american literature essay

american literature essay

The Evolution and Impact of American Literature: A Comprehensive Analysis

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1. Introduction to American Literature

Thus, this review grasps a comprehensive collection of American literary expressions designed to highlight the diversity of American authors and generally introduce high school students and undergraduate students to the variety of new literature that serves as a reflection of the changing cultural landscape. Also, this review inspires a quest for all voices—particularly those likely to have been forgotten or marginalized. Just as American literature evolves, so do American identities. A wide variety of America’s writers have a stake in developing these identities as are the varied experiences of the nation’s people. Cree Federation and Carlos Cortes both can confirm, “[s]o rooted in and nourished by the diversity of the varied American peoples, American literature is beauty, wisdom, and power.”

Now that we are well into the 21st century, it is essential to understand the impact of American literature written by the diverse writers who have informed numerous disagreements about the American identity. This encyclopedia showcases American literature written in the United States. Throughout American history, the influences that have nurtured this literature are by turns conflicting, complementary, or overwhelmingly influential. Subsequently, this evolving literature becomes multi-vocal in its narratives and demonstrates America’s compositions regarding politics, race, economics, gender, immigration, and society. The need to study these voices emboldens a call to breach the barriers that keep the varied American literatures apart. This encyclopedia emerges as the crux of complex experience of a nation reformed continuously by new voices and new vistas of reality.

2. Key Themes and Movements in American Literature

The American Renaissance of the 19th century: Authors more accurately ventured into the new unknown of the North American continent. It was a truly conceptual shift from both past European transatlantic shifts and from the Federalist influence of the previous century. The push west, manifest destiny, national territorial and economic expansion, and especially the increased need for settling the continent with more people all influenced the young and malleable identity of the nation. These circumstances severely affected English-speaking American literature. The need for varied entertainment influenced the published forms of literature, and the technological developments of the Industrial Revolution and westward expansion (rail lines) facilitated an engaged, involved populace that followed literature, in part via periodicals and newspapers. The connected “national conversation” or debate, reminiscent of ancient Greece, contributed to writers’ interests as they imitated and adapted to changing public tastes in writing. Responding to the national interest, they began to create a distinct “American” literature. Such authors drew subject matter and inspiration from their native republic and were very nationalistic, often patriotic in attitude.

Colonial Literature: Similar to other early immigrants, American authors acknowledged a home in another land. In the case of colonial authors, it was England that was considered the mother country. They adapted European literary forms and often used Europe as their subject matter. Although the colonists’ realization of being Americans culturally evolved over time, economic and socio-political currents also influenced their literature and thus their growing national identity. This paper focuses on the later development of literature as it shifts to reflect not just the European homeland, but the American continent itself.

Many significant themes and movements within American literature can be distilled from these select texts, illustrating how popular movements affect what is published. While reflective of European literature, American literature contains the cultural focusing that the American perspective provides. Below are some of the most important movements of the American canon:

3. Influential American Authors and their Works

Gradually developing from commercial to literary status in the 19th century, American fiction included qualities of social insight, humor, or incisive criticism through various depictions. Many American authors of the 19th century wrote prose essays, especially on historical, literary, or philosophical issues. Authors such as Hawthorne, our second great Romantic, Melville, and numerous others used the novel as a vehicle to confront and resolve important issues of the United States. They did this in many ways: in the novel, the novel of romance, the gothic novel, the political novel, the anti-slavery novel, the novel of ideas, the adventure novel, or the personal narrative. Whatever its topical value, it was always a climactic stepping stone to greater aesthetic achievement. In another format, literary or prose essays expressed the values and character motivations that moved the literature. Also, some use these essays as captions in an effort to enhance the overall effect or provide additional perspective on issues, such as American cultures that were of literary significance at the time.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, an essayist, led the Transcendentalist movement in the mid-19th century. As the leader of this Transcendentalist movement in literature and philosophy, Emerson laid the foundation of the American Renaissance with his writings, such as “Nature,” which communicate the ideas of the movement. Another important writer of this time, who gained the attention of the international community with his stories, is Nathaniel Hawthorne. Most of Hawthorne’s stories were set in New England during Puritan times and with its rich symbolism, the author demonstrated how Puritanism restricted the mind, especially with its severe guilt-generating judgment. Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” and “Billy Budd” are the most well-known works of the American Renaissance. What distinguishes them from all American novels are their exciting descriptions, symbolic meaning, psychological insight, and rich, poetic prose style. All three men, Melville, and Nathaniel Hawthorne along with Emerson and Thoreau, are often connected and viewed as the “four greatest” authors of the American Renaissance.

4. The Intersection of American Literature with Sociopolitical Contexts

The 19th century of America, serving to commemorate and inspire the heroes that moved their national spirit, the rise of the United States faced and the formation of high and evident individuals at the head of their times that made the world a world power. Their deep psychology and rich inner life were reflected in literature. Since the United States of America is an immigrant country, various colors and conflicting thoughts meet in the social compound, a mixture of boiling blood, and thus form a fascinating world due to racial, regional, and cultural diversity. This feature changed the sociopolitical contexts of American writers’ cause and effect of these works. Such discussions on human rights, civil rights, women’s rights, and the functioning of the economic and political system have been made on the agenda of American society and are reflected in works of literature. These discussions consist of early and late opposition fronts against marginalized members of society, leading to a series of legislative arrangements and reforms that highlight the principles of the American Constitution and constitutional values of equality, freedom, and free will as a symbol of Western Liberal Civilization.

American literature over the past 250 years has provided a blueprint for understanding the ways in which the thought and writing of America and Americans have evolved. This has helped us understand the ways in which individual identities and circumstances are expressed. The rich variety of genres found in American literature reflects the diverse, urban and rural geological, climate, population, race, societies, humanities, politics, economy, soul, culture, literature, and detailed themes. American literature reflects the light and horrors of the blood-stained history of the United States while searching and editing the spiritual consciousness of the long-term proven population of the United States.

5. The Global Influence of American Literature

Likewise, the black dimension of American literature speaks for itself. Black American literary artists, denied a name and without language, reinvent selfhood in the invisible air, their voice too often captured, unheard, or suppressed so that the dominant pretension can apprehend a single, selfless mythology of equivalence whose device is silence. Reality, however, asserts otherwise. Not only echoes, but genuine and quite original articulations of America are spawned as Afro-American literature ceaselessly interprets and in human terms reveals some of the ridiculousness of racial exclusivity and the mastery of myth itself. Moreover, Afro-American literature will respect the foreign linguistic texts and endeavor to reach sanction and priority worldwide, particularly in any discussion or through any usage which merits mention of these art forms. Despite this claim, any originality as such is of secondary interest. Whether legitimate or counterfeit, coexistent or aestheticized, as language finders in the twin lattice enjoyed between and within hemispheric American and the other worlds, black linguistic American literature as an elastic force within framing realities legitimates all American literature in many contexts.

First, hemispheric American is a spatial formation charged with the political and historical significance of mobility, land, and anguish. Not only the river which glides through or divides, fortifies or decays, but we receive countless traditions implicit in the names by which its people and pieces are known, that distinguish between them. Simultaneously, this hemispheric literacy continues to struggle in that long-standing contest for American letters wherein the term American signifies not its accepted “pair of continents in the Western Hemisphere” in our contemporary parlance, but rather “the United States of America.” Clearly, within this struggle for hegemony, communities other than those isolated in the closed and conservative literary “mainstream” have evolved an integrity and accomplished a complexity, on their own terms, sufficient to divert attention and to create change. On the other hand, its own aspiration and possibly its own promise lead hemispheric American literature to project not only the reason of the comfortable main currents, but also the essence of its own flotsam; indeed, to claim equal representation for all and for everything within literary compartments retooled to accommodate the total product.

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