Letteratura angloamericana, appunti in inglese
Joel Chandler Harris (1848 – 1908) - Tales of Uncle Remus (1880)
Tales of Uncle Remus is a collection of stories from the African-American folklore. During his youth Harris
worked in a plantation and he talked to the slaves, adsorbing their language and inflection. The animal
tales they shared later began the foundation for his Uncle Remus tales. The most famous story is that of
Brer Rabbit and the Tar-baby. The story is also the most typical as it includes the theme of sentient
animal characters who act like human beings. It is also a trickster tale, a tale where one of the main
character tries to fool another character. This theme is found in many others Uncle Remus tales. Note
that the tricks are not very innocent as their consequences can be rather violent and horrific. The other
two major kinds of stories in these collections are the myth and the supernatural tale. The myth seeks to
explain the origin of something; it is sometimes called an etiological tale. There are twenty-three of
these. Four tales representative of the myth are “Why the Negro Is Black,” from Uncle Remus: His Songs
and His Sayings. Another major theme is the myth, which can be found in the story “Why the Negro is
Black”; the myth seeks to explain the origin of something, and this kind of story can be called an
etiological story (etiology is the study of causes or origins). The importance of these tales mostly comes
from two reasons. The first reason is that the Uncle Remus tales represent the first time anyone
attempted to record African-American folktales in their true form, that is to say in the right language and
style in which they were told. Secondly, these tales provide an insight in the psyche of blacks in the
South. Harris purposefully kept the trickster rabbit as the main character in most story, because the
rabbit is a prey, completely defenceless against most predators, and it can symbolize the situation of the
black slaves in comparison to the whites, especially the slave-owners. It gives a sense of satisfaction to
see the poor rabbit triumphing against the predators, who sought every opportunity to exploit him.
In “The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story” we are shown how clever the Brer rabbit actually is and how easily he
manages to outsmart his enemies, in this case the Fox. The rabbit was initially in trouble and about to be
killed but with the help of reverse psychology he succeeds in escaping unscathed, fooling the fox once
“Why the Negro is Black” is different from most of the other stories, it does not in fact deal with the
adventures of Brer Rabbit but rather tells Uncle Remus's version of the evolution of races. The old man
explains to the little boy that at the very beginning every person was actually black, however by dipping
their body into a pool of magic water, some people became white. He explains the existence of other
races with similar arguments, saying for example that the Chinese dipped to hair in order to straighten
them. The story has been deemed problematic by the modern critics, on the one hand it could be
interpreted as Harris' attempt to depict a positive past society where racial equality was the norm, on the
other hand it could be seen as the author perpetuating the stereotype of the ignorant black man/slave,
completely oblivious to the reality around him.
Criticism: After publishing the book, Harris claimed to be sure that his representation of Negro
• speech was phonetically accurate and that he wanted to convey the character of the old black
man with his charming personality and sensitivity. However, Harris has been criticised for
appropriating black culture and carrying on stereotypes regarding black people. Overall many
black writers and activists believe it's problematic to consider a white man's work as a
fundamental piece of African-American literature.
The Chicago Literary Renaissance
The term Chicago Renaissance applies to the second wave of Chicago writing (between 1910 and the
mid-20s) Major figures includes novelist Sherwood Anderson, poets Carl Sandburg, Edgar Lee Masters
and Vachel Lindsay. Critics have regarded several works produced by the Chicago writers as
representative masterpieces; for example Master's Spoon River Anthology, Anderson's Winesburg Ohio
and Sandburg's Chicago poems. The Chicago writers were democrats and populists, they believed in the
power of common people and liked to speak of them in their works. The poets also usually avoid rhyme.
Some were modernists, like Masters, Sandburg and Lindsay, since they were unconventional in form but
they were generally more optimistic and populist than the rest of the modernists.
Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950) - Spoon River Anthology (1915)
Spoon River Anthology is a collection of 243 free verse epitaphs, in which the dead citizens of a fictional
town named Spoon River talk about their lives, their loves and affairs, their experiences, their conflicts or
even their crimes. Many of the stories are intertwined, so that the reader can experience a panoramic
view of human existence. The characters of each epitaph has the freedom to speak honestly about
whatever the want because they are dead and they don't have to keep a facade anymore. These people
have nothing to lose, so they can confess their most obscure secrets, betrayals and crimes. Many of the
stories which Masters tells are not happy stories at all. Masters, who was a journalist, brings this aspect
of his life in his writing and he recounts sensational events like accidents, violence or war. All Spoon
River's citizens have strong desires, like Harry Wilmans' naïve patriotic desire to go to Manila to fight for
his country, and they are often destroyed by these desires. In the poem “Many soldiers” Masters talks
about how young soldiers are often blinded by the propaganda and the idea of glory, but have to face a
much harsher reality when they end up in a battle.
Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931) - General William Booth Enters into Heaven
“General William Booth Enters into Heaven” is a short, rhymed elegy. It is divided into two
sections, respectively containing two stanzas and five stanzas.
The poem uses repetition and onomatopoeia. Lindsay was inspired by the Salvation Army when
he wrote this poem, and he wanted to give it a dramatic setting, hence the title. This poem is
written to the tune of the traditional Christian hymn “The blood of the Lamb”. The poem is a
mixture of history and myth. The subject of the poem is the ascent into heaven of this well-
respected historical figure, General Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army. The great virtues
of this man allowed his ascension and also elevated all the street people to whom he dedicated
his life to helping, in fact, they accompany him to heaven. The poem ends with Booth meeting
Jesus Christ face to face. Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)
• “Nocturne in a deserted brickyard”: This poem is a dream scene. Sandburg stresses the
possibility of finding great beauty in a otherwise squalid scenery. The main subjects of the
poem are the moonlight and the fluxions. The author is looking at the reflected image of the
moon in the water. Fluxions is actually a mathematical concept and in this case it refers to
the movements of the moonlight “yellow and dusk” reflected on the water.
• : It appears to be a rather simple poem about a famous man eating soup. It can be read
a criticism of social differences. In fact, Sandburg may be referring to the fact that
sometimes we give to much importance to celebrities to the point where we forget that they
live their life like the rest of us, which is way Sandburg depicts this man doing something as
natural as eating.
• : Chicago is Sandburg's best-known poem, with which the author won a prize in
1914, after the poem appeared in Poetry. With this work Sandburg celebrates the power of
the city in this new industrial age. The poet blends conventional beauty with unpoetic but
realistic images of the physical structures of the big city. Chicago portrays the life in the
great city, with its harsh and quick rhythms and language. The poet begins his poem using
adjectives and names to describe the true essence of the city, for example “Stormy, husky,
Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941) – Poor White (1920)
The main character is Hugh McVey, born in 1866 in a small town in Missouri with no mother and a
drunken father. He has no formal education or manners and is quite lazy. After the railroad comes to
town, he gets a job as a factotum at the station. He receives little pay but gets to live with the Shepard
family. They treat him as their own child and soon Sarah Shepard begins to educate Hugh and, as she
comes from New England, she tells him about the East and the large industrial cities. Presented with his
new life, Hugh begins to feel a revulsion toward the poor white farmers families and he dreams of big
cities in the East. When the Shepards leave town, nineteen years old Hugh works for a year as a station
agent. Eventually after his father's death, Hugh starts to travel east but he cannot form any form of
contact with other people, he feels lonely, almost like there's a wall between him and the rest of the
world. At nineteen years old, Hugh settles down in Ohio. He gets a job and rumours about how he is
inventing a new device begin to spread. There Hugh also becomes fascinated with the work of the
farmers and an idea about a crop-setting machine begins to grow in his mind. Steve Hunter, who dreams
about being a manufacturer manages to persuade the townspeople to invest in a new company that
would build a factory and promote Hugh's invention. The two men starts working together.
The first machine is constructed but fails to work, so Hugh invents another. The industrialization officially
begins in the town of Bidwell.
However independent craftsmen like Joe Wainsworth are being damaged by the new machines, because
people don't buy their products anymore. Joe submits to his harsh employee, Jim Gibson. Meanwhile the
wealthy Clara Butterworth comes back to town after three years of college. She is lonely and unhappy
and can't help noticing how much the town has changed. Short after their first meeting, Hugh asks Clara
to marry him, they elope but for several nights he doesn't approach her, as he is very aware of the
difference in their social backgrounds. For four years they live in a strained relationship.
When they come back to town they learn that Joe Wainsworth, fed up with the new era of
industrialization, has killed his employee and shot Steve Hunter. Joe tries to choke Hugh but is stopped
by Clara and this will bring them closer. After the attack, Hugh abandons his career as an inventor and
stops caring about that world altogether. The book ends with Clara telling Hugh that she's pregnant and
Hugh reflecting on the fact that life will go on in spite of factories and machines.
Character-list: Hugh McVey, Sarah Shepard, Henry Shepard, Clara Butterworth, Tom Butterworth,
• Steve Hunter, Joe Wainsworth, Jim Gibson.
Notes: Hugh McVey is “poor white trash”, he belongs to an impoverished class of farmers that
• have been unable to rise above poverty, are thought of as ignorant, dirty and lazy. Hugh’s father
is like that, a drunkard. ~ In Anderson one notes the influence of Sigmund Freud: men and
women lead complicated emotional lives because of their sexual maladjustments. Individuals
remain children and have great trouble communicating. Anderson’s vision, however, is rather
optimistic. With his storytelling, he tries to find a solution for their struggles. Anderson's
characters are complex and the deal with real emotions and problems, they're realistic and alive.
Book III is a great portrayal of the coming of age of a young woman, Anderson deals with Clara
sexual awakening and her decision to be more conscious.
Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888- 1965)
The waste Land (1922)
The waste Land is T.S. Eliot's masterpiece, it's a long, complex poem about the psychological and cultural
crisis caused by the loss of moral and cultural identity after WWI. From the point of view of the form,
this poem is considered extremely experimental, Eliot gets rid of traditional schemes and instead uses the
juxtaposition of images from modern or classical literature and culture. The title indicates Eliot's idea of
contemporary society, the dry and sterile wasteland is a metaphor for post-war Europe, devastated and
desperately searching a spiritual rebirth and restoration. The poem is deliberately obscure and
fragmentary both in its form and in its narrative, however the themes of moral degeneration,
meaningless relationships, disillusionment and restoration are prevalent throughout the poem. In fact,
Eliot deals with Europe's loss of its past culture and its obsession with novelty and modernity; he
describes shallow, vain characters, both men and women, who have meaningless and dull relationships
with each other. Eliot expresses disillusionment through episodes of joyless sex, the most famous
example might be the scene between the typist and the clerk: the man only seeks to satisfy his lust and
afterwards the woman is hardly aware he left, she is completely indifferent and all her actions are
automatic, emotionless. The only optimistic note in the poem is given by the theme of Restoration, the
opposite of disillusionment. Eliot subtly includes the concept that if modern society can overcome its
dullness, there will finally be a moral rebirth. (In the I section, “the hyacinth girl”, Hyacinths are often
associated with the idea of resurrection).
The poem is divided into five sections and it's narrated by several different points of view, many of the
stories are contemporary but others are drawn from ancient -world- culture.
In the first section “The Burial of the Dead” the narrator is an old Austro-Hungarian noblewoman who
recalls her life before the war.
1. Characters: The Archduke's cousin -Marie-, the Hyacinth girl -with an irretrievable past, Madam
Sosostris the fortune-teller, Stetson- he fought in a war with the narrator, we don't know which
• The Dry Salvages (Four Quartets) (1941)
The Dry Salvages is the third section of the poem and contains two memories of Eliot's youth: the rhythm
of the Mississippi River and the sounds of the Atlantic Ocean near his summerhouse. The river and the
sea are described as “gods”, which have been ignored by modern people. The author writes about New
England fishermen, who are constantly fighting these elements; he also compares the fishermen to his
readers, who are on a voyage with an unknown end and they change during every moment. What's
around the individual is unstable and flowing, just like water and the sea. Because of this, memory
remains the only reality for these people. Opposite to the sea, the rock symbolizes a relative stability.
+1 anno fa
Contiene appunti scritti in lingua inglese per:
-Melvyn Bragg, Robert Frost, Death of a Salesman-Arthur Miller, The adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Gertrude Stein, E. A. Robinson, Ernest Hemingway, The Conversion of the Jews-Philip Roth, Joel Chandler Harris, Edgar Lee Masters, Carl Sandburg, Sherwood Anderson e altri.
Gli appunti sono molto dettagliati e scritti in inglese corretto, mi hanno permesso di passare l'esame con 30.
I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Giorgia.la di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Letteratura angloamericana e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Genova - Unige o del prof Bacigalupo Massimo.
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