LITR 569 - American Renaissance


The thirty years leading up to the Civil War in the United States witnessed a steady and remarkable production of literary masterworks from American writers. James Fenimore Cooper was publishing his string of popular tales of pioneering and adventure. Ralph Waldo Emerson gave lectures, wrote essays and spearheaded the artistic movement of Transcendentalism. Edgar Allan Poe was a respected and feared literary critic who was quietly composing dark classics of mystery and horror in both prose and poetry form. Nathaniel Hawthorne was generating his own collection of highly regarded short stories as well as novels like The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables. Henry David Thoreau wrote Walden. Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick. Walt Whitman wrote Leaves of Grass.

The United States was finally and firmly on the international literary map. This thirty year period from 1830 to 1860 that saw the production of these classics is now often referred to as the American Renaissance. The term was made popular by literary scholar F.O. Matthiessen in 1941 and since then there have been countless books and articles written about this period and the writers linked to it. This guide is intended to help you find some of that information.

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Subject headings are the officially chosen terms for a particular topic. For example, "Transcendentalism" is an offical subject heading but "American Renaissance" is not. What this means is that if you search "American Renaissance" as a subject in our library catalog you will get zero results and may falsely conclude that we don't have any items on the topic. The basic lesson is that if you don't know what the offical subject heading is for a topic then try keyword searches instead. This logic holds true when searching other databases as well.

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Robert Stevens
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