Uploaded by Xavier Torres

American Literary History Timeline

American Literary History:
Native American Period:
20,000 BC-Present
Characteristics: The literature is as diverse as the cultures that created it, but there are often
common elements such as stories explaining creation or natural forces.
The narratives, myths, legends, songs and narratives were passed down in an oral tradition.
Exploration Period:
Characteristics: The literature is composed of European writings that describe the explorers'
travels and impressions of the continent and its Native people.
The literature of this period comes to us in the form of letters and journals written by explorers
as well as Native American tribal leaders
Colonial Period:
Characteristics: The Colonial period was dominated by Puritan beliefs and thus literature of
this period is usually historical, religious, or didactic. The first slave narratives were written at this
time. Imaginative literature was rare; in some colonies, it was banned for being immoral.
The literature of this period comes to us in the forms of tracts, polemics, journals, narratives,
sermons, and some poetry
Revolutionary Period:
Characteristics: The Revolutionary period usually refers to writings that are politically
motivated, either in support of British rule, in support of American patriotism and
independence, or relating to the Constitution.
The writing at this time is dominated by political documents, speeches, and letters
1750-1800 is also known as the Period of Enlightenment because there is a lack of
emphasis and dependence on the Bible and more use of common sense (logic)
and science. There was not a divorce from the Bible but an adding to or expanding
of the truths found there.
American Literary History:
Romantic Period (American Renaissance):
Characteristics: This period was the first major explosion of a distinctly American body of
literature. Many of American literature's most well-known writers emerged during this time.
Romanticism was a literary and artistic movement of the nineteenth century that arose in
reaction against eighteenth-century Neoclassicism and placed a premium on fancy,
imagination, emotion, nature, individuality, and exotica.
Age of Transcendentalism:
Characteristics: Transcendentalism was an American literary and philosophical movement of
the nineteenth century. The Transcendentalists, who were based in New England, believed
that intuition and the individual conscience “transcend” experience and thus are better
guides to truth than are the senses and logical reason. Influenced by Romanticism, the
Transcendentalists respected the individual spirit and the natural world, believing that divinity
was present everywhere, in nature and in each person.
Anti-Transcendentalists & Fireside Poets
The anti-Transcendentalist (Hawthorne and Melville) rebelled against the philosophy
that man is basically good. A third group, the Fireside Poets, wrote about more
practical aspects of life such as dying and patriotism.
Characteristics: The post-Civil War period was an era of increased industrialization and
urbanization as the nation attempted to recover emotionally, culturally, and politically from
the aftermath of the war. Though there were still elements of romanticism, this period was
considered realistic in its emphasis on unidealized and truthful depictions.
Characteristics: The literature is composed of European writings that describe the explorers'
travels and impressions of the continent and its Native people.
American Literary History:
Modern Period:
Characteristics: A period in British and American literature spanning the years between WWI
and WWII. Works in this period reflect the changing social, political, and cultural climate and
are diverse, experimental, and nontraditional. An age of disillusionment and confusion—just
look at what was happening in history in the US during these dates—this period brought us
perhaps our best writers. The authors during this period raised all the great questions of
life…but offered no answers.
Imagism: 1912-1927
Imagism was a
literary movement
that flourished
between 1912 and
1927. Led by Ezra
Pound and Amy
Lowell, the Imagist
poets rejected
poetic forms and
language. Instead,
they wrote short
poems that used
ordinary language
and free verse to
create sharp, exact,
Harlem Renaissance:
The Harlem
Renaissance was
the first major
burgeoning of
visual, literary, and
performing arts by
African Americans
concerned with
life, art, culture, and
politics. The
influence of the
Harlem Renaissance
remained strong for
the remainder of
the 20th century.
Lost Generation:
After WWI, a group
of American writers
grew increasingly
disillusioned by, and
resistant to, what
they saw as
hypocrisy in
dominant American
ideology and
culture. Many of
these writers left
America in search
of a more artistic life
in London or Paris.
Beat Writers: 1950s
Beat Writers' writing was generally anti-traditional, anti-establishment, and antiintellectual. Prominent writers: Poetry: Allen Ginsberg's Howl, Lawrence Ferlinghetti;
Prose: Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot; Novels: William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac.