This collection of previously unpublished essays written by leading scholars in the field of American literature was commissioned by the Department of English at Carleton University to celebrate the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.