Survey of American Literature 1

The seventh week has just been finished of the Survey of American Literature class. We started the class by reviewing students’ short essays (their assignments) in which they were requested to think over one of the literary works written in the era of the American Renaissance. After discussing their achievements and showing a model answer to the question given in the essay writing, we moved on to the main topic “American literary realism.” The American Civil War (1861-65) encouraged the literary movement to make fruits, although literary tones in this period tended to be sarcastic and harsh. In contrast, one of the great American writers, Mark Twain and his literary works, in spite of being categorized and analyzed into the framework of American literary realism, are replete with sense of humor. Students were to answer such  questions as “Why did Mark Twain write humorous stories for adults as well as kids?”

What was behind the writer’s life history is in fact far from happiness, in relation to which we read a couple of episodes picked up from his masterpiece: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. We focused our attention upon a great issue (and it’s nearly a taboo in American history)—that is “slavery.”

Next week, we take up some other writers who belong to American literary realism. William Dean Howells and Henry James will be discussed. The latter we cannot pass without mentioning that the influence of his splendid literary techniques such as “the unique use of point of view” and “the effective use of stream of consciousness” on the young writers who led American literary modernism in the first decade of the twentieth century.