BiographyTimeline of Significant EventsWritings by FredericFrederic & Contemporaries: On Writing

Bibliographical Studies

Critical Reception

Bibliography of Criticism

Biographical InfluencesCultural ContextLiterary Influences & ComparisionsLiterary MovementsThe TitleReligion & the ClergyPragmatismThemeStructureGender IssuesCharacterizationThe TrioSister SoulsbyReader Response

Dissertations & Theses

Discussion Questions or Topics for Essays


Links of Interest

My Bio



Aestheticism: A nineteenth-century movement in art and literature that advocated the credo of “Art for Art’s Sake.” Beauty became the basic principle of life, the source of all other principles, including moral ones. Art was superior to nature; death and beauty were significantly intertwined; and intensity of experience was emphasized.

American Adam: The image “of the authentic American as a figure of heroic innocence and vast potentialities at the start of a new history. [. . . T]his image had about it always an air of adventurousness, a sense of promise and possibility” (Lewis 1).

Decadence: A late nineteenth-century movement in art and literature that emphasized Aestheticism, sought to escape the human condition by artifice and “evil,” and, alternately, pursued sensation and cultivated a mood of ennui.

Edenic Myth: The belief that the “discovery” of a “New World”—a new Eden—“was a providential blessing” that offered “new starts and new hopes for the human race.” In the pristine environs of America, it was argued, the new settlers “might experience a rebirth into innocence, simplicity, [. . . and] primal sweetness” (Cunliff 2).

Fin de Siècle: French phrase meaning “end of century,” sometimes used to refer to the Aesthetes or the Decadents of the late nineteenth century.

Gilded Age: This phrase comes from Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner’s 1873 novel The Gilded Age, depicting “an American society that, despite its appearance of promise and prosperity, is riddled with corruption and scandal” (

New Woman: The “New Woman” of the nineteenth century replaced the earlier nineteenth-century concept of the “True Woman,” a product of the “Cult of Domesticity.” “Less constrained by Victorian norms and domesticity than previous generations, the new woman had greater freedom to pursue public roles and even flaunt her ‘sex appeal,’ a term coined in the 1920s and linked with the emergence of the new woman. She challenged conventional gender roles and met with hostility from men and women who objected to women’s public presence and supposed decline in morality. Expressing autonomy and individuality, the new woman represented the tendency of young women at the turn of the century to reject their mothers’ ways in favor of new, modern choices” (click here).

West: For many nineteenth- and twentieth-century Americans, and for historians and critics until recently, the “American West symbolized movement. There were several successive Wests.” The “true symbolic meaning of the West” was “not its absorption of civilization but its atmosphere of adventurous openness.” In other words, the West “had an abstract function for nineteenth-century literature,” and the Western mood was “robust” (Cunliffe 16-20) in a land of opportunity, with ever-expanding borders. Recent “New West” historians and literary critics, however, see the West very differently, decrying idealized frontiers, focusing upon the encounters of diverse peoples, including the marginalized and the oppressed, and examining environmental concerns. See Frederic Jackson Turner, especially, for the earlier frontier thesis; Patricia Nelson Limerick, Clyde A. Milner II, and Charles E. Rankin, eds., Trails: Toward a New Western History (Lawrence: U of Kansas, 1991) for an excellent collection on recent Western historiography; and Laurie Kovacovic, “An Annotated Bibliography of the American Frontier Heritage,” for many other resources.

Works Cited

Cunliffe, Marcus. “The Conditions of an American Literatre.” American Literature to 1900. Ed. Marcus Cunliffe. New York: Penguin, 1986. 1-22.

  “The Gilded Age and the Politics of Corruption.” American History 102: Civil War to the Present. 20 August 2002 <>.

Lewis, R. W. B. The American Adam. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1955.

“The New Woman.” Clash of Cultures in the 1910s and 1920s. Ohio State U Dept. of History. 11 August 2002 (Click Here).


All information Copyright © 2003 Robin Taylor Rogers.
Contact the author at