American literature refers to works mainly created or written in English in the United States of America and its former colonies. Due to the enormous amount of works produced in the early periods following America's declaration of independence, the American literary culture is a part of the significant literary heritage of the English language.

In America, the fondness and appreciation for short stories have been well-recognized. From the beginning, the core focus of American literature has been the representation of American society, its principles, and values.

The literature represents American ideals and promotes the region's landscape. In American literature, essential literary elements are explained, including characters, narratives, settings, pictures, and themes. It also retells the tales of legends and personalities that Americans find to align with their cultural values.

Since it reflects American culture and traditions, American literature plays a crucial role in the country's education system. American literature class in college helps students with their language skills and capacity to think creatively and communicate across cultural boundaries, which is a crucial foundation for humanistic education.

The literary works this country has produced reflect both the cultural identity and civilization of the United States. The thriving literary environment demonstrates the constant rebuilding and regeneration of the nation.

After understanding the significance of literature, you might want to learn how to study American literature in your country. With specified courses, literature students can learn more about American culture, background, and the great literary works of the country.

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What Is The History Of American Literature

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Nowadays, American Literature online courses allow individuals to access and understand the country's literature easily. Online tutors are there to help students as well in generating their perspectives. (Source: Unsplash)

American literature is difficult to categorize into different periods. Frequently, numerous literary movements occur concurrently due to the scope and diversity in the United States.

Following are the frequently cited periods in American literature;

During The Colonial Era (1607–1775)

The colonial era includes Jamestown's foundation and the decade leading up to the Revolutionary War. Most of the works were of religious, practical, or historical nature. Cotton Mather, Phillis Wheatley, John Winthrop, Anne Bradstreet, and William Bradford are a few authors from this era that you shouldn't miss.

The Age Of Revolution (1765–1790)

This period covers the writings of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine and ends approximately 25 years after the American Revolutionary War.

"The Federalist Papers," "Declaration of Independence," and Joel Barlow and Philip Freneau's poetry are significant works of this time. It is considered the most prolific era for political writing until ancient antiquity.

First National Period (1775–1828)

The literary progress of this period comprises the first American story, "The Power of Sympathy," by William Hill, published in 1789, and "The Contrast," by Royall Tyler, the very first comedy produced for the stage.

The poems of William Cullen Bryant and Edgar Allan Poe started to differ significantly from the English literature and take up a unique tone in the National period of American literature.

The Renaissance In America (1828–1865)

This era, also known as the American Romantic Era and the Time of Transcendentalism, is regarded as the peak of American literature. Literary criticism also began during this time, with James Russel Lowell, William Gilmore Simms, and Poe as its pioneers.

In this era, emotions and ideas are valued in American literature. In 1853 and 1859, the first books by authors of African American descent were published, respectively. The time also focuses on horror and death themes, producing some of the most revered horror and thriller novels and short stories.

The Realistic Era (1865–1900)

American literature responded to the enormous changes in American ideals and consciousness brought about by the Reconstruction, American Civil War, and the industrial age.

During this era, certain romanticized conceptions about the American Revival became outdated for accurate depictions of American life. Regional writing also developed at this time. Moreover, the industrial revolution comes into the spotlight with its effect on society.

The Era Of Naturalists (1900–1914)

Novels by American Naturalist authors like Theodore Dreiser, Frank Norris, and Jack London are a few of the most profoundly moving stories in the history of American literature.

This short era is distinguished by its emphasis on depicting life as it truly is, far more than the realists did in previous decades. The main characters are often helpless victims who surrender to their psychic thoughts as well as societal and economic forces.

The Modern Era (1914–1939)

The Modern Period, which came following the American Renaissance, is a significant and aesthetically productive period in American literature. Major movements like the Lost Generation, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Jazz Age occurred during the Modern Period.

The depression during the first World War and the emigration of the beat generation, in particular, had an impact on several contemporary writers. The New Deal and the Great Depression gave rise to a new genre of literature that focused on social issues in American society.

This era promoted experimentalism, and people believed that they had the capacity to change many things, even the government.

Beat Generation (1944–1962)

For best writers, producing anti-traditional works and anti-establishment ideologies was important. Growth in the discussions of sexuality in literature during this time gave rise to legal disputes and controversies about censorship. Additionally, the counterculture movements in the following two decades were majorly inspired by the writers of this era.

The Contemporary Era (1969-Present)

After the Second World War, the scope and diversity of American literature's themes, modes, and purposes increased. As a result, the growth in literature remained somewhat stagnant and only progressed after World War II. The notable characteristics of this era's literature are:

  • The idea that nothing is unique
  • Intersexuality (connections between various works of literature)
  • Pastiche (copying another author's style)
  • Hyperrealism
  • Paranoid delusions
  • Fragmented stories
  • Narrators
  • A mix of fiction and non-fiction

Significance Of American Literature

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Poems, Stories, Fictions, and other write-ups of American authors are worth reading. They enhance the thinking spectrum and introduce you to different viewpoints at different times. (Source: Unsplash)

American literature results from various cultures, geographical areas, philosophical perspectives, and lifestyles of other American people.

Literature portrays life in a variety of ways and makes various assertions about the world. Poems, essays, diaries, tales, and the people in those narratives are all full of human sentiments.

The study of American literature allows a deeper understanding of the true essence of the American experience. Reading a variety of authors from different eras offers a more thorough knowledge of American history, its transformation, and its building connections.

The characters, stories, themes, events, and genres of American literature play a significant role in shaping its culture. Therefore, studying American literature will make you a culturally literate person with a broader perspective on a cultural society.

It's clear that American literature has a significant impact on individual life but what is American literature in college? In schools, American literature is taught as an independent subject. Due to its significance in the field of literature and linguistics, many colleges and educational institutions offer courses and degrees in this discipline. After completing the required credits and classes, students build a textual connection and a thorough insight into the subject, how it has evolved, and its impact on future generations. Additionally, it enables students to identify contemporary issues and suggest practical solutions.

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How Is American Literature Different From Other Kinds Of Literature?

Literature is a broad category of published works found in almost every country, rather than just one. However, the literature of every country or region is different and possesses specific characteristics.

All the literary works from the United States are recognized as American Literature. It is vast, comprehensive, and unique. As a result, one might be curious about what characterizes American literature.

Several factors distinguish American literature from other types of literature. Some of these aspects are discussed below.

Beliefs And Traditions

American literature preserves traditions and beliefs from the country's early years. The innovator notions of self-sufficiency and freedom have appeared repeatedly in these beliefs.

Furthermore, in American literature, authors place a high value on the individual's worth and significance. They tend to reject power in favor of a democratic republic, equality, and human rights, which distinguishes American literature from other forms of literature.

Theme

American literature provides a unique perspective on the world. People examine various themes such as The American Dream, Coming of Age, Justice and Injustice, The Pursuit of Happiness, and Freedom and Dignity when documenting the progression of American literature.

The emphasis lies on distinguishing American ideals of rationality and power from what is frequently portrayed as Europe's outcast social conservatism.

Style

American literature is more logical and skeptical, with diverse styles. The common styles in American literature are politics, economics, and social status. However, American writers' works also contain elements of parody, sarcasm, and pessimism.

Genre

The genre of American literature includes topics related to religion and politics in the early literature. American writers in the 17th and 18th centuries focused on revolutionary themes, American history, and social issues to provoke fundamental morals.

Humorous Streak

You can always find a bright streak of humor in American literature, from the early works to the present writings. This distinctive feature prevents the writings from sounding too dark or depressing, as is the case with the majority of Russian Literature.

Pursuit Of The American Dream

Another feature associated with American Literature is the exploration of the American Dream. Numerous stories are associated with and depict the American dream in both prose and poetry.

Writers

American literature mainly comprises works from authors who are well-known for their contribution to the literary landscape. These authors are revered for their works and have profoundly affected society on both individual and collective levels.

F. Cooper, Jack London, J.D. Salinger, E.A. Poe, Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain W. Faulkner, Ernest Hemmingway, and Stephen King are a few examples.

Various American Literature Timelines

Let's take a look at the different periods of American literature with their characteristics;

Period DatesPeriodCharacteristicsFamous Works And Authors
40,000-20,000 B.C.Native AmericanLiterature was passed on orally in the form of stories to educate
1600-1800Colonies are formedWrote mainly diaries and histories
The used plain style of writing
William Bradford, Anne Bradstreet (Poetry)
1800-1860RomanticismWrote about individual freedom and the worth of the individuals.Washington Living, Emily Dickinson
1860- onwardsTranscendentalismFocus on self-reliance and individualismRalph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau

Learn American Literature With Superprof

American literature is a wide diversity of prose and narrative techniques impacted by different social traditions. Many people wonder why study American literature; well, here's your answer.

American literature plays a significant role in education because it exposes students to the society and history of the United States. Furthermore, studying American literature in other countries allows foreign people to understand the American culture, heritage, and the accomplishments of the great writers.

Thus, American literature can help you in various ways because writings, poetry, drama, and fiction in American literature are studied in historical and cultural contexts worldwide.

If you want to learn about American literature, Superprof has competent experts who can help you clear your concepts about American literature.

Superprof is an academic platform that provides an opportunity for individuals to utilize the platform either for learning or teaching. Our tailored sessions help students to pursue their love for learning by providing online tutoring services from subject specialists.

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If you are passionate about learning American literature, the American literature courses will help you transform your passion into a profession and share your joy for American Literature with your community to bring a change. (Source: Pixabay)
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