The Oxford Anthology of American Literature

The Oxford Anthology of American Literature

The Oxford Anthology of American Literature

The Oxford Anthology of American Literature

Excerpt

THE OXFORD ANTHOLOGY OF AMERICAN LITERATURE is an historical selection from the literary expression of the American people.

A man may look at writing as he chooses. We have regarded it as literature. Undoubtedly by the introduction of a social approach, an interest in the history of American letters has been enormously stimulated. This has been occasioned partly by a general concern with social matters and social history; but it has been mostly seized on with a defensive enthusiasm for one quality when the presence of another, the purely literary, was not certain. While the endowment of a novel with proletarian significance, or the identification of an essay with the deistic movement, or the recognition of the spirit of democracy in a poem may form the basis of useful estimates, they leave unanswered the stubborn question of literary values.

The writing of prose and poetry is primarily a conscious art, and for this reason an attempt has been made to express the literary life of this country. The seventeenth century has been comprehensively represented in the variety of its creative efforts; what has been generally regarded as odd will now assume validity as an American adaptation of suitable literary forms. In the nineteenth century, when America's first purely literary figures began to appear, no significant development has been ignored, and an effort has been made to represent its chief writers generously enough to permit their study as stylists and experimenters. There has been no effort to be all-inclusive, and no timidity in adjusting selections to valuations now generally accepted. Nor has there been hesitation to place on literature of the present that emphasis which its excellence demands. We have tried not to be satisfied with a puzzled gesture in this direction. These are the works which have interested literary figures of our own time, and through them the reader may understand that literature is a versatile and ever-changing art. The intent of the annotation and the somewhat informal commentary has been to show the directions of this change, and, when possible, to let men speak for themselves.

In all cases we have attempted to make use of the most satisfactory texts. Most of the colonial selections have been modernized, lest literary merit be veiled in quaintness. In . . .

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.