American Literature Timeline 11th Grade American Literature Native American

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American Literature Timeline

  • 11th Grade American Literature

Native American (30,000 B.C. – 1730 A.D.)

  • Historical Events
    • 30,000 B.C. – 1492 A.D. – settlement of American Indians into various tribes on the American continents (Indians traveled to this continent by crossing the Bering Strait)
    • 1492 – Columbus discovers America landing in the Bahamas
    • 1521 – Cortez conquers Aztecs in Mexico

Native American

  • Characteristics of Native American Culture:
    • Ancestors arrived more than 10,000 years ago.
    • Each of the 700 tribes spoke their own language and had their own folklore and mythology.
    • Focus on the common origin of all things
    • Tribal traditions and rituals
    • Respect for all nature

Native American

  • Types of Literature
    • Mostly oral
    • Some written
    • Ceremonial songs and prayers
    • Historical narratives
    • poems

Native American

  • Writers and their works:
    • Walam Olum
    • Navajo Origin Legend
    • Spring Song

Puritans (1607-1702)

  • Historical Events:
    • 1620 – Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock
    • 1629 – Puritans come to New England
    • 1692-The Salem Witch Trials take place. Nineteen people are killed.


  • Characteristics of Puritan Culture:
    • The Puritans left England because they wanted to purify the Church of England.
    • They believed that the Bible was God’s instruction to man and therefore a guide for writing and establishing government.
    • Puritans believed in predestination—the belief that God has already determined who is saved (the elect) and who is not (the unregenerate).
    • Puritans lived very simple lives.
    • They believed that anything done for entertainment, such as gambling, excessive drinking, dancing, and singing, was sinful.
    • They highly valued art, literature, and education.


  • Types of Literature:
    • Sermons
    • Diaries
    • Journals
    • Narratives
    • Poetry
    • ***Fiction and drama were forbidden!!!


  • Writers and their works:
    • Jonathan Edwards – “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (sermon)
    • Anne Bradstreet – “Upon the Burning of Our House” (poem)
    • Cotton Mather

Colonial (1750-1800) “The Age of Reason”/The Enlightenment”

  • Historical Events:
    • 1765 – Colonists resist new Stamp Act
    • passed by the British
    • 1770- The British kill colonists in the Boston Massacre
    • 1776 – Americans declare independence and Thomas Jefferson writes the Declaration of Independence
    • 1775-1783 – Revolutionary War; Americans defeat the British
    • 1789 –George Washington becomes the first president of the United States

Colonial (1750 – 1800) – “The Age of Reason”/ “The Enlightenment”

  • Characteristics of Colonial Culture:
    • Also known as the Age of Reason or the Enlightenment
    • People believed that the universe was an orderly place that could be understood by using reason.
    • Believed that reason could result in advances in science, a better government, and an ideal society.

Colonial (1750-1800) “The Age of Reason” / “The Enlightenment”

  • Types of Literature:
    • Mostly political writings
    • Broadsides (posters that let people know what was going on)
    • Persuasive and argumentative writings
    • Almanacs (Benjamin Franklin), speeches, essays, pamphlets (essays), and poetry

Colonial (1750-1800) – “The Age of Reason”/ “The Enlightenment”

  • Writers and their works:
    • Benjamin Franklin – “Poor Richard’s Almanac”
    • Patrick Henry- “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”
    • Thomas Paine- “Common Sense”
    • Phillis Wheatley – “On Being Brought from Africa to America” (poem)
    • Thomas Jefferson – Declaration of Independence

American Romanticism (1800-1840)

  • Historical Events
    • 1803 – expansion of U.S. through the Louisiana Purchase
    • 1812 – 1814 – War of 1812 against the British
    • 1830-Passage of the Indian Removal Act
    • 1848-First Women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY
    • 1850-The Fugitive Slave Act promises punishment to anyone helping an escaped slave.

American Romanticism:

  • Characteristics of Romanticism:
    • Valued feeling and intuition over reason
    • Placed faith in inner experience and the power of the imagination
    • Shunned the artificiality of civilization and sought unspoiled nature
    • Preferred youthful innocence to educated sophistication
    • Stood for individual freedom and the worth of the individual
    • Saw nature’s beauty as a path to spiritual and moral development

American Romanticism

  • Characteristics Continued:
    • Looked to the wisdom of the past and distrusted progress
    • Found beauty and truth in exotic locations, the supernatural realm, and the inner world of the imagination
    • Saw poetry as the highest form of expression
    • Found inspiration in myth, legend, and folklore

American Romanticism

  • Characteristics of the Romantic Hero:
    • Is young or possesses youthful qualities
    • Is innocent and pure of purpose
    • Has a sense of honor based not on society’s rules but on higher principles
    • Has a knowledge of people and life based on deep, intuitive understanding, not on formal learning (noble savage)
    • Loves nature and avoids town life
    • Searches for higher truth in the natural world

American Romanticism:

  • Types of Literature:
    • Poetry- The Romantics believed poetry to be the highest form of art; the ideal form of expression
    • Novels
    • Short stories
    • Sketches
    • Folklore

American Romantic Writers and Their Works

  • William Cullen Bryant – “Thanatopsis”
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – “The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls”
  • Washington Irving – “The Devil and Tom Walker”
  • The Fireside Poets – a group of poets whose poems Americans read in the evening “by the fireside”
  • James Fenimore Cooper- The Last of the Mohicans

Transcendentalism (1840 – 1860)

  • Historical Events:
    • Occurred during the same time period as Romanticism and Dark Romanticism
    • 1852 – The anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is published


  • Characteristics:
    • Arose in the New England area
    • There are kinds of knowledge that “transcend” or “rise above” reason and experience
    • People should have faith in their “inner light”
    • Strong belief in the importance of the individual and self-reliance
    • Looked to nature for inspiration and guidance
    • All people are connected by the “Oversoul” – a spiritual force connecting nature and humans
    • Optimistic view of life


  • Types of Literature:
    • Essays
    • Novels
    • Short stories
    • Poetry

Transcendentalist Writers and Their Works

  • Henry David Thoreau – Walden, “Civil Disobedience”
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson – “Nature,” “Self-Reliance”

Dark Romanticism/Anti-Transcendentalism (1840 – 1860)

  • Historical Events:
    • Occurred during the same period as Romanticism and Transcendentalism

Dark Romanticism/Anti-Transcendentalism

  • Characteristics of Dark Romanticism:
    • Shared some of the same beliefs as Romanticism
    • Pessimistic viewpoint - literature often focuses on death and tragedy
    • Truth and happiness are not always found in life
    • Human nature is a mix of good and evil
    • Focus on the darker side of human nature
    • A belief in the supernatural with a focus on the dark, evil side of the supernatural
    • Also known as “Anti-Transcendentalism”

Dark Romanticism/Anti-Transcendentalism

  • Types of Literature:
    • Essays
    • Novels
    • Short stories
    • Poetry

Dark Romantic Writers and Their Works:

  • Edgar Allan Poe – “The Raven,” “The Pit and the Pendulum”
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Scarlet Letter, “The Minisiter’s Black Veil”
  • Herman Melville – Moby Dick

Realism and Naturalism (1855-1900)

  • Historical Events:
    • 1861-1865 – Civil War
      • (not much was written during this time because the war was too painful to write about; much literature about the war came many years AFTER the war was over)
    • 1863-The Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves, is issued by Abraham Lincoln
    • 1865-The Thirteenth Amendment outlaws slavery
    • 1876-Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone
    • 1881-The Red Cross is organized by Clara Barton
    • 1898-The Spanish-American War breaks out

Characteristics of Realism

  • Civil War literature was very political in nature
  • Expression of life as it is actually lived
  • Used clear, direct language to present ordinary everyday events.
  • Subjects of literature often consist of factories, slums, workers, bosses, criminals, and social outcasts
  • Regionalism, or local color, focuses on the unique character of various regions and depicts their dialect, customs, and characters
  • Sometimes contains humor and social commentary
  • Began because of the Civil War; the war opened the population’s eyes to the realities of life and death

Characteristics of Naturalism

  • Extreme form of realism
  • Human beings have no control over their fates.
  • People were victims of their surroundings, drives, and desires.
  • Influence of scientific method. A writer carefully gathers facts about human experience and then draws conclusions
  • Nature is powerful and shows no mercy

Types of literature:

  • Short stories
  • Novels
  • Poetry (only a couple written during the Civil War by a poet named Walt Whitman)
  • Travel books
  • Songs
  • Spirituals
  • Diaries and journals (almost the only literature written during the Civil War)

Writers and Their Works:

  • Mark Twain (Realism)- Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (considered first and finest “American” novel), “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”
  • Stephen Crane – The Red Badge of Courage (one of the most famous novels about the Civil War; written many years after the war)
  • Jack London (Naturalism) – Call of the Wild, “To Build a Fire”
  • Kate Chopin-The Awakening

Modernism (1900-Present)

  • Historical Events:
    • 1914-1918—World War I
    • 1929 – Stock Market Crash
    • 1930-1940 – Great Depression
    • 1941-1945 – U.S. involvement in World War II
    • 1945-America drops the atomic bomb on Japanese cities
    • 1954 – Prayer in public schools becomes illegal
    • 1961- Alan Shepard is the first American in space
    • 1964-The Beatles debut in America on the Ed Sullivan Show
    • 1968 – Martin Luther King, civil rights leader, is assassinated
    • 1973 – U.S. troops withdraw from Vietnam
    • 1986- Space shuttle Challenger explode on take-off
    • 1989-The Berlin Wall is torn down in Germany
    • 2001- Terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon

Characteristics of Modernism:

  • Growth in America’s industrial power, military strength, and influence in world affairs
  • Modernism lasted from around the beginning of the 20th century until the end of World War II.
  • Writers rejected the literary rules of the 19th century and opposed conventional morality, taste, traditions, and economic values
  • Writers looked for new and varied modes of expression
  • Stream of consciousness writing developed
  • Stories had no clear resolution at the end
  • Readers struggle to find meaning in texts because life itself is a struggle.

Characteristics of Modernism (continued)

  • The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s was the first significant artistic movement of African-Americans. Harlem, NY was where many of these artists lived, worked, and performed.
  • In Postmodern writing, characters struggle to make sense of the ever-changing world in which they live.
  • Postmodern literature tends to have a pessimistic tone.
  • The “American Dream,” the hope for happiness from a home, money, and good job, suffered a loss during this time due to war and the Great Depression.

Types of Literature:

  • Short stories
  • Poetry
  • Dramas
  • Novels
  • Essays
  • Songs
  • Speeches

Writers and Their Works:

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby (great novel about the American Dream)
  • William Faulkner – The Sound and the Fury, “A Rose for Emily”
  • Ernest Hemingway – The Old Man and the Sea
  • Zora Neale Hurston-A Raisin in the Sun

Writers and their Works (continued):

  • Claude McKay- If We Must Die
  • Alice Walker – The Color Purple
  • T. S. Elliot – “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
  • Langston Hughes – “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” “A Dream Deferred”

Writers and Their Works (continued):

  • John Steinbeck-The Grapes of Wrath
  • Sylvia Plath – The Bell Jar
  • Tennessee Williams – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  • Arthur Miller – The Crucible

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