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José Alfonso Alvarez Díaz The first item printed in Pennsylvania was in German and was the largest book printed in any of the colonies before the American Revolution. Spanish and French had two of the strongest colonial literary traditions in the areas that now comprise the United States, and discussions of early American literature commonly include texts by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and Samuel de Champlain alongside English language texts by Thomas Harriot and John Smith.
Other writers of this manner included Daniel Denton, Thomas Ashe, William Penn, George Percy, William Strachey, Daniel Coxe, Gabriel Thomas, and John Lawson. American literature In the post-war period, Thomas Jefferson's United States Declaration of Independence, his influence on the United States Constitution, his autobiography, the Notes on the State of Virginia, and his many letters solidify his spot as one of the most talented early American writers. The Federalist essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay presented a significant historical discussion of American government organization and republican values. Fisher Ames, James Otis, and Patrick Henry are also valued for their political writings and orations.
Much of the early literature of the new nation struggled to find a uniquely American voice in existing literary genre, and this tendency was also reflected in novels. European forms and styles were often transferred to new locales and critics often saw them as inferior. American literature 1 2 Post-independence First American novels It was in the late 18th and early 19th centuries that the nation's‚ first novels were published. These fictions were too lengthy to be printed as manuscript or public reading. Publishers took a chance on these works in hopes they would become steady sellers and need to be reprinted. This was a good bet as literacy rates soared in this period among both men and women. Among the first American novels are Thomas Attwood Digges' "Adventures of Alonso", published in London in 1775 and William Hill Brown‚ The Power of Sympathy published in 1791. 3 American literature In the next decade important women writers also published novels. Susanna Rowson is best known for her novel, Charlotte: A Tale of Truth, published in London in 1791. In 1794 the novel was reissued in Philadelphia under the title, Charlotte Temple.
Hannah Webster Foster's‚ The Coquette: Or, the History of Eliza Wharton was published in 1797 and was also extremely popular. Told from Foster's‚ point of view and based on the real life of Eliza Whitman. First American novels American literature 4 Other notable authors include William Gilmore Simms, who wrote Martin Faber in 1833, Guy Rivers in 1834, and The Yemassee in 1835. Lydia Maria Child wrote Hobomok in 1824 and The Rebels in 1825. John Neal wrote Logan, A Family History in 1822, Rachel Dyer in 1828, and The Down-Eaters in 1833. Catherine Maria Sedgwick wrote A New England Tale in 1822, Redwood in 1824, Hope Leslie in 1827, and The Linwoods in 1835. James Kirke Paulding wrote The Lion of the West in 1830, The Dutchman's Fireside in 1831, and Westward Ho! in 1832. Robert Montgomery Bird wrote Calavar in 1834 Niguel Miller and Tacoya Hughes and Nick of the Woods in 1837. James Fenimore Cooper was also a notable author best known for his novel, The Last of the Mohicans written in 1826. First American novels American literature 5 With the War of 1812 and an increasing desire to produce uniquely American literature and culture, a number of key new literary figures emerged, perhaps most prominently Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, James Fenimore Cooper, and Edgar Allan Poe. Unique American style American literature 6 Edgar Allan Poe portrait. In 1837, the young Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864) collected some of his stories as Twice-Told Tales, a volume rich in symbolism and occult incidents. Hawthorne went on to write full-length "romances", quasi-allegorical novels that explore such themes as guilt, pride, and emotional repression in his native New England. His masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter. Unique American style American literature 7 Nathaniel Hawthorne. Realism, Twain American literature 8 Mark Twain Mark Twain (the pen name used by Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835–1910) was the first major American writer to be born away from the East Coast – in the border state of Missouri. His regional masterpieces were the memoir Life on the Mississippi and the novels Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Beginning of the 20th century American literature 9 Ernest Hemingway
in World War I uniform. Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961) in 1954, Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961) saw violence and death first-hand as an ambulance driver in World War I, and the carnage persuaded him that abstract language was mostly empty and misleading. He cut out unnecessary words from his writing, simplified the sentence structure, and concentrated on concrete objects and actions. The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms are generally considered his best novels; in 1954, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Post–World War II American literature 10 Regarding the war novel specifically, there was a literary explosion in America during the post–World War II era. Some of the best known of the works produced included Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead (1948), Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1961) and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s Slaughterhouse-Five (1969). The Moviegoer (1962), by Southern author Walker Percy, winner of the National Book Award, was his attempt at exploring "the dislocation of man in the modern age.” Contemporary American literature American literature 11 Toni Morrison, the most recent American recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, writing in a distinctive lyrical prose style, published her controversial debut novel, The Bluest Eye, to widespread critical acclaim in 1970. Coming on the heels of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, the novel, widely studied in American schools. Morrison has two best-known, Song of Solomon (1977) and Beloved (1987), for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Toni Morrison at the Miami Book Fair International of 1986. Nobel Prize in Literature winners (American authors) American literature 12 Further information: Nobel Prize in Literature
1930: Sinclair Lewis (novelist)
1936: Eugene O'Neill (playwright)
1938: Pearl S. Buck (biographer and novelist)
1948: T. S. Eliot (poet and playwright)
1949: William Faulkner (novelist)
1954: Ernest Hemingway (novelist)
1962: John Steinbeck (novelist)
1976: Saul Bellow (novelist)
1978: Isaac Bashevis Singer (novelist, wrote in Yiddish)
1993: Toni Morrison (novelist)