History of American Literature (42875)

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Higher and Secondary Special Education Ministry of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Gulistan State University

«History of American Literature»



In the tenth century brave Scandinavian sailors reached the Western coast of the Present USA. On 12th of October 1492 Christopher Columbus landed on one of the islands (in the region of Cuba). About 1500 Florentine Amerigo Vespuchi came to the shores of the New World. But only at the beginning of the XII century did Europeans begin to open up Western Coasts of the North America. At that time the Spaniards founded settlements along the Atlantic coast (in the territory of the present day Florida, Georgia and South California). The Dutchmen settled in the district of Hudson. In Manhatten island (Hudson-) 1613 the Dutch settlement became New Amsterdam. In 1604 Frenchmen founded the first settlements in Canada. Englishmen set about to colonize America, a little later, the first English colony was Virginia which was founded in 1607. In 1620 «Mayflower» brought from England the first detachment of the colonists = puritans, who founded New Plymouth (near present day Boston). Later near that place there sprang up New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and these united under the name of New England. In 1634 there appeared Maryland and in 1681 William Penn founded the Quaker colony, Pennsylvania.

American Literature can not be captured in a simple definition. It reflects the many religious, historical and cultural traditions of the American people, one of the world's most varied populations. It includes poetry, fiction, drama and other kinds of writing by authors in what is now the US. It also includes non written material, such as the oral literature of the American Indians and folk tales and legends. In addition, American literature includes accounts of American written by immigrants and visitors from other countries, as well as works by American writers who spent all of their lives abroad.

The United States became an independent nation by winning the Revolutionary War in America (1775–1783). Much of the literature of this period addressed issues relating to American independence.

American literature begins with the legends, myths and poetry of the American Indians, the first people to live in what is now the US. Indian legends included stories about the origin of the world, the histories of tribes and tales of tribal heroes. With rare exceptions this oral literature wasn't written down until 1800's.

The earliest writing in America consisted of the journals and reports of European explorers and missionaries. These early authors left a rich literature describing their encounters with new lands and new civilizations. They publicized their adventures, described the New World, and tried to attract setllers in words that sometimes mixed facts with propaganda.

Colonists from England and other European countries began settjing along the eastern coast of North America in the early 1600's and created the first American colonial literature. The colonies in Verginia and New England produced the most important writings in the 1600's. In the 1700's, Philodelphia emerged as the literary center of the American colonies.

Captain John Smith wrote what is regarded as the first American book, «A True Relation of… Virginia (1608). It describes how he and other colonists established the first permanent E. settlement in America at Jamestown, John Smith wrote «A Description of New England) in 1616. Smith told a version of the famous story of Pocahontas in The General Histories of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles (1624). The story claims that Pocahontas, the daughter of an Indian chief, saved Smith's life when her father was about to have him killed.

In «The History of the Present State of Virginia» (1705) historian Robert Beverley wrote about the tragic destruction of the American Indians.

To Beverley, the Indians represented possibilities for happiness, innocence, harmony and freedom. In 1620, the Pilgrims founded Plymouth Colony the second permanent E.settlement in America. Many Pilgrims belonged to a group of E. Protestants called Puritans.

The Puritans recorded their own history out of a desire to communicate with fellow believers in England, to attract new coloniests, and to justify their move to a new country. Cotton Mathew wrote more than 400 works on many subjects.

Historical works aimed at recording the life of the Puritans, their journey to America, and the major events, as well as the everyday chronicle, of their life in the New World. William Bradford, «History of Plymanth Plantation». Adward Johnson «History of New England», Coblun Mather «Masnalia Christi Americana». Underlying all these writings, one always finds the idea of Providence; the worldwhich is described is always seen as a reflection of the divine order so that constant analogies are drawn between the beauty of nature and the still of the Architect who created it. Sermons were by far the most common sort of literature in American Colonial communities totally controlled by the church. Dozens of ministers published the sermons that they had written, the best known being those of Thomas Hooker, Increase and Colton Mather.

In spite of the Puritans admiration for the classics and poets like Milton, poetry was often distrussed for appealing for much to the senses and the imagination.

John Smith (1580–1631)

John Smith lived a life crammed with adventure and achievement during a great age of exploration. It had not taken long for adventurers and merchants to begin to explore the New World Columbus had discovered. The Spanish to the south, the French to the north, the English along the mid-Atlantic coast, the Dutch, the Swedes, the Portuguese – all of Europe seemed to be moving west. By Smith’s time, about 1600 exploration and the search for gold were still important, but the desire to establish permanent settlements was growing. Smith strong-willed, imaginative, a born leader – was in the right place at the right time.

In 1607 the first permanent English settlement Jamestown, Virginia, was formed. It was made up of one hundred men and four boys, and the man in charge was the twenty-seven year-old Captain John Smith. The colony would not have survived without John Smith. As it was, over half the colonists died during the first winter. After two years in Jamestown, Smith returned to England.

In 1614 a group of English merchants, who hoped to get rich from gold, whale oil, and furs, financed a six-month expedition to New England for Smith. He explored the coast of Main to Cape Cod, made maps, traded with Indians, and went back to England, never to return to America. Yet Smith wanted to return as we can see from his «Description of New England», published in 1616. Although he calls this work a description, Smith’s main purpose is not to describe but to persuade. This pamphlet is essentially and advertisement, a kind of seventeenth – century «commercial». It is an effort to raise money for another new expedition and to convince Englishmen to join Smith in establishing a new colony of which he hoped to be governor.

The United States became an Independent nation by winning the Revolutionary War in America (1775–1783). Much of the literature of this period addressed issues relating to American independence.

Thomas Paine soon became famous for his fiery essays in support of the American patriots. His pamphlet «Common Seuse» (1776) called for complete independence from Great Britain. In a series of pamphlets called «The American Crisis» (1776–1783), he encouraged the rebels to persist during the darkest days of the Revolutionary War.

James Hector St. John De Creve Coeur the French – born essayist (1735–1813), helped the colonists think of themselves as American rather than Europeans. Crevecoeur saw America as a new land where individuals could throw off old Prejudices, suffocating social Customs, and tyrannical government.

Franklin, Paine and Creve Coeur wrote in disnified, but Plain and clear, prose. This style reached its peak in the ringing eloquence of the «Declaration of Independence» written by Thomas Jefferson. The same type of writing appears in the sober language of the Constitution of the U.S-s, much of which was dratted by Gonverneur Morris, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay used this clear style in «The Federatist» (1784–1788), and series of public letters that persuaded New Yorkers to ratify the Constitution.

William Cullen Bryant

William Cullen Bryant merits a claim to be one of America’s first naturalist poets. Born after the Revolutionary War, Bryant turned to nature as a source for poetic inspiration. «Thanatopsis», the name of his most famous nature poem, is a Greek word meaning «view of death». The opening lines assert:

To him who in the love of nature holds

Communion with her visible forms, she speaks

A various language…

Edgar Allan Poe, was also a master of the prose tale. A gifted, tormented man, Poe thought about the proper function of literature for more than any of his predecessors, with the result that he became the first great American literary critic…

The next great American Romanticist, however, drew on America for both characters and seltings, and his work, though theoretical and philosophical, does mirror the attitudes and moves of the time. He was a Shy New Englander named Nathaniel Hawthorne. Although he wrote no poetry his short Stories and novels still rank among the best that America has produced.

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