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Royall Tyler's The Contrast: Characterizing "American" literature

Evans, Devin
Royall Tyler's comedy The Contrast, first performed on the boards of the John Street Theater in Lower Manhattan in 1787, illustrates the differences and mocks many of the manners of Americans and Europeans during the formative years of the early American republic. Following the American Revolution, writers began to develop a new identity, and Tyler, the first successful American dramatist, and his play capture its formative stages by showcasing the introduction of "American" characters and "American" settings to address contemporary issues for post-revolutionary citizens. Tyler's creation and use of character, context, and theatricality defines and illustrates the qualities of the emerging native tradition and helps establish the new nation's literary independence. The Contrast serves as an advocate for his audience to decide for themselves the manners, native-born or foreign, they wish to call "American" and to determine what new literary influences or traditions they will invent and adopt in the next century to usher in what will become known as "American" literature.