Research Paper: American and European Literature

Pages: 6 (1898 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Literature  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] Attempting to identify the differences between American and European literature is actually more difficult than it may appear at first, because while there are distinct differences between American and European culture in general, one must first confront the fact that nearly all American culture can trace its roots back to Europe and the first white settlers which came to the region. This is because any indigenous culture is generally not regarded as part of the American identity, due to a concerted effort to erase that culture through violence and political disenfranchisement. However, recognizing this fact does allow one to begin a productive discussion of the differences between American and European literature, because it reveals how the notion of a distinct American literature is dependent upon the creation of an American identity that claims a prehistory for itself that does not exist, as evidenced in the emergence of American folk traditions over a relatively short period of time.

Mark Twain both records and embodies these traditions, as his work emerged in a time of cultural and political crisis, and served to cement the notion of a preexisting American identity free from the particular political rivalries of the day. Oscar Wilde's work reveals this fact even more explicitly by contrasting the image of the European literary tradition against the American identity in his short story "The Canterville Ghost," which uses the character of the new American minister in order to represent the kind of manufactured identity which confronts and disarms the traditional European ghost. Thus, while one may note a number of differences between American and European literature in general, one cannot escape the fact that these myriad differences are inextricably linked to the development of the American political and social identity, a development which was explicitly oriented against traditional European notions of propriety, culture, and political organization.

Works Cited

Guillory, John. Cultural capital: the problem of literary canon formation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Kronick, Joseph. "Writing American: Between Canon and Literature." CR: The New Centennial

Review. 1.3 (2001): 37-66. Print.

Messent, Peter, and Louis Budd. A companion to Mark Twain. Malden: Blackwell, 2005.

Wilde,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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American and European Literature.  (2011, December 8).  Retrieved May 26, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/american-european-literature-suggesting/6163633

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"American and European Literature."  8 December 2011.  Web.  26 May 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/american-european-literature-suggesting/6163633>.

Chicago Format

"American and European Literature."  Essaytown.com.  December 8, 2011.  Accessed May 26, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/american-european-literature-suggesting/6163633.