Survey of American Literature 1

The second week has just been finished of the Survey of American Literature class. In this semester, I started to discuss some of the specific features we can witness in the American literary works as well as in what we have around us in the 21st century Japan. Arguing the similarity between them, we focused on a couple of literary works written in the 18th century America.

Benjamin Franklin, whose famous Autobiography should be read in relation to the socio-cultural movement that overwhelmed the American scene—namely “rationalism,” was the main topic of the class. His maxims such as “time is money” and “light purse, heavy heart” were shown and discussed in that they are closely related to the concept of economy in the 18th century America. Americans lived their lives and were forced to live following the concept, which we can imagine.

Next week, we move up to the 19th century of American literature, especially picking up some literary writers in the American Renaissance. Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville will be discussed in addition to their great literary masterpieces such as The Scarlet Letter and Moby-Dick. They are so magnificent that it is difficult for students to read it through. But the Japanese translation can be found in bookstores and might provide a good opportunity to touch the world that Hawthorne and Melville had created with a great passion that leads to the American Renaissance.