Letteratura angloamericana, appunti in inglese
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
• Civil War: Walt Whitman experienced the American Civil war upfront, as he volunteered in
a military hospital during the conflict. This experience greatly inspired him in writing his
poetry. After the war Whitman published a collection of poems titled Drum Taps, which was
then used as an appendix to the later edition of Leaves of Grass. Whitman admitted that
being around so many wounded soldiers and hearing their stories was beneficial to him in
the sense that it restored his faith in humanity. In fact many of the principles of his poetry,
such as the nobility of common people or the democratic ideals of America, Whitman first
saw reflected in the soldiers that had a life and a job before the war. The Civil War and
Lincoln figure greatly inspired Whitman that dedicated two poems to the president: “
Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” O Captain! My Captain!”
“ (Drum Taps).
• Transcendentalism: Walt Whitman can be considered a transcendentalist, although he was
a late bloomer. "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" is certainly a transcendentalist
poem because of the way Whitman uses nature as a symbol. Furthermore Whitman had great
respect for transcendentalist poet Emerson, with whom he exchanged a couple of letters.
Whitman sent Emerson a copy of Leaves of Grass as a gift and the poet replied with a letter
in which he praised Emerson for the book. However, Emerson influence (optimism) is easier
to be found in Whitman early poems.
Leaves of Grass:
• It's a poetry collection that Whitman first published in 1855 then
proceeded to revise for the rest of his life. The last edition counted over 400 poems. The
poems are just loosely connected, however each represents Whitman positive attitude
regarding humanity and life. Leaves of Grass was also controversial for its unsubtle
descriptions of sensual pleasures. Influenced by Emerson and Transcendentalism, the poetry
often praises nature and the human's role or connection with it. Whitman also elevates the
human mind, deeming it worthy of poetic praise. Most of the poems in Leaves of Grass do
not follow conventional rules for meter and line length, nor do they rhyme. The title Leaves
of Grass was a pun. "Grass" was a term given by publishers to works of minor value, and
"leaves" is another name for the pages on which they were printed.
Sexual, sensual images: Children of Adam “amativeness”, male-female love; Calamus
“adhesiveness” male-male relationship.
(1865) Drum Taps
• : In the Drum Taps the prelude is an ode to New York, the poet
home("First O Songs"). The city is praised for sending its men to war when it was needed,
not only professional soldiers but ordinary men as well (Manhattan=lady of ships). The tone
in Drum Taps changes throughout the different poems. At the beginning it's celebratory but
then, as Whitman provides the reader with scenes of war, the tone becomes more somber.
-Themes: War is all-encompassing and spares no one and nothing. All the American
institutions e citizen are somehow involved in the conflict to ensure the promise of
democracy. (Beat! Beat! Drums!=call to arms). Some poems in Drum Taps are used in a
narrative mode to help reader move through the different times of war. At the end of the
collection we are also towards the end of the war and the tone has gotten darker and more
reflective. It's Whitman way of paying tribute to all the victims and the injured that helped
the rebirth of democracy.
• By the Bivouac's Fitful Flame: one long sentence, no period until the end. Description of a
night scene in the camp, reality (the world) and the mind and consciousness mix together,
there is no clear line.
• Song of the Banner at Daybreak: it’s a beck and call between a poet, a father and a child.
(pennant= gagliardetto; banner= bandiera/striscione.)
• The Centenarian’s Story: a survivor of the war of independence remembers a great battle
in Brooklyn, where the American troops were defeated but not annihilated as the British
army believed, since General Washington had been able to retreat to Manhattan.
• Come Up from the Field Father: presents an Ohio family scene at the time of a terrible
event, the news that the only son Pete had been severely wounded -and would then die-.
In this poem Whitman is more sentimental and speaks of the (human) cost of war. Repetition
of “Dear son”
• The Wound-Dresser: it’s a four part poem where Whitman imagines young people asking a
hospital attendant about the war when it was already finished. The attendant would answer
by remembering his compassionate care of the wounded. The end speaks of embraces and
goodbye-kisses which are part of Whitman’s memories, as he himself provided mental help
to the injured in D.C.
• Give Me the Splendid Silent Son: in the first part W describes natural pleasures and in the
second part the attractions of Manhattan, including the presence of soldiers.
• When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d: Written in 1865 and added later to the
collection, after Lincoln’s assassination. It’s a pastoral elegy for Lincoln: a poem of
mourning that uses conventions drawn from the natural world and rustic human society.
The poem also makes reference to the problems of modern times in regard to the Civil War.
The poem is divided into three parts, in the first we follow Lincoln’s coffin on its way to the
burial, in the second we stay with the poet and the lilacs he wants to lay on the coffin in
tribute. In the third part there are the symbols of a bird and a star to develop the idea of a
sympathetic nature that does keep its distance from humanity. The losses of the common
people in the war are enveloped in a greater national tragedy. The poet also wonders how to
best honor the dead and decides he would fill the tomb with portraits of everyday life and
men. The language of the poem also shifts, in the beginning it’s formal and ceremonious and
by the end it’s far simpler.
• Reconciliation: The main theme is the title itself. Here there is a final reflection about war.
Walt Whitman, Specimen Days
• (1882): The work is similar to a loosely kept diary, it
is a series of the poet's observations and thoughts about his own youth, the war years spent
in Washington and finally the last period of his life spent in Camden, New Jersey.
Considering Whitman's close experience in the war, the book can be considered a worthy
and accurate historical account of at least one angle of the war years, including even some
portraits of important political and literary figures of the time. However, the most striking
feature of the book is the portrait of Whitman himself. Specimen days may not include all
the events in the poet life but it does paint a pretty vivid and accurate picture of his
background and beliefs. The organization of the work is chronological but there is a lack of
thematic continuity. Generally, the essay is divided into three parts: the beginning that
describes the early years, the middle part that deals with his life in Washington during the
war and the end, where Whitman, affected by a paralysis, contemplates nature.
World War I (Jul 28, 1914 – Nov 11, 1918)
E. E. Cummings (1894 -1962)
During WWI he enlisted in the Ambulance Corps in Europe. In his work (like Hem and Pound) he
criticized American provincialism and backwardness. He also expressed anti-war views in a few
letters and claimed he didn’t hate the German. In his poem “The Cambridge ladies that live in
furnished souls” he makes fun of Cambridge conventions and ways. He also wrote two love
sonnets: “my girl’s tall with hard long eyes” and “when my love comes to see me” (Appeared in
Tulips & Chimneys, 1922), in the latter its traditional rhyming pattern is disguised. Cummings has a
rather romantic view of human relations. He also has a puritanical background (reference to death
associated with love). F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
(Tales of the Jazz Age), : The title is a reference for the 1 May 1919, where riots
between demobilized soldiers and socialist speakers took place). The main plot involves a Yale
group reunited by a fraternity dance. At the top there is the richest and most privileged Philip Dean,
while at the bottom there’s Gordon Sterret, once wealthy and now in need. Another character is
Edith Bradin, who formerly had a relationship with Sterret. She idealizes her memory of Sterret and
declares herself ready to get married but when she sees him in his unkempt state she is appalled.
Edith leaves the party to visit her brother, Harry, at the newspaper office. He and his colleague
Bartholomew explain about the riots and then the soldiers storm the offices, accusing the journalists
of being traitors. In the meantime Dean and Himmel perform a series of drunken and chaotic acts,
demonstrating their spoiled behavior. The story ends with Sterret realizing he can’t leave Jewel
Hudson and is forced to stay with her for the rest of his life. He buys a revolver and shoots himself,
leaning over his drawing materials.
Analysis: The riots were of political nature: there was a dispute over the use of the Socialist flag by
some protesters. The climate was that of fear of Communist infiltration. In May Day the three
stories are linked with each other (Soldiers Key and Rose; newspaper office, Sterret).
In the story we have a mock-epic opening tone which is then contradicted by the moral squalor and
lowness of the characters. The frivolousness of the story is confronted with tragic consequences: the
death of two characters in a meaningless way.
(In F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1920 short story "May Day", a main character, Edith, continually asserts that she is
staying at the Biltmore. Fitzgerald seems to deliberately associate the Biltmore with Jazz Age luxury and
(Child’s restaurant where dine a crowd of wealthy revelers from the Gamma Psi dance. There would be a very
different clientele in this establishment four hours later. Rose mourns the death of Key.
Sterrett and Dean meet up in the restaurant. Sterrett is with Jewel and Dean goes over to remonstrate with him.
Jewel leads Sterrett away. Himmel and Dean threaten a waiter and Himmel throws food until he is ejected from
(Dean and Himmel, set off on a spree of “breakfast and liquor.” The steal the cloakroom door signs from
Delmonico’s and put them over their shirts.)
Henry James (1843-1916)
Interview on Ambulance Corps : In 1914 Henry James writes a letter to the editor of an
American Journal. The letter talks about the work of the American Volunteer Motor-Ambulance
corps in France and how it started.
Henry writes that the project started thanks to Mr Richard Norton, who had spent time at the
American Hospital at Neuilly, where he had witnessed many soldiers died because of the delay of
their removal from the battlefield. When he came back to London in just a few weeks he had been
joined by many other people who offered their cars as ambulances and their service as chauffeurs.
Other cars were then purchased thanks to funds received from many donors in America.
The corp collaborated with the British Red Cross and Colonel Barry of the British Army.
The primary function of the Corps is that of gathering the wounded from the more dangerous and
unforgiving battlefield or inadequate field hospitals and conveying them to better-equipped base
hospitals or other centers. The group tries to avoid death caused by neglected wounds, exposure and
delay. Sometimes the cars are also used to carry fleeing women and children or elderly men to
safety. The final useful trait is that of being able to trace the whereabouts and recover the identity of
the dead. At the end James calls for more donation to keep the Corps alive.
• : a novel first published in 1879. In a Swiss hotel, a young American named
Winterbourne meets the rich and pretty Daisy Miller, an American girl completely different
from her more refined European peers. The man is charmed by her and decides to court her,
despite the disapproval of his family. The following winter, Winterbourne goes to Rome to
meet with Daisy again, but he is distressed by the rumors of Daisy’s conduct in the city. It
seems she has an Italian suitor of uncertain background and their relationship scandalizes
the American community in Rome. Daisy is warned about her falling reputation but she
doesn’t seem to care, furthermore Winterbourne is tormented by his love for her and her
unclear relationship with Mr. Giovanelli. One night he stops by the Colosseo to admire it
and there he sees Daisy and Mr. Giovanelli. He is so upset that he decides not to bother with
her anymore, but he’s still concerned about her health as the malaria could be found in the
Soon after Daisy becomes ill and dies, she leaves a message for Winterbourne where she
admits she did care about his opinion. A year later he thinks of Daisy and tells his aunt he
has made a big mistake. At the end he goes back to Geneva to his former life.
Daisy is character with many different traits: she’s independent, well-meaning but also shallow and
ignorant. She doesn’t conform to the American moral standards and tries to manipulate men to
become the center of attention. In the novel it’s not really revealed if Daisy is a positive character or
not, especially as the novel is from Winterbourne’s point of view.
The theme of innocence is repeated throughout the text and it means different things: ignorant,
naive, or innocent of crime.
Climax of the story: Coliseum scene. Speaking names, Daisy: Spring, Giovanelli: Youth.
Review of Drum-Taps (1865): Henry James reads Drum-Taps and dislikes the book so much
that he writes an unforgiving negative review. He denounces Whitman eccentric, calls him
conceited and concentrated on himself rather then on the Nation. He claims Whitman cannot call
himself a national poet if he’s not possessed by the idea of his country’s greatness. He also berates
him for not taking the taste of public into account. James believes it’s not enough to have seen and
taken part in war could be enough to make one a poet, otherwise there would have been a nation of
In the future, James will regret this review, calling it a mistake and will speak favorably of
Whitman. Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
(1929)A Farewell to Arms : Ernest Hemingway was born in 1899. During WWI he served as
an ambulance driver in Italy. During the conflict two facts occurred that would later influence his
writing: after a battlefield accident, he was sent to a hospital in Milan, where he feel in love with a
nurse. A Farewell to Arms is Hemingway’s most accomplished novel. It offers powerful
descriptions of life during and after the war and greatly analyzes the characters’ psychology.
Plot: The young American ambulance driver Frederic Henry serves in Italy during the war, there he
meets Catherine Barkley, an English nurse and the love interest of his friend Rinaldi. Catherine is
grieving the recent death of her fiancé and she is willing to settle even for the illusion of love, which
she founds in Henry, who is awakened from the numb state the war left him in.
Henry is then wounded but he refuses to wait over 6 months for recovery and then an operation, so
he seeks help from the surgeon Dr. Valentini that accepts to operate him immediately. He learns that
Catherine has also been transferred to Milan so he begins his recuperation under her care.
In the following months their love deepens and becomes real, intense and genuine. After Henry’s
leg heals, he is granted 3 weeks of convalescence leave but when he tries to plan a trip with
Catherine, he learns she’s pregnant. At the same time he is diagnosed with jaundice and accused by
Miss Van Campen, the superintendent of the hospital, of contracting the illness through excessive
drinking. His leave is therefore revoked and he is sent to the front as soon as he’s healthy. Catherine
and Henry swear mutual love and devotion as they part. At the front, Italian forces are losing
ground and there’s a bombardment. Henry leads his team to pick up people in need of evacuation,
they then decide to take secondary roads but one of the trucks gets stuck in the mud. When the
engineers refuse to help, one of them gets shot. They decide to continue on foot but they are
mistaken for enemies by the rear guard of the Italian army and have to seek refuge at a farmhouse.
The following day chaos has broken out, soldiers are protesting the defeat and they execute officers
on sight. Henry is taken by the battle police but he manages to flee in a river. When he deems
himself safe, he boards a train for Milan, thinking he is now free of his obligation towards the war.
He reunites with Catherine in Stresa and the two escape to Switzerland. They settle in Montreux
and live a happy, peaceful life, although Henry sometimes feels guilty for abandoning his comrades.
One day Catherine goes into labor but after many complicated hours she delivers a stillborn baby
and, later during the night, dies of a hemorrhage. Henry stays at her side until the end but he does
not manage to say goodbye.
Lieutenant Frederic Henry: he’s the novel narrator and protagonist. He is quite stoic in the face of
war. He’s courageous in battle but he doesn’t believe in the abstractness of glory and
He was emotionally blank until he met Catherine and felt real passion again.
Catherine Barkley: she’s incredibly beautiful with gorgeously-described hair. She plays a game of
seduction with Henry to get over her dead fiancé but soon she falls in love with him.
In modern days, feminist groups have expressed their dissatisfaction with Hemingway’s depictions
of women. They believe the writer gives women stereotypical features that makes them fall under
two categories: overly dominant or overly submissive. Catherine goes from working in a hospital to
being contented with becoming a mother and leading a life centered around maintaining a home.
However, especially at the beginning, Catherine appears to be very smart and the one in control of
the game between her and Henry.
Themes: the war, how Henry removes himself from it, the description of violence and chaos which
justify more violence (the shooting of the engineer). A Farewell to Arms does not condemn the war,
Hemingway considers it an inevitable by-product of a dark, murderous world.
Contrast between love and pain: Catherine and Henry begin their relationship to distance
themselves from pain (ex-lover and the difficulty of war). They find temporary solace and calm in
each other. Later Henry’s feelings for Catherine will outweigh any consideration for the ideals of
8 mesi fa
Appunti per letteratura angloamericana scritti in inglese corretto.
Temi trattati: Risorgimento (M. Fuller)
-Civil War (W. Faulkner, W, Whitman)
-World War I (E. E. Cummings, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, Ernest Hemingway)
-World War II (T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, J.D. Salinger, Gertrude Stein)
-The Vietnam War (Tim O’Brien)
In più ci sono le analisi di alcune altre poesie e un riassunto di alcuni capitoli di "Outline on American History"
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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