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RE: OT: Who was the Greatest "Early American" Author?

 
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RE: OT: Who was the Greatest "Early American"... - 10/10/2012 10:30:05 PM   
Hiltibrant

 

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I have thoroughly enjoyed my Early American Lit. classes at university. There are many good American 18th and 19th century writers. But since you were asking about novelists, I find it hard to pick a favourite - there are many very good writers of short fiction, but oddly - for me at least - very few of them produced more than one or two novels I really enjoyed reading. The following rank at the very top of my all time favorite novels:

Mark Twain - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Herman Melville - Moby Dick
Nathaniel Hawthorne - The Scarlet Letter
James Fennimore Cooper - The Last of the Mohicans, The Pathfinder
Henry James - Roderick Hudson

If you want to have an opinion based on a single work I'd consider paramount among early American novels, I'd say Melville's Moby Dick - I can read it as often as I want, it never gets dull.

On the other hand, when it comes to short fiction, I don't think it gets any better than Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales.

< Message edited by Hiltibrant -- 10/10/2012 10:31:31 PM >

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RE: OT: Who was the Greatest "Early American"... - 10/10/2012 10:35:35 PM   
Hiltibrant

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: geofflambert
So start a film thread. The Japanese will score very highly in that category.


Indeed... who doesn't love Godzilla movies!?!

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RE: OT: Who was the Greatest "Early American"... - 10/10/2012 11:43:55 PM   
John 3rd


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POE. Love his dark and twisted work.


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RE: OT: Who was the Greatest "Early American"... - 10/11/2012 2:47:46 AM   
JeffK


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Problem with this, and any other comparison, has a lot to do with the deinition of the question and more importantly your personal views.

Somewhere lese ther was a thread about the greatest British writers, and the answers covered a realm of people from Novel writers, Historians and in ancient days, Pamphlet writers (i think Daniel Defoe was in this category)

Hundreds of replies quoted thousands of writers, one target for arguement was Winston S Churchill.

Not for his speech writing but for some major historical works including The Life of the Duke of Marlborough(John Churchill), The History of the English Speaking People, bugger,forgot the 3rd unforgettable work!!!!!!!

As probaly the earliest American writers were Spanish in the 16th century and even Captain ??Smith?? from the Mayflower the choice of Great Early American writers spans 3-4 centuries.

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RE: OT: Who was the Greatest "Early American"... - 10/11/2012 4:46:55 AM   
crsutton


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James Fenimore Cooper, according to Mark Twain (1895)

Cooper's art has some defects. In one place in 'Deerslayer,' and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offences against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record.


Bret Harte, according to Mark Twain (1878)

Harte is a liar, a thief, a swindler, a snob, a sot, a sponge, a coward, a Jeremy Diddler, he is brim full of treachery, and he conceals his Jewish birth as carefully as if he considered it a disgrace. How do I know? By the best of all evidence, personal observation.

Mark Twain, according to William Faulkner (1922)

A hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven sure fire literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.

Everybody has an opinion...

Me personally. "Moby Dick" is the great American novel. And I still love reading "The Last of the Mohicans." I mostly read history these days and I hardly remember works from some of the authors mentioned. Perhaps it is time to read a few novels...

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RE: OT: Who was the Greatest "Early American"... - 10/11/2012 1:27:20 PM   
Bullwinkle58


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quote:

ORIGINAL: JeffK

As probaly the earliest American writers were Spanish in the 16th century and even Captain ??Smith?? from the Mayflower the choice of Great Early American writers spans 3-4 centuries.


Captain John Smith headed up the Jamestown expedition in 1607 which started the first permanent English colony in the New World, in Virginia. These "gentleman adventurers" were in search of gold and silver, and over half of them died forthwith. The Mayflower was 1620, in Massachusetts, by stiff-necked Puritans looking for a spot where they could tell each other how to live after they'd been invited to leave by two other nations.

In popular lore the Pilgrims up north invented Thanksgiving. In reality the first Thanksgiving was in Virginia several years earlier. The Pilgrims had better PR, but they didn't do much of anything first.

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RE: OT: Who was the Greatest "Early American"... - 10/11/2012 8:12:59 PM   
Yaab


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Melville was an uneven writer, but "Moby Dick" is truly monumental, and around 1910, Ezra Pound was entering the stage. But I guess Horatio Alger beats everybody, right?

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RE: OT: Who was the Greatest "Early American"... - 10/11/2012 8:16:25 PM   
KMCCARTHY

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Bullwinkle58


quote:

ORIGINAL: Canoerebel

PoultryLad:

Remember League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Fun movie with a great plot. The "league" of exceptional men (and women) in that movie included Tom Sawyer, Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man, Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll, and a few others. So Twain certainly has a "voice" that still resonates in contemporary culture.

One time in college I was sick in bed in my dorm for a day or two. I felt really bad and passed some time reading Huckleberry Finn. At one point, when Jim is dressed up as a witch doctor or something, and the King and the Duke suddenly encounter him when lightning flashes, well...I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes. Laughter, indeed, is the best medicine.

Twain is a natiional treasure.


You should read "The Fabulous Riverboat" novels by Phillip Jose Farmer. Also called the Riverworld series. Google it if you've never heard of them.


Loved them as a teen. Disapointed by the miniseries. Such is life.

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Post #: 38
RE: OT: Who was the Greatest "Early American"... - 10/11/2012 8:32:51 PM   
Bullwinkle58


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quote:

ORIGINAL: KMCCARTHY


quote:

ORIGINAL: Bullwinkle58


quote:

ORIGINAL: Canoerebel

PoultryLad:

Remember League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Fun movie with a great plot. The "league" of exceptional men (and women) in that movie included Tom Sawyer, Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man, Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll, and a few others. So Twain certainly has a "voice" that still resonates in contemporary culture.

One time in college I was sick in bed in my dorm for a day or two. I felt really bad and passed some time reading Huckleberry Finn. At one point, when Jim is dressed up as a witch doctor or something, and the King and the Duke suddenly encounter him when lightning flashes, well...I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes. Laughter, indeed, is the best medicine.

Twain is a natiional treasure.


You should read "The Fabulous Riverboat" novels by Phillip Jose Farmer. Also called the Riverworld series. Google it if you've never heard of them.


Loved them as a teen. Disapointed by the miniseries. Such is life.


It would cost a lot to film them correctly.


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RE: OT: Who was the Greatest "Early American"... - 10/11/2012 8:51:15 PM   
Canoerebel


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Early in this thread (which seems to have generated mostly angst rather than light-hearted commentary), Moose and I briefly exchanged some thoughts about an admittedly arbitrary dividing line between modern and "old" American literature. I was the one that created the arbitrary distinction, noting that, to my way of thinking, there seemed to be a big change in the way literature was done sometime around the 1920s or so, yeilding more in the way of social commentary reflecting the author's "angst." Moose, who is a learned quadruped, chimed in and noted that some of the "old stuff" also had expressions of social commentary and author's angst.

I thought about this alot over the next few days, because I listen to the Moose. Ultimately, though, I think the angst of the '20s (and sometimes a decade or two earlier) was much different than that which took place before.

Beginning in the '20s (or thereabouts), authors began using exaggeration that bordered on the ridiculous and sometimes even cruel to present their social commentary. There were books like Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road, which radically misrepresented southern share croppers, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, which did much the same, Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood, which does the same to religion, and, as Chickenboy pointed out above, Upton Sinclairs The Jungle, which painted a rather distorted picture of the meat-packing industry.

Of course, many modern American authors weren't into social commentary, but nevertheless, the era did produce a profound movement in that regard. Many preeminent authors wrote some of the era's most famous books in this way. The phenomenon even gained a name - the American proletarian movement. Here is a description of the movement from
https://sites.google.com/site/laborlit2010/home/proletarian-literature

"Proletarian literature was a literary movement that emerged in the early 1930s to become a central current in American culture. Affiliated, sometimes directly and often more indirectly, with the Communist Party U.S.A., proletarian literature represented a sharp politicizing of American literature. The movement radicalized established writers and promoted the work of a newer generation of writers, many drawn from the American working-class....Though proletarian literature lost its avant garde status and energies after 1935, its forms and themes lived on well past the 1930s - - for instance, in the kind of social democratic realism of writers like John Steinbeck, Meyer Levin, and Irwin Shaw, and in "low" literary genres like hard-boiled and urban noir."

Prior to that era, as Moose points out, some writers did write with an "angst." You might think of Crane's feelings about war, Twain's sympathetic portrayal of Jim the slave, and the adulteress in Hawthorn's The Scarlet Letter. An important difference is that these authors did not exaggerate in order to make a point. They simply asked readers to step into the shoes of a soldier, a slave, an adulteress, to see what they experienced in reality.

Moose made me think, so it was interesting to delve further into this to do the research to see if my thoughts that there was a big change in literature in the early 20th century was accurate.

(in reply to KMCCARTHY)
Post #: 40
RE: OT: Who was the Greatest "Early American"... - 10/11/2012 9:10:43 PM   
Bullwinkle58


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Canoerebel

Early in this thread (which seems to have generated mostly angst rather than light-hearted commentary), Moose and I briefly exchanged some thoughts about an admittedly arbitrary dividing line between modern and "old" American literature. I was the one that created the arbitrary distinction, noting that, to my way of thinking, there seemed to be a big change in the way literature was done sometime around the 1920s or so, yeilding more in the way of social commentary reflecting the author's "angst." Moose, who is a learned quadruped, chimed in and noted that some of the "old stuff" also had expressions of social commentary and author's angst.

I thought about this alot over the next few days, because I listen to the Moose. Ultimately, though, I think the angst of the '20s (and sometimes a decade or two earlier) was much different than that which took place before.

Beginning in the '20s (or thereabouts), authors began using exaggeration that bordered on the ridiculous and sometimes even cruel to present their social commentary. There were books like Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road, which radically misrepresented southern share croppers, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, which did much the same, Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood, which does the same to religion, and, as Chickenboy pointed out above, Upton Sinclairs The Jungle, which painted a rather distorted picture of the meat-packing industry.

Of course, many modern American authors weren't into social commentary, but nevertheless, the era did produce a profound movement in that regard. Many preeminent authors wrote some of the era's most famous books in this way. The phenomenon even gained a name - the American proletarian movement. Here is a description of the movement from
https://sites.google.com/site/laborlit2010/home/proletarian-literature

"Proletarian literature was a literary movement that emerged in the early 1930s to become a central current in American culture. Affiliated, sometimes directly and often more indirectly, with the Communist Party U.S.A., proletarian literature represented a sharp politicizing of American literature. The movement radicalized established writers and promoted the work of a newer generation of writers, many drawn from the American working-class....Though proletarian literature lost its avant garde status and energies after 1935, its forms and themes lived on well past the 1930s - - for instance, in the kind of social democratic realism of writers like John Steinbeck, Meyer Levin, and Irwin Shaw, and in "low" literary genres like hard-boiled and urban noir."

Prior to that era, as Moose points out, some writers did write with an "angst." You might think of Crane's feelings about war, Twain's sympathetic portrayal of Jim the slave, and the adulteress in Hawthorn's The Scarlet Letter. An important difference is that these authors did not exaggerate in order to make a point. They simply asked readers to step into the shoes of a soldier, a slave, an adulteress, to see what they experienced in reality.

Moose made me think, so it was interesting to delve further into this to do the research to see if my thoughts that there was a big change in literature in the early 20th century was accurate.


Certainly WWI and the Bolshevik Revolution caused artists in many fileds and many nations to look at the way the world was going. But I think you underserve the novel specifically if you say that novels before the 1920s did not exagerate in order to poke fun at governments, social mores, and religion. I would serve up "Candide", "Gulliver's Travels", "Moby Dick" (there are lots of Christian and anti-Christian allegories), "Prince and the Pauper", and "Don Quixote."

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RE: OT: Who was the Greatest "Early American"... - 10/11/2012 10:12:08 PM   
Canoerebel


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There are plenty of exceptions and gray areas, but overall the point is a valid one and isn't doing disservice to say so. Literature of the 1920s and afterwards is markedly different than what came before.

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Post #: 42
RE: OT: Who was the Greatest "Early American"... - 10/12/2012 12:28:30 AM   
JeffK


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Bullwinkle58


quote:

ORIGINAL: JeffK

As probaly the earliest American writers were Spanish in the 16th century and even Captain ??Smith?? from the Mayflower the choice of Great Early American writers spans 3-4 centuries.


Captain John Smith headed up the Jamestown expedition in 1607 which started the first permanent English colony in the New World, in Virginia. These "gentleman adventurers" were in search of gold and silver, and over half of them died forthwith. The Mayflower was 1620, in Massachusetts, by stiff-necked Puritans looking for a spot where they could tell each other how to live after they'd been invited to leave by two other nations.

In popular lore the Pilgrims up north invented Thanksgiving. In reality the first Thanksgiving was in Virginia several years earlier. The Pilgrims had better PR, but they didn't do much of anything first.


Long time since i delved into this area, I at least got his name right.
I believe he wrote a lot (but in the pamphlet style of the time) about his findings/adventures.
PS I have very distant ancestors who arrived not long after the Mayflower, explains why America has gone to pack over the last 400 years.

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RE: OT: Who was the Greatest "Early American"... - 10/12/2012 11:49:51 AM   
Hiltibrant

 

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Sure it is hard to compare literature written post-1918 to literature written before that - many authors of those days sought to distance themselves from what they saw as the "decadent" fiction of the romantics and to some degree even the realists (such as London). They sought to write works that seemed less artificial and more human and certainly more 'gritty', for the most part. Or some other who simply sought to experiment with different approaches to literature, such as Hemingway's minimalistic approach to fiction.

When including the period up until WWII in the discussion, I think that the American modernists are the writers that have really put their mark on world literature during that time - much more so than Melville and the other "old" American writers. There is hardly any author which to my mind can compare with Steinbeck, Faulkner and Hemingway. I just didn't mention them

< Message edited by Hiltibrant -- 10/12/2012 11:50:32 AM >

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