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Outlines of English and American Literature
Summary
by Long, William J.


The period of conflict has no definite limits on either side, but for convenience we may think of it as included between the years 1840 and 1876. Its earlier years were filled with an ever-increasing agitation of the questions of slavery and state rights; its center was the Civil War; its close was the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia, which we have selected as an outward symbol of a reunited country.

The most noticeable feature of the age, apart from the great war, was its ceaseless political turmoil. Of deeper significance to the student of literature was the profound mental unrest which showed itself in reform movements, in various communistic societies like Brook Farm, in an eager interest in the poetry of other nations, in the establishment of college professorships of foreign literatures, in the philosophical doctrine of transcendentalism, and in many other efforts of mid-century Americans to enlarge their mental horizon.

A host of minor writings of the period reflect the sectional passions or interests that stirred our people deeply at the time, but that are now almost forgotten. The comparatively small body of major literature was concerned with the permanent ideals of America or with the simple human feelings that have no age or nationality. In general, it was a time of poetry rather than of prose, being distinguished above all other periods of American literature by the number and quality of its poets.

Our detailed study of the age includes: (1) The major or so-called elder poets, Longfellow, Whittier, Lowell, Holmes, Lanier and Whitman. (2) The life and work of Emerson, who was both poet and prose writer. (3) The career of Hawthorne, the novelist of Puritanism, who is commonly ranked at the head of American fiction-writers. (4) A brief review of the secondary writers of prose and verse. (5) An examination of the work of Thoreau, the most individualistic writer in an age of individualism, and of Parkman, whom we have selected as representative of the American historians.

Selections for Reading

Typical selections from minor writers of the period in Calhoun and MacAlarney, Readings from American Literature; Stedman and Hutchinson, Library of American Literature, and various other collections. Important works of all major writers are published in inexpensive editions for school use, a few of which are named below. Longfellow's short poems, Evangeline, parts of Hiawatha and of Tales of a Wayside Inn, in Riverside Literature; selections from the narrative poems in Lake English Classics; selected poems in various other school series.

Whittier's Snow Bound and selected short poems, in Riverside Literature, Maynard's English Classics, etc.

Lowell's Sir Launfal, selected short poems and selected essays, in Riverside Literature, Maynard's English Classics.

Holmes's poems, selected, in Maynard's English Classics; The Autocrat, in Everyman's Library; selected prose and verse, in Riverside Literature.

Lanier's poems, with selections from Timrod and Hayne, in Pocket Classics, Maynard's English Classics, etc.

Whitman's poems, brief selections, in Maynard's English Classics; Triggs, Selections from the Prose and Poetry of Walt Whitman.

Emerson's poems, in Riverside Literature; Representative Men and selected essays, in Pocket Classics; Nature and various essays, in Everyman's Library.

Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables and selected short stories, in Pocket Classics; Twice-Told Tales and other selections, in Riverside Literature.

Thoreau's Walden, in Everyman's Library; Walden and selections from other works, in Riverside Literature.

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