American Literature

Selected Periods and Movements

Explorers, colonists and Puritans wrote of their experiences and philosophy/theology. Although not acknowledged by the European settlers, the Native Americans also recorded their experiences in poem, story and song.

Featured Author: Anne Bradstreet

Literature of this time period reflects a change in the social structure from one which was largely influenced by Protestant theology to one which is centered on a respect for the common man and a move toward democracy.

Featured Author: Benjamin Franklin

The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne

Moby Dick by Melville

Walden by Thoreau

Walking by Thoreau

These writers infused their writing with “fancy, imagination, emotion, nature, individuality and exotica” (The American Experience). Transcendentalism and anti-transcendentalism are hallmarks of this era as many of these writers explored man’s relationship to nature and his desire to reach a higher consciousness outside traditional theology.

Featured Author: Walt Whitman

Influenced by the events preceding and following the Civil War, literature from this period is less philosophical in nature than the romantic period and more cynical and questioning. This period reflects a concern for the everyday experiences of the common man.

Featured Author: Kate Chopin

Writers in this literary period tended to see humans as the “hapless victims of immutable natural laws” (The American Experience). They were also influenced by the industrial revolution.

Featured Author: Chief Joseph

The reader and the reader’s response to a text is the focus of this time period. Writers began to experiment with form and structure in order to evoke a particular response from readers.

Featured Author: Ernest Hemingway

"The renaissance mainly involved a group of writers and intellectuals associated (often loosely) with Harlem, the district of Manhattan that, during the migration of African Americans from the rural South, became the major center for urbanized blacks.

The Harlem writers… engaged in an intense debate regarding the place of the African American in American life, and on the role and identity of the African-American artist” (1920s-Mid-1930s Harlem Renaissance).

Featured Author: Langston Hughes

Literature of this period reflects the social activism and social change characteristic of the times.

Featured Author: Arthur Miller

Literature of this period has its roots in the latter half of the 20th century and reflects the new and emerging forms of writing and literacy characteristic of the digital age.

Featured Author: Anna Quindlen