Eras of American Literature

Eras of American Literature

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  • Puritans and Planters
  • The world no longer let me love,  My hope and treasure lies above. 
  • We shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.
  • Age of Reason
  • It is hard for an empty sack to stand upright.
  • Romanticism
  • Nevermore!
  • This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.
  • I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear.
  • During the Puritan and Planter era, the writing was generally "plain style," as fiction and metaphors were deemed sinful. Their works most often reflected the theme of Faith and Beliefs, as they believed that everyone was born a sinner and life was a journey to salvation through hard-work and simplicity. Two of the most notable works were John Winthrop's "City on a Hill" speech, and Anne Bradstreet's poem, "Verses upon the Burning of our House."
  • Realism
  • The Age of Reason was defined by the belief in logic and reasoning, and that history was marked by progress, contradicting the Puritan value of simplicity. The writing was, like with the puritans, often non-fiction, and also reflected the theme of Faith and Beliefs as well as American Dream. The so-called masterpiece of this era, "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin," introduced the "Self-Made American" template still used today.
  • Modernism
  • The Romanticism era was extensive in genres and themes. All four common American themes were prevalent, especially Nature and Individual vs Society.  It was the root of the philosophy of Transcendentalism, the belief in the connectivity between humans and the natural world through some kind of divine form. Prevalent authors include Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Edgar Allen Poe, and their respective poems "I Hear America Singing," "My Letter To The World," and "The Raven."
  • Contemporary
  • I illuminate the stories of the people in the street. Some have happy endings, some are bittersweet, but I know them all and that's what makes my life complete.
  • I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am.
  • Realism was a reaction against Romanticism, with strong themes of Individual vs Society. It was meant to reflect the harsh reality of life, and also introduced the use of Irony, most easily seen in Stephen Crane's poem, "War is Kind." Another famous work of this era is "Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain.
  • Just because you're taught that something's right and everyone believe's it's right, it don't make it right.
  • Do not weep,  war is kind.
  • Modernism is characterized by disillusionment and inner workings of the mind, often reflecting the theme of "the American Dream,' which is critiqued in F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous novel "The Great Gatsby." It also included the Harlem Renaissance, which was the inspiration for Langston Hughes' poem "Harlem."
  • “Reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope.”
  • What happens to a dream deferred?
  • Contemporary literature includes a wide range of genres and authors. It's key characteristics, multiculturalism and personal writing can be seen in Sylvia Plath's autobiographical poetry and her novel "The Bell Jar" and in playwrite/musician Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical "In the Heights."
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