A Brief History of American Literature

A Brief History of American Literature:

1.Colonial Period of American Literature

2. The Romantic Period: Early Romanticism, Transcendentalism, and High Romanticism

3. Realism

4. Naturalism

5. Imagism

6. Modernism

7. Postmodernism

Colonial Period of American Literature

The period stretched roughly from the settlement of America in the early seventeenth century through the end of the eighteenth.

The major topic here will be about American Puritanism, the one enduring influence in American literature.

the major figures to mention will be Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin and Philip Freneau. They represent the heritage of American Puritanism

Christopher Columbus discovered the American continent in 1491.

Captain John Smith reached Virginia in 1607.

Puritans came to the New England area, by Mayflower in 1620. The Pilgrims left England to seek religious freedom, or simply to find a better life. After a period in Holland, they set sail from Plymouth, England, on Sept. 16, 1620, aboard the Mayflower, arrived in Plymouth in Massachusetts on Dec.26, in1620

The first American Puritan settlement was established in Plymouth in 1620.

The First Literature and the First Writers

Captain John Smith’s reports of exploration, published in the early 16oos.

William Bradford and John Winthrop


One division of English Protestant. They regarded the reformation of the church under

Elizabeth as incomplete, and called for further purification from what they considered to be unscriptural and corrupt forms and ceremonies retained from the unreformed church. Their Religious Doctrines: original sin, total depravity, predestination and limited

atonement through a special infusion of grace from God.

They regarded themselves as chosen people of God. They embraced hardships, industry

and frugality. They favored a disciplined, hard, somber, ascetic and harsh life. They opposed arts and pleasure. They suspect joy and laughter as symptoms of sin.


A religious and political movement. Through it, one considers emerging the right of the

individual as political and religious independence.

Their religious doctrines: original sin, total depravity, predestination, limited atonement. Their attitudes toward entertainment: joy and laughter are symptoms of sin.

Their attitudes toward work: work itself is a good in addition to what it achieves, time

saved by efficiency or good fortune should be spent in doing further work.

Puritanism’s influence on American literature

Purpose: pragmatic

Content: practical accounts of life in the new world; highly theoretical discussions of

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