THE SPIRIT OF AMERICAN LITERATURE is a collection of essays reviewing contemporary authors on the literary scene at the turn of the century and assessing the uniquely American characteristics of their growing body of work. Excerpted from the author’s preface: “In this book something is said about most, if not quite all, of the emergent figures in American literature; an attempt is made to survey the four corners of the national library and to give an impression of its shape and size. If its purpose is approximately realized, this volume will be found to be a little nearer to a collection of appreciative essays than to a formal history or bibliographic manual. …To be sure, the historian avowedly and properly puts emphasis on writers who are dead in the flesh, and finishes off his contemporaries briefly because they are not yet established and are too numerous to mention. But it seems well, in books about literature, not to discuss writers admittedly dead in the spirit, whose names persist by the inertia of reputation...All that I wish to plead is that a living lion is better than a dead mouse...If, as I believe, accepted handbooks and histories of American literature pay too much attention to doubly dead worthies, whose books are not interesting, and miss or but timidly acknowledge contemporary excellence, there is a way of accounting for it.”
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