Chapter 3 Early Romantics





课 型

Theory and practice

课 题

Early Romantics


Aim of knowledge: 1. To make students get to know the definition, reasons and characteristics of American Romanticism.

2. To make students get the general idea about representatives and periods of literature of American Romanticism.

3. To make students familiar with Washington Irving, James Fennimore Cooper and their masterpieces.

Aim of ability: training of the ability to analyze literary works along with social background.

Aim of quality: emphasize the importance of optimistic feeling.


Lecture, discussion, PPT presentation


Key points: Irving's Rip Van Winkle and Cooper's Leather-Stocking Tales

Difficulties: The Creation of Cooper and Irving


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Step 1 Introduction to American Romanticism(1800-1865)

. Representatives of Each Period of Literature of American Romanticism

Early Romantics:

1. Washington Irving 华盛顿·欧文(1783-1859)

2. James Fennimore Cooper  詹姆斯·费尼莫尔·库珀(1789-1851)

3. William Cullen Bryant  威廉·柯伦·布莱恩特(1794-1878)

4. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow沃兹沃思·朗费罗(1807-1882)


1. Ralph Waldo Emerson 拉尔夫·沃尔多·爱默生(1803-1882)

2. Henry David Thoreau 亨利·大卫·梭罗(1817-1862)

High Romantics

1. Nathaniel Hawthorne 纳撒尼尔·霍桑(1804-1864)

2. Herman Melville 赫尔曼·梅尔维尔(1819-1891)

3. Edgar Allan Poe    埃德加·艾伦· (1809-1849)

4. Walt Whitman沃尔特·惠特曼( 1819-1892)

5. Emily Dickinson 艾米莉·狄金森(1830-1886)


Ⅱ. Definition

Simply speaking, Romanticism is a literary movement flourished as a cultural force throughout the 19th C and it can be divided into the early period and the late period. Also it remains powerful in contemporary literature and art.

Romanticism, a term that is associated with imagination and boundlessness, as contrasted with classicism, which is commonly associated with reason and restriction. A romantic attitude may be detected in literature of any period, but as an historical movement it arose at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, in reaction to more rational literary, philosophic, artistic, religious, and economic standards. The most clearly defined romantic literary movement in the U. S. was Transcendentalism.

The representatives of the early period include Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper, and those of the late period contain Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe.


.The Reasons on the Rise of American Romanticism

  1. Internal Causes:
  1. New political system: American burgeoned into a political, economic and cultural independence. Democracy and political equality became the ideals of the new nation. Radical changes came about in the political life of the country. Parties began to squabble and scramble for power, and new system was in the making.
  2. The spread of industrialism, the sudden influx of immigration, and the pioneers’ pushing the frontier further west, all produced something of an economic boon and, with it, a tremendous sense of optimism and hope among the people.
  1. Ever-increasing magazines played an important role in facilitating literary expansion in the country.
  1. External Causes:
  1. Foreign influences added incentive to the growth of romanticism in America. The influence of Sir Walter Scott was particularly powerful and enduring.


. Characteristics of American Romanticism (Outline P 33-34)

  1. Rebel against the objectivity of rationalism, tending to moralize, and edify.
  2. The feeling, intuitions and emotions were more important than reason and common sense.
  3. They saw nature as a revelation of truth, the living garment of God.
  4. They emphasized individualism, placing it at the very center of life and art.
  5. They affirmed the subconscious of the self, which was free to be developed and expressed.
  6. Interest in the picturesque past, esp. about the American Indians
  7. Interest in their myth, frontier life, westward expansion and Puritan heritage
  8. Interest in variety, eg. plot: mystery, romance, and adventure


Step 2 James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851)

. His Major Works

Cooper developed three kinds of novels. The first kind is historical novels about the Revolutionary War. The second kind is the sea novels, and the third kind is novels about the American frontier.

 Apart from this, Cooper wrote about the American Westward movement firstly with his Leather-Stocking Tales, and created the first trilogy in American fiction reflecting the struggle against rent.

1. Three Kinds of Novels:

In his life Cooper wrote over thirty novels which can be divided into three types: novels about American frontier, such as The Pioneers, novels about revolutionary history, such as the Spy, and sea novels, such as the Pilot.

2. Leather-Stocking Tales about American Westward movement

It is a series of five novels about the frontier life of American settlers. The unifying thread of the five novels collectively known as the Leather-Stocking Tales is the life of Natty Bumppo. As for Cooper’s finest achievement, this series of five novels constitute a vast prose epic with the North American continent as setting, Indian tribes as Characters, and great wars and westward migration as social background. The novels bring to life frontier America from 1740 to 1804.

1) The Pioneers(1823): Natty Bumppo first appears as a seasoned scout in advancing years, with the dying Chingachgook, the old Indian chief and his faithful comrade, as the eastern forest frontier begins to disappear and Chingachgook dies.

2) The Last of the Mohicans(1826): An adventure of the French and Indian Wars in the Lake George county. It was considered to be the most excellent novels in this series. It was an adventure story of the protagonist Natty Bumppo.

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3) The Prairie(1827): Set in the new frontier where the Leatherstocking dies.

4) The Pathfinder(1840): Continuing the same border warfare in the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario county.

5) The Deerslayer(1841): Early adventures with the hostile Hurons on Lake Otsego, NY.

3. The First Trilogy in American Fiction

There is another series of novels written by Cooper which is the first trilogy in American fiction: Satanstoe (《萨坦斯托》, The Chainbearer《带锁链的人》, and The Redskins, or Indian and Injin《红种人,真假印第安人》. It reflected settled traditional life of rural life and the struggle against rent in New York.

So, to draw a conclusion, James Fenimore Cooper’s literary achievements are as follows:

Three types of novels: novels about American frontier, such as the Pioneers, novels about revolutionary history, such as the Spy, and sea novels, such as the Pilot.

Two series of novels: Leather-Stocking Tales and the first trilogy in American fiction


. His Skills

  1. He is good at making coincidence.
  2. All his novels are full of myths.
  3. That he had never been to the frontier and among the Indians and yet could write five huge epic books about them is an eloquent proof of the richness of his imagination.
  4. He created the first Indians to appear in American fiction and probably the first group of noble savages.
  5. He hit upon the native subject of frontier and wilderness, and helped to introduce the “Western” tradition into American literature.


. His Contributions

The creation of the famous Leather-stocking saga has cemented his position as our first great national novelist and his influence pervades American literature. In his thirty-two years (1820-1851) of authorship, Cooper produced twenty-nine other long works of fiction and fifteen books - enough to fill forty-eight volumes in the new definitive edition of his Works. Among his achievements:

  1. The first successful American historical romance in the vein of Sir Walter Scott (The Spy, 1821).
  2. The first sea novel (The Pilot, 1824).
  3. The first attempt at a fully researched historical novel (Lionel Lincoln, 1825).
  4. The first full-scale History of the Navy of the United States of America (1839).
  5. The first American international novel of manners (Homeward Bound and Home as Found, 1838).
  6. The first trilogy in American fiction (Satanstoe, 1845; The Chainbearer, 1845; and The Redskins, 1846).
  7. The first and only five-volume epic romance to carry its mythic hero - Natty Bumppo - from youth to old age.


Step 3 Washington Irving and His Works (1783—1859)

. Evaluation

Irving has been called the Father of American Literature. He is the first American writer of imaginative literature to gain international fame.

American author, short story writer, essayist, poet, travel book writer, biographer, and columnist. Irving has been called the father of the American short story. He is best known for 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,' in which the schoolmaster Ichabold Crane meets with a headless horseman, and 'Rip Van Winkle,' about a man who falls asleep for 20 years.

The short story as a genre in American literature probably began with Irving’s The Sketch Book, A COLLECTION OF ESSAYS, SKETCHES, AND TALES. It also marked the beginning of American Romanticism.


. Life

1) Irving was born into a wealthy New York merchant family. From a very early age, he began to read widely and write juvenile poems, essays and plays. Later, he studied law.

2) His first book A History of New York, written under the name of Diedrich Knickerbocker, was a great success and won him wide popularity.

3) In 1815, he went to England to take care of his family business there, and when it failed, had to write to support himself.

4) With the publication of The Sketch Book, he won a measure of international recognition.

5) In 1826, as an American diplomatic attaché, he was sent to Spain, where he gathered material for his writing.

6) From 1829 to 1832, he was secretary of the U.S Legation(公使馆) in London.

7) Then when he was fifty, he returned to America and bought “Sunnyside”, his famous home. There he spent the rest of his life, living a life of leisure and comfort, except for a period of four years (1842--1846), when he was Minister to Spain.


Ⅲ. Works

1. His Famous Masterpieces

A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty《纽约外史》:

The Sketch Book《见闻札记》: It is a collection of essays, sketches and tales, including:

    Rip Van Winkle《瑞普·凡·温克尔》: His most famous one.

    The Legend of Sleepy Hollow《睡谷传奇》

The History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus《克里斯托弗·哥伦布的生活和航行史》

A Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada《政府格拉纳达》

The Alhambra《阿尔罕伯拉》

Life of Goldsmith《高德史密斯的一生》

Life of Washington《华盛顿的一生》

     A History of New York was a great success and won him wide reputation. He won a measure of international fame for the Sketch Book, which also marked the beginning of American Romanticism. Washington Irving was the first great prose stylist of American romanticism. In his The Sketch Book appeared the first modern short stories and the first great American juvenile literature.


2. Styles and Themes of His Works:

Styles: Graceful, refined, fluent and dignified, humorous

      Irving’s works are characterized by a strong sense of humor, which gives an impetus to the growth and popularity of American indigenous humor.

Themes: Some writers follow his style and his subject matter, and are also influenced by his sentimentalism. This is part of his romantic feeling.

        Besides, Irving had a particularly important theme, the theme of change, of mutability. This is a sorrow he had when he saw great changes going on in the country as he believed that changes upset the natural order of things. (on Outline P45)


3. Analysis of Rip Van Winkle:

1) Time: the pre-independent war and post-independent war time.

2) Place: the Appalachia Mountain Area, in an old Dutch village.

3) Setting: the pastoral, peaceful, calm but backward atmosphere.

4) The plot:

    One autumn day he escapes his nagging wife by wandering up the mountains. There he encounters strangely dressed men, rumored to be the ghosts of Henry Hudson's crew, who are playing nine-pins.After drinking some of their liquor, he settles down under a shady tree and falls asleep. He wakes and returns to his village, where he finds twenty years have passed. He finds out that his wife has died and that his close friends have died in a war or gone somewhere else. He immediately gets into trouble when he proclaims himself a loyal subject of King George III, not knowing that the American Revolution has taken place. An old local recognizes him, however, and Rip's now grown daughter takes him in. Rip resumes his habitual idleness, and his tale is solemnly believed by the old Dutch settlers, with certain hen-pecked husbands wishing they shared Rip's good luck.

5) Characters:

   Rip:idle, lazy, hen-pecked, weak-minded, happy-go-lucky, obedient, timid,

       irresponsible, good for nothing, kind-hearted, friendly, generous,  


   His wife: virago, sharp-tempered, vulgar, rude, ill-mannered, rural-bred,       

           hard-working, responsible, strong-minded, self-important

6) Themes:the theme of escape from one's responsibilities and even one's history.

         the story of man who has difficulties facing his advancing age.

         the bewildering about the rapid changes after the independent War.

         the nostalgic longing for the past pastoral way of life.

         the loss of identity.

7)Tone——Conservation: Never accepted a modern democratic America and  

           believed changes upset the natural order of things.

8) Symbolism: On his return to the village, he senses a loss of identity. His wife

             (ruler) is gone. (from George Ш to George Washington)



Step 4 Key Points and Difficulties

Key Points: Irving's Rip Van Winkle and Cooper's Leather-Stocking Tales

Difficulties: The Creation of Cooper and Irving


Step 5 Homework

Connect the main characters of American Romanticism to analyze Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow or Rip Van Winkle  .