The idea of the Great American Novel is the concept of a novel of high literary merit that shows the culture of the United States at a specific time in the country's history. The novel is presumably written by an American author who is knowledgeable about the state, culture, and perspective of the common United States citizen. The author uses the literary work to identify and exhibit the language used by the people of the U.S. during that time and to capture the unique experience of living in the U.S. or one part of the U.S., especially at that time. In historical terms, it is sometimes equated as being the U.S. response to the national epic.
While fiction was written in colonial North America as early as the 17th century, it was not until a distinct U.S. identity developed in the 18th century that works classified as U.S. literature began. The U.S. identity as a nation was reflected alongside the development of its literature.
The term Great American Novel comes directly from the title of an 1868 essay by American Civil War novelist John William De Forest. He defined the Great American novel as “the picture of the ordinary emotions and manners of American existence.” 
At one time, the following works have been considered to be a Great American Novel:
|1826||The Last of the Mohicans||Cooper, James Fenimore|
|1850||The Scarlet Letter||Hawthorne, Nathaniel|
|1852||Uncle Tom's Cabin||Stowe, Harriet Beecher|
|1876||The Adventures of Tom Sawyer||Twain, Mark|
|1884||Adventures of Huckleberry Finn||Twain, Mark|
|1925||The Great Gatsby||Fitzgerald, F. Scott |
|1925||An American Tragedy||Dreiser, Theodore |
|1932||Light in August||Faulkner, William |
|1934||Tropic of Cancer||Miller, Henry |
|1936||Absalom, Absalom!||Faulkner, William |
|1938||U.S.A. trilogy||Passos, John Dos |
|1939||The Grapes of Wrath||Steinbeck, John |
|1940||Native Son||Wright, Richard |
|1951||The Catcher in the Rye||Salinger, J. D. |
|1952||Invisible Man||Ellison, Ralph Waldo |
|1953||The Adventures of Augie March||Bellow, Saul |
|1955||Lolita||Nabokov, Vladimir |
|1957||On the Road||Kerouac, Jack |
|1960||To Kill a Mockingbird||Lee, Harper |
|1974||Gravity's Rainbow||Pynchon, Thomas |
|1975||J R||Gaddis, William |
|1985||Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West||McCarthy, Cormac |
|1985||Lonesome Dove||McMurtry, Larry |
|1987||Beloved||Morrison, Toni |
|1996||Infinite Jest||Wallace, David Foster |
|1997||American Pastoral||Roth, Philip |
This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1868.Bill Bird
William Augustus Bird (1888–1963) was an American journalist, now remembered for his Three Mountains Press, a small press he ran while in Paris in the 1920s for the Consolidated Press Association. Taken over by Nancy Cunard in 1928, it became the Hours Press, and continued its association with many of the most important modernists; Ezra Pound had a position as editor for Three Mountains from 1923.
Bill Bird, as he was usually known, was born in Buffalo, New York. He was educated at Trinity College, Hartford. With David Lawrence he founded Consolidated Press Association in 1920; it lasted until 1933.
He started Three Mountains Press in 1922, producing books himself by a slow process of hand printing (the mountains appeared on the colophon). An early work was his own A Practical Guide to French Wines (1922). It was based at 29, quai d'Anjou, where he later provided office accommodation to Ford Madox Ford for the Transatlantic Review. It was through Ernest Hemingway that Bird contacted Pound.
In the period to 1925 the Press published works including Pound's A Draft of XVI Cantos, Hemingway's in our time, William Carlos Williams's The Great American Novel, and Distinguished Air by Robert McAlmon. On the business side there was a close involvement with McAlmon's Contact Editions. Bird's interest then dropped, and he sold the printing press, Caslon type and goodwill to Nancy Cunard, supervising the move to her Normandy farmhouse.
His career as journalist outlasted the CPA: he next worked for the New York Sun, remaining in Paris until 1940. He moved at that point to Spain.
After World War II he was in Tangier, where he edited the Tangier Gazette English-language newspaper until it was closed in 1960.Bryan Zanisnik
Bryan Zanisnik is a contemporary artist working in video, performance, photography, and installation. Zanisnik's multidisciplinary practice uses objects en masse to explore American culture, Freudian psychology, and familial relationships. His site-specific installations have addressed diverse subjects, including a crumbling library of Philip Roth novels, an entropic swamp littered with Northern New Jersey waste, and an Americana museum reconstructed in Guangzhou, China. Critic David Duncan commented that Zanisnik "comical impartation of dubious history and catalogue of trivial possessions sidestep sentimentality while conveying a fascination with the type of inherited narrative that gets passed down in close-knit families." In the spring of 2012 Zanisnik was involved in a legal battle with Philip Roth over the use of Roth's The Great American Novel in his performance at the Abrons Arts Center. According to Artnet magazine, "the law firm representing author Philip Roth personally served performance artist Bryan Zanisnik with a cease and desist letter at the Abrons Arts Center on New York's Lower East Side, where Zanisnik was in the midst of staging Every Inch a Man, a performance that involves locking himself inside a Plexiglass case while he silently reads Roth's The Great American Novel and a fan blows old baseball cards and money into the air around him." Since 2002 Zanisnik has photographed and written about the Meadowlands, a polluted swamp in northern New Jersey. Focused on the objects discarded within the landscape, Zanisnik was known to have had encounters with local police, environmental scientists, hobo encampments, and homeland security. Critic Christine Smallwood said Zanisnik's "photo essay in Triple Canopy 'Beyond Passaic' documents the author's illegal wanderings in New Jersey's heavily polluted and largely neglected Meadowlands. Inspired by Robert Smithson, himself famously inspired by the region, Zanisnik walks abandoned train tracks, finds discarded objects, and discovers a hobo encampment under a bridge. While Smithson was drawn to 'geology and rock quarries, monumental vacancies and ruins in reverse', Zanisnik is interested in the legal ambiguity of the space, its toxicity, and the people living on its waste."Clyde Brion Davis
Clyde Brion Davis (May 22, 1894–July 19, 1962) was an American author and freelance journalist active from the mid-1920s until his death. He is best known for his novels The Anointed and The Great American Novel, though he wrote more than 15 books.Freedom (Franzen novel)
Freedom is a 2010 novel by American author Jonathan Franzen. It was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Freedom received general acclaim from book critics, and was ranked one of the best books of 2010 by several publications, and has been described as a "Great American Novel".
The novel follows the lives of the Berglund family, particularly the parents Patty and Walter, as their lives develop and then their happiness falls apart. Important to their story is a college friend of Walter's and successful rock musician, Richard Katz, who has a love affair with Patty. Walter and Patty's son, Joey, also goes through his own coming of age challenges.
Franzen began working on the novel in 2001, following his successful novel The Corrections. The title of the novel was an artifact of his book proposal, where he wanted to write a novel that freed him from the constraints of his previous work. The cover of many editions of the novel includes a cerulean warbler, a songbird, for which Walter works to create an environmental preserve.Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (novel)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Intimate Diary of a Professional Lady is a comic novel written by Anita Loos, first published in 1925. It is one of several famous novels published that year to chronicle the so-called Jazz Age, including Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Van Vechten's Firecrackers. Loos was inspired to write the book after watching a sexy blonde turn intellectual H.L. Mencken into a lovestruck schoolboy. Mencken, a close friend, actually enjoyed the work and saw to it that it was published. Originally published as a magazine series in Harper's Bazaar, it was published as a book by Boni & Liveright in 1925 and became a runaway best seller, becoming the second best selling title of 1926 and earning the praise of no less than Edith Wharton who dubbed it "The Great American Novel."A sequel, But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, was published two years later.Great American Novel (disambiguation)
The Great American Novel is the concept of a novel that perfectly represents the spirit of the age in the United States at the time of its publication.
Books that use this titleThe Great American Novel (1923) by William Carlos Williams
The Great American Novel (1938) by Clyde Brion Davis
The Great American Novel (1973) by Philip Roth
The Great American Novel (2000) by Keith MalleyOther titlesThe Great American Novel (1972), a song by Larry Norman on the album Only Visiting This PlanetGreat Americans
Great American or Great Americans may refer to:
Great Americans series, a set of definitive stamps issued by the United States Postal Service from 1980 through 2002
GreatAmericans.com, an online video site
Hall of Fame for Great Americans, an outdoor sculpture garden in Bronx Community College in The Bronx, New York City
The Great American Bash, an annual professional wrestling exhibition/competition presented by various different promotions
The Great American Cowboy, a music album of singing group The Sons of the Pioneers
The Great American Cowboy, a 1973 documentary film by Kieth Merrill
Great American Novel, a discussion of US-culture-themed novels
The Great American Bagel Bakery, a privately held restaurant chainMark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. His novels include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called "The Great American Novel".
Twain was raised in Hannibal, Missouri, which later provided the setting for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He served an apprenticeship with a printer and then worked as a typesetter, contributing articles to the newspaper of his older brother Orion Clemens. He later became a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River before heading west to join Orion in Nevada. He referred humorously to his lack of success at mining, turning to journalism for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. His humorous story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County", was published in 1865, based on a story that he heard at Angels Hotel in Angels Camp, California, where he had spent some time as a miner. The short story brought international attention and was even translated into French. His wit and satire, in prose and in speech, earned praise from critics and peers, and he was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.
Twain earned a great deal of money from his writings and lectures, but he invested in ventures that lost most of it—such as the Paige Compositor, a mechanical typesetter that failed because of its complexity and imprecision. He filed for bankruptcy in the wake of these financial setbacks, but he eventually overcame his financial troubles with the help of Henry Huttleston Rogers. He chose to pay all his pre-bankruptcy creditors in full, even after he had no legal responsibility to do so.
Twain was born shortly after an appearance of Halley's Comet, and he predicted that he would "go out with it" as well; he died the day after the comet returned. He was lauded as the "greatest humorist this country has produced", and William Faulkner called him "the father of American literature".Mark Twain bibliography
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), well known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. Twain is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), which has been called "the Great American Novel," and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). He also wrote poetry, short stories, essays, and non-fiction.Moby-Dick
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is an 1851 novel by American writer Herman Melville. The book is sailor Ishmael's narrative of the obsessive quest of Ahab, captain of the whaling ship Pequod, for revenge on Moby Dick, the white whale that on the ship's previous voyage bit off Ahab's leg at the knee. A contribution to the literature of the American Renaissance, the work's genre classifications range from late Romantic to early Symbolist. Moby-Dick was published to mixed reviews, was a commercial failure, and was out of print at the time of the author's death in 1891. Its reputation as a "Great American Novel" was established only in the 20th century, after the centennial of its author's birth. William Faulkner confessed he wished he had written the book himself, and D. H. Lawrence called it "one of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world" and "the greatest book of the sea ever written". Its opening sentence, "Call me Ishmael", is among world literature's most famous.Melville began writing Moby-Dick in February 1850, and would eventually take 18 months to write the book, a full year more than he had first anticipated. Writing was interrupted by his making the acquaintance of Nathaniel Hawthorne in August 1850, and by the creation of the "Mosses from an Old Manse" essay as a first result of that friendship. The book is dedicated to Hawthorne, "in token of my admiration for his genius".
The basis for the work is Melville's 1841 whaling voyage aboard the Acushnet. The novel also draws on whaling literature, and on literary inspirations such as Shakespeare and the Bible. The white whale is modeled on the notoriously hard-to-catch albino whale Mocha Dick, and the book's ending is based on the sinking of the whaleship Essex in 1820. The detailed and realistic descriptions of whale hunting and of extracting whale oil, as well as life aboard ship among a culturally diverse crew, are mixed with exploration of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of God. In addition to narrative prose, Melville uses styles and literary devices ranging from songs, poetry, and catalogs to Shakespearean stage directions, soliloquies, and asides.
In October 1851, the chapter "The Town Ho's Story" was published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine. The same month, the whole book was first published (in three volumes) as The Whale in London, and under its definitive title in a single-volume edition in New York in November. There are hundreds of differences between the two editions, most slight but some important and illuminating. The London publisher, Richard Bentley, censored or changed sensitive passages; Melville made revisions as well, including a last-minute change to the title for the New York edition. The whale, however, appears in the text of both editions as "Moby Dick", without the hyphen. One factor that led British reviewers to scorn the book was that it seemed to be told by a narrator who perished with the ship: the British edition lacked the Epilogue, which recounts Ishmael's survival. About 3,200 copies were sold during the author's life.Postcards (novel)
Postcards is E. Annie Proulx's 1992 novel about the life and travels of Loyal Blood across the American West. Postcards has been likened by David Bradley to a Great American Novel. It is the predecessor to Proulx's award-winning The Shipping News. Postcards cuts between stories of Loyal's travels and the stories of his family back in Vermont, to whom he sends irregular postcards about his life and experiences. Loyal never leaves a return address, so is unable to hear back from his family and therefore misses all the news from home, including the death of his father and mother, the sale of the family farm, and the marriage of his sister to a virtual stranger.
The novel's content provides a personal view of America in the 20th Century, dealing with themes of war, industrialization, conservation and the American Dream. It also provides a glimpse into the way a family unit is slowly destroyed due to this arrival of a new age. Fate is one of the chief themes of the novel: no matter how hard one works for a better life, fate may alter the outcome. Thus, the book has a naturalistic perspective.Ross Lockridge Jr.
Ross Franklin Lockridge Jr., (April 25, 1914 – March 6, 1948) was an American novelist of the mid-20th century. He is noted for Raintree County (1948), a widely praised novel which many readers and critics considered a contender for the "Great American Novel," and for his death by suicide just as it was reaching the top of the best-seller lists.Screenwriter
A screenplay writer (also called screenwriter for short), scriptwriter or scenarist is a writer who practices the craft of screenwriting, writing screenplays on which mass media, such as films, television programs and video games, are based.The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath is an American realist novel written by John Steinbeck and published in 1939. The book won the National Book Award
and Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and it was cited prominently when Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962.Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on the Joads, a poor family of tenant farmers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, agricultural industry changes, and bank foreclosures forcing tenant farmers out of work. Due to their nearly hopeless situation, and in part because they are trapped in the Dust Bowl, the Joads set out for California. Along with thousands of other "Okies", they seek jobs, land, dignity, and a future.
The Grapes of Wrath is frequently read in American high school and college literature classes due to its historical context and enduring legacy. A celebrated Hollywood film version, starring Henry Fonda and directed by John Ford, was released in 1940.The Great American Novel (Roth)
The Great American Novel is a novel by Philip Roth, published in 1973.The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald that follows a cast of characters living in the fictional towns of West Egg and East Egg on prosperous Long Island in the summer of 1922. The story primarily concerns the young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his quixotic passion and obsession with the beautiful former debutante Daisy Buchanan. Considered to be Fitzgerald's magnum opus, The Great Gatsby explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval, and excess, creating a portrait of the Roaring Twenties that has been described as a cautionary tale regarding the American Dream.Fitzgerald—inspired by the parties he had attended while visiting Long Island's North Shore—began planning the novel in 1923, desiring to produce, in his words, "something new—something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned." Progress was slow, with Fitzgerald completing his first draft following a move to the French Riviera in 1924. His editor, Maxwell Perkins, felt the book was vague and persuaded the author to revise over the following winter. Fitzgerald was repeatedly ambivalent about the book's title and he considered a variety of alternatives, including titles that referred to the Roman character Trimalchio; the title he was last documented to have desired was Under the Red, White, and Blue.
First published by Scribner's in April 1925, The Great Gatsby received mixed reviews and sold poorly; in its first year, the book sold only 20,000 copies. Fitzgerald died in 1940, believing himself to be a failure and his work forgotten. However, the novel experienced a revival during World War II, and became a part of American high school curricula and numerous stage and film adaptations in the following decades. Today, The Great Gatsby is widely considered to be a literary classic and a contender for the title "Great American Novel."True History of the Kelly Gang
True History of the Kelly Gang is a novel by Australian writer Peter Carey, based loosely on the history of the Kelly Gang. It was first published in Brisbane by the University of Queensland Press in 2000. It won the 2001 Booker Prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize in the same year. Despite its title, the book is fiction and a variation on the Ned Kelly story.
In an effort to attract foreign readers to the story, the book's American publisher, Alfred Knopf, heralded the book as a "Great American Novel", even though the novel takes place entirely within Australia. The claim that this book is an "American novel" appears to be based on the fact that author Peter Carey, an Australian, has lived in New York City for many years.William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams (September 17, 1883 – March 4, 1963) was an American poet and physician closely associated with modernism and imagism.
In addition to his writing, Williams had a long career as a physician practicing both pediatrics and general medicine. He was affiliated with Passaic General Hospital, where he served as the hospital's chief of pediatrics from 1924 until his death. The hospital, which is now known as St. Mary's General Hospital, paid tribute to Williams with a memorial plaque that states "we walk the wards that Williams walked".