Washington Irving 1783–-1859
(Also wrote under the pseudonyms of Geoffrey Crayon, Diedrich Knickerbocker, Jonathan Oldstyle, and Launcelot Langstaff) American short story writer, essayist, historian, biographer, journalist, and editor.
Irving is considered both the first American man of letters and the creator of the American short story. Though best known for such tales of rural Americana as “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Irving later became a prolific and accomplished biographer as well as a distinguished statesman.
Born in New York in 1783, Irving was the youngest of eleven children. Though he studied the law and eventually worked at a law office, his legal studies were halfhearted; he much preferred writing for his brother Peter's journal, The Morning Chronicle. In 1802 Irving wrote a series of letters to the Chronicle under the pseudonym of Jonathan Oldstyle. These letters gently mocked New York society and brought Irving his first recognition as a writer. Failing health forced him to seek a change of climate, and he traveled to Europe. In 1806 he returned home and was admitted to the bar; however, his legal interest waned. Irving, his brother William, and brother-in-law James Kirke Paulding, along with some other friends, were known as the “Nine Worthies of Cockloft Hall,” named after their favorite place for “conscientious drinking and good fun.” They collaborated on the satirical journal Salmagundi; or, The Whim-whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, Esq., and Others (1807-1808), which included many essays by Irving that reflected his Federalist political attitudes and social stance. The venture proved unprofitable, however, and the young men were forced to abandon the publication. In 1809 Irving enjoyed a second literary success with the publication and favorable reception of the satirical A History of New York, from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty. His success, however, was overshadowed by the death of his fiancee, Matilda Hoffman, in 1809. Grief consumed Irving and his works were never again to be light-spirited. In an effort to forget his sorrow, Irving entered a period of fervid activity. He acted as his brother's law partner, helped in the family hardware business, and edited a magazine, the Analectic. Irving eventually returned to England and worked in the Liverpool branch of his family's import-export firm for three years until it went bankrupt. After years of wavering indecisively between a legal, editorial, and mercantile career, he finally decided to make writing his livelihood. He began recording impressions, thoughts, and descriptions in a small notebook. These, polished and repolished in Irving's meticulous manner, eventually became The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1819-20). Irving's most enduring work, the collection ensured his reputation as a man of letters. Its timing proved opportune, as no one had yet produced a universally appealing piece of American literature. In 1826 Irving traveled as a member of the American diplomatic corps to Spain, where he wrote A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1828). A subsequent tour of Spain produced A Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada (1829) and The Alhambra (1832). During the 1830s, Irving returned to America, taking part in a tour of the Oklahoma territory. His travels in the West were fodder for several of his subsequent books, including The Crayon Miscellany (1835), A Tour on the Prairies (1835), Astoria, or Anecdotes of an Enterprise Beyond the Rocky Mountains (1836), and The Adventures of Captain Bonneville (1837). In 1842 Irving became minister to Spain. Though he enjoyed his role as a diplomat, he returned to the United States to further his career as a biographical writer. His biography of Oliver Goldsmith is considered a particularly fine example of Irving's concise, balanced style. His last years were spent at work on a biography of George Washington; though overly elaborate and lacking his former naturalness of tone, the work expresses Irving's belief in a glorious American past. Irving's funeral was attended by thousands of admirers who mourned the death of an author they loved.
Irving's initial forays into writing were essays that satirized the political, social, and cultural life of his native New York City. A number of these were published in the short-lived journal Salmagundi. Irving continued in this satirical vein with his first book, A History of New York. Narrated by the fictional Diedrich Knickerbocker, a fusty, colorful Dutch-American, the work provided a comical, deliberately inaccurate account of New York's past. Considered his most consistently optimistic work, Irving was able to expound on native themes with affection and candor; indeed, the name “Knickerbocker” has become synonymous with a period of early American culture. The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., Irving's subsequent effort, is considered a landmark work in American fiction. The book not only introduced the modern short story form in the United States but was also the first work by an American author to gain recognition abroad. Noted chiefly today for the stories “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” the collection was widely popular in both England and the United States. Purportedly the work of Geoffrey Crayon, a genteel, good-natured American wandering through Britain on his first trip abroad, The Sketch Book consists largely of his travel impressions. These sketches are picturesque, elegant, and lightly humorous in the tradition of the eighteenth-century essayists Richard Addison and Oliver Goldsmith, Irving's literary models. The most enduring pieces, however, are those in which Irving wove elements of legend, folklore, and drama into narratives of the New World. “Rip Van Winkle,” the story of a lackadaisical Dutch-American who slumbers for twenty years, and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” which recounts Ichabod Crane's meeting with a headless horseman, have long been considered classics. Critics generally agree that these were the models for the modern American short story and that both tales introduced imagery and archetypes that enriched the national literature. Irving's later career is marked by his shift towards biography writing. While traveling through Europe in the 1820s, Irving was asked to translate some documents on Christopher Columbus. Instead, Irving decided to write a biography on the man central to the American identity. Critics praised A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus as one of the greatest biographies ever written; the book earned Irving distinction both as a scholar and as a biographer. Irving employed his skills as a researcher again in his biographies on Oliver Goldsmith and George Washington. In addition, Irving's keen interest in the American character and identity led him to write several books about the American West. In his works A Tour on the Prairies, Astoria, and Captain Bonneville, Irving recounted the adventurous and sometimes brutal life of the frontiersman. He is credited with realistically portraying the pioneers' cruel treatment of Native Americans. However, he championed American enterprise and the courage of American men forging a future for the country.
Contemporaneous reviews illustrate the level of approval Irving won in the nineteenth century. While many of these reviewers were aware of deficiencies in Irving's work, their praise is generally overwhelming. Not all subsequent critics have been so enthusiastic; critical reception of the author's work has been mixed over the past two centuries. However, most modern critics classify Irving as one of the greatest American writers, responsible for establishing an American style of writing, especially in the short story genre. He is well respected as a biographer and as a chronicler of American culture. His short stories “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle” are considered American masterpieces, their legacy so great that they have been infused into popular culture.
A handful of issues have dominated modern literary scholarship on Irving: questions about the author's views on gender, the relationship between his personal identity and the burgeoning national identity, and the fluctuations in the quality of his writing. One of the biggest debates to rage in Irving scholarship is over the issue of anti-feminism in his writing. In her 1997 essay, Marjorie Pryse explains the historical context for Irving's writing. She states that the United States underwent an identity crisis in the early 19th century, attempting to establish its own culture in the years following national independence. The need to maintain patriarchal power and concerns over the role of women in the new society were paramount. Against that backdrop, Pryse argues, Irving wrote stories that restored men's power. Jenifer S. Banks concurs, stating that The Sketch Book and Bracebridge Hall (1822) reflect Irving's personal conflict between responsibility, as represented by women characters such as Dame Van Winkle, and independence, which is reified in men like Rip Van Winkle. Banks posits that the tension is best seen in Irving's short stories “The Widow and Her Son” and “The Wife.” Laura Plummer and Michael Nelson argue that, while gender ideology has been studied in “Rip Van Winkle,” little attention has been focused upon “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” They state that the story “reveals Irving's characteristic misogyny and the male fear of disempowerment played out again and again throughout the tale.” Hugh J. Dawson disagrees; he argues that 19th century popular interpretations of “Rip Van Winkle” have confused and misled scholars into categorizing the tale anti-feminist. Redressing arguments made by critics Philip Young, Judith Fetterley, and Leslie A. Fiedler, Dawson writes that the story is a gothic tale which reaffirms the importance of marriage over the dark, destructive power of the forest in which Rip Van Winkle grows old.
Interwoven within these debates about gender ideology are the prevailing theories of the importance of national identity in Irving's writings. Pryse discusses Irving's need to establish an American hero, separate and unique from those in British literature. Walter Sondey contends that Irving was the first American writer to recognize the potential of American literature to form the identity of Americans. Brian Harding maintains that the connection between Irving's writings and his views on national identity are not so straightforward. Discussing the author's journey to the West, Harding states that while Irving did not attempt to repatriate himself with Americans after a long absence in Europe, A Tour on the Prairies is written in a European style, using stereotypes and foreign analogies. In his analysis of Astoria and Captain Bonneville, Harding posits that they demonstrate Irving's reservations about the American system as much as they celebrate the industry and skills of American frontiersmen. Laura J. Murray is skeptical of predominant arguments about American literary history; she questions the arguments of such critics as Jeffrey Rubin Dorsky, a noted Irving scholar, about the link between Irving's anxiety as a writer and the formation of a national character. In her analysis of The Sketch Book she dismisses the concept of anxiety, stating that Irving fashioned a book that would appeal both to the English with its exotic portrayals of “savages” and to Americans with reassuring depictions of England.
A third strain of arguments questions the overall quality of Irving's corpus. While most scholars agree that Irving was an exceptional writer, not all agree that all his works deserve praise. Alice Hiller states that while Irving's first works were promising, his conscious decision to appeal to the British in his writing of The Sketch Book lowered his quality in subsequent works. She maintains that, while he did reestablish himself with American writers with the publication of A Tour on the Prairies, he did not live up to the potential obvious in his first American works. Writing more than one hundred years earlier, critic Alexander Hill Everett concedes that Irving's work suffers from irregular language and concurs that in The Sketch Book Irving lost some of the “vivacity, freshness and power” that characterized his earlier works. However, Hill maintains that Irving was a master at history, praising A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus as one of the greatest works of literature. The anonymous reviewer for the Ladies' Repository in 1848 echoes Hill, praising Irving's skill as an observer and researcher.
Salmagundi; or, The Whim-whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, Esq., and Others [with William Irving and James Kirke Paulding] (satirical essays) 1807-1808
A History of New York, from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty [As Diedrich Knickerbocker] (historical parody) 1809
The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. [as Geoffrey Crayon] (short stories) 1819-20
Bracebridge Hall [as Geoffrey Crayon] (sketches) 1822
Tales of a Traveller [as Geoffrey Crayon] (travel sketches) 1824
A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (biography) 1828
A Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada (history) 1829
The Alhambra [as Geoffrey Crayon] (travel sketches) 1832
The Crayon Miscellany [as Geoffrey Crayon] (travel sketches) 1835
A Tour on the Prairies (travel sketches) 1835
Astoria, or Anecdotes of an Enterprize Beyond the Rocky Mountains (biography) 1836
The Adventures of Captain Bonneville (biography) 1837
Oliver Goldsmith (biography) 1849
The Life of George Washington (biography) 1855-59
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SOURCE: Introduction to Salmagundi; or, The Whim-whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, Esq., and Others …, L. M. Richardson, 1811, pp. v-liv.
[In the following essay, Lambert explains the nature of the essays in Salmagundi and the particular qualities of American culture.]
So little is really known of the United States of America, on this side of the Atlantic, that it is not a matter of much surprise to find the most absurd and ridiculous prejudices existing with regard to every thing belonging to that country. The unfortunate revolution, which terminated in the emancipation of our colonies, is certainly the ostensible cause of the jealousy which exists between the two nations; and, of the two, I think our prejudices against the Americans are stronger than their animosity towards us.—I believe it is more difficult for a parent to pardon the undutiful behaviour of a child than for a child to forget the ill-treatment of a parent. The same reasoning may, perhaps, apply to nations as well as to individuals; for the conduct of men, in their public capacity, is guided very often by the same feelings and passions as influence them in private life.
From what source, however, such antipathy may flow, it is, at all events, to be regretted, for it not only tends to prevent that friendship and cordiality which ought ever to exist between England and America, but will, if not timely...
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SOURCE: Review of Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, in North American Review, Vol. 28, January, 1829, pp. 103-34.
[In the following review, Everett compares A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus to Irving's earlier works, describing his skill as a writer of humor, satire, and history.]
This is one of those works, which are at the same time the delight of readers and the despair of critics. It is as nearly perfect in its kind, as any work well can be; and there is therefore little or nothing left for the reviewer, but to write at the bottom of every page, as Voltaire said he should be obliged to do, if he published a commentary on Racine, Pulchrè! bene! optimè! And as the reputation of the author is so well established, that he does not stand in need of our recommendation as a passport to the public favor, it may appear, and in fact is, almost superfluous to pretend to give a formal review of his book. Nevertheless, we cannot refuse ourselves the satisfaction of adding the mite of our poor applause to the ample and well deserved harvest of fame, that has already rewarded the labors of our ingenious, excellent, and amiable fellow citizen; nor would it, as we conceive, be proper to omit noticing in this journal a work, however well known to the public, which we consider as being, on the whole, more honorable to the literature of the country, than any one...
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SOURCE: “Irving as a Writer,” Ladies' Repository, Vol. 8, July, 1848, pp. 217-20.
[In the following essay, the critic praises Irving as a writer of the highest quality, forever to be remembered and revered.]
The name of Washington Irving will be for ever associated with American literature. He has attained the very highest eminence as a writer. Both in England and the United States his works have been universally read with pleasure. Perhaps they have been more generally admired, than the production of any living author on this side of the Atlantic. They are not confined to any class of readers. To nearly every mental condition, they have proved equally acceptable. Though dealing somewhat in fiction, it is evident that he employs it only as the garb in which he arrays real characters. He gives us lively sketches of human nature, concealing only dates, names, and places. But all these he doubtless has, with more or less distinctness, in his own view while writing. It is for this reason, principally, that the most serious minds have ever been in the habit of perusing even his more playful compositions.
Mr. Irving is not a novelist, as he is regarded by those not personally acquainted with his writings. He has not written a single novel. In this direction, he is merely a writer of stories, the facts for which are taken either from history, or from occurrences within the range of his own...
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SOURCE: “Washington Irving, the Nineteenth-Century American Bachelor” in Critical Essays on Washington Irving, edited by Ralph M. Aderman, G. K. Hall & Co., 1990, pp. 253-65.
[In the following essay, Banks analyzes Irving's conflict between individual freedom and social responsibility as evidenced in his writings about women and his life.]
The theme of growing up and accepting adult responsibility is central to a study of American literature; and relationships between men and women are a central element in this maturing, as such different critics as Leslie Fiedler and Judith Fetterley have shown. Washington Irving's “Rip Van Winkle” is often cited as a peculiarly American example of flight from this responsibility. Fetterley has noted that in fact Irving borrowed this story from German folklore and set it in an American scene; but among his most significant additions is the character of Dame Van Winkle, whom he presents as the cause of Rip Van Winkle's flight into the Catskill Mountains. She is an “obstacle to the achievement of the dream of pleasure. … Significantly, Irving's tale connects the image of woman with the birth of America as a nation and with the theme of growing up.”1 As the voice of duty and obligation, she most clearly exemplifies Irving's imaginative use of women as a focus of those elements in society he wished to escape. This image of the oppressive power...
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SOURCE: ‘Girls can take care of themselves’: Gender and Storytelling in Washington Irving's ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,’” Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 30, No. 2, Spring, 1993, pp. 175-84.
[In the following essay, Plummer and Nelson explore gender ideology in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” arguing that the story reflects Irving's misogynist beliefs.]
Discussions of Washington Irving often concern gender and the artistic imagination, but these topics are usually mutually exclusive when associated with the two most enduring stories from the Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1819-20): “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Many readings of the former focus on gender, while discussions of the latter most often explore its conception of the artist's role in American society.1 “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” does indeed address this second theme, but also complicates it by making art an issue of gender. Ichabod Crane is not only a representative of bustling, practical New England who threatens imaginatively fertile rural America with his prosaic acquisitiveness; he is also an intrusive male who threatens the stability of a decidedly female place. For Irving, the issue of art is sexually charged; in Sleepy Hollow, this tension finally becomes a conflict between male and female storytelling. A close look at the stories that circulate through the...
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SOURCE: “Recovering ‘Rip Van Winkle’: A Corrective Reading,” ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance, Vol. 40, No. 3, 1994, pp. 251-73.
[In the following essay, Dawson contends that the forest scene in “Rip Van Winkle” is gothic rather than comic and that the story is not anti-feminist.]
While compiling a notebook of reminiscences during his term as American minister to Spain, Washington Irving reflected upon the history behind a tale he had written a quarter century earlier. “The idea,” he writes, “was taken from an old tradition” that he “picked up among the Harz Mountains.” By using the New York Catskills as the background for “Rip Van Winkle,” he furthered his project of providing the young nation with a measure of the folk tradition dear to romanticism. He was astonished at his success: “When I first wrote the ‘Legend of Rip van Winkle,’” he records in his notebook,
my thought had been for some time turned towards giving a colour of romance and tradition to interesting points of our national scenery which is so deficient generally in our country. My friends endeavored to dissuade me from it and I half doubted my own foresight when it was first published from the account of the small demand made for that number, but subsequent letters brought news of its success and of the lucky hit I had made.1...
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SOURCE: “Washington Irving's Great Enterprise: Exploring American Values in the Western Writings” in Making America/Making American Literature: Franklin to Cooper, edited by A. Robert Lee and W. M. Verhoeven, Rodopi, 1996, pp. 199-220.
[In the following essay, Harding probes Irving's complex relationship with Western expansion as evident in A Tour on the Prairies, Astoria, and The Adventures of Captain Bonneville.]
When Irving returned to the United States in 1832, after an absence of seventeen years, he may have been shocked by the vulgarity of the “commonplace civilization” he found there1 but he was certainly impressed by the immense vigor of the nation's economic life, particularly as that vigor manifested itself in westward expansion. To the man whose nightmare was of finding himself a lonely relic of a past age in his native city,2 the America to which he returned was a country where everyone spoke of the future “with growing and confident anticipation”3 and where the future lay in the West. The opportunity to make a tour on the prairies with Commissioner Henry Leavitt Ellsworth presented Irving with a chance to observe the process of growth in his country—to experience the future—though his own initial comments on the venture stressed the past. It would be, he wrote, an opportunity to see “those fine countries of the ‘far west’ while...
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SOURCE: “The Aesthetic of Dispossession: Washington Irving and Ideologies of (De)Colonization in the Early Republic,” American Literary History, Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer, 1996, pp. 205-31.
[In the following essay, Murray discusses early American views on identity and nationality through an analysis of the works of Irving and William Apess.]
We see that recognition of your alienation leads many of you to be empowered into the remarking of your culture, while we are paralyzed into a state of displacement with no place to go.
María C. Lugones to Elizabeth V. Spelman, “Have We Got a Theory for You! Feminist Theory, Cultural Imperialism and the Demand for ‘The Woman's Voice.’”
Insisting on the different positions of white women and women of color within society and within feminism, María Lugones points out in her dialogue with Elizabeth Spelman that white women's growing awareness of their disempowerment has in fact produced an empowerment that many white women are not comfortable to acknowledge. Feminism, despite its rhetoric of universal sisterhood, has often excluded those women oppressed by not only gender but race, class, sexuality, or nationality; alternately, it has included them only at the expense of their particularity. Thus, increasingly, the limited nature of mainstream...
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SOURCE: “‘An Avenue to Some Degree of Profit and Reputation’: The Sketch Book as Washington Irving's entrée and Undoing,” Journal of American Studies, Vol. 31, No. 2, August, 1997, pp. 275-93.
[In the following essay, Hiller traces the events which influenced The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Grayon, Gent., arguing that with this work, Irving lost his distinctive voice.]
“I have,” confided Washington Irving to his friend and effective literary agent Henry Brevoort, “by patient & persevering labour of my most uncertain pen, & by catching the gleams of sunshine in my cloudy mind, managed to open to myself an avenue to 1 The “avenue” in question was The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.—America's first internationally acclaimed work of literature—which, by March 1821, had become a direct route to respectability and the British establishment, opening to Irving the world of stately homes and their real-life avenues, previously only glimpsed from afar. Pieced together after the collapse of his family business, the collection of sketches may have been a carefully engineered career move, but Irving avoided any suggestion of personal cost in catching only those “gleams of sunshine,” and apparently censoring his cloudier, less amenable self. He continued: “I value it the more highly because it is entirely independent and self created; and I must use...
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SOURCE: “Origins of American Literary Regionalism: Gender in Irving, Stowe, and Longstreet” in Breaking Boundaries: New Perspectives on Women's Regional Writing, edited by Sherrie A. Inness and Diana Royer, University of Iowa Press, 1997, pp. 17-37.
[In the following essay, Pryse explores the advent of regionalism by comparing Harriet Beecher Stowe's “Uncle Lot” to Irving's “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle.”]
Any attempt to construct a narrative of the origins of regionalism must begin by acknowledging the problematic status of such an attempt in a critical climate where both “origins” and “regionalism” are themselves contested terms. In a survey of this problem, Amy Kaplan builds her discussion of late-nineteenth-century regionalism on the post-Civil War cultural project of national reunification. For Kaplan, this project involved forgetting a past that included “a contested relation between national and racial identity” as well as “reimagining a distended industrial nation as an extended clan sharing a ‘common inheritance’ in its imagined rural origins” (“Nation” 242, 251). My own project in this essay takes up the concept of origins from an earlier historical point than does Kaplan. In her first published fiction, “A New England Sketch” (1834) (or “Uncle Lot,” as she later retitled it when she included it in The Mayflower ),...
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SOURCE: “From Nation of Virtue to Virtual Nation: Washington Irving and American Nationalism” in Narratives of Nostalgia, Gender and Nationalism, edited by Jean Pickering and Suzanne Kehde, Macmillan Press, 1997, pp. 52-73.
[In the following essay, Sondey demonstrates how Irving's use of nostalgia in Salmagundi and The Sketch Book promoted his views on conservatism and the national identity.]
Washington Irving (1783-1859) began his literary career in the midst of the national identity crisis prompted by the transition from Federalist republicanism to Jeffersonian democracy. During the first decade of the nineteenth century Americans found themselves at odds over conflicting elitist and populist, public and private conceptions of the masculine persona representative of American nationality. On the one hand conservatives advocated an elitist conception of American character exemplified by the publicly virtuous legislator typical of classical republicanism. Democrats on the other hand advocated a popular conception of national character exemplified by the private liberal-democratic individual. The basic difference between these two personifications may be summed up as that between a corporatism that emphasizes duty to station and hierarchy over individual interests, and an individualism that emphasizes social mobility and self-interest over duty to social and political institutions. In...
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SOURCE: “Henpecked to Heroism: Placing Rip Van Winkle and Francis Macomber in the American Renegade Tradition,” Hemingway Review, Vol. 17, No. 2, Spring, 1998, pp. 111-17.
[In the following essay, Catalano compares “Rip Van Winkle” to Hemingway's “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” arguing that both protagonists share a transformation against the powers of female authority.]
As American citizens, both Washington Irving and Ernest Hemingway were aware of the “renegade spirit” distinguishing American culture from its confining European influences. As American artists, both authors were no less benefactors of this unique tradition than shapers of its modern form. Hemingway is especially known for extending the American renegade spirit beyond our borders to include safari hunters, matadors, and soldiers, yet undeniably “[Hemingway] is at home, too, with the Rip Van Winkle archetype, with … traditional evasions of domesticity and civil life” (Fiedler 305). Because “traditional” also constitutes “conventional,” these “traditional evasions” may help explain how such “henpecked heroes” as Rip Van Winkle in Irving's “Rip Van Winkle” and Francis Macomber in Hemingway's “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” manage to compel sympathy and survive this national iconoclastic tradition.
Even “reluctant renegades” must first confront the...
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Aderman, Ralph M. “Washington Irving as a Purveyor of Old and New World Romanticism.” In The Old and New World Romanticism of Washington Irving, edited by Stanley Brodwin, pp. 13-25. New York: Greenwood Press, 1986.
Considers the influence of European romanticism on Irving's writings, particularly in his later works.
Antelyes, Peter. Tales of Adventurous Enterprise: Washington Irving and the Poetics of Western Expansion. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990, 246p.
Considers issues of Western expansion, literary imagination, and Irving's influence on the development of the “tale of adventurous enterprise” as a literary form.
Christensen, Peter. “Washington Irving and the Denial of the Fantastic.” In The Old and New World Romanticism of Washington Irving, edited by Stanley Brodwin, pp. 51-60. New York: Greenwood Press, 1986.
Provides an overview of Irving's treatment of the supernatural in his writings from 1819 to 1832.
Hagensick, Donna. “Irving: A Littérateur in Politics.” In Critical Essays on Washington Irving, edited by Ralph M. Aderman, pp. 178-91. Boston: G. K. Hall & Co.
Defends Irving's skills as a diplomat.
Haig, Judith G. “Washington Irving and the Romance of Travel: Is There an...
(The entire section is 512 words.)