American Literature

When the English preacher and creator Sidney Smith requested in 1820, “In the four quarters of the world, who reads an American book?” little bit did he presume that lower than two a century later the response in literate quarters could be “just about all people.” Undoubtedly, simply a few years after Smith presented his inflammatory concern, the American writer Samuel Knapp would begin to assemble among the first histories of American literature as part of a lecture collection that he was offering.

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The course supplies provided by American Passages continue in the custom started by Knapp in 1829. One goal of this Study Guide is to help you be taught to be a literary historian: that is, to present you to American literature because it has truly progressed gradually and to advertise you to make connections between and amongst texts. Like a literary historian, when you make these connections you’re narrating: the story of how American literature got here into being.

This Summary details 4 programs (there are quite a few others) by which you’ll narrate the story of American literature: one based mostly upon literary motions and historical change, one primarily based on the American Passages Summary Questions, one based mostly upon Contexts, and one primarily based on multiculturalism.

TELLING THE STORY OF AMERICAN LITERATURE Literary Motions and Historical Modification American Passages is organized round sixteen literary actions or “systems.” A literary movement facilities round a group of authors that share particular stylistic and thematic concerns.

Each unit consists of ten authors which are represented both in The Norton Anthology of American Literature or within the Online Archive.

Two to 4 of those authors are discussed in the video, which calls attention to important historical and cultural influences on these authors, defines a genre that they share, and proposes some key thematic parallels. Tracking literary actions may help you see how American literature has changed and developed over time. In common, people think about literary actions as reacting towards earlier modes of writing and earlier movements. For T E L L I N G T H E S T O R Y O F

A M E R I C A N L I T E R AT U R E three instance, just as modernism (Units 10–13) is usually seen as a response to realism and the Gilded Age (Unit 9), so Romanticism is seen as a response to the Enlightenment (Unit 4). Most of the items concentrate on one period (see the chart below), but they will usually embody related authors from other eras to help draw out the connections and variations. (Note: The actions in parentheses usually are not limited to authors/works from the period in query, however they do cover some material from it. ) Century Fifteenth– Seventeenth Eighteenth Era Renaissance American Passages Literary Movements.

(1: Native Voices) 2: Exploring Borderlands 3: Utopian Promise (3: Utopian Promise) 4: Spirit of Nationalism (7: Slavery and Freedom) four: Spirit of Nationalism 5: Masculine Heroes 6: Gothic Undercurrents 7: Slavery and Freedom (1: Native Voices) 6: Gothic Undercurrents eight: Regional Realism 9: Social Realism (1: Native Voices) 10: Rhythms in Poetry eleven: Modernist Portraits 12: Migrant Struggle thirteen: Southern Renaissance 1: Native Voices 2: Exploring Borderlands 12: Migrant Struggle 14: Becoming Visible 15: Poetry of Liberation 16: Search for Identity Enlightenment Nineteenth Romanticist Nineteenth Realist

Twentieth Modernist Twentieth Postmodernist Each unit contains a timeline of historical events along with the dates of key literary texts by the movement’s authors. These timelines are designed that can assist you make connections between and among the many movements, eras, and authors coated in each unit. four W H AT I S A M E R I C A N L I T E R AT U R E ? Overview Questions The Overview Questions initially of every unit are tailor-made from the 5 American Passages Overview Questions that observe. They are meant that can help you focus your viewing and reading and participate in dialogue afterward. 1. What is an American?

How does literature create conceptions of the American expertise and American identity? This two-part query ought to set off dialogue about points such as, Who belongs to America? When and the way does one turn out to be an American? How has the search for identification amongst American writers changed over time? It can even encourage discussion about the methods by which immigration, colonization, conquest, youth, race, class, and gender affect nationwide identity. 2. What is American literature? What are the distinctive voices and kinds in American literature? How do social and political points influence the American canon?

This multi-part query ought to instigate dialogue in regards to the aesthetics and reception of American literature. What is a masterpiece? When is one thing thought of literature, and the way is this category culturally and traditionally dependent? How has the canon of American literature modified and why? How have American writers used language to create artwork and meaning? What does literature do? This question can even raise the difficulty of American exceptionalism: Is American literature completely different from the literature of different nations? 3. How do place and time shape the authors’ works and our understanding of them?

This question addresses America as a location and the numerous ways by which place impacts American literature’s type and content material. It can provoke discussion about how regionalism, geography, immigration, the frontier, and borders impact American literature, as nicely as the position of the vernacular in indicating place. 4. What characteristics of a literary work have made it influential over time? This question can be used to spark discussion in regards to the evolving impression of varied items of American literature and about how American writers used language each to create artwork and reply to and name for change.

What is the individual’s accountability to uphold the community’s traditions, and when are individuals compelled to withstand them? What is the connection between the person and the community? 5. How are American myths created, challenged, and re-imagined by way of this literature? This query returns to “What is an American? ” But it poses the query at a cultural quite than particular person stage. What are the myths that make up American culture? What is the American Dream? What are American myths, desires, and nightmares? How have these changed over time? T E L L I N G T H E S T O R Y O F A M E R I C A N

L I T E R AT U R E 5 Contexts Another method that connections can be made throughout and between authors is through the five Contexts in every unit: three longer Core Contexts and two shorter Extended Contexts. The objective of the Contexts is each to assist you learn American literature in its cultural background and to show you close-reading abilities. Each Context consists of a brief narrative about an occasion, trend, or idea that had specific resonance for the writers within the unit as well as Americans of their era; questions that join the Context to the authors within the unit; and a listing of related texts and images in the Online Archive.

Examples of Contexts embody discussions of the idea of the Apocalypse (3: “Utopian Visions”), the sublime (4: “Spirit of Nationalism”), and baseball (14: “Becoming Visible”). The Contexts can be used in conjunction with an creator or as stand-alone actions. The Slide Show Tool on the Web site is good for doing assignments that draw connections between archive items from a Context and a textual content you have read. And you’ll be able to create your own contexts and activities using the Slide Show Tool: these materials can then be e-mailed, considered online, projected, or printed out on overhead transparencies.

Multiculturalism In the past twenty years, the sphere of American literature has undergone a radical transformation. Just as the mainstream public has begun to grasp America as extra numerous, so, too, have scholars moved to combine extra texts by women and ethnic minorities into the standard canon of literature taught and studied. These changes can be both exhilarating and disconcerting, because the breadth of American literature appears to be nearly limitless.

Each of the videos and items has been carefully balanced to pair canonical and noncanonical voices. You could discover it helpful, nonetheless, to trace the development of American literature in accordance with the rise of different ethnic and minority literatures. The following chart is designed to highlight which literatures are represented in the movies and the models. As the chart indicates, we have set totally different multicultural literatures in dialogue with one another. Literature African American literature Video Representation

7: Slavery and Freedom eight: Regional Realism 10: Rhythms in Poetry 13: Southern Renaissance 14: Becoming Visible 15: Poetry of Liberation Study Guide Representation 4: Spirit of Nationalism 5: Masculine Heroes 7: Slavery and Freedom eight: Regional Realism 9: Social Realism 10: Rhythms in Poetry 11: Modernist Portraits thirteen: Southern Renaissance 14: Becoming Visible 15: Poetry of Liberation 16: Search for Identity 6 W H AT I S A M E R I C A N L I T E R AT U R E ? Native American literature 1: Native Voices 5: Masculine Heroes 14: Becoming Visible

1: Native Voices 2: Exploring Borderlands 3: Utopian Promise four: Spirit of Nationalism 5: Masculine Heroes 7: Slavery and Freedom eight: Regional Realism 14: Becoming Visible 15: Poetry of Liberation sixteen: Search for Identity 2: Exploring Borderlands 5: Masculine Heroes 10: Rhythms in Poetry 12: Migrant Struggle 15: Poetry of Liberation 16: Search for Identity 9: Social Realism 12: Migrant Struggle sixteen: Search for Identity 9: Social Realism 11: Modernist Portraits 14:

Becoming Visible 15: Poetry of Liberation 16: Search for Identity 1: Native Voices 2: Exploring Borderlands 3: Utopian Promise four: Spirit of Nationalism 5: Masculine Heroes 6: Gothic Undercurrents 7: Slavery and Freedom 8: Regional Realism 9: Social Realism 10: Rhythms in Poetry eleven: Modernist Portraits 12:

Migrant Struggle 13: Southern Renaissance 14: Becoming Visible 15: Poetry of Liberation 16: Search for Identity 2: Exploring Borderlands 5: Masculine Heroes 10: Rhythms in Poetry 11: Modernist Portraits 12: Migrant Struggle 13: Southern Renaissance 14: Becoming Visible 15: Poetry of Liberation 16: Search for Identity Latino literature 2: Exploring Borderlands 10: Rhythms in Poetry 12: Migrant Struggle 16: Search for Identity Asian American literature 12:

Migrant Struggle 16: Search for Identity Jewish American 9: Social Realism literature eleven: Modernist Portraits 14: Becoming Visible 15: Poetry of Liberation 16: Search for Identity Women’s literature 1: Native Voices 2: Exploring Borderlands three: Utopian Promise 6:

Gothic Undercurrents 7: Slavery and Freedom 8: Regional Realism 9: Social Realism eleven: Modernist Portraits 12: Migrant Struggle 13: Southern Renaissance 15: Poetry of Liberation sixteen: Search for Identity Gay and lesbian literature 2: Exploring Borderlands 5: Masculine Heroes 10: Rhythms in Poetry eleven: Modernist Portraits 15: Poetry of Liberation sixteen: Search for Identity T E L L I N G T H E S T O R Y O F A M E R I C A N L I T E R AT U R E 7 Literature cont’d Working-class literature Video Representation 2: Exploring Borderlands four: Spirit of Nationalism 5: Masculine Heroes 7: Slavery and Freedom 9: Social Realism 12: Migrant Struggle sixteen: Search for Identity

Study Guide Representation 2: Exploring Borderlands four: Spirit of Nationalism 5: Masculine Heroes 7: Slavery and Freedom 9: Social Realism 10: Rhythms in Poetry 12: Migrant Struggle 14: Becoming Visible 15: Poetry of Liberation sixteen: Search for Identity LITERATURE IN ITS CULTURAL CONTEXT When you examine American literature in its cultural context, you enter a multidisciplined and multi-voiced conversation the place students and critics in different fields look at the identical topic but ask very totally different questions about it. For example, how might a literary critic’s understanding of nineteenthcentury American tradition evaluate to that of a historian of the same era?

How can an artwork historian’s understanding of popular visual metaphors enrich our readings of literature? The materials offered on this section of the Study Guide goal to help you enter that dialog. Below are some suggestions on how to begin. Deep in the guts of the Vatican Museum is an beautiful marble statue from first- or second-century Rome.

Over seven toes high, the statue depicts a scene from Virgil’s Aeneid in which Laocoon and his sons are punished for warning the Trojans in regards to the Trojan horse. Their bodies are entwined with massive, devouring serpents, and Laocoon’s face is turned upward in a dizzying portrait of anguish, his muscles rippling and bending beneath the snake’s strong coils.

The emotion within the statue captured the center and eye of critic Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, who used the work as the beginning point for his seminal essay on the connection between literature and artwork, “Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry. ” For Lessing, some of the common errors that students of culture could make is to assume that each one aspects of culture develop in tandem with each other. As Lessing points out, every artwork has its own strengths.

For instance, literature works well with notions of time and story, and thus is extra flexible than visual artwork when it comes to imaginative freedom, whereas portray is a visual medium that may attain higher magnificence, although it is static. For Lessing, the mixing of those two modes (temporal and spatial) carries great threat along with rewards.

As you examine literature at the aspect of any of the nice arts, you might find it useful to ask whether or not you agree with Lessing that literature is primarily a temporal art. Consider too the particular eight W H AT I S A M E R I C A N L I T E R AT U R E ? strengths of the media mentioned under. What do they offer that will not be obtainable to writers? What modes do they use that complement our understanding of the literary arts? Fine Arts Albrecht Durer created some of the most annoying drawings recognized to people: they’re rife with photographs of dying, the tip of the world, and dark creatures that inhabit hell. Images similar to The Last Judgement (below) may be found in the Online Archive.

In Knight, Death, and the Devil (1513), a religious Christian knight is taunted by the Devil and Death, who gleefully shakes a quickly depleting hourglass, mocking the soldier with the passing of time. Perhaps the tension and anxiousness in Durer’s print resonated with the American poet Randall Jarrell in his battle with psychological illness.

In “The Knight, Death, and the Devil,” Jarrell opens with an outline of the scene: Cowhorn-crowned, shockheaded, cornshucked-bearded, Death is a scarecrow—his death’s-head a teetotum . . . Jarrell’s description is filled with adjectives in much the same means that the print is crowded with element. The poem is an occasion of what critics call ekphrasis: the verbal description of a piece of visual art, often of a painting, photograph, or sculpture but typically of an urn, tapestry, or quilt.

Ekphrasis makes an attempt to bridge the hole between the verbal and the visible arts. Artists and writers have all the time influenced each other: sometimes instantly as in the case of Durer’s drawing and Jarrell’s poem, and different occasions indirectly. The Study Guide will assist you to navigate by way of these webs of influence. For example, Unit 5 will introduce you to the Hudson River [7995]

Albrecht Durer, The Last School, the good American landscape painters Judgement (1510), courtesy of the of the nineteenth century. In the Context focusprint assortment of Connecticut ing on these artists, you’ll learn of the interCollege, New London. connectedness of their visual motifs.

In Unit eleven, William Carlos Williams, whose poems “The Dance” and “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” have been impressed by two work by Breughel, will draw your attention to using ekphrasis. Williams’s work is a big instance of how multiple traditions in artwork can affect a author: in addition to his curiosity in European art, Williams imitated Chinese landscapes and poetic forms.

When you encounter works of fantastic artwork, corresponding to paintings, photographs, or sculpture, in the Online Archive or the Study Guide, you may discover two instruments used by art historians useful: formal evaluation and iconography. Formal L I T E R AT U R E I N I T S C U LT U R A L C O N T E X T 9 [3694]

Thomas Cole, The Falls of Kaaterskill (1826), courtesy of the Warner Collection of the Gulf States Paper Corporation, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. analysis, like close readings of poems, seeks to explain the nature of the thing regardless of the context during which it was created. A formal analysis addresses such questions as Where does the central interest within the work lie? How is the work composed and with what materials? How is lighting or shading used?

What does the scene depict? What allusions (mythological, non secular, artistic) are found in the work? Once you might have described the work of art utilizing formal analysis, you could want to prolong your studying by calling attention to the cultural climate in which the work was produced. This known as an iconographic reading.

Here the Context sections of the Study Guide will be useful. You may notice, for instance, a quantity of nineteenth-century work of ships in the Online Archive. One of the Contexts for Unit 6 argues that these ships may be read as symbols for nineteenth-century America, the place it was widespread to discuss with the nation as a “ship of state. ”

The glowing light or wrecked hulls within the work mirror the artists’ alternating optimism and pessimism about the place the younger nation was headed. Below are two attainable readings of Thomas Cole’s painting The Falls of Kaaterskill that make use of the tools of formal analysis and iconography. W R I T E R A : F O R M A L A N A L Y S I S

In this painting by Hudson River School artist Thomas Cole, the falls that give the portray its name seize our consideration. The shock of the white falls in opposition to the concentrated brightness of the rocks ensures that the waterfall will be the focus of the work. Even amidst this brightness, nevertheless, there is darkness and mystery within the painting, where the falls emerge out of a dark quarry and crash down onto broken tree limbs and staggered rocks.

The descent is neither peaceful nor pastoral, in distinction to the presentation of nature in Cole’s other works, such because the Oxbow. The enormity of the falls compared to the lone human figure that perches above them also provides to the sense of power the falls embody.

Barely recognizable as human as a outcome of it’s so minute, the determine nonetheless pushes forward as if to embrace the cascade of the water in a painting that explores the tension between the person and the power of nature. W R I T E R B : I C O N O G R A P H Y I agree with Writer A that this painting is all concerning the power of nature, but I would argue that it is about a specific sort of energy: one which nineteenthcentury thinkers called the “sublime. ” Cole’s portrait of the falls is particularly indebted to the aesthetic ideas formulated by Edmund Burke within the eighteenth century. Burke was thinking about categorizing aesthetic responses, and he distinguished the “sublime” from the “beautiful.

” While the attractive is calm and harmonious, the elegant is majestic, wild, and even savage. While viewers are soothed by the gorgeous, they are overwhelmed, awestruck, and typically terrified by the sublime. Often related to huge, overpowering pure 10 W H AT I S A M E R I C A N L I T E R AT U R E ? phenomena like mountains, waterfalls, or thunderstorms, the “delightful terror” inspired by sublime visions was alleged to both remind viewers of their own insignificance in the face of nature and divinity and inspire them with a way of transcendence. Here the miniature figure is the thing of our gaze whilst he is obliterated by the grandeur of the water.

During the nineteenth century, tourists usually visited locales such as the Kaaterskill Falls so as to experience the “delightful terror” that they brought. This experience is also echoed in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Nature,” in which he writes of his desire to turn out to be a “transparent eyeball” that can have the ability to take up the oversoul that surrounds him. The energy that nature holds right here is that of the divine: nature is a method we are able to expertise greater realms. How do these readings differ? Which do you find more compelling and why? What makes use of can you see for formal analysis or iconographic readings?

When may you choose considered one of these methods over the other? History As historian Ray Kierstead has pointed out, historical past is not just “one damn thing after another”: quite, historical past is a way of telling stories about time or, some may say, making an argument about time. The Greek historian Herodotus is usually known as the daddy of history in the western world, as he was one of many first historians to note patterns in world events.

Herodotus saw that the course of empires adopted a cyclical pattern of rise and fall: as one empire reaches its peak and self-destructs out of hubris (excessive pride), a model new empire or new nations will be born to take its place. Thomas Cole’s five-part sequence The Course of Empire (1833) mirrors this Herodotean notion of time as his scene strikes from savage, to pastoral, to consummation, to devastation, to desolation.

This imaginative and prescient of time has been tremendously influential in literature: each time you read a work written in the pastoral mode (literature that appears back with nostalgia to an period of rural life, misplaced simplicity, and a time when nature and tradition were one), ask your self whether or not there’s an implicit optimism or pessimism about what follows this lost rural perfect. For instance, in Herman Melville’s South Sea novel Typee, we discover the narrator in a Tahitian village.

He seeks to determine if he has entered a pastoral or savage setting: is he surrounded by savages, or is he plunged in a pastoral bliss? Implicit in both is a suggestion that there are earlier forms of civilization than the United States that the narrator has left behind. Any structural evaluation of a piece of literature (an evaluation that pays consideration to how a work is ordered) would do nicely to contemplate what notions of historical past are embedded within.

In addition to the structural significance of historical past, a dialogue between history and literature is crucial because much of the early literature of the United States can also be categorized as historic paperwork. It is helpful, subsequently, to understand the genres of historical past. Like literature, historical past is comprised of various genres, or modes. Historian Elizabeth Boone defines the principle traditional genres of historical past as res gestae, geographical, and annals. Res gestae, or “deeds accomplished,” organizes history via a list of accomplishments. This was a popu- L I T E R AT U R E I N I T S C U LT U R A L C O N T E X T 11 lar form of historical past for the traditional Greeks and Romans; for example, the autobiography of Julius Caesar chronicles his deeds, narrated in the third person.

When Hernan Cortes and other explorers wrote accounts of their travels (often within the type of letters to the emperor), Caesar’s autobiography served as their mannequin. Geographical histories use journey via house to form the narrative: Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative is an example of a geographical history in that it follows her by way of a sequence of twenty geographic “removes” into Indian nation and again. Annals, against this, use time as the organizing principle.

Information is catalogued by yr or month. Diaries and journals are a great example of this style. These three genres can be discovered within the histories of the Aztecs and Mayans of Mesoamerica and in those of the native communities of the United States and Canada.

For instance, the migration legend, a preferred indigenous type of historical past, is a geographical history, whereas trickster tales often tell the early history of the world by way of a series of deeds. Memoirists also mix genres; for example, the primary part of William Bradford’s Of Plimouth Plantation is a geographical history, whereas the second half is annals.

Today the commonest historic genres are intellectual history (the history of ideas), political history (the story of leaders), and diplomatic historical past (the history of international relations). To these classes we might add the newer categories of “social history” (a history of on a daily basis life) and “gender history” (which focuses on the development of gender roles).

Finally, historical past is a crucial software for understanding literature because literature is written in—and arguably often reflects—a particular historic context. Readers of literary works can deepen their understanding by drawing on the tools of historical past, that’s, the records folks go away behind: political (or literary) paperwork, city data, census information, newspaper tales, captivity narratives, letters, journals, diaries, and the like.

Even such objects as instruments, graveyards, or buying and selling items can inform us necessary information about the character of everyday life for a community, how it worshipped or what it considered the connection between life and death. 12 W H AT I S A M E R I C A N L I T E R AT U R E ? Material Culture [6332]

Archibald Gunn and Richard Felton Outcault, New York Journal’s Colored Comic Supplement (1896), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZC4-25531]. When you look at an object, it might name up associations from the past.

For instance, for the first-time viewer the clown determine in the picture above may seem innocuous, yet on the finish of the nineteenth century his recognition was so intense that it started a newspaper war fierce sufficient to spawn an entire new term for sensationalist, irresponsible journalism—“yellow journalism. ” Objects similar to this comic supplement constitute “material culture,” the objects of on a regular basis life.

In Material Culture Studies in America, Thomas Schlereth supplies the next useful definition of material tradition: Material tradition can be thought-about to be the totality of artifacts in a culture, the huge universe of objects utilized by humankind to deal with the physical world, to facilitate social intercourse, to thrill our fancy, and to create symbols of that means. . . .

Leland Ferguson argues that materials culture contains all “the things that people leave behind . . . all of the issues individuals make from the bodily world—farm instruments, ceramics, houses, furniture, toys, buttons, roads, cities. ” (2) When we examine material tradition along side literature, we wed two notions of “culture” and explore how they relate.

As critic John Storey notes, the first notion of tradition is what is usually known as “high culture”—the “general means of intellectual, religious and aesthetic factors”; and the second is “lived culture”—the “particular lifestyle, whether or not of a folks, a period or a group” (2). In a way, materials culture (as the objects of a lived culture) allows us to see how the prevailing mental ideas had been performed out within the day by day lives of individuals in a selected era.

Thus, as Schlereth explains, through learning material culture we are in a position to learn concerning the “belief systems—the values, ideas, attitudes, and assumptions—of a particular community or society, normally throughout time” (3). In reading objects as embedded with meaning, we follow Schlereth’s premise that “objects made or L I T E R AT U R E I N I T S C U LT U R A L C O N T E X T 13

modified by humans, consciously or unconsciously, immediately or indirectly, reflect the belief patterns of people who made, commissioned, bought, or used them, and, by extension, the assumption patterns of the larger society of which they are a part” (3). The research of material tradition, then, might help us higher understand the cultures that produced and consumed the literature we read today. Thomas Schlereth suggests a selection of helpful fashions for learning materials culture; his “Art History Paradigm” is especially noteworthy in that it’ll help you strategy works of “high artwork,” similar to work and sculptures, as well. The “Art History Paradigm” argues that the interpretive goal of examining the artifact is to “depict the historical growth and intrinsic merit” of it.

If you are interested in writing an “Art History Paradigm” studying of material tradition, you would possibly have a look at an object and ask your self the next questions, taken from Sylvan Barnet’s Short Guide to Writing about Art. These questions apply to any artwork object: First, we want to know information about the artifact so we can place it in a historical context.

You may ask yourself: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. What is my first response to the work? When and where was the work made? Where would the work initially have been seen? What purpose did the work serve? In what situation has the work survived? (Barnet 21–22) In addition, if the artifact is a drawing, painting, or advertisement, you would possibly need to ask your self questions similar to these: 1.

What is the topic matter? What (if anything) is happening? 2. If the picture is a portrait, how do the furnishings and the background and the angle of the top or the posture of the pinnacle and physique (as nicely because the facial expression) contribute to our sense of the subject’s character? three. If the picture is a nonetheless life, does it suggest opulence or want? 4. In a landscape, what’s the relation between human beings and nature? Are the figures at ease in nature, or are they dwarfed by it? Are they one with the horizon, or (because the viewpoint is low) do they stand out in opposition to the horizon and perhaps seem in touch with the heavens, or no less than with open air?

If there are woods, are these woods threatening, or are they an inviting place of refuge? If there’s a clearing, is the clearing a susceptible place or is it a place of refuge from ominous woods? Do the natural objects in the panorama one method or the other reflect the feelings of the figures? (Barnet 22–23; for extra questions, see pp. 23–24) Material tradition is a wealthy and varied useful resource that ranges from kitchen utensils, to ads, to farming instruments, to clothes. Unpacking the significance of objects that appear in the stories and poems you learn might allow you to better perceive characters and their motives. 14 W H AT I S A M E R I C A N L I T E R AT U R E ? Architecture.

Most of the time we read the hidden meanings of buildings without even considering twice. Consider the buildings below: Above: [9089] Anonymous, Capitol Building at Washington, D. C. (1906), courtesy of Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-121528].

Right: [6889] Anonymous, Facade of the Sam Wah’s Chinese Laundry (c. 1890 –1900), courtesy of the Denver Public Library. Even if we had never seen either of these buildings before, it would not take us lengthy to determine which was a government constructing and which was a smalltown retail institution. Our having seen thousands of buildings permits us to know the purpose of a building from architectural clues.

When first seeing a piece of structure, it is helpful to unpack cultural assumptions. You would possibly ask: 1. What is the aim of this building? Is it public or private? What activities take place within it? 2. What features of the constructing mirror this purpose? Which of these options are essential and which are merely conventional?

3. What buildings or constructing kinds does this building allude to? What values are inherent in that allusion? 4. What elements of this constructing are principally ornamental somewhat than functional? What does the decoration or lack of it say about the standing of the homeowners or the individuals who work there? 5. What buildings encompass this building?

How do they have an effect on the way the constructing is entered? 6. What kinds of people stay or work in this building? How do they interact within the space? What do these findings say in regards to the relative social standing of the occupants? How does the building design prohibit or encourage that status? 7. How are individuals imagined to enter and move via the building? What clues does the constructing give as to how this movement should take place? L I T E R AT U R E I N I T S C U LT U R A L C O N T E X T 15

These questions suggest two primary assumptions about architecture: (1) architecture reflects and helps establish social standing and social relations; and (2) architecture

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