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Kutay B.

asked • 11/05/19

What is an American in a literary way ?

Hello im studying american culture and literature and this is my first year.Yesterday i missed the class of american literature and teacher gave us a exam question (What is an american ? ) my friend said they were reading and explanin the Letters from an American Farmer

so i assume it has to do with this text kind of american exceptionalism and city on a hill thing.But i didnt understand a thing from the text to answer this question.I was wondering if anybody could help me.Thanks.

Timothy A.

There are several themes and trademark subjects that are strong in American literature. Americans have always been aware of many traditional European subjects and themes, but the early thinking is that these subjects were mostly not important to Americans. American writers therefore initially tended to stress themes of importance to early Americans such as rugged individualism, wilderness, and community, mapped against very specific American locations. Sub-themes would involve physical, spiritual and political struggles such as fairness, equality and rooting for the underdog. Tom Sawyer and To Kill a Mockingbird are excellent examples of this. Stories set in American towns and cities usually have the location itself functioning as a de-facto character. Just think of all the New York-based stories, where the city of New York is a character itself. Lastly, the concept of the melting pot and the idea that from many, comes one (E Pluribus Unum) and an emphasis on self-reliance are prized above all. Think of the motto of the pioneers... "The cowards never started. The weak died along the way. Only the strong survived." This saying is the epitome of the American experience and literature.


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