Contextualization (H.M.) Copy



  • 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.


  • 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).


  • 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.

Literary themes:

  • Fear of death
  • Revenge
  • 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.


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;


  • “Typee”
  • “Omoo”
  • “Moby Dick”
  • “Mardi”