Location: [Reed College] [Department of English] [Laura Arnold][ Nation and Narration]Daily Readings
The New National Lit.
1. In the 1940s literary critic F.O. Matthiessen invented the "American Renaissance": that is, he sat down and formulated what texts comprised the center of American intellectual and artistic activity. A Renaissance is both a "movement or period of vigorous artistic and intellectual activity" and a rebirth or revival. The English Renaissance was the revival of classical culture. What (if anything) is being revived in America according to Matthiessen? How does Matthiessen's project compare to Channing's over a hundred years earlier? What does Matthiessen imply is essential to American identity? Read Matthiessen's American Renaissance pp. 3-44 and David Shumway's evaluation of Matthiessen in Creating American Civilization pp. 222-260.
2. If you were to write a manifesto today entitled "National Literature" what would you give as the reasons for reading American Literature? What texts would you include? Why?