Types of literature which were popular during the American Renaissance.
When most people think of literature of the American Renaissance literature, they think of a lot of poems and things of a darker nature. There were many authors which tapped into their darker side and came up with many brilliant works of literature. Among these people would be Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. However, there is also a bigger contrast in authors of the time who went on a more spiritual or philosophical path, trying to teach people a new and better way to live. Ralph Waldo Emerson started a trend which Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman both followed in Emerson’s footsteps.
Some of the most popular works of darker nature that people relate to the American Renaissance belong to Emily Dickinson. There are many people which were intrigued by the poetry this woman was inspired to write. She wrote of lost love and death and crafted a poetic license all of her own. While Dickinson was not well known during her life time, her poetry would inspire many people after her to try to tap into her poetic form. Of course her poetry was her most famous work, but much of it wasn’t published during her lifetime and wasn’t compiled into books until the late 1900s, with one version being printed in 1951. (Baym, 2008)
Another popular, dark, writer of the time is Nathanial Hawthorne. As opposed to Emily Dickinson, Hawthorne wrote novels and short stories. Among his biggest works are The Scarlet Letter and “Young Goodman Brown. “ Both of these works embodied dark and meaningful messages which have been resonated through today. The Scarlet Letter has been a play, a movie and has had many updates to make it fit different time periods. “Young Goodman Brown” embodied the ideas of witchcraft and could possibly be one of the greatest tales of witchcraft ever. There were also other stories written by Hawthorne which embodied ideas of supernatural and an almost, mad scientist type of character.
Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman alike were followers of Ralph Waldo Emerson. They both embodied the idea that people needed to live a more simple life and try to help others when possible. Thoreau’s major work which encompassed this idea was Walden. This book chronicles the ideas of Thoreau and uses many metaphors to prove his ideas. “Walden Pond” is a popular chapter in the book which has been studied by many and goes through the depths of society. Thoreau was not exactly popular during his time but later gained much popularity in his writings. Emerson, however, wrote his ideas in poetry. In a response to a letter received from Emerson, Whitman discussed his ideas and why he wrote them the way he did. In this letter, he also discussed the reason he believed people followed Emerson’s ideas the way they did. While Thoreau was a follower of Emerson, and wrote his ideas more through metaphor, Whitman was also a follower of Emerson, and wrote his ideas mostly through poetry. (Baym, 2008)
Hawthorne and Dickinson are great examples of what many people think of when thinking of literature from the American Renaissance. However; contrary to popular belief, dark, gothic like literature was not the only thing being written at the time. Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman are also great examples of popular literature which was written at the time. The idea that everything written during the American Renaissance was dark, and slightly spooky is not true. While Dickinson and Hawthorne were writing gothic literature, Thoreau and Whitman were writing inspiring and philosophical woks. The different groups of writers counter each other and create a balance in the types of literature which was being written at the time. While Thoreau and Whitman were transcendentalists and believed people and nature were inherently good, Dickinson and Hawthorne showed the opposite side of Transcendentalism.
Kirsten McNemee ENG/491December 19, 2012 Julie Miller
Most people think of Emily Dickinson, Edward Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne Very dark and gothic like literature is what most people think was the main type of writing during this time period. There were other types of literature at the time, which were not dark, but intuitive and helped people learn a different way to live called transcendalist. The primary authors of this type of writing were: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman
Emily Dickinson’s primary type of writing was poetry. She created her own poetic license. Many people were inspired and intrigued by her writing, even though it was well after her time before she was popular, with the first collection of her poetry not being published until 1951.
Hawthorne authored many novels and short stories His most popular work is The Scarlet Letter with other well known literature, including Young Goodman Brown. The Scarlet Letter has been updated many times to reflect many different times throughout history Young Goodman Brown was one of the first and best tales of witchcraft.
Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau were both inspired by the writing and thoughts of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Walt Whitman mainly wrote poetry to reflect the way of life he thought people should aspire to. Henry David Thoreau used mainly metaphoric writing. Both authors were that of a philosophical sort.
Most popular work is Walden Walden Pond is one of the most popular and metaphoric pieces in Walden book. Walden Pond compares a pond to the depths of human society. Thoreau wrote in a philosophical way which made people think about the way they were living and encouraged them to live a different way. Helping fellow man and living a slower, more simple life were among his ideas.
Hawthorne and Dickinson were not the primary types of writers during the American Renaissance. Emerson, Whitman and Thoreau all were actually more popular during their time and all had a philosophical way of looking at life. There is a vast contrast between these types of writers.
Baym, N. (Ed.). (2008). The Norton anthology of American literature (Shorter 7th ed., Vol. 1). New York, NY: W. W. Norton.