American Literature Beginnings – 1750 “A most interesting aspect of the earliest period of American literature is that, for the most part, the writers were not really Americans.”
Native Americans 300+ groups, 200+ languages Oral tradition, so no written history Song lyrics, hero tales, migration legends, creation stories - originally studied for content (not literary quality)**common characteristic: deep respect for nature
Explorers Age of Exploration – late 15th century Columbus: Journal of the First Voyage to America Also written accounts by de Vaca, de Cardenas, de Coronado**Interesting and valuable as these are, they’re not central to the development of American literature in the way that other early writings are.
Slave Narratives The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, an African Slave Equiano – purchased his freedom & moved to England to write his autobiography, an account of slaves journeying to America
Pilgrims vs. PuritansPilgrims – (Mayflower 1620) – critical of Church of England, so they withdrew. *AKA “Separatists” *Plymouth Colony
Puritans-Intended to purify the Church from within *Massachusetts Bay Colony *“City on a hill” philosophy - model community guided by the Bible“For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world…” ~John Winthrop (Gov. of colony), from a sermon about the Arabella, on
Beliefs: -humans exist for the glory of God -the Bible is the sole expression of God’s will -predestination -Puritan ethic (constant hard work and self-discipline) -humans are inherently evil and must struggle to overcome sinful natures**religion is a personal, inner experience. Clergy
Puritanism declined during the early 1700’s, but revived briefly in 1720: the Great AwakeningLiterature: theological studies, hymns, histories, diaries, biograp hies & autobiographiesPurpose = to provide spiritual instruction & insight (more concerned w/ content than craft)
Education – important for males and females - founded Harvard College 1636 - set up 1st printing press 1639 - free public schools in Mass. 1647The New England Primer – spelling/reading & moralismBay Psalm Book – standard hymnal of the timeLiterary Style: the more info the better; plain, clear statement
Southern Planters Connected closely to slavery (1st slaves 1619 – 1 year before Pilgrims) Not much literature prior to 1750 – mostly of a practical nature (John Smith’s The General History of Virginia) Unlike Puritans, this group was not opposed to fiction or drama
To wrap it all up….The authors from this unit are not the great names in American literature, but they are the founders – they set the stage for all who have followed.