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Literary Collections Essays

Patterns of Commitment in American Literature

edited by Marston LaFrance

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2019
Essays, General, Poetry, General
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    Publish Date
    Apr 2019
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This collection of previously unpublished essays written by leading scholars in the field of American literature was commissioned by the Department of English at Carleton University to celebrate the establishment of the programmie in American literature. The contributors are William H. Gilman on the hero and the heroic, Harry Hayden Clark on Hawthorne, Milton R. Stern on Melville, Gay Wilson Allen on Whitman, Roger B. Salomon on Mark Twain, Munro Beattie on Henry James, Marston LaFrance on Crane, Daniel Fuchs on Stevens and Santayana, Lewis A. Lawson on the grotesque, Michael Millgate on Faulkner, and Frederisk J. Hoffman on contemporary American poetry.
Their essays, which examine some of the major writers in the American tradition, produce a fresh interpretation and understanding of this literature. Written in a straightforward style, the essays offer useful and clearly understandable criticism of some of the most important writing to come out of the United States. The theme of the collection can be stated as commitment to action based upon the individual's perception of reality: he is required to perceive reality correctly, and to commit himself to action on their basis of his perception.

About the author

MARSTON LAFRANCE was a member of the Department of English at Carleton University from 1963 until his death in 1975. His colleagues remember him as a teacher intensely loyal to his students and to the intellectual functions of the university, as well as a critic with great sensitivity to the craft of language. His own writing was vigorous, flexible, lucid, and precise. He was a stoic from most of his life, although the basic humanitas of the man softened what otherwise might have been mere grim endurance. This tribute to him focuses on a stoicism in American literature. The strain is evident in both the tension in the works of various impotant American writers and in the philosophical vein of stoicism which runs through several genres, over long periods of time. Of Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience (1849), LaFrance said: 'It seems to me to be the best available statement of a distinctive philosophical position -- the assertion of a moral self-reliance -- which is found throughout American literature ... a peciluar strain of cussedness which seems to me to be an essential property of the American mind.' That 'strain of cussedness' is explored in various ways in this book. These are essays which provoke and advance scholarship and critical insight. Strict philosophical rigour is sometimes 'strained' in favour of unity, but the essays, in their juxtaposition, suggest that the stoic theme in American literature is a fruitful subject for exploration.

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