American literature

American literature

Overview
American literature is the written or literary work
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 produced in the area of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and its preceding colonies. For more specific discussions of poetry and theater, see Poetry of the United States
Poetry of the United States
American poetry, the poetry of the United States, arose first as efforts by colonists to add their voices to English poetry in the 17th century, well before the constitutional unification of the thirteen colonies...

 and Theater in the United States
Theater in the United States
Theater of the United States is based in the Western tradition. Regional or resident theatres in the United States are professional theatre companies outside of New York City that produce their own seasons.- Early history:...

. During its early history, America was a series of British colonies on the eastern coast of the present-day United States. Therefore, its literary tradition begins as linked to the broader tradition of English literature
English literature
English literature is the literature written in the English language, including literature composed in English by writers not necessarily from England; for example, Robert Burns was Scottish, James Joyce was Irish, Joseph Conrad was Polish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Edgar Allan Poe was American, J....

. However, unique American characteristics and the breadth of its production usually now cause it to be considered a separate path and tradition.

Owing to the large immigration to Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

 in the 1630s, the high articulation of Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 cultural ideals, and the early establishment of a college and a printing press in Cambridge
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

, the New England colonies
New England Colonies
The New England Colonies of British America included the colonies of Massachusetts Bay Colony, Connecticut Colony, Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and Province of New Hampshire. They were part of the Thirteen Colonies including the Middle Colonies and the Southern Colonies. These...

 have often been regarded as the center of early American literature.
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Encyclopedia
American literature is the written or literary work
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 produced in the area of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and its preceding colonies. For more specific discussions of poetry and theater, see Poetry of the United States
Poetry of the United States
American poetry, the poetry of the United States, arose first as efforts by colonists to add their voices to English poetry in the 17th century, well before the constitutional unification of the thirteen colonies...

 and Theater in the United States
Theater in the United States
Theater of the United States is based in the Western tradition. Regional or resident theatres in the United States are professional theatre companies outside of New York City that produce their own seasons.- Early history:...

. During its early history, America was a series of British colonies on the eastern coast of the present-day United States. Therefore, its literary tradition begins as linked to the broader tradition of English literature
English literature
English literature is the literature written in the English language, including literature composed in English by writers not necessarily from England; for example, Robert Burns was Scottish, James Joyce was Irish, Joseph Conrad was Polish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Edgar Allan Poe was American, J....

. However, unique American characteristics and the breadth of its production usually now cause it to be considered a separate path and tradition.

Owing to the large immigration to Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

 in the 1630s, the high articulation of Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 cultural ideals, and the early establishment of a college and a printing press in Cambridge
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

, the New England colonies
New England Colonies
The New England Colonies of British America included the colonies of Massachusetts Bay Colony, Connecticut Colony, Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and Province of New Hampshire. They were part of the Thirteen Colonies including the Middle Colonies and the Southern Colonies. These...

 have often been regarded as the center of early American literature. However, the first European settlements in North America had been founded elsewhere many years earlier. Towns older than Boston include the Spanish settlements
Spanish colonization of the Americas
Colonial expansion under the Spanish Empire was initiated by the Spanish conquistadores and developed by the Monarchy of Spain through its administrators and missionaries. The motivations for colonial expansion were trade and the spread of the Christian faith through indigenous conversions...

 at Saint Augustine and Santa Fe
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is the capital of the U.S. state of New Mexico. It is the fourth-largest city in the state and is the seat of . Santa Fe had a population of 67,947 in the 2010 census...

, the Dutch settlements
Dutch colonization of the Americas
Dutch trading posts and plantations in the Americas precede the much wider known colonization activities of the Dutch in Asia. Whereas the first Dutch fort in Asia was built in 1600 , the first forts and settlements on the Essequibo river in Guyana and on the Amazon date from the 1590s...

 at Albany
Albany, New York
Albany is the capital city of the U.S. state of New York, the seat of Albany County, and the central city of New York's Capital District. Roughly north of New York City, Albany sits on the west bank of the Hudson River, about south of its confluence with the Mohawk River...

 and New Amsterdam
New Amsterdam
New Amsterdam was a 17th-century Dutch colonial settlement that served as the capital of New Netherland. It later became New York City....

, as well as the English colony of Jamestown
Jamestown, Virginia
Jamestown was a settlement in the Colony of Virginia. Established by the Virginia Company of London as "James Fort" on May 14, 1607 , it was the first permanent English settlement in what is now the United States, following several earlier failed attempts, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke...

 in present-day Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

. During the colonial period, the printing press was active in many areas, from Cambridge and Boston to New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, Philadelphia, and Annapolis.

The dominance of the English language was hardly inevitable. The first item printed in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 was in German and was the largest book printed in any of the colonies before the American Revolution. Spanish and French had two of the strongest colonial literary traditions in the areas that now comprise the United States, and discussions of early American literature commonly include texts by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca
Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca
Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was a Spanish explorer of the New World, one of four survivors of the Narváez expedition...

 and Samuel de Champlain
Samuel de Champlain
Samuel de Champlain , "The Father of New France", was a French navigator, cartographer, draughtsman, soldier, explorer, geographer, ethnologist, diplomat, and chronicler. He founded New France and Quebec City on July 3, 1608....

 alongside English language texts by Thomas Harriot
Thomas Harriot
Thomas Harriot was an English astronomer, mathematician, ethnographer, and translator. Some sources give his surname as Harriott or Hariot or Heriot. He is sometimes credited with the introduction of the potato to Great Britain and Ireland...

 and John Smith. Moreover, we are now aware of the wealth of oral literary
Oral literature
Oral literature corresponds in the sphere of the spoken word to literature as literature operates in the domain of the written word. It thus forms a generally more fundamental component of culture, but operates in many ways as one might expect literature to do...

 traditions already existing on the continent among the numerous different Native American
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 groups. Political events, however, would eventually make English the lingua franca for the colonies at large as well as the literary language of choice. For instance, when the English conquered New Amsterdam in 1664, they renamed it New York and changed the administrative language from Dutch to English.

From 1696 to 1700, only about 250 separate items were issued from the major printing presses in the American colonies. This is a small number compared to the output of the printers in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 at the time. However, printing was established in the American colonies before it was allowed in most of England. In England restrictive laws had long confined printing to four locations: London, York, Oxford, and Cambridge. Because of this, the colonies ventured into the modern world earlier than their provincial English counterparts.

Colonial literature


Some of the American literature were pamphlets and writings extolling the benefits of the colonies to both a European and colonist audience. Captain John Smith could be considered the first American author with his works: A True Relation of Such Occurrences and Accidents of Noate as Hath Happened in Virginia... (1608) and The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles (1624). Other writers of this manner included Daniel Denton
Daniel Denton
Daniel Denton was an early American colonist. Denton led an expedition into the interior of northern New Jersey. He was one of the purchasers of what is known as the Elizabethtown Tract in 1664, in the area of present day Elizabeth, New Jersey...

, Thomas Ashe, William Penn
William Penn
William Penn was an English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English North American colony and the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He was an early champion of democracy and religious freedom, notable for his good relations and successful...

, George Percy
George Percy
George Percy was an English explorer, author, and early Colonial Governor of Virginia.-Early life:George Percy was born in England, the youngest son of Henry Percy, 2nd/8th Earl of Northumberland and Lady Catherine Neville. He was sickly for much of his life, possibly suffering from epilepsy or...

, William Strachey
William Strachey
William Strachey was an English writer whose works are among the primary sources for the early history of the English colonisation of North America...

, Daniel Coxe
Daniel Coxe
Dr. Daniel Coxe was a governor of West Jersey from 1687-1688 and 1689-1692.-Biography:The Coxe family traced their lineage to a Daniel Coxe who lived in Somersetshire, England in the 13th century and obtained a doctor of medicine degree from Salerno University. Daniel Coxe's father was also called...

, Gabriel Thomas, and John Lawson.

The religious disputes that prompted settlement in America were also topics of early writing. A journal written by John Winthrop
John Winthrop
John Winthrop was a wealthy English Puritan lawyer, and one of the leading figures in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the first major settlement in New England after Plymouth Colony. Winthrop led the first large wave of migrants from England in 1630, and served as governor for 12 of...

, The History of New England, discussed the religious foundations of the Massachusetts Bay Colony
Massachusetts Bay Colony
The Massachusetts Bay Colony was an English settlement on the east coast of North America in the 17th century, in New England, situated around the present-day cities of Salem and Boston. The territory administered by the colony included much of present-day central New England, including portions...

. Edward Winslow
Edward Winslow
Edward Winslow was an English Pilgrim leader on the Mayflower. He served as the governor of Plymouth Colony in 1633, 1636, and finally in 1644...

 also recorded a diary of the first years after the Mayflower
Mayflower
The Mayflower was the ship that transported the English Separatists, better known as the Pilgrims, from a site near the Mayflower Steps in Plymouth, England, to Plymouth, Massachusetts, , in 1620...

's
arrival. Other religiously influenced writers included Increase Mather
Increase Mather
Increase Mather was a major figure in the early history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Province of Massachusetts Bay . He was a Puritan minister who was involved with the government of the colony, the administration of Harvard College, and most notoriously, the Salem witch trials...

 and William Bradford
William Bradford (1590-1657)
William Bradford was an English leader of the settlers of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, and served as governor for over 30 years after John Carver died. His journal was published as Of Plymouth Plantation...

, author of the journal published as a History of Plymouth Plantation, 1620–47
Of Plymouth Plantation
Written over a period of years by the leader of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation is the single most complete authority for the story of the Pilgrims and the early years of the Colony they founded...

. Others like Roger Williams
Roger Williams (theologian)
Roger Williams was an English Protestant theologian who was an early proponent of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. In 1636, he began the colony of Providence Plantation, which provided a refuge for religious minorities. Williams started the first Baptist church in America,...

 and Nathaniel Ward
Nathaniel Ward
Nathaniel Ward was a Puritan clergyman and pamphleteer in England and Massachusetts. He wrote the first constitution in North America in 1641....

 more fiercely argued state and church separation. And still others, like Thomas Morton, cared little for the church; Morton's The New English Canaan mocked the religious settlers and declared that the Native Americans were actually better people than the British.

Puritan poetry was highly religious in nature, and one of the earliest books of poetry published was the Bay Psalm Book
Bay Psalm Book
The Bay Psalm Book was the first book, that is still in existence, printed in British North America.The book is a Psalter, first printed in 1640 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Psalms in it are metrical translations into English...

, a set of translations of the biblical Psalms
Psalms
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

; however, the translators' intention was not to create great literature but to created hymns that could be used in worship. Among lyric poets, the most important figures are Anne Bradstreet
Anne Bradstreet
Anne Dudley Bradstreet was New England's first published poet. Her work met with a positive reception in both the Old World and the New World.-Biography:...

, who wrote personal poems about her family and homelife; pastor Edward Taylor
Edward Taylor
Edward Taylor was a colonial American poet, pastor and physician.-Early life:...

, whose best poems, the Preparatory Meditations, were written to help him prepare for leading worship; and Michael Wigglesworth
Michael Wigglesworth
Michael Wigglesworth was a Puritan minister and poet whose poem The Day of Doom was a bestseller in early New England.-Family:Michael Wigglesworth was born October 18, 1631 in Wrawby, Lincolnshire....

, whose best-selling poem, The Day of Doom
The Day of Doom
The Day of Doom was a religious poem by clergyman Michael Wigglesworth that became a best-selling classic in Puritan New England for a century after it was published in 1662. The poem describes the Day of Judgment, in which a vengeful God sentences sinners to punishment in hell...

, describes the time of judgment. Nicholas Noyes
Nicholas Noyes
Nicholas Noyes was a colonial minister in Salem, Massachusetts during the time of the Salem witch trials. He was the second minister, called the "Teacher", to Rev. John Higginson...

 was also known for his doggerel
Doggerel
Doggerel is a derogatory term for verse considered of little literary value. The word probably derived from dog, suggesting either ugliness, puppyish clumsiness, or unpalatability in the 1630s.-Variants:...

 verse.

Other late writings described conflicts and interaction with the Indians, as seen in writings by Daniel Gookin
Daniel Gookin
Major-General Daniel Gookin was a settler of Virginia and Massachusetts, and a writer on the subject of American Indians.-Early life:...

, Alexander Whitaker
Alexander Whitaker
Alexander Whitaker was a Christian theologian who settled in North America in Virginia Colony in 1611 and established two churches near the Jamestown colony, and was known as "The Apostle of Virginia" by contemporaries....

, John Mason
John Mason (c.1600-1672)
John Mason was an English Army Major who immigrated to New England in 1632. Within five years he had joined those moving west from the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the nascent settlements along the Connecticut River that would become the Connecticut Colony...

, Benjamin Church, and Mary Rowlandson
Mary Rowlandson
Mary Rowlandson was a colonial American woman who was captured by Native Americans during King Philip's War and held for 11 weeks before being ransomed. After her release, she wrote a book about her experience, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and...

. John Eliot
John Eliot (missionary)
John Eliot was a Puritan missionary to the American Indians. His efforts earned him the designation “the Indian apostle.”-English education and Massachusetts ministry:...

 translated the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 into the Algonquin language
Algonquin language
Algonquin is either a distinct Algonquian language closely related to the Ojibwe language or a particularly divergent Ojibwe dialect. It is spoken, alongside French and to some extent English, by the Algonquin First Nations of Quebec and Ontario...

.

Of the second generation of New England settlers, Cotton Mather
Cotton Mather
Cotton Mather, FRS was a socially and politically influential New England Puritan minister, prolific author and pamphleteer; he is often remembered for his role in the Salem witch trials...

 stands out as a theologian and historian, who wrote the history of the colonies with a view to God's activity in their midst and to connecting the Puritan leaders with the great heroes of the Christian faith. His best-known works include the Magnalia Christi Americana
Magnalia Christi Americana
Magnalia Christi Americana is a book published in 1702 by Cotton Mather . Its title is in Latin, but its subtitle is in English: The Ecclesiastical History of New England...

, the Wonders of the Invisible World
Wonders of the Invisible World
Wonders of the Invisible World was a book published in 1693 by Cotton Mather, defending Mather's role in the witchhunt conducted in Salem, Massachusetts, and espousing the belief that witchcraft was an evil magical power...

and The Biblia Americana.

Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield
George Whitefield
George Whitefield , also known as George Whitfield, was an English Anglican priest who helped spread the Great Awakening in Britain, and especially in the British North American colonies. He was one of the founders of Methodism and of the evangelical movement generally...

 represented the Great Awakening
First Great Awakening
The First Awakening was a Christian revitalization movement that swept Protestant Europe and British America, and especially the American colonies in the 1730s and 1740s, leaving a permanent impact on American religion. It resulted from powerful preaching that gave listeners a sense of personal...

, a religious revival in the early 18th century that asserted strict Calvinism
Calvinism
Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

. Other Puritan and religious writers include Thomas Hooker
Thomas Hooker
Thomas Hooker was a prominent Puritan colonial leader, who founded the Colony of Connecticut after dissenting with Puritan leaders in Massachusetts...

, Thomas Shepard, John Wise
John Wise (clergyman)
John Wise was a Congregationalist reverend and political leader in Massachusetts during the American colonial period...

, and Samuel Willard
Samuel Willard
Reverend Samuel Willard was a Colonial clergyman. He was born in Concord, Massachusetts; graduated at Harvard in 1659; and was minister at Groton from 1663 to 1676, whence he was driven by the Indians during King Philip's War. The Reverend Willard was pastor of the Third Church, Boston, from...

. Less strict and serious writers included Samuel Sewall
Samuel Sewall
Samuel Sewall was a Massachusetts judge, best known for his involvement in the Salem witch trials, for which he later apologized, and his essay The Selling of Joseph , which criticized slavery.-Biography:...

 (who wrote a diary revealing the daily life of the late 17th century), and Sarah Kemble Knight
Sarah Kemble Knight
Sarah Kemble Knight was a teacher and businesswoman, who is remembered for her diary of a journey from Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony, to New York City, Province of New York, in 1704–1705, a courageous adventure for a woman to undertake.She was born in Boston, to Thomas Kemble and Elizabeth...

.

New England was not the only area in the colonies; southern literature is represented by the diary of William Byrd
William Byrd II
Colonel William Byrd II was a planter, slave-owner and author from Charles City County, Virginia. He is considered the founder of Richmond, Virginia.-Biography:...

 of Virginia, as well as by The History of the Dividing Line
The History of the Dividing Line
The History of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina is an account by William Byrd II of the surveying of the border between the U.S. states of North Carolina and Virginia in 1728...

, which detailed the expedition to survey the swamp between Virginia and North Carolina but which also comments on the different lifestyles of the Native Americans and the white settlers in the area. In a similar book, Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West, William Bartram
William Bartram
William Bartram was an American naturalist. The son of Ann and John Bartram, William Bartram and his twin sister Elizabeth were born in Kingsessing, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. As a boy, he accompanied his father on many of his travels, to the Catskill Mountains, the New Jersey Pine Barrens,...

 described in great detail the Southern landscape and the Native American peoples whom he encountered; Bartram's book was very popular in Europe, being translated into German, French and Dutch.

As the colonies moved towards their break with England, perhaps one of the most important discussions of American culture and identity came from the French immigrant J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur, whose Letters from an American Farmer
Letters from an American Farmer
Letters From An American Farmer And Sketches Of Eighteenth-Century America was published by Jean de Crèvecœur in 1782 but it was written before the American Revolution. Crèvecœur provided one of the first examples of American literature to Europeans....

addresses the question what is an American by moving between praise for the opportunities and peace offered in the new society and recognition that the solid life of the farmer must rest uneasily between the oppressive aspects of the urban life (with its luxuries built on slavery) and the lawless aspects of the frontier, where the lack of social structures leads to the loss of civilized living.

This same period saw the birth of African American literature, through the poetry of Phillis Wheatley
Phillis Wheatley
Phillis Wheatley was the first African American poet and first African-American woman whose writings were published. Born in Gambia, Senegal, she was sold into slavery at age seven...

 and, shortly after the Revolution, the slave narrative
Slave narrative
The slave narrative is a literary form which grew out of the written accounts of enslaved Africans in Britain and its colonies, including the later United States, Canada and Caribbean nations...

 of Olaudah Equiano
Olaudah Equiano
Olaudah Equiano also known as Gustavus Vassa, was a prominent African involved in the British movement towards the abolition of the slave trade. His autobiography depicted the horrors of slavery and helped influence British lawmakers to abolish the slave trade through the Slave Trade Act of 1807...

, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African, first published in 1789, is the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano.-Plot introduction:...

. This era also saw the birth of Native American literature, through the two published works of Samson Occom
Samson Occom
The Reverend Samson Occom was a Native American Presbyterian clergyman and a member of the Mohegan nation near New London, Connecticut...

: A Sermon Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul and a popular hymnbook, Collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs, "the first Indian best-seller".

The revolutionary period also contained political writings, including those by colonists Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American...

, Josiah Quincy
Josiah Quincy II
Josiah Quincy, Jr., was an American lawyer and patriot. He was a principal spokesman for the Sons of Liberty in Boston prior to the Revolution and was John Adams' co-counsel during the trials of Captain Thomas Preston and the soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre.-Family:Quincy was father of...

, John Dickinson
John Dickinson (delegate)
John Dickinson was an American lawyer and politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware. He was a militia officer during the American Revolution, a Continental Congressman from Pennsylvania and Delaware, a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, President of...

, and Joseph Galloway
Joseph Galloway
Joseph Galloway was an American Loyalist during the American Revolution, after serving as delegate to the First Continental Congress from Pennsylvania.-Early life:...

, a loyalist to the crown. Two key figures were Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

 and Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine
Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

. Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac
Poor Richard's Almanac
Poor Richard's Almanack was a yearly almanac published by Benjamin Franklin, who adopted the pseudonym of "Poor Richard" or "Richard Saunders" for this purpose. The publication appeared continually from 1732 to 1758...

and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is the traditional name for the unfinished record of his own life written by Benjamin Franklin from 1771 to 1790; however, Franklin himself appears to have called the work his Memoirs...

are esteemed works with their wit and influence toward the formation of a budding American identity. Paine's pamphlet Common Sense
Common Sense (book)
For the work by Thomas Paine, see Common Sense .Common Sense, subtitled "A new constitution for Britain" is a book written by the British Labour politician Tony Benn and the journalist Andrew Hood.-Cause:...

and The American Crisis
The American Crisis
The American Crisis was a series of pamphlets published from 1776 to 1783 during the American Revolution by 18th century Enlightenment philosopher and author Thomas Paine. The first volume begins with the famous words "These are the times that try men's souls". There were sixteen pamphlets in total...

writings are seen as playing a key role in influencing the political tone of the period.

During the revolution itself, poems and songs such as "Yankee Doodle
Yankee Doodle
"Yankee Doodle" is a well-known Anglo-American song, the origin of which dates back to the Seven Years' War. It is often sung patriotically in the United States today and is the state anthem of Connecticut...

" and "Nathan Hale
Nathan Hale
Nathan Hale was a soldier for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He volunteered for an intelligence-gathering mission in New York City but was captured by the British...

" were popular. Major satirists included John Trumbull
John Trumbull (poet)
John Trumbull was an American poet.-Biography:Trumbull was born in what is now Watertown, Connecticut, where his father was a Congregational preacher. At the age of seven he passed his entrance examinations at Yale, but did not enter until 1763; he graduated in 1767, studied law there, and in...

 and Francis Hopkinson
Francis Hopkinson
Francis Hopkinson , an American author, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence as a delegate from New Jersey. He later served as a federal judge in Pennsylvania...

. Philip Morin Freneau
Philip Morin Freneau
Philip Morin Freneau was a notable American poet, nationalist, polemicist, sea captain and newspaper editor sometimes called the "Poet of the American Revolution".-Biography:Freneau was born in New York City, the oldest of the five children of Huguenot wine merchant Pierre...

 also wrote poems about the war's course.

During the 18th century, writing shifted focus from the Puritanical ideals of Winthrop and Bradford to the power of the human mind and rational thought. The belief that human and natural occurrences were messages from God no longer fit with the new human centered world. Many intellectuals believed that the human mind could comprehend the universe through the laws of physics as described by Isaac Newton. The enormous scientific, economic, social, and philosophical, changes of the 18th century, called the Enlightenment
American Enlightenment
The American Enlightenment is the intellectual thriving period in America in the mid-to-late 18th century, especially as it relates to American Revolution on the one hand and the European Enlightenment on the other...

, impacted the authority of clergyman and scripture, making way for democratic principles. The increase in population helped account for the greater diversity of opinion in religious and political life as seen in the literature of this time. In 1670, the population of the colonies numbered approximately 111,000. Thirty years later it was more than 250,000. By 1760, it reached 1,600,000. The growth of communities and therefore social life led people to become more interested in the progress of individuals and their shared experience on the colonies. These new ideals are accounted for in the widespread popularity of Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

’s Autobiography.

Post-independence


In the post-war period, Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

's United States Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

, his influence on the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

, his autobiography, the Notes on the State of Virginia
Notes on the State of Virginia
Notes on the State of Virginia was a book written by Thomas Jefferson. He completed the first edition in 1781, and updated and enlarged the book in 1782 and 1783...

, and his many letters solidify his spot as one of the most talented early American writers. The Federalist essays by Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

, James Madison
James Madison
James Madison, Jr. was an American statesman and political theorist. He was the fourth President of the United States and is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and at first an opponent of, and then a key author of the United...

, and John Jay
John Jay
John Jay was an American politician, statesman, revolutionary, diplomat, a Founding Father of the United States, and the first Chief Justice of the United States ....

 presented a significant historical discussion of American government organization and republican values. Fisher Ames
Fisher Ames
Fisher Ames was a Representative in the United States Congress from the 1st Congressional District of Massachusetts.-Life and political career:...

, James Otis
James Otis, Jr.
James Otis, Jr. was a lawyer in colonial Massachusetts, a member of the Massachusetts provincial assembly, and an early advocate of the political views that led to the American Revolution. The phrase "Taxation without Representation is Tyranny" is usually attributed to him...

, and Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry was an orator and politician who led the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786...

 are also valued for their political writings and orations.

Much of the early literature of the new nation struggled to find a uniquely American voice in existing literary genre, and this tendency was also reflected in novels. European forms and styles were often transferred to new locales and critics often saw them as inferior.

First American novels


It was in the late 18th century and early 19th century that the nation’s first novels were published. These fictions were too lengthy to be printed as manuscript or public reading. Publishers took a chance on these works in hopes they would become steady sellers and need to be reprinted. This was a good bet as literacy rates soared in this period among both men and women. The first American novel is William Hill Brown
William Hill Brown
William Hill Brown was an American novelist, the author of what is usually considered the first American novel, The Power of Sympathy and "Harriot, Or The Domestick Reconciliation" as well as the serial essay "The Reformer" published in Isaiah Thomas' Massachusetts Magazine.In both, Brown proves an...

’s The Power of Sympathy
The Power of Sympathy
The Power of Sympathy: or, The Triumph of Nature is an eighteenth-century American sentimental novel written in epistolary form by William Hill Brown; it is widely considered to be the first American novel. Published by Isaiah Thomas in January 1789, The Power of Sympathy was Brown's first novel...

published in 1791. It depicts a tragic love story between siblings who fell in love without knowing they were related. This epistolary novel belongs to the Sentimental novel tradition, as do the two following.

In the next decade important women writers also published novels. Susanna Rowson
Susanna Rowson
Susanna Rowson, née Haswell was a British-American novelist, poet, playwright, religious writer, stage actress and educator....

 is best known for her novel, Charlotte: A Tale of Truth, published in London in 1791. In 1794 the novel was reissued in Philadelphia under the title, Charlotte Temple
Charlotte Temple
Charlotte Temple is a novel by Susanna Rowson. It was first published in England in 1791 under the title Charlotte, A Tale of Truth. The first American edition was published in 1794 and the novel became a bestseller. It has gone through over 200 American editions.Charlotte Temple is the name of...

.
Charlotte Temple is a seduction tale, written in the third person, which warns against listening to the voice of love and counsels resistance. In addition to this best selling novel, she wrote nine novels, six theatrical works, two collections of poetry, six textbooks, and countless songs. Reaching more than a million and a half readers over a century and a half, Charlotte Temple was the biggest seller of the 19th century before Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Although Rowson was extremely popular in her time and is often acknowledged in accounts of the development of the early American novel, Charlotte Temple is often criticized as a sentimental novel of seduction.

Hannah Webster Foster’s The Coquette: Or, the History of Eliza Wharton was published in 1797 and was also extremely popular. Told from Foster’s point of view and based on the real life of Eliza Whitman, this epistolary novel is about a woman who is seduced and abandoned. Eliza is a "coquette" who is courted by two very different men: a clergyman who offers her the comfort and regularity of domestic life, and a noted libertine. She fails to choose between them and finds herself single when both men get married. She eventually yields to the artful libertine and gives birth to an illegitimate stillborn child at an inn. The Coquette is praised for its demonstration of this era’s contradictory ideals of womanhood. Both The Coquette and Charlotte Temple are novels that treat the right of women to live as equals as the new democratic experiment. These novels are of the Sentimental genre, characterized by overindulgence in emotion, an invitation to listen to the voice of reason against misleading passions, as well as an optimistic overemphasis on the essential goodness of humanity. Sentimentalism is often thought to be a reaction against the Calvinistic belief in the depravity of human nature.
While many of these novels were popular, the economic infrastructure of the time did not allow these writers to make a living through their writing alone.

The first author to be able to support himself through the income generated by his publications alone was Washington Irving
Washington Irving
Washington Irving was an American author, essayist, biographer and historian of the early 19th century. He was best known for his short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle", both of which appear in his book The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. His historical works...

. He completed his first major book in 1809 entitled A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty.
Charles Brockden Brown
Charles Brockden Brown
Charles Brockden Brown , an American novelist, historian, and editor of the Early National period, is generally regarded by scholars as the most ambitious and accomplished US novelist before James Fenimore Cooper...

 is another early American novelist, publishing Wieland
Wieland (novel)
Wieland: or, The Transformation: An American Tale, usually simply called Wieland, is the first major work by Charles Brockden Brown. First published in 1798, it distinguishes the true beginning of his career as a writer. Wieland is the first - and most famous - American Gothic novel. It has often...

in 1798, Ormond in 1799, and Edgar Huntly in 1799.

These novels are of the Gothic genre. Of the Picturesque genre, Hugh Henry Brackenridge published Modern Chivalry in 1792-1815; Tabitha Gilman Tenney
Tabitha Gilman Tenney
Tabitha Gilman Tenney was an early American author from Exeter, New Hampshire. Her novel Female Quixotism first appeared in 1801. She married Samuel Tenney, a politician....

 wrote Female Quixotism: Exhibited in the Romantic Opinions and Extravagant Adventure of Dorcasina Sheldon in 1801; Carlotte Lennox wrote The Female Quixote in 1752, and Royall Tyler wrote The Algerine Captive in 1797.

Other notable authors include William Gilmore Simms
William Gilmore Simms
William Gilmore Simms was a poet, novelist and historian from the American South. His writings achieved great prominence during the 19th century, with Edgar Allan Poe pronouncing him the best novelist America had ever produced...

, who wrote Martin Faber in 1833, Guy Rivers in 1834, and The Yemassee in 1835. Lydia Maria Child wrote Hobomok in 1824 and The Rebels in 1825. John Neal
John Neal
-External links:* * * -Selected Works Available online:* * * * * and * and * * *...

 wrote Logan, A Family History in 1822, Rachel Dyer in 1828, and The Down-Eaters in 1833. Catherine Maria Sedgwick wrote A New England Tale in 1822, Redwood in 1824, Hope Leslie
Hope Leslie
Hope Leslie or Early Times in the Massachusetts is a novel written by Catharine Maria Sedgwick. The book is considered significant because of its strong feminist overtones and ideas of equity and fairness toward Native Americans, both of which were rare at the time the book was written. The book is...

in 1827, and The Linwoods in 1835. James Kirke Paulding
James Kirke Paulding
James Kirke Paulding was an American writer and, for a time, the United States Secretary of the Navy.-Biography:...

 wrote The Lion of the West in 1830, The Dutchman’s Fireside in 1831, and Westward Ho! in 1832. Robert Montgomery Bird
Robert Montgomery Bird
Robert Montgomery Bird was an American novelist, playwright, and physician.-Background:Bird was born in New Castle, Delaware on February 5, 1806. After attending the New Castle Academy and Germantown Academy, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1824...

 wrote Calavar in 1834 Niguel Miller and Tacoya Hughes and Nick of the Woods in 1837. James Fenimore Cooper
James Fenimore Cooper
James Fenimore Cooper was a prolific and popular American writer of the early 19th century. He is best remembered as a novelist who wrote numerous sea-stories and the historical novels known as the Leatherstocking Tales, featuring frontiersman Natty Bumppo...

 was also a notable author best known for his novel, The Last of the Mohicans
The Last of the Mohicans
The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 is a historical novel by James Fenimore Cooper, first published in February 1826. It is the second book of the Leatherstocking Tales pentalogy and the best known...

written in 1826.

Unique American style


With the War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

 and an increasing desire to produce uniquely American literature and culture, a number of key new literary figures emerged, perhaps most prominently Washington Irving
Washington Irving
Washington Irving was an American author, essayist, biographer and historian of the early 19th century. He was best known for his short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle", both of which appear in his book The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. His historical works...

, William Cullen Bryant
William Cullen Bryant
William Cullen Bryant was an American romantic poet, journalist, and long-time editor of the New York Evening Post.-Youth and education:...

, James Fenimore Cooper
James Fenimore Cooper
James Fenimore Cooper was a prolific and popular American writer of the early 19th century. He is best remembered as a novelist who wrote numerous sea-stories and the historical novels known as the Leatherstocking Tales, featuring frontiersman Natty Bumppo...

, and Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective...

. Irving, often considered the first writer to develop a unique American style (although this has been debated) wrote humorous works in Salmagundi
Salmagundi (periodical)
Salmagundi; or The Whim-whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, Esq. & Others, commonly referred to as Salmagundi, was a 19th century satirical periodical created and written by American writer Washington Irving...

and the satire A History of New York, by Diedrich Knickerbocker (1809). Bryant wrote early romantic and nature-inspired poetry, which evolved away from their European origins. In 1832, Poe began writing short stories – including "The Masque of the Red Death
The Masque of the Red Death
"The Masque of the Red Death", originally published as "The Mask of the Red Death" , is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. The story follows Prince Prospero's attempts to avoid a dangerous plague known as the Red Death by hiding in his abbey. He, along with many other wealthy nobles, has a...

", "The Pit and the Pendulum
The Pit and the Pendulum
"The Pit and the Pendulum" is a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe and first published in 1842 in the literary annual The Gift: A Christmas and New Year's Present for 1843. The story is about the torments endured by a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition, though Poe skews historical facts. The...

", "The Fall of the House of Usher
The Fall of the House of Usher
"The Fall of the House of Usher" is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in September 1839 in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. It was slightly revised in 1840 for the collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque...

", and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue
The Murders in the Rue Morgue
"The Murders in the Rue Morgue" is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe published in Graham's Magazine in 1841. It has been claimed as the first detective story; Poe referred to it as one of his "tales of ratiocination". Two works that share some similarities predate Poe's stories, including Das...

" – that explore previously hidden levels of human psychology and push the boundaries of fiction toward mystery
Mystery fiction
Mystery fiction is a loosely-defined term.1.It is often used as a synonym for detective fiction or crime fiction— in other words a novel or short story in which a detective investigates and solves a crime mystery. Sometimes mystery books are nonfiction...

 and fantasy
Fantasy
Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common...

. Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales
Leatherstocking Tales
The Leatherstocking Tales is a series of novels by American writer James Fenimore Cooper, each featuring the main hero Natty Bumppo, known by European settlers as "Leatherstocking," 'The Pathfinder", and "the trapper" and by the Native Americans as "Deerslayer," "La Longue Carabine" and...

about Natty Bumppo
Natty Bumppo
Nathaniel "Natty" Bumppo is the protagonist of James Fenimore Cooper's pentalogy of novels known as the Leatherstocking Tales.- Fictional biography :...

 (which includes The Last of the Mohicans
The Last of the Mohicans
The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 is a historical novel by James Fenimore Cooper, first published in February 1826. It is the second book of the Leatherstocking Tales pentalogy and the best known...

) were popular both in the new country and abroad.

Humorous writers were also popular and included Seba Smith
Seba Smith
Seba Smith was an American humorist and writer. He was married to Elizabeth Oakes Smith, also a major writer and feminist....

 and Benjamin P. Shillaber in New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 and Davy Crockett
Davy Crockett
David "Davy" Crockett was a celebrated 19th century American folk hero, frontiersman, soldier and politician. He is commonly referred to in popular culture by the epithet "King of the Wild Frontier". He represented Tennessee in the U.S...

, Augustus Baldwin Longstreet
Augustus Baldwin Longstreet
Augustus Baldwin Longstreet was an American lawyer, minster, educator, and humorist, known for his book Georgia Scenes.-Biography:...

, Johnson J. Hooper
Johnson J. Hooper
Johnson Jones Hooper was an American humorist, born in Wilmington, North Carolina. He moved to Dadeville, Alabama where he edited a newspaper and practiced law...

, Thomas Bangs Thorpe
Thomas Bangs Thorpe
Thomas Bangs Thorpe was an American antebellum humorist, painter, illustrator, and author best known for the short story "The Big Bear of Arkansas", which was first published in the periodical Spirit of the Times in 1841...

, and George Washington Harris
George Washington Harris
George Washington Harris was an American humorist best known for his character, "Sut Lovingood," an Appalachian backwoods reveler fond of telling tall tales...

 writing about the American frontier.

The New England Brahmins
Boston Brahmin
Boston Brahmins are wealthy Yankee families characterized by a highly discreet and inconspicuous life style. Based in and around Boston, they form an integral part of the historic core of the East Coast establishment...

 were a group of writers connected to Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 and its seat in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

. The core included James Russell Lowell
James Russell Lowell
James Russell Lowell was an American Romantic poet, critic, editor, and diplomat. He is associated with the Fireside Poets, a group of New England writers who were among the first American poets who rivaled the popularity of British poets...

, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline...

, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. was an American physician, professor, lecturer, and author. Regarded by his peers as one of the best writers of the 19th century, he is considered a member of the Fireside Poets. His most famous prose works are the "Breakfast-Table" series, which began with The Autocrat...


In 1836, Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

 (1803–1882), an ex-minister, published a startling nonfiction work called Nature, in which he claimed it was possible to dispense with organized religion and reach a lofty spiritual state by studying and responding to the natural world. His work influenced not only the writers who gathered around him, forming a movement known as Transcendentalism
Transcendentalism
Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that developed in the 1830s and 1840s in the New England region of the United States as a protest against the general state of culture and society, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard University and the doctrine of the Unitarian...

, but also the public, who heard him lecture.

Emerson's most gifted fellow-thinker was perhaps Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and leading transcendentalist...

 (1817–1862), a resolute nonconformist. After living mostly by himself for two years in a cabin by a wooded pond, Thoreau wrote Walden
Walden
Walden is an American book written by noted Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau...

, a book-length memoir that urges resistance to the meddlesome dictates of organized society. His radical writings express a deep-rooted tendency toward individualism in the American character. Other writers influenced by Transcendentalism were Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller
Margaret Fuller
Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli, commonly known as Margaret Fuller, was an American journalist, critic, and women's rights advocate associated with the American transcendentalism movement. She was the first full-time American female book reviewer in journalism...

, George Ripley, Orestes Brownson
Orestes Brownson
Orestes Augustus Brownson was a New England intellectual and activist, preacher, labor organizer, and noted Catholic convert and writer...

, and Jones Very
Jones Very
Jones Very was an American essayist, poet, clergymen, and mystic associated with the American Transcendentalism movement. He was known as a scholar of William Shakespeare and many of his poems were Shakespearean sonnets...

.

Just as one of the great works of the Revolutionary period was written by a Frenchman, so too was one of the great works about America from this generation, viz., Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution . In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in...

's two-volume Democracy in America
Democracy in America
De la démocratie en Amérique is a classic French text by Alexis de Tocqueville. A "literal" translation of its title is Of Democracy in America, but the usual translation of the title is simply Democracy in America...

, which (like the colonial explorers) described his travels through the young country, making observations about the relations between democracy, liberty, equality, individualism and community.

The political conflict surrounding Abolitionism
Abolitionism
Abolitionism is a movement to end slavery.In western Europe and the Americas abolitionism was a movement to end the slave trade and set slaves free. At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the New World, Spain enacted the first...

 inspired the writings of William Lloyd Garrison
William Lloyd Garrison
William Lloyd Garrison was a prominent American abolitionist, journalist, and social reformer. He is best known as the editor of the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, and as one of the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society, he promoted "immediate emancipation" of slaves in the United...

 and his paper The Liberator, along with poet John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier was an influential American Quaker poet and ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. He is usually listed as one of the Fireside Poets...

 and Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American abolitionist and author. Her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was a depiction of life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and United Kingdom...

 in her world-famous Uncle Tom's Cabin
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly is an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1852, the novel "helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War", according to Will Kaufman....

. These efforts were supported by the continuation of the slave narrative autobiography, of which the best known examples from this period include Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass was an American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing...

's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a memoir and treatise on abolition written by famous orator and ex-slave, Frederick Douglass. It is generally held to be the most famous of a number of narratives written by former slaves during the same period...

, Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is a book that was published in 1861 by Harriet Jacobs, using the pen name "Linda Brent". While on one level it chronicles the experiences of Harriet Jacobs as a slave, and the various humiliations she had to endure in that unhappy state, it also deals with...

.

At the same time, Native American autobiography develops, most notably in William Apess
William Apess
thumb|250px|William Apess' autobiographyWilliam Apess was a Native American writer, preacher, and politician of the Pequot tribe.-Early life:...

's A Son of the Forest and George Copway
George Copway
George Copway was a Mississaugas Ojibwa writer, lecturer, and advocate of Native Americans. His Ojibwa name was Kah-Ge-Ga-Gah-Bowh , meaning "He Who Stands Forever"....

's The Life, History and Travels of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh. Moreover, minority authors were beginning to publish fiction, as in William Wells Brown
William Wells Brown
William Wells Brown was a prominent African-American abolitionist lecturer, novelist, playwright, and historian. Born into slavery in the Southern United States, Brown escaped to the North in 1834, where he worked for abolitionist causes and was a prolific writer...

's Clotel; or, The President's Daughter
Clotel
Clotel; or, The President's Daughter is an 1853 novel by U.S. author and playwright William Wells Brown, an escaped slave from Kentucky who was active on the anti-slavery circuit...

, Martin Delany
Martin Delany
Martin Robinson Delany was an African-American abolitionist, journalist, physician, and writer, arguably the first proponent of American black nationalism. He was one of the first three blacks admitted to Harvard Medical School. He became the first African-American field officer in the United...

's Blake; or, The Huts of America and Harriet E. Wilson
Harriet E. Wilson
Harriet E. Wilson is traditionally considered the first female African-American novelist as well as the first African American of any gender to publish a novel on the North American continent...

's Our Nig as early African American novels, and John Rollin Ridge
John Rollin Ridge
John Rollin Ridge , a member of the Cherokee Nation, is considered the first Native American novelist.-Biography:...

's The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta: The Celebrated California Bandit, which is considered the first Native American novel but which also is an early story about Mexican American
Mexican American
Mexican Americans are Americans of Mexican descent. As of July 2009, Mexican Americans make up 10.3% of the United States' population with over 31,689,000 Americans listed as of Mexican ancestry. Mexican Americans comprise 66% of all Hispanics and Latinos in the United States...

 issues.


In 1837, the young Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer.Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials...

 (1804–1864) collected some of his stories as Twice-Told Tales
Twice-Told Tales
Twice-Told Tales is a short story collection in two volumes by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The first was published in the spring of 1837, and the second in 1842...

, a volume rich in symbolism and occult incidents. Hawthorne went on to write full-length "romances", quasi-allegorical novels that explore such themes as guilt, pride, and emotional repression in his native New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

. His masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter is an 1850 romantic work of fiction in a historical setting, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is considered to be his magnum opus. Set in 17th-century Puritan Boston during the years 1642 to 1649, it tells the story of Hester Prynne, who conceives a daughter through an...

, is the stark drama of a woman cast out of her community for committing adultery.

Hawthorne's fiction had a profound impact on his friend Herman Melville
Herman Melville
Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick and the posthumous novella Billy Budd....

 (1819–1891), who first made a name for himself by turning material from his seafaring days into exotic and sensational sea narrative novels. Inspired by Hawthorne's focus on allegories and dark psychology, Melville went on to write romances replete with philosophical speculation. In Moby-Dick
Moby-Dick
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, was written by American author Herman Melville and first published in 1851. It is considered by some to be a Great American Novel and a treasure of world literature. The story tells the adventures of wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod,...

, an adventurous whaling voyage becomes the vehicle for examining such themes as obsession, the nature of evil, and human struggle against the elements. In another fine work, the short novel Billy Budd, Melville dramatizes the conflicting claims of duty and compassion on board a ship in time of war. His more profound books sold poorly, and he had been long forgotten by the time of his death. He was rediscovered in the early decades of the 20th century.

Anti-transcendental works from Melville, Hawthorne, and Poe all comprise the Dark Romanticism
Dark romanticism
Dark Romanticism is a literary subgenre. It has been suggested that Dark Romantics present individuals as prone to sin and self-destruction, not as inherently possessing divinity and wisdom. G. R...

 subgenre of literature popular during this time.

American dramatic literature, by contrast, remained dependent on European models, although many playwrights did attempt to apply these forms to American topics and themes, such as immigrants, westward expansion, temperance, etc. At the same time, American playwrights created several long-lasting American character types, especially the "Yankee", the "Negro" and the "Indian", exemplified by the characters of Jonathan
Brother Jonathan
Brother Jonathan was a fictional character created to personify the entire United States, in the early days of the country's existence.In editorial cartoons and patriotic posters, Brother Jonathan was usually depicted as a typical American revolutionary, with tri-cornered hat and long military jacket...

, Sambo and Metamora
Metamora; or, The Last of the Wampanoags
Metamora; or, The Last of the Wampanoags is a play originally starring Edwin Forrest. The play was written in 1829 by John Augustus StoneIt was first performed December 15, 1829, at the Park Theater in New York City....

. In addition, new dramatic forms were created in the Tom Shows
Tom Shows
Tom Shows were stage plays and musicals based on the 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The novel depicts the harsh reality of slavery...

, the showboat theater
Showboat
A showboat, or show boat, was a form of theater that traveled along the waterways of the United States, especially along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers . A showboat was basically a barge that resembled a long, flat-roofed house, and in order to move down the river, it was pushed by a small tugboat...

 and the minstrel show
Minstrel show
The minstrel show, or minstrelsy, was an American entertainment consisting of comic skits, variety acts, dancing, and music, performed by white people in blackface or, especially after the Civil War, black people in blackface....

. Among the best plays of the period are James Nelson Barker
James Nelson Barker
James Nelson Barker was an American soldier, playwright, and politician. He rose to major in the army during the War of 1812, wrote ten plays, and served as mayor of Philadelphia.-Life:...

's Superstition; or, the Fanatic Father, Anna Cora Mowatt
Anna Cora Mowatt
Anna Cora Mowatt Ritchie was an author, playwright, public reader, and actress.- Childhood :Anna Cora Ogden was born in Bordeaux, France, March 5, 1819. She was the tenth of fourteen children. Her father was Samuel Gouveneur Ogden , an American merchant...

's Fashion; or, Life in New York, Nathaniel Bannister's Putnam, the Iron Son of '76, Dion Boucicault
Dion Boucicault
Dionysius Lardner Boursiquot , commonly known as Dion Boucicault, was an Irish actor and playwright famed for his melodramas. By the later part of the 19th century, Boucicault had become known on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the most successful actor-playwright-managers then in the...

's The Octoroon; or, Life in Louisiana
The Octoroon
The Octoroon is a play by Dion Boucicault, which opened in 1859 at The Winter Garden Theatre. Boucicault adapted the play from the novel The Quadroon by Thomas Mayne Reid . It concerns the residents of a Louisiana plantation called Terrebonne. The play was very popular in its day, and sparked...

, and Cornelius Mathews
Cornelius Mathews
Cornelius Mathews , was an American writer, best known for his crucial role in the formation of a literary group known as Young America in the late 1830s, with editor Evert Duyckinck and author William Gilmore Simms....

's Witchcraft; or, the Martyrs of Salem.

Early American poetry




America's two greatest 19th-century poets could hardly have been more different in temperament and style. Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman
Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse...

 (1819–1892) was a working man, a traveler, a self-appointed nurse during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 (1861–1865), and a poetic innovator. His magnum opus was Leaves of Grass
Leaves of Grass
Leaves of Grass is a poetry collection by the American poet Walt Whitman . Though the first edition was published in 1855, Whitman spent his entire life writing Leaves of Grass, revising it in several editions until his death...

, in which he uses a free-flowing verse and lines of irregular length to depict the all-inclusiveness of American democracy. Taking that motif one step further, the poet equates the vast range of American experience with himself without being egotistical. For example, in Song of Myself
Song of Myself
"Song of Myself" is a poem by Walt Whitman that is included in his work Leaves of Grass. It has been credited as “representing the core of Whitman’s poetic vision.”-Publication history:...

, the long, central poem in Leaves of Grass, Whitman writes: "These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they are not original with me ..."

Whitman was also a poet of the body – "the body electric," as he called it. In Studies in Classic American Literature
Studies in Classic American Literature
Studies in Classic American Literature is a seminal work of literary criticism by the English writer D. H. Lawrence. It was first published by Thomas Seltzer in the USA in August 1923. The English edition was published in June 1924 by Martin Secker....

, the English novelist D. H. Lawrence
D. H. Lawrence
David Herbert Richards Lawrence was an English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter who published as D. H. Lawrence. His collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation...

 wrote that Whitman "was the first to smash the old moral conception that the soul of man is something 'superior' and 'above' the flesh."

Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was an American poet. Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, to a successful family with strong community ties, she lived a mostly introverted and reclusive life...

 (1830–1886), on the other hand, lived the sheltered life of a genteel unmarried woman in small-town Amherst, Massachusetts
Amherst, Massachusetts
Amherst is a town in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States in the Connecticut River valley. As of the 2010 census, the population was 37,819, making it the largest community in Hampshire County . The town is home to Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts...

. Within its formal structure, her poetry is ingenious, witty, exquisitely wrought, and psychologically penetrating. Her work was unconventional for its day, and little of it was published during her lifetime.

Many of her poems dwell on death, often with a mischievous twist. One, "Because I could not stop for Death
Because I could not stop for Death
"Because I could not stop for Death" is a lyric poem by Emily Dickinson first published posthumously in Poems: Series 1 in 1890. The poem is about death...

", begins, "He kindly stopped for me." The opening of another Dickinson poem toys with her position as a woman in a male-dominated society and an unrecognized poet: "I'm nobody! Who are you? / Are you nobody too?"

American poetry arguably reached its peak in the early to mid-20th century, with such noted writers as Wallace Stevens
Wallace Stevens
Wallace Stevens was an American Modernist poet. He was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, educated at Harvard and then New York Law School, and spent most of his life working as a lawyer for the Hartford insurance company in Connecticut.His best-known poems include "Anecdote of the Jar",...

 and his Harmonium
Harmonium (poetry collection)
Harmonium is a book of poetry by U.S. poet Wallace Stevens. His first book, it was published in 1923 by Knopf in an edition of 1500 copies. He was in middle age at that time, forty-four years old. The collection comprises 85 poems, ranging in length from just a few lines to several hundred...

(1923) and The Auroras of Autumn (1950), T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

 and his The Waste Land
The Waste Land
The Waste Land[A] is a 434-line[B] modernist poem by T. S. Eliot published in 1922. It has been called "one of the most important poems of the 20th century." Despite the poem's obscurity—its shifts between satire and prophecy, its abrupt and unannounced changes of speaker, location and time, its...

(1922), Robert Frost
Robert Frost
Robert Lee Frost was an American poet. He is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. His work frequently employed settings from rural life in New England in the early twentieth century, using them to examine complex social and...

 and his North of Boston
North of Boston
North of Boston is a 1914 poetry collection by Robert Frost. It includes two of his most famous poems, "Mending Wall" and "After Apple-Picking"...

(1914) and New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

(1923), Hart Crane
Hart Crane
-Career:Throughout the early 1920s, small but well-respected literary magazines published some of Crane’s lyrics, gaining him, among the avant-garde, a respect that White Buildings , his first volume, ratified and strengthened...

 and his White Buildings
White Buildings
The first collection of poetry by Hart Crane, an American modernist poet critical to both lyrical and language poetic traditions.Featuring 'For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen,' Crane's much-loved love poem, the 'Voyages' series, and some of his most famous lyrics--'My Grandmother's Love...

(1926) and the epic cycle, The Bridge
The Bridge (long poem)
The Bridge, first published in 1930 by the Black Sun Press, is Hart Crane's first, and only, attempt at a long poem. The Bridge was inspired by New York City's "poetry landmark", the...

(1930), Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

, William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams was an American poet closely associated with modernism and Imagism. He was also a pediatrician and general practitioner of medicine, having graduated from the University of Pennsylvania...

 and his epic poem about his New Jersey hometown, Paterson
Paterson (poem)
Paterson is a poem by influential modern American poet William Carlos Williams.The poem is composed of five books and a fragment of a sixth book. The five books of Paterson were published separately in 1946, 1948, 1949, 1951, and 1958, and the entire work was published as a unit in 1963. This book...

, Marianne Moore
Marianne Moore
Marianne Moore was an American Modernist poet and writer noted for her irony and wit.- Life :Moore was born in Kirkwood, Missouri, in the manse of the Presbyterian church where her maternal grandfather, John Riddle Warner, served as pastor. She was the daughter of mechanical engineer and inventor...

, E. E. Cummings
E. E. Cummings
Edward Estlin Cummings , popularly known as E. E. Cummings, with the abbreviated form of his name often written by others in lowercase letters as e.e. cummings , was an American poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright...

, Edna St. Vincent Millay
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Edna St. Vincent Millay was an American lyrical poet, playwright and feminist. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and was known for her activism and her many love affairs. She used the pseudonym Nancy Boyd for her prose work...

 and Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes
James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance...

, in addition to many others.

Realism, Twain and James


Mark Twain (the pen name used by Samuel Langhorne Clemens
Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

, 1835–1910) was the first major American writer to be born away from the East Coast – in the border state of Missouri
Missouri
Missouri is a US state located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. With a 2010 population of 5,988,927, Missouri is the 18th most populous state in the nation and the fifth most populous in the Midwest. It...

. His regional masterpieces were the memoir Life on the Mississippi
Life on the Mississippi
Life on the Mississippi is a memoir by Mark Twain, of his days as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River before the American Civil War, and also a travel book, recounting his trip along the Mississippi many years after the War....

and the novels Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by Mark Twain, first published in England in December 1884 and in the United States in February 1885. Commonly named among the Great American Novels, the work is among the first in major American literature to be written in the vernacular, characterized by...

. Twain's style – influenced by journalism, wedded to the vernacular, direct and unadorned but also highly evocative and irreverently humorous – changed the way Americans write their language. His characters speak like real people and sound distinctively American, using local dialects, newly invented words, and regional accents. Other writers interested in regional differences and dialect were George W. Cable, Thomas Nelson Page
Thomas Nelson Page
Thomas Nelson Page was a lawyer and American writer. He also served as the U.S. ambassador to Italy during the administration of President Woodrow Wilson, including the important period of World War I.-Biography:...

, Joel Chandler Harris
Joel Chandler Harris
Joel Chandler Harris was an American journalist, fiction writer, and folklorist best known for his collection of Uncle Remus stories. Harris was born in Eatonton, Georgia, where he served as an apprentice on a plantation during his teenage years...

, Mary Noailles Murfree
Mary Noailles Murfree
Mary Noailles Murfree was an American fiction writer of novels and short stories who wrote under the pen name Charles Egbert Craddock...

 (Charles Egbert Craddock), Sarah Orne Jewett
Sarah Orne Jewett
Sarah Orne Jewett was an American novelist and short story writer, best known for her local color works set in or near South Berwick, Maine, on the border of New Hampshire, which in her day was a declining New England seaport.-Biography:Jewett's family had been residents of New England for many...

, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, Henry Cuyler Bunner
Henry Cuyler Bunner
Henry Cuyler Bunner was an American novelist and poet.-Biography:Henry Cuyler Bunner born in Oswego, New York and was educated in New York City. From being a clerk in an importing house, he turned to journalism, and after some work as a reporter, and on the staff of The Arcadian , he became in...

, and William Sydney Porter (O. Henry
O. Henry
O. Henry was the pen name of the American writer William Sydney Porter . O. Henry's short stories are well known for their wit, wordplay, warm characterization and clever twist endings.-Early life:...

). A version of local color regionalism that focused on minority experiences can be seen in the works of Charles W. Chesnutt
Charles W. Chesnutt
Charles Waddell Chesnutt was an American author, essayist, political activist and lawyer, best known for his novels and short stories exploring complex issues of racial and social identity in the post-Civil War South, where the legacy of slavery and interracial relations had resulted in many free...

 (African American), of María Ruiz de Burton
Maria Ruiz de Burton
María Amparo Ruiz de Burton was the first female Mexican-American author to write in English. In her career she published two books: Who Would Have Thought It? , The Squatter and the Don , and one play: Don Quixote de la Mancha: A Comedy in Five Acts: Taken From Cervantes' Novel of That Name...

, one of the earliest Mexican American
Mexican American
Mexican Americans are Americans of Mexican descent. As of July 2009, Mexican Americans make up 10.3% of the United States' population with over 31,689,000 Americans listed as of Mexican ancestry. Mexican Americans comprise 66% of all Hispanics and Latinos in the United States...

 novelists to write in English, and in the Yiddish-inflected works of Abraham Cahan
Abraham Cahan
Abraham "Abe" Cahan was a Lithuanian-born American socialist newspaper editor, novelist, and politician.-Early years:...

.

William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells was an American realist author and literary critic. Nicknamed "The Dean of American Letters", he was particularly known for his tenure as editor of the Atlantic Monthly as well as his own writings, including the Christmas story "Christmas Every Day" and the novel The Rise of...

 also represented the realist
Realism (arts)
Realism in the visual arts and literature refers to the general attempt to depict subjects "in accordance with secular, empirical rules", as they are considered to exist in third person objective reality, without embellishment or interpretation...

 tradition through his novels, including The Rise of Silas Lapham
The Rise of Silas Lapham
The Rise of Silas Lapham is a realistic novel written by William Dean Howells in 1885 about the materialistic rise of Silas Lapham from rags to riches, and his ensuing moral susceptibility. Silas earns a fortune in the paint business, but he lacks social standards, which he tries to attain through...

and his work as editor of the Atlantic Monthly.

Henry James
Henry James
Henry James, OM was an American-born writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr., a clergyman, and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James....

 (1843–1916) confronted the Old World-New World dilemma by writing directly about it. Although born in New York City, he spent most of his adult years in England. Many of his novels center on Americans who live in or travel to Europe. With its intricate, highly qualified sentences and dissection of emotional and psychological nuance, James's fiction can be daunting. Among his more accessible works are the novellas Daisy Miller
Daisy Miller
Daisy Miller is an 1878 novella by Henry James first appearing in Cornhill Magazine in Jun-July 1879, and in book form the following year. It portrays the courtship of the beautiful American girl Daisy Miller by Winterbourne, a sophisticated compatriot of hers...

, about an enchanting American girl in Europe, and The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw is a novella written by Henry James. Originally published in 1898, it is ostensibly a ghost story.Due to its ambiguous content, it became a favourite text of academics who subscribe to New Criticism. The novella has had differing interpretations, often mutually exclusive...

, an enigmatic ghost story.

Realism also influenced American drama of the period, in part through the works of Howells but also through the works of such Europeans as Ibsen and Zola. Although realism was most influential in terms of set design and staging—audiences loved the special effects offered up by the popular melodramas—and in the growth of local color
Regionalism (literature)
In literature, regionalism or local color refers to fiction or poetry that focuses on specific features – including characters, dialects, customs, history, and topography – of a particular region...

 plays, it also showed up in the more subdued, less romantic tone that reflected the effects of the Civil War and continued social turmoil on the American psyche. The most ambitious attempt at bring modern realism into the drama was James Herne
James Herne
James A. Herne , was an American playwright, born James Ahearn. Considered by some critics to be the "American Ibsen," his controversial play Margaret Fleming is often credited with having begun modern drama in America....

's Margaret Fleming
Margaret Fleming
Margaret Fleming, written by James Herne, is an 1890 play. The play is remarkable because many critics consider it to be the first "modern" drama, a play that focused more on the psychological complexities of its characters and on the role of social determinism the characters' lives than on...

, which addressed issues of social determinism through realistic dialogue, psychological insight and symbolism; the play was not a success, as critics and audiences alike felt it dwelt too much on unseemly topics and included improper scenes, such as the main character nursing her husband's illegitimate child onstage.

Turn of the 20th century


At the beginning of the 20th century, American novelists were expanding fiction's social spectrum to encompass both high and low life and sometimes connected to the naturalist
Naturalism (literature)
Naturalism was a literary movement taking place from the 1880s to 1940s that used detailed realism to suggest that social conditions, heredity, and environment had inescapable force in shaping human character...

 school of realism. In her stories and novels, Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton , was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, short story writer, and designer.- Early life and marriage:...

 (1862–1937) scrutinized the upper-class, Eastern-seaboard society in which she had grown up. One of her finest books, The Age of Innocence
The Age of Innocence
The Age of Innocence is a novel by Edith Wharton published in 1920, which won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize. The story is set in upper-class New York City in the 1870s. In 1920, The Age of Innocence was serialized in four parts in the Pictorial Review magazine, and later released by D...

, centers on a man who chooses to marry a conventional, socially acceptable woman rather than a fascinating outsider. At about the same time, Stephen Crane
Stephen Crane
Stephen Crane was an American novelist, short story writer, poet and journalist. Prolific throughout his short life, he wrote notable works in the Realist tradition as well as early examples of American Naturalism and Impressionism...

 (1871–1900), best known for his Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage
The Red Badge of Courage
The Red Badge of Courage is a war novel by American author Stephen Crane . Taking place during the American Civil War, the story is about a young private of the Union Army, Henry Fleming, who flees from the field of battle. Overcome with shame, he longs for a wound—a "red badge of courage"—to...

, depicted the life of New York City prostitutes in Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets is an 1893 novel by American author Stephen Crane. Often called a novella because of its short length, it was Crane's first published book of fiction. Because the work was considered too risqué by publishers, Crane, who was 21 years old at the time, had to finance...

. And in Sister Carrie
Sister Carrie
Sister Carrie is a novel by Theodore Dreiser about a young country girl who moves to the big city where she starts realizing her own American Dream by first becoming a mistress to men that she perceives as superior and later as a famous actress...

, Theodore Dreiser
Theodore Dreiser
Theodore Herman Albert Dreiser was an American novelist and journalist of the naturalist school. His novels often featured main characters who succeeded at their objectives despite a lack of a firm moral code, and literary situations that more closely resemble studies of nature than tales of...

 (1871–1945) portrayed a country girl who moves to Chicago and becomes a kept woman. Hamlin Garland
Hamlin Garland
Hannibal Hamlin Garland was an American novelist, poet, essayist, and short story writer. He is best known for his fiction involving hard-working Midwestern farmers.- Biography :...

 and Frank Norris
Frank Norris
Benjamin Franklin Norris, Jr. was an American novelist, during the Progressive Era, writing predominantly in the naturalist genre. His notable works include McTeague , The Octopus: A Story of California , and The Pit .-Life:Frank Norris was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1870...

 wrote about the problems of American farmers and other social issues from a naturalist perspective.

More directly political writings discussed social issues and power of corporations. Some like Edward Bellamy
Edward Bellamy
Edward Bellamy was an American author and socialist, most famous for his utopian novel, Looking Backward, set in the year 2000. He was a very influential writer during the Gilded Age of United States history.-Early life:...

 in Looking Backward
Looking Backward
Looking Backward: 2000-1887 is a utopian science fiction novel by Edward Bellamy, a lawyer and writer from western Massachusetts; it was first published in 1887...

outlined other possible political and social frameworks. Upton Sinclair
Upton Sinclair
Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. , was an American author who wrote close to one hundred books in many genres. He achieved popularity in the first half of the twentieth century, acquiring particular fame for his classic muckraking novel, The Jungle . It exposed conditions in the U.S...

, most famous for his muck-raking novel The Jungle
The Jungle
The Jungle is a 1906 novel written by journalist Upton Sinclair. Sinclair wrote the novel with the intention of portraying the life of the immigrant in the United States, but readers were more concerned with the large portion of the book pertaining to the corruption of the American meatpacking...

, advocated socialism
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

. Other political writers of the period included Edwin Markham
Edwin Markham
Charles Edwin Anson Markham was an American poet. From 1923 to 1931 he was Poet Laureate of Oregon.-Life:Edwin Markham was born in Oregon City, Oregon and was the youngest of 10 children; his parents divorced shortly after his birth...

, William Vaughn Moody
William Vaughn Moody
William Vaughn Moody was a United States dramatist and poet. Author of The Great Divide, first presented under the title of The Sabine Woman at the Garrick Theatre in Chicago on April 12, 1906...

. Journalistic critics, including Ida M. Tarbell
Ida M. Tarbell
Ida Minerva Tarbell was an American teacher, author and journalist. She was known as one of the leading "muckrakers" of the progressive era, work known in modern times as "investigative journalism". She wrote many notable magazine series and biographies...

 and Lincoln Steffens
Lincoln Steffens
-Biography:Steffens was born April 6, 1866, in San Francisco. He grew up in a wealthy family and attended a military academy. He studied in France and Germany after graduating from the University of California....

 were labeled The Muckrakers. Henry Brooks Adams' literate autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams
The Education of Henry Adams
The Education of Henry Adams records the struggle of Bostonian Henry Adams , in his later years, to come to terms with the dawning 20th century, so different from the world of his youth. It is also a sharp critique of 19th century educational theory and practice. In 1907, Adams began privately...

also depicted a stinging description of the education system and modern life.

Experimentation in style and form soon joined the new freedom in subject matter. In 1909, Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein was an American writer, poet and art collector who spent most of her life in France.-Early life:...

 (1874–1946), by then an expatriate in Paris, published Three Lives
Three Lives
Three Lives was Gertrude Stein's first published work. The book is separated into three stories, "The Good Anna," "Melanctha," and "The Gentle Lena."...

, an innovative work of fiction influenced by her familiarity with cubism, jazz, and other movements in contemporary art and music. Stein labeled a group of American literary notables who lived in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s as the "Lost Generation
Lost Generation
The "Lost Generation" is a term used to refer to the generation, actually a cohort, that came of age during World War I. The term was popularized by Ernest Hemingway who used it as one of two contrasting epigraphs for his novel, The Sun Also Rises. In that volume Hemingway credits the phrase to...

".

The poet Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

 (1885–1972) was born in Idaho
Idaho
Idaho is a state in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. The state's largest city and capital is Boise. Residents are called "Idahoans". Idaho was admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state....

 but spent much of his adult life in Europe. His work is complex, sometimes obscure, with multiple references to other art forms and to a vast range of literature, both Western and Eastern. He influenced many other poets, notably T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

 (1888–1965), another expatriate. Eliot wrote spare, cerebral poetry, carried by a dense structure of symbols. In The Waste Land
The Waste Land
The Waste Land[A] is a 434-line[B] modernist poem by T. S. Eliot published in 1922. It has been called "one of the most important poems of the 20th century." Despite the poem's obscurity—its shifts between satire and prophecy, its abrupt and unannounced changes of speaker, location and time, its...

, he embodied a jaundiced vision of post–World War I society in fragmented, haunted images. Like Pound's, Eliot's poetry could be highly allusive, and some editions of The Waste Land come with footnotes supplied by the poet. In 1948, Eliot won the Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

.

Stein, Pound and Eliot, along with Henry James before them, demonstrate the growth of an international perspective in American literature, and not simply because they spend long periods of time overseas. American writers had long looked to European models for inspiration, but whereas the literary breakthroughs of the mid-19th century came from finding distinctly American styles and themes, writers from this period were finding ways of contributing to a flourishing international literary scene, not as imitators but as equals. Something similar was happening back in the States, as Jewish writers (such as Abraham Cahan
Abraham Cahan
Abraham "Abe" Cahan was a Lithuanian-born American socialist newspaper editor, novelist, and politician.-Early years:...

) used the English language to reach an international Jewish audience. And a small group of Arab American writers known as the Al-Rabitah al-Qalamiyah
Al-Rabitah al-Qalamiyah
Al-Rābiṭah al-Qalamiyah , also known as al-Mahjar , was the first Arab-American literary society, formed initially by Nasib Arida and Abdul Massih Haddad in 1915 or 1916, and subsequently re-formed in 1920 by a group of Arab writers in New York led by Khalil Gibran, from a group of writers who has...

(a.k.a. the "New York Pen League") and under the leadership of Khalil Gibran
Khalil Gibran
Khalil Gibran Jubrān Khalīl Jubrān,Jibrān Khalīl Jibrān, or Jibrān Xalīl Jibrān; Arabic , January 6, 1883 – April 10, 1931) also known as Kahlil Gibran, was a Lebanese American artist, poet, and writer...

, were absorbing modernist European influences and thereby introduced innovative forms and themes into Arabic-language literature.

American writers also expressed the disillusionment following upon the war. The stories and novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was an American author of novels and short stories, whose works are the paradigm writings of the Jazz Age, a term he coined himself. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. Fitzgerald is considered a member of the "Lost...

 (1896–1940) capture the restless, pleasure-hungry, defiant mood of the 1920s. Fitzgerald's characteristic theme, expressed poignantly in The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby is a novel by the American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. First published in1925, it is set on Long Island's North Shore and in New York City from spring to autumn of 1922....

, is the tendency of youth's golden dreams to dissolve in failure and disappointment. Fitzgerald also elucidates the collapse of some key American Ideals, set out in the Declaration of Independence
Declaration of independence
A declaration of independence is an assertion of the independence of an aspiring state or states. Such places are usually declared from part or all of the territory of another nation or failed nation, or are breakaway territories from within the larger state...

, such as liberty, social unity, good governance and peace, features which were severely threatened by the pressures of modern early 20th century society. Sinclair Lewis
Sinclair Lewis
Harry Sinclair Lewis was an American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of...

 and Sherwood Anderson
Sherwood Anderson
Sherwood Anderson was an American novelist and short story writer. His most enduring work is the short story sequence Winesburg, Ohio. Writers he has influenced include Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, J. D. Salinger, and Amos Oz.-Early life:Anderson was born in Clyde, Ohio,...

 also wrote novels with critical depictions of American life. John Dos Passos
John Dos Passos
John Roderigo Dos Passos was an American novelist and artist.-Early life:Born in Chicago, Illinois, Dos Passos was the illegitimate son of John Randolph Dos Passos , a distinguished lawyer of Madeiran Portuguese descent, and Lucy Addison Sprigg Madison of Petersburg, Virginia. The elder Dos Passos...

 wrote about the war and also the U.S.A. trilogy
U.S.A. trilogy
The U.S.A. Trilogy is a major work of American writer John Dos Passos, comprising the novels The 42nd Parallel ; 1919, also known as Nineteen Nineteen ; and The Big Money . The three books were first published together in a single volume titled U.S.A by Harcourt Brace in January, 1938...

 which extended into the Depression.

Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

 (1899–1961) saw violence and death first-hand as an ambulance driver in World War I, and the carnage persuaded him that abstract language was mostly empty and misleading. He cut out unnecessary words from his writing, simplified the sentence structure, and concentrated on concrete objects and actions. He adhered to a moral code that emphasized grace under pressure, and his protagonists were strong, silent men who often dealt awkwardly with women. The Sun Also Rises
The Sun Also Rises
The Sun Also Rises is a 1926 novel written by American author Ernest Hemingway about a group of American and British expatriates who travel from Paris to the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona to watch the running of the bulls and the bullfights. An early and enduring modernist novel, it received...

and A Farewell to Arms
A Farewell to Arms
A Farewell to Arms is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Ernest Hemingway concerning events during the Italian campaigns during the First World War. The book, which was first published in 1929, is a first-person account of American Frederic Henry, serving as a Lieutenant in the ambulance...

are generally considered his best novels; in 1953, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

.

Five years before Hemingway, another American novelist had won the Nobel Prize: William Faulkner
William Faulkner
William Cuthbert Faulkner was an American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner worked in a variety of media; he wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays and screenplays during his career...

 (1897–1962). Faulkner managed to encompass an enormous range of humanity in Yoknapatawpha County
Yoknapatawpha County
Yoknapatawpha County is a fictional county created by the American author William Faulkner, based upon and inspired by Lafayette County, Mississippi and its county seat of Oxford, Mississippi...

, a Mississippi
Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

an region of his own invention. He recorded his characters' seemingly unedited ramblings in order to represent their inner states, a technique called "stream of consciousness". (In fact, these passages are carefully crafted, and their seemingly chaotic structure conceals multiple layers of meaning.) He also jumbled time sequences to show how the past – especially the slave-holding era of the Deep South
Deep South
The Deep South is a descriptive category of the cultural and geographic subregions in the American South. Historically, it is differentiated from the "Upper South" as being the states which were most dependent on plantation type agriculture during the pre-Civil War period...

 – endures in the present. Among his great works are Absalom, Absalom!
Absalom, Absalom!
Absalom, Absalom! is a Southern Gothic novel by the American author William Faulkner, first published in 1936. It is a story about three families of the American South, taking place before, during, and after the Civil War, with the focus of the story on the life of Thomas Sutpen.-Plot...

, As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury
The Sound and the Fury
The Sound and the Fury is a novel written by the American author William Faulkner. It employs a number of narrative styles, including the technique known as stream of consciousness, pioneered by 20th century European novelists such as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Published in 1929, The Sound and...

, and Light in August
Light in August
Light in August is a 1932 novel by the American author William Faulkner.Light in August is an exploration of racial conflict in the society of the Southern United States. Originally Faulkner planned to call the novel Dark House, which also became the working title for Absalom, Absalom!...

.

The rise of American drama



Although the United States' theatrical tradition can be traced back to the arrival of Lewis Hallam
Lewis Hallam
Lewis Hallam was an English-born actor and theatre director in the colonial United States.-Career:He arrived in North America in 1752 with his theatrical company, which first performed in Williamsburg, Virginia. In 1752, Hallam built the first theater in New York City, New York, on Nassau Street...

's troupe in the mid-18th century and was very active in the 19th century, as seen by the popularity of minstrel show
Minstrel show
The minstrel show, or minstrelsy, was an American entertainment consisting of comic skits, variety acts, dancing, and music, performed by white people in blackface or, especially after the Civil War, black people in blackface....

s and of adaptations of Uncle Tom's Cabin
Tom Shows
Tom Shows were stage plays and musicals based on the 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The novel depicts the harsh reality of slavery...

, American drama attained international status only in the 1920s and 30s, with the works of Eugene O'Neill
Eugene O'Neill
Eugene Gladstone O'Neill was an American playwright and Nobel laureate in Literature. His poetically titled plays were among the first to introduce into American drama techniques of realism earlier associated with Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and Swedish...

, who won three Pulitzer Prizes
Pulitzer Prize for Drama
The Pulitzer Prize for Drama was first awarded in 1918.From 1918 to 2006, the Drama Prize was unlike the majority of the other Pulitzer Prizes: during these years, the eligibility period for the drama prize ran from March 2 to March 1, to reflect the Broadway 'season' rather than the calendar year...

 and the Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

. In the middle of the 20th century, American drama was dominated by the work of playwrights Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams
Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams III was an American writer who worked principally as a playwright in the American theater. He also wrote short stories, novels, poetry, essays, screenplays and a volume of memoirs...

 and Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller
Arthur Asher Miller was an American playwright and essayist. He was a prominent figure in American theatre, writing dramas that include plays such as All My Sons , Death of a Salesman , The Crucible , and A View from the Bridge .Miller was often in the public eye,...

, as well as by the maturation of the American musical
Musical theatre
Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The emotional content of the piece – humor, pathos, love, anger – as well as the story itself, is communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an...

, which had found a way to integrate script, music and dance in such works as Oklahoma!
Oklahoma!
Oklahoma! is the first musical written by composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. The musical is based on Lynn Riggs' 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs. Set in Oklahoma Territory outside the town of Claremore in 1906, it tells the story of cowboy Curly McLain and his romance...

and West Side Story
West Side Story
West Side Story is an American musical with a script by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and choreographed by Jerome Robbins...

. Later American playwrights of importance include Edward Albee
Edward Albee
Edward Franklin Albee III is an American playwright who is best known for The Zoo Story , The Sandbox , Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , and a rewrite of the screenplay for the unsuccessful musical version of Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's . His works are considered well-crafted, often...

, Sam Shepard
Sam Shepard
Sam Shepard is an American playwright, actor, and television and film director. He is the author of several books of short stories, essays, and memoirs, and received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play Buried Child...

, David Mamet
David Mamet
David Alan Mamet is an American playwright, essayist, screenwriter and film director.Best known as a playwright, Mamet won a Pulitzer Prize and received a Tony nomination for Glengarry Glen Ross . He also received a Tony nomination for Speed-the-Plow . As a screenwriter, he received Oscar...

, Wendy Wasserstein
Wendy Wasserstein
Wendy Wasserstein was an American playwright and an Andrew Dickson White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University...

 and August Wilson
August Wilson
August Wilson was an American playwright whose work included a series of ten plays, The Pittsburgh Cycle, for which he received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama...

.

Depression-era literature


Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 era literature was blunt and direct in its social criticism. John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck
John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. was an American writer. He is widely known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden and the novella Of Mice and Men...

 (1902–1968) was born in Salinas, California
Salinas, California
Salinas is the county seat and the largest municipality of Monterey County, California. Salinas is located east-southeast of the mouth of the Salinas River, at an elevation of about 52 feet above sea level. The population was 150,441 at the 2010 census...

, where he set many of his stories. His style was simple and evocative, winning him the favor of the readers but not of the critics. Steinbeck often wrote about poor, working-class people and their struggle to lead a decent and honest life. The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath is a novel published in 1939 and written by John Steinbeck, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962....

, considered his masterpiece, is a strong, socially-oriented novel that tells the story of the Joads, a poor family from Oklahoma and their journey to California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 in search of a better life. Other popular novels include Tortilla Flat
Tortilla Flat
Tortilla Flat is an early John Steinbeck novel set in Monterey, California. The novel was the author's first clear critical and commercial success....

, Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men is a novella written by Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck. Published in 1937, it tells the tragic story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers during the Great Depression in California, USA....

, Cannery Row
Cannery Row (novel)
Cannery Row is an English language novel by American author John Steinbeck. It was published in 1945. A film version was released in 1982. A stage version was produced in 1995....

, and East of Eden. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

 in 1962. Steinbeck's contemporary, Nathanael West
Nathanael West
Nathanael West was a US author, screenwriter and satirist.- Early life :...

's two most famous short novels, Miss Lonelyhearts
Miss Lonelyhearts
Miss Lonelyhearts, published in 1933, is Nathanael West's second novel. It is an Expressionist black comedy set in New York City during the Great Depression.-Plot summary:...

,
which plumbs the life of its eponymous antihero, a reluctant (and, to comic effect, male) advice columnist, and the effects the tragic letters exert on it, and The Day of the Locust
The Day of the Locust
The Day of the Locust is a 1939 novel by American author Nathanael West, set in Hollywood, California during the Great Depression, its overarching themes deal with the alienation and desperation of a broad group of odd individuals who exist at the fringes of the Hollywood movie industry.In 1998,...

, which introduces a cast of Hollywood stereotypes and explores the ironies of the movies, have come to be avowed classics of American literature.

Henry Miller
Henry Miller
Henry Valentine Miller was an American novelist and painter. He was known for breaking with existing literary forms and developing a new sort of 'novel' that is a mixture of novel, autobiography, social criticism, philosophical reflection, surrealist free association, and mysticism, one that is...

 assumed a unique place in American Literature in the 1930s when his semi-autobiographical novels, written and published in Paris, were banned from the US. Although his major works, including Tropic of Cancer
Tropic of Cancer (novel)
Tropic of Cancer is a novel by Henry Miller which has been described as "notorious for its candid sexuality" and as responsible for the "free speech that we now take for granted in literature." It was first published in 1934 by the Obelisk Press in Paris, France, but this edition was banned in the...

and Black Spring, would not be free of the label of obscenity
Obscenity
An obscenity is any statement or act which strongly offends the prevalent morality of the time, is a profanity, or is otherwise taboo, indecent, abhorrent, or disgusting, or is especially inauspicious...

 until 1962, their themes and stylistic innovations had already exerted a major influence on succeeding generations of American writers, and paved the way for sexually frank 1960s novels by John Updike
John Updike
John Hoyer Updike was an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic....

, Philip Roth
Philip Roth
Philip Milton Roth is an American novelist. He gained fame with the 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus, an irreverent and humorous portrait of Jewish-American life that earned him a National Book Award...

, Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal is an American author, playwright, essayist, screenwriter, and political activist. His third novel, The City and the Pillar , outraged mainstream critics as one of the first major American novels to feature unambiguous homosexuality...

, John Rechy
John Rechy
John Francis Rechy, , is an American author, the child of a half-Scottish and half-Mexican father, Roberto Rechy, and a Mexican-American mother, Guadalupe Flores. In his novels he has written extensively about homosexual culture in Los Angeles and wider America, and is among the pioneers of modern...

 and William Styron
William Styron
William Clark Styron, Jr. was an American novelist and essayist who won major literary awards for his work.For much of his career, Styron was best known for his novels, which included...

.

The postwar novel


The period in time from the end of World War II up until, roughly, the late 1960s and early 1970s saw the publication of some of the most popular works in American history such as To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by Harper Lee published in 1960. It was instantly successful, winning the Pulitzer Prize, and has become a classic of modern American literature...

 by Harper Lee
Harper Lee
Nelle Harper Lee is an American author known for her 1960 Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which deals with the issues of racism that were observed by the author as a child in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama...

. The last few of the more realistic modernists along with the wildly Romantic beatnik
Beatnik
Beatnik was a media stereotype of the 1950s and early 1960s that displayed the more superficial aspects of the Beat Generation literary movement of the 1950s and violent film images, along with a cartoonish depiction of the real-life people and the spiritual quest in Jack Kerouac's autobiographical...

s largely dominated the period, while the direct respondents to America's involvement in World War II contributed in their notable influence.

Though born in Canada, Chicago-raised Saul Bellow
Saul Bellow
Saul Bellow was a Canadian-born Jewish American writer. For his literary contributions, Bellow was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts...

 would become one of the most influential novelists in America in the decades directly following World War II. In works like The Adventures of Augie March
The Adventures of Augie March
The Adventures of Augie March is a novel by Saul Bellow.It centers on the eponymous character who grows up during the Great Depression...

and Herzog
Herzog (novel)
Herzog is a 1964 novel by Saul Bellow. Letters from the protagonist constitute much of the text.Herzog won the 1965 National Book Award for Fiction and the The Prix International...

, Bellow painted vivid portraits of the American city and the distinctive characters that peopled it. Bellow went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976.

From J.D. Salinger's Nine Stories
Nine Stories (Salinger)
Nine Stories is a collection of short stories by American fiction writer J. D. Salinger released in May 1953. It includes two of his most famous short stories, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" and "For Esmé – with Love and Squalor". Nine Stories (1953) is a collection of short stories by American...

and The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye is a 1951 novel by J. D. Salinger. Originally published for adults, it has since become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage confusion, angst, alienation, language, and rebellion. It has been translated into almost all of the world's major...

to Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist and short story writer. Born in Massachusetts, she studied at Smith College and Newnham College, Cambridge before receiving acclaim as a professional poet and writer...

's The Bell Jar
The Bell Jar
The Bell Jar is American writer and poet Sylvia Plath's only novel, which was originally published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas" in 1963. The novel is semi-autobiographical with the names of places and people changed...

, the perceived madness of the state of affairs in America was brought to the forefront of the nation's literary expression. Immigrant authors such as Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was a multilingual Russian novelist and short story writer. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist...

, with Lolita
Lolita
Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, first written in English and published in 1955 in Paris and 1958 in New York, and later translated by the author into Russian...

, forged on with the theme, and, at almost the same time, the beatnik
Beatnik
Beatnik was a media stereotype of the 1950s and early 1960s that displayed the more superficial aspects of the Beat Generation literary movement of the 1950s and violent film images, along with a cartoonish depiction of the real-life people and the spiritual quest in Jack Kerouac's autobiographical...

s took a concerted step away from their Lost Generation
Lost Generation
The "Lost Generation" is a term used to refer to the generation, actually a cohort, that came of age during World War I. The term was popularized by Ernest Hemingway who used it as one of two contrasting epigraphs for his novel, The Sun Also Rises. In that volume Hemingway credits the phrase to...

 predecessors, developing a style and tone of their own by drawing on Eastern theology and experimenting with recreational drugs.

The poetry and fiction of the "Beat Generation
Beat generation
The Beat Generation refers to a group of American post-WWII writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the cultural phenomena that they both documented and inspired...

", largely born of a circle of intellects formed in New York City around Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 and established more officially some time later in San Francisco, came of age. The term Beat referred, all at the same time, to the countercultural rhythm of the Jazz scene, to a sense of rebellion regarding the conservative stress of post-war society, and to an interest in new forms of spiritual experience through drugs, alcohol, philosophy, and religion, and specifically through Zen Buddhism. Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet and one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation in the 1950s. He vigorously opposed militarism, materialism and sexual repression...

 set the tone of the movement in his poem Howl
Howl
"Howl" is a poem written by Allen Ginsberg in 1955 and published as part of his 1956 collection of poetry titled Howl and Other Poems. The poem is considered to be one of the great works of the Beat Generation, along with Jack Kerouac's On the Road and William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch...

, a Whitmanesque work that began: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness..." Among the most representative achievements of the Beats in the novel are Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac
Jean-Louis "Jack" Lebris de Kerouac was an American novelist and poet. He is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation. Kerouac is recognized for his spontaneous method of writing, covering topics such as Catholic...

's On the Road
On the Road
On the Road is a novel by American writer Jack Kerouac, written in April 1951, and published by Viking Press in 1957. It is a largely autobiographical work that was based on the spontaneous road trips of Kerouac and his friends across mid-century America. It is often considered a defining work of...

(1957), the chronicle of a soul-searching travel through the continent, and William S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs
William Seward Burroughs II was an American novelist, poet, essayist and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author, he is considered to be "one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th...

's Naked Lunch
Naked Lunch
Naked Lunch is a novel by William S. Burroughs originally published in 1959. The book is structured as a series of loosely-connected vignettes. Burroughs stated that the chapters are intended to be read in any order...

(1959), a more experimental work structured as a series of vignettes relating, among other things, the narrator's travels and experiments with hard drugs.

Regarding the war novel specifically, there was a literary explosion in America during the post–World War II era. Some of the best known of the works produced included Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer
Norman Kingsley Mailer was an American novelist, journalist, essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, and film director.Along with Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Hunter S...

's The Naked and the Dead
The Naked and the Dead
The Naked and the Dead is a 1948 novel by Norman Mailer. It was based on his experiences with the 112th Cavalry Regiment during the Philippines Campaign in World War II...

(1948), Joseph Heller
Joseph Heller
Joseph Heller was a US satirical novelist, short story writer, and playwright. His best known work is Catch-22, a novel about US servicemen during World War II...

's Catch-22
Catch-22
Catch-22 is a satirical, historical novel by the American author Joseph Heller. He began writing it in 1953, and the novel was first published in 1961. It is set during World War II in 1943 and is frequently cited as one of the great literary works of the twentieth century...

(1961) and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s Slaughterhouse-Five
Slaughterhouse-Five
Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death is a satirical novel by Kurt Vonnegut about World War II experiences and journeys through time of a soldier called Billy Pilgrim...

(1969). The Moviegoer
The Moviegoer
The Moviegoer is the debut novel by Walker Percy published in 1961. It won a National Book Award in 1962. Time magazine included the novel in its "Time 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005"....

(1962), by Southern author Walker Percy
Walker Percy
Walker Percy was an American Southern author whose interests included philosophy and semiotics. Percy is best known for his philosophical novels set in and around New Orleans, Louisiana, the first of which, The Moviegoer, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1962...

, winner of the National Book Award, was his attempt at exploring "the dislocation of man in the modern age."

In contrast, John Updike
John Updike
John Hoyer Updike was an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic....

 approached American life from a more reflective but no less subversive perspective. His 1960 novel Rabbit, Run
Rabbit, Run
Rabbit, Run is a 1960 novel by John Updike.The novel depicts five months in the life of a 26-year-old former high school basketball player named Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom, and his attempts to escape the constraints of his life...

,
the first of four chronicling the rising and falling fortunes of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom over the course of four decades against the backdrop of the major events of the second half of the 20th century, broke new ground on its release in its characterization and detail of the American middle class and frank discussion of taboo
Taboo
A taboo is a strong social prohibition relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and or forbidden based on moral judgment, religious beliefs and or scientific consensus. Breaking the taboo is usually considered objectionable or abhorrent by society...

 topics such as adultery
Adultery
Adultery is sexual infidelity to one's spouse, and is a form of extramarital sex. It originally referred only to sex between a woman who was married and a person other than her spouse. Even in cases of separation from one's spouse, an extramarital affair is still considered adultery.Adultery is...

. Notable among Updike's characteristic innovations was his use of present-tense narration, his rich, stylized language, and his attention to sensual detail. His work is also deeply imbued with Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 themes. The two final installments of the Rabbit series, Rabbit is Rich
Rabbit Is Rich
Rabbit Is Rich is a 1981 novel by John Updike. It is the third novel of the four-part series which begins with Rabbit, Run and Rabbit Redux, and concludes with Rabbit At Rest. There is also a related 2001 novella, Rabbit Remembered...

(1981) and Rabbit at Rest
Rabbit At Rest
Rabbit at Rest is a 1990 novel by John Updike. It is the fourth and final novel in a series beginning with Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; and Rabbit is Rich. There is also a related 2001 novella, Rabbit Remembered...

(1990), were both awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction has been awarded for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life. It originated as the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel, which was awarded between 1918 and 1947.-1910s:...

. Other notable works include the Henry Bech
Henry Bech
Henry Bech is a fictional character created by American author John Updike. Bech first appeared in assorted short stories, stories which were later compiled in the books Bech: A Book , Bech Is Back , and Bech at Bay...

 novels (1970–98), The Witches of Eastwick
The Witches of Eastwick
The Witches of Eastwick is a 1984 novel by John Updike.-Plot summary:The story, set in the fictional Rhode Island town of Eastwick in the late 1960s, follows the witches Alexandra Spofford, Jane Smart, and Sukie Rougemont, who acquired their powers after leaving or being left by their husbands....

(1984), Roger's Version
Roger's Version
Roger's Version is a 1986 novel by John Updike about Roger Lambert, a theology professor in his fifties, whose rather complacent faith is challenged by Dale, an evangelical graduate student who believes he can prove that God exists with computer science...

(1986) and In the Beauty of the Lilies
In the Beauty of the Lilies
In the Beauty of the Lilies is a 1996 novel by John Updike. It takes its title from a line of the abolitionist song "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."-Summary:...

(1996), which literary critic Michiko Kakutani
Michiko Kakutani
is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for The New York Times and is considered by many to be a leading literary critic in the United States.-Life and career:...

 called "arguably his finest."

Frequently linked with Updike is the novelist Philip Roth
Philip Roth
Philip Milton Roth is an American novelist. He gained fame with the 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus, an irreverent and humorous portrait of Jewish-American life that earned him a National Book Award...

. Roth vigorously explores Jewish identity
Jewish identity
Jewish identity is the objective or subjective state of perceiving oneself as a Jew and as relating to being Jewish. Under the broader definition, the Jewish identity does not depend on whether or not a person is regarded as a Jew by others, or by an external set of religious, or legal, or...

 in American society, especially in the postwar era and the early 21st century. Frequently set in Newark, New Jersey
Newark, New Jersey
Newark is the largest city in the American state of New Jersey, and the seat of Essex County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Newark had a population of 277,140, maintaining its status as the largest municipality in New Jersey. It is the 68th largest city in the U.S...

, Roth's work is known to be highly autobiographical, and many of Roth's main characters, most famously the Jewish novelist Nathan Zuckerman
Nathan Zuckerman
Nathan Zuckerman is a fictional character who appears as the narrator or protagonist of many of Philip Roth's works of fiction.-Character:...

, are thought to be alter ego
Alter ego
An alter ego is a second self, which is believe to be distinct from a person's normal or original personality. The term was coined in the early nineteenth century when dissociative identity disorder was first described by psychologists...

s of Roth. With these techniques, and armed with his articulate and fast-paced style, Roth explores the distinction between reality and fiction in literature while provocatively examining American culture. His most famous work includes the Zuckerman novels, the controversial Portnoy's Complaint
Portnoy's Complaint
Portnoy's Complaint is the American novel that turned its author Philip Roth into a major celebrity, sparking a storm of controversy over its explicit and candid treatment of sexuality, including detailed depictions of masturbation using various props including a piece of liver...

(1969), and Goodbye, Columbus
Goodbye, Columbus
Goodbye, Columbus is a 1959 book by American novelist Philip Roth. It was the writer's first book: a collection of five short stories and one novella, also titled "Goodbye, Columbus"....

(1959). Among the most decorated American writers of his generation, he has won every major American literary award, including the Pulitzer Prize for his major novel American Pastoral
American Pastoral
American Pastoral is a Philip Roth novel concerning Seymour "Swede" Levov, a Jewish-American businessman and former high school athlete from Newark, New Jersey. Levov's happy and conventional upper middle class life is ruined by the domestic social and political turmoil of the 1960s, which in the...

(1997).

In the realm of African-American literature, Ralph Ellison
Ralph Ellison
Ralph Waldo Ellison was an American novelist, literary critic, scholar and writer. He was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Ellison is best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953...

's 1952 novel Invisible Man
Invisible Man
Invisible Man is a novel written by Ralph Ellison, and the only one that he published during his lifetime . It won him the National Book Award in 1953...

was instantly recognized as among the most powerful and important works of the immediate post-war years. The story of a black Underground Man
Notes from Underground
Notes from Underground is an 1864 short novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Notes is considered by many to be the first existentialist novel...

 in the urban north, the novel laid bare the often repressed racial tension that still prevailed while also succeeding as an existential
Existentialism
Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

 character study. Richard Wright
Richard Wright (author)
Richard Nathaniel Wright was an African-American author of sometimes controversial novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction. Much of his literature concerns racial themes, especially those involving the plight of African-Americans during the late 19th to mid 20th centuries...

 was catapulted to fame by the publication in subsequent years of his now widely studied short story, "The Man Who Was Almost a Man
The Man Who Was Almost a Man
"The Man Who Was Almost a Man" also known as "Almos' a man", is a short story by Richard Wright. It was published in 1961 as part of Wright's compilation Eight Men...

" (1939), and his controversial second novel, Native Son
Native Son
Native Son is a novel by American author Richard Wright. The novel tells the story of 20-year-old Bigger Thomas, an African American living in utter poverty. Bigger lived in Chicago's South Side ghetto in the 1930s...

(1940), and his legacy was cemented by the 1945 publication of Black Boy
Black Boy
Black Boy is an autobiography by Richard Wright. The author explores his childhood and race relations in the South. Wright eventually moves to Chicago, where he establishes his writing career and becomes involved with the Communist Party....

, a work in which Wright drew on his childhood and mostly autodidactic education in the segregated South, fictionalizing and exaggerating some elements as he saw fit. Because of its polemical themes and Wright's involvement with the Communist Party
Communist party
A political party described as a Communist party includes those that advocate the application of the social principles of communism through a communist form of government...

, the novel's final part, "American Hunger," was not published until 1977.

Perhaps the most ambitious and challenging post-war American novelist was William Gaddis
William Gaddis
William Thomas Gaddis, Jr. was an American novelist. He wrote five novels, two of which won National Book Awards and one of which, The Recognitions , was chosen as one of TIME magazine's 100 best novels from 1923 to 2005...

, whose uncompromising, satiric, and gargantuan novels, such as The Recognitions
The Recognitions
The Recognitions, published in 1955, is American author William Gaddis's first novel. The novel was poorly received initially, but Gaddis's reputation grew, twenty years later, with the publication of his second novel J R , and The Recognitions received belated fame as a masterpiece of American...

(1955) and J R
J R
J R is a novel by William Gaddis. Published in 1975 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., J R was Gaddis's second novel and received the National Book Award in 1976....

(1975) are presented largely in terms of unattributed dialog that requires almost unexampled reader participation. Gaddis's primary themes include forgery, capitalism, religious zealotry, and the legal system, constituting a sustained polyphonic critique of the chaos and chicanery of modern American life. Gaddis's work, though largely ignored for years, anticipated and influenced the development of such ambitious "postmodern" fiction writers as Thomas Pynchon, Joseph McElroy
Joseph McElroy
Joseph McElroy is an American novelist, short story writer, and essayist.McElroy grew up in Brooklyn Heights, NY, a neighborhood that features prominently in much of his fiction. He received his B.A. from Williams College in 1951 and his M.A. from Columbia University in 1952...

, and Don DeLillo. Another neglected and challenging postwar American novelist, albeit one who writes much shorter works, was John Hawkes
John Hawkes
John Hawkes, born John Clendennin Talbot Burne Hawkes, Jr. , was a postmodern American novelist, known for the intensity of his work, which suspended the traditional constraints of the narrative.-Biography:...

, whose often surreal, visionary fiction addresses themes of violence and eroticism and experiments audaciously with narrative voice and style. Among his most important works is the short nightmarish novel The Lime Twig
The Lime Twig
The Lime Twig is a classic short novel or novella by experimental American writer John Hawkes.-Plot:This highly elliptical novel, set in England after World War II, deals with a sedate, bored lower-class couple -- Michael and Margaret Banks -- who are lured into fronting a racehorse scheme...

(1961).

Short fiction and poetry


In the postwar period, the art of the short story again flourished. Among its most respected practitioners was Flannery O'Connor
Flannery O'Connor
Mary Flannery O'Connor was an American novelist, short-story writer and essayist. An important voice in American literature, O'Connor wrote two novels and 32 short stories, as well as a number of reviews and commentaries...

 (b. March 25, 1925 in Georgia – d. August 3, 1964 in Georgia), who renewed the fascination of such giants as Faulkner and Twain with the American south, developing a distinctive Southern gothic
Southern Gothic
Southern Gothic is a subgenre of Gothic fiction unique to American literature that takes place exclusively in the American South. It resembles its parent genre in that it relies on supernatural, ironic, or unusual events to guide the plot...

 esthetic wherein characters acted at one level as people and at another as timeless symbols. A devout Catholic, O'Connor often imbued her stories, among them the widely studied "A Good Man is Hard to Find
A Good Man Is Hard To Find
A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories is a collection of short stories by American author Flannery O'Connor. The collection was first published in 1955...

" and "Everything That Rises Must Converge
Everything That Rises Must Converge
Everything That Rises Must Converge is a collection of short stories written by Flannery O'Connor during her final illness. The title of the collection and of the short story of the same name is taken from a passage from the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The collection was published...

", and two novels, Wise Blood
Wise Blood
Wise Blood is the first novel by American author Flannery O'Connor, published in 1952. The novel was assembled from several disparate stories first published in Mademoiselle, Sewanee Review, and Partisan Review...

(1952); The Violent Bear It Away
The Violent Bear It Away
The Violent Bear It Away is a novel published in 1960 by American author Flannery O'Connor. It is the second and final novel that she published. The first chapter of the novel was published as the story "You Can't Be Any Poorer Than Dead," in the journal New World Writing, volume 8 in October 1955...

(1960), with deeply religious themes, focusing particularly on the search for truth and religious skepticism against the backdrop of the nuclear age. Other important practitioners of the form include Katherine Anne Porter
Katherine Anne Porter
Katherine Anne Porter was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist, essayist, short story writer, novelist, and political activist. Her 1962 novel Ship of Fools was the best-selling novel in America that year, but her short stories received much more critical acclaim...

, Eudora Welty
Eudora Welty
Eudora Alice Welty was an American author of short stories and novels about the American South. Her novel The Optimist's Daughter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973. Welty was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among numerous awards. She was the first living author to have her works published...

, John Cheever
John Cheever
John William Cheever was an American novelist and short story writer. He is sometimes called "the Chekhov of the suburbs." His fiction is mostly set in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the Westchester suburbs, old New England villages based on various South Shore towns around Quincy,...

, Raymond Carver
Raymond Carver
Raymond Clevie Carver, Jr. was an American short story writer and poet. Carver is considered a major American writer of the late 20th century and also a major force in the revitalization of the short story in the 1980s....

, Tobias Wolff
Tobias Wolff
Tobias Jonathan Ansell Wolff is an American author. He is known for his memoirs, particularly This Boy's Life , and his short stories. He has also written two novels.-Biography:Wolff was born in 1945 in Birmingham, Alabama...

, and the more experimental Donald Barthelme
Donald Barthelme
Donald Barthelme was an American author known for his playful, postmodernist style of short fiction. Barthelme also worked as a newspaper reporter for the Houston Post, managing editor of Location magazine, director of the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston , co-founder of Fiction Donald...

.

Among the most respected of the postwar American poets are John Ashbery
John Ashbery
John Lawrence Ashbery is an American poet. He has published more than twenty volumes of poetry and won nearly every major American award for poetry, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. But Ashbery's work still proves controversial...

, the key figure of the surrealistic New York School
New York School
The New York School was an informal group of American poets, painters, dancers, and musicians active in the 1950s, 1960s in New York City...

 of poetry, and his celebrated Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1976); Elizabeth Bishop
Elizabeth Bishop
Elizabeth Bishop was an American poet and short-story writer. She was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 1949 to 1950, a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1956 and a National Book Award Winner for Poetry in 1970. Elizabeth Bishop House is an artists' retreat in Great Village, Nova Scotia...

 and her North & South (Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1956) and "Geography III" (National Book Award, 1970); Richard Wilbur
Richard Wilbur
Richard Purdy Wilbur is an American poet and literary translator. He was appointed the second Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1987, and twice received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1957 and again in 1989....

 and his Things of This World, winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for Poetry in 1957; John Berryman
John Berryman
John Allyn Berryman was an American poet and scholar, born in McAlester, Oklahoma. He was a major figure in American poetry in the second half of the 20th century and was considered a key figure in the Confessional school of poetry...

 and his The Dream Songs, (Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1964, National Book Award, 1968); A.R. Ammons, whose Collected Poems 1951-1971 won a National Book Award in 1973 and whose long poem Garbage earned him another in 1993; Theodore Roethke
Theodore Roethke
Theodore Roethke was an American poet, who published several volumes of poetry characterized by its rhythm, rhyming, and natural imagery. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1954 for his book, The Waking.-Biography:...

 and his The Waking (Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1954); James Merrill
James Merrill
James Ingram Merrill was an American poet whose awards include the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Divine Comedies...

 and his epic poem of communication with the dead, The Changing Light at Sandover
The Changing Light at Sandover
The Changing Light at Sandover is a 560-page epic poem by James Merrill . Sometimes described as a postmodern apocalyptic epic, the poem was published in three separate installments between 1976 and 1980, and in its entirety in 1982...

(Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1977); Louise Glück
Louise Glück
Louise Elisabeth Glück is an American poet of Hungarian Jewish heritage. She was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 2003, after serving as a Special Bicentennial Consultant three years prior in 2000....

 for her The Wild Iris (Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1993); W.S. Merwin for his The Carrier of Ladders (Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1971) and The Shadow of Sirius (Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 2009); Mark Strand
Mark Strand
Mark Strand is an American poet, essayist, and translator. He was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1990. Since 2005, he has been a professor of English at Columbia University.- Biography :...

 for Blizzard of One (Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1999); Robert Hass
Robert Hass
Robert L. Hass is an American poet. He served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997. He was awarded the 2007 National Book Award and the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Time and Materials.-Life:...

 for his Time and Materials, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for Poetry in 2008 and 2007 respectively; and Rita Dove
Rita Dove
Rita Frances Dove is an American poet and author. From 1993-1995 she served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a position now popularly known as "U.S. Poet Laureate"...

 for her Thomas and Beulah (Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1987).

In addition, in this same period the confessional, whose origin is often traced to the publication in 1959 of Robert Lowell
Robert Lowell
Robert Traill Spence Lowell IV was an American poet, considered the founder of the confessional poetry movement. He was appointed the sixth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress where he served from 1947 until 1948...

's Life Studies
Life Studies
Life Studies is the fourth book of poems by Robert Lowell. Most critics consider it one of Lowell's most important books, and the Academy of American Poets named it one of their Groundbreaking Books. The book won the National Book Award for poetry in 1960.-Publication:Life Studies was first...

, and beat schools of poetry enjoyed popular and academic success, producing such widely anthologized voices as Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet and one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation in the 1950s. He vigorously opposed militarism, materialism and sexual repression...

, Charles Bukowski
Charles Bukowski
Henry Charles Bukowski was an American poet, novelist and short story writer. His writing was influenced by the social, cultural and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles...

, Gary Snyder
Gary Snyder
Gary Snyder is an American poet , as well as an essayist, lecturer, and environmental activist . Snyder is a winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry...

, Anne Sexton
Anne Sexton
Anne Sexton was an American poet, known for her highly personal, confessional verse. She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967...

, and Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist and short story writer. Born in Massachusetts, she studied at Smith College and Newnham College, Cambridge before receiving acclaim as a professional poet and writer...

, among many others.

Contemporary American literature


Though its exact parameters remain debatable, from the early 1970s to the present day the most salient literary movement has been postmodernism
Postmodernism
Postmodernism is a philosophical movement evolved in reaction to modernism, the tendency in contemporary culture to accept only objective truth and to be inherently suspicious towards a global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. Postmodernist thought is an intentional departure from the...

. Thomas Pynchon
Thomas Pynchon
Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr. is an American novelist. For his most praised novel, Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon received the National Book Award, and is regularly cited as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature...

, a seminal practitioner of the form, drew in his work on modernist fixtures such as temporal distortion, unreliable narrators, and internal monologue
Internal monologue
Internal monologue, also known as inner voice, internal speech, or verbal stream of consciousness is thinking in words. It also refers to the semi-constant internal monologue one has with oneself at a conscious or semi-conscious level....

 and coupled them with distinctly postmodern techniques such as metafiction
Metafiction
Metafiction, also known as Romantic irony in the context of Romantic works of literature, is a type of fiction that self-consciously addresses the devices of fiction, exposing the fictional illusion...

, ideogram
Ideogram
An ideogram or ideograph is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept. Some ideograms are comprehensible only by familiarity with prior convention; others convey their meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object, and thus may also be referred to as pictograms.Examples of...

matic characterization, unrealistic names (Oedipa Maas, Benny Profane, etc.), absurdist
Absurdist fiction
Absurdist fiction is a genre of literature, most often employed in novels, plays or poems, that focuses on the experiences of characters in a situation where they cannot find any inherent purpose in life, most often represented by ultimately meaningless actions and events...

 plot elements and hyperbolic humor, deliberate use of anachronisms and archaism
Archaism
In language, an archaism is the use of a form of speech or writing that is no longer current. This can either be done deliberately or as part of a specific jargon or formula...

s, a strong focus on postcolonial themes, and a subversive commingling of high and low culture. In 1973, he published Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow is a postmodern novel written by Thomas Pynchon and first published on February 28, 1973.The narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II and centers on the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest...

, a leading work in this genre, which won the National Book Award
National Book Award
The National Book Awards are a set of American literary awards. Started in 1950, the Awards are presented annually to American authors for literature published in the current year. In 1989 the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization which now oversees and manages the National Book...

 and was unanimously nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction has been awarded for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life. It originated as the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel, which was awarded between 1918 and 1947.-1910s:...

 that year. His other major works include his debut, V.
V.
V. is the debut novel of Thomas Pynchon, published in 1963. It describes the exploits of a discharged U.S. Navy sailor named Benny Profane, his reconnection in New York with a group of pseudo-bohemian artists and hangers-on known as the Whole Sick Crew, and the quest of an aging traveller named...

(1963), The Crying of Lot 49
The Crying of Lot 49
The Crying of Lot 49 is a novel by Thomas Pynchon, first published in 1966. The shortest of Pynchon's novels, it is about a woman, Oedipa Maas, possibly unearthing the centuries-old conflict between two mail distribution companies, Thurn und Taxis and the Trystero...

(1966), Mason & Dixon
Mason & Dixon
Mason & Dixon is a postmodernist novel by American author Thomas Pynchon published in 1997. It centers on the collaboration of the historical Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in their astronomical and surveying exploits in Cape Colony, Saint Helena, Great Britain and along the Mason-Dixon line in...

(1997), and Against the Day
Against the Day
Against the Day is a novel by Thomas Pynchon. The narrative takes place between the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the time immediately following World War I and features more than a hundred characters spread across the United States, Europe, Mexico, Central Asia, and "one or two places not strictly...

(2006).

Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, editor, and professor. Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed characters. Among her best known novels are The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon and Beloved...

, the most recent American recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, writing in a distinctive lyrical prose style, published her controversial debut novel, The Bluest Eye
The Bluest Eye
The Bluest Eye is a 1970 novel by American author Toni Morrison. It is Morrison's first novel, written while Morrison was teaching at Howard University and was raising her two sons on her own. The story is about a year in the life of a young black girl in Lorain, Ohio, named Pecola...

, to widespread critical acclaim in 1970. Coming on the heels of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, the novel, widely studied in American schools, includes an elaborate description of incestuous rape and explores the conventions of beauty established by a historically racist society, painting a portrait of a self-immolating black family in search of beauty in whiteness. Since then, Morrison has experimented with lyric fantasy, as in her two best-known later works, Song of Solomon
Song of Solomon (novel)
Song of Solomon is a 1977 novel by American author Toni Morrison. It follows the life of Macon "Milkman" Dead III, an African-American male living in Michigan, from birth to adulthood....

(1977) and Beloved
Beloved (novel)
Beloved is a novel by the American writer Toni Morrison, published in 1987. Set in 1873 just after the American Civil War , it is based on the story of the African-American slave, Margaret Garner, who escaped slavery in 1856 in Kentucky by fleeing to Ohio, a free state...

(1987), for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; along these lines, critic Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom is an American writer and literary critic, and is Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University. He is known for his defense of 19th-century Romantic poets, his unique and controversial theories of poetic influence, and his prodigious literary output, particularly for a literary...

 has drawn favorable comparisons to Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century....

, and the Nobel committee to "Faulkner and to the Latin American tradition [of magical realism]." Beloved was chosen in a 2006 survey conducted by the New York Times as the most important work of fiction of the last 25 years.

Writing in a lyrical, flowing style that eschews excessive use of the comma and semicolon, recalling William Faulkner
William Faulkner
William Cuthbert Faulkner was an American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner worked in a variety of media; he wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays and screenplays during his career...

 and Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

 in equal measure, Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy is an American novelist and playwright. He has written ten novels, spanning the Southern Gothic, Western, and modernist genres. He received the Pulitzer Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction for The Road...

's body of work seizes on the literary traditions of several regions of the United States and spans multiple genres. He writes in the Southern Gothic
Southern Gothic
Southern Gothic is a subgenre of Gothic fiction unique to American literature that takes place exclusively in the American South. It resembles its parent genre in that it relies on supernatural, ironic, or unusual events to guide the plot...

 aesthetic in his distinctly Faulknerian 1965 debut, The Orchard Keeper
The Orchard Keeper
The Orchard Keeper is the first novel by the American novelist Cormac McCarthy.The novel is set in a small, isolated community in Tennessee, during the inter-war period...

, and Suttree
Suttree
Suttree is a semi-autobiographical novel by Cormac McCarthy, published in 1979. Set in 1951 in Knoxville, Tennessee, the novel follows Cornelius Suttree, who has repudiated his former life of privilege to become a fisherman on the Tennessee River. The novel has a fragmented structure with many...

(1979); in the Epic Western
Epic Western
The Epic Western is a sub-genre of the Western.An archetypical example is Once Upon a Time in the West, a lengthy revenge epic directed by Sergio Leone and starring Charles Bronson...

 tradition, with grotesquely drawn characters and symbolic narrative turns reminiscent of Melville, in Blood Meridian (1985), which Harold Bloom styled "the greatest single book since Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying," calling the character of Judge Holden
Judge Holden
Judge Holden is purportedly a historical person, a murderer who partnered with John Joel Glanton as a professional scalphunter in the mid-19th century. To date, the only source for Holden's existence is Samuel Chamberlain's My Confession, an autobiographical account which has been criticized as...

 "short of Moby Dick, the most monstrous apparition in all of American literature"; in a much more pastoral tone in his celebrated Border Trilogy
The Border Trilogy
The Border Trilogy consists of three novels written by American author Cormac McCarthy: All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain....

 (1992–98) of bildungsroman
Bildungsroman
In literary criticism, bildungsroman or coming-of-age story is a literary genre which focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood , and in which character change is thus extremely important...

s
, including All the Pretty Horses (1992), winner of the National Book Award
National Book Award
The National Book Awards are a set of American literary awards. Started in 1950, the Awards are presented annually to American authors for literature published in the current year. In 1989 the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization which now oversees and manages the National Book...

; and in the post-apocalyptic
Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction
Apocalyptic fiction is a sub-genre of science fiction that is concerned with the end of civilization due to a potentially existential catastrophe such as nuclear warfare, pandemic, extraterrestrial attack, impact event, cybernetic revolt, technological singularity, dysgenics, supernatural...

 genre in the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Road
The Road
The Road is a 2006 novel by the American author Cormac McCarthy.The Road may also refer to:* The Road , a 2001 Kazakhstani film* The Road , a 2009 film adaptation of the McCarthy novel...

(2007). His novels are noted for achieving both commercial and critical success, several of his works having been adapted to film
Film adaptation
Film adaptation is the transfer of a written work to a feature film. It is a type of derivative work.A common form of film adaptation is the use of a novel as the basis of a feature film, but film adaptation includes the use of non-fiction , autobiography, comic book, scripture, plays, and even...

.

Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo is an American author, playwright, and occasional essayist whose work paints a detailed portrait of American life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries...

, who rose to literary prominence with the publication of his 1985 novel, White Noise
White Noise (novel)
White Noise, the eighth novel by Don DeLillo, is an example of postmodern literature. Widely considered his "breakout" work, the book won the National Book Award in 1985 and brought him to the attention of a much larger audience. Time included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels...

, a work broaching the subjects of death and consumerism and doubling as a piece of comic social criticism, began his writing career in 1971 with Americana
Americana (novel)
Americana is Don DeLillo's first novel, published in 1971. In 1989, DeLillo revised the text, excising several pages from the original.-Plot summary:The book is narrated by David Bell, a former television executive turned avant-garde filmmaker...

. He is listed by Harold Bloom as being among the preeminent contemporary American writers, in the company of such giants as Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, and Thomas Pynchon. His 1997 novel Underworld
Underworld (DeLillo novel)
Underworld is a postmodern novel published in 1997 by Don DeLillo. It was nominated for the National Book Award, was a best-seller, and is one of DeLillo's better-known novels....

, a gargantuan work chronicling American life through and immediately after the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 and examining with equal depth subjects as various as baseball and nuclear weapons, is generally agreed upon to be his masterpiece and was the runner-up in a survey asking writers to identify the most important work of fiction of the last 25 years. Among his other important novels are Libra
Libra (novel)
Libra is a novel written by Don DeLillo. It focuses on the life of Lee Harvey Oswald and offers a speculative account of the events that shaped the assassination of President John F...

(1988), Mao II
Mao II
Mao II, published in 1991, is Don DeLillo's tenth novel. It was the winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1992. The title is derived from a series of Andy Warhol silkscreen prints depicting Mao Zedong. This book was dedicated to DeLillo's editor, Gordon Lish.-Plot summary:A reclusive novelist...

(1991) and Falling Man
Falling Man (novel)
Falling Man is the title of a Don DeLillo novel, published May 15, 2007. An excerpt from the novel appeared in short story form as "Still Life" in the April 9, 2007, issue of The New Yorker magazine.-Plot summary:...

(2007).

Seizing on the distinctly postmodern techniques of digression
Digression
Digression is a section of a composition or speech that is an intentional change of subject. In Classical rhetoric since Corax of Syracuse, especially in Institutio Oratoria of Quintilian, the digression was a regular part of any oration or composition...

, narrative fragmentation and elaborate symbolism
Symbolism (arts)
Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts. In literature, the style had its beginnings with the publication Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire...

, and strongly influenced by the works of Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace was an American author of novels, essays, and short stories, and a professor at Pomona College in Claremont, California...

 began his writing career with The Broom of the System
The Broom of the System
The Broom of the System is the first novel by the American writer David Foster Wallace, published in 1987.-Background:Wallace stated that the initial idea for the novel sprang from a remark made by an old girlfriend. According to Wallace, she said "she would rather be a character in a piece of...

, published to moderate acclaim in 1987
1987 in literature
The year 1987 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*Tom Wolfe was paid $5 million for the film rights to his novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, the most ever earned by an author, at the time.-Fiction:...

. His second and final novel, Infinite Jest
Infinite Jest
Infinite Jest is a 1996 novel by David Foster Wallace. The lengthy and complex work takes place in a semi-parodic future version of North America, and touches on tennis, substance addiction and recovery programs, depression, child abuse, family relationships, advertising and popular entertainment,...

(1997), a futuristic portrait of America and a playful critique of the media-saturated nature of American life, has been consistently ranked among the most important works of the 20th century. In addition to his novels, he also authored three acclaimed short story collections: Girl with Curious Hair
Girl with Curious Hair
Girl with Curious Hair is a collection of short stories by David Foster Wallace first published in 1989. Though the stories are not related, many of them share the theme of society's fascination with celebrity, some using real celebrities, including Alex Trebek, David Letterman and Lyndon Johnson,...

(1989), Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men is a collection of 23 short stories by David Foster Wallace. Several of the stories are entitled "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men" and are presented as transcripts of interviews with male subjects...

(1999) and Oblivion
Oblivion
Oblivion may refer to:*The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, a 2006 video game*Oblivion , a Marvel Comics character*Oblivion , a 1994 western/science fiction film from Full Moon Entertainment...

(2004). Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen is an American novelist and essayist. His third novel, The Corrections , a sprawling, satirical family drama, drew widespread critical acclaim, earned Franzen a National Book Award, and was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction...

, Wallace's friend and contemporary, rose to prominence after the 2001 publication of his National Book Award
National Book Award
The National Book Awards are a set of American literary awards. Started in 1950, the Awards are presented annually to American authors for literature published in the current year. In 1989 the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization which now oversees and manages the National Book...

-winning third novel, The Corrections
The Corrections
The Corrections is a 2001 novel by American author Jonathan Franzen. It revolves around the troubles of an elderly Midwestern couple and their three adult children, tracing their lives from the mid-twentieth century to "one last Christmas" together near the turn of the millennium...

. He began his writing career in 1988
1988 in literature
The year 1988 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-New books:*Margaret Atwood - Cat's Eye*J.G. Ballard - Memories of the Space Age*Iain M...

 with the well-received The Twenty-Seventh City
The Twenty-Seventh City
The Twenty-Seventh City is Jonathan Franzen's debut novel, published in 1988. A complex, partly satirical thriller that studies a family unraveling under intense pressure, the novel is set amidst intricate political conspiracy and financial upheaval in St. Louis, Missouri in the year 1984.-Plot:The...

, a novel centering on his native St. Louis, but did not gain national attention until the publication of his essay, "Perchance to Dream," in Harper's Magazine
Harper's Magazine
Harper's Magazine is a monthly magazine of literature, politics, culture, finance, and the arts, with a generally left-wing perspective. It is the second-oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the U.S. . The current editor is Ellen Rosenbush, who replaced Roger Hodge in January 2010...

, discussing the cultural role of the writer in the new millennium through the prism of his own frustrations. The Corrections
The Corrections
The Corrections is a 2001 novel by American author Jonathan Franzen. It revolves around the troubles of an elderly Midwestern couple and their three adult children, tracing their lives from the mid-twentieth century to "one last Christmas" together near the turn of the millennium...

, a tragicomedy
Tragicomedy
Tragicomedy is fictional work that blends aspects of the genres of tragedy and comedy. In English literature, from Shakespeare's time to the nineteenth century, tragicomedy referred to a serious play with either a happy ending or enough jokes throughout the play to lighten the mood.-Classical...

 about the disintegrating Lambert family, has been called "the literary phenomenon of [its] decade" and was ranked as one of the greatest novels of the past century. In 2010, he published Freedom to great critical acclaim.

Other notable writers of the turn of the 20th century include Michael Chabon
Michael Chabon
Michael Chabon born May 24, 1963) is an American author and "one of the most celebrated writers of his generation", according to The Virginia Quarterly Review....

, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a 2000 novel by American author Michael Chabon that won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2001. The novel follows the lives of two Jewish cousins before, during, and after World War II. They are a Czech artist named Joe Kavalier and a Brooklyn-born...

(2000) tells the story of two friends, Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay, as they rise through the ranks of the comics
Comics
Comics denotes a hybrid medium having verbal side of its vocabulary tightly tied to its visual side in order to convey narrative or information only, the latter in case of non-fiction comics, seeking synergy by using both visual and verbal side in...

 industry in its heyday; Denis Johnson
Denis Johnson
Denis Hale Johnson is an American author who is known for his short-story collection Jesus' Son and his novel Tree of Smoke , which won the National Book Award. He also writes plays, poetry and non-fiction.- Biography :...

, whose 2007 novel Tree of Smoke
Tree of Smoke
Tree of Smoke is a 2007 novel by American author Denis Johnson which won the National Book Award for fiction and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. It is about a man named Skip Sands who joins the CIA in 1965, and begins working in Vietnam during the American involvement there. The time frame...

about falsified intelligence during Vietnam both won the National Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was called by critic Michiko Kakutani
Michiko Kakutani
is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for The New York Times and is considered by many to be a leading literary critic in the United States.-Life and career:...

 "one of the classic works of literature produced by [the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

]"; and Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich
Karen Louise Erdrich, known as Louise Erdrich, is an author of novels, poetry, and children's books featuring Native American heritage. She is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant writers of the second wave of what critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance...

, whose 2008 novel The Plague of Doves, a distinctly Faulknerian, polyphonic examination of the tribal experience set against the backdrop of murder in the fictional town of Pluto, ND, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Minority literatures


One of the key developments in late-20th-century American literature was the rise to prominence of literature written by and about ethnic minorities beyond African Americans and Jewish Americans, who had already established their literary inheritances. This development came alongside the growth of the Civil Rights movements and its corollary, the Ethnic Pride movement, which led to the creation of Ethnic Studies
Ethnic studies
Ethnic studies is the interdisciplinary study of racialized peoples in the world in relation to ethnicity. It evolved in the second half of the 20th century partly in response to charges that traditional disciplines such as anthropology, history, English, ethnology, Asian studies, and orientalism...

 programs in most major universities. These programs helped establish the new ethnic literature as worthy objects of academic study, alongside such other new areas of literary study as women's literature, gay and lesbian literature, working-class literature, postcolonial literature, and the rise of literary theory
Literary theory
Literary theory in a strict sense is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature. However, literary scholarship since the 19th century often includes—in addition to, or even instead of literary theory in the strict sense—considerations of...

 as a key component of academic literary study.

After being relegated to cookbooks and autobiographies for most of the 20th century, Asian American literature achieved widespread notice through Maxine Hong Kingston
Maxine Hong Kingston
Maxine Hong Kingston is a Chinese American author and Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated with a BA in English in 1962. Kingston has written three novels and several works of non-fiction about the experiences of Chinese immigrants living in the United...

's fictional memoir, The Woman Warrior
The Woman Warrior
The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts is a memoir by Maxine Hong Kingston, published by Vintage Books in 1975. Although there are many scholarly debates surrounding the official genre classification of the book, it can best be described as a work of creative non-fiction.Throughout...

(1976), and her novels China Men (1980) and Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book
Tripmaster Monkey
Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book is the third book written by Maxine Hong Kingston, and was published in 1989. The story follows Wittman Ah Sing, an American graduate of University of California, Berkeley of Chinese ancestry in his adventures about San Francisco during the 1960s...

. Chinese-American author Ha Jin
Ha Jin
Jīn Xuěfēi is a contemporary Chinese-American writer and novelist using the pen name Ha Jin . Ha comes from his favorite city, Harbin.-Early life:...

 in 1999 won the National Book Award
National Book Award
The National Book Awards are a set of American literary awards. Started in 1950, the Awards are presented annually to American authors for literature published in the current year. In 1989 the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization which now oversees and manages the National Book...

 for his second novel, Waiting
Waiting (novel)
Waiting is a novel by award-winning author Ha Jin. The book is based on a true story that Jin heard from his wife when they were visiting her family at an army hospital in China. At the hospital was an army doctor who had waited eighteen years to get a divorce so he could marry his longtime friend,...

, about a Chinese soldier in the Revolutionary Army
National Revolutionary Army
The National Revolutionary Army , pre-1928 sometimes shortened to 革命軍 or Revolutionary Army and between 1928-1947 as 國軍 or National Army was the Military Arm of the Kuomintang from 1925 until 1947, as well as the national army of the Republic of China during the KMT's period of party rule...

 who has to wait 18 years to divorce his wife for another woman, all the while having to worry about persecution for his protracted affair, and twice won the PEN/Faulkner Award, in 2000 for Waiting and in 2005 for War Trash
War Trash
War Trash is a novel by the Chinese author Ha Jin, who has long lived in the United States and who writes in English. It takes the form of a memoir written by the fictional character Yu Yuan, a man who eventually becomes a soldier in the Chinese People's Volunteer Army and who is sent to Korea to...

. Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri is a Bengali American author. Lahiri's debut short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies , won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and her first novel, The Namesake , was adapted into the popular film of the same name. She was born Nilanjana Sudeshna, which she says are both...

 won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her debut collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies
Interpreter of Maladies
Interpreter of Maladies is a book collection of nine short stories by Indian American author Jhumpa Lahiri published in 1999. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award in the year 2000 and has sold over 15 million copies worldwide...

(1999), and went on to write a well-received novel, The Namesake
The Namesake
The Namesake is the second book by author Jhumpa Lahiri. It was originally a novella published in The New Yorker and was later expanded to a full length novel. It explores many of the same emotional and cultural themes as her Pulitzer Prize-winning short story collection Interpreter of Maladies...

(2003), which was shortly adapted to film
The Namesake (film)
The Namesake is a 2006 film which was released in the United States on March 9, 2007, following screenings at film festivals in Toronto and New York City. It was directed by Mira Nair and is based upon the novel of the same name by Jhumpa Lahiri, who appeared in the movie. Sooni Taraporevala...

 in 2007. In her second collection of stories, Unaccustomed Earth
Unaccustomed Earth
Unaccustomed Earth is the latest book from Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri. After Interpreter of Maladies, the Pulitzer Prize winning book, this is her second collection of short stories. Just like her other books, Unaccustomed Earth is also a reflection of life with two separate...

, released to widespread commercial and critical success, Lahiri shifts focus and treats the experiences of the second and third generation
Immigrant generations
The term first-generation [citizen of a country], e.g., "first-generation Ruritanian" may have either of two different meanings:*A citizen of the country who is a naturalized immigrant.or*A citizen whose parents are naturalized immigrants....

. Other notable Asian-American (but not immigrant) novelists include Amy Tan
Amy Tan
Amy Tan is an American writer whose works explore mother-daughter relationships. Her most well-known work is The Joy Luck Club, which has been translated into 35 languages...

, best known for her novel, The Joy Luck Club
The Joy Luck Club
The Joy Luck Club is a best-selling novel written by Amy Tan. It focuses on four Chinese American immigrant families in San Francisco, California who start a club known as "the Joy Luck Club," playing the Chinese game of mahjong for money while feasting on a variety of foods...

(1989), tracing the lives of four immigrant families brought together by the game of Mahjong
Mahjong
Mahjong, sometimes spelled Mah Jongg, is a game that originated in China, commonly played by four players...

, and Korean American novelist Chang-Rae Lee
Chang-Rae Lee
Chang-rae Lee is a Korean American novelist and a professor of creative writing at Princeton University, where he has served as the director of Princeton's Program in Creative Writing.-Early life:...

, who has published Native Speaker
Native Speaker
Native Speaker is Chang-Rae Lee’s first novel. In Native Speaker, he creates a man named Henry Park who tries to assimilate into American society and become a “native speaker.”-Plot summary:...

, A Gesture Life
A Gesture Life
A Gesture Life is a novel written by Chang-Rae Lee, a South Korean author who has been living in the United States since 1965, which takes the form of a narrative of an elderly physician named Doc Hata, who deals with everyday life in a small town in the United States called Bedley Run and who...

,
and Aloft. Such poets as Marilyn Chin
Marilyn Chin
Marilyn Chin is an American poet who grew up in Portland, Oregon, after her family immigrated from Hong Kong. She received an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. Her awards include two National Endowment for the Arts grants, the Stegner Fellowship, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award,...

 and Li-Young Lee
Li-Young Lee
Li-Young Lee is an American poet. He was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents. His maternal grandfather was Yuan Shikai, China's first Republican President, who attempted to make himself emperor...

, Kimiko Hahn
Kimiko Hahn
Kimiko Hahn is an American poet and instructor of poetry.-Personal:Hahn received a bachelor's degree from the University of Iowa and an M.A...

 and Janice Mirikitani
Janice Mirikitani
Janice Mirikitani is an American Sansei poet and activist.She was born in Stockton, California to Shigemi and Ted Mirikitani, who were Nisei farmers in San Joaquin County. During World War II, she was interred along with her family at the Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas. Following the...

 have also achieved prominence, as has playwright David Henry Hwang
David Henry Hwang
David Henry Hwang is an American playwright who has risen to prominence as the preeminent Asian American dramatist in the U.S.He was born in Los Angeles, California and was educated at the Yale School of Drama and Stanford University...

. Equally important has been the effort to recover earlier Asian American authors, started by Frank Chin
Frank Chin
Frank Chin is an American author and playwright.- Life and career :Frank Chin was born in Berkeley, California, but was raised to the age of six by a retired Vaudeville couple in Placerville, California. At six his mother brought him back to the San Francisco Bay Area to live in Oakland Chinatown...

 and his colleagues; this effort has brought Sui Sin Far, Toshio Mori
Toshio Mori
Toshio Mori is an American author, best known for being one of the earliest Japanese American writers to publish a book of fiction.-Biography:...

, Carlos Bulosan
Carlos Bulosan
Also known as Julius Zafra , a Filipino, an English-language novelist and poet who spent most of his life in the United States, and is best known for the semi-autobiographical America Is in the Heart.-Life and career:Carlos Bulosan was born to Ilocano parents in...

, John Okada
John Okada
John Okada was a Japanese-American writer. Born in Seattle, Washington, he was a student at the University of Washington when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Okada and his family were interned at Minidoka in 1942...

, Hisaye Yamamoto
Hisaye Yamamoto
Hisaye Yamamoto was a Japanese American author. She is best known for the short story collection Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories, first published in 1988...

 and others to prominence.

Latina/o literature also became important during this period, starting with acclaimed novels by Tomás Rivera
Tomás Rivera
Tomás Rivera was a Chicano author, poet, and educator. He was born in Texas to migrant farm workers, and worked in the fields as a young boy...

 (...y no se lo tragó la tierra) and Rudolfo Anaya
Rudolfo Anaya
Rudolfo Anaya is an Mexican-American author. Best known for his 1972 novel Bless Me, Ultima, Anaya is considered one of the founders of the canon of contemporary Chicano literature.- Biography :...

 (Bless Me, Ultima
Bless Me, Ultima
Bless Me, Ultima is a novel by Rudolfo Anaya, published in 1972. It is part of a trilogy along with Heart of Aztlan and Tortuga. It is included in the list of most commonly challenged books in the U.S...

), and the emergence of Chicano theater with Luis Valdez
Luis Valdez
Luis Valdez is an American playwright, writer and film director.He is regarded as the father of Chicano theater in the United States.-Education:...

 and Teatro Campesino
Teatro Campesino
El Teatro Campesino , is a theatrical troupe founded in 1965 as the cultural arm of the United Farm Workers. The original actors were all farmworkers, and El Teatro Campesino enacted events inspired by the lives of their audience...

. Latina writing became important thanks to authors such as Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Cisneros is an American writer best known for her acclaimed first novel The House on Mango Street and her subsequent short story collection Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories...

, an icon of an emerging Chicano literature
Chicano literature
Chicano literature is the literature written by Mexican Americans in the United States. Although its origins can be traced back to the sixteenth century, the bulk of Chicano literature dates from after 1848, when the USA annexed large parts of what had been Mexico in the wake of the...

 whose 1984 bildungsroman
Bildungsroman
In literary criticism, bildungsroman or coming-of-age story is a literary genre which focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood , and in which character change is thus extremely important...

 The House on Mango Street
The House on Mango Street
The House on Mango Street is a coming-of-age novel by Mexican-American writer Sandra Cisneros, published in 1984. It deals with a young Latina girl, Esperanza Cordero, growing up in Chicago with Chicanos and Puerto Ricans. Esperanza is determined to "say goodbye" to her impoverished Latino...

is taught in schools across the United States, Denise Chavez
Denise Chavez
Denise Elia Chavez is an American author, playwright, and stage director. She was born to an Hispano family in Las Cruces, New Mexico, United States, and graduated from Madonna High School in Mesilla. She received her Bachelor's from New Mexico State University and Master's degrees in Dramatic...

's The Last of the Menu Girls and Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza
In the first chapter of Borderlands , Gloria E. Anzaldúa uses striking imagery to illustrate the pain the border has brought to the mestizos by both dividing their culture and fencing them in – trapping them on one side. She then exemplifies the most important reason the deadly border exists: it is...

. Dominican-American author Junot Díaz
Junot Díaz
Junot Díaz is a Dominican-American writer and creative writing professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology . Central to Díaz's work is the immigrant experience...

, received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his 2007 novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a best-selling novel written by Dominican author Junot Díaz. Although a work of fiction, the novel is set in New Jersey where Díaz was raised and deals explicitly with his ancestral homeland's experience under dictator Rafael Trujillo...

, which tells the story of an overweight Dominican boy growing up as a social outcast in Paterson, New Jersey
Paterson, New Jersey
Paterson is a city serving as the county seat of Passaic County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, its population was 146,199, rendering it New Jersey's third largest city and one of the largest cities in the New York City Metropolitan Area, despite a decrease of 3,023...

. Another Domincan author, Julia Alvarez
Julia Álvarez
Julia Alvarez is a Dominican-American poet, novelist, and essayist. Born in New York of Dominican descent, she spent the first ten years of her childhood in the Dominican Republic, until her father's involvement in a political rebellion forced her family to flee the country.Alvarez rose to...

, is well known for How the García Girls Lost Their Accents
How the García Girls Lost Their Accents
How the García Girls Lost Their Accents is a 1991 novel written by Dominican-American poet, novelist, and essayist Julia Alvarez. Told in reverse chronological order and narrated from shifting perspectives, the text possesses distinct qualities of a bildungsroman novel...

and In the Time of the Butterflies
In the Time of the Butterflies
In the Time of the Butterflies is a historical novel by Julia Alvarez, relating an account of the Mirabal sisters during the time of the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic. The book is written in the first and third person, by and about the Mirabal sisters...

. Cuban American
Cuban American
A Cuban American is a United States citizen who traces his or her "national origin" to Cuba. Cuban Americans are also considered native born Americans with Cuban parents or Cuban-born persons who were raised and educated in US...

 author Oscar Hijuelos
Oscar Hijuelos
Oscar Jerome Hijuelos is an American novelist. He is the first Hispanic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.- Early life and career :...

 won a Pulitzer for The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love is a 1989 novel by Oscar Hijuelos.It is about the lives of two Cuban brothers and musicians, Cesar and Nestor Castillo, who immigrate to the United States and settle in New York City in the early 1950s....

, and Cristina García
Cristina García
Cristina García is a Cuban-born American journalist and novelist. After working for Time Magazine as a researcher, reporter, and Miami bureau chief, she turned to writing fiction. Her first novel, Dreaming in Cuban , received critical acclaim and was a finalist for the National Book Award...

 received acclaim for Dreaming in Cuban
Dreaming in Cuban
Dreaming in Cuban is the first novel written by author Cristina García, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. This novel moves between Cuba and the United States featuring three generations of a single family. The novel focuses particularly on the females—Celia del Pino, her daughters...

.
Well known Puerto Rican authors from this period include novelist Nicholasa Mohr
Nicholasa Mohr
Nicholasa Mohr is one of the best known Nuyorican writers. Her works tell of growing up in the Puerto Rican communities of the Bronx and El Barrio and of the difficulties Puerto Rican women face in the United States.- Life and career :...

, playwright José Rivera
José Rivera (playwright)
José Rivera is a playwright and the first Puerto Rican screenwriter to be nominated for an Oscar.-Early years:Rivera was born in the Santurce section of San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1955. He was raised in Arecibo where he lived until 1959. Rivera's family migrated from Puerto Rico when he was 4 years...

, poet Judith Ortiz Cofer
Judith Ortiz Cofer
Judith Ortiz Cofer is a Puerto Rican author. Her work spans a range of literary genres including poetry, short stories, autobiography, essays, and Young-adult fiction.-Early years:...

, and the Nuyorican Poets Café
Nuyorican Poets Café
The Nuyorican Poets Café is a non-profit organization in Alphabet City, Manhattan. It is a bastion of the Nuyorican art movement in New York City, USA, and has become a forum for poetry, music, hip hop, video, visual arts, comedy and theatre.-History:...

.

Spurred by the success of N. Scott Momaday
N. Scott Momaday
Navarre Scott Momaday is a Kiowa-Cherokee Pulitzer Prize-winning writer from Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona.-Background:...

's Pulitzer Prize winning House Made of Dawn
House Made of Dawn
House Made of Dawn is a novel by N. Scott Momaday, widely credited as leading the way for the breakthrough of Native American literature into the mainstream...

, Native American literature showed explosive growth during this period, known as the Native American Renaissance
Native American Renaissance
The Native American Renaissance was a term originally coined by critic Kenneth Lincoln in his 1983 book of the same title. Lincoln’s goal was to explore the explosion in production of literary works by Native Americans in the decade and a half after N. Scott Momaday had won the Pulitzer Prize in...

, through such novelists as Leslie Marmon Silko
Leslie Marmon Silko
Leslie Marmon Silko is a Native American writer of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, and one of the key figures in the second wave of what Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance...

 (e.g., Ceremony
Ceremony (Silko novel)
Ceremony is a novel by Native American writer Leslie Marmon Silko, first published by Penguin in 1977.The story documents the troubles of Tayo, a half-white, half-Laguna Indian, as he struggles to cope with returning to traditional Native American society after surviving the Bataan Death March of...

), Gerald Vizenor
Gerald Vizenor
Gerald Robert Vizenor is a Native American writer, and an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, White Earth Reservation. One of the most prolific Native American writers, with over 30 books to his name, Vizenor also taught for many years at the University of California, Berkeley, where...

 (e.g., Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles
Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles
Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles is a 1990 novel by Gerald Vizenor; it is a revised version of his 1978 debut novel Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart...

and numerous essays on Native American literature), Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich
Karen Louise Erdrich, known as Louise Erdrich, is an author of novels, poetry, and children's books featuring Native American heritage. She is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant writers of the second wave of what critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance...

 (Love Medicine
Love Medicine
Love Medicine is Louise Erdrich’s first novel, published in 1984. Erdrich revised and expanded the novel for an edition issued in 1993, and this version was considered the definitive edition until 2009 when Erdrich re-edited it...

and several other novels that use a recurring set of characters and locations in the manner of William Faulkner
William Faulkner
William Cuthbert Faulkner was an American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner worked in a variety of media; he wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays and screenplays during his career...

), James Welch (e.g., Winter in the Blood
Winter in the Blood
Winter in the Blood is the first novel of James Welch. The Native American author won several national literary awards for his later novel Fools Crow, as well as receiving positive reviews for Indian Lawyer and The Death of Jim Loney. Winter in the Blood was published in 1974 by Harper & Row...

), Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie
Sherman Joseph Alexie, Jr. is a writer, poet, filmmaker, and occasional comedian. Much of his writing draws on his experiences as a Native American. Two of Alexie's best known works are The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven , a book of short stories and Smoke Signals, a film...

 (e.g., The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is a 1993 collection of interconnected short stories by Sherman Alexie. The characters and stories in the book, particularly "This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" provided the basis of Alexie's screenplay for the film Smoke Signals.The...

), and poets Simon Ortiz and Joy Harjo
Joy Harjo
Joy Harjo is a Native American poet, musician, and author of ancestry. Known primarily as a poet, Harjo has also taught at the college level, played alto saxophone with a band called Poetic Justice, edited literary journals, and written screenplays. She is a member of the Muscogee Nation and...

. The success of these authors has brought renewed attention to earlier generations, including Zitkala-Sa
Zitkala-Sa
Gertrude Simmons Bonnin , better known by her pen name, Zitkala-Sa , was a Yankton Dakota writer, editor, musician, teacher and political activist. She published in national magazines. With William F...

, John Joseph Mathews, D'Arcy McNickle
D'Arcy McNickle
D'Arcy McNickle was a writer, Native American activist and anthropologist.-Biography:D’Arcy McNickle, an enrolled Salish Kootenai on the Flathead Indian Reservation, became one of the most prominent twentieth-century American Indian activists...

 and Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove (author)
Mourning Dove was a Native American author and best known for her 1927 novel Cogewea the Half-Blood: A Depiction of the Great Montana Cattle Range, which tells the story of Cogewea, a mixed-blood ranch woman on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The novel is one of the first written by a Native...

.

More recently, Arab American literature, largely unnoticed since the New York Pen League of the 1920s, has become more prominent through the work of Diana Abu-Jaber
Diana Abu-Jaber
Diana Abu-Jaber is Jordanian American author and a professor at Portland State University. She was born in Syracuse, New York. Her father was Jordanian and her mother was American, descended from Irish and German roots. At the age of seven she moved with her family for two years to Jordan...

, whose novels include Arabian Jazz
Arabian Jazz
Arabian Jazz is a novel written by Diana Abu-Jaber and published in 1993.This fictional work traces the occurrences of an immigrant Jordanian family and their integration into American society...

and Crescent and the memoir The Language of Baklava. Other important authors include Etel Adnan
Etel Adnan
Etel Adnan is a Lebanese-American poet, essayist, and visual artist.In 2003 MELUS, the journal of the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, called Adnan "arguably the most celebrated and accomplished Arab American author writing today."She has said, "As for any...

 and poet Naomi Shihab Nye
Naomi Shihab Nye
Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet, songwriter, and novelist. She was born to a Palestinian father and American mother. Although she regards herself as a "wandering poet", she refers to San Antonio as her home.-Career:...

.

American Nobel Prize in Literature winners

  • 1930: Sinclair Lewis
    Sinclair Lewis
    Harry Sinclair Lewis was an American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of...

     (novelist)
  • 1936: Eugene O'Neill
    Eugene O'Neill
    Eugene Gladstone O'Neill was an American playwright and Nobel laureate in Literature. His poetically titled plays were among the first to introduce into American drama techniques of realism earlier associated with Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and Swedish...

     (playwright)
  • 1938: Pearl S. Buck
    Pearl S. Buck
    Pearl Sydenstricker Buck also known by her Chinese name Sai Zhenzhu , was an American writer who spent most of her time until 1934 in China. Her novel The Good Earth was the best-selling fiction book in the U.S. in 1931 and 1932, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932...

     (biographer and novelist)
  • 1948: T. S. Eliot
    T. S. Eliot
    Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

     (poet and playwright)
  • 1949: William Faulkner
    William Faulkner
    William Cuthbert Faulkner was an American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner worked in a variety of media; he wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays and screenplays during his career...

     (novelist)
  • 1954: Ernest Hemingway
    Ernest Hemingway
    Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

     (novelist)
  • 1962: John Steinbeck
    John Steinbeck
    John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. was an American writer. He is widely known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden and the novella Of Mice and Men...

     (novelist)
  • 1976: Saul Bellow
    Saul Bellow
    Saul Bellow was a Canadian-born Jewish American writer. For his literary contributions, Bellow was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts...

     (novelist)
  • 1978: Isaac Bashevis Singer
    Isaac Bashevis Singer
    Isaac Bashevis Singer – July 24, 1991) was a Polish Jewish American author noted for his short stories. He was one of the leading figures in the Yiddish literary movement, and received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978...

     (novelist, wrote in Yiddish)
  • 1987: Joseph Brodsky
    Joseph Brodsky
    Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky , was a Russian poet and essayist.In 1964, 23-year-old Brodsky was arrested and charged with the crime of "social parasitism" He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972 and settled in America with the help of W. H. Auden and other supporters...

     (poet, wrote in Russian and English)
  • 1993: Toni Morrison
    Toni Morrison
    Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, editor, and professor. Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed characters. Among her best known novels are The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon and Beloved...

     (novelist)

American literary awards


  • American Academy of Arts and Letters
  • Pulitzer Prize
    Pulitzer Prize
    The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

     (Fiction, Drama and Poetry, as well as various non-fiction and journalist categories)
  • National Book Award
    National Book Award
    The National Book Awards are a set of American literary awards. Started in 1950, the Awards are presented annually to American authors for literature published in the current year. In 1989 the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization which now oversees and manages the National Book...

     (Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry and Young-Adult Fiction)
  • American Book Awards
  • PEN literary awards (multiple awards)
  • United States Poet Laureate
  • Bollingen Prize
    Bollingen Prize
    The Bollingen Prize for Poetry, which is currently awarded every two years by Beinecke Library of Yale University, is a literary honor bestowed on an American poet in recognition of the best book of new verse within the last two years, or for lifetime achievement.-Inception and controversy:The...

  • Pushcart Prize
    Pushcart Prize
    The Pushcart Prize is an American literary prize by Pushcart Press that honors the best "poetry, short fiction, essays or literary whatnot" published in the small presses over the previous year. Magazine and small book press editors are invited to nominate up to 6 works they have featured....

  • O. Henry Award
    O. Henry Award
    The O. Henry Award is the only yearly award given to short stories of exceptional merit. The award is named after the American master of the form, O. Henry....


Literary theory and criticism



  • Edgar Allan Poe
    Edgar Allan Poe
    Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective...

    : Dark Romanticism, Short-Story Theory
  • T. S. Eliot
    T. S. Eliot
    Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

    : Modernism
  • Harold Bloom
    Harold Bloom
    Harold Bloom is an American writer and literary critic, and is Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University. He is known for his defense of 19th-century Romantic poets, his unique and controversial theories of poetic influence, and his prodigious literary output, particularly for a literary...

    : Aestheticism
  • Susan Sontag
    Susan Sontag
    Susan Sontag was an American author, literary theorist, feminist and political activist whose works include On Photography and Against Interpretation.-Life:...

    : Against Interpretation
    Against Interpretation
    Against Interpretation and Other Essays is a collection of essays by Susan Sontag which was published in 1966. It includes some of Sontag's best-known works, including "On Style", "Notes on 'Camp'", and the titular essay "Against Interpretation"...

    , On Photography
    On Photography
    On Photography is a 1977 collection of essays by Susan Sontag. It originally appeared as a series of essays in the New York Review of Books between 1973 and 1977.-Contents:...

  • John Updike
    John Updike
    John Hoyer Updike was an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic....

    : Literary realism/modernism and aestheticist critic
  • Michiko Kakutani
    Michiko Kakutani
    is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for The New York Times and is considered by many to be a leading literary critic in the United States.-Life and career:...

    : New York Times critic
  • M. H. Abrams
    M. H. Abrams
    Meyer Howard Abrams is an American literary critic, known for works on Romanticism, in particular his book The Mirror and the Lamp. Under Abrams' editorship, the Norton Anthology of English Literature became the standard text for undergraduate survey courses across the U.S...

    : The Mirror and the Lamp (study of Romanticism)
  • F. O. Mathiessen: originated the concept "American Renaissance
    American Renaissance (literature)
    In American literature, the American Renaissance was a period during which many of the literary works most widely considered American masterpieces were produced. The period is generally defined as the mid-19th century but especially the years roughly from 1850 to 1855...

    "
  • Perry Miller
    Perry Miller
    Perry G. Miller was an American intellectual historian and Harvard University professor. He was an authority on American Puritanism, and a founder of the field of American Studies. Alfred Kazin referred to him as "the master of American intellectual history"...

    : Puritan studies
  • Henry Nash Smith
    Henry Nash Smith
    Henry Nash Smith was an American culture and literature researcher. He was co-founder of the academic discipline "American studies"...

    : founder of the "Myth and Symbol School" of American criticism
  • Leo Marx
    Leo Marx
    Leo Marx is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an author known for his works in the field of American studies. Marx's work in American studies examines the relationship between technology and culture in 19th and 20th century America. He graduated from Harvard University...

    : The Machine in the Garden
    The Machine in the Garden
    The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America is a work of literary criticism written by Leo Marx, published in 1964....

    (study of technology and culture)
  • Leslie Fiedler
    Leslie Fiedler
    Leslie Aaron Fiedler was a Jewish-American literary critic, known for his interest in mythography and his championing of genre fiction. His work also involves application of psychological theories to American literature. He was in practical terms one of the early postmodernist critics working...

    : Love and Death in the American Novel
  • Stanley Fish
    Stanley Fish
    Stanley Eugene Fish is an American literary theorist and legal scholar. He was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island...

    : Pragmatism
  • Henry Louis Gates: African American literary theory
  • Gerald Vizenor
    Gerald Vizenor
    Gerald Robert Vizenor is a Native American writer, and an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, White Earth Reservation. One of the most prolific Native American writers, with over 30 books to his name, Vizenor also taught for many years at the University of California, Berkeley, where...

    : Native American literary theory
  • William Dean Howells
    William Dean Howells
    William Dean Howells was an American realist author and literary critic. Nicknamed "The Dean of American Letters", he was particularly known for his tenure as editor of the Atlantic Monthly as well as his own writings, including the Christmas story "Christmas Every Day" and the novel The Rise of...

    : Literary realism
  • Stephen Greenblatt
    Stephen Greenblatt
    Stephen Jay Greenblatt is a literary critic, theorist and scholar.Greenblatt is regarded by many as one of the founders of New Historicism, a set of critical practices that he often refers to as "cultural poetics"; his works have been influential since the early 1980s when he introduced the term...

    : New Historicism
  • Geoffrey Hartman
    Geoffrey Hartman
    Geoffrey H. Hartman is a German-born American literary theorist, sometimes identified with the Yale School of deconstruction, but also has written on a wide range of subjects, and cannot be categorized by a single school or method.-Biography:...

    : Yale school of deconstruction
  • John Crowe Ransom
    John Crowe Ransom
    John Crowe Ransom was an American poet, essayist, magazine editor, and professor.-Life:...

    : New Criticism
  • Cleanth Brooks
    Cleanth Brooks
    Cleanth Brooks was an influential American literary critic and professor. He is best known for his contributions to New Criticism in the mid-twentieth century and for revolutionizing the teaching of poetry in American higher education...

    : New Criticism
  • Kenneth Burke
    Kenneth Burke
    Kenneth Duva Burke was a major American literary theorist and philosopher. Burke's primary interests were in rhetoric and aesthetics.-Personal history:...

    : Rhetoric studies
  • Elaine Showalter
    Elaine Showalter
    Elaine Showalter is an American literary critic, feminist, and writer on cultural and social issues. She is one of the founders of feminist literary criticism in United States academia, developing the concept and practice of gynocritics.She is well known and respected in both academic and popular...

    : Feminist criticism
  • Sandra M. Gilbert: Feminist criticism
  • Susan Gubar
    Susan Gubar
    Dr. Susan D. Gubar is an American academic and Distinguished Professor of English and Women's Studies at Indiana University. She is co-author with Dr. Sandra M. Gilbert of the standard feminist text, The Madwoman in the Attic and a trilogy on women's writing in the twentieth century.Her book...

    : Feminist criticism
  • J. Hillis Miller
    J. Hillis Miller
    Joseph Hillis Miller, Jr. is an American literary critic who has been heavily influenced by—and who has heavily influenced—deconstruction.- Early life and education :...

    : Deconstruction
  • Edward Said
    Edward Said
    Edward Wadie Saïd was a Palestinian-American literary theorist and advocate for Palestinian rights. He was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and a founding figure in postcolonialism...

    : Postcolonial criticism
  • Jonathan Culler
    Jonathan Culler
    Jonathan Culler is a class of 1966 Harvard graduate and Professor of English at Cornell University. He is an important figure of the structuralism movement of literary theory and criticism.- Background and career:...

    : Critical theory, deconstruction
  • Judith Butler
    Judith Butler
    Judith Butler is an American post-structuralist philosopher, who has contributed to the fields of feminism, queer theory, political philosophy, and ethics. She is a professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley.Butler received her Ph.D...

    : Post-structuralist feminism
  • Gloria E. Anzaldúa
    Gloria E. Anzaldúa
    Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa was considered a leading scholar of Chicano cultural theory and Queer theory. She loosely based her most well-known book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza on her life growing up on the Mexican-Texas border and incorporated her lifelong feelings of social and...

    : Latina literary theory
  • Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
    Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
    Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick was an American academic scholar in the fields of gender studies, queer theory , and critical theory. Her critical writings helped create the field of queer studies...

    : Queer theory


See also

  • Short story
    Short story
    A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

  • Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature
    Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature
    Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature was published in 1991 by Harper Collins Publishers. The book contains facts on American authors' major and lesser works, summarizes the critical consensus, gives biographical information and often lists secondary biographical and critical works....

  • Highlighter
    Highlighter
    A highlighter is a felt-tip pen which is used to draw attention to sections of documents by marking them with a vivid, translucent colour.A typical highlighter is fluorescent yellow, coloured with pyranine.-History:...


Additional genres

  • Detective fiction
    Detective fiction
    Detective fiction is a sub-genre of crime fiction and mystery fiction in which an investigator , either professional or amateur, investigates a crime, often murder.-In ancient literature:...

  • Haiku in English
    Haiku in English
    Haiku in English is a development of the Japanese haiku poetic form in the English language.Contemporary haiku are written in many languages, but most poets outside of Japan are concentrated in the English-speaking countries....

  • Horror fiction
    Horror fiction
    Horror fiction also Horror fantasy is a philosophy of literature, which is intended to, or has the capacity to frighten its readers, inducing feelings of horror and terror. It creates an eerie atmosphere. Horror can be either supernatural or non-supernatural...

  • Romance novel
    Romance novel
    The romance novel is a literary genre developed in Western culture, mainly in English-speaking countries. Novels in this genre place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending." Through the late...

  • Science fiction
    Science fiction
    Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

     and fantasy
  • Western fiction
    Western fiction
    Western fiction is a genre of literature set in the American Old West frontier and typically set from the late eighteenth to the late nineteenth century. Well-known writers of Western fiction include Zane Grey from the early 1900s and Louis L'Amour from the mid 20th century...

  • Lovecraftianism
    Lovecraftian horror
    Lovecraftian horror is a sub-genre of horror fiction which emphasizes the cosmic horror of the unknown over gore or other elements of shock, though these may still be present. It is named after American author H. P...


Regional and minority focuses in American literature

  • Chicago literature
    Chicago literature
    Chicago literature finds its roots in the city's tradition of lucid, direct journalism, lending to a strong tradition of social realism. In the Encyclopedia of Chicago, Northwestern University Professor Bill Savage describes Chicago fiction as prose which tries to "capture the essence of the city,...

  • Southern literature
    Southern literature
    Southern literature is defined as American literature about the Southern United States or by writers from this region...

  • Literature in Hawaii
    Literature in Hawaii
    -List of authors:*Eric Chock*Kiana Davenport*Maxine Hong Kingston*George Parsons Lathrop, journalist, poet*Rodney Morales*Milton Murayama*Eric Paul Shaffer*Tara Bray Smith*Terence McKenna*Kirby Wright*Lois-Ann Yamanaka*George Kahumoku, Jr.*Ingrid Naiman...

  • Texas literature
    Texas literature
    Texas literature is literature about the history and culture of Texas. It includes every literary genre and dates from the time of the first European contact.-Non-fiction:...

  • New Orleans in fiction
    New Orleans in Fiction
    New Orleans is featured in a number of works of fiction. This article in an ongoing effort to list the books, movies, television shows, and comics that are set or filmed, in whole or part, in New Orleans.-Books and plays:...

  • Boston in fiction
    Boston in fiction
    This articles lists various works of fiction that take place in Boston, Massachusetts:-Videogames:*The Scout, a fictional character in the videogame called Team Fortress 2 is known to be from Boston....

  • LGBT literature
    LGBT literature
    Gay literature is a collective term for literature produced by or for the LGBT community, or which involves characters, plot lines or themes portraying male homosexual behavior.-Subgenres:...

  • Deaf American literature
  • American Catholic literature
    American Catholic literature
    American Catholic literature emerged in the early 1900s as its own genre. Catholic literature is not exclusively literature written by Catholic authors or about Catholic things, but rather Catholic literature is “defined… by a particular Catholic perspective applied to it’s subject...

  • American literature in Spanish


Ethnic minority literature: articles and lists
  • Armenian American literature
    Armenian American literature
    Armenian American literature constitutes a diverse body of literature that incorporates American writers of Armenian ancestry.Encompassing a cross section of literary genres and forms, Armenian American writers often incorporate some common themes Armenian American literature constitutes a diverse...

  • African American literature
    African American literature
    African-American literature is the body of literature produced in the United States by writers of African descent. The genre traces its origins to the works of such late 18th century writers as Phillis Wheatley and Olaudah Equiano, reaching early high points with slave narratives and the Harlem...

    • List of African American writers
  • Jewish American literature
    Jewish American literature
    Jewish American Literature holds an essential place in the literary history of the United States. It encompasses traditions of writing in English, primarily, as well as in other languages, the most important of which has been Yiddish...

    • List of Jewish American writers
  • List of Arab American writers
  • List of writers from peoples indigenous to the Americas
    • Native American Renaissance
      Native American Renaissance
      The Native American Renaissance was a term originally coined by critic Kenneth Lincoln in his 1983 book of the same title. Lincoln’s goal was to explore the explosion in production of literary works by Native Americans in the decade and a half after N. Scott Momaday had won the Pulitzer Prize in...

  • Asian American literature
    Asian American literature
    Although immigrants from Asia and Americans of Asian descent have been writing in the United States since the 19th century, Asian American literature as a category of writing only came into existence in the early 1970s...

    • Chinese American literature
      Chinese American literature
      Chinese American literature is the body of literature produced in the United States by writers of Chinese descent. The genre began in the 19th century and flowered in the 20th with such authors as Sui Sin Far, Frank Chin, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Amy Tan....

    • Korean American writers
      Korean American writers
      Korean American literature treats a wide range of topics including Korean life in America, the interesction of American and Korean culture in the lives of young Korean Americans, as well as life and history on the Korean peninsula.-Korean American writers:...

    • List of Asian American writers

Hispanic American writers
    • Chicano literature
      Chicano literature
      Chicano literature is the literature written by Mexican Americans in the United States. Although its origins can be traced back to the sixteenth century, the bulk of Chicano literature dates from after 1848, when the USA annexed large parts of what had been Mexico in the wake of the...

    • Chicano poetry
      Chicano poetry
      Chicano poetry is a branch of American literature written by and primarily about Mexican Americans and the Mexican-American way of life in society. The term "Chicano" is a political and cultural term of identity specifically identifying people of Mexican descent who are born in the United States...

    • Puerto Rican literature
    • List of Puerto Rican writers
    • List of Cuban American writers
    • List of Mexican American writers

External links


Further reading