Traditionalism


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AMERICAN POETRY SINCE 1945

TRADITIONALISM:


Richard Eberhart, Richard Wilbur; the older Fugitive poets John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, and Robert Penn Warren; such accomplished younger poets as John Hollander and Richard Howard; and the early Robert Lowell are examples.

Traditionalist poets are generally precise, realis­tic, and witty; (like Richard Wilbur) they are often influenced in these directions by 15th-and 16th-century British metaphysical poets brought to favor by T.S. Eliot.

Traditional poets, unlike many experimentalists who distrust "too poetic" diction, welcome resounding poetic lines.

Occasionally, as in Hollander, Howard, and James Merrill, self-conscious diction combines with wit, puns, and literary allusions.

Obvious fluency and verbal pyrotechnics by some poets, like Merrill and John Ashbery, make them successful in traditional terms, although their poetry redefines poetry in radically innova­tive ways. Stylistic gracefulness makes some poets seem more traditional than they are, as in the case of Randall Jarrell and A.R. Ammons.

Traditional poets use rhyme, not all rhymed poetry is traditional in subject or tone.

Many poets, including Brooks, Adrienne Rich, Richard Wilbur, Robert Lowell, and Robert Penn Warren began writing traditionally, using rhyme and meters, but aban­doned these in the 1960s.

Robert Lowell (1917-1977)

The most influential recent poet, Robert Lowell, began traditionally but was influenced by experimental current

Land of Unlikeness (1944) and Lord Weary's Castle (1946), "Children of Light" (1946), The Mills of he Kauanaughs (1951), Life Studies (1959), For the Union Dead (1964), Notebook, 1967-69 (1969),

^ IDIOSYNCRATIC POETS

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) The Bell Jar (1963). Ariel (1965), "The Applicant" (1966),

Anne Sexton (1928-1974) "Her Kind" (1960), To Bedlam and Part Way Back (1960), Live or Die (1966), and the posthumous book The Awful Rowing Toward God (1975).

John Berryman (1914-1972) Dream Songs (1969),

Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) Words for the Wind (1958)

Richard Hugo (1923-1982)

Philip Levine (1928-)

James Dickey (1923-1997) Deliverance, Jericho: The South Beheld, 1974, God's Images, 1977.

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)

Adrienne Rich (1929-) "Diving Into the Wreck" (1973), "The Roofwalker" (1961),
^ EXPERIMENTAL POETRY

The Black Mountain School

The Black Mountain School centered around Black Mountain College, an experimental liberal arts college in Asheville, North Carolina, where poets Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, and Robert Creeley taught in the early 1950s. Ed Dorn, Joel Oppenheimer, and Jonathan Williams studied there, and Paul Blackburn, Larry Signer, and Denise Levertov published work in the school's magazines, Origin and the Black Mountain Review. The Black Mountain School is linked with Charles Olson's theory of "projective verse," which insisted on an open form based on the spontaneity of the breath pause in speech and the typewriter line in writing.

^ The San Francisco School

The work of the San Francisco School — which includes most West Coast poetry in gener­al — owes much to Eastern philosophy and reli­gion, as well as to Japanese and Chinese poetry. This is not surprising because the influence of the Orient has always been strong in the U.S.West. The poets from that area tend to have a deep feeling for nature. Many of their poems are set in the mountains or take place on backpacking trips. The poetry looks to nature instead of literary tradition as a source of inspiration.

San Francisco poets include Jack Spicer, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Robert Duncan, Phil Whalen, Lew Welch, Gary SnyrJer, Kenneth Rexroth, Joanne Kyger, and Diane diPrima. Many of these poets identify with working people.

^ Beat Poets

The San Franciso School blends into the next grouping — the "Beat" poets, who emerged in the 1950s. Most of the important Beats (beatniks) migrated to San Fran­cisco from the East Coast, gaining their initial national recognition in California. Major Beat writers have included Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs. Beat poetry is oral, repetitive, and immensely effective in readings, largely because it de­veloped out of poetry readings in underground clubs. Some might correctly see it as a great-grandpar­ent of the rap music that became prevalent in the 1990s.

Beat poetry was the most anti-establishment form of literature in the United States, but beneath its shocking words lies a love of coun­try. The poetry is a cry of pain and rage at what the poets see as the loss of America's innocence and the tragic waste of its human and material resources.

^ The New York School

Unlike the Beat and San Franciso poets, the poets of the New York School are not interested in overtly moral questions, and, in general, they steer clear of political issues. They have the best formal educa­tions of any group.

The major figures of the New York School—JohnAshbery, Frank O'Hara, and Kenneth Koch — met while they were undergraduates at Harvard University. They are quintessentially urban, cool, nonreligious, witty with a poignant, pastel sophistication. Their poems are fast moving, full of urban detail, incongruity, and an almost palpable sense of suspended belief.

New York City is the fine arts center of America and the birth­place of Abstract Expressionism, a major inspiration of this poetry. Most of the poets worked as art reviewers or museum curators, or collaborated with painters. Perhaps because of their feeling for ab­stract art, which distrusts figurative shapes and obvious meanings, their work is often difficult to comprehend, as in the later work of John Ashbery (1927-), perhaps the most influential poet writing today.

^ Surrealism and Existentialism

During the 1960s, many American writers - W.S. Merwin, Robert Bly, Charles Simic, Charles Wright, and Mark Strand - turned to French and especially Spanish surrealism for its pure emotion, its archetypal images, and its models of anti-rational, existen­tial unrest.
^ WOMEN AND MULTIETHNIC POETS

Distinguished women poets in­clude Amy Clampitt, Rita Dove, Louise Gluck, Jorie Graham, Caro­lyn Kizer, Maxine Kumin, the late Denise Levertov, Audre Lorde, Gjertrud Schnackenberg, May Swenson, and Mona Van Duyn.

Minority poetry shares the variety and occasionally the anger of wo­men's writing. It has flowered re­cently in Hispanic-Americans such as Gary Soto, Alberto Rios, and Lorna Dee Cervantes; in Native Americans such as Leslie Marmon Silko, Simon Ortiz, and Louise Erdrich; in African-American writ­ers such as Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Michael Harper, Rita Dove, Maya Angelou, and Nikki Giovanni; and in Asian-American poets such as Cathy Song, Lawson Inada, and Janice Mirikitani.

^

AMERICAN PROSE SINCE 1945

REALISM AND EXPERIMENTATION


In the past, elite culture influenced popular culture through its status and example; the reverse seems true in the United States today. Serious novelists like Thomas Pynchon, Joyce Carol Gates, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Alice Walker, and E.L. Doctorow have borrowed from and com­mented on comics, movies, fashions, songs, and oral history.

THE REALIST LEGACY AND THE LATE 1940s

Norman Mailer (The Naked and the Dead, 1948)

James Jones (From Here to Eternity, 1951)

Irwin Shaw's ^ The Young Lions (1948).

Herman Wouk The Caine Mutiny (1951),

Joseph Heller Catch-22, 1961

Thomas Pynchon Gravity's Rainbow, 1973

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Slaughterhouse-Five; or, The Children's Crusade (1969),

Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men (1946),

Arthur Miller Death of a Salesman, All My Sons (1947), The Crucible (1953).

Tennessee Williams The Glass Me­nagerie (1944), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947).

Katherine Anne Porter Flowering Judas (1930), Noon Wine (1937), Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939), The Leaning Tower (1944), Collected Stories (1965), Ship of Fools (1962).

Eudora Welty A Curtain of Green (1941), The Wide Net (1943), The Golden Apples (1949), The Bride of the Innis fallen (1955), Moon Lake (1980), Delta Wedding (1946), The Optimist's Daughter (1972).
THE AFFLUENT BUT ALIENATED 1950s

Sloan Wilson The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955).

David Riesman in The Lonely Crowd (1950).

Vance Packard's ^ The Hidden Persuader (1957), The Status Seekers (1959)

William Whyte's The Organization Man (1956)

C. Wright Mills's White Collar (1951), The Power Elite (1956).

John Kenneth Galbraith The Affluent Society (1958).

John O'Hara Appointment in Samarra (1934), Ten North Frederick (1955), and From the Terrace (1958).

John Cheever The Way Some People Live (1943), he Housebreaker of Shady Hill (1958), Some People, Places and Things That Will Not Appear in My Next Novel (1961), The Brigadier and the Golf Widow (1964), and The World of Apples (1973).The Wapshot Scandal (1964), Bullet Park (1969), and Falconer (1977)

John Updike Rabbit, Run (1960) Rabbit Redux (1971) Rabbit Is Rich (1981), Rabbit at Rest (1990), The Centaur (1963), Couples (1968), and Bech: A Book (1970). The Same Door (1959), The Music School (1966), Museums and Women (1972), Too Far To Go (1979), and Problems (1979).

J.D. Salinger in The Catcher in the Rye (1951), Nine Stories (1953), Franny and Zooey (1961), Raise High the Roof-Beam, Carpenters (1963)

Ralph Ellison Invisible Man (1952),

Jack Kerouac On the Road (1957), The Dharma Bums (1958),Mexico City Blues (1959)

Philip Roth Goodbye, Columbus 1959

S. Bellow, Dan­gling Man (1944), The Victim (1947), The Adventures of Augie March (1953), Henderson the Rain King (1959), Herzog (1964), Mr. Sammler's Planet (1970);Humboldt's Gift (1975); The Dean's December (1982), Seize the Day (1956)

Bernard Malamud The Assistant (1957), The Natural (1952), A New Life (1961), The Fixer (1966), Pictures of Fidelman (1969), The Tenants (1971), The Magic Barrel (1958), Idiots First (1963), and Rem­brandt's Hat (1973),

Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-1991)The Manor (1967),The Estate (1969), The Family Moskat (1950), Enemies, A Love Story (1972)

James Baldwin (1924-1987) The Fire Next Time (1963), Go Tell It On the Mountain (1953), Another Country (1962), Nobody Knows My Name (1961).

Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964) A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955) , Everything That Rises Must Con­verge (1965); the novel The Violent Bear It Away (1960); and a volume of letters, The Habit of Being (1979).

Vladimir Nabokov (1889-1977)
THE TURBULENT BUT CREATIVE 1960s

Betty Friedan ^ The Feminine Mystique, 1963

Norman Mailer The Armies of the Night (1968),Miami and the Siege of Chicago (1968), The Exe­cutioner's Song (1979), Ancient Evenings (1983), Harlot's Ghost (1992).

Truman Capote Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) ,In Cold Blood (1966),

Tom Wolfe The Electric Kool-Aid Add Test (1968)

Ken Kesey Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers (1970)

Ken Kesey One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962

Richard Brautigan Trout Fishing in America (1967).

Thomas Pynchon V (1963) ,The Crying of Lot 49(1966), Gravity's Rainbow (1973)

John Earth's Giles Goat-Boy (1966),

Donald Barthelme Come Back, Or. Caligari,

Edward Albee Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), A Delicate Balance (1966), and Seascape (1975)

John Barth (1930-) Lost in the Funhouse (1968), The Floating Opera (1956), The End of the Road (1958),The Sot-Weed Factor (1960),Giles Goat-Boy (1966),Chimera (1972)
THE 1970s AND 1980s: NEW DIRECTIONS

John Gardner, October Light (1976),Grendel (1971), The Resurrection (1966), The Sunlight Dialogues (1972), Nickel Mountain (1973), Mickelson's Ghosts (1982).

John Irving The World According to Carp, 1978,

Paul Theroux The Mosquito Coast, 1982,

William Kennedy Ironweed, 1983,

Alice Walker The Color Purple, 1982

Jay Mclnerny Bright Lights, Big City, 1984,

Bret Easton Ellis Less Than Zero, 1985

Tama Janowitz Slaves of New York, 1986.

Toni Morrison (1931-)

The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1973) Song of Solomon (1977) Tar Baby (1981) Beloved (1987)

Asian-Americans


Maxine Hong Kingston The Woman Warrior, 1976The Joy Luck Club, 1989, The Kitchen God's Wife, 1991

David Henry Hwang, F.O.B. (1981) and M. Butterfly (1986).
^

Hispanic-American writers


Oscar Hijuelos The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989);

Sandra Cisneros (Women Hollering Creek and Other Stories, 1991);

Rudolfo Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima (1972),
THE NEW REGIONALISM

William Kennedy. Ironweed (1983) and Very Old Bones (1992)

Joyce Carol Dates The Wheel of Love (1970) and Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? (1974).

Stephen King,

Anne Tyler Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1982), The Accidental Tourist (1985), Breathing Lessons (1988), and Saint Maybe

Ward Just Nicholson at Large (1975), In the City of Fear (1982), Jack Game (1989),

Susan Richards Shreve's Children of Power (1979)

Reynolds Price A Long and Happy Life (1962), Blue Calhoun (1992)

McCorkle The Cheer Leader, 1984, Tending to Virginia, 1987, Crash Diet, 1992.

Pat Conroy The Great Santini, 1976; The Prince of Tides, 1986

Jane Smiley A Thousand Acres (1991)

Larry McMurtry Lonesome Dove, MS; Anything For Billy, 1988, The Last Picture Show, 1966.

Cormac McCarthy Blood Meridian (1985), All The Pretty Horses (1992), The Crossing (1994)

Leslie Marmon Silko Ceremony (1977),The Almanac of the Dead (1991)

N. Scott Momaday The Way to Rainy Mountain (1969

James Welch Winter in the Blood (1974), The Death of Jim Loney (1979), Fools Crow (1986), The Indian Lawyer (1990).

Thomas McGuane Ninety-Two in the Shade (1973) and Keep the Change (1989)

Wallace Stegner The Big Rock Candy Mountain (1943),Angle of Repose

Raymond Carver What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1974) and Where I'm Calling From (1986),

Sam Shepard (Buried Child, 1979; A Lie of the Mind, 1985);

David Mamet (American Buffalo, 1976; Glengarry Glen Ross, 1982);

Lanford Wilson (5th of My, 1978; Talley's Folly, 1979);

Beth Henley (Crimes of the Heart, 1979).

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