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Lecture No.

4 American Romance When you are asked to say what is the form of the Scarlet Letter you are supposed to say romance. The greatest number of American novels are written in this style. Like the Great Gatsby, oby !ick, or even resent novels. The origins of romance date back to the medieval times. When you think about Sir Gawain and the Green "ight it is not e#actly a love story. $t is adventurous% often there is a &uest imbedded into the plot. The hero is looking for his identity and hi is on a &uest to find some sort of meaning of his life. This is especially true for historical romances but we can denote it in the Scarlet Letter since 'ester and !. are also on a &uest. They want to find some kind of resolution and closure. This is an important part of their &uest. oby !ick is all about a &uest of course. The whole point of this novel is the (pic battle between oby !ick and )aptain A.. (#ample for *order +iction, We refer to writings as border fiction, because they have this thin line between reality and fantasy. At the beginning of the plot we have the Green "ight coming in the castle of -ing Arthur. The Green "ight is the metaphor for nature or vitality. So from the beginning we have this introduction which is very mysterious that belongs to the other world and when Sir Gawain starts the &uest to find the Green "ight we have these whole passages where he changes landscapes and meets strange beings, so throughout this romance we have this beautiful fusion of reality and fantasy. This is what attracted American writers and that is the dominant reason why they chose romance as a form because we have this border fiction, blending of reality and fantasy and when we think about the Scarlet Letter certainly we have these intimations of the other world, we have the forest as this fantastic realm where we have the black man, we have the scarlet letter which changes meaning, we have meteors writing letter .letter /A01 in the sky but also what is important is that characters accept these other worldly phenomena as reality. We have elements of magic realism and that2s why romance is such a vital form. 3ostmodernism especially American postmodernism ma4ority of writers are still using romance. $f we compare the development of the *ritish novel and the American novel there are differences since American alienated romance into a completely different direction unlike the *ritish writers. When forms and genres appear they are the conse&uences of the changes in society and society2s demands. Why the novel became dominant in the 56 century and why it is still dominant because actually these novels reflect the attitude of middle class. So it is the form which belongs to the middle class and it certainly belonged to them in the 7ictorian age. These novels are about the rise of the middle class and the values and basically first we have the foundation of the middle class and than the development of the middle class. The ma4ority of the writers belonged to the middle class so they wrote what was natural to them. The 8nited State, at the beginning, did not have such stratification .as for e#ample the *ritish society had1. $n the German society, french society where the novel was very dominant since they had a hierarchical society. $n the 8nited States there were so many settlers and so many ways of immigration everybody was pretty much e&ual a lower portion of society was e&ual and maybe at the very top

they had the landowners but they also started from the bottom. +or e#ample )ooper2s father, who became a 4udge and had a huge land but before that it is not as if they were aristocracy. The (uropean society was layered while the American society was not. +or instance the political system of *ritain was so developed, the *ritish 3arliament and the *ritish 'ouses, Government and the whole machinery of governmental and political parties. $n the 8.S. they had town meetings, elected governors and after that they had the congress but it was not nearly as elaborate as the *ritish system was. American literature is not realistic in a sense that they give you so many details. $n *ritish literature they give you description of furniture, description of wallpapers, carpets, clothes, food, buildings, you don2t find that in romances. 9f course we know that 'ester wore beautiful dresses but do we know what !. wore, no we don2t, do we know )h. wore, no we don2t. Think about :ane Austin, everything is detailed dresses, hairdos, shoes, and it was detailed because the focus was on the middle class, tradesman and craftsman were the builders of the middle class so ob4ects and properties were important, things that one can buy. These people wanted the novel to reflect their work. American romance is not about society in general. $t is not about advancement in society, climbing social scale, becoming somebody prominent, finding some kind of function role. Scarlet Letter, oby !ick, )ooper2s writings, ;oung Goodman *rown, these works not about society, it is rather about the relationship between the individual and the society. Why was this, because early American society was more about e&uality than stratification. $f we think about (uropean law it is all about rules, power and that they protect the state. American law is all about the needs and the power of the individual. $n American literature characters don2t have backgrounds. +or e#ample in oby !ick we don2t know anything about the character $shmael, where he comes from, what is his background. $n the Scarlet Letter we have glimpses about 'ester2s past but they are not detailed. We don2t know much about !. and about )h. and this is the dominant characteristic of American novels. These works are not about hierarchy. 3art of the American !ream is reinvention, so we do have reinvention of the characters. Good e#ample is <ip 7an Winkle and the Legend of the Sleepy 'ollow. <ip 7an Winkle who completely transforms himself after his dream. +rom a la=y husband he becomes a storyteller and he becomes a respected individual of the community. $n the Legend of Sleepy 'ollow we are given certain hints that $. ). changed his name and became a politician. )haracters change their identity and names. The plots are often episodic, good e#ample for this is S.L.. There are empty spaces in the plot. We have the first mayor scaffold scene and then > years pass and then there is the second mayor scaffold scene. What happened in between those seven years is not spoken about in detail. 9pen ending is another characteristic. Legend of Sleepy 'ollow, oby !ick, $nvisible an. The psychology of characters is important in American novels. Like morbid emotions, psychological states of characters, drama. "ovels are using a specific time in a character2s life in which there is more action, psychological action. $t is about the underside of a character or otherworldly phenomena. Some novels have the elements of utopia, so we have idle in a sense that the character is in his or her &uest of searching for a perfect place or space where they would be content. *ecause romance is more about this general state of human psyche, characters are used as vehicles to e#amine human psyche that is why characters are more flat than rounded. The whole S. L. is about sin and

purity and this &uestion whether the needs of an individual are more important than the needs of the community. That is why the characters tend to be relatively simple. 3earl is a very good e#ample. She is a very good symbol or metaphor but she is actually a character. etaphors and symbols are also the characteristics of American novels. There is a fre&uent usage of metaphors, symbols and S.L. is a very good e#ample of that. $n <.7. W. the dream is a metaphor. <omance is not didactic. (. (. 3oe was very much against didactic literature. $t is about beauty, about psyche, about emotions sensations. ost of American renaissance writers who actually created American romance were under the influence of transcendentalism. Transcendentalism states that people cannot establish the differences between good end evil, and that is why we have literature to teach people what is good and what is bad. $t is different from realistic novels where there is a didactic reference. The following characteristic of romantic novels is its dualistic feature. !uality of emotions. We can observe a split in American society that on the one hand they valued puritan values but then there were )hristians. Then there was the wilderness and passion. Good and bad, darkness and light not 4ust around characters but within them. There is this constant dilemma should they be passionate or should they be moral. <omances are about )hristianity verses wilderness. )haracteristics concerning the narrative structure we have an omniscient .sve=na4u?i1 narrator. We have actually a point of view. So we do have an omniscient narrator but the plot, emotions, setting is given from a point of view of the narrator and not from the narration shifts. $n S.L. we have 'ester2s point of view then you have !. point of view, so it is not first person narration not a monologue. The narration shifts between sub4ectivity and ob4ectivity. We only know what the character knows. Setting is also connected to this point of view. We are not given a description of the setting in an ob4ective way but you are given the character2s perception of the settings. So for one character a forest can be very scary place but for another character it is not. These perceptions are &uite relative. oby !ick is a novel where you get that a lot. The plot shifts according to these different points of view. $n romance there is no such thing that the good characters are rewarded while the bad ones are punished.