United States of America
Geographical position and climate of the U.S.A. Economy and political structure of the U.S.A. Washington — the capital of the U.S.A. Education in the U.S.A. Cultural life of Americans. American national celebration. The list of the using literature.
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ФЕДЕРАЛЬНОЕ АГЕНСТВО ПО ОБРАЗОВАНИЮ
ГОСУДАРСТВЕННОЕ ОБРАЗОВАТЕЛЬНОЕ УЧРЕЖДЕНИЕ ВЫСШЕГО ПРОФЕССИОНАЛЬНОГО ОБРАЗОВАНИЯ «ОРЛОВСКИЙ ГОСУДАРСТВЕННЫЙ УНИВЕРСИТЕТ»
Кафедра иностранных языков
по самостоятельному внеаудиторному чтению за I семестр 2008-2009 учебного года (английский язык)
Студентка 2 курса
Факультет естественных наук
1. GEOGRAPHICAL POSITION of the U.S.A
2. The CLIMATE of the UNITED STATES
3. ECONOMY OF THE U.S.A
A brief history of the U.S.A. economy
Inventions and industrial development
4. POLITICAL STRUCTURE OF THE U.S.A
Major political parties
5. WASHINGTON-- THE CAPITAL OF THE U.S.A
6. EDUCATION IN THE U.S.A
History of education
7. CULTURAL LIFE OF AMERICANS
8. AMERICAN NATIONAL CELEBRATION
St. Valentine's Day
9. THE LIST OF THE USING LITERATURE
GEOGRAPHICAL POSITION of the U.S.A
The United States of America is situated in the central part of the North American continent. It covers the territory of over nine million square kilometers. The population of the country (according to 2000 census) is 280,562,489 people. It consists of 50 states and a federal district. The country is washed by the Atlantic Ocean in the east and by the Pacific Ocean in the west. It stretches from Canada in the north to Mexico, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Gulf of California in the south. Its territory also includes the states of Alaska, in the north-west corner of North America, and Hawaii, in the mid-Pacific Ocean.
The U.S.A. is divided into three areas: Eastern area -- highland with Appalachian Mountains, Central area -- plain, and Western mountainous area including the Cordilleras and the Rocky Mountains. Between the mountain ranges are the central lowlands, called the prairie, and the Eastern Lowlands, called the Mississippi Valley.
The north-eastern part of the U.S.A. is the region of the five Great Lakes -- Lake Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie and Ontario. The lakes are joined together by short rivers and canals and cut by rapids. The greatest of these rapids is the Niagara Falls. The waters of the five lakes have the outlet into the Atlantic Ocean by the St. Lawrence River. In the west of the U.S.A. there is another lake called the Great Salt Lake.
The greatest rivers of the U.S.A. are the Colorado and the Columbia flowing into the Pacific Ocean, the Mississippi with its tributaries -- the Missouri and the Ohio -- flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, and the Hudson river, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The rivers in the west are unsuitable for navigation as they are cut by deep rapids. They serve as a great source of electric power.
There are different climatic zones on the territory of the U.S.A. But on the whole the climate of the country is continental. Large reserves of coal, oil, gas, iron ores, ferrous and non-ferrous metals form a solid base for the development of the U.S.A. industry.
The CLIMATE of the UNITED STATES
It is well known that the United States of America occupies a large area in the central part of the North American Continent. Its climate is mostly temperate but varies from tropical in Hawaii to arctic in Alaska. There are places that are warm all the year round, and there are places covered with ice and snow where summer never comes.
But the greater part of the territory of the United States of America is situated between 30 degrees and 49 degrees North Latitude. The coast of the Gulf of Mexico is more south than the city of Tashkent.
The climate of the U.S.A. is affected by many things, such as the distance from the Equator, Landforms, Oceans. For example, a great belt of mountainous land stretches along the western edge of North America, from Alaska south to Panama. Some of these mountains are so high that snow can be seen on their peaks even in summer. Summer days are often bright and warm in the mountains, but nights are cold.
Hudson Bay in Canada is a great reservoir of cold because of its connection with the Arctic Ocean. From there vast masses of cold air flow over the land and lower the temperature, especially in the eastern part of the country.
Oceans also effect climate. Winters are colder in the interior than along the coasts, and summers are warmer. But the warm sea current of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf Stream, has less influence upon the climate of the U.S.A. than on the climate of West Europe. It happens due to the fact that the west winds ol the temperature belt in Europe blow from the sea to the continent, making its climate warmer, but in the eastern part of North America they blow from the continent to the sea. Winters in the northern part of the country are long and cold.
Along the western coast the climate is warm, because the land there is protected from the cold winds of the north by the great mountain range, the Rocky Mountains, and is open to the influence of the warm winds of the Pacific Ocean.
To the east, beyond the mountains, there is a vast dry region, the soil here is arid, the rainfall is low, and the drought must be overcome by irrigation. This dry land extends from Canada to Mexico. The Southern Coastlands enjoy a humid subtropical climate, a long growing season, mild winter temperatures and warm humid summers. In a few locations of the South it is possible to harvest two crops in one growing season and some vegetable farmers are achieving even more.
Due to favorable climatic conditions Florida, with long beaches facing both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, attracts millions of vacationers throughout the year. Although the Southern Coastlands' subtropical environment has many advantages, the coast is very much exposed to the hurricanes, large cyclonic storms generated by intense solar heating over large bodies of warm water. So, Hurricane Katrina, that came down on the southern coast on August 29, 2005, brought great damages to the city of New Orleans and killed many thousands of people. 25,000 storm refugees appeared in desperate situation, many of them being trapped on roof tops and in attics without water and food.
ECONOMY OF THE U.S.A.
A BRIEF HISTORY of the U.S. ECONOMY
The American economy had to be built, as they say, from the ground up. Those immigrants who were not willing to work hard -- or work with their hands as well as their heads -- seldom did well in the New World. In the beginning there were simply no farms, no houses or factories. Whatever was needed had to be made by the settlers themselves. The tremendous ingenuity and inventiveness of Americans can be traced to this time.
The colonists were left to build their own communities and their own economy. People lived primarily on small farms and were self-sufficient.
Early colonial prosperity was resulted from trapping and trading in furs. Fishing was a primary source of wealth in x Massachusetts.
Industry developed as the colonies grew. A variety of specialized sawmills and gristmills appeared. Colonies established shipyards to build fishing fleets and trading vessels. They also built small iron forges. By the 18th century regional pattern of development had become clear: the New England colonies relied on ship-building and sailing to generate wealth; plantations (many used slave labor) in Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas grew tobacco, rice and indigo; and the middle colonies of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware cultivated general crops. Except for slaves, standards of living were generally high.
The U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1787 established that the entire nation --stretching then from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi Valley -- was a unified or "common" market. The Constitution provided that the federal government could regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the states, establish uniform bankruptcy laws, create money and regulate its value, fix standards of weights and measures and establish post offices and roads. The last-mentioned clause was an early recognition of the importance of "intellectual property", a matter that would assume great importance in trade negotiations in the late 20th century.
INVENTIONS and INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT
The rapid economic development following the Civil War laid the groundwork for the modern U.S. industrial economy. An explosion of new discoveries and inventions took place, causing such profound changes that some termed the results a "second industrial revolution". Oil was discovered in western Pennsylvania. The typewriter was developed. Refrigeration railroad cars came into use. The telephone, phonograph and electric light were invented. And by the dawn of the 20th century cars were replacing carriages and people were flying in airplanes.
Parallel to these achievements was the development of the nation's industrial infrastructure. Coal was found in abundance in the Appalachian Mountains. Large iron mines opened in the Lake Superior region. Mills were built in places where these two important raw materials could be brought together to produce steel. Large copper and silver mines opened, followed by lead mines and cement factories.
As industry grew larger, it developed mass-production methods. Frederick W. Tailor pioneered the field of scientific management in the late 19th century. True mass production was the inspiration of Henry Ford, who in 1913 adopted the moving assembly line, with each worker doing one simple task in the production of automobiles. Ford offered a very generous wage ($5 a day) to his workers, enabling many of them to buy the automobiles they made, helping the industry to expand.
The "Gilded Age" of the second half of the 19th century was the epoch of tycoons. There appeared such tycoons as John D. Rockefeller (who did with oil), Pierpont Morgan (banking), Andrew Carnegie (steel) and others. Some tycoons were honest according to business standards of their day; others, however, used force, bribery and guile to achieve their wealth and power. For better or worse, business interest acquired significant influence over government.
MATERIAL-ECONOMIC RESOURCES of the U.S.
The mineral and agricultural resources of the United States are tremendous. Although the country was almost self-sufficient in the past, increasing consumption, especially of energy, continues to make it dependent on certain imports. It is, nevertheless, the world's largest producer of both electrical and nuclear energy. It leads all nations in the production of liquid natural gas, aluminum, sculpture, phosphates, and salt. It is also a leading producer of copper, gold, coal, crude oil, nitrogen, iron ore, silver, uranium, lead, zinc, mica, molybdenum, and magnesium. Although its output has declined, the United States is among the world leaders in the production of pig iron and ferroalloys, steel, motor vehicles, and synthetic rubber
Agriculturally, the United States is first in the production of cheese, corn, soybeans, and tobacco. The United States is also one of the largest producers of cattle, hogs, cow's milk, butter, cotton, oats, wheat, barley, and sugar; it is the world's leading exporter of wheat and corn and ranks third in rice exports. In 1995, U.S. fisheries ranked fifth in the world in total production.
Major U.S. exports include motor vehicles, aircraft, food, iron and steel products, electric and electronic equipment, industrial and power-generating machinery, chemicals, and consumer goods. Leading imports include ores and metal scraps, petroleum and petroleum products, machinery, transportation equipment (especially automobiles), and paper and paper products.
The major U.S. trading partners are Canada (in the world's largest bilateral trade relationship), Mexico, Japan, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Germany. The volume of trade has been steadily increasing.
The development of the economy has been stimulated by the growth of a complex network of communications not only by railroad, highways, inland waterways, and air but also by telephone, radio, television, computer (including the Internet), and fax machine. This infrastructure has fostered not only agricultural and manufacturing growth but has also contributed to the leading position the United States holds in world tourism revenues and to the ongoing shift to a service-based economy.
POLITICAL STRUCTURE OF THE U.S.A.
THE U.S. CONSTITUTION
The U.S. Constitution, proclaimed in 1787, is the supreme law of the country, which protects the rights of all the people living in the United States. The Constitution is based on three main principles. The first one guarantees basic rights -- freedom of speech and religion. The second principle tells about a govern met by the people. The third principle tells about the three branches of the U.S. government, legislative, executive and judicial, that have different powers.
1. Basic rights
2. Government by the people
3. Separation of powers
Freedom of speech
People vote for their representatives
Three branches of government with different powers
Freedom of religion
Right to have a trial
People can ask for new laws or changes
Right to own property
The U.S. Constitution includes the Preamble, seven articles and 26 amendments, which help make some changes or add some new things. The first ten amendments are called collectively Bill of Rights.
POLITICAL SYSTEM of the U.S.A.
The United States of America is a Federal Republic consisting of 50 states. The federal district of Columbia is an independent territorial unit. According to the U.S. constitution the power of the government is divided into three branches -- the legislative, the executive and the judicial branches. The powers given to each branch are carefully balanced by the powers of the other two. Each branch serves as a check on the others.
The Legislative branch is the Congress, which is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. There are 100 Senators, two from each state. One third of the Senators are elected every two years for six-year terms of office. The House of Representatives has 435 members. They are elected every two years for two-year terms. Congress makes all laws, and each house of Congress has the power to introduce legislation.
The Executive branch is responsible for administering and executing the laws. It includes the President, Vice-president and the Cabinet, consisting of fourteen Secretaries of the executive departments. The head of each department is appointed by the President. The President is the head of the state and the government and the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the U.S.A. He is elected every four years to a four-year term of office, with no more than two full terms allowed.
The Judicial branch of the federal government includes the Supreme Court of the United States and the system of federal courts. The Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and eight associate justices, holding office for life. It has the responsibility of judging the constitutionality of acts of law.
The legislative branch is the Congress, which consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The main function of the legislative branch is to make laws. The Congress can make laws about trade, taxes, citizenship and about the District of Columbia. It can maintain Army, Navy and Air Force, declare war, establish U.S. Post Office, print and borrow money. The Congress cannot take away the right to a trial, give title of nobility, put a tax on exports, use tax money without authorization. It cannot make laws about marriage, driver's licenses, police, etc. (These are done by the states.)
The Constitution established that the Congress must meet regularly. A new Congress begins every two years with the election of new Senators and Representatives. Congress meets for its sessions in the Capitol Buildings in Washington, D. C. (District of Columbia). The House of Representatives has a large room, the Senate a smaller one, and the president has some offices for his use.
There are 435 representatives in the House. A Representative must be at least 25, a U.S. citizen for seven years, and live in the state from which he is elected. There is usually one representative for about 580,000 people in a state. However, all states must have at least one representative in the House. States with many representatives have more power in the House than states with only a few representatives. Representatives listen to the needs of the people in their districts and their states.
There are 100 members in the Senate, two from each state. Senators must be at least 30 years old, he must live in state and be a U.S. citizen for not less than nine years. Senators are elected for a term of six years. Their special duties are: to ratify / approve treaties, to confirm appointments, to try impeached officials. Only the House of Representatives can impeach officials. Only Senate can try the officials. The Senate decides if the official can stay in office. Two-thirds of the Senate must agree to remove an official from office.
In addition to making laws, the main function of the legislative branch, the Constitution also gives Congress the power to raise money by means of taxes or borrowing; to make rules for trade with foreign countries and between states; to organize the Armed Forces; to declare war, etc.
There are 16 permanent committees in the Senate and 20 in the House. Each committee sifts and sorts the bills it is responsible for.
The executive branch, which includes the President, Vice-president and the Cabinet consisting of Secretaries of the executive departments, is responsible for administering and executing the laws.
The President of the United States is elected every four years to a four-year term of office, with no more than two full terms allowed. The President is elected directly by the voters (through state electors). He must be a native-born citizen at least 35 years old and live in the U.S. for not less than 14 years. The U.S. President is the head of the state and the government, and the Com-mander-in-Chief of the armed forces. He makes foreign policy, approves or vetoes laws, appoints judges, advisors and ambassadors, he can pardon a person for a federal crime (give amnesty).
If the President dies, or resigns, or can't work, the Vice-President becomes President. So, the qualifications for Vice-President are the same as for the President.
Within the Executive Branch, there are 14 executive departments. These are: the Departments of State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Education, Energy, and Veteran Affairs. Each department is established by law and is responsible for a specific area. The heads of the executive departments are Cabinet members, they are appointed by the President. These appointments, however, must be approved by the Senate. All the Secretaries of the executive departments make up the Cabinet and are Presidential assistants and advisers.
There are many independent agencies in the executive branch. They are independent because they are not part of any executive department. Some agencies and their responsibilities are:
Environmental protection Agency (EPA)
helps stop pollution
National Security Council (NSC)
assesses & appraises objectives, commitments and risks of U.S. in interests of national security
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
coordinates intelligence activities by making recommendations to the NSC
National Aeronautic & Space Administration (NASA)
plans the space program
U.S. Postal Service
Commission Civil Rights
helps stop discrimination
MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES
The United States began as a one-party political system. George Washington and many others among the Revolutionary leaders wanted it to stay that way. In 1737, when the Constitution was written, the people were divided over whether to ratify it, although they were not yet organized into definite political parties.
The question of who should be the new President began to divide people into political organizations. On one side were the Federalists, representing business, finance and the middle classes of city folk. On the other side were the "Republicans" led by Thomas Jefferson. They represented mainly the country folk from Virginia. Thus by 1800 the one-party Revolutionary-government of the United States quickly split up into a two-party system.
The parties chose their own names, Republican and Democratic, but not their party emblems. The cartoonist Thomas Nast invented the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey in the early 1870s, and they soon became fixed types.
The differences between the two parties are so small that a voter will see no intellectual inconsistency in voting for a Republican President, a Democratic state governor, a Republican Senator and a Democratic member of the House.
How is an individual's party affiliation determined, or how does a person choose sides in the game of party politics? The first, and perhaps the most important determinant is family tradition. Most voters take the party of their parents. Economic position ranks second in influence on party bias. Recently there has been an increasing tendency for the well-to-do to vote Republican and for the less fortunate to vote Democratic. National origin plays the role too, descendants of northern Europeans tend to the Republican party, while those of southern and eastern Europeans prefer the Democratic party.
This traditional bipartisan system is highly cherished by Big Business, for it creates a sort of illusion that voters are free to choose between the candidates of these two parties, whereas both of them faithfully serve Big Business interests.
WASHINGTON -- THE CAPITAL OF THE U.S.A.
Washington, the capital of the United States, is situated on the Potomac River in the District of Columbia. In 1790 the first President of the U.S.A., General George Washington, personally chose the site for the capital of a new nation. The General drew a circle at his well-worn map, where the Potomac River divided the Virginia and Maryland States, and wrote inside it, "District Columbia. Federal city". Washington invited a famous French engineer Pierre Charles L'Efant, a supporter of the new American Republic to design the new city.
The District was named in honor of Columbus, the discoverer of America. The city was founded in 1791, became the capital of the United States in 1800, and was named after the first U.S. President, George Washington.
The centre of the city is the Capitol Building. Four geographical sections radiate out from the Capitol, dividing the District of Columbia into North-East, North-West, South-East and South-West. Broad Pennsylvania Avenue, about a mile and a half in length, connects the Capitol with the White House. Starting from the Capitol, the streets running north and south bear the numbers 1, 2, 3, etc., while the east and west streets are named A, B, C, etc. All the diagonal avenues are named after States of the Union, and the longest and straightest of them all is Massachusetts Avenue, which virtually cuts the city in half.
Washington is not the largest city in the United States, its population is about one million people, but it is one of the most beautiful and unusual cities in the country, the first carefully planned capital in the world. Washington's only big business has been the business of Government. All the official buildings, museums and memorials are mainly concentrated along the Mall, a long park line area, broad and quiet, planted with trees, and extending from the Capitol to the Potomac River.
Washington is a large scientific and cultural centre, where many research institutes are concentrated. The Smithsonian Institution, the National Academy of Science and the Congressional Library are among them. The National Museum, the old and new National Galleries of art, the art museums of Corcoran, Freer and Philips are also well known. Washington's sky line is dominated by the Capitol and the Washington Monument. The Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln memorials are among the city sights.
The Pentagon, the U.S. military department, was constructed in the suburbs, south of the Potomac. It has the shape of five huge regular concentric pentagons. Not far from here is the Arlington National Cemetery with the grave of the Unknown Soldier and that of John Kennedy; the U.S. President assassinated in Dallas in November 1963, and his brother Robert, assassinated in 1968.
EDUCATION IN THE U.S.A.
HISTORY of the U.S. EDUCATION
Americans have shown a great concern of education since early colonial times. The first settlers, in fact, included an unusually high proportion of educated people. In the Massachusetts Bay colony in the early 1600s there was an average of one university man to every 40 or 50 families -- much higher than in Old England. Some of these men, many of them graduates of Cambridge, came together and in 1636 founded Harvard College, 140 years before American independence. Other early institutions of higher learning were the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, established in 1693, and Yale, founded in 1701. Before the Revolution in 1776, nine colleges had already been opened in the colonies, most of them later becoming universities.
From the 1640s on, Massachusetts required all towns with more than 50 families to provide a schoolmaster at public expense. It established the world's first universal and compulsory free schools. In the course of the 17th century, free schools had been established in a number of places. Many academies (schools offering a classical education as well as more practical training) opened throughout the next century, including the one established by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia in 1751. Soon every state provided for a system of free public schools open to all and paid for by public taxes.
In 1862 Congress passed a law which provided states with public (federal) lands to be used for higher education, especially for the establishment of agricultural and mechanical-arts colleges. As a result, many "land-grant colleges" were established.
Today there are some 41 million pupils and students in public schools at the elementary and secondary levels, and another 5 million in private schools throughout the country. Every year about 13 million Americans are enrolled in the over 3,000 colleges and universities of every type: private, public, church-related, small and large, in cities, counties and states.
Americans have won 168 Nobel Prizes in the science alone -- physics, chemistry and medicine -- since the awards were first given in 1901. If most Americans are very critical of their educational system at the elementary and secondary school level, many will also admit that their higher education system is "in many respects, the best in the world".
HIGHER EDUCATION in the U.S.A.
After high school young people either start working or continue in higher education. There are several ways to do it: universities, colleges and technical or vocational schools. The cherished desire of any U.S. school leaver is to enter one of the most prestigious educational establishments in the U.S.A., such as Harvard, Prinston, Yale or Columbia Universities.
A university in the United States usually has several different colleges in it. Each has a special subject area. There may be a college of liberal arts where humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and mathematics are taught to provide general knowledge and to develop the mind. These colleges are not professional or technical. There may be a college of education and a college of business. A programmer for undergraduates usually takes four years. University students get an undergraduate degree in the arts or science. If they complete a course of study they get Bachelor of Arts or Science degree. Students may leave the university at this time. They may also go on for a graduate or professional degree.
College students usually spend four years in school too. But a college does not have graduate or professional programmers.
The technical or vocational school has only job training. It has no academic programmer. A course of study may take from six months to two years and more. The technical or vocational school gives training for work in areas such as electronics, carpentry and others.
Since tuition fees can be rather high (ranging from $20,000 for an academic year at Harvard, Yale or Columbia to under $1,000 at small public institutions) at most colleges and universities, a large number of students hold jobs besides studying. These part-time jobs may be either "on campus" (in the dormitories, cafeterias, students services, in research and in teaching and tutoring jobs) or "off campus" (with local firms and businesses, in offices, etc.).
As a result of economic changes and the rapid advance of the "information age", the necessity to acquire new occupational skills has increased. Adult courses in business, health care, engineering and education are very popular. Most participants in continuing or adult education have a practical goal: they want to update or upgrade their job skills.
CULTURAL LIFE OF AMERICANS
American cultural history can be divided into three broad stages.
The first stage stretches from colonial times until about the Civil War. In this period American art, architecture, music, literature and fashion were strongly influenced by European ideas, traditions and trends. This did not mean, of course, that America only imported its art or artists. The American painter Benjamin West, who was called the 'American Raphael" in England, was a founder of the Royal Academy in London, and beginning in 1792, was its president for 26 years. The art of other American painters, among them John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, also found favor and fame in Europe.
Soon American writers such as James Fennimore Cooper or Edgar Allan Poe became widely read and praised throughout Europe.
The second stage, from the Civil War era until around World War I or so, is marked by tension. Writers, architects and painters of the 19th century still considered themselves largely part of the European tradition. Yet, by this second stage, America had developed a cultural style of her own. One feels clear American accents in the voices of the 19th century writers such as Cooper, Whitman, or Twain. Obviously a strong national culture had been established. European influences were still strong but no longer dominant.
The third and present stage is marked by a tremendous surge of American creativity in all areas, by a growing international influence, and by a steady self-confidence.
Although this vitality and creative experimentation can be seen in art, architecture, music, dance, film and fashion, it is most clearly apparent in literature. The first American to be honored by a Nobel prize in literature was Sinclair Lewis, in 1930. He was then followed by Eugene O'Neill, T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Joseph Brodsky, Toni Morrison and others. A large number of names of American writers, such as Anderson, Asimov, Walker, Williams, Wright, etc., are read in most corners of the globe today.
American theatre is traditionally dated from the arrival of Lewis Harlem's English troupe in Williamsburg in 1752. After the end of the Revolutionary War, the Republic witnessed a slow expansion of the dramatic arts. Theatres were built in Charles-Ion, Philadelphia, Newport, New York, and Boston.
Theatre became a more spread part of American life during the early 19th century and the first decades were golden years for theatre. In the second half of the 19th century, theatre became both more diverse and more specialized. Audiences could choose between legitimate theatre, ballet, burlesque, and opera. In the second half of the 19th century, vaudeville emerged. Its fast-paced collage of music, comedy, dance, novelty, and skits appealed to a large audience.
The American theatre reflects the variety of the American scene. The characters of Eugene O'Neill have grown on American soil; Thornton Wilder represents the life of an American family; Tennessee Williams characters are genuine Southerners. Modern American drama was born in Provincetown, South East Massachusetts, where in 1915 a small group of theatre enthusiasts gathered. Later in Greenwich Village (now a centre for artists and authors in Manhattan of New York City) they put on dramatic pieces by young American playwrights and also staged plays by European writers.
Today many thousands of performances of old and new plays are presented annually. The centre of the U.S. theatrical world is in a section of New York City on and near Broadway. In New York City alone there are about 50 new professional productions a season. In addition, many performances by professionals and semiprofessionals are given in clubs, universities and drama schools. America's most important playwrights are considered to be Eugene O'Neill, Maxwell Anderson, Thornton Wilder and William Saroyan. Of the younger dramatists Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller are the most prominent.
Eugene O'Neill is generally considered America's greatest playwright. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936, and he was the only dramatist to win the Pulitzer Prize in drama four times. His best known plays "Anna Christie" and "Long Day's Journey into Night", a semiautobiographical tragedy, are always of great success on the stage.
The musical stage of the twentieth century proved to be the country's most popular theatrical export. Music had accompanied theatricals since colonial days. But only in 1886 American musical was born with the appearance of "The Black Crook". American musicals, where song, dance and spectacle were introduced into an existing melodrama, contributed greatly to theatre art. "The West Side Story" created a furor on American stage in 1957 and is still being produced in American theatres. Frank Sinatra, a famous American singer and film actor starred in several films and musicals. His distinctive style of singing made him famous as a performer all over the world.
CINEMA in AMERICA
Movies, or the cinema, have been an integral part of American culture throughout the twentieth century.
In 1908 a group of people from Chicago came to Los Angeles to shoot a film. Since that time a lot of directors, producers, actors and thousands of other workers have been coming to Los Angeles. In 1911 the first studio appeared in Hollywood, a part of Los Angeles.
The 1920's was the great era of the silent film with stars like Mary Pickford, Rudolph Valentino, Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers. Some famous movies of the 20's were "The Gold Rush", "City Lights". Hollywood made 80 per cent of the world's films. Silent and black-and-white films of those early years were forced out by sound films in the middle of the 1920's. Full-length films came up to take place of short films.
There appeared a lot of studios that grew very quickly and combined in large corporations. A U.S. film production and distribution company, Paramount Pictures, founded in 1912, was a major studio from the silent days of the cinema. Warner Bros, a U.S. film production company became one of the major Hollywood studios after releasing the first talking film, 'The Jazz Singer" in 1927. Columbia Pictures, founded in 1924, grew out of a smaller company founded by Harry Corn.
Walter Disney, a U.S. film maker and animator, a pioneer of family entertainment, established his own studio in Hollywood, and his first Mickey Mouse cartoons appeared in 1928. In addition to short cartoons, the studio made feature length animated films, including "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", "Pinocchio", and "Dumbo". Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, one of the most powerful Hollywood film-production company of the 1930s--1950s produced such prestige films as "David Copperfield" and "The Wizard of Oz". Twentieth Century Fox, formed in 1935, made high quality films and is still a major film-production studio. Recent successes include the "Star Wars" trilogy. Major American writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner did screen plays for many films.
The first genres of American films were melodrama, western and comedy, later appeared adventure and historical films. But now the range of genres is much richer. Hollywood got the name of the factory of dreams. It is associated with wealth and paradise of sun and palm trees.
AMERICAN NATIONAL CELEBRATION
The beginning of the new year has been welcomed on different dates throughout history. Ways of celebrating differ as well, according to customs and religions of the world. In the United States the legal holiday is January first, but Americans begin celebrating on December 31. Sometimes people have masquerade balls, where guests dress up in costumes and cover their faces with masks. According to an old tradition, guests unmask at midnight.
On January first Americans visit friends, relatives and neighbors. There is plenty to eat and drink when you just drop in to wish your loved ones and friends the best for the year ahead. Many families and friends watch television together enjoying the Tournament of Roses Parade in California. At first the parade was a line of decorated horse-drawn private carriages.
In later years colleges began to compete in football games on New Year's day and these gradually replaced other athletic competitions. The parade of floats grew longer from year to year and lower decorations grew more elaborate. Today the parade is usually is more than five miles long with thousands of participants in the marching bands and on the floats. City officials ride in the cars pulling the floats. The queen of the tournament rides on a special float which is always the most elaborate one of the parade. The cities with the most unusual and attractive floral displays are awarded with prizes. After the Parade, the Rose Bowl football game is played.
The Mummer's Parade in Philadelphia is a ten-hour spectacle. Clowns, musicians, dancers and floats -- all are led by King Momus dressed in gleaming satin. All these events make the first of January one of the most entertaining and relaxing holiday.
In most cultures people promise to better themselves in the following year. Americans have inherited the tradition and even write down their New Year's resolutions; eg.: "Mike Nicolson will stop smoking for good". But whatever the resolution, most of them are broken or forgotten by February.
CHRISTMAS (December, 25)
Christmas is a joyful religious holiday when Christians all over the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. There are a lot of traditions connected with Christmas but perhaps the most important one is giving and receiving presents.
Immigrant settlers brought Father Christmas, whose name was gradually changed to Santa Claus, to the United States. Americans gave Santa Claus a white beard, dressed him in a red suit and made him a friendly old gentleman with red cheeks and a twinkle in his eye.
American children believe that Santa Claus lives in the North Pole with his wife. All year he lists the names of children, both those who have been good and those who have been bad. On December 24, Christmas Eve, Santa hitches his eight reindeer to a sleigh, and loads it with presents. The reindeer pull him and his sleigh through the sky to deliver presents to children all around the world, that is if they had been good all year. Children leave a long stocking at the end of their beds on Christmas Eve, hoping that Santa Claus will come down the chimney during the night and bring them small presents, fruit and nuts.
Christmas is a traditional family reunion day. Going home for Christmas is a most cherished tradition of the holiday. No matter where you may be the rest of the year, being at home with your family and friends for Christmas is "a must". This means that the house will be full of cousins, aunts and uncles that might not see each other during the year. Everyone joins in to help in the preparation of the festivities. Some family members go to choose a Christmas tree to buy and bring home. Others decorate the house, or wrap presents. And of course, each household needs to make lots of food. Each family has a big Christmas dinner in the afternoon or in the evening. They usually eat roast turkey or goose and Christmas pudding.
On the Sunday before Christmas many churches hold a carol service where special hymns are sung. Sometimes carol-singers can be heard on the streets as they collect money for charity. Schools have Christmas parties. Children sing carols and recite Christmas poems.
Another important custom of Christmas is to send and receive Christmas cards, in which people wish each other 'A Merry Christmas' and 'A Happy New Year'.
ST. VALENTINE'S DAY (February.14)
St. Valentine's Day has roots in several different legends that have found their way to us through the ages. One of the earliest popular symbols of the day is Cupid, the Roman god of Love, who is represented by the image of a young boy with bow and arrow.
Valentine, a Christian priest, who didn't believe in the Roman gods, had been thrown in prison for his teachings. On February 14, Valentine was beheaded, not only because he was a Christian, but also because he had performed a miracle. He supposedly cured the jailer's daughter of her blindness. The night before he was executed, he wrote the jailer's daughter a farewell letter, signing it, "From Your Valentine".
Another Valentine was an Italian bishop who was imprisoned because he secretly married couples, contrary to the laws of the Roman emperor. Some legends say he was burned at the stake.
February 14 was also a Roman holiday, held in honor of a goddess. Young men randomly chose the name of a young girl to escort to the festivities. The custom of choosing a sweetheart on this date spread through Europe in the Middle Ages, and then to the early American colonies.
Whatever the odd mixture of origins, St. Valentine's Day is now a day for sweethearts. It is the day when you show your affection to your friend or loved one. You can send candy or roses, the flower of love. Most people send "valentines", greeting cards. Valentines can be sentimental, romantic and sincere. They can be funny and friendly. These are colored greeting cards with pictures of hearts, or words "I love you" and "Guess who". They often contain verses; ex: "I'll be your sweetheart, if you are mine, all of my life I'll be your Valentine"; or "Roses are red, violets are blue, you know how much I love you". If the sender is shy, valentines can be anonymous with a sign: "Your Secret Admirer".
Americans of all ages love to send and receive valentines. In elementary schools children make valentines for their classmates and put them in a large decorated box, similar to a mailbox. On February 14, the teacher opens the box and distributes the valentines to each student. After the students read their valentines, they have a small party with refreshments.
St. Valentine's Day is a time to let people know how much you love and appreciate them. It is a day, that makes everyone feel romantic and happy.
HALLOWEEN (November, 1st)
November 1st is a religious holiday known as All Saints' Day or All Hallows' Day. The day before the holy day is known as Ail Hallows' Eve. The word Halloween comes from that form.
October 31st was the eve of the Celtic New Year. The Celts were the ancestors of the present-day Irish, Welsh and Scottish people. Halloween originated as a celebration connected with evil spirits. Witches flying on broomsticks with black cats, ghosts, goblins and skeletons have all evoked as symbols of Halloween. People thought that on that day the spirits of all those who had died during the last year would be wandering around in the search of living bodies. To save themselves from the spirits people lit bonfires, dressed up in a ghoulish manner and walked around the village making noise to frighten away dead souls.
Much later, when Christianity spread throughout Ireland, and October 31 was no longer the last day of the year, Halloween became a celebration mostly for the children.
Nowadays people do not believe in evil spirits. They mark this holiday by costume balls or fancy-dress parties. More and more adults celebrate Halloween. They dress up like historical or political figures and go to masquerade parties. Teenagers enjoy costume dances at their schools, and the more shocking the costume the better.
At Halloween parties children play traditional games. One of the most popular is called pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey: one child is blindfolded and spun slowly. Then the child must find a paper donkey hanging on the wall and try to pin a tail onto the back. Another game is bobbing for apples. One child at a time has to get apples from a tub of water without using hands. How? By sinking his or her face into the water and biting the apple.
Children like to visit houses and ask the traditional question "Trick or treat?" If the people in the house give the children a "treat", usually money or sweets, then the children will not play a trick on them.
Pumpkins are also a symbol of Halloween. Carving pumpkins for jack-o'lantern is a Halloween custom also dating back to Ireland. A legend grew up about a man named Jack who was so stingy that he was not allowed into heaven when he died. His spirit was doomed to wander around the countryside, holding a lantern to light his way. The Irish people carved scary faces out of pumpkins and lit a candle inside, representing "Jack of Lantern" or Jack-o'lantern. Today jack-o'lanterns in the windows of a house on Halloween night let costumed children know that there are goodies waiting if they knock and say "Trick or Treat".
THE LIST OF THE USING LITERATURE
1. «Страноведение: США». Издательство «Феникс». Ростов-на-Дону 2006
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