Major Themes of American Literature Handout

Major Themes of American Literature Handout
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My university students have found very helpful this introductory overview lecture/handout about the major themes in American literature. It may prove valuable to you by providing some ideas which you might wish to incorporate in any survey lecture which you give to your American literature class. Five major themes are discussed: (1) Innocence; (2) Violence; (3) The Frontier; (4) Absence of Happy Love or Fulfilling Marriage; and (5) Anti-machine. Examples are drawn from our greatest writers, Cooper, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, Emerson, Thoreau, James, Twain, Whitman, Crane, Eliot, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and Hemingway. Additionally, this handout includes a chart comparing and contrasting 17th-century Puritanism, 18th-century Rationalism, and 19th-century Transcendentalism in their views toward (1) religion, (2) the individual, (3) society, and (4) general outlook on life. Designed as a lecture or a handout, there are no blanks to be filled in; hence, no answer key is needed. Many of my students use these themes or views as topics for their term or research paper; that is, a student will select a theme, such as violence, and collect examples of violence in the works we read in the course. These examples will become the basis of online or library research on violence in American literature, out of which will emerge a term paper. This lecture/handout was prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph.D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.
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5 pages
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