Topic 54 – Humour: mark twain. Henry james and cosmopolitanism

Topic 54 – Humour: mark twain. Henry james and cosmopolitanism



1.1. Aims of the unit.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.


2.1. Before the Civil War.

3.1.1. War of Independence (1778-1783).

3.1.2. The aftermath of the war. Social consequences. Economic consequences. Political consequences.

2.2. The Civil War (1861-1865).

2.3. The aftermath of the Civil War (1865-1901).

2.3.1. Social consequences.

2.3.2. Economic consequences.

2.3.3. Political consequences.

2.4. The twentieth century: up to the First World War (1914-1918).


3.1. Main literary features.

3.2. Main literary forms.

3.2.1. Drama.

3.2.2. Poetry

3.2.3. Prose: the American novel.


4.1. Mark Twain (1835-1910).

4.1.1. Life and works.

4.1.2. Main themes and style: humorism.

4.2. Henry James (1843-1916).

4.2.1. Life and works.

4.2.2. Main themes and style: cosmopolitanism.





1.1. Aims of the unit.

The present unit, Unit 54, aims to provide a useful introduction to two relevant figures of American literature, Mark Twain and Henry James, whose literary contributions were namely produced on the second half of the nineteenth century and associated to the literary streams of humorism and cosmopolitanism, respectively. In general, the literature of the time was both shaped by and reflected the prevailing ideologies of the day, that is, the main social, economic, political, cultural, and technological conditions of this period, such as the question of slavery, the North East industrial revolution, the War with Great Britain, the aftermath of the Civil War, the Gold Rush period, the classic cultural capital of Boston, and the use of steaming ships in the Mississippi, among others.

As we shall see, these two writers are a reference point in which social, economic, cultural, technogical and political allegiances are placed very much to the fore. Actually, Mark Twain (whose real name was Samuel Longhorne Clemens) reflects the social and political situation of the United States with humour as a means of social critic, where the questions of slavery, racism, hypocrisy and cruelty of modern civilization are highlighted; on the other hand, Henry James denounces the absence of cultural interaction between the United States and the old Europe in terms of culture, traditions, monuments, treasures of art, and above all, values, since he was the first major American writer to become an expatriate. Hence his cosmopolitan vision when writing about the national virtues and vices in search of an ideal civilization.

Then, we shall examine all this information within a historical and literary background so as to provide an appropriate context for M. Twain and H. James’ lives and literary works. Therefore, we shall divide our presentation in five main chapters.

Chapter 2 namely offers a historical background of the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth century regarding social, economic and political changes. So, we shall divide our study in four main sections regarding the main events occurred before and during the nineteenth century: thus (1) before the Civil War, where we shall examine (a) the War of Independence (1778-1783) and (b) the aftermath of the war in terms of (i) social, (ii) economic and (iii) political consequences; (2) the period of the Civil War itself (1861- 1865); (3) the aftermath of the Civil War up to President Theodore Roosevelt (1865-1901), where we shall examine the main (a) social, (b) economic and (c) political consequences which gave way to (4) the early years of the twentieth century up to the First World War (1914-1918).

In Chapter 3, we shall provide a literary background of this period with the aim of going further into its main literary productions and, in particular, into the king style within the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century literature, the American novel within American fiction. Therefore, we shall start by briefly comparing (1) American vs. British literature in terms of general features, and (2) the main literary forms, regarding (a) drama, (b) poetry, and (c) prose, out of which we shall locate the American novel within prose productions.

In Chapter 4 we shall attempt to provide an account of two American novelists, Mark Twain and Henry James within the literary the streams of humorism and cosmopolitanism in the United States. Therefore, we shall introduce, first, an American writer, journalist and humorist who won a worldwide audience for his stories of the youthful adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, that is, (1) Mark Twain (1835- 1910), who is associated with humorism and; next, we shall introduce the figure of (2) Henry James (1843-1916), who is associated with cosmopolitanism and the link between the American and European culture. Both writers will be approached in terms of (a) life and main works, and (b) main themes and style.

Chapter 5 will be devoted to the main educational implications in language teaching regarding the introduction of this issue in the classroom setting. Chapter 6 will offer a conclusion to broadly overview our present study, and Chapter 7 will include all the bibliographical references used to develop this account of the United States History and Literature in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.

An influential introduction to the historical background of the United States of America in the nineteenth century, is based on Thoorens, Panorama de las literaturas Daimon: Inglaterra y América del Norte. Gran Bretaña y Estados Unidos de América (1969); and White, The Horizon Concise History of England. American Heritage (1971). On the literary background, relevant works are: Rogers, The Oxford Illustrated History of English Literature (1987); Albert, A History of English Literature (1990); Speck, Literature and Society in Eighteenth -Century England: Ideology Politics and Culture (1998); Cunliffe, American Literature to 1900 (1993); Alexander, A History of English Literature (2000); Ward & Trent, The Cambridge History of English and American Literature (2000); and Allan Neilson, Lectures on the Harvard Classics (2001).

Specific bibliography on the life, works and style of Twain and James include respectively: Gale (1973), Plots and Characters in the Works of Mark Twain; Gale (1982), Dictionary of Literary Biography; Foggel (1993), A Companion to Henry James Studies; Gordon (1999), A Private Life of Henry James; and Ford (1988), The New Pelican Guide to English Literature.

The background for educational implications is based on the theory of communicative competence and communicative approaches to language teaching are provided by the most complete record of current publications within the educational framework is provided by the guidelines in B.O.E. (2004) for both E.S.O. and Bachillerato; and the Council of Europe, Modern Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common European Framework of reference (1998).


Chapter 2 namely offers a historical background of the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth century regarding social, economic and political changes. So, we shall divide our study in four main sections regarding the main events occurred before and during the nineteenth century: thus (1) before the Civil War, where we shall examine (a) the War of Independence (1778-1783) and (b) the aftermath of the war in terms of (i) social, (ii) economic and (iii) political consequences; (2) the period of the Civil War itself (1861- 1865); (3) the aftermath of the Civil War up to President Theodore Roosevelt (1865-1901), where we shall examine the main (a) social, (b) economic and (c) political consequences which gave way to (4) the early years of the twentieth century up to the First World War (1914-1918).

2.1. Before the Civil War.

2.1.1. War of Independence (1778-1783).

The War of Independence, also known as the American Revolution, was first regarded as a civil war against Britain, but when other countries entered the confrontation, namely France (1778), Spain (1779) and the Netherlands (1780), it became an international war. Initial confrontations

were mixed (the British being successful at Brandywine but suffering badly at Saratoga), but the situation improved for the colonists when these three countries utilized the opportunity caused by the confrontation to declare war on Britain as well. Eventually, by 1782, the British campaign was crumbling.

The British Parliament demanded an end to the war, largely due to its high expenses. The Prime Minister, now Lord North, resigned and, on 3 September 1783, treaties were signed at Versailles. Britain retained Canada and the West Indian Islands but the thirteen rebellious states were formally recognised as the United States of America. On the other hand, France retained their West Indian Islands and were given Tobago in addition, and Spain recovered Florida after twenty years of British control (but later sold it to the Netherlands).

2.1.2. The aftermath of the war.

Therefore, the aftermath of the war was particularly felt in the national division of the states due to the political struggle over slavery and the spread into new territories (the West). Hence, the North representing the modern, industrial, and business-minded states versus the South, which represented the cultures, colonial and aristocratic states. Yet, in general, the main consequences following the loss of the American colonies were to be noticed at all levels. For instance: Social consequences.

In social terms, the Constitution had been able to regulate conflicts of interest and conflicting visions for the new, rapidly expanding nation. But from 1820 to 1860 many other factors had changed, thus the rise of mass democracy in the North, the breakdown of the old two-party system, the increasingly virulent and hostile sectional ideologies (especially that of “free labor” in the North), the acquisition of new lands in the West in the 1840s and slavery in the south, which would catapult the nation into civil war.

Also, the United States exerted an irresistible attraction on visitors and therefore, immigrants, namely from Germany and Ireland. Between the 1830s and 1840s, population grew at an amazing rate attracted by an efficient network of economic and cultural richness in the new land. The German did well whereas the Irish immigrants were not rich enough to buy land. Hence they had to take the menial and unskilled labour needed by the expanding economy, and

as a result, they suffered discrimination in towns and cities (their discrimination is compared to the free blacks in the North).

There is little question that the salient issue in the minds of the public and popular press of the time, and the histories written since, was the issue of slavery. Slavery had been abolished in most northern states, but was legal and important to the economy of the Confederacy, which depended on cheap agricultural labor. State sovereignty (for the South) and preservation of the Union (for the North) have both also been cited as issues, but both were reflections of the slavery issue. Since Northern blacks possessed theoretical freedom, they suffered discrimination at all social levels (politics, employment, education, religion, and even in cemeteries).

Yet, their situation improved between the 1830s and 1850s under the Age of Reform, where a great variety of ideals and movements flourished in favor of women’ rights, pacifism, abolition of imprisonment, capital punishment, improving working classes conditions, and a better education, among others. Yet, a vast majority of Americans did not support these changes. The Reform reflected the sensibility of a small number of people. Economic consequences.

Economically, after the War of Independence two different economic models towards capitalism developed, thus represented by North and South ideals. On the one hand, the North, supported by the Middle West, based its economy on industry and farming in order to set up tariffs to protect themselves against rival European products; on the other hand, the South, namely aristocratic, based its economy on cotton production in big plantations, and therefore, free trade of slaves. Slavery did not exist in the Northern states, so the North found it difficult to accept the attitude of the South. Political consequences.

Political consequences were to be felt in Britain and in the American colonies. Let us examine the most relevant events in both continents.

In the British Empire, there was an increasing interest in the east. The East India Company had long been the main agent of Imperial expansion in southern Asia and exercised many governmental functions. Although the company maintained sole responsibility for trade and patronage, in 1784 under the India Act, a Board of Control

was established to oversee the revenue, administration and diplomatic functions of the company as well as the aspects of its military expansion.

Yet, the new target of Britain was not only the East, but also the colonisation of the Antipodes so as to establish penal colonies (1788). The colonisation of Australia and New Zealand began with the desire to find a place for penal settlement after the loss of the original American colonies. The first shipload of British convicts landed in Australia in 1788, on the site of the future city of Sydney1.

Regarding the American colonies, the resolution on the settlement in the West was to be realized by a Federal government, which was established according to the interests of the North states. Until 1789, the United States was governed by the Articles of Confederation, which created an extremely weak central government. The United States had no power to levy taxes; for income, it relied essentially on money from the states. In addition, the government of the United States had no central executive branch, making its already weak government further divided and lacking strong leadership. The government of the United States under the Articles was also weak with regards to foreign affairs, and during this period Britain and Spain treated the United States like a third-rate power.

Therefore, since the South was afraid of a possible centralized government, they started to think about the possibility of breaking with the Union and replaced the Articles of Confederation with a stronger central government. Those who advocated the creation of such a government took the name Federalists, and quickly gained supporters throughout the nation. The most well- known Federalists include Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. These were the main contributors to the Federalist Papers, a series of 85 essays which served in many ways as seminal documents for the new United States that was to come.

The Constitution of the United States was adopted as a direct response to the Articles of Confederation and as a result, a strong executive branch was created for the first time to give the government the power to tax. After the first elections then the old nationalists (Federalists) took the power. Moreover, the Federalists gained a great deal of prestige and advantage when George Washington joined their cause.

The political atmosphere before the Civil War was, therefore, one of unremitting crisis. The underlying problem was that the United States had been on the whole a country, but not a nation and hence, the major functions of government (education, health, transport) were carried out at a state or local level. Yet, an enduring manifestation of hostility toward the nationalizing tendencies in American life was the reassertion of strong nationalistic feelings threatened by the West.

There were several points of view from West, East, North and South. On the one hand, the West developed a strong sectional feeling, blending its sense of uniqueness and the feeling of having been exploited by the businessment of the East and, on the other hand, the East reasserted his national feeling. Moreover, the South persisted on Negro slavery, which had already been abolished or prohibited in all other parts of the United States. So, people from the South stated an elaborate pro-slavery argument on defending their institutions on biblical, economic, and sociological grounds. On the contrary, the North reaffirmed its position towards industry and against slavery, and made a great effort to change the South’s point of view.

In fact, George Washington received every electoral vote and became president, and only a handful of Anti-federalists were elected to Congress. When Washington determined not to continue, president John Adams was elected president, and in turn, Jefferson (a republican) in

1800, and James Madison in 1809. Britain and France were forced by Madison to respect the

commercial restraints in the seas, but the efforts were futile. Britain periodically humiliated the small American navy by seizing American ships.

By 1812, American relations with Britain did not improve. Rather, a popular clamour for war began to arise, namely due to the frustration and desire to redeem the national honour, and eventually, America declared the war against England in 1812. Two years later (1814), the Americans defeated England in 1814 and peace was reestablished in the United States by James Monroe (former secretary of state and president in 1816). This period was to be known as the “Era of Good Feeling”.

By 1860, the American society underwent both a sectional confrontation and an economic revolution.depression, sharpened by economic and class divides, realigning the interplay of race, class, and political ideology. In other words, the realignment of cleavages and cooperation among geographical, social classes, and party affiliations in politics between the depression of

clip_image0011857 and the election of 1860 led to the election of a president so objectionable to Southern

1 The majority of these convicts were young men, many of whom had committed only petty crimes. New

slave-owing interests that it would trigger Southern secession, and consequently a war to save the integrity of the Union.

Hence, in 1860 the presidential election of Abraham Lincoln took place in an atmosphere of great tension and was not received in the same way in the North and South. In the South, Lincoln’s election was taken as the signal for secession and South Carolina became the first state to withdraw from the Union. This time they were determined and soon, other states followed their proposal. In 1861, in February 4, six Southern states sent representatives to establish a new independent government, but Lincoln was not in favour of the Union to be divided. Then, in his inaugural address, his speech closed with a plea for restoration of the bonds of union. The South, particularly South Carolina, ignored the plea, and on April 12, the South fired upon the Federal troops stationed at Fort Sumter in the Charleston, South Carolina until the troops surrendered.

2.2. The Civil War (1861-1865).

The Civil War has been also called the main American social revolution, a watershed in the rise of modern industrial society in the United States and as the result of free-labor industrial capitalism, and the resolution of sectional conflict in the North. This war was fought between the northern states, popularly referred to as the “Union,” the “north,” or the “Yankees,” and the seceding southern states, commonly referred to as the Confederate States of America, the “Confederacy.” the “south,” or the “rebels.”

As stated above, the Civil War started with Lincoln’s victory in the presidential election of

1860, which triggered South Carolina’s secession from the Union. By February 1, 1861, six more Southern states had seceded. On February 7, the seven states adopted a provisional constitution for the Confederate States of America. The remaining southern states as yet remained in the Union, and less than a month later, on March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as president of the United States.

Since then a march of Union troops under the command of the Confederate force was built up by July 1861 at Manassas, Virginia . The first battle is known as the First Battle of Bull Run (or First Manassas), whereupon they were forced back to Washington, DC by Confederate troops

clip_image002under the command of Generals Joseph E. Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard. Alarmed at the loss,

South Wales opened to free settlers in 1819. By 1858, transportation of convicts was abolished.

the United States Congress passed the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution on July 25 of that year in an attempt to prevent more slave states from leaving the Union. Also, it stated that the war was being fought to preserve the Union and not to end slavery.

Subsequent encounters took place and the first victory of the war was under the Union flag under the figure of Ulysses S. Grant, who captured Fort Henry, Tennessee on February 6, 1862. Later on in September 5, the Confederates made its first invasion of the North under the rule of General Lee, who led 55,000 men of the Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River at White’s Ford near Leesburg, Virginia into Maryland. Then, on September 17, 1862, Lee’s army, checked at last, returned to Virginia. Yet, the war’s turning point was made by George Meade, who stopped Lee’s invasion of Union-held territory at the Battle of Gettysburg between 1-3 July

1863, inflicting 28,000 casualties on Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia , and again forcing it to

retreat to its state.

In general terms, while the Confederate forces had some success in the Eastern holding on to their capital, fortune did not smile upon them in the West. Confederate forces were driven from Missouri early in the war. The Union’s key strategist and tactician Ulysses S. Grant, won victories at Fort Donelson, Battle of Shiloh, Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, driving Confederate forces out of Tennessee. Grant’s aim was to defeat the Confederate forces and bring an end to the war.

At the beginning of 1864, Grant was given command of all Union armies in the East, who attempted to defeat Lee and fought several battles during that phase of the Eastern campaign: the Battle of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, and Cold Harbor. Grant was tenacious and kept pressing the Army of Northern Virginia under the command of Robert E. Lee. He extended the Confederate army, pinning it down in the Siege of Petersburg and, after two failed attempts, he finally found a commander, Philip Sheridan, who could clear the threat to Washington DC from the Shenandoah Valley.

Yet, the North superiority was in the air. The main advantages widely believed to have contributed to the Union’s success include the North’s strong, industrial economy; the North’s strong compatible railroad links (and the South’s lack thereof); the North’s larger population; the North’s possession of the United States’ merchant marine fleet and naval ships; the North’s established government; the North’s moral cause given to the war by Abraham Lincoln (the Emancipation Proclamation); and last but not least, the recruitment of black men, including many freed slaves, into the Union Army after the Emancipation Proclamation was approved.

On 9 April 1865 Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court house. The Battle of Palmito Ranch, fought on May 13, 1865, in the far south of Texas was the last

land battle of the war and ended with a Confederate victory. All Confederate land forces had surrendered by June 1865 whereas Confederate naval units surrendered as late as November of


2.3. The aftermath of the Civil War (1865-1901).

The aftermath of the Civil War is namely represented by several international and national events which are interrelated regarding (1) social consequences reflected by the strong spirit of reform, reflected on important social and cultural changes; (2) economic consequences, which include the emergence of new industrialized fronts in the South and the West as a result of the late consequences of international events, such as the Industrial Revolution and the imperialist policy of powerful countries; and finally, the main (3) political consequences in this period.

2.3.1. Social consequences.

The main social consequences were to be felt since ancient times, such as (1) the question of slavery, and also, due to the industrialization and expansion to the West regarding (2) immigration movements to the West and from different parts of the world, and the new (3) distribution of social classes.

The question of slavery.

The question of slavery is closely related to the Emancipation Proclamation, which was supposed to free all slaves who were in territory under Confederate control at the time of the Proclamation. Yet, slaves were not freed in the remaining states and parts of the Confederacy until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment by third quarters of the states, which did not occur until December of 1865. A good deal of ill will among the Southern survivors resulted from the destruction inflicted on the South by the Union armies as the end of the war approached, the resulting shift of political power to the North, and the Reconstruction program instituted in the South by the Union after the end of the war.

Migrations to the West and from the rest of the world.

On the one hand, as a result, thousands of Americans and immigrants started farms in the West, namely on the Great Plains. Mine and cattle industry also developed in that area, so after 1870, settlement became so widespread in the West that it was no longer possible to draw a continuous frontier line. This expansion to the West meant the end of native Indians since new

settlers occupied their land and slaughtered indiscriminately buffalo herds, namely their main way of survival. Eventually, federal soldiers were sent by the government to crush the Indian conflict, and pushed them onto reservations.

Following Brogan (1985), another kind of immigration is the early twentieth-century one, which was given at a higher scale. America had received immigrants from its colonial days due to its attractive image, which was derived to a large extent from its dynamic economy, but in a low number. Yet, immigration reached its highest point after the American economic recession in the decade from 1901 to 1910, when millions of emigrants came from south-eastern Europe. This movement is known as the Melting Pot of America due to the ethnic diversity.

After obtaining its independence, the United States lacked a cultural pattern and was continuously searching for an identity. In this sense, the mass immigration has helped the United States define the national culture as politically egalitarian and democratic since the first large-scale immigration occurred. Also, it has provided richness, color, cultural heritage and art to American life. Yet, immingration also creates conflicts, such as those regarding housing, sanitation, crime and, therefore, legal system due to problems of assimilation and adjustment.

Distribution of social classes.

On the other hand, the effects of the Industrial revolution on society made the spirit of reform be stronger, and were to be felt namely on the American people lives and, therefore, social classes since thousand of people moved from farms to cities. Hence we can distinguish three main social classes: a small percentage of high social class, who enjoyed wealth and luxury lives; a larger percentage of middle class, who lived comfortably, but below the level of the former; and a huge number of people who belonged to the low social class and lived in extreme poverty.

It is worth mentioning that during the early 1900’s the reformers wanted to reduce poverty by improving the living conditions of the poor and regulating big business. Also, the government aimed at putting an end to corruption, making government closer to the people, and obtaining other goals such as the women suffrage. Yet, by 1917, since the reformers had achieved most of their aims and some of them were called progressives, this period of American history is often known as the Progressive Era (Palmer, 1980).

2.3.2. Economic consequences.

First of all, following Musman (1982), “after the Civil War, American industry changed dramatically.” On the one hand, “machines replaced hand labor as the main means of

manufacturing, thus increasing the production capacity of industry.” As a result, “a new nationwide network of railroads enabled businessmen to distribute goods far and wide” and promoted the rise of big business and the industrialization of the South and the West.

On the one hand, the rise of big business was the result of the increase in American industry produced by the value of goods between 1870 and 1916, and several production developments. Thus, the improvement of production methods favoured the use of machines in manufacturing. This use made factories employ thousands of workers, which were assigned specific jobs. This system of labor is known as the division of labor, which sped up production and had a tremendous impact on economy. It also allowed prices to get lower and meant that more people could afford more products.

On the other hand, the emergence of new industrialized fronts in the South and the West took place when the South decided to rebuild its society since, in economic terms, it had been behind the rest of the nation. Hence, though some industry developed in the region, the South remained an agricultural area throughout the period of American industrialization. On the other hand, the West industrialization started when the Congress passed the Homestead Act (1862) by means of which public land was offered to people for free or at very low cost, which had a great impact in social terms.

2.3.3. Political consequences.

The main political consequences of the Civil war are the Spanish-American War (1898), the American domination policy in the Caribbean area, and the Mexican revolution, and the First World War (1914-1918). Yet, the only one which is framed within the nineteenth century is the first one, the Spanish-American War. The other three events are examined in next section since they are framed within the turn of the century.

The Spanish-American War (1898) was the principal event of the administration of President William McKinley (1897-1901), who fought over the issue of the liberation of Cuba, though it started under the rule of the previous President, Cleveland (1885- 1893). Following Brogan (1985), most Americans wanted their country remain away from European affairs and thought it should offer an example of democracy and peace to the rest of the world. Actually, this war made the United States come up into the world politics on a new road to imperialism.

Previously to the event, it is worth remembering that Spain ruled over Cuba, Puerto

Rico, the Philippines and other overseas possessions during the 1890’s. When Cuba

rebelled against the Spanish rule in 1895, the repression was hard. Yet, soon the rising public in America demanded for intervention.Yet, on February 15, 1898, the American battleship Maine was blown up off the coast of Havana, in Cuba and, although it is not clear enough who caused the explosion, many Americans blamed Spain.

As a result, on April 25, 1898 McKinley gave way to the Congress to declare the war on Spain. The war was officially ended by the Treaty of Paris in the same year. Militarily speaking, this war was brief and relatively bloodless whereas its political and diplomatic consequences were enormous. Actually, this event marked a turning point in the history of the United States foreign policy since Spain relinquished Cuba (whose independence was recognized in 1902) and ceded to the United States the Philippine Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

Expansion of the nation to include regions outside of the North American continent was denounced as imperialism by the Democratic Party, and became the principal issue of the 1900 presidential campaign. The nation, however, supported the policy of expansion as carried out by the McKinley administration. In September 1901 McKinley was assassinated by a crazed anarchist, and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt became president. His administrations marked a new attitude held by a section of the Republican Party toward the important social, political, and economic questions of the time, and led gradually to a sharp split in the party.

2.4. The twentieth century: up to the First World War (1914-1918). So, the turn of the century brought about the following consequences:

the American domination in the Caribbean, which ranges approximately from the presidence of Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1905) to that of Wilson (1913-1917), though the latter coincides with the First World War. As we mentioned before, the era of Th. Roosevelt is related to a period of progress and, therefore, his policy is known as Progressivism. Actually, Roosevelt, like Jackson and Lincoln, believed that the president had the duty of initiating and leading Congress to implement a policy of social and economic benefit to the people at large. Among domestic questions, Roosevelt addressed those of federal supervision and regulation of all interstate corporations; amendments of the Interstate Commerce Act to prohibit railroads from giving special rates to shippers; the conservation of natural resources; federal appropriations for

irrigation of arid regions in the West; and the extension of the merit system in civil service.

Yet, for our purposes, the most relevant domestic affair had to do with the desire of Eastern business to have easy access to Pacific markets. An isthman canal was demanded to link the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, but the only obstacle was the government of Colombia, which owned Panama. Then, both governments negotiated a treaty and the construction of the canal began so soon that on August 15, 1914 it was opened to shipping. Hence when crisis appeared in the Caribbean area, Wilson was determined to protect American security even with the use of force. Therefore, a protectorate was established by force in Haiti in 1915 and also a military occupation of the Dominican Republic in Nicaragua in 1916.

Roosevelt gained worldwide importance through his dramatic speeches and actions as president, his inauguration of the building of the Panama Canal, and his activities in ending the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Roosevelt declined to run for reelection in

1908 and the Republicans nominated his secretary of war, William Howard Taft in

1909, based on Roosevelt’s recommendation. He was followed by Woodrow Wilson who, like Roosevelt, believed that the presidency should be used for initiating and guiding national legislation in accordance with the chief executive’s interpretation of the will of the people.

the Mexican Revolution, by means of which Woodrow Wilson succeeded in carrying out notable revisions and reforms in the laws governing the tariff, the banking system, trusts, labor, and agriculture. One of his main achievements in domestic affairs was to deal with an uprising in Mexico in 1913 started by a Victoriano Huerta, a military usurper who murdered the preceding president Francisco Madero. Wilson trie d to persuade the dictator to step down from office and allow free elections for a new democratic government. Then Wilson gave open support to Madero’s successor, Venustiano Carranza. Yet, when Civil War appeared, Wilson refused to interfere. It is at this point that the figure of Pancho Villa comes to the scene, seeking to provoke war between the United States and Mexico. Wilson then sent a punitve expedition which was a failure. Relations between the two government were greatly improved when Wilson extended recognition to Carranza’s new constitutional regime in 1917.

Wilson also achieved a victory in domestic affairs when the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which legalized women’s voting rights, was passed in 1919 and ratified in 1920, hence the so-called Woman Suffrage. Yet, the most important issues of Wilson’s presidence were those arising from the outbreak of World War I in

Europe in 1914, the entrance of the United States into the war in 1917, and the making of peace in 1919.

And finally, for our purposes, the First World War (1914-1918) , which brought a period of diplomatic conflict between the United States and Great Britain and between the United States and Germany since it was an outgrowth of European territorial problems and nationalism. Following Palmer (1980), the great majority of Americans were firmly neutral and determined to avoid intervention unless American rights and interests were violated, and in 1915 an official proclamation of neutrality was proclamated. This procla mation appealed the Americans to be impartial both in thought and action. Yet, in April 6, 1917 the United States was finally drawn into the war against Germany and its allies due to the unrestricted German submarine warfare on Atlantic shipping.

The United States contribution was decisive in the outcome because of its military superiority both in armament and people. Hence it provided Britain with the ships to overcome the submarine threat and also, with the American Expeditionary Force on September 1918 to France. As a result, this military power inclined the balance on the western front and helped to end the war in November 1918. Next year, the United States was also influential in the writing of the Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended the war in 1919.

The Senate of the United States rejected the treaty and the United States membership in the League of Nations (the covenant for which formed part of the treaty) which temporarily reversed the tendency toward U.S. involvement in world affairs. Actually, a separate treaty of peace was signed by the U.S. and Germany in Berlin in August 25,


Although the early 1920s brought improvements in architecture, education, technology, these years also saw the rising of mass law-breaking and the rise of organized crime. Therefore, several acts were passed, such as the ‘Volstead Act’, which prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors (the Prohibition Amendment). Yet, the late years of the 1920s witnessed the cease of this prohibition due to the 1929

Stock Market Crash and the turn of the decade saw the Great Depression which was an

unparallelled economic disaster in the history of the United States.


In Chapter 3, we shall provide a literary background of this period with the aim of going further into its main literary productions and, in particular, into the king style within the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century literature, the American novel within American fiction. Therefore, we shall start by briefly comparing (1) American vs. British literature in terms of general features, and (2) the main literary forms, regarding (a) drama, (b) poetry, and (c) prose, out of which we shall locate the American novel within prose productions.

3.1. American vs. British literature: general features.

As we shall see, these two literary streams shall reflect the prevailing ideologies of the nineteenth and early twentieth century both in Britain and in America. Thus, in Britain literature is to be framed into, first, the Victorian literature (1837-1901) where the novel and the romance are the most popular literary forms, and second, the Edwardian (1901-1910) and Georgian literature, which will challenge previous productions by offering a late-nineteenth-century realism, which is defined as the pre-war literature up to the First World War.

Yet, in America, Twain and James also brought a new spirit of realism into the genre of romance and, as their European colleagues, also were shaken by the great processes of change that were transforming the American life, that is, human nature, society, and the individual’s place of history. These fast changes were to be felt in technology, urbanization, secularization and modernization at an international level, and in fact, the United States became a dominant nation in the twentieth century. In the same way, literature also interpreted these changes as a period of a fundamental redirection in the nature of the ideology of American society and also, cultural and technological development.

Whereas Europe could afford the luxury of romanticising its past and finding its ideal in the pastoral, America’s past was too close. Yet America’s literature was in need of tradition in which literature could flourish as it did in Europe. Hence it would take fifty years of accumulated history for America to earn its cultural independence and to produce the first great generation of American writers: Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Henry James, and Emily Dickinson. America’s literary

independence was slowed by a lingering identification with England, an excessive imitation of English or classical literary models, and difficult economic and political conditions that hampered publishing.

Then American awareness of literary fashion still lagged behind the English, and fifty years after the building of a new nation attracted talented and educated people to politics, law, and diplomacy. Despite these pursuits brought honor, glory, and financial security, writing did not pay. Hence early American writers, now separated from England, effectively had no modern publishers, no audience, and no adequate legal protection, so until 1825, most American authors paid printers to publish their work.

On the other hand, nineteenth-century literature in the Victorian period, that is, from 1837 to

1901 coincides with the late consequences of the British imperialism since the mid-Victorian period (from 1850 to 1873) saw the highest point of the British imperial expansion, and economic and political prosperity. This literary period is characterized by its morality, which to a great extent is a natural revolt against the grossness of the earlier Regency, and the influence of the Victorian Court. In addition, literary productions are affected by the intellectual developments in science, religion, and politics, where we observe a strong literary interaction between American and European writers (specially in political and philosopical writings).

Yet, the early twentieth century period (from 1901 to 1914) is associated to the consequences of the end of the Victorian period, that is, loss of consensus due to the Great Depression (1873), the end of British economic supremacy and, therefore, the decline of the British empire; finally, the period of pre-war literature (up to the First World War) is associated with a stream of realism, both in American and in Britain, which diverted attention from the cruder conceptions of imperial expansion to social problems. Hence Twain and James reflected these changes and problems first, with humour, and secondly, from a cosmopolitan view, respectively.

3.2. Main literary forms.

Broadly speaking, the nineteenth and early twentieth century saw a wide variety of American authors in the Victorian and pre-war period who produced their work within the field of the most important literary forms: drama, poetry and prose, but for our purposes we shall focus on M. Twain and H. James in the latter form: American fiction in prose style . Let us briefly examine the three literary forms so as to provide a basis for a detailed analysis in next chapter.

3.2.1. Drama.

Drama was written as freely as ever, but did not monopolize the activities of the major poets. Following Albert (1990), “from the dramatic point of view the first half of the nineteenth century was almost completely barren” since the professional theatre of the period was in a low state and the greater part of the dramatists work never saw the stage”, both in Britain and America. “The popular pieces of the day were melodrama, farces and sentimental comedies, which had no literary qualities whatever, were poor in dialogue and negligible in characterization, and relied for their success upon sensation, rapid action, and spectacle”.

The comic spirit in drama was in abeyance, but in general there were a few dramatic productions and therefore, little interest on this literary form. Yet, towards the end of the nineteenth century, the last decades of the reign saw major talents in a revival of literary theatre, namely on the European continent (Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, John Millington Synge, Henry Arthur Jones, Sir Arthur Wing Pinero, John Galsworthy), but not in the American one.

3.2.2. Poetry.

Poetry, broadly speaking, reaches its peek in America in the 19th century although some of the most imaginative and creative poetry was created centuries earlier (Tu Fu of the Tang Dynasty in China in the 7th century B.C.;William Shakespeare in the 16th century; Dante in the thirteenth century). It is in the nineteenth-century where we include the works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percey Bysshe Shelley, Walt Whitman, Lord Byron, and some of the greatest poets of the nineteenth century, along with examples of of their work.

Literary writing was not as simple and direct as political writing. When trying to write poetry, most educated authors did it in an elegant neoclassical style. The epic, in particular, exercised a fatal attraction, and soon American literary patriots felt sure that the great American Revolution naturally would find expression in the epic (a long, dramatic narrative poem in elevated language, celebrating the feats of a legendary hero). Yet, many American writers tried but none succeeded, and not surprisingly, satirical poetry and mock epics fared much better than serious verse.

3.2.3. Prose: the American novel.

Within prose we find different types of productions: novel (fictional and non-fictional) , literary criticism, periodical literature (political, philosophical) , essays, and other miscellaneous works which receive scanty notice. Yet, we shall focus on the novel (American fiction) in the United States. The first fiction writers used American subjects, historical perspectives, themes of change, and nostalgic tones. They wrote in many prose genres, initiated new forms, and found new ways to make a living through literature. With them, American literature began to be read and appreciated in the United States and abroad.

Towards the middle of the century, American literature started to become independent as well as self-divided, since a tragic note in American literature becomes dominant in the novels, even before the Civil War of the 1860s manifested the greater social tragedy of a society at war with itself. Similarly, there is no doubt that the Victorian era, even in America, was the age of the English novel, namely realistic, thickly plotted, crowded with characters, and long.

By the end of the period, the novel was considered not only the premier form of entertainment but also a primary means of analyzing and offering solutions to social and political problems, only challenged by the revival of realism towards the end of the century. It is in this background that we find relevant writers such as Mark Twain and Henry James.

The American novel, which shows a literary form in which happy country life is portrayed as a contrast to the complexity and anxiety of the urban society, as we can see in the American romancers’ use of the frontier, Indian society, Arcadian communities, Puritan villages, and shipboard societies. Whereas for the Romantic American writers the typical features of romance were the crime, religion, ghosts, magic , which are used as the basis of a tale of terror, the late nineteenth-century writers such as Twain and James were characterized by the use of humour and the cosmopolitan element in their works so as to reflect the social tragedies and the connections with the European continent.


In Chapter 4 we shall attempt to provide an account of two American novelists, Mark Twain and Henry James within the literary the streams of humorism and cosmopolitanism in the United States. It is worth pointing out that these two authors, together with other contemporary

writers (Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Francis Bret Harte) represent the first great literary generation produced in the United States, which combined fiction and reality. Yet, they used the novel as a means of transmitting their ideas, but differ in offering the vision of imperialism and the early years of the twentieth century with the emergence of realism, which represented social and political events of the time where the democratic American individual had to invent himself.

Therefore, we shall introduce, first, an American writer, journalist and humorist who won a worldwide audience for his stories of the youthful adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, that is, (1) Mark Twain (1835-1910) , who is associated with humorism and; next, we shall introduce the figure of (2) Henry James (1843-1916), who is associated with cosmopolitanism. Both writers will be approached in terms of (a) life and main works, and (b) main themes and style.

4.1. Mark Twain (1835-1910).

4.1.1. Life and works.

Mark Twain was the pseudonym of Samuel Taylor Clemens, who was born on November 30,

1835 in Florida, Missouri. The Clemens family consisted of two brothers (included Twain), a sister, and the family- owned slave, Jenny, whose vivid storytelling was a formative influence on the character of his novels some years la ter. As aVirginian family, he was brought up within the perspective of slave-owning tradition.

After his father’s death in 1847, he was in turn an apprentice to a pr inter, a journalist (since he wrote for his brother’s newspaper), and later on a silver-miner in Nevada, and a licensed Mississippi river-boat pilot. Yet, the Civil War put an end to the steamboat traffic and Clemens moved to Virginia City, where he edited the Territorial Enterprise . Then in the late summer of

1862, he was summoned by Joe Goodman, owner and editor of the Virginia City Enterprise, to

come up and take the local editorship of that paper. Then he contributed to it with sketches under the pen name of ‘Josh,’ and Goodman recognized a talent full of possibilities.

Twain realized he needed a pen-name for the more comedic and fantastic columns he was writing, and eventually, he chose a river term, used in making soundings, recalled from his piloting days. So on February 3, 1863, ‘Mark Twain’ was born when Clemens signed a humorous travel account with that pseudonym. The name presently became known up and down

the Pacific coast and soon he acquired a world-wide fame, and was recognized, together with

Bret Harte, as one of the foremost among a little group of overland writers.

Next year (1864) Twain left for California, and worked in San Francisco as a reporter. After visiting Hawaii as a correspondent for The Sacramento Union, he published several letters on his trip and gave some lectures. A pleasure-trip to Europe and other continents (France, Italy, Egypt, the Holy Land) provided him with material to record his experiences in The Innocents Abroad (1869), where we see vivid an amusing pictures of Europe through the eyes of a typical American turning on the Old World the sceptical view of the New. This work established his popularity as an American humorist of the first rank, since he poked fun at both American and European prejudices and manners.

For him, a career in journalism was more than natural and his success as a writer gave him enough financial security. Then in 1870 he married Olivia Langdon and soon he set up in Nook Farm, a sort of literary suburb of Hartford, Connecticut, where neighbouring authors included Charles Dudley Warner and Harriet Beecher Stowe. In this context, he published Roughing It (1872), which was an account of his own experiences in the West and The Gilded Age (1873), written in collaboration with C.D. Wagner.

Between 1876 and 1884 he published other several masterpieces, like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), where he breaks away from the cultured gentility of New England literature to give vivid, realistic, and racy pictures of life in the southern states; A Tramp Abroad (1880), which tells of his further travels in Europe; The Prince And The Pauper (1881), a Tudor England story set in the sixteenth century of poor quality in which Edward VI of England and a little pauper change places.

Moreover, we find Life On The Mississippi (1883) which reflects his childhood at the great waterway through a travel book and contains an attack on the influence of Sir Walter Scott, whose romanticism has caused according to Twain ‘measureless harm’ to progressive ideas.; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1883) is generally adjudged his greatest work together with Tom Sawyer because of the deep levels of human experience, the power of the character (the boy) to tell the truth, and the picture of American society at that time; and also A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889).

In the 1890s Twain lost most of his earnings in financial speculations and his run of properity was interrupted by the bankruptcy of a firm with which he was connected and then, he undertook a lecturing tour round the world: first Hartford, and then in the United States and

England. To recover from the bankruptcy, he started a world lecture tour round New Zealand, Australia, India, and South Africa (during which one of his daughters died).

After this, he wrote books as The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894), and Personal Recollections Of Joan of Arc (1896), which are works of a poorer quality; also the travel book Following the Equator (1897), in which he writes of the world-wide lecture tour made toward the end of his life; and the bitter story of The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg (1900) and the final fatalism of The Mysterious Stranger (posthumously published in 1916).

It is worth noting that during his long writing career, Twain also produced a considerable number of essays and romances based on non-personal experiences (The Prince and th e Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Joan of Arc). Yet, the death of his wife and his second daughter darkened the author’s later years, which he spent on completing his official autobiography, posthumously published (1924). Yet, though Twain died on 10 April, 1910, lives on in the hearts and minds of grateful readers everywhere.

4.1.2. Main themes and style: humorism.

Twain believed that American novel lacked the analytical sensibility necessary to the novelist’s art, although he enjoyed magnificent popularity as a novelist. In general, from the very beginning of his journalistic career, Twain made fun with the novel and its tradition and th is is the reason why he frequently returned to travel writing through a vein of humor. Alike Henry James, Twain saw the European culture with a sceptical eye and he is said to have broken away from the strong influence of European models, and helped to lay the foundations of a distinctively American tradition: humorism (Albert, 1990:412).

He aimed to please the masses, his strokes are bold and broad, and the humour ranges from farce to bitter satire. Yet, the key to success relies on, first, introducing the double vision of the world through the eyes of a child in most of his plays; second, to use his personal experience as a boy in Mississippi waterway, his mining days, and his days as a journalist; and the combination of a ‘treasure, a woman, and a dream’ as it is reflected in Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. Moreover, he always offered episodic plots, but well handled, characters with warm humanity, and a spontaneous style which gives his writings an enduring charm.

Regarding his themes, and as we stated above, the question of slavery is always present in his works since he was brought up within the perspective of slave-owning tradition, but his conscience was Northerner (against racism). Actually, his family-owned Jenny, a black slave,

whose vivid storytelling was a formative influence on the character of ‘Sam’ in his later novels. He was called a liberal since he stated in numerous times the moral superiority of the black race (Jim in Huckleberry Finn, Sam in Tom Sawyer, Uncle Daniel in The Golden Age).

Also, although he set up in the East, his roots were those of a Westener, and constant references to the West are made through the river Mississippi under the figures of boys (Huck, Tom) and through his days as a silver-miner in Nevada, in the Far West. Pioneer conditions, the battle with the frontier, and the Indians made life very difficult there, but Mark treated them with humour since this literary form sold most in the so-calle d Posbellum America (1866- 1913). Hence he wrote about the consequences of the Civil War since his best works are firmly grounded in cruel reality, between tragedy and humour.

4.2. Henry James (1843-1916): cosmopolitanism.

4.2.1. Life and works.

Henry James was born on April 15, 1843 in New York City into a wealthy and cultured American family. His father was Sr. Henry James, who was one of the best-known intellectuals in mid-nineteenth-century America, so in his youth James travelled back and forth between Europe and America and studied with tutors in Geneva, London, Paris, Bologna and Bonn. By the late 1860’s the fascination of the older European civilization was making itself felt and he wrote his first essays and reviews, but after that, at the age of 19, he briefly attended Harvard Law School (1862).

Yet, he preferred reading literature to studying law since from an early age James had read the classics of English, American, French and German literature and Russian classics in translation. He was gifted with talents in literature, psychology, and philosophy and he is regarded as a prolific writer. Actually, James wrote novels, short stories, travel sketches, literary criticism, and autobiography (20 novels, 112 stories, 12 plays and a number of works of literary criticism).

He was a friend of the New England group of writers (among them James Russell Lowell, H.W. Longfellow, and William Dean Howells), and it was as a contributor to Howells’ Atlantic Monthly and other American magazines that James began his career as a writer. In fact, James published his first short story, A Tragedy of Errors and two years later, betweem 1866-69 and

1871- 72 he was a contributor to the Nation and Atlantic Monthly. It was in the Atlantic that his first novel, Watch and Ward (1871) appeared first serially (it is the story of a bachelor who

adopts a twelve-year-old girl and plans to marry her). James wrote it while he was traveling through Venice and Paris.

After spending much time in Europe he settled initially in Paris, where he was contributor to the New York Tribune; then he moved to England, London, where he lived until 1897, and finally, he moved to Rye (1898), where where he spent the rest of his life and wrote his last novels. So, by 1875 he had established himself in London as his new home, and during his first years in Europe James wrote novels that portrayed Americans living abroad. Actually, the first of his novels was Roderick Hudson (1875), which deals with the contrast between the young American civilization and the older European culture; and that was followed by similar novels like The American (1876-77), the story of a New World innocent who discovers at once the cultural richness of Europe and its underlying depravity.

This was followed by The Europeans (1878), where he reversed the international pattern in his witty, meticulously controlled study of the way in which two ‘Europeanized’ Americans readjust to the life of staid and quiet Boston; Daisy Miller (1879), where the young and innocent American, Daisy finds her values in conflict with European sophistication; and James’ masterpiece The Portrait Of A Lady (1881) where again a young American woman becomes a victim of her provincialism during her travels in Europe.

Other novels mark the beginning of Henry James’ second period as a novelist, such as The Princess Casamassima (1886); The Bostonians (1886), which is set in the era of the rising feminist movement and portrays the English characte r; What Maisie Knew (1897), on depicting the child’s mind of a preadolescent young girl, who must chose between her parents and a motherly old governess; two works which he left unfinished at his death, The Sense of the Past and The Ivory Tower, both of which were published posthumously in 1917.

Also, The Tragic Muse (1890), The Spoils of Poynton (1897), and The Awkward Age (1899). Yet, the highwater mark of his career was reached in the three novels, The Wings Of The Dove (1902), where a heritage destroys the love of a young couple; The Ambassadors (1903), which is considered James’ most perfect work of art; and The Golden Bowl (1904), in which, turning again to the them of the contrast between European and American cultures, he achieves a subtlety of character-study, a delicacy of perception, and an elaboration of artistic presentation which rank them high among modern novels (Albert, 1990:439).

Between 1879-1880 his astonishing career saw a collection of tales and James’s most famous short stories, of which James was an acknowledged master. To his credit he has almost a hundred tales, which began with his earliest contributions to American magazines and continued well into the middle of his writing life. Among them we may include the short novels Confidence; Hawthorne; and Wahington Square. Also, The Turn of the Screw (1898), a ghost story in which the question of childhood corruption obsesses a governess; and a short novel which shows James’ interest in the occult, The Altar of the Dead, The Beast in the Jungle , The Birthplace, and other Tales (1909).

Other stories appeared in The Madonna of the Future and other Tales (1879), The Aspern

Papers and other Stories (1888), Terminations (1895), and The Two Magics (1898). Between

1906 and 1910 James revised many of his tales and novels for the New York edition of his complete works. On the other hand, his autobiographical writings were A Small Boy and Others (1913), Notes of a Son and Brother (1914), and the third volume, The Middle Years, appeared posthumously in 1917. This posthumous fragment is known as Terminations (1917), not to be confused with the short story of that name.

The outbreak of First World War was a shock for James and in 1915 he became a British citizen as a declaration of loyalty to his adopted country and in protest against the US’s refusal to enter the war. James suffered a stroke on December 2, 1915, and he died three months later in Rye on February 28, 1916. His letters, published in 1920, his Notes on Novelists (1914), and the essay, The Art of Fiction (1884) are of the utmost importance to the readers of James, and further light is thrown upon his work by The Notebooks of Henry James (1947). Note that although James is best known for his novels, his essays also attract a more general audience.

4.2.2. Main themes and style: cosmopolitanism.

Following Albert (1990:439), “a study of James is essential to the sutdy of the modern novel because he was one of the first to view it as an artistic form. To him the novel was primarilyan art form to be judged solely by artistic canons, concerned, not with moral purpose, but with the objective and impartial presentation of the reality of life.” James is concerned with the detailed and elaborate study of the subtlest shades of human reactions to the situations which he conceived.

Hence his technique is namely based on the consciousness of a single character, discarding the omniscience of a traditional novelist. Also, the character, often standing outside the main drama of the novel, acts as commentator and guide to the reader in many of James’ works. His main themes are closely related to his technique since the key to James’ is found in his own life. He was an American fascinated by the charm of an older civilization, where he finds most of his themes: the impact of European society upon America and the study of the processes of adjustment and their effect upon the development of the individual character.

Henry James is regarded as a superb stylist. His preoccupation with technique is felt in the mastery of language, his quest for the exact word, the perfect image, and the delicately suggestive rhythm. His descriptive powers are highlighted by an excellent dialogue form. He encompasses brilliantly aesthetic and phychological considerations on form, by combining the old tradition in novel with the new one.

Simple and unadorned in his ealry fiction, James becomes increasingly ambiguous and elliptical in his late years. Similarly, his characters follow the obscure and subtle forces ruling human conduct and are framed within the central consciousness of James’ technique, the stream of consciousness, to be recaptured by his followers (Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Richardson and James Joyce). Finally, his worldwide vision of an ideal society, and his emphasis on the contrast between the young American civilization and the older European culture have made him popular within the literature of cosmopolitanism.


Literature, and therefore, literary language is one of the most salient aspect of educational activity. In classrooms all kinds of literary language (poetry, drama, novel, prose, periodicals, newspapers, pamphlets), either spoken or written, is going on for most of the time. Yet, handling literary productions in the past and, in particular, American History and Literature, makes relevant the analysis of the main literary works, such as novels, letters, poems, newspapers, essays, among others, which reflect the social, political, economical and cultural situation of the period, for our purpose, the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Hence it makes sense to examine relevant figures such as of Mark Twain and Henry James, among others because of their relevant contributions not only to American literature, but also to European literature as well. Who has not read or seen Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom

Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn when we were little, or cried with Henry James’ What Maisie Knew or The Bostonians? As we can see, American literature is so close to our culture and, in particular, to most of our students through the media: TV, films, radio, books, and magazines, among others.

Currently, action research groups attempt to bring about change in classroom learning and teaching through a focus on literary production under two premises. First, because they believe learning is an integral aspect of any form of activity and second, because education at all levels must be conceived in terms of literature. The basis for these assumptions is to be found in an attempt, through the use of various modes of literary forms, to develop understanding of students’ shared but diverse social and physical environment.

Learning involves a process of transformation of participation itself which has far reaching implications on the role of the teacher in the teaching- learning relationship. This means that literary genres are an analytic tool and that teachers need to identify the potential contributions and potential limitations of them before we can make good use of the genre analysis techniques: poems, comedies, historical accounts and romances. We must bear in mind that most students will continue their studies at university and there, they will have to handle successfully all kind of genres, especially poetry and fiction ones within our current framework.

But how do nineteenth and twentieth American literature tie in with the new curriculum? American literature may be approached in linguistic terms, regarding form and function (morphology, lexis , structure, form) and also from a cross-curricular perspective (Sociology, History, English, French, Spanish Language and Literature). Yet, Spanish students are expected to know about the American culture and its influence on Europe (or the other way round, from James’ point of view) since students are required to know about the world culture and history. So, American literature is easily approached by means of the subjects of History, Language and Literature by establishing a paralelism with the Spanish one (age, literature forms, events).

In addition, one of the objectives of teaching the English language is to provide good models of almost any kind of literary productions for future studies. Following van Ek & Trim (2001), ‘the learners can perform, within the limits of the resources available to them, those writing (and oral) tasks which adult citizens in general may wish, or be called upon, to carry out in their private capacity or as members of the general public’ when dealing with their future regarding personal and professional life.

Moreover, nowadays new technologies may provide a new direction to language teaching as they set more appropriate context for students to experience the target culture. Present-day approaches deal with a communicative competence model in which first, there is an emphasis on significance over form, and secondly, motivation and involvement are enhanced by means of new technologies. Hence literary productions may be approched in terms of films and drama representations in class, among others, and in this case, by means of books: novels, short story, or poetry, among others.

The success partly lies in the way the language becomes real to the users, feeling themselves really in the language. Some of this motivational force is brought about by intervening in authentic communicative events. Otherwise, we have to recreate as much as possible the whole cultural environment in the classroom. This is to be achieved within the framework of the European Council (1998) and, in particular, the Spanish Educational System which establishes a common reference framework for the teaching of foreign languages where students are intended to carry out several communication tasks with specific communicative goals, for instance, how to produce a literary text (oral or written): writing a chapter of a novel, a terror story, a poem, acting out in a theatre play, representing a film scene orally , and so on.

The knowledge about American culture (history and literature) should become part of every literary student’s basic competence (B.O.E., 2004). There are hidden influences at work beneath the textual surface: these may be sociocultural, inter and intratextual. The literary student has to discover these, and wherever necessary apply them in further examination. The main aims that our currently educational system focuses on are mostly sociocultural, to facilitate the study of cultural themes, as our students must be aware of their current social reality within the European framework.


On reviewing the literary figures of Mark Twain and Henry James within the literary streams of humorism and cosmopolitanism, respectively, in the mid- late nineteenth and early twentieth American literature, we have reviewed the prevailing ideologies of the day, such as the questions of slavery, the North East industrial revolution, the War with Great Britain, the aftermath of the Civil War, the Gold Rush period, the opportunities to travel around Europe and contrast experiences between the American and European culture, and even technological

stereotypes on the American rivers such as the use of steaming ships in the Mississippi, among others.

But why these two writers and not other contemporary American authors such as the humorist Francis Bret Harte or the cosmopolitan James Russell Lowell, H.W. Lonfellow or William Dean Howells? Twain and James share common features such as living in the same period and using the American novel as a literary means to transmit their vision of reality. Yet, they differ in two main points, first, their childhood and youth background (Twain in his West world and Mississippi river, and James in an educational background around America and Europe, which let him get a cosmopolitan vision of the world and the contrast between America and Europe culture); and secodn, their vision of the world, by means of which James is fascinated by the contrast between the American civilization and the magnificence of the older European world whereas Twain breaks with this influence and founds a distinctively American tradition.

So, on examining all this information we have addressed a historical background of the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth century regarding social, economic and political changes, where we have approached the main events occurred before and during the nineteenth century (the War of Independence, its aftermath, the period of the Civil War itself up to the First World War (1914-1918). In Chapter 3, we have provided a literary background so as to frame the literary features of our authors and their style within the late nineteenth and early twentieth – century literature, and particularly, the American novel within American fiction .

Finally, in Chapter 4 we have provided a personal and professional account of Mark Twain and Henry James within the literary the streams of humorism and cosmopolitanism in the United States; and in Chapter 5 we have accounted for the main educational implications in language teaching regarding this issue. Finally, we shall present in Chapter 7 all the bibliographical references used to develop this account of the United States History and Literature in the nineteenth and early twentieth century for further reference.

So far, we have attempted to provide the reader in this presentation with a linguistic, historical and cultural background on the vast amount of literature productions in the nineteenth and early twentieth century literature in the United States. This information is relevant for language learners, even ESO and Bachillerato students, who do not automatically establish similiarities between Brit ish and Spanish literary works. So, learners need to have these associations brought to their attention in cross-curricular settings. As we have seen, understanding how literature reflects the main historical events of a country is important to students, who are expected to be aware of the richness of English literature, both in the United States and on the European continent.


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York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909–14;, 2001.

Alexander, M. 2000. A History of English Literature. Macmillan Press. London.

B.O.E. 2004. Consejería de Educación y Cultura. Decreto N.º 116/2004, de 23 de enero. Currículo de la Educación

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B.O.E. 2004. Consejería de Educación y Cultura. Decreto N.º 117/2004, de 23 de enero. Currículo de Bachillerato en la Comunidad Autónoma de la Región de Murcia.

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Gale, Robert L. 1973. Plots and Characters in the Works of Mark Twain. Shoe String Press. Gordon, L. 1999. A Private Life of Henry James. London & New York: Longman.

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