The average rating for Understanding Contemporary American Literary Theory based on 2 reviews is 4.5 stars.
|Review # 1 was written on 2010-06-15 00:00:00|
First off: the style of this book is so lovely that it is a pleasure to read, almost regardless of the actual content. Rourke writes in a delicate and oblique fashion worthy of a good novelist. This is, of course, an old book, and the depictions of American territorial expansion and of racist caricature will likely cause the contemporary reader to cringe now and then. The subject matter of the book is more aptly summed up in the subtitle than in the primary title: "humor," narrowly defined, is only one among many topics covered here. What is really at issue is the search for unique characteristics of American literature and how they derive from a national collective consciousness. One complaint is that the author seemed to feel obligated to cover every major American author active in the 19th century: she gives the impression of having something to say about James and Dickinson but to hammer out a few uninspired pages about Melville. As some of the other reviews mention, this book is better at conveying insightful, pithy quotes than factual information. It will not serve as a general primer on American literature or as a hard scholarly resource, but it is a highly worthwhile read on aesthetic grounds alone.
|Review # 2 was written on 2017-12-04 00:00:00|
In this critical study, Rourke ranges far and wide across the landscape of American culture, from the post-colonial beginnings of an identifiable American culture up to the 1920s. Her focus is on humor, but only loosely, as she emphasizes the importance of humor in relation to her real topic: the development of the American character as it is presented in the literature and theater of the times. She engages in a large number of critiques, none of them particularly in-depth or biographical, but many of her insights, particularly in regard to an author's tone and relationship to the march of cultural history, are intriguing. Rourke regards the shrewd and dry-humored Yankee as the basis of much of our culture. He gave rise to the woodsman and his tall tales of frontier life. The Black sensibility of course developed on its own. She points out the central presence of a variety of types of humor in American life. From examining the work of some dramatists and tale-spinners, she takes us through a cursory discussion of some of the giants of American literature: Poe, Melville, James, Dickinson, and Lewis, to name a few. By today's standards, this is pretty quaint stuff - but it is still valid and interesting; a good book for any student of American literature and culture.
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