Early American Literature Reading List

Identifiably American forms of humor emerged in the late Colonial era. Benjamin Franklin published essays in the NEW ENGLAND COURANT that were widely read and acclaimed for their satire, and his POOR RICHARD'S ALMANACK (1733-1758) popularized the comic type of the "unschooled rustic whose natural simplicity masked an innate shrewdness and tenacity." Many other early American authors presented socially subversive characters through satirical writings, but perhaps none so celebrated as Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain), who blended comic passages with social criticism on the central issues of the late nineteenth century.

Give your students the chance to express their own artist abilities while studying early American authors and artists!

Through the use of several iconic early American authors (Anne Bradstreet, James Kirkpatrick, Benjamin Franklin, and Edgar Allan Poe), James Egan’s Oriental Shadows: The Presence of the East in Early American Literature explores the presence of “the East” in American writing.

Ph. D. Reading List Early American Literature

The literature of Early American authors tends to explore the Virgin Mary. While, as Sayre pointed out, Native American cosmologies may provide an alternative to a mechanistic view of the world ushered in by Enlightenment thought, the roundtable as whole remained mindful of the potential pitfalls of making such comparisons. Turner, in one representative moment, questioned whether our efforts to redistribute agency would reconstitute authority “in ways that would be unfamiliar if not outright rejected by early American authors.” Indeed, one of the productive tensions in early American environmental criticism remains the translation of contemporary critical practices to this earlier period in ways that do not distort the phenomena in question. As Sweet asked, how do we read an Anishinaabe account of animals’ decision to stop speaking a language humans could understand because they were oppressed by humankind? As allegory expressing human alienation from the nonhuman world? As a story encoding truth about human evolution that the traditional Anishinaabe worldview itself could not recognize? Perhaps both?

Early Native American Literature

“As he analyzes the nation’s foundational performative, e pluribus unum, W. C. Harris asserts that early American authors fashioned texts informed by and meant to respond to the fundamental contradiction between the constitutional imperative to unity and the representational inevitability of differentiation. Harris addresses literary theorists, political scientists, and scholars of American studies with an argument that is nuanced, eloquent, and theoretically informed.”—Donald E. Pease, Jr., Avalon Foundation Chair of the Humanities, Dartmouth College

Project MUSE - Early American Literature