The Sea in Nineteenth-Century English and American Literature Criticism: Overviews And General Studies - Essay

Thomas Philbrick (essay date 1961)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Dread Neptune's Wild Unsocial Sea: The Sea in American Literature Before 1820,” in James Fenimore Cooper and the Development of American Sea Fiction, Harvard University Press, 1961, pp. 1-41.

[In the following essay from his landmark study, Philbrick offers a detailed overview of the development of American sea fiction, providing a comprehensive survey of early works in the genre by both British and American writers.]

During the first half of the nineteenth century the sea occupied much the same place in the imaginations of many Americans that the continental frontier was to fill after 1850. The sea exerted the same appeal to the individual: it offered...

(The entire section is 14487 words.)

Cynthia Fansler Behrman (essay date 1977)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The English Romance with the Sea,” in Victorian Myths of the Sea, Ohio University Press, 1977, pp. 11-23.

[In the following excerpt, Behrman focuses on the many sea myths prevalent in late Victorian England and discusses how these myths were represented in the literature of the time.]

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by
I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied


Who hath desired the Sea?—the sight of salt water unbounded—
The heave and the...

(The entire section is 5340 words.)

Bert Bender (essay date 1988)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Voyage in American Sea Fiction after the Pilgrim, the Acushnet, and the Beagle,” in Sea-Brothers: The Tradition of American Sea Fiction from Moby-Dick to the Present, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988, pp. 3-18.

[In the following excerpt, Bender traces the transformation of American sea literature from its “golden age” of the 1840s through the end of the nineteenth century.]

You got to have confidence steering.

—Ernest Hemingway, To Have and Have Not

Richard Henry Dana, Jr., “changed the face of maritime fiction” in America by publishing his “voice from the...

(The entire section is 9075 words.)

Haskell Springer (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Introduction: The Sea, the Land, the Literature,” in America and the Sea: A Literary History, edited by Haskell Springer, University of Georgia Press, 1995, pp. 1-31.

[In the following essay, Springer surveys the maritime history of the United States and provides an overview of the beginnings of American sea literature.]


… In their westward movement, starting before there was even an “America” in human consciousness, Europeans encountered the seas that led to the New World and then later helped to define it. The Atlantic, the world's stormiest ocean, was, very early in modern European history, an economic and...

(The entire section is 9011 words.)