Literary Movements in AMerican Literature

Topic: CultureSubculture
Sample donated:
Last updated: May 11, 2019
Native American Lit
Movement is based mostly on oral tradition. Those stories, fables, tales, myths and chants were written down later for preservation. Nature and elements of nature are the most common aspect of Native American writings.

Early Settlers
This group of writings are from those who were coming to America to settle a new land. Most of the literature is comprised of letters, diaries, journals and histories. The accuracy of these writings is often called into question.

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Authors include Columbus, John Smith and William Bradford.

Written by those who were leaving Europe to find religious freedom. This society was dominated by rules and a fear of sin. Literature from this period is typically in the form of sermons, poetry, diaries and moral based stories.

American Enlightenment
Also known as Rationalism/Classicism and The Age of Reason. Best known for political and philosophical writings focusing on reason and common sense. These writings contributed, in part, to the American Revolution. Authors of this period include Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry and Phillis Wheatley.

A continuation of the same movement in Europe. Authors focused on individualism, idealism, imagination and nature. Often set their works in distant times or places.

This is the first movement to really produce a body of work that embodied the idea of America while rebelling against the Classicism movement. Not surprisingly, this is the largest body of work to this point in history and one that we spend a lot of time studying in school.

Romanticism Continued
Authors often associated with this movement include: Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving and Herman Melville.

Transcendentalists believe that the basic truths of the universe transcend the physical world and lie beyond the knowledge that can be obtained from the senses.

They feel that every individual has the ability to experience God firsthand in his/her intuition. They value nature and believe in the spiritual unity of all life, stating God, humanity, and nature share a universal soul. They feel that nothing in nature is trivial or insignificant; all is symbolic and important.

They also promoted the belief that every human being is born inherently good. Authors include Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

Realism and Regionalism
Reaction against Romanticism and Neoclassicism. Factual is more important than the intellectual or the emotional. Treats nature objectively, but views it as orderly. Tells the stories of everyday people. Use of details more important than plot.

In diction, seeks to use natural language. Mark Twain is one of the main authors of this periodTwain is known to be the “father of the American novel” from his book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.Other authors include Willa Cather and Kate Chopin.

Naturalism is connected to realism but it focuses on social issues brought about by industrialization. Shows the dark and ugly side of life.

Shows man’s struggle to adapt to his environment and how the environment alters a person’s ability to make good decisions. Authors include Stephen Crane, Edith Wharton, Sinclair Lewis, Jack London and John Steinbeck.

A set of writers disillusioned by WWI, the Great Depression, WWII. Shifts in means of expression, writing style, greater use of symbols. Writings often reflect ideas of alienation, isolation, individual perception and human consciousnessAuthors include: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Henry Miller and T.S.


Harlem Renaissance
A period of outstanding creativity among African American writers. Many of these works were sophisticated explorations of black life and culture that revealed and stimulated a new confidence and racial pride. Authors include Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen and Ralph Ellison.

Defined as having a relativistic view on realityInterpretation is everything – our lives are defined only by our own interpretation of concrete experiences. Boundaries are blurred and popular culture becomes a driving force in literature and art. Authors include Arthur Miller, Kurt Vonnegut, Edward Albee, Ken Kesey, J. D.

Salinger and Truman Capote. Also includes the feminists: Nikki Giovanni, Sylvia Plath and Toni Morrison.

Concerned with relationships and connections between people. Emotion provoking storytelling is common. Authors include: Tim O’Brien, Sherman Alexie, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Barbara Kingsolver, Maya Angelou and Michael Crichton.

The value of media in culture is changing the way this movement is perceived.

Realization that literature does not only need to come from dead white guys. The idea of diversity and acceptance drives this movement. Authors address universal themes seen through the eyes of their culture.

Authors include: Amy Tan, Alice Walker, Sandra Cisneros.

Magical Realism
A juxtaposition of the ordinary with magical elementsFantastic elements are interwoven into realistic fiction. Authors include Toni Morrison, Alice Sebold, Ally Condie, Suzanne Collins. If J.

K. Rowling were American Harry Potter would fit into this movement as well.

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