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An Outline of American Literature. Chapter 1 : Colonial Beginnings

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An Outline of American Literature. Chapter 1 : Colonial Beginnings

Post by Write Smart Club on Sun Jul 27, 2008 2:42 am

An outline of American Literature
written by Peter B. High
abridged by Write Smart Club

The story of American Literature began in the early 1600s. There were Englishmen describing the English exploration and colonization of new world ( America ). Those books were filled with fact and fantasy - which readers could enjoy the imaginary about a "fantasy" land they could never visit.

Captain John Smith

One of the most famous writer then was Captain John Smith. His "Description of New England" was fascinating "advertisements" , which totally persuaded the Puritans to settle in America in 1620. Another Smith's famous book "General Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles" told us about a rescue by a beauty Indian Princess - which is considered one of the most famous tale in American literature

*Puritans : believers in a simple Christian religion without ceremony

An early American family

Almost from the beginning, there was a huge difference between the South and New England colonies. In the South, rich and powerful people used the labor of black slaves to grow tobacco. They also preferred books imported from England. But in New England - where the Puritan settled, since people believed in a society based on strict Christian belief and went against English king, they developed a sense of unity and "shared purpose". Therefore, the literature in New England developed much faster than in the South

New England

The New England

The most interesting works of New England Puritan Literature were history. Central drama then was the struggle between Satan and God

William Bradford Statue

Of Plymouth Plantation,by William Bradford is the most interesting of the Puritan history. He described the difficult relations between Puritans and the Indian, or the difficulties through the first winter of the Puritans, when half of the colonies died. His works used plain style to present "the clear light of truth" to uneducated reader

Roger Williams

At first day, the Puritans wasn't democratic. Therefore, there were works that went against the Puritans leaders, such as "The Wonder Working Providence of Sion 's Saviour in New Englad " by Eward Johnson , or "Bloudy Tenent" by Roger Williams, in which he expressed the desire to have a free religious environment

A Salem Witchcraft Trial

Also, at the 6090s, there was great witchcraft panic. Thousands of women or baby girl were arressted and put on trials. The "Remarkable Providences ( 1684 )" by Increase Mather reflected the opinions of Puritan's leaders then. They stated witch craft and other forms of evil were real part of everyday life. Later on, Cotton Mather, the most famous on in the Mathers published his "Magnalia Christi Americana"
which described a Salem witch trials. Also, from Cotton's work, we can see how later writer moved away from the plain style of their grandparents. The later one filled their work with complicated and words from Latin

Anne Bradstreet

Anne Bradstreet was the first real poet of American Literature. Her poems gave us a look into heart of seventeenth-century American women. In contrast, Edward Taylor wrote poems in the hope of the "rebirth" of "Puritan way". He used rich and unusual images to help his reader "see, hear, taste, feel religious doctrine"

There had many sudden explosions of religious emotion also. For example, Jonathan Edwards stated that there was a close relation between spiritual knowledge and and physical knowledge, which built a bridge between old strict puritan and freer culture.

An early Southern homeland


Though Literature didn't develop fast in the south, there were several memorable writers. One of them was William Byrd. His work surprisingly shown his liberal thoughts about the India and the Blacks : "We all know that very bright Talents may be lodged under a dark Skin". Off course, this new and innovated thoughts weren't not shared by the majority of Southern plantation owners

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