Washington Irving's Involvement in Changing Literary Tastes
Washington Irving became one of the first American writers to make a name for himself overseas and gave credit to the upstart United States as a place where legitimate authors could blossom.
Today, in honor of Halloween, we will look at some of Irving’s work which have become staples of American folklore.
I have previously written a more complete biography of Irving, which can be found here.
Washington Irving, Geoffrey Crayon
This publication contained 34 tales, several of which have become ingrained in American folklore.
Interestingly, most of these stories actually take place in Europe. They are all told through the point of view of Geoffrey Crayon, an alias Irving used throughout his career.
Enlightenment to Romantic
Irving was fortunate to be a part of the changing wave of writing, from the Enlightenment to the Romantic period. This movement primarily adjusted art from a focus on reason and logic toward feelings and emotions.
Many of Irving’s tales follow this same train of thought. For example, in Rip Van Winkle, the main character drinks a potion and sleeps through the American Revolution.
Instead of discussing the politics of the American Founding, Irving focuses on Van Winkle’s understanding of the new world and how it affects him personally.
Washington Irving’s most famous story, The Headless Horseman, also demonstrates the change in artistic attitudes of the time.
The main character, who is also known as the Headless Hessian of the Hollow, details the hauntings of a German mercenary who had been decapitated during the Revolutionary War.
Instead of diving into the tragedy of war, Irving chose to look at the fear brought to the people who encounter this creature.
Lastly, I’d like to stray from today’s topic for a moment.
One of Irving’s tales (which I happened to read this week) is a great Halloween/love story which should get more attention this time of year.
The Spectre Bridegroom discusses the death of a groom-to-be and the fallout it had with the lives of the other characters.
There are ghosts, broken hearts and castles and it can be read here.
Here are some other authors from the early Republic:
Washington Irving was one of the most important authors of the Founding Period.
If you are interested in learning more, might I suggest picking up a collection of his tales?
If you’d like a copy you can get one through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).