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American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman Paperback – December 31, 1968

ISBN-13: 978-0195007596 ISBN-10: 019500759X Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"[Matthiessen's] exploration of the haunted mind of Hawthorne, of Emerson's integrity, of the mental hell in which Melville lived, of Whitman's schizophrenia, of Thoreau's chosen solitude, [has] produced a book unequaled in American critical writing."--The New Republic


"Perhaps the most profound work of literary criticism on historical principles by any modern American."--Saturday Review


"[Matthiessen's] exploration of the haunted mind of Hawthorne, of Emerson's integrity, of the mental hell in which Melville lived, of Whitman's schizophrenia, of Thoreau's chosen solitude, [has] produced a book unequaled in American critical writing."--The New Republic


"Matthiessen has brought to light a rich and complex period....His comments on language and style, in addition to being discerning as criticism, become finally profound reflections on nineteenth-century American society."--Daniel Aaron, Kenyon Review


About the Author

F. O. Matthiessen was a Californian by birth but grew up in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York. Educated both here and abroad, he started teaching in 1927, first at Yale and then at Harvard, where he was Professor of History and Literature. He made the field of American poetry one of his major interests and wrote critical estimates of Emerson, Poe, Eliot, and other contemporary poets. He was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and a Senior Fellow of the Kenyon School of English.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 678 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (December 31, 1968)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019500759X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195007596
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.4 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #792,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Sören Fröhlich on June 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
It is hard to find a more seminal work on American Literature than American Renaissance. Until today, any self-respecting American Studies scholar or expert for American Literature has to come to terms with this massive shedding of ink on some of the best American texts ever published.
Though I find myself at times lost in the wealth of Mr. Matthiessen's allusions and remarks, especially when he weaves all too great a narrative from the swatches he collected, I remain fascinated with this genuinely passionate account of a harmony where many believed (and still today believe) to hear only cacophony. Suspiciously quiet about his personal leanings and politics (a fact that, with all due respect, could simply not remain untouched by more recent cultural, gender, and Marxist critics), Matthiessen takes us back to an age that holds more of today than we sometimes think, and that already foreshadows in its depth what more superficial ages would later repeat ad nausea.
It is not a novel, nor a Michener book, but if you are seriously interested in 19th century American literature (and he does give Whitman the respect he deserves), this may very well be one of the most readable studies on the subject. Sadly shortcutting Dickinson, Poe, and other authors that are excavated only today, this book still points calmly and self-assuredly to those novels and poems that stand out. All these dead, white men wrote texts that we simply cannot ignore, and whether we love Cervantes, Joyce, DeLillo, whether Tan, Faulkner, Burroughs, or Lacan, we have to see that the whale's whiteness and Walden's silence are with us always.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on October 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
The American Renaissance 1850-1855 was the time in which American Literature truly came into greatness. Melville( Moby Dick 1851) Whitman ( Leaves of Grass 1855) Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne. Matthiessen identifies the phenomenom understands that this is the real birth- note of American literature not simply as an insular provincial form but as a world- waking work. He writes with great understanding of the works themselves.

It has been many years since I read this work in graduate- school but I have no doubt it holds up , despite the waves of various critical schools that have tried to undermine its authority.

It is as literary criticism a great work which identifies and interprets great creative works.

It is an essential item in the American library , and a real help to anyone who wants to understand one of the great moments in the history of world- literature.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By off the tropic on September 24, 2012
Format: Paperback
F.O. Mathiessen's "American Renaissance:Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman" (1941) is a painstakingly detailed historical study of how form and content, style and meaning, merge with a new unity in the works of key representative American artists - Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman - to create a re-birth of a distinctive American artistic imagination that ripens to maturity in the 1850s. This uniquely American moment in the history of art is described with breathtaking eloquence, critical insight, and exegesis by a brilliant stylist and scholar.

Mathiessen traces the primary influences that lead up to this American renaissance of artistic expression, citing classical, medieval, renaissance sources (Thomas Browne, Milton, Dante, Plato) as important determinants of style and expression. The guiding assumption here is that America, in its essence, can only be revealed in the works of its greatest representatives, who inevitably remain its greatest artists. Mathiessen examines the journals, notebooks, marginalia of key authors, along with other secondary historical and critical sources, to trace influences between them and their common tie to one progenitor - Ralph Waldo Emerson - to show how the democratic cultural ethos, the radically new natural landscape of America, the overlooked spaces of the commonplace, and the intellectual clash between transcendental and tragic ideals inspire the form and content of the representative works in this new artistic enterprise. Emerson and Thoreau's more reconciliatory vision is made to stand in contrast with the darker tragic vision of life in the novels of Hawthorne and Melville, before the book transitions back to the Emersonian optimism of Whitman's poetry.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Let's Call it Steve on September 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is hard to find in hardcover in any bookstore I looked in. I finally gave up and purchased this e-edition, which is nice because I'll always have it with me. I finally found a hardcover, but this edition is still great.
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1 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. Herr on November 2, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
good book--was a little older/worn than i expected but no real damage so its still a good copy. fast delivery & a great price. solid purchase.
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