Three Centuries of American Poetry and Prose

Three Centuries of American Poetry and Prose

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Three Centuries of American Poetry and Prose

Three Centuries of American Poetry and Prose

Read FREE!

Excerpt

The fact that Twelve Centuries of English Poetry and Prose supplied a real need in schools and colleges prompted the editors to compile the present companion volume of American literature. It may be granted that the ideal method of studying literature is through reading authors from complete editions; the mere thumbing through of the author’s whole work gives the student a valuable perspective of the particular part he is reading. But every teacher knows that except with the extraordinary coincidence of very small classes and very large libraries that ideal is unattainable. Even in our larger colleges and universities where, if anywhere, the ideal conditions might be found, books of selections representing periods of literary development are being used more and more for general courses in the history of literature, either as the basis of the student’s reading or to supplement his reading in the library. The widening scope of the study of literature in kind and form makes necessary a compilation that will represent adequately both the greater authors of an epoch and also those minor authors whose work shows secondary but significant tendencies of their time. All this is the result of that view which takes literature to be not a thing apart from life, but an expression of all life, and would make its study a segment of the ever widening circle of human interests. It may be remarked in passing that the selections of the present book may be used as a valuable supplement in the direct study of American history and society.

In poetry the aim of the editors has been to place between the covers of a single volume the greater part of what will remain permanent in American poetry from its beginnings down to the end of the first great productive period in American literature. The chief poets are represented by selections intended to include much (in some cases all) of enduring worth in their work, and also to show their variety, versatility, and range. To other poets we have tried to accord space according to their importance ; and a few appear whose work, though in itself of minor worth, reflects some broad phase of American life that should not be left out of account.

In prose the choice has naturally been more difficult than in poetry. Whenever possible we have used wholes; when this was not possible we have made selections that would show the author’s purpose in the whole, and have above all tried to avoid the scrappiness and ineffectiveness of mere fragments. Of fiction it is impossible to represent in a single volume of this kind more than the necessary minimum. In the case of Irving and Hawthorne we have omitted some of the selections generally read in the grades, and easily found in cheap editions, for the sake of others not so common and yet notable in themselves.

The editors have thought it best to give considerable space to colonial writers . . .

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