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История литературы / 41. The beginnings of American literature.Irving, Cooper

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Washington Irving started his career in the early 19th century. His personality made him the natural center for a little group of readers in NY. Irving earned his living by writing & was very much successful so he tried his hand practically at any genre except poetry. He wrote essays, edited some papers, & so he accepted all the canons of the London literary societies. Through friends, he was able to publish his Sketch Book (1819-1820) simultaneously in England and America, obtaining copyrights and payment in both countries. “The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon” (He has pseudonyms: Diedrich Knickerbocker, Jonathan Oldstyle alluding to the fact that his style is built upon writing of British authors.) contains his best remembered story "Rip Van Winkle" (sone other works: “A History of NY, from the beginning of the world to the end of Dutch dynasty”). The story is full of humorous national details (wrote satire mocking society). So Rip Van Winkle lives in a nice village at the foot of NY's Catskill Mountains. An amiable man whose home & farm suffer from his lazy neglect, he is loved by all but his wife. Once he escapes his nagging wife by wandering up the mountains. After encountering 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 up twenty years later and returns to his village. He finds out that his wife is dead & his close friends have died in a war or gone somewhere else. He immediately gets into trouble when he hails himself a loyal subject of King George III, not knowing that in the meantime the American Revolution has taken place. An old local recognizes him, however, & Rip's now grown daughter eventually puts him up. As Rip resumes his habit of idleness in the village, & his tale is solemnly believed by the old Dutch settlers, who wish they shared Rip's luck. Irving remained in the history of Am lit-re as the 1st Am writer who could capture the spirit of the nation & at the same time he did it against the English background of European culture. Am lit-re couldn’t develop properly because of lack of folklore. Rip Van Winkle and his wife became the 1st 2 personages of Am folklore. Ir gave Am sth it badly needed in the materialistic early years: an imaginative way of relating to the new land. No writer was as successful as Ir at humanizing the land, endowing (обеспечивать) it with a name and a face and a set of legends. Ir discovered & helped satisfy the new nation's sense of history. His works may be seen as his devoted attempts to build the new nation's soul by recreating history & giving it living, breathing, imaginative life. He differs from other writers of early 19th century be the simplicity of narration (usage of loose structures) – “The Legend of Sleepy Hallow” (1820) – a model of American short story, new imagery. He later shifted to biographies (he wrote biographies of Christopher Columbus, George Washington). He also wrote about frontier life and relations between Native Americans and settlers (“A Tour on the Prairies”). C grew up in Cooperstown, NY (upper part of the state), the first popular success – “The spy”. He spent 7 years in Europe writing “Leatherstocking tales” (1823 – 1841) and political criticism. Genre/ themes: high-spirited adventure stories, embellished (приукрашивать) real historical events, followed the example of Sir Walter Scott and Alexandre Dumas; dramatized, implausible (невероятный) plots; romance; description of nature and natives. Style: lengthy, formal writing; archaic language; sentimental scenes; excessively complex narration; never edited his works; prioritized narrative over historical context. Originally he was very popular but then harshly criticized. Fenimore Cooper like Irving evoked a sense of the past and gave it a local habitation & a name. C is one of the greatest American writers who managed to write a succession of novels – “leather stocking series” – about the frontier scout who unlike many Americans of that time felt the deepest respect for the Indians, arrested the Eng colonist & could live in peace with them. C invented 2 more char-rs of Am folklore: honest frontier scout & his friend the brave Indian. C became known all over the world for his “series”. His novels were a blend of adventure stories & social criticism. He wrote social critics just like a series of essays, embedded it in adventure stories that influenced people. He criticized the shortcomings of democracy in his own country. His fiction was a success not only with the contemporaries but with the generations to come due to the char-rs of his novels – Natty Bumppo & Chingachgook. Creation of Natty char-r is the most significant thing that happened in Am lit-re during the 1st 50 years. His stories were quite recent but he managed to make them sound historic. C discovered realism in that incomparable tale of the border & he made realism the very stuff of romance. Romantic realism – trend C adhered to. He began to write with “The pioneers”, then came “The last of the Mohicans” (“Mohicans” was a portrait of the USA that the rest of the world read and took seriously), “The prairie”, “The pathfinder”, “The deerslayer”. In this order C told us the tale of the main char-r Natty. Natty is a wilderness scout, philosopher, dead-shot (меткий стрелок). Natty is the personification of the democrat’s ideal of the democratic man. C was the 1st social writer in Am but he gave us a clear-cut romantic type as the Am moral ideal. All of C’s social criticism derives from this very norm which was like that of the early Am thinking both religious & poetical inspiration. C’s social criticism was a part of his conception of romance. He registered both Am achievements & problems. C accepted the Am condition while Ir did not. Ir addressed the Am setting as a European might have - by importing & adapting European legends, culture, & history. C took the process a step farther. He created Am settings & new, distinctively Am char-rs & themes. He was the 1st writer to realize that the new lit-re must be created from the feeling to the form, from inside out. He made clear the job that must be done before Am could have the lit-re of its own.