It is tough to come up with a definition of what American literature is. It is a product of the cultural diversity of people who live and write in the United States. However, not every literary work produced in the US can be included in this list.
Of course, American literature is predominantly in English. One of the early 21st century developments is an increase in authors who write in their language. However, they still can be considered American. As a result, African American, Asian American, and other ethnic branches of literature emerged.
Assigned to write an essay about American literature? In this article, our experts tried to simplify the task for you. We’ve described the periods of the United States literary tradition so you can navigate freely. Also, check a list of topics for your American literature essay. Finally, see some examples of the works written by other students.
Literature reflects society. It magnifies all the good and bad values, mirroring the life of the country and its development. In this section, we’ve described the main periods in US history. It will help you realize what to discuss in your essay on American literature.
The Colonial and The Early National Period (1607-1830)
The first European settlers started describing their experiences in the 1600s. The narration was practical, direct, and copied the British literary style. The earliest American literary works were mainly nonfictional. The first president of the Jamestown Colony wrote about his personal experiences and published them from 1608 till 1624. Such prominent writers as Nathaniel Ward and John Winthrop elaborated on the topic of religion. African American tradition started during that period, too. For instance, Phillis Wheatley and Olaudah Equiano created the first slave narratives.
The Period of American Renaissance (1830-1870)
Romanticism values a person’s emotions over reason. American writers embraced this movement at the beginning of the 19th century. For example, Edgar Allan Poe was one of the vivid examples of Romantic writers. In New England, several thinkers emerged too after 1830. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote essays, while Henry Thoreau wrote a story of his life. Poets such as Herman Melville and Walt Whitman began publishing their works at that time too.
The Realistic and Naturalist Period (1870-1914)
The Civil War fueled the realistic period in American literature. Mark Twain was one of the most notable writers of that era. In his novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he depicted the actual Americans.
Naturalism is another literary movement that was prevalent at that time. For example, Theodore Dreiser embraced it. His novel Sister Carrie is an essential American naturalist novel.
The American Modernist Period (1914-1939)
The modernist period was one of the most fruitful in American history. It got intensified after the advancement in science and technology. The outcomes of WWI and the Great Depression caused a lot of contradiction. Thus, it found its way into art and literature. Scott Fitzgerald, Richard Wright, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, T.S. Eliot, and many more writers became dominant voices.
The Contemporary Period (1939-Present)
The period has started after World War II. American literature during that time became more inclusive and had a variety of voices. Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison tell stories of race and sexuality. American contemporary novels had many forms, like postmodern and feminist ones.
21 Amazing Topics on American Literature
You may wonder what to write in your American literature essay. The abundance of writers and literary works make it difficult to choose. That’s why we combined several ideas. We hope you’ll find them useful in identifying the topic for your work. If not, you can let our title generator create a few original ideas on the subject.
But first, check these ideas for your essay on American literature:
Harriet Beecher’s art of persuasion as the author in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Naturalism and regionalism in American literary tradition.
The influence of Phillis Wheatley on American Literature.
What is American literature? What are its characteristics?
The themes of early American literature.
The importance of magical realism in American literature.
Oral storytelling techniques in Native American literature.
The influence of naturalism on American writers.
Early American literature and the power of religious ideologies.
The idea of masculinity in the colonial period in American literature.
The black experience manifested through African American poetry.
Historical factors that influenced the Romantic period of American literature.
How did Gothic literature in American tradition start?
Levels of literacy in African-American literature.
Native American mythology in American literature.
The issues of divorce and love in Latin American literature.
The evolution of the role of women in American literature.
The theme of perseverance in African American literature.
The topic of slavery in early American literature.
The significance of the American Renaissance for American literature.
The role of James Fennimore Cooper in enhancing nationalism.
Thank you for your attention! American literature is indeed a vast subject. We hope that this article will help you focus on a good idea. If you are still unsure what topic to choose, check our American literature essay samples below. You can look through them faster if you use our summarizer.
First of all, the story plot of the book should be taken into consideration to understand what scientific facts may be put in requisition in it."Ender's Game" relates the story of a six-year Ender Wiggin [...]
Thus, Ernest Hemingway makes extensive use of symbolism in order to convey nihilistic themes, because the main hero of The Sun Also Rises is a symbol of nihilism, the main heroine of The Sun Also [...]
In addition, the author, through the title makes the reader infer that the characters' lives are enjoyable, which is not the case, revealing the unique objective of the author, that being optimistic does not mean [...]
An individual needs to understand that the word landscape does not only refer to having the knowledge of names and identity of everything in the landscape but also perceiving the relationship between different elements in [...]
To illustrate, The Story of an Hour narrative is based on the supposed death of Brentley Mallard - the husband to Louise Mallard - thus reflecting a number of real life deaths that characterized Chopin's [...]
The institution of slavery drove and shaped the enslaved people to respond and behave in different ways in that Fredrick Bailey was forced to flee away from slavery and later changed his name to Fredrick [...]
Even though most Americans consider him a traitor, he is regarded as one of the greatest boxers in the world."Redemption Song" by Mark Marqusee is a book that describes the cost of the choices that [...]
As a result of working continuously in the steamboat on someone's payroll, the author is astonished at his failure to appreciate the marvelous qualities of the great river since he was being desensitized to its [...]
The story presents a tale of the Wielands as a precautionary tale that is meant to cushion against taking hard stance in religious matters; Theodore Wieland's over-commitment to religion is presented in this book as [...]
Hitchcock's books and essays have been of great admiration by most of his readers throughout the years in America and all over the globe. His skills in presenting American culture and romance are quite admirable; [...]
Since the beginning of his speech, David Foster Wallace indicates that the speech is going to be informal and tries to break the ice between the audience and himself by using such words as "bullshitty" [...]
The "discerning Eye" that sees through society's "Madness" is certainly the poet's and, implicitly, belongs to certain other naysayers as well."I felt a Funeral, in my Brain" articulates a state of consciousness that follows the [...]
As a critical appraisal to the stories, "Young Goodman Brown", Cask of Amontillados" and "The Yellow Paper" will be used to expound on the statement that people are born having their identities As the story [...]
Therefore this paper will look at the American literature from the time of colonization by the Europeans, and how various events social and historical have shaped the American literature, making it unique among other literal [...]
The poem portrays a vivid image of the emotional rollercoaster the author is experiencing as he visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial."Facing It" successfully incorporates the use symbolism and imagery throughout the structure of the poem [...]
Looking at the morbidly Catholic state of mind that is the necessary reason sustaining the short stories of Flannery O'Connor, it is necessary to pay attention to the special techniques that compose her style of [...]
The author considers the life chances of generations of Mexican-Americans, who remain after a near-century of legal freedom the most obvious and, in view of the very considerable number of Mexican-Americans political refugees in the [...]
Before analyzing the works in terms of their belonging to Puritanism I believe it's important to identify the main characteristics of Puritan style and intentions and aims the authors put forward to transfer their message [...]
The book is a collection of experts of Alcott's writing, both non-fiction and fiction, that discloses the novelist's sincere commitment to the reforms introduced to America from the 1830s up to the 1880s.
However, there is no denying that human beings are not completely divine beings; there are animal instincts in us, like using the five senses to judge our environment and react to it; the desire to [...]
Rebecca is torn apart by her racial and religious issues; as she "stood where the three main currents of the eighteen-century black Atlantic world flowed together: the dramatic expansion of the slave trade; the Afro-Atlantic [...]
In what is a parallel to Marx's philosophy and attack on the exploitation of the workers by the capitalists; and therefore a call for a revolution, the farm animals are inspired by the counsel of [...]
The evidence from the plot of the book that supports the position taken on understanding the underlying factors of behavior is the realization that the bear had killed the goose due to the feelings of [...]
The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa is a powerful little book about arts. It is intentional of Kimmelman to make the reader trace the art to less promising circumstances a [...]
Moreover, as we go on and discover the meaning and objectives of pilgrimage, we will realize we are dealing with a different kind of art: the art of seeing what is sacred."What legendary travelers have [...]
The book under consideration in this paper, "Mountain Windsong: A novel of the trail of tears" by Robert Conley depicts the events of those times showing the tragedy of the Indian people of the Cherokee [...]
In order to discuss Hemingway's depiction of the American values and beliefs, it will be necessary to use three works: The Old Man and the Sea, a novella by Hemingway, "Papa's Ghost", an article by [...]
The economic conditions of the Great Depression and the failure of rains in 1929 created conditions where the lands devoid of protective grass became dry and dust whipped up by the winds obliterated towns in [...]
Positive attitude towards the challenges of life and the real joy found in the numerous adventures of the book's characters are the things that Elizabeth Enright wants every person to have, and in this paper [...]
The important literary device used to depict Holden confronting the pressure of the society and the corruption of the adult world is characterization, as the main character calls people he meets "phony" and refers to [...]