Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts


  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    Acadian: In Kate Chopin’s work, the Acadians (or ‘Cadians) were of French or French-Canadian descent. They may be depicted as having a mixed racial and ethnic heritage, and they do not have the wealth and status that the Creoles have.

    Adrienne Rich: A twentieth century American poet associated with the feminist, environmentalist, anti-war and lesbian rights movements. She is the author of numerous collections of poetry including A Change of World (1951) and Diving into the Wreck (1973).

    Alice Walker: Born in Eatonton, Georgia, Alice Walker is a contemporary American novelist and essayist whose work often focuses on America’s treatment of African- Americans. She is the author of several novels such as The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970) and The Color Purple (1982).

    Allen Ginsberg: A twentieth century American poet associated with the Beat Literature movement. In collections such as Howl and Other Poems (1956), Ginsberg criticizes America’s materialist culture and celebrates the nation’s outcasts.

    Ambrose Bierce: (1842 – 1914?) A short story writer and journalist known in particular for his realistic stories about the Civil War.

    American Communist Party: The American Wing of the Communist Party, extremely influential in American politics in the early twentieth century.

    Armistice: An agreement to stop fighting. The Armistice to end World War 1 (The Great War) signed on November 11, 1918.

    Arthur Miller (1915-2005): An American playwright known for his critique of American society and the American dream. Among his best known plays are Death of a Salesman (1949) and The Crucible (1953)

    Atlanta Compromise: A controversial agreement in 1895 between Booker T. Washington and Southern political leaders that exchanged basic protections for African- Americans for a continuation of white political rule.

    Atlanta Exposition: Also called the Cotton States and International Exposition took place from 18 September to 31 December 1895 in Atlanta, Georgia to promote the technological and agricultural abilities of the Southern states and to encourage trade with Latin America.

    Beat Literature: Represented in this book by Allen Ginsberg, Beat Literature is the product of a group of mid-twentieth century authors known as the Beat Generation, whose members also include the well-known novelists Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. Authors of the Beat Generation represented America’s countercultures while critiquing its materialism during the era of cultural conformity and national prosperity that followed World War II.

    Booker T. Washington (1856-1915): An African-American educator, orator, and statesman who founded the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in 1881 to educate and train African-Americans living in the former Confederacy. As Washington argued in the Atlanta Compromise he believed that educational and business ownership were essential to the success and stability of the African- American community.

    Cadence: The natural rhythm or modulation of a line of poetry.

    Charles Chesnutt: (1858-1932) An African-American short story writer, novelist, essayist, and activist known for his stories about complex issues of race in the South after the Civil War.

    Charles Darwin: Charles Darwin was a British naturalist and author best known for his contributions to evolutionary theory in his description of the process of natural selection. His important work, Origin of the Species (1859), influenced a number of artists and intellectuals of the time.

    Charlotte Perkins Gilman: (1860 – 1935) An early feminist and activist known for her poems, short stories, essays, and novels that dealt with women’s social and political issues.

    Chicago World’s Fair: See World’s Columbian Exhibition

    City Lights Books: Publisher of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems (1956), City Lights Books is an independent San Francisco bookstore and publisher associated with the Beat Literature movement.

    Civil War: The American Civil War was fought between northern states (known as Union forces) and Southern states (known as the Confederacy) from 1861 to 1865. The Civil War pitted the eleven states of the Confederate States of America against the twenty states of the Union (also known as the United States or the Federal Army) over the question of slavery. The war began in Charleston, South Carolina on 12 April 1861 and ended officially at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia on 9 April 1865.

    Cold War: The Cold War is the decades-long military and cultural conflict that developed soon after World War II between the United States and the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, the United States sought to contain the threat of Soviet Communism through military policies such as nuclear deterrence and domestic policies such as the formation of the House Un-American Activities Committee. The Cold War ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

    Cosmic Vision: A phrase associated with the American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, cosmic vision refers to the days-long state of heightened spiritual awareness the poet reported to have experienced while living in Harlem in 1948.

    Countee Cullen (1903-1946): A preeminent poet of the early Harlmen Renaissance who used traditional literary forms borrowed from nineteenth century English poetry to examine and critique the experiences of African-American artists.

    Creole: In Kate Chopin’s work, the French Creoles are of Spanish or French descent. They are typically white and are considered members of the upper class.

    Cubism: A popular style of painting made famous by Pablo Picasso. Instead of realistic representation, objects are depicted in an abstract style, often fractional and cube-like.

    David Foster Wallace: David Foster Wallace is a late twentieth century American novelist and essayist associated with the “maximalist” writing style, whose authors deliberately overload their work with excessive information.

    Deconstruction: A postmodern philosophy associated with the French philosopher Jacques Derrida that emphasizes the contingency and contextuality of language. Contrary to the traditional definition of a word as the name of a thing, Deconstructionists treat words not as definitions of external, non-linguistic things but as so-called signs that can only continually refer to other signs. The meaning of things thus exists not absolutely in an objective world at large but instead within processions of signs that connect, ultimately, only to each other, and in which meaning is always relative to linguistic and historical context.

    Dialect: The term dialect refers to the unique forms of a common language that are associated with different regions and groups. For instance, regional authors often write their dialog in “New England dialect” or “Southern dialect.”

    Don DeLillo: A contemporary American novelist whose work is often associated with postmodernism. In the wide ranging novels he has published to date, including Underworld (1997) and White Noise (1985), DeLillo represents the national myths, popular media, absurd situations, and everyday people who comprise the twentieth century American experience.

    Donald Barthelme: A twentieth century postmodernist short story writer and novelist whose fiction is known for its playful sense of experimentation.

    Dramatic Monologue: A lengthy speech by a single person, often seen in plays. Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” is a famous example.

    Dust Bowl: Severe storms and drought that affected American agriculture in the 1930s at the height of the Great Depression. The ‘Dust Bowl’ usually referred to the Great Plains and Midwest, which was most affected.

    e. e. cummings (1894-1962): A twentieth century American modernist poet who wrote around three thousand poems in his lifetime, Cummings’s poetry plays with language and bends traditional poetic forms into new shapes.

    Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950): A twentieth century American modernist poet known for her portrayal of female sexuality who combined technical skill as a poet with a lightness that contrasted sharply with the work of some of her male contemporaries.

    Ellen Glasgow(1873-1945): (1873 - 1945) A Southern writer whose works heralded the Southern Renascence with their modernist and feminist themes concerning the changing South.

    Emancipation: The process by which an individual or community is set free from slavery or some other form of legal confinement.

    Émile Zola: A French writer known as a leader in the literary movement termed Naturalism. Zola articulated a theory of Naturalism in his important work, Le Roman Expérimental (1880). Zola argued for a kind of intense Realism, one that did not look away from any aspects of life, including the base, dirty, or ugly. His theory of Naturalism was heavily influenced by the works of Charles Darwin. Zola argued that a novel written about the human animal could be set up as a kind of scientific experiment, where, once the ingredients were added, the story would unfold with scientific accuracy. He was particularly interested in how hereditary traits under the influence of a particular social environment might determine a human to behave.

    Emily Dickinson (1830-1886): An American poet of the mid-nineteenth century who experimented with verse and poetic forms to free language from the confines of traditional poetry. Even as she experimented with poetic forms, however, Dickinson’s poetry explored traditional themes of identity, mortality, and the natural world.

    Epigraph: A brief quotation preceding a literary work. For example, T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ begins with a brief epigraph from Dante’s Inferno.

    Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961): A modernist American novelist known for his distinct minimalist style of terse sentences. He is known for his novels The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and The Sea.

    Eudora Welty (1909-2001): A modernist American writer, Welty is considered a master of short fiction, publishing many famous short stories as well as winning a Pulitzer Prize for her novel, The Optimist’s Daughter.

    Explicit: The opposite of implicit, the term explicit refers to things that are clearly and directly stated.

    Ezra Pound (1885-1972): A modernist poet and editor, known for his imagist poetry, such as “In a Station of the Metro.”

    F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940): An American author known for his fictional depictions of the rich and famous in the 1920s. Fitzgerald’s most famous works, including The Great Gatsby (1925) are sophisticated social satires.

    Fauvism: A French style of art, specifically painting, made popular during Modernism, emphasizing color over representation.

    Federal Writers’ Project: A federal project to support writers during the Great Depression.

    Feminism: The advocacy of equality between the sexes. In the United States, feminism can be defined as a series of social, cultural, economic, and political movements that emphasized and called for equality for women.

    Flannery O’Connor: Georgia native Flannery O’Connor is a mid-twentieth century short story writer and novelist associated with Southern Gothic literature. In the two novels and two collections of short fiction she published before her early death, O’Connor explores the lives of Southerners caught between Old and New Souths.

    Flash Fiction: Associated with the work of Donald Barthelme, the term flash fiction refers to extremely brief works of fiction ranging from 50 to 1000 words.

    Frank Norris: (1870 – 1902) A journalist, novelist, and literary theorist, Norris was one of the first writers to embrace French Naturalism and to introduce the style of writing to an American audience.

    Free Verse: A poetic form, commonly associated with Walt Whitman and more modern poets, that does not conform to a regular rhythm or set line length. Free verse is often said to suggest the form of ordinary speech.

    Friedrich Nietzsche: Friedrich Nietzsche a nineteenth century German philosopher whose rejection of traditional religious views and his writings on nihilism influenced a number of artists and intellectuals of the time.

    G.I. Bill: Known formally as The Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, the so-called G.I. Bill provided benefits to servicemen returning from World War II such as funds for college tuition and affordable home and business loans.

    Gravitas: Gravitas refers to a quality of seriousness and dignity, as well as a sense of substance and importance, that someone or something may possess.

    Great Migration: A major population shift as many Southerners, including a large population of African-Americans, moved from rural Southern states to urban Northeastern, Midwestern and even Western metropolitan areas.

    Great War: Another name for World War 1, which lasted from 1914-1918.

    Guggenheim Fellowship: Guggenheim Fellowships are prestigious, multi-thousand- dollar grants awarded since 1925 from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to scholars and artists of exceptional ability.

    H. L. Mencken: An early twentieth century journalist and social critic who published widely during his lifetime. He is perhaps best known for his news reporting of the Scopes “monkey trial,” where a high school teacher in Tennessee was put on trial for violating the state’s Butler Act which made the teaching of evolution in state- funded schools illegal.

    Harlem Renaissance: A cultural and artistic movement, originating in Harlem in the 1920s, which exposed many African-American artists and musicians to a larger audience.

    Harlem: A neighborhood in New York City, influenced culturally by it’s African- American population

    Henry James: An advocate of Realism, James was a well-known novelist and literary theorist known for his international themes. He spent most of his working life in Britain.

    High Modernism: Modernist works that, while more formal, look at the modern era as a period of loss. High modernists realize that the world has changed so much, it is impossible to return to the old ways.

    Iconoclast: An iconoclast is a highly independent non-conformist who may rebel against or criticize the status quo.

    Imagery: A type of figurative language that invokes a visual image or memory.

    Imagism: A movement amongst Modernist poets to focus in on precise images. Ezra

    Pound’s “In a Station of the metro” is a famous example of imagism.

    Immigration: America saw a steep rise in immigration in the nineteenth century, as people from other countries moved to America for a variety of personal and political reasons but primarily to find work in America’s growing industries, including the building of the transcontinental railroad.

    Implicit. The opposite of explicit, the term implicit refers to things that are implied but not directly expressed.

    Industrial Age: In America, the rise of industry in the mid to late nineteenth century and beyond caused a shift in America from a primarily agrarian economy to an industrial economy.

    Industrialization: In America, industrialization can be seen as the process by which advances in technology in the nineteenth century led to the shift from farm production to manufacturing production.

    Jack London: (1876 – 1916) A journalist, fiction writer, and social activist, London is known for elements of Naturalism in his work set in the Klondike region and the South Pacific. James Baldwin: A mid-twentieth century American essayist, novelist, playwright and civil rights activist whose work explores the complex interrelationship of race, class, and gender.

    James Dickey: The Atlanta-born James Dickey is a mid-twentieth century American poet and novelist whose poetry, like his best-selling novel Deliverance, often explores the experiences of people in intense and violent situations.

    Jazz Age: Another name for the 1920s in which Jazz became a popular form of music. Also known as “The Roaring 20s,” the Jazz Age is said to have died when the Great Depression occured.

    Jean Toomer (1894-1967): A Harlem Renaissance writer known primarily for his modernist work Cane.

    Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882-1961): An African-American author of the Harlem Renaissance, Fauset was the longtime literary editor of The Crisis, the official magazine of the NAACP. Fauset’s works frequently deal with the conflicts faced by light-skinned African-American women.

    Jim Crow Laws: Named after a popular racist caricature of the nineteenth century, Jim Crow refers to the racist laws enacted in the states of the American South after Reconstruction that enforced the racial segregation of society under the specious rationale that black and white Americans could be “separate but equal.” Jim Crow laws were nullified by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    Karl Marx: Karl Marx, who was born in Prussia and later lived in London, was a nineteenth century philosopher whose political and economic theories (collectively known as Marxism) formed the basis of the modern practice of Communism. Marx’s views on class struggle and power were highly influential during the nineteenth century and beyond.

    Kate Chopin: (1850 – 1904) A short story writer and novelist who wrote frankly about women’s lives in Louisiana Bayou region and is known as one of the early feminist writers in America.

    Korean War: Fought from June of 1950 to July of 1953, The Korean War was a war between North and South Korea, the two parts of Korea that were formed after World War II. The Soviet Union supported the Communist government of North Korea while the United States supported, and sent troops to fight for, its ally South Korea. The Korean War is often seen as an escalation of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. There was no victor in the Korean War and the country of Korea remains divided between North and South to this day.

    Langston Hughes (1902-1967): A Jazz Age poet known for his lyric approach to poetry. Hughes is one of the most influential American poets of the twentieth century.

    Leslie Marmon Silko: A late twentieth century Postmodern American novelist and essayist whose work often represents the lives and culture of Native Americans.

    Local Color: Local color is a type of writing that became popular after the American Civil War. It is a sub-movement of writing that generally preceded and influenced the rise of Realism in American writing while it still retained some features of the Romanticism, the movement which preceded it. Local color writing focuses on the distinctive features of particular locale, including the customs, language, mannerisms, habits, and peculiarities of people and place, thereby predicting some aspects of the Realists’ writing style, which focused on accuracy and detail. However, in Local Color stories, the characters are often predictable character types rather than the complex characters offered by Realist writers. Additionally, Local Color stories often retain Romantic features of emotion (including sentimentality and nostalgia) and idealism (with endings that are neatly resolved). Examples include Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi.

    Low Modernism: Modernist work that is less formal and experiments with form.

    Lyric: A short poem that often expresses a single theme such as the speaker’s mood or feeling.

    Make It New!: A phrase from poet Ezra Pound which becomes the mantra of the modernists.

    Marianne Moore (1887-1972): A preeminent modernist poet, Moore favored concrete images and plain language over traditional literary forms.

    Mark Twain: (1835 – 1910): A pen name for Samuel Longhorn Clemens, an American author and humorist, who is known for his travel writings, his storytelling on the lecture circuit, and his novels and short stories, particularly Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) which is often touted as the “Great American Novel.”

    Mary E. Wilkins Freeman: (1852 – 1930) A short story writer and novelist known for her realistic depiction of women’s lives in the New England region. She also is known for her collection of ghost stories.

    Metafiction: Metafiction is a literary technique in which a story’s narrator draws attention to her own act of storytelling, explicitly foregrounding within her narrative the usually implicit processes with which stories are told.

    Meter: The regular pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables found in a line of poetry. Free verse is notable for the absence of meter.

    Modernism: a global movement centered in the United States and Europe, for literature written during the two wars, which is said to be the first industrialized modern period.

    Modernist: An artist associated with the Modernism time period.

    The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP): founded in 1909 by a group of prominent African-Americans, including W.E.B. Du Bois who responded to the wave of punitive laws and restrictive ordinances enacted against African-Americans after the end of Reconstruction. The founders of the NAACP opposed Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta Compromise on the grounds that it did not do enough to protect African-Americans from discriminatory laws and practices.

    National Book Award: Starting in 1936, the ever-changing National Book Awards have been awarded annually by various organizations within the publishing industry and, since 1988, by the non-profit National Book Foundation to honor books written exclusively by American authors that have sold well or otherwise merit critical acclaim.

    Naturalism: Naturalism was a style of writing that achieved prominence after Realism. Reacting against the Realists, Naturalists rejected Realism as focusing too much on the mundane, day-to-day concerns of average people while avoiding controversial subjects. Willing to tackle stories about prostitution, murder, domestic violence, alcoholism, and madness, Naturalists explored the grittier side of life. Influenced by the literary theories of Emile Zola and by Charles Darwin’s writings about evolution, Naturalists typically saw the human being at the mercy of hereditary traits and environmental forces beyond his or her awareness, understanding, or control.

    Nella Larsen (1891-1964): A Harlem Renaissance writer, known for her short story “Sanctuary,” as well as her novels, Quicksand and Passing.

    Nobel Prize: An international award granted for major artistic, cultural and scientific advances. Arguably the most prestigious literary award on Earth, the Nobel Prize in Literature is part of a set of annual awards named after the Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, whose will created the prize. The prize in literature is awarded by the Swedish Academy to an individual author whose lifetime of work has made an outstanding contribution to the arts of letters. To date, thirteen Americans have received the Nobel Prize in literature, Sinclair Lewis being the first in 1930 and Toni Morrison being the latest in 1993.

    Passing: “Passing” is a historical term that describes the process by which light-skinned African-Americans could pass as whites.

    PEN/Faulkner Award: In 1980, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation was created after the publishing industry changed the voting rules for the National Book Award to encourage awarding only bestselling books. Since then the Foundation has recognized the best work of the year written by a living American citizen with the PEN/Faulkner Award. The acronym PEN stands for Poets, Essayists, and Novelists.

    Plot of decline: The plot of decline is a significant feature in most Naturalistic novels. At some point in the novel, even after enjoying a temporary rise in material circumstances, characters—under the pressures of hereditary traits and environmental forces beyond their awareness, understanding, or control—often start a downward spiral into degeneration and even death.

    Post-structuralism: refers to philosophies and critical theories that follow the insights of “structuralism,” a twentieth century critical movement that emphasized the role that language plays in the apprehension of meaning and reality. Philosophers such as Jacques Derrida and Jean Baudrillard are poststructuralists.

    Postmodernism: The term postmodernism refers both to works of culture that were created since the 1950s following the innovations of Modernism, and to the high- tech, global, cold-warring, consumerist mass-media society that arose in the decades following World War II. In literature, Postmodernism refers to a style of writing such as one finds in the work of Donald Barthleme and David Foster Wallace that employs the experimental techniques of the Modernists in a decidedly playful manner, foregrounding the role that language, text, and technique play in the creation of fiction, poetry, and drama. The term also refers to works such as Don DeLillo’s that represents how absurd, overwhelming, and disorienting postmodern society can be.

    Prose: A term used for writing which does not fit the poetic structure (does not use metric verse or free verse).

    Pulitzer Prize: A very prestigious award for journalism, literature or music granted each year from Columbia University. Established in 1918 in the will of the publisher Joseph Pulitzer and managed by Columbia University, the Pulitzer Prize is awarded annually to writers, journalists, and composers of exemplary works of literature, journalism, and music respectively.

    Racial Inequality: The inferior treatment of another person due to their racial heritage. Ralph Ellison: Ralph Ellison is a mid-twentieth century Modernist American essayist

    and novelist whose work explores the African-American experience.

    Realism: Realism is a type of writing that achieved prominence after the American Civil War. Reacting against the Romantic era of writing that preceded them, Realists rejected Romantic features of emotionalism and idealism. Realists also rejected the creation of larger-than-life characters who were unrealistically all good or all bad. Influenced by Local Color and Regional writers, Realists paid attention to details and accuracy in describing people and places, and they developed characters who used ordinary speech in dialogue, commensurate to the character’s social class. However, the Realists moved beyond Local Color and Regional writers in their more complex development of realistic characterization. Characters in Realist stories resembled ordinary people (neither all good nor all bad), often of the middle class, living in ordinary circumstances, who experienced plausible real-life struggles and who often, as in life, were unable to find resolution to their conflicts. In Realistic stories, the plot was formed from the exploration of a character working through or reacting to a particular issue or struggle. In other words, character often drove the plot of the story. Characters in Realistic fiction were three-dimensional, and their inner lives were often revealed through an objective, omniscient narrator. In a Realist story, there are rarely any indications of Romantic features such as nostalgia, sentimentality, or neatly resolved endings.

    Reconstruction: The period of American history from the end of the Civil War in 1865 until the formal removal of the U.S. Army from the territory of the former Confederate States of America on 31 March 1877.

    Regionalism: Regionalism is a type of writing that was practiced after the American Civil War. It is a sub-movement of writing that generally preceded and influenced the rise of Realism in American writing. Regionalism, like Local Color, employs a focus on the details associated with a particular place, but Regionalist stories often feature a more complex narrative structure, including the creation of a main protagonist who provides the perspective or point of view through which the plot of the story is told. Such a shift in the technique of narration aligns Regionalist writers more closely with Realist writers, who are known for their complex characters who exhibit psychological dimensionality. However, Regionalist stories, like Local Color stories, often retain Romantic features of emotion (including sentimentality and nostalgia) and idealism (with endings that are neatly resolved).

    Rest cure: The “rest cure” was a medical treatment for women developed by a nineteenth century physician, Dr. S. Weir Mitchell. Used to treat “hysterical” (or nervous) tendencies in women, the “cure” involved complete bed rest and isolation, with no mental or physical stimulation.

    Rhyme: Repetition of sounds within poetry and often at the end of a line.

    Robert Frost (1872-1963): American modernist poet best known for his poems like “The Road Not Taken” and “Mending Wall” that feature the voice of an older New England farmer reflecting on themes of nature and mutability.

    Romanticism: A literary movement that begin in the late eighteenth century and often focused on unique feelings of the speaker and the importance of nature in relation to individuals.

    Sarah Orne Jewett: (1849 – 1909) A short story writer, poet, and novelist known for her realistic depiction of women’s lives in the New England region, particularly near the coast of Maine.

    Satire: Satire is the use of humor, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose human ignorance, vice, or foolishness—as well as other human weaknesses.

    Segregation: The enforced separation of groups of persons based on race.

    Signs: In poststructuralist philosophies such as Jacques Derrida’s Deconstructionism, language is composed not of words that exactly define specific, concrete things but instead of signs that refer always to other signs in a so-called “chain of signification.” The meanings of words-as-signs are thus linguistically and historically relative, indefinite, and prone to change because they refer not to actual things but to long, historically produced assemblages of signs/words.

    Slavery: A legal and economic system in which certain individuals are treated as an legally considered the property of others. This form of slavery is also called chattel slavery.

    Southern gothic: Southern gothic is a genre of writing that is prevalent in the literary tradition of the American South. Borrowing features from gothic literature of the Romantic period, works may focus on dark themes associated with the supernatural, or they may focus on exaggerated characters that are eccentric, freakish, disfigured, or flawed in some disturbing way. Often, works incorporateelements of the grotesque. Southern writers sometimes used these conventions to critique the underlying Southern social order, illuminating disturbing foundations on which the social order was constructed.

    Southern Renaissance: Also known as the Southern Renascence; refers to Modernist literature written in the American South during the 1920s and 30s by such authors as William Faulkner, Katherine Anne Porter, and Eudora Welty. The literature of the Southern Renascence eschewed nostalgic representations of the Old South, featuring instead more realist, violent, experimental and even gothic representations of the region’s history and social norms.

    Spanish-American War: The Spanish-American War was a war between Spain and the United States in 1898, resulting in Cuban independence.

    Stephen Crane

    Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC): The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was an influential organization of students during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, organizing public protests such as sit-ins and marches on Washington, D.C. as well as freedom rides and voter registration drives.

    Sylvia Plath: Sylvia Plath is a mid-twentieth Century American poet whose work is associated with the confessional style of poetry.

    T. S. Eliot (1888-1965): A modernist poet and writer who published The Wasteland, which is perhaps the most famous work of the modernist period. Eliot was one of the most important figures of the modernist period, editing The Dial, where he helped many modernist writers gain a wider audience.

    Talented Tenth: A term from W.E.B. DuBois’ essay, ‘The Talented Tenth,’ referring to the top 10% of African-Americans as cultural and political leaders. It was used widely during the Harlem Renaissance.

    Tennessee Williams: Tennessee Williams is a Modernist mid-twentieth Century American playwright whose work, often featuring misfits or outcasts, foregrounds the emotional experiences of its characters.

    The Great Depression: A period of national economic depression beginning with the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and lasting throughout the 1930s.

    The New Deal: A series of federally funded programs started by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression to build infrastructure and create jobs for the nation.

    Theodore Roethke (1908-1963): A preeminent postmodern poet, Roethke’s poetry combines natural and industrial elements in a combination of hope and insecurity.

    Toni Morrison: A late twentieth century novelist who combines folk and postmodernist storytelling techniques to represent the African-American experience.

    Transcontinental Railroad: The Transcontinental Railroad was a network of railroads completed in the nineteenth century that stretched across the country and united America by rail.

    Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute: A school for the education of African- Americans living in the former confederacy founded by Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee, Alabama in 1881. The school exists today as Tuskegee University.

    W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963): An African-American historian and sociologist, Du Bois earned the first doctorate at Harvard University and championed the cause of equal rights for African-Americans. Du Bois was a founder of the NAACP and an active supporter of the Harlem Renaissance. He actively opposed the Atlanta Compromise supported by Booker T. Washington.

    Wallace Stevens (1874-1955): American modernist poet whose works often feature the common, the contemporary, and the familiar. Unlike the Romantic poets who looked to the natural world for signs of cosmic significance, Stevens’s poetry celebrates the ordinary.

    Walt Whitman (1819-1892): A leading figure in nineteenth century American poetry, Whitman celebrated the common language of the common man throughout his works.

    William Carlos Williams (1883-1963): A modernist poet, who was trained as a medical doctor. Williams is known for experimenting with style in his poetry. William Carlos Williams is known for his poems, “This is Just to Say” and “The Red Wheelbarrow.”

    William Dean Howells: (1837 - 1920) A founder of the Realism movement, Howells was a well-known and influential writer, literary theorist, and literary critic. He was editor of the Atlantic Monthly from 1871 – 1881.

    William Faulkner (1897-1962): One of America’s most famous novelists winning both a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Faulkner was active during the Southern Literary Renaissance and was famous for his stream of consciousness writing, as well as for using the same fictional setting Yoknapatawpha County (and many of the same characters) in his works. He is known for his modernist novels The Sound and the Fury, Absalom, Absalom! and As I Lay Dying.

    Woman Suffrage Movement: a movement that began in the mid-nineteenth century, with a focus on achieving for women the legal right to vote. Led to the adoption of the nineteenth amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

    World War I: The first global war, (1914-1918). World War I included 9 million combatants and changed the face of modern warfare. It had a major economic, political and artistic impact on the entire world, especially Europe.

    World War II: World War II, also known as The Second World War, was a global “total war” involving all the major nations of the world. The United States, The Soviet Union, and Britain were allies during the war, and this coalition of “Allied” powers were victorious over the “Axis” powers of Germany, Japan, Italy and their allies. The war was fought between 1939 and 1945, resulting in up to eighty million deaths.

    World’s Columbian Exposition: The World’s Columbian Exposition, held from 1 May 1893 to 30 October 1893, took place in Chicago’s Jackson Park and commemorated 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean in 1492. The exposition featured exhibits by forty-six nations and represented both growing industrial importance of United States and the significance of the city of Chicago, Illinois as a transportation hub.

    Zane Grey (1872-1839): A leading figure in the development of the western in American literature, Zane Grey was a dentist turned prolific author whose novels and short stories about the American West made him one of the most popular and commercially successful writers of the first two decades of the twentieth century.

    Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960): An anthropologist and Harlem Renaissance author known for her highly celebrated novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.

      • Was this article helpful?