A Journey through American Literature

A Journey through American Literature

A Journey through American Literature

A Journey through American Literature

Synopsis

A vivid snapshot of America's kaleidoscopic literary tradition, A Journey Through American Literature illuminates the authors, works, and events that have shaped our cultural heritage. Kevin J. Hayes charts this history through a series of approachable thematic chapters - Narrative Voice and the Short Story, the Drama of the Everyday, the Great American Novel - that reveal the richness of our literature while providing a compelling set of footholds with which to engage it. Among the topics covered are the role of travel and the symbolism of geography, characters and the importance of voice and dialect, self-definition and the American dream, new beginnings, and the role of memory. Hayes not only discusses the main canonical genres like poetry, drama, and the novel, but also looks at travel writing, autobiography, and frame tales. Key writers like Mark Twain, Ralph Ellison, Emily Dickinson, and Harriet Jacobs are central players in the drama while dozens more create a backdrop that gives this history depth. The book also features over 20 illustrations, a bibliography, and a chronology listing the key events and work in America's literary history.

Excerpt

American literature is about identity. It is about much else as well, but there may be no general theme more prevalent in it or more pertinent to it. Many American authors have made the idea of identity central to their works. Consider these famous opening lines:

My name is Arthur Gordon Pym.
Call me Ishmael.
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I was born a slave; but I never knew it till six years of happy
childhood had passed away.
You don’t know about me, without you have read a book by
the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain’t
no matter.
I am an invisible man.
We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert
when the drugs began to take hold.
On a sticky August evening two weeks before her due date,
Ashima Ganguli stands in the kitchen of a Central Square
apartment, combining Rice Krispies and Planters peanuts
and chopped red onion in a bowl.

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