The Evolution of American Literature

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The Evolution of American Literature Early American literature may be said to begin with the Colonial period. John Smith and John Winthrop are two examples of the types of writing at this period: the former kept a romantic journal of his adventures in the New World; the latter kept a journal (or history) of life in New England, where religious matters were of utmost importance. The Puritans had come seeking a life free from religious persecution (which, they ironically brought with them however, as their descendent Nathaniel Hawthorne would show in The Scarlet Letter). Religious topics continued to dominate early American literature in the 18th century, for example, in the works of Jonathan Edwards and Cotton Mather. Their strict Calvinistic, Puritanical views gave their writings a "fire-and-brimstone" type of style a inflammatory rhetoric meant to rouse religious fervor (Baym 103). Both Hawthorne and Herman Melville (another later generation New Englander) would focus some of their most important works of literature on their Calvinist roots. In contrast to these fiery preachers, however, were the mid-17th century poems of Anne Bradstreet, the first published female New England poet. Her poems are dominated by a steady calm and loving confidence in Providence and are much sweeter in tone. The Romantic period developed in America in the 19th century, with the Gothic/Romantic stories of Edgar Allan Poe and the quasi-religious, transcendentalist poetry of Ralph Waldo
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