Literature - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Literature - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

American Literature

The 19th century saw the birth of science fiction and the detective novel, the heavy use of American dialects and the vernacular by such authors as Mark Twain and George Washington Cable, and the psychologically complex novels of writers like Henry James. The 20th century continued these trends.

For instance, the regional interest of the Southwest humorists and the local color school gave way to Edith Wharton's examination of the eastern seaboard, F. Scott Fitzgerald's novels of New York and American expatriates, and William Faulkner's stories of Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. Faulkner often wrote not only in dialect that could at times be nearly impenetrable, he used the rambling stream of consciousness approach employed previously by James Joyce.

In 1949 he won the Nobel Prize in literature for his contributions not only to American literature but to the world of letters. Two of his novels were awarded the Pulitzer Prize: A Fable and The Reivers, both of which are now considered minor works compared to The Sound and the Fury; Absalom, Absalom!; and As I Lay Dying.

Social concerns became prominent in American literature in the early 20th century, with Upton Sinclair's The Jungle—an attack on meat packing and on the ills of capitalism—an obvious example.

Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Sherwood Anderson, John Steinbeck, Nathanael West, and Sinclair Lewis were deeply invested in their portraits of American life and American character. Lewis's It Can't Happen Here warned against the possibility of a fascist regime in the United States.

Gertrude Stein, meanwhile, coined the term the lost generation to refer to the American authors expatriated to Europe between World War I and the Great Depression. The Lost Generation included Stein, Hemingway, Anderson, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, and the poets Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, among others.

Many of these authors drew not only on their European experiences but on nonliterary movements for inspiration in their work: Stein herself was fascinated by cubism, while Pound and Eliot were as influenced by painting, sculpture, and music as they were by other authors.

The detective stories of Edgar Allan Poe and Britain's Arthur Conan Doyle in the 19th century led to a boom in mysteries in the 20th century, which in the United States particularly included the "hard-boiled" genre epitomized by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.

Other detective stories showed up in the pulps—cheap magazines and short novels, successors to the dime novels—alongside science fiction, horror (including H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos stories), sword and sorcery such as Robert E. Howard's Conan series, and adventure stories featuring jungle explorers, pilots, and crime fighters.

The pulps, along with the newspaper comic strips now being nationally distributed, were a major influence on the comic books of the 1930s and 1940s, which saw the birth of Superman, Batman, Captain America, and others.

The 1930s also saw the emergence of the golden age of science fiction. The first all science fiction magazine— Amazing Stories—had been founded in 1926, but it was in the late 1930s, when John Campbell became editor of Astounding Science Fiction, that many of the greats of the genre came to prominence: Isaac Asimov, James Blish, and Robert Heinlein, among others. Campbellian science fiction emphasized the wonder and ingenuity of scientific achievement rather than acting as cautionary tales or allegories.

International Literature

With the advent of the new century, a number of annual literary prizes were created: the Nobel in 1901, the Prix Goncourt in 1903, and the Pulitzer Prize in 1917. Those who won were largely European or North American, with the Nobel Prize having a heavy weighting to northern Europe.

In Britain there was a proliferation of literature that had backgrounds set during war, especially World War I and then World War II. Stories set in parts of the British Empire, both true and fictional, were very popular. One of the most prolific writers during this period was Rudyard Kipling, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1907 for his work.

War stories were also popular in many other countries, with Henri Barbusse's Under Fire (1917), R. C. Sherriff's Journey's End (1928), Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front (1929), and Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Schweik (1939) all being translated into many languages. The reduction in the cost of printing, as well as increased literacy, saw a huge demand for adventure stories for children.

These helped introduce young people to other parts of the world and historical periods, and they were matched by an increase in historical fiction, with the Napoleonic era and the Roman Empire proving popular with novelists from Britain, France, Germany, and many other countries.

By the 1940s many books were decorated by elaborate dust wrappers. In 1935 Allen Lane started Penguin Books, publishing works in cheaper paperback editions, a move quickly followed by many other publishers all around the world.

The period from 1900 until 1950 also saw an increase in the production of plays by British and European playwrights, often leading to films of the works. Some of the more popular plays were by writers such as George Bernard Shaw and John Galsworthy, both British Nobel laureates. There were also several new genres such as H. G. Wells's The Time Machine (1895).

Then there were those warning about the future such as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932) and George Orwell's 1984 (1948). There were also some fantasy writers with J. R. R. Tolkein's The Hobbit (1937) becoming popular in the 1940s and C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), leading, respectively, to further books on Middle Earth and Narnia. L

ewis was a prominent writer on theology, and Bertrand Russell wrote philosophy, as did other writers such as Romain Rolland. There were also a few non-European writers who rose to prominence, the most famous probably being Rabindranath Tagore from India, who won the Nobel Prize in 1913.