Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Literature in Times of Uncertainty

It will be interesting to see who emerges as literary giants in the next several years. The reason I say that is because if we look at the periods right after several of our nations most uncertain times we've actually be given some of our most notable literary figures.

For example from the following link:


In the post-Civil War period (1865–1900) The disillusionment of this period found expression in the realistic or psychological novel. Ambrose Bierce and Stephen Crane wrote realistic war stories; Mark Twain and Bret Harte dealt with Western life; the growth of industrialism led to novels of social realism, notably the works of William Howells and Frank Norris; and Henry James and his disciple Edith Wharton developed the novel of psychological analysis among the well-to-do. The dominant poets were Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. The short story flourished, its leading practitioners being Hawthorne, Poe, James, Harte, and O Henry.

and for the novel:

The main trends have been realism, as exemplified in the work of Jack London, Upton Sinclair, and Theodore Dreiser, and modernist experimentation. After World War I, Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, F Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Henry Miller, and Richard Wright established the main literary directions. Among the internationally known novelists since World War II have been John O'Hara, James Michener, Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, J D Salinger, Saul Bellow, John Updike, Norman Mailer, Vladimir Nabokov, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, Ralph Ellison, Thomas Pynchon, and James Baldwin.

I guess what I'm saying is there is nothing better for producing some of our most valuable literature than the study of human suffering and angst. Go figure!


Morgan Mandel said...

I believe comedy movies face the same problem. They don't get much respect either.

Morgan Mandel

Anonymous said...

Terri as a teacher of English Lit., and an avid rader myself of all lit., I agree that angst and human suffering fuels much great lit., see for example the Russian writers! Talk about depth of misery. African novelists writing in English about the rape of their country. American Indians writng poetry about the same. I always hold up Ahab and the Whale as an example -- here we have obsession fueld by horrible passions of hatred and revenge against a "natural" force -- the White Whale. Literature is about life and death and how we choose to live our lives, and we readers can step into the shoes of an obsessed madman and or somoene directly affected by him--Ismael--and live the suffering and torment in a controlled environment, between the pages of a book. Search your memory for every memorable story and it involves human suffering and human condition and how we fight it or give into it. Literature is us and we are literature.