Study Guide

American Romanticism Texts

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American Romanticism Resources

Primary Resources

James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans (1826)
This novel tells of the destruction of the Mohicans after the arrival of those pesky white settlers.

James Fenimore Cooper, The Prairie (1827)
Off we go into the frontier in this tale about the country's westward expansion.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature (1836)
Emerson teaches us the importance of appreciating nature in this classic text.

Edgar Allan Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839)
Is the House of Usher haunted? Perhaps. We're not giving the ending away.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series (1841)
Emerson's first collection of essays teaches us all about "Self-Reliance."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ballads and Other Poems (1841)
Longfellow's poetry in this collection (and others) made him a household name during the Romantic age.

Edgar Allan Poe, "The Tell-Tale Heart" (1843)
What's that beating under the floorboards? Is it a heart?

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: Second Series (1844)
Another important collection of essays from the maestro of essay-writing.

Herman Melville, Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life (1846)
How can we not take a peep at Polynesian life with a title like that?

David Henry Thoreau, "Resistance to Civil Government" (or "Civil Disobedience") (1849)
Nowadays civil disobedience is a well-known political tactic. But it was Thoreau who first developed the idea.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850)
What's the big deal about having an affair with a man you're not married to? Back in Puritan times, it was a very big deal.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables (1851)
The Pyncheon family is a greedy lot. But they pay for their sins in Hawthorne's famous novel.

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)
What's that big white thing on the horizon? It's Moby-Dick, the white metaphor, er, whale!

David Henry Thoreau, Walden (1854)
We might want to follow Thoreau's example and go off into the wild after reading this book about his experiences in the woods of Massachusetts.

David Henry Thoreau, "Slavery in Massachusetts" (1854)
Thoreau rails against the Fugitive Slave Act in this essay.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855, first edition)
This epic collection of poetry established Whitman as one of the greatest American poets of all time.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun: or, The Romance of Monte Beni (1860)
Hawthorne's romance focuses on a group of characters living in romantic Italy.

Walt Whitman, Drum-Taps (1865)
Whitman's collection of poetry takes the Civil War as its focus.

Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas (1871)
This big book will have us soaring over democratic vistas.

Emily Dickinson, Poems of Emily Dickinson (1890)
Dickinson hardly published any poems during her lifetime. Thankfully, her relatives and friends rescued her poetry from obscurity after her death.

Herman Melville, Billy Budd, Sailor (An Inside Narrative) (1924)
This novella, published after Melville's death, is set on a ship. Boy, did Melville love his ships.

Secondary Resources

Michael T. Gilmore, American Romanticism and the Marketplace (1988)
Gilmore's study situates American Romanticism within its political, cultural, and economic context. Totally useful reading.

Jennifer A. Hurley, American Romanticism (1999)
Check out this book for a thorough overview of the American Romantic movement.

Shawn Thomson, The Romantic Architecture of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick (2001)
This study of Melville's epic novel is a great place to start to learn more about one of the most important works of American Romanticism… and literature in general.

Norman K. Risjord, Representative Americans: The Romantics (2001)
We learned a lot about the most important figures in American Romanticism from this book.

Melissa McFarland Pennell, Masterpieces of American Romantic Literature (2006)
Here you'll find introductions to all the masterpieces of the movement.

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