American Literature and the Dream

American Literature and the Dream

American Literature and the Dream

American Literature and the Dream

Excerpt

"THE AMERICAN DREAM" has never been defined exactly, and probably never can be. It is both too various and too vague: many men have meant many different things by it. I shall therefore follow popular practice and use the phrase inclusively.

But "American Literature" has been defined more exactly, and has been outlined in courses and embodied in anthologies. Most men agree that it is something very different from English literature, and many have sought to describe the difference. This book began as a series of essays in interpretation of the major American authors. But in the process of writing, an idea crystallized: American literature has differed from English because of the constant and omnipresent influence of the American dream upon it.

But this influence has usually been indirect and unconscious, because the dream has remained vague and undefined. Few Americans have said: "Go to-- I will imagine the perfect democracy." Even the phrase "American Dream" is of recent origin. But the vague idea has influenced the plotting of our fiction and the imagining of our poetry. Almost by inadvertence our literature has accomplished a symbolic and experimental projection of it.

Traditionally, American literature has been described under such categories as . . .

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