The Frontier in American Literature

The Frontier in American Literature

The Frontier in American Literature

The Frontier in American Literature

Excerpt

Professor Leon Kellner in his study of American Literature remarks the contrast between "the greatness of American history and the mediocrity of American literature." Impressed with the epic grandeur of the westward march of the pioneer on an ever receding frontier, he marvels that this unique factor in American life has not found an echo in American literature.

If instead of turning to a German critic to see ourselves as others see us, we turn to the Brahmins of American criticism, to the Woodberrys and Wendells, we find the same verdict, but with a different interpretation. It is true, admit these cultured gentlemen, that the best that has been thought and said in American literature bears little relation to the crude hurly-burly of contemporary American life. And they thank God for it. For literature to them is something far too bright and good to be associated with Jacksonian democracy, furtrading posts, and Homestead Laws. Her soul is like a star that dwells apart--not like the star that marks the westward course of empire.

Within the last quarter of a century we have had a re-definition of the significance of American history. Professor Turner has told how as a graduate student he was stirred to indignant denial by his professor's urbane announcement that the seminar had exhausted the subject of American history. Finished the study of American history?--flashed back Turner--we have only begun.

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