not on hell, but on the sinner who is dangling over the abyss
suspended on a slender thread.
The key image of the sermon is not that of the lake of burning brimstone but that of the spider.
Elsewhere, he uses imagery to give his congregation a mental picture of God holding sinners
above the fiery pits of Hell. After filling their hearts with fear, he uses this image to show them
that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of God's mercy and forgiveness.
Edwards uses several rhetorical devices that contribute to the effectiveness of his sermon, such
as figures of speech or tropes to compare abstract concepts of God's wrath and the sinner's evil
to common experiences. His use of metaphors spans over whole paragraphs.
Vivid metaphors were created and presented to his parishioners, creating within their minds
pictures of hellfire and eternal damnation, devaluing their love and desires, glorifying their love
towards a contemptuous God. Similes were presented to them, allowing Edwards to describe
intangible objects such as love and God like a light, or as the will of the soul.
Apart from metaphors, imagery, and similes, Edwards also uses repetition and parallelism to get
his point across. In this sermon he is trying to persuade the people to have a change of attitude,
and to stop being sinners.
Their foot shall slide in due time is an example figurative language.
They brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit is best described as a controlling metaphor.
In the opening paragraph of the sermon They refer to the wicked Israelites.
His wrath towards you burns like fire is a conventional simile.
Throughout the text the sinner is compared to an insect, a spider and a snake.
Describe how Anne Bradstreet and Jonathan Edwards use metaphorical language (focusing
on the texts selected in units 3 and 5).
Although both authors were Puritans, they wrote using metaphorical language, thus, moving
away from the plain style that characterized the Puritan writings. Apart from this, they had a
different purpose and audience in mind when they did so. Anne Bradstreet wrote around 1650
and she started writing for her family. In The Author to Her Book, she develops an extended
metaphor through the poem. The speaker in this poem is the author, who is compared to a
mother whose child is her book of poems. Since Bradstreet was well aware of womens role in
society at those times, she presents her book humbly and apologizing for such a poor and
illegitimate child. The whole poem is a metaphor where she compares and indentifies the
biological birth of a mother with the intellectual birth of a poet. In To My Dear and Loving
Husband, the poet again is also the speaker, who expresses her passionate love for her husband
and there, she uses biblical allusions (lines 1, 7) and imagery of wealth (lines 5, 6). This language

makes us evoke different images in our minds and it can shape our perception of the authors
feelings by making the writing more vivid, clear and effective.
Alternatively, Edwards wrote a century later than Bradstreet, and he was a preacher whose
main aim was to awaken the audience in his congregation. He expressed his thoughts and ideas
using metaphors, similes, and a great deal of figurative language in general, because he
believed that conversion could be achieved through the senses, not only through reason. His
sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God starts with a biblical quotation: their foot shall
slide in due time, which is an extended metaphor present in the first part of the text. This
metaphor is supported by biblical allusions (lines 13, 19), other metaphors (lines 6, 29-30) and
an explanation with remarks from the author so his audience could understand the message
clearly. In the second part of the text, Application, we find more metaphors that have different
vehicles but the same tenor: the hell (lines 41, 42, 56, 128, 129). We also find similes (lines 75,
76, 77, 78) which can be easily understood by his community, such is the case of the simile
you will be the chaff of the summer threshing floor (lines 76, 77) that would have a great
impact on the rural audience that was familiar with the process of threshing grains. Other
metaphors present in the text are the ones that refer to sinners (lines 56-59, 112-113, 116-117).
These metaphors refer to animals that most people find repulsive and in this way the author is
creating a feeling of disgust towards them. This text is full of figurative language that draws
listeners and readers attention to an imagery that produces an immediate emotional response.
Unit 6:
Benjamin Franklin ( 1706-17909 )
From The Autobiography, second section
Benjamin Franklin was able to reconcile his Deistic ideas (belief in a rational religion) with some
typical Puritan habits: constant self-scrutiny, devotion to hard work and public duty, and a strong
desire to better himself and his community. In fact, he was a man of the Enlightenment (Age of
Light), also called Age of Reason, characterized by the belief in the use of mans reasoning
powers to improve and take control, as well as impose order, in his life and his world, a belifsystem that would inevitably lead to the American Revolution first and to the French Revolution
afterwards.
Apart from being an scientist, inventor, diplomat, printer and writer, among other professions, he
is at present well-known for embodying the self-made man, able to rise from poverty and
becoming who he wants: wealthy, respected and politically influential. Not only his The Way to
Wealth but also his Autobiography provide numerous examples for readers to imitate his
behaviour, so as to learn to help themselves. Being a self-educated man, he proved that
education was the best tool to improve human life. Actually, he saw in education the best tool to
set humanity free.
He established a pattern, from self-made man to a self-made nation.
Franklin sought to balance individual self-interest and social interests, when the well-being of the
former strengthens the latter. If Franklin helped to forge the myth of the American dream, as it is
said, then certainly, the American Dream has to be definitely associated with the ethics of
capitalism.
When compared to Jonathan Edwards, Franklins emphasis on errata or mistakes instead of sins,
marks a clear contrast between Edwards theological perspective where mans life is totally
dependent upon Gods will, and Franklins leaving mans destiny in his own hands (mans power
to change his life). Besides, Franklins philosophy of life permits learning from errors, and has
faith in mans abilities rather than on God. It might be said, that for Franklin man is his own
God/good. In addition, Edwards emphasis on emotions contrast with Franklins focus upon
reason and logic. Education rather than religion matters most. Franklin undertook a scientific
approach to morality. By analysing his errors, he proposed making rational and logical
amendments that would lead to self-control. Edwards men should allow God to control their
lives; they are controlled by God. Instead of Franklins independence of man, Edward supports
mans dependence upon Gods grace and good will. Both give a lot of importance to
introspection, self-analysis (Franklins daily examination), for, firstly, man needs to become
aware of himself, of his positive and negative actions and features, so as to be able to allow for

changes.
Benjamin Franklin was a self-taught young man who never went to the University and through
his own efforts, achieved a high kind of education.
His major literary work is most commonly known as The Autobiography (a title whose word did
not exist before and which was coined by him). Considered the greatest work of its kind
produced in colonial America.
It became a model for many other autobiographies. His work is divided in four sections:
The 1st one divided in 5 chapters covers the years from his birth to his marriage. In it, he
acknowledges having made mistakes and having learnt from them.
The 2nd one is a description of the authors efforts to achieve moral perfection and the
necessary precepts to succeed. The most famous section:
- He describes his plan for self-improvement through the practice of virtue.
- He aims at making good citizens rather than good Presbyterians.
- He puts his ideas into practice using himself as the experimental subject by
modifying his behaviour.
In the 3rd section, he focuses on applying such precepts, the promotion of civic causes and the
progress of his political career.
4th section is centred on the dispute between Proprietaries and the Pennsylvania Assembly,
resulting in the tax exemption of the former abolished.
His primary motive for writing the history of his life was to provide a model for public conduct.
He believed that people could and should act in their own interest as long as this self-interest
was not in conflict with society.
His Autobiography is written in a neoclassical version of the Puritan plain style. Franklin
developed his supple prose style as a tool to communicate his ideas clearly. His and tone are
colloquial without being familiar.
Unit 7:
Olaudah Equiano (1745-1758) (exam sample 10)
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudh Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The
African, Writen by himself. (1798)
Racism, the belief that skin colour determines your value, was largely used to support slavery. In
fact, Native Americans, the Indians, used to choose death to avoid being enslaved, whereas
Black people, accustomed to slavery in Africa, did not react in that way. However, as Olaudah
Equiano will claim in his The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus
Vassa, The African, Written by Himself (1798), African slavery proved almost to be a blessing
when compared to American slavery, for the latter dehumanized its victims.
His text inaugurates a new literary genre, the slave narrative, which, in fact, would become the
chief vehicle for antislavery propaganda. Using the doctrines of both Christianity and the
Enlightenment to argue for the abolition of slavery, he not only associates physical emancipation
with spiritual deliverance, but also proves both his learning and logical thinking, as well as
reliability. Likewise, Biblical exegesis will serve him to gain authority and impress his audience by
linking the plight of Israel and that of black slaves. In addition, he also uses some strategies from
the picaresque novel, mocking his own naivety and laughing at his misfortunes. His
Autobiography, divided into three stages, from slavery, to freedom, to spiritual concerns, showed
that Blacks were not intellectually inferior but just illiterate, for when given the educational
opportunities, their rational thinking was the same as that of the whites. Besides, he will reverse
racist stereotypes and use them against the white, when he proves that white behaviour is more
savage than that of the blacks, or that their assumed Christian values are not practised in their
dealings with the slaves.
Both Equiano and Franklins autobiographies depict self-made men, capable of transforming their
lives through self-education, providing models of behaviour to be imitated by readers, thus
displaying a didactic purpose. Equianos prose is much more ornate, since he needed to prove
the white audience he was addressing of his writing prowess in order to provoke respect and
admiration for his writing skills. Franklin was addressing a different audience, an audience that

was his equal.


Some parallels between slave and captivity narratives can also be drawn: abrupt removal from a
state of harmony in order to confront the evil of bondage, a forced existence in an alien society
where the protagonist has to develop survival strategies and sometimes grows in spiritual
strength as a result of suffering (not John Smith). When compared to Mary Rowlandson, Equiano
proves to be a man of the Enlightenment in as much as he is confident in his ability and the help
of education to forge his freedom, whereas Rowlandsons life is totally dependent upon Gods
will.
Equiano combined the doctrines of Christianity and the Enlightenment to argue for the abolition
of slavery, he regarded himself as a typical man of the Enlightenment.
He chose autobiographical mode to present himself as an eye-witness giving a convincing
personal testimony, the authors of these narratives attempted to prove that they were reliable
narrators.
He presented himself in the formal pose of an elegant gentleman dressed in fine clothes. He
posed as a model of civility, a distinguished writer who was claiming dignity and seeking
authority. His portrait conveyed the idea that being black was not inevitable equated with being
a slave.
He wanted to visually and verbally communicate the certainty of his social ascent and to
transmit a conforming assurance of his successful assimilation into American culture. He
emphasized that he had written the autobiography himself in a desire to refute claims that
blacks had no ability to write.
His artificial prose style(rhetorical devices) was deliberately used strategy as well, calculated to
stir up certain emotions and to persuade his readers that he had such admirable traits.
Unit 8:
Phillis Wheatley(1753-1784) (exam sample 1)
On Being Brought from Africa to America(1768)
To the university of Cambridge, in New England(1767)
To His Excellency General Washington(1775)
In spite of having been well treated by her masters, who were always supporting and
encouraging her to write and to publish, she would try to express her desire to break her
bondage in indirect ways, following the example of her admired satirical playwright Terence,
taken to Rome as a slave but able to liberate his bonds by the power of his pen. Her Poems on
Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, were the first collection of poems published in English by a
black person. Used by abolitionists to challenge the assumption of African inferiority. The volume
was written in a neoclassical style using invocation, hyperbole, inflated ornamentation and an
overemphasis on personification. Besides, her poems tend to link political to artistic freedom,
and physical to spiritual deliverance as well. Actually, for her, sin is a much worse bondage than
enslavement.
Pay attention to the double meanings present in the poem, On Being Brought from Africa to
America, where black colour is associated with sin (blackness of evil), and Cain with cane
(refined sugar cane), thus associating the wickedness of slavery with crime and sin. Since
slavery cannot be attacked directly, for it was legal, she chooses to focus upon racism and white
superiority as well as the contradiction between their Christian beliefs and unchristian actions.
For Christians all human should be equal, brothers and sisters within the Christian family.
When compared with Equiano, Wheatleys critiques are less explicit, more indirect. Instead of
African she prefers to use Ethiop which implies a more positive view of her race. When she
points at the contradictions between the political freedom represented by George Washington
and the existence and maintenance of slavery. Instead of Equianos humor we find rhetorical
irony and shifts in tone. She also uses more classical allusions than him.
On Being Brought from Africa to America(1768 and revised in 1773)
The poem is written in heroic couplets (iambic pentameters which rhyme on consecutive lines ).

10

There is a change in tone: In the first quatrain, the poet expresses her gratitude for being
introduced to Christianity, and denies any connection between spiritual darkness and skin colour.
The tone is of gratitude. Salvation can be universal.
In the second quatrain Wheatley makes a direct challenge to racial prejudice trough an allusion
to injustice. The tone is accusatory.
She confronts racism, presents black people on the path of spiritual salvation and asserts the
supreme importance of religion over white racial superiority)
To the University of Cambridge, in New England (1767- published in 1773)
This poem is written in blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameters) which are much more
flexible than the heroic couplet.
In this poem at first, Wheatley doesnt seem to be ashamed of her blackness and what she
expressed is pride on it.
She implies that they are in serious need of moral rectification in an Africa, that is, a marginal
outsider without the privileged educational resources that the students of Harvard College have,
she is telling them to avoid sin and sloth, and to make the most of their fortunate position. She
feels compelled to advise them on moral matters.
To His Excellency General Washington(1775)
Wheatly embrace classicism by her choice of pagan themes, inspired from classical mythology.
The main theme of the poem is more a paean to freedom than an eulogy (elogio) to Washington,
by the use of rhetorical irony.
The tone is adapted to the heroic subject, it is a patriotic tone.
She evokes suggestive decorative neoclassical imaginary, she subtly subverts to the grandiose
aims of her explicit praise by resorting to irony when referring to America.
Discuss binary oppositions in Olaudah Equianos and Phillis Wheatleys writings (focusing
on the texts selected in units 7 and 8).
Binary oppositions can be either explicit or implicit in a text. In the case of Equianos
narrative, an explicit binary opposition that we can think of easily is the opposition between
slavery and freedom. During his narrative, Equiano tells us how he was deprived from his
freedom by describing his kidnapping and his imprisonment on the slave ship. Other binary
oppositions that we can identify in a very explicit way are the ones presented in lines 24-30 and
86-91. The oppositions: black vs. white, evil vs. good and mercy vs. cruelty are evident in these
lines where he describes positively how he was treated by people who spoke the same language
as him, and describes negatively the treatment received from the whites. Another example of
these oppositions is the one represented by ignorance vs. knowledge. Through the text is
possible to find many examples where the author was amazed by the functioning of the slave
ship and all that it contained, for instance, in lines 101-105. At the end of Equianos writing his
tone changes to be more accusative and we can find another opposition, Christians vs. Pagans.
In the poetry of Phillis Wheatley we can also find more examples of binary oppositions similar
to the ones mentioned above. In her poem On Being Brought from Africa to America we find
mercy vs. cruelty, pagan vs. Christian, salvation vs. damnation and black vs. white. Especially,
the word benighted at line 2 acquires certain symbolism since it makes clear the opposition
between nigh and day or light vs. night. To these oppositions we can add one more, found in To
the University of Cambridge, in New England which is evil vs. good. Finally, in To His Excellency
General Washington at line 32, we find another binary opposition full of irony: freedom vs.
slavery.
All these oppositions present at these authors writings call into question the surface meaning
of some assertions made in these works. In both cases, the oppositions found help to reassure
their own identity as Africans, as Christian people, and as intelligent and educated as whites can
be. In addition, the most subversive fact is that both writers were able to gain literacy under the
oppressive institution of the salve trade and the widely accepted idea of white superiority. With
the clever use of rhetorical irony in Wheatleys works and Equianos powerful and highly
eloquent double voice, they were able to not only to contribute to the tradition of American

11

Literature but helped to support the antislavery cause.

THE 19TH CENTURY

ROMANTICISM (1800-1860)
Romance: a type of extended fictional narrative in which the prevailing elements are adventure,
fantasy, improbability, extravagance and myth. Is a fictions narrative in prose and in verse; the
interest of which turns upon marvellous and uncommon incidents. Romance is more concerned
with action than with characterisation.
Romanticism: flourished in America between 1800 and 1860 a literary movement of the lateeighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries which expressed a profound love of nature, yearned
for the picturesque and the exotic, was philosophically rooted in the idealism, focused on the
free expression of human emotions, emphasized the importance of subjective experience,
celebrated originally, the power of imagination, and spontaneity, and exalted individual selfhood.
Romanticism opposed the rationality of the Enlightenment, meant a turn away (rechazo) from
neoclassicism, and was later opposed by realism.
Unit 9:
WASHINGTON IRVING(1783-1859)
From the Alhambra (1832)
-

Spanish Romance (it is an introductory prose piece which illustrates Irving's


perception of the Spanish culture).

Legend of Don Munio Sancho de Hinojosa (extract exam sample 4)

He was the first to create short story masterpieces. Irvings work displays the transition from
neoclassicism to romanticism, combining elements from both movements. Classicist concern
with technical skill and traditional themes to produce balanced artificial patterns, contrasts with
romantic focus with spontaneity, individuality and originality. Romantic sensationalism (intense
and uncommon emotions, fantastic setting or magic) prevails over rationalism, and moral
exhortation gives way to a purely aesthetic appreciation, though didactic purpose is not
completely absent; besides, his enthusiasm for foreign landscapes and interest in the past, the
medieval era in particular.
He followed Sir Walter Scotts attention to the German folk and fairy tales of bewitchment. His
visit and stay in Spain will also be reflected in his collection of short stories The Alhambra: A
Series of Tales and Sketches of the Moors and Spaniards. Feeling uneasy about blending fact
and fiction, Irving resorted to the method of telling a story by presenting it as second-hand (as a
legend, or folk-tale), presenting himself as an intermediary (i.e. editor or finder of lost papers),
to avoid responsibility when describing mysteries, illusions, or supernatural events. Using a
fictitious intermediary narrator, as well as publishing anonymously or under a pseudonym
involves creating a frame story in which the writer feels free to adapt any legend while
dispensing historical accuracy.
Irvings attraction for Spanish legends was largely due to their high oriental flavour, absent
from other European cultures, and also by its code of honour, its chivalric tradition, courtesy,
romantic generosity, high disinterestedness, high-minded, proud-spirited, disdainful of material
gains, generous, although poor not vulgar.
Legend of Don Munio Sancho de Hinojosa also entails a captivity narrative (Some Moors made
captive by some Christians). However captives are not insulted or dishonoured, but become
guests of honour; when the king is to be made captive, he escapes. Furthermore, when the
Christian knight died in battle, the freed spirits magically or miraculously escape on a
pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem.

12

Using stereotypical characters representing certain virtuous or vices, rather than individualsIrving tries to recapture ancient virtuous modes of behaviour in clear contrast with American
contemporary ones. In addition, comment is the narrative mode that dominates the story, where
the fictive narrator keeps praising the virtuous of past actions and behaviour between two
distinct, sometimes hostile, communities, and present situation, mostly concerned with material
gains. The Spanish legend is used as an excuse to expose the writers preferences. Besides, he
appeals to the readers emotional response(s) to persuade them of his correct analysis and
values: Chivalric, courteous, generous behaviour. In clear contrast between real and fictive
accounts of war fares between European colonists and the Indians, for example, or between the
British and the Americans, Irvings legend presents an ideal as well as magic portrait of past war
events as possible models to be imitated. Furthermore, he made his narrator reliable when he
supported his story with historical texts.
Irving shares with most European romantics their enthusiasm for exotic landscapes and their
keen interest in the medieval era. Often escaping from material environment into a world of
fantasy.
In order to entertain his expanding public, he combined, in a prose style, fact and fiction. He
used an ornamental style to create a particular ATMOSPHERE, diction (choice of vocabulary and
arrangement of words), pace and imagery.
He used the four narratives modes: kinds of utterance through which a narrative is conveyed.
The 4 narrative modes can reveal character.
His narrative technique involves the creation of a frame story, in which the author becomes a
mediator between the original storyteller and the reader, by the use of this strategy, the artist
feels free to adapt legends while dispensing with historical accuracy.
His narrative voice conveys (transmite) a powerful self-assurance.

Unit 10:
James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851)
From The Last of the Mohicans (published in 1826) (extract exam sample 6)
-

Chapter XVII

Chapter XXXII

James Fenimore Cooper was the first to succeed in the field of long fiction by using typically
American material, motifs, settings and a distinct powerful narrative voice.
The Last of the Mohicans became Cooper's most popular and internationally famous novel. It is
an example of American standard of the romance genre characterized by adventure, fantasy,
improbability, extravagance and myth and the treatment of social issues through the allegorical
mode, even though the author wanted it to be read as a historical narrative. Cooper's plot
includes certain real events but freely adapted to suit the narrative needs and many
biographical details are pure fancy The setting of the book is the French and Indian War in which
the British and the French (each allied with different Native American tribes) were fighting to
control the northern part of the continent. This adventure story is built upon the typical structure
of capture, pursuit and rescue of the captivity narrative. However, he doubles the number of
captivities and the number of heroines.
Chapters 1-17 deal with the journey of the two heroines and men escorting them to the fort
where the massacre takes place and the girls are taken prisoners by the Hurons and Magua.
Chapters 18-33 follow the course of the second journey where the hero and his friends track
Magua and the captive heroines. They cant save Cora and there is a mythic struggle between
the Noble Savage Uncas- who dies on the mountain top and the Ignoble Savage Magua- who
dies in the abyss.
The Last of the Mohicans represents a curious blending of factual history with romantic fiction,
using conventions of several literary genres such as the captivity narrative, historical romance,
and the epic tradition. Not having direct knowledge of the Indians, either demonized or idealized
by him, they are shown unable to become assimilated or integrated into American society.
Although accused of presenting the vanishing of Indians as inevitable, Cooper nevertheless

13

denounced some evils of civilization such as alcohol, which some colonists used to corrupt the
Indians.
Following the trend of captivity narratives, Coopers The Last of the Mohicans divides the Indians
into two groups: good and bad. Those who are demonized are depicted with the same
vocabulary used by Smith, Bradford or Rowlandson: savage, beastly and hellish. Nevertheless,
Coopers descriptions appeal to the readers sentiments by insisting in the revolting horrors
their maddening blood-thirst produce, and which readers can intensely feel.
Although both Irving and Cooper used the typically American literary genre of romance and
applied it to captivity narratives, contrary to Irving, Cooper was more interested in depicting
American contemporary history and real settings, as his continuous concern with frontier and
Indian life attests. Both presented heroes, but Cooper was more interested in action whereas
Irving was in comment (abstract judgements). Coopers heroine, Cora, a mixed-blood, were
unthinkable in previous American narratives. In fact, miscegenation was utterly avoided, and
purity of blood so highly considered that mestizos occupied the lowest status. Interestingly
enough, the romantic period readers were very much attracted to evil characters, to villains, in
fact. Depicting the bad Indian, Magua, as a Fallen Angel, in Miltonic terms, Cooper did somehow
place him over his enemies, therefore emphasizing their triumph even more. It goes without
saying that Coopers characters are described through action rather than description. On the
other hand, the importance given to action somehow explains the novels lure to a male reading
audience, especially when considering that most of it is concerned with saving two maidens from
being killed, and also liable to be raped.
This novel formulates a theory of racial difference, which is linked to the ideology of savagism,
which means that indigenous people cannot become, assimilate or integrate into American
society. Purity of blood is an important value in the novel. Cooper himself had a personal horror
to biological miscegenation and cultural hybridisation. He tells the readers not only the story of a
Vanishing Indian but also that of other Vanishing Americans.
Washington Irving has often been contrasted with James Cooper, whose narrative voice
conveys(transmite) a more powerful self-assurance and whose writings have always been
considered more combative. Both writers were for a time expatriate American celebrities in
Europe and both were influenced by Walter Scott, but Coopers appears, in many ways, as the
antithesis of Irving. They use the four narratives modes and they deal with the war theme in
different ways.

Discuss the use of the four narrative modes in Washington Irvings


Legend of Don Munio Sancho de Hinojosa and in the excerpt you have
read from chapter XXXII of James Fenimore Coopers The Last of the
Mohicans.
In the case of Irvings work, the description of time, place and objects is not extensive. Details
are provided to suit the purpose of the story (lines 1-10). Although characterization is no deep,
seems to be more detailed than the rest of the descriptive components. There is no physical or
emotional description of the characters, they are depicted by their possessions, their nature,
their actions and the social rank they hold (lines 11-16; 18-27; 31-39). On the other hand, we
find in Coopers work a more vivid and intense description of the landscape, the actions and the
objects. However, the characterization is also stereotyped, since it falls on the idealized
dichotomy of the Good Indians represented by Uncas and Chingachgook; and the Bad
Indians represented by Magua. Captain Heyward represents the romantic hero and Alice, is the
week maiden to be saved. There is no physical description, too.
The focus seems to be on the report of actions, since these happen one after the other
without much delay. They are also used to describe characters attitude (lines 69-71, Irving; 5455, Cooper). In addition, Cooper unifies the descriptions with the report of fast-paced actions in
order to achieve suspense and colour in the story; while Irving includes some adjectives -that
may belong to the descriptive mode- in the report of actions, such as powerful in line 105,
beautiful in line 45 or good in line 58.
Regarding the speech, most of it is direct and it functions to help to fit the character in the
stereotype that represents. Abodil and Don Munio are knights and they speak as knights (lines
50-57). And Doa Mara expresses herself as the fearful wife (lines 59-62). The register is formal,

14

the diction is lofty and the syntax is complex. In lines 40-41 and 47-49 we can find examples of
inner indirect speech, and indirect speech respectively. Direct speech is also present at Coopers
text, but reduced to the minimum and it helps to develop the character that represents, since
the language spoken by Cora is articulated (lines 16, 18, 28) and the one spoken by the Indians
is almost intelligible (lines 14,15, 25, 29, 30, 74-75).
Regarding the comment, we can see clearly that predominates at the end of the Irvings story
(lines 160-161). However, since the comment is made with the narrators evaluations,
observations and judgements; we can also appreciate its use through the text by the authors
choice of adjectives and adverbs. In this way the author is provoking on the reader a positive or
negative attitude towards the characters. For instance, the selection of adjectives by Irving in
line 12: noble and in line 58: good to describe Don Munio and the one chosen by Cooper at
line 67: honest to describe Gamut. Of course, there is much less use of the comment mode on
Coopers work than in Irvings.
Finally, I would dare to say that the description and the speech modes are exceeded by the
report and speech modes in Irvings work, while in the case of Cooper, the report and description
modes dominate his text.

Unit 11:
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
From Nature(1836)
Hamatreya(1847)
Transcendentalism: a philosophical and literary movement which did not offer any rigidly
organized body of doctrines or system of beliefs, but a way of thinking that openly questioned
the authority of established institutions, proclaimed that all human beings could find the divine
spirit within themselves, and fostered the values of democracy, creative intuition, faith in
individual's potential, self-reliance, self-knowledge, a collective sense of optimism and a
harmonious relationship between humankind and nature. New England transcendentalism
flourished between 1836 -1847. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were among the
most influential.
Emerson was the leader and most passionate proponent of Transcendentalism, he encouraged
Americans to transcend the limits imposed by tradition and to construct a completely new
cultural identity based upon their direct contact with nature, thus simultaneously appealing to
their patriotic sentiment and their romantic attachment to the unspoiled natural world. He was
afraid of institutions. He supported abolitionisn, Indian rights to their lands, and the womens
rights.
Nature (published in 1836) Introduction and first chapter, also called Nature.
He has a characteristic literary voice with which he expressed his convictions.
In his stylistic innovations as a prose writer and poet, he was characterized by his inventive
imagery.
He always rebelled against the conventions of traditional poetry. He struggled to break out the
rigid forms that had characterized poetry and liked to experiment with irregularities in rhythm,
rhyme and line length. His favourite themes in poetry were the fusion of the every day and what
he considered to be universal truths because he thought that simple images of ordinary life were
the most powerful to convey general ideas. He gave priority to content over formal aspects
sacrificing music to meaning.
In order to make metaphors really striking, he resorted to grotesque extravagance such as:
The central metaphor of Nature, is an original and compelling ocular image: I become a
transparent eye-ball. Emerson repeats 6 times the word eye which is sometimes a pun for I
because this essay is about how to see nature through our eyes. It is not by chance that he
chose the transparent eye as the metaphor for nature, for in Western culture I see means I
understand. Besides both I and eye have the same pronunciation, therefore, they can easily
substitute each other, especially in an oral context.

15

He also uses weather imagery throughout the passages of Nature as he was particularly
attracted to the concept of mutability and generally reacted against anything fixed.
(Imagery is not only visual since it includes any figurative or literal language that appeals to the
senses, not only to that of seeing. Images can be metaphors, similes, symbols, personification,
as well as examples of non-figurative description).
Nature, often regarded as Emerson's most original work, has an introduction and eight chapters.
In the introduction and the first chapter, the major ideas of the work are outlined. In particular,
he articulates his philosophy of nature as the embodiment of divine law. Nature is but an image
or imagination of wisdom. He encouraged his audience to enjoy an original relation to the
universe. Emerson tried to challenge the public expressing his opinions on controversial issues
in a very direct, emphatic, and sometimes even violent manner, using rhetorical arrows. He
worked deliberately to build a strong tension that would provoke and sometimes even shock his
audience. In Nature we can find some passages particularly provocative at the very beginning.
Metaphor: every mans condition is a solution in hieroglyphic, that means that it can be
revealed.
Comparison: a man cast off his years as the snake his skin.
In the Nature, in the wood we are always youths, and we return to the reason and faith Nature
as an expression of God, as a combination of the Soul and Art.
Binary opposition: Nature- Art.
I become a transparent eye ball an image, a metaphor. It is the perfect sphere which gives
him a sense of completeness. Emerson describes a mystical experience, in which he attained a
feeling of oneness with the divine.
Eye- ball is a pun for I.
Connate has two meanings: similar and innate. The first meaning suggests a sense of identity
or familiarity with nature. The second suggests a quality actually present at birth which is part of
ones inner essential nature.
I am nothing; I see all: paradox.
Hamatreya, published in 1847
In his poem Hamatreya Emerson denounces mans claim to possess the earth by trying to
prove that it is actually Nature that has the ownership of man through paradox, irony and
alliteration.
Human greed for property is temporary, whereas nature is eternal. Men die, nature does not. The
value attributed to possessions changes when placed in a larger context. Material possessions
can be lost, but the spirit survives.
It is a poem which expressed the Transcendentalists view of nature and was inspired by Hindu
thought. Hamatreya is the speaker of his poem, which deals with the issue of ownership
(whether the humans own the land or the land owns the humans). The landlords develop a sense
of ownership of the land, not taking into account that the earth will return them to the soil which
they claim to own.
The Earth-Song (lines 28-63) is a poem within Hamatreya, is Nature's answer to the landlords
assertions of ownership: it is actually Nature that has the ownership of man. There is a change
in stanza and diction. The lines shorten and are broken into stanzas, the language becomes less
like casual storytelling and more formal, structured, and intended for poetic effect. This change
brings attention to the contrast between the landlords and natures viewpoint. In the last stanza
of the poem, Hamatreya speaks about himself. He is so completely converted to Nature's way of
thinking that he adopts Nature's language structure. Natures thought corresponds to Emersons
and the Trascendentalists thoughts.
The paradox on which Hamatreya is based can be summarised at line 29 in the Earths song:
Mine, not yours. During the poem we find three different voices: Hamatreya, the poet; the
landlords and the Earth. Through their voices the paradox is developed especially if we compare
the landlords voice which states that the land is theirs with the Earths voice which states that
nothing will last except for the Earth. Those who work the land, finally return to it and only
Nature and Earth are the ones that remain.
Irony is also present in the poem. At the beginning, there is some pretence of ignorance on part
of the poet, but later he questions the conventional ideas stated at the beginning, thus revealing
the ironic discourse.

16

Alliteration is also present (line 6) and it contributes to the rhythm of the poem. It makes the
reader read faster, thereby adding a sense of speed and intensity to the sentence. It also creates
a consistent pattern that catches the mind's eye and focuses attention.
Allusion is also found related to the early settlers of Concord area (line 1).
Unit 12:
Henry David Thoreau (1817- 1862) (Mid-19th century)
Walden or Life in the Woods (1854) - Economy (first chapter of Walden)
Thoreau was a pioneer in the battle to save natural resources, known as the father of the
modern conservationist movements. He cared about the problems of his society, although he
believed that all reforms had to begin with the individual, not with society, but he realised that
reform of individuals could only occur if personal freedom was guaranteed by society.
In nature, he conducted an experiment in economic independence because he wanted to search
for spiritual enlightenment by leading a free and simple life. He lived alone, built his cabin and
grew his food during two years, two months and two days. He had to live in harmony with nature
and using as few resources as possible. He recorded this experience in Walden. He believed
that people should not be driven by materialism or the complexities imposed by civilized society,
but should simplify their life-styles and fully enjoy them. In this way he put into practice the
idealistic theories he learnt form Emerson.
American Romanticism
During the late 1700s and early 1800s, romanticism was the dominant literary mode in Europe.
In reaction to the Enlightenment and its emphasis on reason, romanticism stressed emotion, the
imagination, and subjectivity of approach. Until about 1870 romanticism influenced the major
forms of American prose: transcendentalist writings, historical fiction, and sentimental fiction.
Transcendentalism
In New England, an intellectual movement known as transcendentalism developed as an
American version of romanticism. The movement began among an influential set of authors
based in Concord, Massachusetts, and was led by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Like romanticism,
transcendentalism rejected both 18th-century rationalism and established religion, which for the
transcendentalists meant the Puritan tradition in particular. Instead, the transcendentalists
celebrated the power of the human imagination to commune with the universe and transcend
the limitations of the material world. The transcendentalists found their chief source of
inspiration in nature. Emersons essay Nature (1836) was the first major document of the
transcendental school and stated the ideas that were to remain central to it. His other key
transcendentalist works include The American Scholar (1837), a volume in which he addressed
the intellectuals duty to culture, and 'Self-Reliance' (1841), an essay in which he asserted the
importance of being true to ones own nature.
Henry David Thoreau, a friend and protg of Emersons, put transcendentalist ideas into action.
Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854) is his journal of a two-year experiment in living as simply
and self-reliantly as possible in a small hut that he built on the shores of Walden Pond, near
Concord. His essay 'Civil Disobedience' (1849) is a statement against government coercion that
records his short stay in jail after he refused to pay a tax in support of the Mexican War (18461848). In this essay Thoreau asserted that each individual indirectly supported the wrongs of a
nationfor example, slavery or warsimply by paying taxes and voting for government
representatives. To express disapproval of government policies, he advocated passive resistance,
or nonviolent protest through noncompliance.
Walden is a complex and elusive text, touching on a variety of subjects at different levels.
Written as a pastoral poem, it is not only autobiographical, but it is also concerned with political
theory and moral philosophy; as well as providing a scientific approach to nature, it parodies
popular success novels by offering a different concept of true wealth (not material goods, but life
joys). Furthermore, Walden is a travel narrative which unfolds an inward journey of selfknowledge, a pilgrimage aiming at spiritual progress, framed in the natural cycle of nature
through a circular pattern of the four seasons. However, the text is heavy loaded with
intertextuality, derived from Thoreaus use of classical, English medieval and Renaissance

17

literature as well as the ancient Hindu scriptures.


Use of I: he was aware of himself as being the object of scrutiny and not only that, but he
embarked in an introspective voyage into the self, and in this way we exalted the I.
Romanticism reflected a deep appreciation of the beauties of nature and had an emphasis on the
creative powers of the individual mind.
Rhetorical Devices
Rhetoric: the art of using language for persuasion.
Rhetorical devices / tropes / strategies: emotional appeals, citation of authoritative sources, use
of logical proof, etc. ; figures of speech used to persuade and influence readers reaction and
responses.
Figures of speech: Tropes: images, comparisons, metaphors, symbols, archetypes; conceits;
apostrophe; anaphor; allusion; alliteration; ambiguity; ambivalence; paradox; metonymy, irony,
paradox, synecdoque, oxymoron, litote, hyperbole. Figures of repetition: tautology, pleonasm,
chiasmus, antithesis, periphrasis. Unusual word order: hyperbaton, parenthesis. Figures of
thought: aporia, prosopopoeia, apostrophe.
The word labor is used many times (it helps to denote the theme) and there is pun with the word
impertinent.
Despite the use of allusions and quotations, the sentences are long, the grammar is complex and
the diction is specific, concrete and appropriate.
Its tone moves from moral gravity to the style of a how-to manual, and then to a lyrical flight of
fancy, and then to a diary entry. The narrative voice of Walden is both intensely personal and
directly challenging to a reader, it tends to provoke strong reactions, both positive and negative.
Use of imagery. Imagery: broadly defined, any sensory detail or evocation in a work; more
narrowly, the use of figurative language to evoke a feeling, to call to mind an idea, or to describe
an object; It can be of different types: allegorical, auditorial, visual. Metaphors, similes, symbols,
personification are some of them.
Figurative language: departs from the literal meaning of the words used and appeals to our
senses, our emotions and our imagination; usually applied to language that uses figures of
speech. Figurative language heightens meaning by implicitly or explicitly representing something
in terms of some other thing, the assumption being that the "other thing" will be more familiar to
the reader.
There is use of imagery when he describes the tools and processes to cultivate and to take care
the land.
Use of metaphor: smoke of opinion stands for the volatile validity of assumptions when
speaking about the old people.
None will stretch the seams in putting on the coat, for it may do good service to him whom it fits.
When addressing to the readers and explaining the purpose of the book.
Use of allusions and quotations: Many of the quotation and allusions in Thoreaus writings
are from the the classics, English literature of Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and the ancient
Hindu scriptures. E.g.: Deucalion and Pyrrha about the origin of the humankind, from Greek
Mythology. Quotations from Raleigh and Ovids Metamorphoses are also present in the text. The
bible is also alluded as an old book an there are references to old sayings and the steam
machine.
Binary oppositions: Civilization or progress/ nature, richness/poverty, materialism/
spiritualism, city/ country, past/ present, wisdom/ labour.
Compared to
Thoreaus autobiographical account and Franklins seem to defend opposite ideas. Opposed to
the defence of hard work to increase your economic and material gains of the latter, Thoreau
claimed that labouring man has no time to be anything but a machine. Concerning form, the
formers experimental and elaborated style clashed with the latters plain style. Together with
Cooper, he defends a primitive and frontier life. Thoreaus specific images and matter-of-fact
voice and humour and sarcasm (i.e. impertinent) clearly contrast with Emersons abstracted
images. Both showed no conventional religious faith.

18