American and British periodical criticism of certain nineteenth century American authors, 1840-1860
Weeks, Lewis Ernest, Jr
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The purpose of this study was to examine the criticism of a representative group of nineteenth century American authors (Bryant, Poe, Holmes, Whittier, Cooper, Hawthorne, Melville, Simms, Sigourney, Southworth, Whitman, and Thoreau) in about a dozen representative British and the same number of American periodicals during the years l840-l860, with the intention of presenting through summary, paraphrase, and quotation, a cross section of the criticism and of discovering, if possible, the similarities in and differences between the two bodies of criticism. A number of conclusions emerged. The British criticism was not unduly harsh, unfair, condescendince, or colored in any significant way by a general anti-American feeling or a feeling of superciliousness. There were exceptions, to which I feel the Americans gave the undue attention and currency that exceptions usually receive. The American criticism was not influenced by strong feelings of nationalism to the point of being unduly gentle, exaggerated, or chauvinistic, although, here again, there were outstanding examples of these attitudes, to which the writers of the day gave more notice than they deserved. American criticism did not take its cue from and wait upon the pronouncements of the British before it dared to commit itself. On the contrary, it was almost without exception earlier than the British reactions in the case of specific American works, was sometimes different from the British criticism, and was cited occasionally by the British themselves. This is not to say that American critics were independent of British influence. Given a powerful and ancient tradition and culture, a similar system of education and the same language, the Americans inevitably adhered to many of the same standards and were influenced by the same background. It is therefore difficult to say that there is a distinct and characteristic American criticism. Religious, political, class, geographical, and aesthetic influences affect judgments within each of the two bodies of criticism. As a result, divisions are often more marked on these lines than on strictly national ones. For example, the denominational magazines on both sides of the Atlantic seem to have more in common in their treatment of ethical and didactic issues than they have differences because of their national origins; and the political liberals of England and America have more in common with each other than with their conservative countryman. Sectional differences within the states often seem as great as those between American and Britain. [truncated]
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University.
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