Movements in Literature


Neo-Classic Period                        Romanticism                          Realism






Dramatic plot situations, extraordinary events, fanciful imaginative rendering of materials

Minor dramatic events; representative situations; fidelity to reality rather than the fancy

Subjects in art are from antiquity—Bible, mythology, history

Plot has a happy ending

Episodes in real life do not always have a happy end


High adventure

Every-day happenings;




Edwards and Franklin attempt to define the American character

Characters are motivated by exalted or base passions

Characters’ motivations are more complex—closer analysis of the source of behavior

Man is free to determine his own destiny

Hero/villain syndrome

All people are a complex mix of good and bad

Anne Bradstreet

Abigail Adams

Idealization of the female

Females are human—humans have flaws

“tabula rasa” (Locke)

Characters remain static

Characters tend to evolve




Influence of Greek and Roman cultures is seen in the art, literature, and architecture

Setting is often removed from the immediate and contemporary into the remote and past, primitive or natural state (frontier); Gothic and Medieval

Setting is in locale familiar to readers; deal with contemporary situations or events




Essays are well structured, patterned after classic rules of argument; emphasis upon logic and reason; objectivity;

Imitation of “masters;”

Satire, Form and Convention

Literature is the product of inspiration, the artist a conduit for higher truth; intuition “transcends” reason and logic; sensory images; subjectivity; sentimentality

Literature is a product of conscious art, technique; objectively presenting details and events rather than personal feelings and perceptions




Rejection of medieval authoritarianism; attack on strict religious dogma

Author is an active moral “voice” in his work

The author is a playwright who does not participate in the play.  The “transparent” narrator does not intrude



“Stream of Consciousness”


Neo-Classic Period                        Romanticism                          Realism


Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Franklin

Thomas Paine

Early Romantics:

Irving, Poe, Cooper

Later Romantics:

Hawthorne, Melville,


Thoreau, Fuller, Emerson

Local Color Writers:

Jewett,  Hart

Naturalism: Dreiser, Crane

Realism:  Clemens







Hudson River School of Painters

Thomas Eakins




1776 – Signing of the Declaration of Independence

1823—Signing of the Monroe Doctrine

1828—one-third of American population lives west of Appalachians

1859—Origin of Species

American Civil War

1914—WWI  to 1945—WWII (Modern Period)

War of 1812

1845—Annexation of Texas



1849 – Gold discovered in California