Nature in American Literature: Studies in the Modern View of Nature

Nature in American Literature: Studies in the Modern View of Nature

Nature in American Literature: Studies in the Modern View of Nature

Nature in American Literature: Studies in the Modern View of Nature

Excerpt

A land of promise, America is virtually without a past. Her children need not look far back to the founders of her civilization, a civilization not yet freed, and doubtless never to be freed, from its European prototype. The story of her culture--of her art, her philosophy, her education--remains to this day an account of the transfer to a new world of the culture of modern Europe, modified, it is true, by the omission of an intimate sense of that august tradition which reaches back to the primitive Northern folks and the ancient Greeks and Hebrews, and by the addition of physical circumstances destined to affect profoundly her mind and heart. Elizabethan and Puritan in lineage, America has approached maturity, has lived through her most impressionable years, in that confused period of romanticism, democracy, and science from which the modern world has not yet emerged to clearness and faith.

In the age in which the American nation was adolescent, the distinguishing feature of men's thoughts and feelings--and consequently of their literature--was apparently a new gospel of nature. From Jean Jacques Rousseau to Walt Whitman and his disciples, whatever the cross-currents and back-eddies in the intellectual and emotional stream of the time, the prevailing current seems to have been a fresh enthusiasm for . . .

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