Smaller Movements and Schools

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Smaller Movements and Schools

For each of the major literary movements with which readers are familiar, the huge sweeping epochs such as the Renaissance, Romanticism, and Modernism, there are innumerable smaller movements. New movements continue to spring up, as they always have. Sometimes they emerge when like-minded individuals find each other and determine that they have similar aesthetic principles. Sometimes the writers themselves never actually find each other, and it is up to some third person, likely a discerning literary critic, to recognize similarities and define a movement in the making.

Of these lesser movements, there seem to be two general types. First, there are those historically that occurred as they splintered from major literary movements, forming in reaction to or as an offshoot of the dominant movement. Another type emerged toward the end of the twentieth century, smaller movements that evolved with or in response to new technologies, especially the Internet.

Through the ages, new literary movements have sprung up out of dissatisfaction. Romanticism can be seen as a reaction to the Enlightenment, and Postmodernism can be considered a response to ideas associated with Modernism. Similarly, Postmodernism splintered into smaller movements: some, such as Existentialism, gained broad international recognition, whereas others such as the New York School or Oulipo, remained small, localized phenomena.

Moreover, larger movements subdivide into ethnic categories. A writer's worldview is reflected by the literary movement with which that writer is connected, but that worldview also reflects some aspect of the writer's ethnic identity. Major ethnic movements, such as the Harlem Renaissance and the Irish Literary Renaissance, developed out of a rejection of the dominant white American and British cultures, respectively, and the same pattern follows in minor movements, for example, the Créolités who fought for literature in their own language, the Nuyorican writers who celebrated the experiences of Puerto Ricans who resettled in New York, and the New Poets, who grew out of the 1960s' Black Pride movement and left Rap music in their wake. In each of these cases, writers found that dominant literary tenets did not allow them to say what they had to say, so they created a new style that provided a better fit with their subjects and perspectives.

Beginning roughly in the 1990s and escalating sharply, the Internet has had a profound effect on literary composition and productions, perhaps comparable only to the effect the fifteenth-century invention of the printing press had on writing and book making and dissemination. Of course, technology has traditionally affected literary thought: advances in boat, train, and air travel made writers see that previously unimagined distances were accessible in a few mere months, then days, then hours; the Industrial Revolution showed that people could become alienated from and by their labor; the development and U.S. use of the atomic bomb in World War II and subsequent 1950s and 1960s nuclear proliferation affirmed that human civilization and life worldwide could actually be destroyed within a few moments. Whereas these technological changes affected writers' beliefs, worldviews, and approaches to their craft and thus the literature they produced, the Internet has profoundly altered the ways in which literature is created and distributed.

The conventional publication process for books and magazines has engaged writers, editors, and publishers for at least four centuries and continues into the twenty-first century. Even in cases in which literature was self-published and self-distributed, factors connected to the cost of paper and ink still made authors think selectively about which written works were worth printing, weighing one piece against another. However, in the 1990s and as the twenty-first century began, the Internet promised seemingly limitless capacity, an expansive, free venue. It provided a democratic setting for sharing work with room for everyone: Blogs and message boards offered a welcoming forum for individuals to say what they wanted and to respond to what others had to say.

The Internet also made it easy for writers to find like-minded readers. Small niche movements such as Bizarro Fiction or Fan Fiction could quickly locate empathetic readers within a local area; nationwide, American fans of Japanese Manga could learn the history and critical reception of the movement from the other side of the globe. At once both a local and global tool, the Internet provided a page, a site, and an avenue of exchange that transformed the nature of literary movements. They may begin as reactions to an author's particular place and time, but via the Internet they spread quickly to new cultures and then mutate to new forms at previously unimagined speeds.

Liberated from the printed page, literature has come to be and to signify more than the written words it contains. Multi-media projects have existed for centuries-drama, for one, which even in Ancient Greece was written before it is performed-have generally relied on the collaboration of two or more artists. The Internet and the personal computer, however, have provided the burgeoning technology that makes it possible for one person to merge sounds, images, and organization in one place, to be performed for audiences within minutes. There has never been so much freedom of expression available to individuals or so many individuals engaged in cultural exchange. One might say, individuals can produce their own literary movements, quickly hatched and ubiquitously available.



A one-act Chicano theater piece developed out of collective improvisation. Developed by the Teatro Campesino, which became a cultural outreach project of the United Farm Workers in Delano, California, in 1965, Actos use stock characters and humor to raise social consciousness of the political state of affairs facing Chicanos. The founder of Teatro Campesino, Luis Valdez, is the author most frequently associated with this movement.


A literary and artistic movement of the nineteenth century. Followers of the movement believed that art should not be mixed with social, political, or moral teaching. The statement "art for art's sake," which originated with the philosopher Victor Cousin and was promoted by Tháophile Gautier, summarizes the main value of Aestheticism. The movement had its roots in France, but it gained widespread importance in England in the last half of the nineteenth century, where it helped change the Victorian practice of including moral lessons in literature. Oscar Wilde is one of the best-known aesthetes of the late nineteenth century, along with the poets Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Algernon Charles Swinburne.


The period in English literature between 1750 and 1798, named after the most prominent literary figure of the age, Samuel Johnson. Works written during this transitional period between Neoclassicism and Romanticism are noted for their emphasis on sensibility, or emotional quality. These works mark a shift from the rational works of the Age of Reason, or neoclassical period, toward the emphasis on individual feelings and subjective responses so notable in the Romantic period. Significant writers during the Age of Johnson include the novelists Ann Radcliffe and Henry Mackenzie, dramatists Richard Sheridan and Oliver Goldsmith, and poets William Collins and Thomas Gray. Also known as Age of Sensibility.


A group of southern American writers of the 1930s and 1940s who fostered an economic and cultural program for the South based on agriculture, in opposition to the industrial society of the North. Other names for this group are the Vanderbilt Agrarians or Nashville Agrarians, since they were based at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Some Agrarian writers are John Crowe Ransom, Alan Tate, and John Gould Fletcher. The group's 1930 manifesto I'll Take My Stand explains its basic principles. The term "agrarian" can also refer generally to any group that promotes the value of farm life and agricultural society.



A period in Western European literature, beginning in the late sixteenth century and ending about one hundred years later. Works of this period typically express tension, anxiety, and violent emotion and sometimes feature elaborate conceits, or ingenious notions conveyed oftentimes in extended metaphors. In Germany, the influence of the Thirty Years War from 1618 to 1648 led to a period of intensity in writing that makes the German Baroque period one of the most vibrant of all German literature. Examples of Baroque works include John Lyly's 1578 Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit; Luis de Gongora's Soledads from 1613; William Shakespeare's As You Like It written in 1599 or 1600; and Simplicius Simplicissimus, by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, from 1668.


A contemporary literary genre that focuses on shock value and the ability to present readers with the unexpected. The category has some relationship to science fiction and horror, as well as Surrealism and Absurdism, with little pretense of artistic merit. Though the movement grew over the course of the 1990s, the term only came into common usage after the publication of The Bizarro Starter Kit, by Eraserhead Press in 2006. Some works associated with this movement are Foop! published by Chris Geno in 2005; Steve Aylett's 1998 Slaughtermatic; and Jeremy Robert Johnson's 2005 novel Angel Dust Apocalypse.


Writers associated with Black Mountain College, a small liberal arts school that existed in rural North Carolina from 1933 to 1956. Though Black Mountain College only lasted a short time, its influence on American arts was immense. Faculty at Black Mountain College included some of the most influential avant-garde thinkers of the time, such as Buckminster Fuller, John Cage, Willem de Kooning, Francine du Plessix Gray, and Paul Goodman. The poetry program at the college published important and emerging writers in the Black Mountain Review. The college became known for a distinctive poetic style, outlined by Charles Olson in his 1950 essay Black Projective Verse. This style focuses on the line as the most significant segment of a poem, as opposed to focus on individual words or whole stanzas, and called for poetry that had a sense of urgency and immediacy. Olson's theories were influential with other poets who taught at Black Mountain, including Ed Dorn, Paul Blackburn, Hilda Morley, Denise Levertov, and Robert Creeley. When Creeley became editor of Black Mountain Review in 1955, he published the works of some of the poets of the Beat Movement, and soon the two movements became intertwined.


A form of journal or diary that is posted on the Internet with regular updates. Blogs are often personal, used to convey the writer's view of life in general, but many blogs are done by professional writers who specialize in one particular field, such as politics, sports, literature, or medicine. The quick rise of blogging in the 1990s and the early 2000s and the freedom that bloggers have from the constraints of traditional publishing mark it as a unique and popular form of literature. Personal blogs are written mainly for friends but can also be used to present the writer to the world at large and, therefore, communicate with a casual, chatty style. Professional blogs maintain some of that same conversational informality, even if individual writers are writing as part of their job. Because of the form's popularity, corporations have started using blogs as inexpensive advertising devices: among the techniques used are imitation blogs made to look like the writings of average people who praise the corporation's product or blogs that claim to be the work of fictional characters, which carry the character's existence beyond its original novel, movie, or television show. Of the roughly 100 million blogs posted on the Internet as of 2008, the significance of any particular one is a matter of taste, although Wendy Atterberry and Sarah Hatter attempted to make some claims of quality in their 2006 collection The Very Best Weblog Writing Ever by Anyone Anywhere in the Whole Wide World. The word "blog" became so prevalent that the word from which it derives, "weblog," fell out of use.


See Chick Lit


A genre of fiction that targets young women as its audience. Chick Lit usually takes the form of novels and short stories, but sometimes personal memoirs are included. Works in this category usually focus on the escapades of single women in their twenties and thirties working in high-profile jobs in urban settings. Fashionable clothes and turgid romances are common elements. The term Chick Lit was coined in 1995, in the title of Cris Mazza and Jeffrey DeShell's anthology Chick Lit: Postfeminist Fiction. After that it was used by publishers to identify their products for readers interested in this subject matter and by critics who found the term sexist and belittling and used it derogatorily to dismiss some works as superficial. Notable examples of Chick Lit are Bridget Jones's Diary, published in 1996 by Helen Fielding; 1997's Sex and the City by Candice Bushnell; The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger (2003); and Sophia Kinsella's 2001 Confessions of a Shopaholic. The popularity of the term Chick Lit has led to the coining of a number of variations, including Chica Lit for Latina women, Ladki Lit for Indian women, and Lad Lit for young urban men.


Poetry in which visual elements play a large part in the poetic effect. Punctuation marks, letters, or words are arranged on a page to form a visual design: a cross, for example, or a bumblebee. The term Concrete Poetry came into existence in different parts of the world simultaneously in 1952: While writers such as Augusto de Campos, Haroldo de Campos, and Décio ignatari used it to describe their work in Brazil, the poet, playwright, and artist Oyvind Fahlström, apparently without former knowledge, used the same expression for his work in Sweden. Max Bill and Eugene Gom-ringer were among the early practitioners of this form.


A form of poetry in which individual poets reveal intimate, sometimes shocking information about themselves. Confessional poetry has its roots in the early nineteenth century, in such poems as William Wordsworth's "Nutting" (1800), although the movement that is defined as Concrete Poetry did not take hold until the mid-twentieth century. The term was coined by critic M. L. Rosenthal, who used it in a review of Robert Lowell's 1959 collection Life Studies. Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, W. D. Snodgrass, and John Berryman wrote poetry in the confessional vein.


A sub-genre of science fiction, based on the ideas of author H. P. Lovecraft. Cosmicism asserts the principle that the universe operates on purely mechanical principles, without the controlling hand of a supreme being, and that humanity is just one small, barely significant element in this system. Lovecraft named and developed this system in such writings as the novella The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, which he wrote in 1927, and 1928's "The Call of Cthulhu," one of his well-known short stories. Cosmicism is not generally associated with other writers.


The popular form of nonfiction writing, based in truth but using dramatic stylistic techniques, such as evocative description and dialogue, that are generally associated with fiction writing. This style evolved gradually and its exact definition is elusive and debated: some critics, for instance, are inclined to place George Orwell's 1933 memoir Down and Out in Paris and London and Ernest Hemingway's report on Spanish bullfighting, 1932's Death in the Afternoon, in this category, whereas others only use it to define works from the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. There are clear, direct connections between this style of writing and the "New Journalism" style popularized by Gay Talese, Truman Capote, and Tom Wolfe in the 1960s. The term Creative Nonfiction was used casually for years before the National Endowment officially recognized it in 1983. Near the end of the twentieth century, popular interest in creative nonfiction surged. Notable examples are House, published in 1985 by Tracy Kidder; A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, published in 2000; Mary Karr's 1995 bestseller The Liars' Club; Laura Hillenbrand's 2001 book Seabiscuit: An American Legend; and the works of John McPhee.


A movement that began in the 1990s and developed a unified view of West Indies literature. Créolité developed from the manifesto Eloge de la créolité (In Praise of Creoleness), published in 1989 by Martinican writers Patrick Chamoiseau, Jean Bernabé, and Raphaël Confiant. Créolité draws attention to the unique character of Caribbean life and the ways that the literary developments in the area distinguish it from its historical African past. Creole language was no longer rejected as a corrupt form of French but was embraced as the legitimate language of the people of the Caribbean. In addition to the authors mentioned, novelist Edouard Glissant is usually mentioned in association with this movement.


A form of science fiction that emerged in the 1980s, mixing elements taken from hard-boiled detective fiction and current events with traditional science fiction themes and the emergence of the Internet. Settings for Cyberpunk works tend to be in the near future, with principled loners battling against corporate entities bent on controlling people's thoughts and ideas. The phrase was coined by a short story titled "Cyberpunk," which was published by Bruce Bethke in 1983, and was popularized by Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology, published in 1986. The work most often identified as cyberpunk is William Gibson's 1986 novel Neuromancer, but the visual emphasis of the genre lends itself to adaptation to movies (Blade Runner,The Matrix Trilogy) and Japanese anime (Akira,Ghost in the Shell). Other authors frequently associated with this movement are Bruce Sterling, Neal Stephenson, and John Shirley.


See E-Poetry


An oral form of poetry, similar to jazz poetry, that became popular among British immigrants in the 1980s. Practitioners of Dub Poetry seldom wrote their lyrics, but instead performed them with musical accompaniments before live audiences and in person, often reciting in the Creole language. Subject matter was often political, expressing the frustrations of British citizens who came from the West Indies. Notable Dub poets are Linton Kwesi Johnson and Benjamin Zephaniah.



Poetry that is written specifically to be published and read on the Internet, beginning in the 1990s and continuing into the twenty-first century. Such works have several aspects that set them apart from poetry that is disseminated in other formats. For example, the space on an Internet page is virtually unlimited, allowing publishers to post more submissions than they could in print or on a sound recording: criteria that might have been used to determine what works are acceptable are relaxed, allowing inclusion of a wider range of talents. Another defining trait of E-poetry is that works can be augmented with hyperlinks that give readers the option to read a poem from beginning to end or to divert to related subjects before going on. Poets are given more freedom to alter a poem's look on the page (see Concrete Poetry than they had with previous media. Some notable E-poets are Augusto de Campos, Caterina Davinio, and Dave Awl. Also known as digital poetry.


Cultural conventions identified with the reign of Edward VII of England from 1901 to 1910. Writers of the Edwardian Age typically were active during the reign of Queen Victoria, though their works written after the turn of the century displayed an emphatic reaction of the propriety and conservatism associated with the previous decades. Writings characterized as Edwardian often exhibit distrust of authority in religion, politics, and art and express serious doubts about the merit of conventional values. This term applies to both Irish and British authors and is often understood to include works written after Edward's death, up to the start of World War I in 1914. Writers of this era include Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness, 1902); Henry James (The Golden Bowl, 1904); George Bernard Shaw (Major Barbara, 1905); and Ford Madox Ford (whose most noted work, The Good Soldier, was written during the Edwardian period and published in 1915).

See Edwardian


A theory of theatrical presentation developed by twentieth-century German playwright Bertolt Brecht and outlined in his 1930 essay "The Modern Theater Is the Epic Theater." Brecht created a type of drama that the audience could view with complete detachment. He used what he termed "alienation effects" to create an emotional distance between the audience and the action on stage. Among these effects are: short, self-contained scenes that keep the play from building to a cathartic climax; songs that comment on the action; and techniques of acting that prevent the actor from developing an emotional identity with his role. Besides the plays of Bertolt Brecht, such as A Man Is a Man in 1926 and The Threepenny Opera in 1928, other plays that use epic theater conventions include those of Georg Buchner, Frank Wedekind, Erwin Piscator, and Leopold Jessner.

See Epic Theater



A book that is presented as the record of the actual events of a person's life which is proven later to be a work of imagination, also referred to as fake memoir. At the end of the twentieth century and onward, several memoirs appeared which were later proven to be false, such as Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years, a 1997 bestseller written by Monique de Wael under the name Misha Defonseca, and James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, published in 2003. The false memoir as a form is actually almost as old as the novel; it includes Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, published as an autobiography in 1719, and the alleged memoir of frontiersman Davy Crocket, published in 1836, which was actually written by Richard Penn Smith and Charles T. Beale. Such critics say that any apparent surge in fiction passed off as nonfiction might simply reflect contemporary interest in so-called true stories. Examples of this movement include Love and Consequences, which was written by Margaret Seltzer and published under the name Margaret B. Jones in 2006; The Honored Society, allegedly written by the son of an organized crime leader but actually written by author Michael Gambino and published in 2001; and the autobiographical novels and articles published between 1999 and 2005 under the name J. T. LeRoy, an alleged drug addict and prostitute who was actually Laura Albert.


Fiction created by fans of a work, using characters and situations from the original piece. It is sometimes viewed as a homage to the original author and is sometimes viewed as a criminal act of stealing copyrighted intellectual material. The practice began in the 1960s, when devotees of the original Star Trek submitted stories to science fiction magazines such as Spockanalia, telling of further adventures of the television series' characters. The trend was particularly popular in science fiction and fantasy writing thereafter. The advent of the Internet in the 1990s gave amateur authors a way to make their writings directly available to others, without the involvement of publishing houses, which generally ignored their work under threat of lawsuit. Characters from Japanese anime are among the most popular subjects of fan fiction, followed by characters from television and from movies.


See Phenomenology


A combination of the artwork traditionally associated with comic books with the book-length form of the novel, developed at the end of the twentieth century. Visually, the graphic novel follows the style of comic books, with stories told in multiple panels per page, often with word balloons containing dialogue and narrative added in caption boxes. Comic books are published in magazine format, however. Though a story might continue for several contiguous issues, it is still part of the larger narrative of the comic book's history. Even in cases in which the graphic novel might be about characters from a continuing series or is a compilation of several issues of a regular series, it is designed to stand alone. Gil Kane and Archie Goodwin's 1971 bookBlackmark is often considered the first graphic novel. Other notable examples include Will Eisner's A Contract with God, and Other Tenement Stories from 1978; Art Spiegel-man's Maus, which was published in 1986 and awarded a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992; and the works of Alan Moore and Frank Miller.


See Spoken Word Poetry

See Holocaust Literature


Literature influenced by or written about the Holocaust of World War II. Such literature includes true stories of survival in concentration camps, of escape, and of life after the war, as well as fictional works and poetry. Representative works of Holocaust literature range from autobiographies, including Anne Frank's 1952 The Diary of a Young Girl and Elie Wiesel's 1958 Night to novels such as Jerzy Kosinski's 1965 novel The Painted Bird; Saul Bellow's Mr. Sammler's Planet, from 1970; William Styron's 1979 novel Sophie's Choice; and Arthur Miller's 1964 play Incident at Vichy. Other examples of Holocaust literature are the poetry of artists such as Czeslaw Milosz and the 1986 graphic novel Maus, by Art Spiegelman.



A late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century movement in Irish literature. The Irish literary renaissance developed after the death of Charles Stewart Parnell in 1891, as artists and others sought to establish a distinctly Irish identity distinct from the British culture that dominated the island. Lost manuscripts of Irish literature were found and reissued, and interest in Gaelic, the native language of Ireland, grew. William Butler Yeats, John Millington Synge, George Moore, and Sean O'Casey are among the best-known figures of this movement. Though the literary aspect of the Irish renaissance lost much of its momentum during the Irish civil war of the 1920s, writers such as James Joyce, Sean O'Faoláin, and Brendan Behan carried on the interest in Irish nationalism for decades to come.



A form of poetry that emerged in the United States during the 1950s and moved on to become a predominantly British form. It began in San Francisco with poets of the Beat Movement, including Kenneth Rexroth, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Jack Kerouac. They attempted to give new urgency to poetry by reading it along with an accompaniment of jazz music, which was at the height of its popularity at the time. In 1958, British poet Christopher Logue popularized the form in Great Britain with broadcasts performed on BBC Radio. Poets Michael Horovitz, Bob Cobbing, and Roy Fisher were among those who became known for performing before live audiences. The jazz poetry movement spawned a later, similar movement, called Dub Poetry.



A somewhat indistinct group of New York writers of the first half of the nineteenth century. The only real connection between the writers associated with this group was their residence in New York State. The group's name derives from Washington Irving's Knickerbocker's History of New York. Writers associated with the group were often published in The Knickerbocker Magazine, a monthly literary journal published in New York from 1833 to 1865. Writers frequently associated with the Knickerbocker group include Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, James Kirk Paulding, and Lydia M. Child. The Knickerbocker writers were given an unfavorable critical examination in Edgar Allan Poe's famous 1846 essay "The Literati of New York City."


See Chick Lit

See Chick Lit


Poets and musicians of the late civil rights era in the United States who expressed frustration with U.S. political inequities through their use of black nationalist themes and language and violent imagery. The group was founded by Felipe Luciano, Gylan Kain, and David Nelson in Harlem, New York, in 1968, soon after the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. and went on to record several albums that combined Afro centric lyrics over instrumental jazz-based background. Poets of this group have at various times included Omar Bin Hassan, Alafia Pudim, Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin, and Abiodun Oyewole. The group produced several recordings, including This Is Madness in 1971, Freedom Express in 1988, and Science Friction in 2004. The Last Poets are frequently cited as a direct influence in the development of Rap music.


American writers who emigrated to Paris in the 1920s, having found themselves disillusioned with their own country after serving in World War I and who found that the favorable exchange rate allowed them to live cheaply in France. Gertrude Stein coined the label "Lost Generation" in a letter to Ernest Hemingway, and it became widely recognized after Hemingway used it in the epigraph of his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, which is considered one of the defining texts of the movement. In addition to Hemingway, the term is commonly applied to Hart Crane, John Dos Passos, F. Scott Fitzgerald, e. e. cummings, Archibald Macleish, and others.



Popular illustrated books that began in Japan and spread to world-wide acceptance. Manga developed during the U.S. occupation of Japan after World War II, during which Western cartoon styles became fused with the Japanese artistic traditions. While Manga are popular with a broad age range in Japan, Western readers, who assume that books illustrated with cartoons are only for children, are often surprised at their graphic depictions of violence and sexuality. An early example of Manga, Astro Boy, created in 1952 by Osamu Tezuka, continued as a long-running series. Important examples of this style include Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen from 1973, Golgo 13 from 1969, and Ghost in the Shell, created by Masamune Shirow in 1989. Naoko Takeuchi's Sailor Moon, begun in 1991, is a well-known example of "shōjo manga," which are written by women and usually read by girls.


The poetry produced by a group of seventeenth-century English writers who were later called the Metaphysical Poets, after Samuel Johnson used label over a century later. Distinguishing characteristics include an emphasis on the relationship between oneself and God and a willingness to find a new, plain-speaking style for expressing this relationship poetically. The Metaphysical Poets made use of everyday speech, intellectual analysis, and unusual imagery. They aimed to portray the ordinary conflicts and contradictions of human experience. Their poems often take the form of an argument, and many of them emphasize physical and religious love as well as the fleeting nature of human experience. Elaborate conceits are typical in Metaphysical Poetry. The group includes John Donne, George Herbert, Andrew Marvell, and Thomas Traherne. Marvell's 1681 poem "To His Coy Mistress" is a well-known example of metaphysical poetry.

See Metaphysical Poetry


Memoirs with protagonists who have overcome harrowing circumstances such as drug addiction and pedophilia. This movement began in the United States in the late twentieth century and spread to other countries, becoming especially popular in Great Britain. Misery Lit titles range from books that received critical praise, such as Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, the winner of a 1997 Pulitzer Prize, and Jung Chang's Wild Swans, the 1994 British Book of the Year, to inexpensive, titillating books meant to grab the attention of supermarket shoppers. The commercial interest in Misery Lit titles has led to many of the events they claim to depict being challenged. Disputes range from the lawsuit filed by members of Augusten Burroughs's adopted family over his lurid memories of his childhood in 2002's Running with Scissors to charges of the complete fabrication of an identity whose experiences are nothing like those actually lived by the author, as occurred after the 2008 publication of Love and Consequences: A Memoir of Hope and Survival, which claimed to be an autobiography of urban gang member Margaret B. Jones but was actually written by affluent suburbanite Margaret Seltzer. See False Memoir.


An early twentieth-century group of American journalists, known for writings that exposed the excesses of big business and government at the height of the Robber Barons. The word was coined in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. Upton Sinclair's The Jungle (1906) is a conspicuous example of the muckraker style, even though this book, and other Sinclair books such as The Machine (1911) and Oil (1927) were actually novels, not factual reports. More typical of the muckraker style was Ida Mae Tarbell's serial exposéthat was published in book form as The History of the Standard Oil Company in 1904. At its best, the writing of the Muckrakers incited public anger to such an extent that new regulations and laws were passed to rein in corporate excesses. After the stock market crash of 1929, corporate America was so damaged that Muckrakers became irrelevant.



A literary movement based on the concept of a shared cultural bond among black Africans, wherever they may live in the world. Negritude traces its origins to the former French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. Negritude poets, novelists, and essayists generally stress four points in their writings: black alienation from traditional African culture can lead to feelings of inferiority; European colonialism and Western education should be resisted; black Africans should seek to affirm and define their own identity; and African culture can and should be reclaimed. Many Negritude writers also claim that blacks can make unique contributions because of their heightened appreciation of nature, rhythm, and human emotions-aspects of life they say are not so highly valued in the materialistic and ration-alistic West. The group was founded in the early 1930s by the poets Aimé- Fernand Ceśaire of Martinique, León-Gontran Damas, and Leópold Sédar Senghor, who in 1960 became the first president of the Republic of Senegal. Examples of Negritude literature are Senghor's poetry in his 1948 collection Hosties noires (Black Eucharist) and Césaire's poems in 1939's Return to My Native Land.


A movement in British and American literary criticism, dating from the late 1920s to the 1960s. New Criticism stressed close textual analysis in the interpretation of works of literature. The name comes from the 1941 book The New Criticism by poet and critic John Crowe Ransom, in which Ransom described emerging trends in English and U.S. literary criticism. The New Critics devalued the context in which literature is created, such as the historical period or the author's biography. Rather, they sought to examine the text alone, free from the question of how external events-biographical or otherwise-may have helped shape it. Beside Ransom, other important New Critics include Allen Tate, R. P. Blackmur, Robert Penn Warren, and Cleanth Brooks.


A type of prose in which the journalist presents factual information in a form usually reserved for fiction. New Journalism arose in the 1960s, after the 1965 publication of both Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and Tom Wolfe's Kandy Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. Wolfe further defined this type of writing in his 1973 treatise The New Journalism. New Journalism emphasizes description, narration, and character development to bring readers closer to the human element of the story; it is often used in personality profiles and in-depth feature articles. It is not compatible with so-called straight or hard news writing, which is generally stated in expository prose with compressed fact-based style. Significant examples of this style are works by Norman Mailer (particularly The Armies of the Night in 1969 and The Executioner's Song in 1979); Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1971); Joan Didion (1968's Slouching Toward Bethlehem and 1979's The White Album); and Michael Herr (Dispatches, in 1977).

See New Journalism


A literary movement begun in New York City in the 1950s, focusing on visual imagery in poetry. The inspirations for the New York School included modernist writers of the 1920s, writers in the French surrealist movement, and the abstract expressionist painters who were also based in New York at about the same time. The New York School is seen as a reaction to the confessional style in poetry that began in the 1940s. Writings of New York School poets tended to be unformed, ironic, spontaneous, and vigorous, mirroring the kinetic art styles of painters such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. The original members of this movement, several of whom had worked as art critics themselves, were John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Frank O'Hara, and James Schuyler. Later writers associated with this school include Bernadette Mayer, Alice Notley, and Ron Padgett.


Literature that concerns itself with the experiences and worldviews of people who have left Puerto Rico to settle in or around New York City. The Nuyorican movement is traced to the writings of author Jesús Colón, whose 1961 book A Puerto Rican in New York and Other Sketches is considered a classic of the genre. In the early 2000s, the non-profit Nuyorican Poets Café in New York City was host to Slam and Hip Hop poetry events. Some significant writers of Nuyorican literature are Piri Thomas, Esmeralda Santiago, Nicholasa Mohr, and Pedro Pietri.



A literary group dedicated to examining new theories of artistic form in fiction and poetry. Oulipo is an abbreviation for "Ouvroir de litteŕature potentielle," a French phrase meaning "workshop of potential literature." The group was founded in 1960 in order to examine ways in which writers could express themselves freely while still staying within proscribed forms, to combine freedom of expression with the constraints of recognizable structure. Their studies included critiques of various literary works, such as Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby-Dick, in order to develop new forms. The names most frequently associated with this movement are its founders: Raymond Queneau, François Le Lionnais, Jacques Bens, Jean Lescure, and Jean Queval. Novelist Italo Calvino later became a practitioner. One of the most famous works to come out of the Oulipo group's theories was Georges Perac's 1969 novel La Disparition, written entirely without the use of the letter "e," which he followed in 1972 with Les Revenentes, in which "e," is the only vowel used.



A nineteenth-century movement in French literature that sought to define new standards in lyric poetry, reaching its peak between the 1860s and the 1890s. Followers of the movement stressed adherence to well-defined artistic forms as a reaction against the often unrestrained expression of the artist's ego that dominated the work of the Romantics. The Parnassians also rejected the moral, ethical, and social themes exhibited in the works of French Romantics such as Victor Hugo. The aesthetic doctrines of the Parnassians influenced the later symbolist and decadent movements. Members of the Parnassian school include Leconte de Lisle, who was considered a leader of the movement, along with Sully Prudhomme, Albert Glatigny, Francois Coppee, and Theodore de Banville. The 1866 anthology La Parnasse contemporain is a collection of their works that expresses their concerns.


A method of literary criticism based on the philosophical movement of the same name. Both the philosophy and the criticism share the belief that things have no existence outside human consciousness or awareness. Proponents of this theory believe that art is not a quality of the object itself but rather a process that takes place in the minds of observers as they contemplate the object. The philosophical movement developed in the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, following the writings of Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Literary phenomenology is expressed in the Geneva School, a group of critics associated with the University of Geneva, Switzerland, from the 1940s on. George Poulet, Marcel Raymond, Roman Ingarden, and the American critic J. Hillis Miller are considered practitioners of phenomenological literary criticism.


Embracing of the doctrines of the philosopher Plato, popular among the poets of the Renaissance and the Romantic period. Platonism emphasizes the ideal and the supernatural. While Plato seemed to believe that poetry was an unnatural representation of the real world, his work does share with Aristotle's Poetics the view that the world is a manifestation of an enduring ideal. Platonism is expressed in the love poetry of the Renaissance, for example, the fourth book of Baldassare Castiglione's 1528 The Book of the Courtier, and it appears in the Romantic period in some poetry of William Blake, William Wordsworth, and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Other poets adhering to Platonic literary tenets are Friedrich Holderlin, William Butler Yeats, and Wallace Stevens.



A dramatic form begun during the Elizabethan period that reached its peak from the 1590s to the 1630s, following the success of Thomas Kyd's 1589 play Spanish Tragedy. Typically, the protagonist of such plays, directed by the ghost of his murdered father or son, retaliates against the villain. Notable features of the revenge tragedy include violence, bizarre criminal acts, intrigue, insanity, a hesitant protagonist, and the use of soliloquy. Perhaps the best known example is William Shakespeare's Hamlet, written between 1599 and 1601. Extreme examples of revenge tragedy, such as John Webster's 1614 play The Duchess of Malfi, are labeled Tragedies of Blood.


See Manga


Spoken-word poetry performed in competition with other poets in a cabaret setting. Slam poetry began in a Chicago nightclub in the 1980s and gradually spread to include poetry slam competitions in other countries. The rules of a poetry slam are flexible but generally include a panel of judges who rate each poet's performance by gauging the reactions that the poet draws from the audience. The populist nature of the form, which allows a poem's merits to be chosen by untrained audience members, has brought criticism from some literary critics. Notable slam poets are Marc Smith who is often credited with inventing the genre, Michael Warr, Taylor Mali, and Sarah Jones.


Autobiographical accounts of American slave life as told by escaped slaves. These accounts gained much popularity during the abolition movement of the late nineteenth century and were instrumental in publicizing the realities of slavery to people who did not know of it firsthand. Olaudah Equiano's 1789 autobiography The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The African and Harriet Ann Jacobs's 1861 book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl are examples of the slave narrative. A well-known slave narrative is the autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, published in 1845.


A form of poetry that is created to be performed, not written, that is, to be heard rather than read. Spoken word poetry is directly descended from the Jazz Poetry, which was popularized in the 1950s, and it similarly often combines music with poetic rhythm as part of the poet's performance. It became popular in the 1990s with rap music: one sub-category, Hip-Hop Poetry, specifically includes rap musical themes and styles to support the poet's words. Its popularity was boosted with the mid-1990s television series "Spoken Word Unplugged" on MTV and the success of the two-volume anthology The Spoken Word Revolution, published in 2005, and The Spoken Word Revolution Redux, published in 2007, both edited by Mark Eleveld. Some notable poets in the spoken word movement are Patricia Smith, Kevin Coval, Tara Betts, and Henry Rollins.


A twentieth-century movement in literary criticism popularized by the theories of anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, who used similar principles to examine the mythologies of various cultures. Structuralism reached the height of its popularity in France in the 1960s. It examines the ways in which literary texts arrive at their meanings, rather than the actual meanings of the texts themselves. There are two major types of structuralist analysis. One examines the ways that patterns of linguistic structures both unify a specific text and emphasize certain elements of it. The other focuses on literary forms and conventions, interpreting the ways they affect the meaning of language itself. Roman Jakobson, the Russian linguistic who worked in Prague in the 1920s and 1930s, was a major influence on Lévi-Strauss and on the structuralist movement. Prominent structuralist texts are Michel Foucault's The Order of Things, published in France in 1966, and Roland Barthes's Writing Degree Zero (1953) and Mythologies (1957).


A German term meaning "storm and stress." Sturm und Drang is the name of a German literary movement of the 1770s and 1780s that reacted with overt hostility toward the sense of order and rationalism that prevailed during the Enlightenment and French Neoclassicism. While the previous movements concerned themselves with intellectual processes, writers of the Sturm und Drang period focused on the intense emotional experience of extraordinary individuals. These works are highly romantic and are considered a precursor of the Romantic period. Realism, rebelliousness, and intense emotionalism are the mainstays of works associated with this movement. The term Sturm und Drang comes from the title of a 1776 play by F. M. Klinger, but the writer most closely associated with this movement is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whose novels, particularly The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774), typify the Sturm und Drang worldview. Other writers associated with this movement are J. G. Herder and Friedrich Schiller.



A humorous tale told in a straightforward, credible manner but relating absolutely impossible events or feats. Historically, such tales can be traced to Germany in the 1780s, with the exaggerations in R. F. Raspe's Baron Munchausen's Narratives of His Marvelous Travels and Campaigns in Russia. In the nineteenth century, such tales were part of the American oral tradition, commonly describing frontier adventures during the settlement of the West in the United States. Tall tales have been spun about such legendary heroes as Mike Fink, Paul Bunyan, and Captain Stormalong, and such historical persons as Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman), Davy Crockett, William F. Cody, and Annie Oakley. Literary use of tall tales can be found in Washington Irving's 1809 collection A History of New York, Mark Twain's 1883 Life on the Mississippi, and in the Sut Lovingood yarns, which George Washington Harris published in the 1850s and 1860s.


A term used to denote a group of theatrical techniques that are meant to eliminate the psychological and emotional distance between actors and audience. This concept, introduced in the 1930s in France, was intended to inspire a more intense theatrical experience than conventional theater allowed. The cruelty to which the movement name refers is not aggression or violence, but rather the heightened actor/audience involvement in the dramatic event. The Theater of Cruelty was theorized by Antonin Artaud, in his 1932 manifesto Le Theatre et son double (The Theatre and Its Double). Artaud, who had previously been aligned with the surrealist movement, conceived of a theater so radical in its departure from established conventions that it would rewrite the rules for what theater is thought to be. His movement was short-lived, considered by some to be an attempt to accomplish the impossible. Ataud's experimental play Les Cenci, produced in 1932, is considered a fine example of the Theater of Cruelty, though the influence of his theories also clearly shows in the plays of Jerzy Grotowski, Jean Genet, Jean Vilar, and Arthur Adamov, among others.

See Revenge Tragedy


See Blog


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