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American literature

Autor: Petr Vostrý

Till the first half of the 19th century was about conditions of the settlement in the New World. While the romantic movement arose in Europe as the expression of the revolt against political and religious authority, in America romanticism was connected with nationalism. They were proud of the American intellectual tradition which created their republic. Washington Irwig wrote on American topics - the history of New York, essays on American life, a large biography of George Washington. One of his well-known book is The Sketch book. James Fenimore Cooper described American wilderness and wrote Indian novels of adventure - The Last of Mohicans. Walt Whitman was a poet of democracy, freedom and sexual love and he made the American poetry independent on European poetry. He influenced the whole modern poetry with rhythmical free verse which was his innovation. Edgar Allan Poe - a poet and short story writer , critical essayist and the founder of science fiction and detective story. His best poem is The Raven. He wrote wonderful short stories such as The Black Cat, The Golden Bug or The Pit and the Pendulum. Ralph Waldo Emerson was the leading philosopher in the "transcendentalist" movement . It was based on the doctrine of free will, on the individual conscience and the sense of right. Herman Melville was the greatest symbolist, he sailed on seas for many years. His experience at sea were the basis for almost all his novels. The most famous novel is Moby-Dick, the symbolic story of captain Ahab, a free man. Mark Twain is one of the greatest. He became famous as a humorist and story teller. His novel The Gilded Age gave the name to the whole period after the Civil war. This book is a bitter satire on one period of the get-rich -quick years in the second half of the 19th century. His best books are based on his own experiences along the Mississippi - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. These books describe the adventures of boyhood. Huck is portrait of a frontier boy.
The quick development in America at the end of the 19th century in industry, trade and the manufacturing goods gave rise to many problems. Authors first try to describe the life, where money-making dominates, destroys human character and put aside all human values. Realism and naturalism developed.
Theodore Dreiser had a proletarian childhood and he became a reporter, editor and novelist. His masterpiece is An American Tragedy. His hero is negative, he becomes a murderer, but it is not the hero who is to blame but the society and the system. Jack London became very popular due to describing adventurous life at the time of the Gold rush. Martin Eden is a novel about a man who wants to be successful.
After the World War I a group of writers known as the "Lost Generation" entered literature. They were writers who were influenced by the war.
Ernest Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1954 for its famous book The Old Man and the Sea, which is about human strength. Hemingway became journalist after war, he wrote for example A Farewell to Arms. Francis Scott Fitzgerald is connected with the Jazz Age of the 20s. He wrote many stories about wealthy people, for whom everything is so easy because of money. His best novel is Great Gatsby.Next important author is John Steinbeck. He won the Nobel Prize in 1962. He tried to uncover the reasons of social injustice. The Grapes of Wrath describes the Depression following after the crisis of 1929. His other famous works are Of mice and Men or Travels with Charley.
Norman Mailer is one of the best authors the World War II. The Naked and the Dead is based on his own experiences in the Pacific. It is about group of soldiers who survive the attack on a island occupied by the Japanese. Joseph Heller wrote Catch-22, an antiwar novel connecting absurd black humour and Yossarian's terrible experiences from World War II. Ray Bradbury is the outstanding author of warning science fiction literature. His best novels are Martian Chronicles or Fahrenheit 451.
20th century poetry is famous for a group of poets and artist who gathered around 1956 in San Francisco and are called the "Beat Group" They practiced new ways free life, behavior and new use of language. Among the best known poets of this era belong Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti or Jack Kerouac. 20th century is connected with development of drama too. The most famous author of drama is Tennessee Williams. His wrote Cat on a hot tin roof. In this play he critics relationship in classic American's families.

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