An Introduction to the revolutionary period of American literature

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Last updated: May 11, 2019
the literature of the Revolutionary period is historical-political. The american evolution (1775-1783) comprises the historical component, and the founding of the nation and establishment of government comprise the political component. The literature focuses on American Identity—”What does it mean to be an American?”—self-reliant, independent, patriotic, hard-working, resourceful, and a pioneering spirit.

Revolutionary Period
a time of cultural growth: theater (plays), colleges, artists, and musicians.

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Types of Literature in the Revolutionary Period
Newspapers, periodicals (magazines essays, orations, historical and political documents, autobiographies, biographies, and poetrythere are no novels or plays of literary significance written in the Revolutionary Period. The short story as genre had yet to be invented.

Important Dates

The Stamp Act
1765 (tax revenue to help Britain pay off debt from French and Indian War (France/Britain) (1754-1763)))

The American Revolution

The Declaration of Independence
June 1776

Treaty of Paris (Peace of Paris) (formal end of Revolutionary War

The Constitution

The 18th Century
England’s political missteps and the philosophical-political tenets of the Enlightenment provide the groundwork for the American Revolution.

The enlightenment
The Enlightenment represents a challenge to seventeenth-century beliefs, posed by eighteenth-century scientists, philosophers, and writers2. The Enlightenment valued reason (intellect, rationality, one’s ability to think, to come to knowledge) over faith.3. Enlightenment thought understood the universe as an orderly system. (metaphor: clock)4.

Through reason, humans can comprehend the laws of the universe.5. The universe is good6. Humans are good.

7. As the world becomes more comprehensible, there is less need for religious faith

Major figures of the enlightenment
1. Isaac Newton: English scientist2. Voltaire: French writer-philosopher3. John Locke: English philosopher4.

David Hume: Scottish historian

Major figures of the american enlightenment
1. Benjamin Franklin2. Thomas Paine3. Thomas Jefferson

Deism emergence
Deism is a system of religious-philosophical thought based on human reason rather than Biblical revelation

1. Humans come to know God through reason.2. Reason leads one to a responsible life—doing good for others.3.

The order of the universe points to God’s existence, so there is no need for Biblical revelation. 4. A good and harmonious world point to the goodness of God.

5. Deism focuses on human nature and human knowledge. 6. For the Deist, the world is no longer God-centered, but human-centered.7. From Deism, Humanism emerges: Humanism is belief in the essential goodness of the human person: consequently, the possibility of a perfect society (utopia) is within human reach. 8. Humanism focuses upon the person.

9. Humanism is highly optimistic.10.

A God-centered universe gives way to a human-centered universe, wherein reason is the primary virtue.

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