HERMAN MELVILLE (1819-1891)
- The struggle for independence is over – American War of Independence (1775-1783);
- The USA is threatened by the rivalry between the North and the South;
- Civil War (1861-1865) was caused by the issue of slavery; the North was more industrialised and educated, while the South practiced slavery and had an agricultural economy. The Civil War ended with the abolition of slavery.
ECONOMY AND SOCIETY:
- Massive immigration from Europe and China;
- The North undergoes an Industrial Revolution based on iron and steel production;
- The South exported cotton and relied on slave labour;
- A transport network was developed to stimulate trade. Roads, railways, and steamboats were built;
- Technological inventions: mass production of motorcars (Henry Ford); the invention of the telephone (Alexander Graham Bell -1876);
- After the Civil War immigration increased and business boomed;
- By the end of the 19th century, the USA had become a huge, modern, industrialised nation;
- The segregation after the Civil War transformed the Black population from slaves to second-hand citizens (no education, no right to vote, illiterate).
IDEOLOGY AND CULTURE:
- The first decades of the 19th century marked the emergence of truly American literature.
- Literature was still derived from British literary tradition, but began to depict American society and explore the American landscape.
- Several literary orientations co-existed (Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism)
- The individual valued over the group;
- The subjective valued over the objective;
- Personal experience valued over reason;
- The wilderness of nature valued over human-made order;
- Support for human rights;
- Elements of the supernatural;
- Reaction against the negative effects of industrialization (commercialism, hectic pace, lack of conscience);
- Importance of nature and man’s relationship with it;
- The human psyche is observed in different manifestations.
A sub-genre of Romanticism that developed as a reaction against the light feeling of transcendentalist writing and emphasized the dark and the macabre.
- Fear of death
- Paranoia from guilt/remorse
Use of Gothic elements:
- Grotesque characters;
- Grotesque situations;
- Violent events.
The bizarre imagination is the place where the fantastic, the demonic, and the insane meet.
Nature is dark and eerie;
The human is prone to sin and self-destruction.
Principles of REALISM:
- normal situations and ordinary characters are described in familiar settings
- lower strata of society are emphasized
- very little use of metaphors
- literature strives to be true to reality and “hold up a mirror to life”.
Literary trend: NATURALISM:
Principles of Naturalism:
It is an intensified form of realism that depicts a grim reality;
- Nature is an indifferent force that acts on the lives of human beings;
- Heredity and environment are the forces that affect and afflict individual lives;
- The universe is indifferent and deterministic.
The naturalist character:
- Characters reveal the “brute” within; they are often composed of strong and warring emotions;
- The characters are inspired by the evolution theory; they are presented as human beings governed by instincts and passions;
- The characters’ lives are governed by the forces of heredity and environment;
- As they are “products” of nature, characters in naturalism should be observed without moralising about their nature.
THE AUTHOR AND HIS WORK
Born in New York City;
Worked as a sailor on a merchant ship and a whaler;
Started writing travel adventures to great commercial success;
Later novels and poetry were not as well received by the public;
- “Moby Dick”