American Literature Periods
American writing got its start in 1200 B.C. with the Native American culture. From that point on the literature evolved into what we have today. It did this by going through many different stages. In America's literary journey we went through nine different stages to get to where we are now. I will touch briefly on each step period of our journey.
Native American Experience 1200 B.C. to 1600
During this time period the Native American writing the Sioux, Okanogan, Iroquois and Kiowa were tribes that influenced the writing. Along with the Native American writing flourishing their culture also experienced their high point. Until 1492 when Columbus landed in the Bahamas the Natives had everything to themselves and no contact with the outside world, which was reflected in their writing and stories.
- The World on the Turtle's Back - This was a Native American creation story. It told about how the Natives believed the world was made.
- The Coyote and the Buffalo - A short story that teaches a us lessons about trust, keeping promises, and telling the truth.
- The Way to Rainy Mountain - A memoir that was written by a girl about her grandmother.
The stories we read in the Native American time period were very interesting stories. They related to different aspects of their culture, like how the Natives thought the Earth was created and also the classic native American writings that teach us a lesson. I enjoyed these short stories because it gave me insight into the Native American's culture which I previously hadn't had the opportunity to learn much about.
Puritan Age/Colonial Period 1600-1700
The Puritan Age of literature was when the Europeans first started to settle in the new world. In 1607 the British settled in Jamestown, Virginia and established one of the first American colonies. Also during this time period, in 1692, the which trials took place in Salem Massachusetts due to an unreasonable fear of witches in that era.
The literature in this time period really reflected the ideals of the people during the 1600's. In the Crucible you could definitely tell that the people of Salem definitely had very strict values and if anyone strayed from these values they were punished. This is a reason why I found this period so interesting. Not only were the stories fun to read but I also enjoyed that there was things that I could learn about in a historical sense which made this more fun for me.
Revolutionary Period 1750-1800
This time period was a big step for America as a country. This is when our country was first born. In 1776 the colonies declared their independence form the British. In 1788 the U.S. Constitution was ratified. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were both very influential authors at this point and time in our history.
In my opinion this was the most important time in our history as a country because this is when we became a country. Without the influential writings of people like Jefferson and Franklin and also Thomas Paine, we might not be where we are as a country today. These authors in this period started to define Americas identity back in a time where the United States were just the British colonies. This is why these years were such an important part for our country and for our literature.
Romanticism 1800 to 1855
During the period of Romanticism, writers were able to witness a period of great growth and opportunity for the young American nation. This influenced their writing and their ways of thinking. The stories and essays of the romantic period reflected a change in the attitudes and working habits of Americans. The Industrial Revolution came changing the country from a largely agricultural economy to an industrial powerhouse. The writers in this period reacted the the negative effects of industrialization.
The literature in this period was definitely a different type that our country had never before experienced. The writings of Edgar Allen Poe clearly show that the Romanticism was not that of a bright and happy nature but was very dark and mysterious. I think you can definitely tell that the writers in this time period were influenced by the changes that were happening in America at this time.
Transcendentalism 1840 to 1860
In the mid-1800's Americans had started to take a new pride in their emerging culture. Transcendentalism was a philosophical and literally movement that emphasized living a simple life and celebrating the truth found in nature and in personal emotion and imagination. This actors stressed American ideas of optimism, freedom and self-reliance. One of the main focuses for the transcendentalists was to focus on the spiritual well-being which was achieved through intellectual activity and a close relationship to nature.
- Civil Disobedience - Highlights Henry David Thoreau's view on the government and how people should not let the government control them.
Variety of Transcendentalist poems and essays such as:
- Self Reliance - Essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Nature - Essay by Ralph
- Old Ironsides - Poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes
- The First Snowflake - Poem by James Russel Lowell
The Transcendentalist period is definitely another unique period of literature in our country. The Transcendentalists really focus on nature and a well tuned spiritual life. These values are definitely represented in the poems of this time and in Thoreau's literature. These authors wanted to move away from the hustle bustle of everyday life, which was created by the industrial revolution, and immerse themselves in nature and self reflection.
Realism 1855 to 1900
The period of Realism was a dark time in America's history. The switch from Romanticism to Realism happened during the Civil War. The South and North were dividing fighting against one another for what they believed was right. This also opened the eyes of the authors in this time period. They realized the the country was no longer into reading about the spiritual self and nature. That was not the countries reality anymore. Instead the country was engaged in a war and conflict that altered everybody's life, and also altering the stories.
- An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge - this is a story of a man who tires to take down a Union railroad bridge but gets caught in the act and hung for his actions.
- Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass - this was an excerpt of Frederick Douglass's autobiography.
- Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl - story by Harriet Jacobs that details her life being a slave living on a plantation in the south.
- The Gettysburg Address - Speech giving by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.
- Emancipation Proclamation - Written by Lincoln, it declared that they were going to free the slaves.
I enjoyed some of the stories and other things I learned from the realism period. I really enjoy learning about this point and time in our countries history and so it was good to get to read some of this literature to. I think that the literature in this time period is a large shift from what was previously being written. You can definitely see the shift from writing about nature and our inner spiritual life to talking about the struggles of everyday life and the struggles of the people in the midst of war. The discussion on slavery was also a very big deal at this time so a lot of literature comes up about slaves too.
Regionalism 1870 to 1910
Regionalism was truly a great period in American literature. This literature period was able to capture different ways people lived and acted in different parts of the country. In, The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which is set in the south, we get to see some of the dialect and the way people lived by the way the author wrote the story. The opposite is represented by F. Scott Fitzgerald, in the Great Gatsby. We see the high class rich people of New York City and how they party and live a high class life. Overall the period of Regionalism is a very diverse and interesting period.
This period was definitely my favorite period to learn about. I really liked The Great Gatsby and thought that the era in which it took place was cool. The 20's would've been quite the time to be living in America. Everything was going right for the country and we had all this time to improve and focus more on the arts and literature. Until the Stock Market crashed in 1929, the 20's was a time in which both the country and its literature flourished.
Harlem Renaissance 1920-1930
The Great Migration began in 1916 and continued throughout the 1920's. It brought millions of black farmers and sharecroppers to the urban North to search for opportunity and freedom from oppression and racial hostility. Many of these migrants settled and Harlem. Harlem quickly became the cultural center of African-American life. Harlem attracted many African Americans who wanted to improve art and literature. Their talents created a bloom of African American arts known as the Harlem Renaissance.
I also really enjoyed the Harlem Renaissance period. I really liked the Raisin in the Sun play. I thought the play was funny and I thought it was definitely able to capture what it would be like to be an African American living in the north in an all white society. It was also very interesting for me to see how the authors in that period captured the racism in the country and portrayed it in their literature.
America has had many different kinds of literature in its young history. For me it was interesting to see how it started and how it evolved. I thought it was interesting how there always seemed to be a historical event that caused the writers and artists in the country to switch up their thinking and create different types of literature. America has had many changes in our literature and we will continue to evolve and change our literature as our country, and the events that shape our country change.