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International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences
ILSHS Volume 65

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Variants of Comprehension of the “Own” and the “Alien” in Anglo-American Literature of the End of the Nineteenth Century

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The problem of encounter – meeting/conflict of the “own” and the “alien” became especially actual in Anglo-American literature of the end of the XIXth century due to the increasing tension in relations between the newly-born American nation and Old Europe on the threshold of World War I. The brightest examples of encounter depiction are revealed in the works by O. Wilde (The Canterville ghost), H. James (Daisy Miller) and M. Twain (Innocents abroad).This study concentrates on the analysis of three works with the similar plot-lines – the arrival of American “innocents”, having “new”, free-from-prejudice, pragmatic and down-to-earth life approach, to the Old World where they have to face the “old”, traditional cultural and moral values. Special attention is paid to O. Wilde’s complication of the subject-matter of his story due to the specific choice of the main character – a supernatural being. Thus, the range of problems in “The Canterville ghost” increases from the real conflict of the English (“own”) and the American (“alien”) to the encounter of the material and the ideal, of poetical literary world of fantasy and romance and reality.The researcher makes the conclusion that the works represent three different views on the encounter problem and the ways of its solution, influenced by the writers’ origin and their own interest in the certain party of the encounter which they belonged to by birth – “English” (O. Wilde), “transatlantic” (H. James) and “American” (M. Twain). H. James’ view appears to be the most pessimistic – the compromise of the “own” and the “alien” is impossible. M. Twain’s innocents admit the great value of the Old World’s cultural achievements. However, their victory over utilitarian attitude to life is an isolated case contrasting with overall pragmatism. O. Wilde’s view seems to be the most positive: his characters return to the Old World’s historical and cultural traditions and to the wonderful poetic world created by the European literature. However, the story itself is presented in a form of ironic, parodical play with the clichés of Gothic literature which shows artificiality and illusiveness of the depicted events and impossibility of their embodiment in real life.


International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences (Volume 65)
O. Posudiyevska, "Variants of Comprehension of the “Own” and the “Alien” in Anglo-American Literature of the End of the Nineteenth Century", International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences, Vol. 65, pp. 138-142, 2015
Online since:
December 2015

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