Scenes of Nature, Signs of Men: Essays on 19th and 20th Century American Literature

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Cambridge University Press, Aug 25, 1989 - Literary Criticism - 288 pages
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This book is about the relationship of the American writer to his land and language - to the 'scene' and the 'sign', to the natural landscape and the inscriptions imposed upon it by men. Among the questions considered in the first section of the book are how does American Romantic writing differ from European; what are the peculiar problems faced by the American artist, and what roles does he adopt to tackle them; what kind of writing results when authors as different as Henry Adams and Mark Twain lament the vanishing of an earlier America, or when Adams and Henry James review their complex relationship to their homeland, or when W. D. Howells and Stephen Crane seek to define their themes in a specifically American setting. The second section of the book examines similar concerns in a number of contemporary writers, notably Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Donald Barthelme, John DeLillo, and William Gass.
  

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Contents

Scenes of nature signs of men
1
Notes for a comparison between American and European Romanticism
25
Problems and roles of the American artist as portrayed by the American novelist
46
James on Hawthorne
64
The lost America the despair of Henry Adams and Mark Twain
79
Henry James and Henry Adams
94
William Dean Howells and A Hazard of New Fortunes
111
Stephen Crane
133
The Bostonians and the human voice
148
Games American writers play ceremony complicity contestation and carnival
176
Toward an ultimate topography the work of Joseph McElroy
206
Frames and sentences
238
William Gasss barns and bees
248
Index
275
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