Literature of Early America

Literature of Early America
The Native Americans
Native Americans- First to inhabit
North America (at least 30 time
longer than Europeans).
No written history.
Information from archaeologists and
Earliest settlers greeted as friends.
Introduced settlers to maize, beans,
squash, etc. and taught them
survival skills.
Pilgrims and Puritans
1620- Mayflower sailed from
Pilgrims- Known as Puritans
(religious reformers)- Attempting to
“purify” the Church of England
Also called Separatists
Established Plymouth,
Massachusetts- Eventually
overtaken by Massachusetts Bay
Pilgrims and Puritans
Wanted a theocracy- A state guided
completely by God.
Believed in predestination.
God has already decided who will go
to Heaven and who will not.
They searched for signs they were
chosen for Heaven.
Believed they only did good through
hard work and discipline.
Referred to as “Puritan ethic”
Pilgrims and Puritans
Rise in Protestants led to decline in
Puritanism in early 1700s.
1720- The Great Awakening
 Reaction to decline.
 Ministers such as Jonathan Edward and
George Whitfield tried to revive Puritanism.
The Southern Planters
 New England and southern coastal cities
 Also established- Plantations in the South.
 Plantations:
 Large scale
 Up to 1000 workers (most slaves)
 1619- First black slaves brought to Virginia.
 Slavery existed in every colony.
 1750- Plantation system’s peak.
 Most plantation owners were aristocrats.
Native American Tradition
 Oral tradition:
The story could change with each
No set versions of any Native American
myths, songs, etc. exist.
Instead of famous authors, they had
famous orators.
Red Jacket
 Literature shows deep respect for nature
Explorers’ Accounts
 First Europeans to come to the Americas:
 Vikings- Canada- around 1000 AD
 Christopher Columbus Italian
 Trying to reach Asia by sailing west.
 Financial backing- Queen Isabella of Spain
 August 1492- Set sail
 October 12- Landed in Bahamas (thought it was
 Wrote about it in Journal of the First Voyage to
 Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca- 400-man expedition to
Texas (4 survivors)
 Garcia Lopez de Cardenas- Grand Canyon
“In Adams Fall/We Sinned All”
 Puritan writing:
 Religious- hyms, biographies,
autobiographies, theological studies
 Purpose of all writing- Religious insight
 Fiction, drama- Sinful
 Did write poetryNo clear form, only meant to send a spiritual
Anne Bradstreet, Edward Taylor
“In Adams Fall/We Sinned All”
Valued education:
Harvard- 1636
First printing press- 1639
Free public schools- 1647
New England Primer- 1690
Like a textbook that combined
education and religion.
Bay Psalm Book- One of the first
books printed in the colonies
“In Adams Fall/We Sinned All”
Increase Mather- Wrote more than
130 books:
One of books about Salem Witch
Trials (1692)
20 people hanged as witches
Cotton Mather (Oldest son)- Wrote
more than 400 books, very
informative style
Puritan literary style: plain
Fancy writing is a sign of vanity.
Southern Writers
John Smith- The General History of
1716- First theater opened in
Williamsburg, Virginia
Southerners did not object to
The Planter from Westover
William Byrd
Westover- Plantation on the
James River
Journal- served as basis for The
History of the Dividing Line
Published almost 100 years after
his death