Introduction (Identities & Issues in Literature)
American writers, particularly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, were strongly influenced by Asian and Indian texts. The influence of Asian and Indian thought on American literature was perhaps first manifested in the eighteenth century, when the rational philosophy of Confucius helped shape the thinking of the Framers of the Constitution. As would often be the case, Eastern thought came by way of European thinkers, particularly the French philosophers of the Enlightenment, who were influential in the era’s neo-Confucianism. As was the case in later revivals of interest in Confucius, Western thinkers saw ideas in Confucius that paralleled their own prevalent Deistic emphasis on reason and benevolence. Thomas Jefferson’s writings, for example, demonstrate his wide reading of such philosophers, notably Voltaire, and fellow Deist Benjamin Franklin advocated reading Chinese literature in his essays for the American Philosophic Society.
Eastern influence is more direct in the works of authors who participated in four major literary movements or groups in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The first group is the New England Transcendentalists of the 1830’s and 1840’s and writers influenced by them in the American Romantic period that occurred in the three decades before the Civil War (1861-1865). The most notable Transcendentalists who read such Hindu works as the widely circulated Bhagavad Gita (first transcribed first or second...
(The entire section is 1035 words.)
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