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Washington Irving

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Emma Kimberley

on 8 October 2012

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Transcript of Washington Irving

AM1002 CLASSIC US TEXTS Lecture 1: Washington Irving 'Rip Van Winkle'
'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow'
(1819-20) 1. American Literature and the 'new' America 2. Washington Irving 3. The Sketch Book 4. 'Rip Van Winkle' 5. Sleepy Hollow 6. Irving and the Critics LECTURE STRUCTURE 1. American Literature and the 'new' America Imagination Social Issues Poe Whitman Douglass Stowe Hawthorne Twain Irving What is American Literature?
Who/what is an American? America is a 'new' country
War of Independence/Revolutionary War against the British, 1775-1783
Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776 13 original American States Grand union flag
representing 13 colonies Changed in 1777 when
stars represented 13 states Early National or Post Revolutionary Period: Late C18th to early C19th Who are Americans? Population = 3 million
English, German, Dutch, French, Scandinavian
Planters, farmers, merchants and shipbuilders
No aristocracy or kings
1/3 population = black slaves and white servants First capital in Philadelphia Moved to Washington DC in 1790 American ways of seeing RELIGION


NATURAL GOODNESS Fewer than 100 books of American origin 1776-1792
Puritans: reading for pleasure = heresy
Books were DIDACTIC: they told a moral lesson
Very few American books widely read American reading and writing Washington Irving 1783-1859 Did he steal European tales?
Or did he rework them to speak to the conditions of post-Revolutionary America? Wide range of writings
Best known for tales and folklore
Sketchbook 1819-20
Persona of Geoffrey Crayon
'To teach and delight' Key point: Irving's tales have dual role to entertain and instruct Why a sketchbook? Sketches vs Novels
Travellers tales
Ideological positioning
Vehicles for national identity
Stories have a role in creating nations
Encompass reason and imagination Irving thought that reason when separated from imagination is barren and unfeeling; imagination divorced from reason is deceptive and untrustworthy. PICTURESQUE vs GOTHIC Irving
Old-style narrator
Refined/polite writing
Quirky tales Poe
Darker themes
Untrustworthy narrators
Threatening landscapes Rip Van Winkle:
'foolish, well-oiled disposition, who takes the world easy'. Dietrich Knickerbocker What is the meaning? 'Don't be lazy'?
'Don't get drunk and pass out'?
'Don't tell tales'? **The meaning of this tale is unclear and ambiguous** Postscript: both emphasises strangeness and confirms historical validity Kaatskills: evokes vivid sense of place like a traveller's tale Rip Van Winkle Important: story opens during reign of George III before the War of Independence. America is under British rule. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow LOOK AT:
the function of the preface and postscript
narrative framing Meaning? Tale of love and rivalry
Tale of greed and property Would it only be a Gothic tale if the Headless Horseman existed?
If the horseman is a stunt then is the story 'picturesque'? Mode: 1949 Disney version: Film: Tim Burton's film develops it as a fully blown gothic tale LOOK AT: the postscript which sketches out the tensions between a true tale that tells a moral lesson and a strange tale that defies explanation. Irving's Reputation Celebrity in his lifetime
Well read in C19th and praised by Walter Scott and Lord Byron
Reputation declined after the Civil War - dismissed as sentimental, artificial and antiquated
The darker fiction of Poe, Melville and Hawthorne was more appealing to C20th writers
Criticised by feminists for stereotyping women in 'The Wife' and 'The Broken Heart'
Recently reappraised as a forerunner of American Gothic and imaginative fiction American Visions (1997) Named after George Washington
Popular in America and England
Diplomatic roles in England and Spain
'bridge[d] the chasm between two great nations' (William Bryant) 'an old gentleman of new York, who was very curious in the Dutch history of the province and the manners of the descendants from its primitive settlers.' ‘There is a recurrent tendency in American writing, and in the observation of American history, to identify crisis as a descent from innocence to experience: but the crisis changes, the moment of descent has been located at a number of different times in the national narrative, most of them associated with war.’ Richard Gray After the Fall: American Literature Since 9/11 (Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011) Robert Hughes
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