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Journalism and the American Renaissance

Journalism and the American Renaissance

The period in American Literature known as the American Renaissance was a time of great change in our country. It was an age of westward expansion and social conflict. Americans were divided on such volatile issues as slavery, reform and sectionalism that ultimately led to the Civil War. Emerging from this cauldron of change came the voice of a new nation – a nation with views and ideals all its own. The social, economic, technological and demographic revolution that was taking place at this time set the stage for a new era of writers. The voice of the nation found a home, first, on the pages of the newspaper. It was there that the hopes, fears and political views of Americans were represented. The newspaper united Americans by giving them a vehicle to voice their opinions and concerns. The result was a newfound spirit of solidarity that opened the door to the first great period of creative writing in America known as the American Renaissance.

The ranks of Americaâs greatest imaginative writers overflow with men and women whose careers began in journalism (Fishkin 3). The birth of the penny press created hundreds of new newspapers along with jobs that authors like Walt Whitman, Ernest Hemingway and Mark Twain were eager to fill. The affect that journalism, with its respect for fact, had on the early authors of America was profound (Fishkin 4, 6). It fostered a style of writing that put truth above rhetoric and first hand knowledge above hearsay. Writing for a newspaper required that the writer be immersed in the events taking place in the world around him and report what he saw, heard and felt. It brought the writer into the realm of the everyday raw experiences of …

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…press. It was as poets and novelists that the American Renaissance writers challenged society to consider unfamiliar concepts – to move beyond their limited scope and embrace the unknown.

Works Cited

Bell, Michael D. The Problem of American Realism: Studies in the Cultural History of a Literary Idea. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Fishkin, Shelley F. From Fact to Fiction. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.

Lauter, Paul The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.

Matthiessen, F.O. American Renaissance. New York: Oxford University Press, 1941.

Reynolds, David S. Beneath the American Renaissance. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.

Robertson, Michael. Stephen Crane, Journalism and the Making of Modern American Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

Interracial Figures of the American Renaissance

Interracial Figures of the American Renaissance

This essay examines Cora from The Last of the Mohicans, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Ann Jacobs. The American Renaissance marks a period of social injustice and the fight of the minority to bring about social change. Women and African-Americans (who were freed or escaped from slavery) begin to gain a voice through literacy, and use that voice to start the movement to abolish slavery and gain women rights. The development of literacy makes it impossible to ignore women and African-Americans because their writing provides a permanent record of the horrors of slavery and injustice of oppressing the minority groups. Furthermore, the gain in literacy by these groups makes Anglo-Saxons face the realities of their world and challenges the American dream. Perhaps the most fascinating result of the destruction to the American dream is the introduction of the interracial character. During this period of history (and long after it) the myth existed that the races were pure. Judith R. Berzon in her book Neither White Nor Black: The Mulatto Character in American Fiction, attributes the emergence of interracial characters in the nineteenth and twentieth century to “(1) a widespread fear of miscegenation; (2) the tenacious view that mulattoes are a Îdegenerate, sterile and short-lived breedâ ; (3) the unresolved dilemma of the social and economic roles of the emancipated African-American; and (4) the unease with which Caucasians generally regarded those who carry traits of both racial groups” (19). The interracial characters exposed the reality in America, that the children of slaves on the plantation were a result of white slave owners having intercourse with their slaves. Co…

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…s, an American Slave.”

Paul Laufer, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature, vol 1, 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.

Douglass, Frederick. “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July.” Paul Laufer, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature, vol 1, 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

Company, 1998.

Jacobs, Harriet Ann. “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.” Paul Laufer, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature, vol 1, 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company,


Kinney, James. Amalgamation! Race, Sex, and Rhetoric in the Nineteenth-Century American Novel. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1985.

Mills, Charles W. “Whose Fourth of July? Frederick Douglass and ÎOriginal Intent.â” Bill E. Lawson and Frank M. Kirkland, eds. Frederick Douglass: A Critical Reader. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, 1999.

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