Amy Berke; Robert Bleil; Jordan Cofer; and Doug Davis


The advocacy of equality between the sexes. In the United States, feminism
can be defined as a series of social, cultural, economic, and political movements
that emphasized and called for equality for women.


In Kate Chopin’s work, the Acadians (or ‘Cadians) were of French or French- Canadian descent. They may be depicted as having a mixed racial and ethnic heritage, and they do not have the wealth and status that the Creoles have.


In Kate Chopin’s work, the Acadians (or ‘Cadians) were of French or French- Canadian descent. They may be depicted as having a mixed racial and ethnic heritage, and they do not have the wealth and status that the Creoles have.

American Communist Party

The American Wing of the Communist Party, extremely influential in American politics in the early twentieth century.

Atlanta Compromise

A controversial agreement in 1895 between Booker T. Washington and Southern political leaders that exchanged basic protections for African- Americans for a continuation of white political rule.

Beat literature

Represented in this book by Allen Ginsberg, Beat Literature is the product of a group of mid-twentieth century authors known as the Beat Generation, whose members also include the well-known novelists Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. Authors of the Beat Generation represented America’s countercultures while critiquing its materialism during the era of cultural conformity and national prosperity that followed World War II.

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin was a British naturalist and author best known for his contributions to evolutionary theory in his description of the process of natural selection. His important work, Origin of the Species (1859), influenced a number of artists and intellectuals of the time.

City Lights Books

Publisher of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems (1956), City Lights Books is an independent San Francisco bookstore and publisher associated with the Beat Literature movement.

Cold War

The Cold War is the decades-long military and cultural conflict that developed soon after World War II between the United States and the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, the United States sought to contain the threat of Soviet Communism through military policies such as nuclear deterrence and domestic policies such as the formation of the House Un-American Activities Committee. The Cold War ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

cosmic vision

A phrase associated with the American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, cosmic vision refers to the days-long state of heightened spiritual awareness the poet reported to have experienced while living in Harlem in 1948.


In Kate Chopin’s work, the French Creoles are of Spanish or French descent. They are typically white and are considered members of the upper class.


In Kate Chopin’s work, the French Creoles are of Spanish or French descent. They are typically white and are considered members of the upper class.


A popular style of painting made famous by Pablo Picasso. Instead of realistic representation, objects are depicted in an abstract style, often fractional and cube-like.


A postmodern philosophy associated with the French philosopher Jacques Derrida that emphasizes the contingency and contextuality of language. Contrary to the traditional definition of a word as the name of a thing, Deconstructionists treat words not as definitions of external, non-linguistic things but as so-called signs that can only continually refer to other signs. The meaning of things thus exists not absolutely in an objective world at large but instead within processions of signs that connect, ultimately, only to each other, and in which meaning is always relative to linguistic and historical context.


The term dialect refers to the unique forms of a common language that are associated with different regions and groups. For instance, regional authors often write their dialog in “New England dialect” or “Southern dialect.”

dramatic monologue

A lengthy speech by a single person, often seen in plays. Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” is a famous example.


The process by which an individual or community is set free from slavery or some other form of legal confinement.


A brief quotation preceding a literary work. For example, T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ begins with a brief epigraph from Dante’s Inferno.


The opposite of implicit, the term explicit refers to things that are clearly and directly stated.


A French style of art, specifically painting, made popular during Modernism, emphasizing color over representation.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche a nineteenth century German philosopher whose rejection of traditional religious views and his writings on nihilism influenced a number of artists and intellectuals of the time.

Guggenheim Fellowship

Guggenheim Fellowships are prestigious, multi-thousand- dollar grants awarded since 1925 from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to scholars and artists of exceptional ability.


An iconoclast is a highly independent non-conformist who may rebel against or criticize the status quo.


A type of figurative language that invokes a visual image or memory.


A movement amongst Modernist poets to focus in on precise images. Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the metro” is a famous example of imagism.


America saw a steep rise in immigration in the nineteenth century, as people from other countries moved to America for a variety of personal and political reasons but primarily to find work in America’s growing industries, including the building of the transcontinental railroad.


The opposite of explicit, the term implicit refers to things that are implied but not directly expressed.

Industrial Age

In America, the rise of industry in the mid to late nineteenth century and beyond caused a shift in America from a primarily agrarian economy to an industrial economy.


In America, industrialization can be seen as the process by which advances in technology in the nineteenth century led to the shift from farm production to manufacturing production.

Jim Crow laws

Named after a popular racist caricature of the nineteenth century, Jim Crow refers to the racist laws enacted in the states of the American South after Reconstruction that enforced the racial segregation of society under the specious rationale that black and white Americans could be “separate but equal.” Jim Crow laws were nullified by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Karl Marx

Karl Marx, who was born in Prussia and later lived in London, was a nineteenth century philosopher whose political and economic theories (collectively known as Marxism) formed the basis of the modern practice of Communism. Marx’s views on class struggle and power were highly influential during the nineteenth century and beyond.

Local Color

Local color is a type of writing that became popular after the American Civil War. It is a sub-movement of writing that generally preceded and influenced the rise of Realism in American writing while it still retained some features of the Romanticism, the movement which preceded it. Local color writing focuses on the distinctive features of particular locale, including the customs, language, mannerisms, habits, and peculiarities of people and place, thereby predicting some aspects of the Realists’ writing style, which focused on accuracy and detail. However, in Local Color stories, the characters are often predictable character types rather than the complex characters offered by Realist writers. Additionally, Local Color stories often retain Romantic features of emotion (including sentimentality and nostalgia) and idealism (with endings that are neatly resolved). Examples include Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi.


A short poem that often expresses a single theme such as the speaker’s mood or feeling.


Metafiction is a literary technique in which a story’s narrator draws attention to her own act of storytelling, explicitly foregrounding within her narrative the usually implicit processes with which stories are told.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

founded in 1909 by a group of prominent African-Americans, including W.E.B. Du Bois who responded to the wave of punitive laws and restrictive ordinances enacted against African-Americans after the end of Reconstruction. The founders of the NAACP opposed Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta Compromise on the grounds that it did not do enough to protect African-Americans from discriminatory laws and practices.

National Book Award

Starting in 1936, the ever-changing National Book Awards have been awarded annually by various organizations within the publishing industry and, since 1988, by the non-profit National Book Foundation to honor books written exclusively by American authors that have sold well or otherwise merit critical acclaim.


Naturalism was a style of writing that achieved prominence after Realism. Reacting against the Realists, Naturalists rejected Realism as focusing too much on the mundane, day-to-day concerns of average people while avoiding controversial subjects. Willing to tackle stories about prostitution, murder, domestic violence, alcoholism, and madness, Naturalists explored the grittier side of life. Influenced by the literary theories of Emile Zola and by Charles Darwin’s writings about evolution, Naturalists typically saw the human being at the mercy of hereditary traits and environmental forces beyond his or her awareness, understanding, or control.


“Passing” is a historical term that describes the process by which light-skinned African-Americans could pass as whites.

plot of decline

The plot of decline is a significant feature in most Naturalistic novels. At some point in the novel, even after enjoying a temporary rise in material circumstances, characters—under the pressures of hereditary traits and environmental forces beyond their awareness, understanding, or control—often start a downward spiral into degeneration and even death.

Pulitzer Prize

A very prestigious award for journalism, literature or music granted each year from Columbia University. Established in 1918 in the will of the publisher Joseph Pulitzer and managed by Columbia University, the Pulitzer Prize is awarded annually to writers, journalists, and composers of exemplary works of literature, journalism, and music respectively.


Realism is a type of writing that achieved prominence after the American Civil
War. Reacting against the Romantic era of writing that preceded them, Realists rejected Romantic features of emotionalism and idealism. Realists also rejected the
creation of larger-than-life characters who were unrealistically all good or all bad.
Influenced by Local Color and Regional writers, Realists paid attention to details
and accuracy in describing people and places, and they developed characters who
used ordinary speech in dialogue, commensurate to the character’s social class.
However, the Realists moved beyond Local Color and Regional writers in their more
complex development of realistic characterization. Characters in Realist stories
resembled ordinary people (neither all good nor all bad), often of the middle class,
living in ordinary circumstances, who experienced plausible real-life struggles and
who often, as in life, were unable to find resolution to their conflicts. In Realistic
stories, the plot was formed from the exploration of a character working through
or reacting to a particular issue or struggle. In other words, character often drove
the plot of the story. Characters in Realistic fiction were three-dimensional, and
their inner lives were often revealed through an objective, omniscient narrator.
In a Realist story, there are rarely any indications of Romantic features such as
nostalgia, sentimentality, or neatly resolved endings.


The period of American history from the end of the Civil War in 1865 until the formal removal of the U.S. Army from the territory of the former Confederate States of America on 31 March 1877.


Regionalism is a type of writing that was practiced after the American Civil War. It is a sub-movement of writing that generally preceded and influenced the rise of Realism in American writing. Regionalism, like Local Color, employs a focus on the details associated with a particular place, but Regionalist stories often feature a more complex narrative structure, including the creation of a main protagonist who provides the perspective or point of view through which the plot of the story is told. Such a shift in the technique of narration aligns Regionalist writers more closely with Realist writers, who are known for their complex characters who exhibit psychological dimensionality. However, Regionalist stories, like Local Color stories, often retain Romantic features of emotion (including sentimentality and nostalgia) and idealism (with endings that are neatly resolved).


Satire is the use of humor, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose human ignorance, vice, or foolishness—as well as other human weaknesses.


The enforced separation of groups of persons based on race.


A legal and economic system in which certain individuals are treated as an legally considered the property of others. This form of slavery is also called chattel slavery.

Southern gothic

Southern gothic is a genre of writing that is prevalent in the literary tradition of the American South. Borrowing features from gothic literature of the Romantic period, works may focus on dark themes associated with the supernatural, or they may focus on exaggerated characters that are eccentric, freakish, disfigured, or flawed in some disturbing way. Often, works incorporate elements of the grotesque. Southern writers sometimes used these conventions to critique the underlying Southern social order, illuminating disturbing foundations on which the social order was constructed.

Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American War was a war between Spain and the United States in 1898, resulting in Cuban independence.

The Talented Tenth

A term from W.E.B. DuBois’ essay, ‘The Talented Tenth,’ referring to the top 10% of African-Americans as cultural and political leaders. It was used widely during the Harlem Renaissance.

Tuskeegee Normal and Industrial Institute

A school for the education of African-Americans living in the former confederacy founded by Booker T. Washington at
Tuskegee, Alabama in 1881. The school exists today as Tuskegee University.

World War II

World War II, also known as The Second World War, was a global “total war” involving all the major nations of the world. The United States, The Soviet Union, and Britain were allies during the war, and this coalition of “Allied” powers were victorious over the “Axis” powers of Germany, Japan, Italy and their allies. The war was fought between 1939 and 1945, resulting in up to eighty million deaths.

World’s Columbian Exposition

The World’s Columbian Exposition, held from 1 May 1893 to 30 October 1893, took place in Chicago’s Jackson Park and commemorated 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean in 1492. The exposition featured exhibits by forty-six nations and represented both growing industrial importance of United States and the significance of the city of Chicago, Illinois as a transportation hub.


A French writer known as a leader in the literary movement termed Naturalism. Zola articulated a theory of Naturalism in his important work, Le Roman Expérimental (1880). Zola argued for a kind of intense Realism, one that did not look away from any aspects of life, including the base, dirty, or ugly. His theory of Naturalism was heavily influenced by the works of Charles Darwin. Zola argued that a novel written about the human animal could be set up as a kind of scientific experiment, where, once the ingredients were added, the story would unfold with scientific accuracy. He was particularly interested in how hereditary traits under the influence of a particular social environment might determine a human to behave.


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American Literatures After 1865 Copyright © by Amy Berke; Robert Bleil; Jordan Cofer; and Doug Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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