An Overview of the American Literary Periods

Topics: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Romanticism, Nathaniel Hawthorne Pages: 5 (1395 words) Published: March 11, 2013
University of Bouzareah
Faculty of Letters and Languages
Departement of English


An Overview of the American Literary Periods

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Academic Year:
2012 / 2013
Early American Fiction (1492-1789)
Literature is told through the oral tradition.
Works largely consist of origin myths, legends, chants, and other stories. Spiritual forces show up in water, land, animals, etc. which shows a major theme in Native American literature…reverence for nature. The next period goes from the people that were already here to the people that “discovered” America. This period is called the Exploration Period. The main writers during this time were explorers (Christopher Columbus, John Smith, William Bradford) who mainly wrote their accounts down in diaries, journals, and histories. Many of which are more fiction than fact. The Early Colonial Period the main writers were Puritans which is why this age is often referred to as “Puritanism”. Puritan life focused on two things…God and work. They lived what we would consider to be lame lives from the way they dressed to their conversations. The main writers from the Puritan age: Edward Taylor “Huswifery”, Anne Bradstreet “To My Dear and Loving Husband”, and Jonathan Edwards “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” Early American Fiction features the birth of two unique narratives. The captivity narrative are stories of people captured by "uncivilized" enemies. The narratives often include a theme of redemption by faith in the face of the threats and temptations of an alien way of life. The most famous of these being Mary Rowlandson’s Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. The second unique genre is the slave narrative which is an autobiographical account of life as a slave. The most famous of these are The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas: An American Slave, and Up from Slavery (by: Booker T. Washington).

The Revolutionary Period (1776-1820)
The Revolutionary Period produced some of America’s finest political and philosophical writings. It also marked a movement into what is known as the Age of Reason or Age of Enlightenment. Key works of this period focus more on reason and common sense over tradition, scientific investigation over dependence on religious doctrine, and democracy over monarchy. The major writers and works of the Revolutionary Period are: Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography and Poor Richard’s Almanac, the writings of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and Patrick Henry. As you can tell the Revolutionary Period did not produce much creativity in it’s writings with the exception of one standout…Phillis Wheatley. Phillis Wheatley was a slave purchased by John Wheatley who was lucky enough to be taught to read. She was well versed in the classics (Shakespeare, mythology, the Bible, etc.). On Being Brought from Africa to America

'That was mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic die."
Remember, Christians, Negro's, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

The Romantic Period (1820-1860)

This is where American fiction begins to become unique and develop a truly “American” voice. Romantic writings focus on feelings and the individual. Characters in these works are often heroic and larger than life. They strive to find their identity in hostile and lonely settings. Romantics believe in “individualism” and that manifests itself in the beauty of nature and the power of imagination. In the early Romantic we see writers such as James Fennimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans), Washington Irving (Rip Van Winkle, The...
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