In the thirty years following Van Wyck Brooks’s blazing of the trail in The Wine of the Puritans (1908), the idea that American literature was worth the sustained attention of serious readers was carried forward in such exciting works as H. L. Mencken’s A Book of Prefaces, D. H. Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature, and Lewis Mumford’s The Golden Day, as well as in the books that solidified Brooks’s critical leadership, America’s Coming-of-Age and The Ordeal of Mark Twain. By far the most ambitious, though, of all the contributions to the noble cause of rediscovering American literature was V. L. Partington’s Main Currents in American Thought. As Partington projected it, Main Currents would tell the whole story of our literary development, from the Puritans to the present, in three massive volumes....


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