American literature is heavily influenced and molded by what has been happening in the American region for centuries.

What we see today as America came into being by the end of the 19th century after many conflicts, rebellions, and two major world wars. Throughout this period, people's thinking and perceptions changed, which is apparent from their literary writings.

To walk you through the major periods of American Literature, Superprof traces back to the seventeenth century and covers all events since then.

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What's The Meaning Of American Literature And What Is Its Importance?

Europeans came to America in the 17th Century and observed and absorbed their surroundings and penned them down, creating exceptional masterpieces.

People like John Smith are held in high regard as he was the one who made several notable contributions to initiating literature in America. His books include A True Relation of…Virginia…(1608) and The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles (1624).

Many people today are substantively interested in opting for American literature as their primary subject so that they can become published authors. As a result, they enroll in American literature courses or pursue a literature degree.

Superprof is an in-person and virtual tutoring expert, and our experts can teach you about American Literature from scratch to perfection.

What Are The Five Major Periods In American Literature?

A literature book lies open with a pair of classes and a pocket watch
American literature has been heavily influenced by the different events that took place in America and its adjoining regions. The subject has been divided into five periods that feature various literary works by writers of different ages, cultures, races, and beliefs. (Source: Pixabay)

Since the 17th century, several authors have contributed to building, developing, and evolving American Literature.

American literature is divided into five periods. Let's have a look at them;

EraTime FramePeriod Name
1st Era17th century to 1830The Colonial and Early National Period
2nd Era1830 to 1870The Romantic Period
3rd Era1870 to 1910Realism and Naturalism
4th Era1910 to 1945The Modernist Period
5th Era1945 to presentThe Contemporary Period
  1. The First Era Of American Literature

This period encompasses the works of European settlers who narrated real-life non-fiction stories of populating the colonies and settling in a new place. This is why you will find many instances of British literature in this phase.

Some prominent names who contributed at that time are John smith, Nathaniel Ward, John Winthrop, and Anne Bradstreet.

By 1776 – post-American Independence – more fictional writing started to flow in the country from Great Britain. For instance, The Federalist Papers (1787–88), by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, is one of the many pieces that exhibited the country's political situation at that time.

The works of notable writers at that time are as follows;

YearAuthorPublished Work
1793Benjamin FranklinBenjamin Franklin's Autobiography
1773Phillis WheatleyPoems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral
1789William Hill BrownThe Power of Sympathy
1789Olaudah EquianoAutobiography — The Interesting Narrative
1819 - 1820Washington IrvingThe Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent
1823 - 1841Leatherstocking TalesJames Fenimore Cooper

As the 18th century began, true Americans started to come forward. However, there was a certain British touch in their works.

A woman typing a literary masterpiece
American literature is filled with rich masterpieces that talented authors have created throughout different periods. All of them were highly educated as they took several American literature classes. They conducted in-depth studying, research, and understanding to become world-class writers (Source: Pixabay)
  1. The Second Era Of American Literature

The next American literature period was a swift dive into romanticism, containing authors' authentic and unfiltered expressions. These works were different from the past era as they gave an edge to the subjective over the objective.

The period began in Western Europe towards the end of the 18th century, and American authors welcomed it in the 19th century.

Several new authors and writers started emerging in New England, writing down their perceptions of American society. In the 1850s, the civil war influenced much of the poetry. Some of the greatest works of reputable authors of that time include;

YearAuthorPublished Work
1839Edgar Allan PoeThe Fall of the House of Usher
1841Edgar Allan PoeThe Murders in the Rue Morgue
1845Edgar Allan PoeThe Raven
1846Edgar Allan PoeThe Cask of Amontillado
1835Nathaniel HawthorneYoung Goodman Brown
1850Nathaniel HawthorneThe Scarlet Letter
1851Nathaniel HawthorneThe House of the Seven Gables
1854Henry David ThoreauWalden
1851 - 1852Harriet E. WilsonUncle Tom's Cabin
1859Frances Ellen Watkins HarperTwo Offers
1853William Wells BrownClotel
  1. The Third Era Of American Literature

The next American literature period is known as 'realism' because of the severe circumstances faced by Americans during this time.

The civil war in the US caused extensive bloodshed and the loss of lives. It has been reported that between 1861 to 1865, more than 2.3 million soldiers fought, and there were almost 851,000 deaths.

Faced with such devastating times, naturalism became American writers' primary mode of communication and expression. Some of their most significant works include;

DateAuthorPublished Work
1877Henry JamesThe American
1881Henry JamesThe Portrait of a Lady
1893MaggieA Girl of the Streets
1895Stephen CraneThe Red Badge of Courage
1897Henry JamesWhat Maisie Knew
1899Frank NorrisMcTeague
1900Theodore DreiserSister Carrie
1901Frank NorrisThe Octopus
1902Henry JamesThe Wings of the Dove
1903Frank NorrisThe Pit
1904Henry JamesThe Golden Bowl
  1. The Fourth Era Of American Literature

At the start of the 20th century, Americans welcomed change for a better, brighter future. There were significant developments in science, technology, and machinery which were much needed to pull the depressed nation from the aftermath of World War I. Therefore, this period is known as the 'Modernist Periods.'

There was also the introduction of drama in American literature, which was primarily extracted from European theatres. Some of the noteworthy events of that age include;

#DateEvent
11912Harriet Monroe founded Poetry magazine in Chicago
21920sE.E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, and Edna St. Vincent Millay expressed a spirit of revolution and experimentation in their poetry
31930sLangston Hughes, Clifford Odets, and Lillian Hellman wrote plays that highlighted injustice in America.
41938Thornton Wilder created a realistic (and enormously influential) vision of small-town America in Our Town
A library filled with books
If you are wondering how to study literature, learn it according to the way it is divided into periods. American literature began in The Colonial and Early National Period. This was followed by The Romantic Period, Realism and Naturalism, The Modernist Period, and The Contemporary Period. (Source: Pixabay)
  1. The Fifth Era Of American Literature

From the start of the contemporary period, American literature has been heavily influenced by proxy wars, conflicts with the Soviet Union, civil rights movements, gender rights movements, racial movements, sexuality debates, culture, and so on.

Today it is open to various nationalities and backgrounds, giving more freedom to authors to take a broad and bold approach. Nowadays, you will notice extensive creativity, freedom of speech, and room for far-reaching ideas.

The most remarkable works of the contemporary period are as follows;

YearAuthorPublished Work
1950Gwendolyn BrooksAnnie Allen - bagged a Pulitzer Prize
1952Ralph EllisonInvisible Man
1955Vladimir NabokovLolita
1959Lorraine HansberryA Raisin in the Sun
1960Alice WalkerNovel and short stories
1965Malcolm X and Alex HaleyAutobiography of Malcolm X (As Told to Alex Haley)
1969Ursula K. Le GuinThe Left Hand of Darkness
1970Toni MorrisonThe Bluest Eye
1979Norman MailerThe Executioner's Song

How To Study American Literature With Superprof?

Long gone are the times when people used to bury themselves in books to study and explore different types of literary works. The modern world provides us with the excellent leverage of technology.

The novel innovation of online education makes it easy and practical to acquire an American literature online course. Moreover, the web has several literature classes and teachers which can help you understand this niche inside out.

Alternatively, you can hire an online private tutor from a reputable platform like Superprof.

Our teachers can help you learn this subject and become a published author in no time. Our top-tier experts come with verified reviews and are available at affordable per-hour rates.

Superprof is known for its excellence and a wide variety of subjects, such as arts, mathematics, science, sports, languages, dance, hobbies, career development, and literature.

Our students and their learning is our top priority. Therefore, feel free to hire an online private tutor from us.

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