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American Literary Timeline

American Literary
Colonial Period
Age of Reason
Colonial Period
• Paved the way for the rest of the country’s literature.
• Much of the writing was done by explorers and travelers, who were sending accounts of the
“New World” back to Europe
• Others that dominated this era were the Puritans whose definition of good writing was writing
that brought home a full awareness of the importance of worshipping God and of the spiritual
dangers that the soul faced on Earth, and the literature that was produced by the Puritans
reflected this.
Popular genres: sermons (see Jonathan Edwards), diaries, personal narratives
Age of Reason / Revolutionary
• Period when authors were focused more on their own reasoning rather than simply
taking what the church taught as fact.
• Cultivation of patriotism. The main medium during this period were political
pamphlets, essays, travel writings, speeches, and documents.
• Also during this period many reforms were either made or requested. For instance
during this time the Declaration of Independence was written.
Abigail Adams
Benjamin Franklin
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Paine
After the “Age of Reason” came to an end, the people of
America were tired of reality; they wanted to see life as more
than it was. This was the Era of Romantics.
• Popular genres: short stories, poems, and novels.
• Traits: the imagination dominated, intuition ruled over fact,
and there was a large emphasis on the individual/common
man, and on nature or the natural world.
• Gothic literature was also introduced at this time, which is a
sub-genre of Romanticism. This genre included stories about
characters that had both good and evil traits. Gothic
literature also incorporated the use of supernatural
Washington Irving
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Edgar Allan Poe
Herman Melville
• Subgenre of Romanticism
• Stressed individualism, maturity and self-reliance.
• Authors used nature to gain knowledge or to return to a
life of self-reliance and individualism.
• Also stressed the fundamental idea of a unity between
God and the world, that each person was a microcosm
for the world.
• Transcendentalists were know for their concern for
reform (abolition, women’s rights, etc)
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Henry David Thoreau
Walt Whitman
[Sarah] Margaret Fuller
• Also called Gothic Literature.
• As opposed to Transcendentalism, which focused on the
natural world and its relationship to humanity, and the
quest for understanding of the human spirit, AntiTranscendentalism focused on the limitations of mankind,
and its potential destructiveness of the human spirit. For
instance, water brings life, but its excess, i.e. a flood, can
bring death and destruction.
• Acknowledged sin, pain, and evil
• Supernatural forces were common
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Herman Melville
• Took place during the Civil War. At a time when a war was
taking place, people were tired of Transcendentalism and
Anti-Transcendentalism. For one thing they were both
extremes of the same spectrum: one was nice and happy and
“frilly;” the other was dark and destructive. People wanted to
see things how they were, so Realism came about.
• Realism also came about as a reaction to Romanticism, in
which there were heroic characters, and adventures, with
strange and unfamiliar settings. In response, Realist authors
tried to write truthfully and objectively about ordinary
characters in ordinary situations.
Mark Twain [Samuel Clemens]
Bret Harte
Sarah Orne Jewett
James Henry
• Subgenre of Realism
• Viewed people as hapless victims of immutable natural laws.
Free will is an illusion, and things that happen in the
universe, happen and could not happen any other way.
• A defining characteristic of Naturalism is that its characters’
lives are shaped by forces they cannot control.
Stephen Crane
Jack London
Theodore Dreiser
Frank Norris
• Subset of Realism
• Authors would write a story about specific
geographical areas. By writing about regions
the authors explore the culture of that area,
including its languages, customs, beliefs, and
Willa Cather
William Faulkner
Kate Chopin
Frank Norris
• One of the most experimental types of writing.
• Modernist authors used fragments, stream of
consciousness, and interior dialogue. The main thing
that authors were trying to achieve with Modernism
was a unique style, one for which they could stand
• During this period Technology was taking incredible
leaps and two World Wars took place; there was
destruction on a global scale. The younger
generation began to take over the main stage.
Ernest Hemingway
F. Scott Fitzgerald
John Steinbeck
Robert Frost
Postmodernism /Contemporary
• Authors are writing in a plethora of genres.
• There are more different types of writing being
done at one time than at any other period in
history: fantasy, fiction, science fiction, horror,
political writings, romantics, plays, and poems,
anything and everything.
J. D. Salinger
Stephen King
Joyce Carol Oates
End of Power Point
• The following slides are accessible from the slides above
Edward Taylor
(c. 1644-1729)
• Taylor was a minister who studied at
Harvard College, and whose works were
never published by Taylor, himself, until
they were discovered in the 1930s. He
wrote such pieces as Metrical History of
Christianity, which is mainly a history of
Christian martyrs.
Colonial Period
John Woolman (1720-1772)
• The best known work by a Quaker was
written by this man, simply named
Journal in 1774. This journal was a
complete and full account of his life in a
pure, heartfelt style of great sweetness
that has attracted many American and
English writers for many years after
Woolman had passed away.
Colonial Period
Anne Bradstreet (c. 1612-1672)
• The first publication of a book of
poems in America was also the first
publication by a woman in America.
She also wrote The Tenth Muse
Lately Sprung Up in America in
Colonial Period
William Bradford (1590-1657)
• He was elected governor of Plymouth
shortly after the pilgrims landed on
Plymouth Rock. He was essentially the
first historian of the new colonies. His
participation in the voyage of the
Mayflower and being governor made him
the ideal person for this job. He wrote Of
Plymouth Plantation in 1651.
Colonial Period
Abigail Adams (1744-1818)
• She wrote letters that campaigned for
women’s rights. Her grandson, Charles
Francis Adams, published The Familiar
Letters of John Adams and His Wife
Abigail During the Revolution, which was
just what it said it was: letters written by
Abigail and her husband.
Age of Reason
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
• Franklin is well known worldwide for his
discoveries in the world of science and
also for works that he contributed to,
such as the Declaration of Independence,
and his theories on electricity. His works
were all new ideas, things people never
thought of before because they always
took what they got as fact.
Age of Reason
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
• Jefferson is bets know for writing the
Declaration of Independence. The
document came about as a response to
these times; people were thinking for
themselves, and one of the major things
the Americans discovered was that they
didn’t need England. So Jefferson wrote
the Declaration of Independence to
formally state that.
Age of Reason
Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
• Paine wrote mostly pamphlets that would
spur ideas and immediate action. In the
document "The American Crisis," Paine
wrote about the oppression that America
suffered from Britain, and propelled
America into a war with Britain. Paine, to
this day, is well known for his
Age of Reason
Washington Irving (1789-1851)
• Irving was the first “famous” American
author; he’s also known as the “Father of
American Literature.” He wrote travel
books, short stories, and satires. Some of
his works include; Legend of Sleepy
Hollow, Rip Van Winkle, and Devil and
Tom Walker.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
• Poe had a bad childhood that made him
despise the world, and his works reflected
this. He is credited for creating the modern
short story and the detective story. He also
challenged two long-standing theories: one,
that a poem had to be long, and two, that a
poem had to teach you something. Some of
his works include, "The Raven,", "Bells,"
"Annabelle Lee," and "Dream."
Herman Melville (1819-1891)
• In his time Melville was not entirely
recognized, however, in the more
recent years he has been
considered one of the top rated
novelists of all time. He is most
well known for his epic novel Moby
Ralph Waldo Emerson
• Emerson had a strong sense of a religious
mission, though he was accused of
subverting Christianity. He left the church
saying, “to be a good minister, it was
necessary to leave the church.” One of
his major works includes Nature,
published in 1836.
Henry David Thoreau
• Thoreau Lived his life, to do just
that, live his life. He was never rich
and, for the most part, lived with
little money all his life. The work he
is most well known for is Walden,
published in 1854.
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
• Whitman was born on Long Island and was, for
most of his job life, a carpenter; he was a man of
the people. Most of his learning career was done
on his own, after he left school at the age of
eleven. His major work was entitled Leaves of
Grass, published in 1855. Over the years he made
many rewrites for this book. Some of his famous
poems are, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," "Out of the
Cradle Endlessly Rocking," and "When Lilacs Last
in the Dooryard Bloom'd."
[Sarah] Margaret Fuller
• Fuller was born in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts. She
learned Greek and Latin at a very young age, and later
learned German and Italian. After her father, a
congressman, died she became a schoolteacher. She
worked with Ralph Emerson as editor of The Dial, a literary
and philosophical journal, for which she wrote many articles
including “The Great Lawsuit. Man versus Woman, Woman
versus Man,” in which she spoke for the equality of men and
women. Some of her other works include Summer on the
Lakes, published in 1844, and Women in the Nineteenth
Century, published in 1845.
Nathaniel Hawthorne
• Hawthorne was a Puritan who utilized his
writings to express his dark, and gloomy
outlook on life. Some of his works
include; Twice Told Tales, published in
1837; The Scarlet Letter, published in
1850; and The House of the Seven
Gables, published in 1851.
Mark Twain [Samuel Clemens]
• Twain is know by many as the greatest
American humorist and one of our
greatest novelists. He was known for
using vernacular, exaggeration, and
deadpan narration to create humor.
Twain wrote many great novels including,
the Adventures of Tom Sawyer, published
in 1876 and The Prince and the Pauper,
published in 1881.
Bret Harte (1836-1902)
• Harte was born in New York, and later worked in California on
The California writing stories. He worked with other wellknown authors while at The California, authors like Mark
Twain, Charles Warren Stoddard, and Prentice Mulford. He
was later appointed Secretary of the United States Branch Mint
at San Francisco; he held this office until 1870. He then
became the editor of Overland Monthly, where he published
"The Luck of Roaring Camp," which brought him instant fame.
Some of his works included; "The Heathen Chinese,” a poem
published in 1870, Devil's Ford, "The Twins of Table Mountain,"
"By Shore and Sedge," and "A Millionaire of Rough and
Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909)
• Jewett grew up with books all around her, it
was only fitting that she grow up to be a writer.
The early years of her life were much like the
story she wrote in A Country Doctor. Some of
her works include; Miss Tempy's Watchers,
originally published in 1888; The Dulham
Ladies, originally published in 1886; A White
Heron, originally published in 1886.
James Henry (1843-1916 )
• His father was an important theorist and
lecturer, and his older brother was a famous
American philosopher, William James. He
attended Harvard College. His early stories
depict the leisurely life of the well-to-do. In his
time he wrote many short stories including;
“The Short Story of a Year,” published in 1865;
“Gabrielle de Bergerac,” published in 1869; and
“Guest's Confession.”
Stephen Crane (1871-1900)
• Crane’s writing was known for attacking
patriotism, individualism, and organized
religion; it also confronted the meaninglessness
of the world. His work was also very well
known for its imagery and symbolism. The
work he is most famous for is Red Badge of
Courage, which was set in the Civil War. Some
of his other works include The Open Boat,
published in 1894 and “An Episode of War,”
originally published in 1890.
Jack London (1876-1916)
• London was born in San Francisco, California; he
lived a hard life, switching from job to job for
whatever money he could get, after his father
abandoned him at a young age. He is one of the
most highly acclaimed writers of all time; his
stories of life and death struggles are vivid and
engaging. Some of his works include; The Call of
the Wild, published in 1903; White Fang,
published in 1906; “Lost Face,” published in 1910;
and “The Night Born,” published in 1913.
Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945)
• One of Dreiser's favorite fictional devices was
the use of contrast between the rich and the
poor, the urbane and the unsophisticated, and
the power brokers and the helpless. Some of
his works include; Twelve Men, published in
1919; A Book About Myself, published in 1922;
The Color of a Great City, published in 1923; An
American Tragedy, published in 1925.
Frank Norris (1870-1902)
• Norris studied in Paris, at the Univ. of
California, and Harvard. He also spent
several years as a war correspondent in
South Africa (1895-96) and Cuba (1898).
Some of his works include; The
Responsibilities of the Novelist, published
in 1903; The Octopus, published in 1901;
and The Pit published in 1903.
Willa Cather (1873-1947)
• Cather has been called one of the most
interesting female writers in American literary
history. She was a teacher, a journalist and a
critic, as well as a writer. She has a talent for
presenting settings and characters that are rich
in language and imagery. She also won a
Pulitzer Prize. Some of her works include; April
Twilights, published in 1903; and O Pioneers!,
published in 1913.
William Faulkner (1897-1962)
• He served in both the Canadian and the
British Royal Air Force. He wrote most of
his novels on a farm in Oxford,
Mississippi. Some of his novels include
The Hamlet, published in 1940; The Town,
published in 1957; and The Mansion,
published in 1959.
Kate Chopin (1851-1904)
• Chopin loved literature as a child and
secluded herself in it after her
grandmothers death. She never achieved
much until 1884 when she finally decided
to pursue a career in writing. Some of
her writing includes "Desiree’s Baby,"
published in 1893 and "The Awakening,"
published in 1899.
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
• Hemingway won a Pulitzer Prize and Noble Peace
Prize for Literature. He used concise, direct,
spare, objective, precise, rhythmic writing styles
to create larger than life heroes, big game
hunters, etc. Some of his works include; The Sun
Also Rises, published in 1922; A Farewell To Arms
published in 1929; For Whom the Bell Tolls,
published in 1940.
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
• Fitzgerald wrote about the times. In his
novel The Great Gatsby, published in
1925, he wrote about the roaring
twenties, a time when no one cared
about the future and they had fun with
what they had then. Some of his other
works include; The Side of Paradise,
published in 1920; and The Beautiful and
the Damned, published in 1922.
John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
• Steinbeck wrote about both the pains and joys of
life. The Grapes of Wraith, published in 1939, his
most well known work told the story of families
trying to survive and stay together during the
depression. In other works like Tortilla Flat,
published in 1935, Steinbeck wrote about the joys
of life. Some of his other works include East of
Eden, published in 1952; Of Mice and Men,
published in 1937; and The Pearl, published in
Robert Frost (1874-1963)
• America’s best known and most loved
poet, Frost wrote his poems in a
traditional verse form. He used the plain
speech of rural New Englanders. Some of
his works include; “Death of the Hired
Man,” published in 1951; “Birches,”
published in1920; and “The Road Not
Taken,” published in 1920.
J. D. Salinger (b.1919)
• Salinger studied at NYU, and Columbia University.
After which he decided to devote his life to his
writing. His writing career was interrupted by
World War I, where he served in the U.S. Army.
His most well known work was his novel Catcher
in the Rye, published in 1951, a novel about a high
school student who tries to run away from his life
that he thinks is “phony.” Some of his works are A
Perfect Day for Bananafish published in 1948; For
Esmé With Love and Squalor, published in 1950.
Stephen King (b.1947)
• King writes novels that frighten
people. Some of his major works
are; Carrie published in 1974; The
Shining, publishing in 1998; Salem's
Lot, published in 1993; and The
Stand, published in 1991.
Joyce Carol Oates (b.1938)
• Oates received a typewriter at the age of
fourteen and trained herself to write
novel after novel through high school and
college. She earned an M.A. in English at
the University of Wisconsin. Some of her
works include; Blonde, published in 2000;
Wonderland, published in 1971; and The
Tattooed Girl, published in 2003.
Robert Jordan (b.1948)• He went to the Citadel, the Military College of
South Carolina, where he received a degree in
physics. Jordan’s main area of expertise is in the
genre of fantasy. He is currently in the process of
writing a series of novels entitled The Wheel of
Time. Some of the novels from this series are The
Eye of the World, published in 1990; Crossroads of
Twilight, published in 2003; and The Novel: New
Spring published in 2004.
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