is not a literary movement, it's the title of F. O. Mathiessen's work: he was a
literary critic who wrote, in the 40's, a big work which is a study of 19th
century American Literature. According to him the period between 1850 and 1855
was the Golden Age of American literature. In his opinion the most important
works of American literature were written in these years, which saw the
publication of "Representative Men" by R. W. Emerson, "The Scarlett Letter" by
According to them:
The spiritual world trascends the material world;
The physical world offers us only the appearance of reality, but reality itself exists only in the spirit;
Orthodox religion, that is the religion taught by the various churches, interferes with man's attempt to live a spiritually free life. Finally man must use his spiritual faculties, which are reason and intuition, to look for the spiritual principle (the soul of Universe), which you can identify with God.
Obviously some philosophers also stressed individualism which, in the most radical philosophers like Thoreau, also involved the rejection of authority, intellectual and social in general but also political.
It was rather an optimistic philosophy, in the sense that it was opposed to Puritanism, it was against that insistence of Puritans on the original sin and on the natural wickedness of man.
Thoreau (v. fotocopia) was one who put in practice in his life the idea of freedom from the institutions and he wrote about this experience. He lived in a hut nearby the river and he thought that civil disobedience was the way to rebel, to fight against the institutions when they didn't go in the right way. "Walden" is a report of the period he spent in a hut.
W. Emerson (1803-1882): he visited Engalnd, met
Coleridge and Wordsworth, and also Carlyle. He was immensly influencial
throughout the 19th century both in
MELVILLE, "Moby Dick"
Ishmael is the narrator, but not the protaginist of the story, in that the protagonist is considered to be Captain Achab, and the other protagonist is the white wh 333e41d ale itself.
It's quite a long story; it is a story set at sea, whose main theme is the hunt for an enormous whale by Captain Achab, but it isn't of course simply the story of a sea voyage, in that it is charged (piena) with symbols. Many symbols are associated with the image of the white whale and to Achab's hunt. The most important one is the struggle between good and evil, even if we do not know for certain which represents good and which represents evil between Achab and the whale.
Before writing "Moby Dick" Melville had already written books dealing with life at sea: one is "Typee", and the other is "Omoo", which are both set in the Southern Seas. Obviously he did not invent the material for these novels, but he drew from his personal experience, in that since an early age he began working on merchant ships and then on whalers. Whale hunting was a very widespread activity in the area north of Boston and in general in New England, and there was a flourishing industry based on whale hunting, in that every part of the whale can be exploited: they aren't only hunted for food, but also for oil (for lamps) and for their bones (for women's dresses, waistcoats (bustini)).
was during one of these voyages that his ship reached Polynesia; in fact
"Typee" and "Omoo" are set in
was a first version of "Moby Dick" which was only the story of a sea voyage and
hadn't got any symbolic associations: it was an adventure story. Then Melville
got to know the other famous writer Hawthorne ("The Scarlett Letter"), and it
There are different interpretations of the conflict between captain Achab and the whale. The theme is very traditional: the quest. There are clearly influences from previous works (like "The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner" for example, and the "Grail Legends").
language is full of Biblical terms, in fact the Puritan heritage was very
NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE (1804-1864), "The Scarlet Letter"
Nathaniel Hawthorne is the one who influenced Melville and under whose influence Melville completely changed the spirit of his Moby Dick.
He was born in a
The second place
which is associated with
If we consider the Puritan heritage we can say that Hawthorne was not so pessimistic as the Puritans and we can say that the influence that Puritanism had upon him is to be found especially in his concern with the problem of evil, of sin; we can say that it is on the dark side of the human soul that he investigates in his works, yet he's not so morally oppressive as the Puritans. In fact the protagonist of the Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne, is a positive character, and we can see clearly that the author sympathizes with her.
Hester Prynne arrives in the Puritan colony of
There are also romantic elements in The Scarlet Letter, it is also a love story, a story of secret sinful passion, and of witchcraft. There's a large use of dark settings, there are Gothic elements, for example the prison, blood, the red mark on Dimmesdale's breast (petto) (supernatural element).
There is an introduction to "The Scarlet Letter" in which the author-narrator says that while he was working at the Customs (or Custom House) he found a parcel with a scarlet "A" embroidered on a piece of cloth; he also says that with this letter he found some documents concerning the story of Hester. In this way he gives credibility to his story.
FOTOCOPIE "THE SCARLET LETTER":
This passage is
the introductory part: it is a long introduction by the narrator in which he
tells about the town of
introduction already gives us the idea of what
Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre were a famous couple in their times: they were
beautiful, rich and popular. Francis was a successful writer; he did not come
from a rich family, but he had made money writing novels. Zelda, on the
contrary, came from a very rich family. Throughout his life he struggled to get
Zelda, and of course the story of Francis and Zelda reminds the one of Gatsby
and Daisy, in the sense that Gatsby wasn't born of a rich family, he came from
the MidWest, the provincial area of the
Basically the story is the same, even if Francis made his money in a legal way, while Gatsby was a sort of gangster, and in any case he was in touch with criminals: probably he made money by bootlegging. We understand it from some words by Daisy's husband.
The novel is set in the American 20's, called The Jazz Age. In this period a law was passed which forbade the production, sale and consumation of alcoholics. This period is called Prohibition and it was a result of course of the ever-present Puritan heritage; it was a measure to stop the plague of alcoholism, and it was as usually something which mostly served to keep up appearances, but which wasn't really efficient, in the sense that alcohol went on being produced and sold illegally. Probably Gatsby made money by selling alcohol illegally. In any case there's an atmosphere of mistery surrounding him.
20's in the
period of the 30's in
President F. D. Roosevelt at a certain moment worked out a project for the economic recovery of the nation, called New Deal (Nuovo Corso), which means to make a fresh start, it's a metaphor taken from card games meaning to redistribute cards, to start a new game. He tried to find solutions to employ the largest possible number of people, he put many people at work in the exploitation of natural resources, for example the building of dams (dighe), the control and upkeeping of forests and parks; he took writers and had them write tourist guides, as well as artists to decorate public buildings; one of the fields in which he employed many people was the one of public works. However it is commonly agreed that even if the New Deal certainly helped to recover the economy, however it would not have been enough if the Second World War hadn't broken out, which gave a fresh impulse to American industry.
The kind of society described by Fitzgerald is the one of the 20's, that are also called The Roaring Twenties, because of the atmosphere of optimism, the economic boom, the spread of new music, the general welfare (benessere). The society described by Fitgerald is totally the opposite of the one described by Steinbeck; in fact he described the life of those people who were so rich that they didn't need to have a job: Tom for example didn't work, he and Daisy and most of their friends while away the time (passano il tempo) moving from one place to another, playing polo games, meeting friends; money comes to them from their families. Only Nick and obviously Wilson have to work. Gatsby's money came from an illegal activity. None of these people had a regular job, which certainly is in contrast with the Puritan spirit. Apparently Fitzgerald seems to describe this upper stratum of society, but in facts he criticizes it, and even if he belonged to this world, he was showing that these people, expecially those like Tom, had no ideals in their life, hadn't any ethical values and were certainly in contrast with what used to be called the American Dream. He did not exalt American society, he wanted to show how the American dream, that is the ideals of the first settlers (freedom, prosperity, hard work), had degenerated, had been corrupted by materialism and hypocrisy.
the Great Depression not only had many industries closed, but there was very
little work also in the countryside. Steinbeck describes the mass-migration
from the Middle West to
had spread in the
great American writers were almost unknown in Europe, in particular in
a first moment they didn't seem to show a great interest for Fitgerald, because
on the surface Fitgerald was one who spoke about rich people's life. The
fortune of Fitzgerald in
On a less superficial level it was understood that Fitzgerald wanted to describe the corruption of the ideals of the American dream, not to celebrate the glamorous lifestyle of the Jazz Age.
belonged to a group of writers which was defined the "Lost Generation".
It was a definition which was given by an intellectual woman called Gertrude
Stein, who took the definition from one of Hemingway's novels: she was an
intellectual, experimental writer who held a literary salon in Paris, where
many famous writers used to meet; among them there were Fitzgerald and
Hemingway (they lived in
JAZZ AGE LIFESTYLE
First World War swept away the influences of Europe and
and Zelda were extremely rich and smart, and they lived a very expensive life.
In spite of the fact they were so rich, at a certain point they began to
decline, and he had to go to
FOTOCOPIE "THE GREAT GATSBY", "BOATS AGAINST THE CURRENT"
The metaphor of "the green light"...
AESTHETICISM (2nd half of 19th cent.)
Wilde (pag 221-222 Resource) was one of the greatest writers in the English language. He wrote a series of comedies (Comedy of Manners); as a novelist he is remembered for "The Picture of Dorian Gray"; he wrote also a tragedy, called "Salomè", which caused a scandal because it is very morbid. Wilde also wrote beautiful short stories, in which he showed his ability in the use of language: he used a kind of prose which reminds of the one of "The Picture of Dorian Gray", a very sensual and poetic one, otherwise called language of sense impressions; it is a kind of language which wants to evoke sensual perceptions, not only the ones given by sight but also those related to all the other senses (smell, touch, hearing, taste). The aim of this type of style was to provide the reader a complete perception of a certain atmosphere. He used a large number of adjectives and the verbs tend to be verbs of state, which creates a static atmosphere.
Decadentism → houses were full of very rare and refined objects. In "The Picture of Dorian Gray" we have a chapter dedicated to the description of Dorian's house.
called "Aestheticism" in
French poets like Baudelaire wanted to challenge Middle-Class society, but they did so by taking the opposite direction: they lived a life of degradation.
The search for beauty, was the aim of the life of an aesthete, with the aim of providing sensations.
"Life is like a river which runs incessantly towards death and as a consequence you must make the most of every moment of a life, which is a moment itself."
Reaction to Middle Class respectability: = > isolation in an artificial world.
Walter Pater (pag. 232 Echoes) was the English philosopher who fixed the laws of Aestheticism.
Both XVIII-century and Victorian novels tipically had a didactic aim. The Aesthetes did not believe in the didactic aim of art, they said that a work of art mustn't have a moral teaching as its aim; the only way of a work of art is to represent, to express beauty. This theory is called "Art for art's sake".
"There aren't moral or immoral books; books are well written or badly written, and that's all." (Oscar Wilde).
BRANO PAG. 229-233 ECHOES.
The story begins with a conversation between two friends: the amoral, pleasure-seeking aristocrat Sir Henry Wotton and the painter Basil Hallward Henry is impressed by the beauty of the sitter of a Basil's portrait and wants to know him. The sitter is Dorian Gray an aristocratic and beautiful young man. Basil doesn't want to introduce Henry to Dorian because he fears Henry's influence over the young man, but one day they meet and there is an immediate attraction between them. Gradually Henry becomes more influencial than Basil over Dorian. Basil gives the portrait to Dorian who confesses he would give his soul to remain forever beautiful and young. Dorian falls in love with Sibyl Vane, a young actress, and asks her to marry him. After a Sibil's bad performance, he breaks his engagement with her and she commits suicide. When Dorian discovers it, he sees a first imperfection in the portrait and decides to hide it in an unused room. Henry gives to Dorian a book: A Rebours by Huysman. Dorian gradually becomes more notorious, starts a new life based on pleasure, perdition, corruption, opium and influences many young men and women (a lot of them commit suicide). After 18 years from Sibyl's death Dorian shows the portrait to Basil, then kills him. During a night in the underworlds of the city he meets a mariner, Sybil's brother, who wants to kill him. Dorian can save himself because his appearance isn't changed in 18 years, but he feels persecuted by this man, who, later, is accidentally killed during a shooting party (battuta di caccia) in Dorian's country mansion. Dorian decides to change his life but he is unable to do it, so decides to destroy the portrait. After a scream Dorian's servants enter in the room and see the intact portrait and an old wrinkled died man on the floor. He is Dorian Gray (they can know him thanks to his rings)
Hawthorne and Melville used a very new kind of language; in particular with the latter (especially in Moby Dick) we have the explosion of American speech, very different from British one.
The description of Hester is very positive: she is an ambivalent figure. H. sympathizes for her because he thought that adultery wasn't a crime, but only a way to follow natural instinct.
In the end there's a sort of morality: everything comes back in a social order; Hester isn't able to escape the conventions of society.
Sensitivity to nature motivates a certain quality of his prose: he wanted to imitate the coming and going of the waves.
Melville - Moby Dick
Pequod is an example of democracy and integration: no difference between sailors.
White is generally associated with purity; in this case the whale is both wonderful, pure and terrible.
The Great Gatsby
Very attractive title chosen by the editor. 1st title: under the red the white and the blue : Gatsby as the
It is set during the jazz age- the boom- the era of wonderful nonsense.
Basic level love story
social critic of hypocrisy
Gatsby as an embodiment of
Realism had the final word.
Nick narrator and character; we know about Gatsby from his words;
Gatsby drinks so little, extraordinary gift for hope so his optimism is his greatness
Gatsby and Fitzgerald money only as an instrument.
'20 people were victims of the mass production and they lost their humanity.
Gatsby Jimmy Gatz unattractive and no sophisticated, Gatsby sounds more English.
Gatsby appears only in the third chapter and does it in a very dramatic way. He seems to be a magician (he disappears); the magic is in smile (the great Gatsby)
Gatsby's props are, the audience is only made up by daisy house (not home) - cars - parties - clothes the desire effects.
Tom Mr nobody from nowhere (Gatsby)
ou -topos utopia; Gatsby is an utopic character
He is searching for something that money can't buy, but he believes in the impossible: to repeat the past.
American mentality to go to the future, Gatsby go to the wrong direction, he wants to go back to the past.
TWENTIES mostly urban, with no freedom.
F.S.F. didn't like money but he needed money to buy happiness. He believed in the ethic of work, the fact of being rich corrupted, the determination for excellence.
Money determined the social structure:
1st level very rich who don't have to work (Tom (family), Gatsby (new rich))
2nd level some money but have to work (Nick)
3rd level people who work hard and have no money (Tom Wilson)
Garage is a social indicator :
-new rich cars (Gatsby) conspicuous consumption
Language very poetic prose
-sex = STYLE OF LIFE
a president who had spoken about ideals:
BOOK a family who works abattoir in
The government life of poverty, degradation, criminality and alcoholism. Growing power of AD that conditions people's opinion, force people to buy products.
War - materialism - AD - very little personal freedom
New rich had to show their money.
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