Chronological Movements in American Literature

puritan/colonial
1620-1750

puritan/colonial
bradstreet, edwards

puritan/colonial
Grace is the experience of having one’s feelings radically changed, of having oneself cleansed of envy, vanity, and lust so as to love God and his creation wholly. This purifying gift from God was believed to be granted by God to a select few; it was not a privilege to be earned.

puritan/colonial
Plainness was the desire to return Christianity to the simple forms of worship described in the New Testament. This meant plain dress, plain buildings, and no adornment of any type.

puritan/colonial
Divine mission is the belief that America is a place especially appointed by God to be an example to the rest of the world, a “city upon a hill.”

puritan/colonial
the bible was a model

puritan/colonial
were introspective: They used writing to explore both their inner and outer lives for signs of God’s will and grace.

puritan/colonial
Diaries and histories were their most common form of expression.

puritan/colonial
They favored a plain style that stressed clarity of expression and avoided complicated figures of speech.

revolutionary era/age of reasoning
1750-1800

revolutionary era/age of reasoning
aka the Enlightenment and Neoclassicism

revolutionary era/age of reasoning
benjamin franklin

revolutionary era/age of reasoning
patrick henry

revolutionary era/age of reasoning
thomas jefferson

revolutionary era/age of reasoning
thomas paine

revolutionary era/age of reasoning
People arrive at truth by using reason rather than by relying on the authority of the past, on religion, or on non-rational mental processes like intuition.

revolutionary era/age of reasoning
Deistic and rational in outlook:
• God created the universe but does not interfere in its workings.
• The world operates according to God’s rules, and through the use of reason we can discover those rules
• People are born tabula rasa, a blank slate, and they determine their own fate through their choices and actions.
• People are basically good and perfectible.
• Since God wants people to be happy, they worship God by helping other people.
• Human history is marked by progress toward a more perfect existence.

revolutionary era/age of reasoning
Most writing was political in nature and had the purpose of persuasion. This was an age of pamphlets, oratories, and documents. The American Revolution was as much a war of words and rhetoric as a war of weapons.

romantic era
1800-1860

romantic era
james fennimore cooper

romantic era
william cullen bryant, henry wadsworth lonfellow (transendentelists)

romantic era
emerson and thoreau (antitransendentelists)

romantic era
edgar allen poe and nathanael hawthorne

romantic era
Favored the use of imagination over the use of reason, and intuition over scientific fact as a guide to making decisions. Intuition is insight or knowledge derived from within rather than through the use of logic or reason.

romantic era
Intense interest in and reverence for nature. Celebrated the natural world and those associated with the natural world: the farmer, the Native American, the wilderness man. Saw nature as a teacher and as a path to spiritual and moral development.

romantic era
Felt that society and government are often corrupt, oppressive, and unnecessary

romantic era
Often champions of the underdog and actively involved in reform movements such as women’s suffrage, child labor reform, and abolitionism.

romantic era
Championed individual freedom and the rights of the individual.

romantic era
Believed that artists should be given freedom to create without restrictions on how they should create; in other words, they believed in artistic license.

romantic era
Interested in the legend, folklore, and history of America; looked to the wisdom of the ages and distrusted technological progress.

romantic era
Were fascinated with the emotions and mysteries of the human psyche (soul, self, mind); they became our first psychological writers.

romantic era
Found beauty and truth in exotic locales, the supernatural realm, and the inner world of the imagination.

romantic era
Explored the issues of mortality, death, and sin that haunt so many humans.

romantic era
Saw poetry as the highest expression of the imagination.

romantic era
Novels, short stories, and poems replaced sermons, songs, and oratories.

romantic era
Gave us our first American literary hero, our first American fiction, and the short story as a literary genre.

realism era
1860-1912

realism era
emily dickinson, walt whitman, mark twain (transitional)

realism era
Ambrose Bierce, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Kate Chopin, Mark Twain (realist writers)

realism era
Aimed at fidelity to the common course of ordinary life.

realism era
Saw themselves as “scientists” who would place a “slice of life” under a literary microscope to examine it in minute detail.

realism era
Often had a harsh, cynical, ironic outlook on life.

realism era
For naturalists, human behavior is determined by forces beyond the individual’s power, especially by heredity and environment. The naturalists tended to look at human life as a grim losing battle.

realism era
the ironist, who juxtaposed human pretensions with the indifference of the universe.

realism era
Had its roots in regionalism, or “local color” writing, literature that emphasizes a specific geographic setting and that makes use of the speech and manners of the people who live in that region.

realism era
Tried to represent faithfully the environment and manners of everyday life. Saw themselves as “scientists” who would place a “slice of life” under a literary microscope to examine it in minute detail.

realism era
Produced psychological fiction, concentrating principally on fine distinctions in character motivation and action.

realism era
Relied on situational and dramatic irony to give their works dramatic effect

realism era
The most significant innovations in writing during this time were the free verse of Walt Whitman and the vernacular style of Mark Twain. Both writers laid the foundation for modern literature with their unique approach to writing.

modern era
1912-1945

modern era
f. scott fitzgerald

modern era
ernest hemingway

modern era
john steinbeck

modern era
Imagists, Harlem Renaissance Poets

modern era
As a result of World War I, experienced feelings of uncertainty, a sense of disillusionment, and a loss of faith in the American Dream. No longer trusted the ideas and values of the world out of which the war had developed. Saw little in their world to praise or even accept. Many became expatriates, members of the “lost generation,” who exiled themselves in Europe.

modern era
Rejected the ideal of a hero as infallible in favor of a hero who is flawed and disillusioned but shows “grace under pressure,” an anti-hero.

modern era
Interested in the inner workings of the human mind; believed that reality is shaped by human perceptions.

modern era
Existential in philosophy: Since life is chaotic, uncertain, confusing, and apparently meaningless, the only way we can give it meaning is in the way we choose to live it.

modern era
Abandoned many traditional forms and techniques and sought to capture modern life in both the form and content of their work.

modern era
Structured stories and novels to reflect the chaos and confusion of human experience. Thus a typical modern story or novel seems to begin at any point the author desires and to end without resolution, leaving the reader with possibilities, not solutions.

modern era
Usually suggested rather than outright stated meaning in their works. Often used symbols and allusions to suggest themes.

modern era
Generally used a limited point of view in their works, because they believed that reality is shaped by people’s perceptions.

modern era
Experimented with a number of literary techniques, including shifting points of view and the stream-of-consciousness mode of narration, in which the reader sees what the narrator thinks in a random association of ideas, presenting thoughts as if they were coming directly from a character’s mind.

modern era
Attempted to “make poetry new” through Imagism. Imagists wrote short poems that used ordinary language and free verse to create sharp, exact, concentrated pictures.

modern era
Included a time of African-American artistic activity centered in Harlem, in New York City, called the Harlem Renaissance.

contemporary era
aka post-modernism

contemporary era
1946-

contemporary era
J. D. Salinger, Arthur Miller, Beats, Confessional Poets

contemporary era
the values of our society and individuals in our society. What do people in our time value? What do these values reveal about us? Often the picture that contemporary writers paint is not a pretty one, as seen in some of the works you’ve read.

contemporary era
In fiction, some writers have continued to develop the fragmentary approach of the Modernists. Others have tried blending realism and fantasy in their works, and still others have experimented with radically different forms and techniques.

contemporary era
Free verse has become the dominant poetic form and poets have continued to focus on creating striking images in their poems.

contemporary era
Many contemporary writers have moved from resolution of a conflict to epiphany–a moment when a character experiences a flash of insight about herself or himself, another character, a situation, or life in general.

contemporary era
The literature of today
• Allows for multiple meanings and multiple worlds.
• Structures works in nontraditional forms.
• Comments upon itself.
• Features cultural diversity.
• Blends and overlaps fiction and nonfiction.
• Uses the past fearlessly.