Skip to main content
Chemistry LibreTexts

Introduction to American Literary Time Periods

  • Page ID
  •  bigstock-Portrait-of-young-woman-writin-121789733_57184b3236842.jpg

    American Literary Time Periods

    American literature traces the path of American narrative, fiction, poetry, and drama as they move from pre-colonial times to the present day. The first literary works of the English-speaking people of North America consisted mostly of journals, sermons, and histories.  Poets such as Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor also emerged.

    Much of the literature in our country also reflects what was going on at that particular time. The literature of the rationalists represents their desire to be free from the rule of England.  Our founding fathers expressed these feelings in political documents and persuasive speeches.

    Romanticism saw the first short story evolve.  The father of the mystery story, Edgar Allan Poe, captured his readers through his use of remote settings and psychologically deranged characters.  The transcendentalists, known as the first, true hippies, recorded their beliefs about nature and individualism through essays and poetry.

    The Civil War dominated the thoughts of America and its writers during the Realism time period.  It was a time when fiction represented real life events, and regionalism and naturalism made their entrance.  The rights of women and African Americans were also predominant themes found in literature in the late 1800s.

    The turn of the century saw a new focus in literature.  Themes such as the American Dream and literature that represented the thoughts and feelings of Americans during World War I were popular.

    New styles of poetry appeared with imagist poetry and free verse.  Modernism moved away from more traditional themes and styles found in earlier literature.

    Postmodernism, which consists of literature written after 1950 through the present day, reflects more multi-cultural literature and literature written by women.  Dramas became even more prevalent, and science fiction displayed a changing technological world.

    Please view the Literary Time Periods timeline below for more details on the periods we'll study in English 11 or take a look at the flow chart. You may click on the plus and minus to zoom in and out on the flow chart. You can also view the attached "Literary Time Periods Chart" for more information!

     Literary Time Periods Timelines


    Works Cited
    Image source:
    Timetoast 7 August 2012