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How to Define American Literature • Definition: • American literature is the literature produced in American English by American citizens. • Basic qualities of American Writers: • independent • individualistic • critical • innovative • humorous
COLONIAL PERIODEarly American Writers and Poets • North, New England, Puritan Writers • William Bradford: first governor of Plymouth, The History of Plymouth Plantation, simplicity, earnestness, direct reporting, readable, moving. • Two Poets: Anne Bradstreet, Edward Taylor
Cont… • Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” • Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” depicts life in Salem, Massachusetts during the mid 1600s even though it was written in the 1950s.
Puritans • One division of English Protestants. They regarded the reformation of the church under Elizabeth as incomplete, and called for further purification from what they considered to be unscriptural and corrupt forms and ceremonies retained from the unreformed church. • Their Religious Doctrines: original sin, total depravity, predestination and limited atonement through a special infusion of grace from God. • They regarded themselves as chosen people of God. They embraced hardships, industry and frugality. They favored a disciplined, hard, somber, ascetic and harsh life. They opposed arts and pleasure. They suspect joy and laughter as symptoms of sin.
Puritanism’s influence on American literature • Purpose: pragmatic • Contents: practical matter-of-fact accounts of life in the new world; highly theoretical discussions of religious questions. • Form: diary, autobiography, sermon, letter • Style: tight and logic structure, precise and compact expression, avoidance of rhetorical decoration, adoption of homely imagery, simplicity of diction.
HISTORICAL NARRATIVES • Accounts of real-life historical experiences given either by a person who experienced those events or by someone who has studied or observed them
Two types… • Primary sources—letters, diaries, journals and autobiographies that provide first hand knowledge of a subject • Secondary sources– provide indirect secondhand knowledge: histories, biographies
Slave Narrative… • An American literary genre that portrays the daily life of slaves as written by the slaves themselves after having gained their freedom. • Some 6,000 are known to exist. • Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman wrote two of the most well-known and influential slave narratives.
Strategies for Reading… 1. Look for headings and bold type that suggest organization. 2. Determine a document’s origin. Check for ellipses (…) a clue that words or lines have been removed. Be aware of the original audience and purpose. 3. Keep track of the events described. Consider making a time line.
Strategies for reading… 4. Reread and paraphrase to help you understand unfamiliar words or sentences. 5. Re-state the main idea of the narrative in your own words. 6. Take into account the time a work was written, and try to understand the background, perspective, and motives. 7. Don’t forget to predict, visualize, connect, and question.