Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: A key instrument in the movement to assert the United States’ cultural independence from Europe.
Summary of Event
Although the United States had achieved political independence from Great Britain in 1783, in many respects the new nation remained a cultural colony of Europe. This influence was particularly evident in “high” culture; literature and the fine arts in the United States were largely derivative and subservient to European, especially British, standards. While it was somewhat predictable that a provincial country would follow the cultural leadership of the metropolitan centers of its mother country, U.S. nationalism after the American Revolution demanded a national culture that would reflect American themes, roots, and ideals. The literary group known as the Connecticut Wits or Hartford Wits, although still imitative of British and continental styles, strained to give the United States a unique and distinguished literature. Nearly half a century later, Ralph Waldo Emerson and other writers continued to call for cultural independence, but despite Walt Whitman’s path-breaking poetry in the 1850’s, the nature of U.S. cultural relations with Europe was a contentious matter well into the twentieth century. One strong force for and cogent symbol of the recurrent plea for a national culture, however, was the publication by Noah Webster of An American Dictionary of the English...
(The entire section is 1367 words.)
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