Annotated Timeline of
The American Literary
American Literature Overview
1. Puritan/Colonial (1650-1750)
2. Revolutionary/Age of Reason (17501800)
3. Romanticism (1800-1860)
4. American Renaissance/
Transcendentalism (1840-1860)
5. Realism (1855-1900)
6. The Moderns (1900-1950)
7. Harlem Renaissance (1920s)
8. Post-Modernism (1950 to present)
9. Contemporary (1970s-Present)
Puritan/Colonial Period
• Genre/Style: Sermons, religious tracts, diaries, personal
narratives, religious poems.
• Effect/Aspects: Instructive, reinforces authority of
the Bible and the church. Very little imaginative literature
was produced.
• Historical Context: Puritan settlers fled England
where they were being persecuted for their religious
beliefs, and came to New England to have religious freedom.
Puritan/Colonial Period
• Anne Bradstreet
– She was the first North American to publish
a book of poems, the first Woman and the
first Puritan in North America to publish!
Born and educated in England, Anne
Bradstreet was the daughter of an earl's
estate manager.
– Anne married Simon Bradstreet when she was
just 16! Two years later she and her husband
left Europe and moved to the Massachusetts
Bay Colony.
– Her writing is characterized by the Puritan
Plain Style (short words, direct statements,
and references to ordinary, everyday objects
and events).
Puritanism: Beginnings to
• Writing style: plain
• Theocracy: the church is the gov.
God all important
• Hymns, histories, diaries, journals
• Hard work is important
Puritan/Colonial Period
Cotton Mather
– No timeline of American
colonial literature would be
complete without mentioning
Cotton Mather, the master
scholar. Third in the fourgeneration Mather dynasty of
Massachusetts Bay, he wrote
at length of New England in
over 500 books and pamphlets.
Puritan/Colonial Period (1650-1750)
Edward Taylor
– Taylor was a Puritan through and
through. His every action proved
it. He was born in England, and
left for Massachusetts in his
early twenties, attended Harvard
College in preparation for the
ministry, and spent the remaining
58 years of his life in a town 100
miles west of Boston. It was in the
wilderness, and he served there as
both minister and town physician.
Puritan/Colonial Period
Fundamental Puritan Beliefs:
– Taylor believed:
– Sinfulness and damnation of man
– Salvation for an elect few
– Redeeming grace of omnipotent God
– He wanted a church that was purified of all
Roman Catholic and Anglican embellishments
– He, along with other educated men of his time,
believed in evil spirits, devils, and witches.
Revolutionary Period/Age of Reason
Overview of Revolutionary Period/Age of Reason
• Genre/Style: Political Pamphlets, Travel
Writing, and highly ornate persuasive writing.
• Effect/Aspects: Patriotism and pride grows,
creates unity about issues, and creates
American character.
• Historical Context: Encouraged Revolutionary
War support.
Revolutionary Period/Age
of Reason (1750-1800)
Benjamin Franklin
– Benjamin Franklin, “practical yet idealistic,
hard-working and enormously successful,” was a
second-generation immigrant who lived in
Boston Massachusetts. Writer, printer,
publisher, scientist, philanthropist, and
diplomat, Mr. Franklin was the most famous and
respected private figure of his time. He was
the first great self-made man in America, a
poor democrat born in an aristocratic age that
he helped to loosen up through his excellent
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 were just
what they said they were,
letters written by Abigail
and her husband.
Age of Reason
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
• Jefferson is best
known for writing the
Declaration of
Independence, the
document came about
as people started
thinking for
themselves and
realized they wanted
to be free from
England’s rule.
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.
Age of Reason
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. The main medium that
presented itself at that time were short
stories, poems, and novels. During this
era, as appose to the “Age of Reason” the
imagination dominated; intuition ruled
over fact.
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 to use of supernatural
Authors of
Washington Irving
Edgar Allen Poe
Herman Melville
• Genre/Style: Character Sketches,
Slave Narratives, Poetry, and short
• Effect/Aspects: Integrity of nature
and freedom of imagination.
• Historical Context: Publishing
expands and industrial revolution
brings new ideas.
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.
Herman Melville
– Herman Melville was a descendant of an old,
wealthy family that fell suddenly into poverty
upon the death of the father. In spite of his
aristocratic upbringing, proud family traditions,
and hard work, Melville found himself in poverty
with no college education.
– At 19 he went to sea. His interest in sailors' lives
grew naturally out of his own experiences, and
most of his early novels grew out of his voyages.
Herman Melville (1819-1891)
• In his time Melville
was not entirely
however, in the
more recent years
he has been
considered one of
the most top rated
novelist of all time.
He is most well
known for his epic
novel Moby Dick.
Romanticism (1800-1860)
Edgar Allan Poe
– Edgar Allan Poe was a southerner with a darkly
metaphysical vision mixed with elements of
realism, parody, and burlesque (caricature or
– He refined the short story genre and created
detective fiction.
– Many of his stories foreshadow the genres of
science fiction, horror, and fantasy so popular
Edgar Allen Poe
Poe had an unpleasant childhood
that made him despise the
world, and his works reflected
his work. He is credited for
creating the modern short
story, and the detective story.
He also challenged two longstanding theories, one, a poem
had to be long, and two, a poem
had to teach you something.
Some of his works include, "The
Raven", "Bells", "Annabel Lee",
and "Dream."
This movement pushed America from
the elaborate and fantasy like writings
Authors of the
displayed in the period Romanticism, into a
period of literature that stressed individualism, Transcendentalism
and mature and self-reliance. It also stressed
Ralph Waldo Emerson
the fundamental idea of a unity between God
and the world, that each person was a
Henry David Thoreau
microcosm for the world.
Unlike many European groups, the
Walt Whitman
Transcendentalists never issued a manifesto.
[Sarah] Margaret
They insisted on the differences in each
American Renaissance/
• Genre/Style: Poetry, Short Stories, and
• Effect/Aspects: Idealists,
individualism, and symbolism.
• Historical Context: People still see
stories of persecuted young girls forced
apart from her true love.
American Renaissance/
• Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
– One of the most important Boston poets
was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Longfellow, a professor of modern
languages at Harvard, was the bestknown American poet of his day. He was
responsible for the misty, historical,
legendary sense of the past that joined
American and European traditions.
American Renaissance/
• Walt Whitman
– Born on Long Island, New York, Walt
Whitman was a part-time carpenter, whose
brilliant, pioneering work expressed the
country's democratic spirit. Whitman was
mostly self-taught, he left school at the
age of 11 to go to work. His Leaves of
Grass (1855), which he rewrote and revised
throughout his life, contains "Song of
Myself," the most amazingly original poem
ever written by an American.
This literary movement took place during the
Civil War; at a time when a war and 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 Realism authors
tried to write truthfully and objectively about
ordinary characters in ordinary situations.
Realism (1855-1900)
• Genre/Style: Novels, Short
Stories, Objective Narrator, and
does not tell reader how to
interpret the story.
• Effect/Aspects: Social and
Aesthetic realism.
• Historical Context: Civil War
brought demand for a more true
type of literature.
Realism (1855-1900)
• Mark Twain
– Samuel Clemens, also known by his pen name of
Mark Twain, grew up in the Mississippi River
frontier town of Hannibal, Missouri.
– Ernest Hemingway's well-known statement, that
all of American literature comes from one great
book: Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn;
shows Twain’s high place in the tradition.
– Twain's style, based on strong, realistic, everyday
American speech, gave American writers a new
appreciation for their national voice. Twain was
the first major author to come from the heart of
the country, and he captured its distinctive and
humorous slang and iconoclasm.
Realism (1855-1900)
• Stephen Crane
– Wrote The Red
Badge of Courage
– Realism is often
called "the faithful
representation of
reality”, and Crane
writes about the war
as if he were there,
even though he never
saw battle.
Realism (1855-1900)
• Jack London
– Jack London was a poor, selftaught worker from California. He
became instantly famous from his
first collection of stories, The Son
of the Wolf (1900), set mainly in
the Klondike region of Alaska and
the Canadian Yukon.
Modernism is one of the most
experimental types of writing
styles. 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
that would stand out.
During this period Technology was
taking incredible leaps and two
World Wars took place. The
younger generation began to take
over the main stage, and many of
them protested what was going on
in the world.
Authors of the
Ernest Hemingway
F. Scott Fitzgerald
John Steinbeck
Robert Frost
The Moderns (1900-1950)
• Genre/Style: Novels, Plays, Poetry,
experiments in writing styles,
interior monologue, and stream of
• Effect/Aspects: Pursuit of American
Dream, Admiration for America,
Optimism, and Individual Importance.
• Historical Context: Writers
reflected the ideas of Darwin and
Karl Marx, during WWI and WWII.
The Moderns
T.S. Elliot
– Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St.
Louis, Missouri, to a wealthy family with
ancestry in the northeastern United
States. He received the best education
of any major American writer of his
generation at Harvard College, the
Sorbonne, and Merton College of
Oxford University. He studied Sanskrit
and Oriental philosophy, which
influenced his poetry.
The Moderns
Ernest Hemingway
– Ernest Hemingway came from the
Midwest United States. He was Born in
Illinois and spent childhood vacations in
Michigan on hunting and fishing trips. He
volunteered for an ambulance unit in
France during World War I, but was
wounded and hospitalized for six
In the years since the
Modernism period, American
Some Authors of
authors have begun to write
the Contemporary
from a plethora of genres.
Americans have realized that
J. D. Salinger
the best way to go is have many
authors writing what ever it is Stephen King
Joyce Carol Oates
they are best at.
Robert Jordan
J. D. Salinger
• 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
Stephen King (b.1947)
• King writes novels that
both frighten and
intrigue. Some of his
major works are; Carrie
published in 1974; The
Shining, publishing in
1998; Salem's Lot,
published in 1993; The
Stand, published in
1991, and The Dark
tower Series.
Joyce Carol Oates (b.1938)
Oates received a type
writer 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 novel entitled
The Wheel of Time.