Scenes of Nature, Signs of Men

Scenes of Nature, Signs of Men : Essays on 19th and 20th Century American Literature

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This book is about the relationship of the American writer to his land and language - to the 'scene' and the 'sign', to the natural landscape and the inscriptions imposed upon it by men. Among the questions considered in the first section of the book are how does American Romantic writing differ from European; what are the peculiar problems faced by the American artist, and what roles does he adopt to tackle them; what kind of writing results when authors as different as Henry Adams and Mark Twain lament the vanishing of an earlier America, or when Adams and Henry James review their complex relationship to their homeland, or when W. D. Howells and Stephen Crane seek to define their themes in a specifically American setting. The second section of the book examines similar concerns in a number of contemporary writers, notably Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Donald Barthelme, John DeLillo, and William more

Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 113923790X
  • 9781139237901

Table of contents

Preface; 1. Scenes of nature, signs of men; 2. Notes for a comparison between American and European Romanticism; 3. Problems and roles of the American artist as portrayed by the American novelist; 4. James on Hawthorne; 5. The lost America - the despair of Henry Adams and Mark Twain; 6. Henry James and Henry Adams; 7. William Dean Howells and A Hazard of New Fortunes; 8. Stephen Crane; 9. The Bostonians and the human voice; 10. Games American writers play: ceremony, complicity, contestation, and carnival; 11. Toward an ultimate topography: the work of Joseph McElroy; 12. Frames and sentences; 13. William Gass's barns and bees; more

Review quote

'What brings the book together, of course, is the extraordinarily inventive, creative and coherent consciousness of one of our most distinguished literary critics. Everything Tanner touches seems to me somehow newer and fresher. He reminds me of a kind of critical alchemist who is able to take the most used and jaded of literary materials and turn them into brilliant objects.' American Literary Realism 'Always, Mr Tanner is sensitive, subtle, surprising ... From Walt Whitman to William Gass, Mr Tanner beautifully illuminates, in Emily Dickinson's words, all these Continents of Light.' The New York Times Book Reviewshow more