From Puritanism to Postmodernism: A History of American Literature

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9780670835928: From Puritanism to Postmodernism: A History of American Literature

From Modernist/Postmodernist perspective, leading critics Richard Ruland (American) and Malcolm Bradbury (British) address questions of literary and cultural nationalism. They demonstrate that since the seventeenth century, American writing has reflected the political and historical climate of its time and helped define America's cultural and social parameters. Above all, they argue that American literature has always been essentially "modern," illustrating this with a broad range of texts: from Poe and Melville to Fitzgerald and Pound, to Wallace Stevens, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Thomas Pynchon.

From Puritanism to Postmodernism pays homage to the luxuriance of American writing by tracing the creation of a national literature that retained its deep roots in European culture while striving to achieve cultural independence.

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About the Author:

Malcolm Bradbury is a novelist, critic, television dramatist and Emeritus Professor of American Studies at the University of East Anglia. He is author of the novels Eating People is Wrong (1959); Stepping Westward (1965); The History Man (1975); which won the Royal Society of Literature Heinemann Prize and was adapted as a famous television series; Rates of Exchange (1983) which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Cuts: A Very Short Novel (1987), also televised; and Doctor Criminale (1992). His critical works include The Modern American Novel (1984; revised edition, 1992); No, Not Bloomsbury (essays, 1987); The Modern world: Ten Great Writers (1988); From Puritanism to Post-modernism: A History of American Literature (with Richard Ruland, 1991) He is the author of a collection of seven stories and nine parodies, entitled Who Do You Think You Are? (1976), and of several works of humour and satire, including Why Come to Slaka? (1986), Unsent Letters (1988; revised edition, 1995) and Mensonge (1987). Many of his books are published by Penguin. In addition, he has written many television plays and the television 'novel' The Gravy Train and The Gravy Train Goes East. He has adapted several television series, including Tom Sharpe's Porterhouse Blue, Kinglsey Amis's The Green Man and Stella Gibbon's' Cold Comfort Farm, now a feature film.

Malcolm Bradbury lives in Norwich, travels good deal, and in 1991 he was awarded the CBE.

From Kirkus Reviews:

From Ruland (English and American Literature/Washington State Univ.) and critic-novelist Bradbury (The Modern World: Ten Great Writers; Unsent Letters--both 1988, etc.)--a sound, balanced account of how American writers created works that reflected ``a new nation with new experience, a new science and a new politics on a new continent.'' Neither idiosyncratic nor iconoclastic, this introductory history is, though, sometimes excessively respectful toward the academically au courant. Ruland and Bradbury, an American and Englishman, respectively, nervously tip their hats to multiculturalism, and will leave their audience of general readers scratching their heads over why more attention is paid to the structuralists and deconstructionists than to luminaries like John Cheever, Thomas Wolfe, Edmund Wilson, H.L. Mencken, and Tennessee Williams. American theater (with the exception of Eugene O'Neill) is inexcusably slighted, while popular genres such as detective and science fiction are more understandably ignored. When it comes to the early development of American literature, however, the authors are on surer ground and perform ably. In tracing the transition from the allegorical mode of the Puritans to the symbolist mode of the American Literary Renaissance, they explore how ``America became a testing place of language and narrative...part of a lasting endeavor to discover the intended nature and purpose of the New World.'' By examining authors in their historical as well as aesthetic context, they make a number of connections not commonly discussed (e.g., how Mark Twain and his contemporaries missed out on the combat experience in the Civil War). Despite its unwillingness to lance some academic sacred cows, then, this is a comprehensive, often vibrant history of how American writers declared independence from older European forms before making their own unique contributions to world literature. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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