A brief description of the literary movement within its historical context.
To whom was the ethos of individualism available? How did this exclusivity change over time?
What literary strategies did American writers develop to distinguish themselves from British writers? How successful were they?
What virtues and values emerged as foundational to the American character? How did they change over time?
Why did fictional genres such as the novel and drama seem morally questionable to so many Americans? How did early national novels and plays attempt to make themselves seem wholesome and productive of national virtues?
How does "auto-American-biography" enable writers to construct themselves as ideal American citizens?
What different spiritual beliefs influenced eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American writing? How did Americans' spiritual beliefs change over time?
What is Transcendentalism? Who took part in the Transcendentalist movement and how did they influence later generations of writers and thinkers?
What relationship to nature did the Transcendentalists promote? How did they see the landscape as a resource for spiritual transformation?
Why and how did natural history come to be linked to national identity?
How did the aesthetic of the "sublime" shape American representations of and relations to nature?
What is neoclassicism? How did this aesthetic movement influence American art and literature?
What is Romantic Individualism?
What did early national writers and artists mean when they conceived of America as a "new Rome"?
What is the "self-made man"? Were opportunities for self-making open to all Americans equally? How did the limits of self-making change over time?
Why did Americans represent their nation through the allegorical figure of "Columbia"? What values and beliefs informed portraits of Columbia?
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