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A History of American Literature, 2nd Edition

Richard Gray

ISBN: 978-1-405-19228-6 November 2011 Wiley-Blackwell 926 Pages


Updated throughout and with much new material, A History of American Literature, Second Edition, is the most up-to-date and comprehensive survey available of the myriad forms of American Literature from pre-Columbian times to the present.
  • The most comprehensive and up-to-date history of American literature available today
  • Covers fiction, poetry, drama, and non-fiction, as well as other forms of literature including folktale, spirituals, the detective story, the thriller, and science fiction
  • Explores the plural character of American literature, including the contributions made by African American, Native American, Hispanic and Asian American writers
  • Considers how our understanding of American literature has changed over the past?thirty years
  • Situates American literature in the contexts of American history, politics and society
  • Offers an invaluable introduction to American literature for students at all levels, academic and general readers
Acknowledgments xi

1 The First Americans: American Literature Before and During the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods 1

Imagining Eden 1

Native American Oral Traditions 4

Spanish and French Encounters with America 14

Anglo-American Encounters 21

Writing of the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods 27

Puritan narratives 28

Challenges to the Puritan oligarchy 32

Some colonial poetry 36

Enemies within and without 44

Trends toward the secular and resistance 48

Toward the Revolution 60

Alternative voices of Revolution 69

Writing Revolution: Poetry, drama, fiction 75

2 Inventing Americas: The Making of American Literature, 1800–1865 88

Making a Nation 88

The Making of American Myths 92

Myths of an emerging nation 92

The making of Western myth 95

The making of Southern myth 105

Legends of the Old Southwest 109

The Making of American Selves 114

The Transcendentalists 114

Voices of African-American identity 126

The Making of Many Americas 133

Native American writing 134

Oral culture of the Hispanic Southwest 139

African-American polemic and poetry 141

Abolitionist and pro-slavery writing 145

Abolitionism and feminism 154

African-American writing 161

The Making of an American Fiction and Poetry 171

The emergence of American narratives 171

Women writers and storytellers 190

Spirituals and folk songs 196

American poetic voices 199

3 Reconstructing the Past, Reimagining the Future: The Development of American Literature, 1865–1900 219

Rebuilding a Nation 219

The Development of Literary Regionalism 224

From Adam to outsider 224

Regionalism in the West and Midwest 231

African-American and Native American voices 233

Regionalism in New England 235

Regionalism in the South 239

The Development of Literary Realism and Naturalism 255

Capturing the commonplace 255

Capturing the real thing 259

Toward Naturalism 269

The Development of Women's Writing 281

Writing by African-American women 281

Writing and the condition of women 284

The Development of Many Americas 290

Things fall apart 290

Voices of resistance 293

Voices of reform 295

The immigrant encounter 299

4 Making It New: The Emergence of Modern American Literature, 1900–1945 308

Changing National Identities 308

Between Victorianism and Modernism 320

The problem of race 320

Building bridges: Women writers 326

Critiques of American provincial life 336

Poetry and the search for form 345

The Inventions of Modernism 359

Imagism, Vorticism, and Objectivism 359

Making it new in poetry 367

Making it new in prose 397

Making it new in drama 420

Traditionalism, Politics, and Prophecy 431

The uses of traditionalism 431

Populism and radicalism 446

Prophetic voices 462

Community and Identity 466

Immigrant writing 466

Native American voices 472

The literature of the New Negro movement and beyond 476

Mass Culture and the Writer 503

Western, detective, and hardboiled fiction 503

Humorous writing 509

Fiction and popular culture 512

5 Negotiating the American Century: American Literature since 1945 519

Toward a Transnational Nation 519

Formalists and Confessionals 532

From the mythological eye to the lonely "I" in poetry 532

From formalism to freedom in poetry 540

The uses of formalism 548

Confessional poetry 554

New formalists, new confessionals 563

Public and Private Histories 568

Documentary and dream in prose 568

Contested identities in prose 576

Crossing borders: Some women prose writers 588

Beats, Prophets, Aesthetes, and New Formalists 599

Rediscovering the American voice: The Black Mountain writers 599

Restoring the American vision: The San Francisco Renaissance 606

Recreating American rhythms: The beat generation 610

Reinventing the American self: The New York poets 615

Redefining American poetry: The New Formalists 623

Resisting orthodoxy: Dissent and experiment in fiction 631

The Art and Politics of Race 640

Defining a new black aesthetic 640

Defining a new black identity in prose 651

Defining a new black identity in drama 663

Telling impossible stories: Recent African-American fiction 668

Realism and its Discontents 678

Confronting the real, stretching the realistic in drama 678

New Journalists and dirty realists 700

Language and Genre 705

Watching nothing: Postmodernity in prose 705

The actuality of words: Postmodern poetry 720

Signs and scenes of crime, science fiction, and fantasy 727

Creating New Americas 740

Dreaming history: European immigrant writing 740

Remapping a nation: Chicano/a and Latino/a writing 748

Improvising America: Asian-American writing 763

New and ancient songs: The return of the Native American 779

After the Fall: American Literature since 9/11 795

Writing the crisis in prose 795

Writing the crisis in drama 809

Writing the crisis in poetry 816

Further Reading 829

Index 857

"Richard Gray's real achievement is somehow to have compressed more than 400 years of thrillingly rich literary history between two covers." (Literary Review)