American literature


American literature
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American literature as a whole is the written or literary work produced in the area of the United States and its preceding colonies. For more specific discussions of poetry and theater, see Poetry of the United States and Theater in the United States. During its early history, America was a series of British colonies on the eastern coast of the present-day United States. Therefore, its literary tradition begins as linked to the broader tradition of English literature. However, unique American characteristics and the breadth of its production usually now cause it to be considered a separate path and tradition.

While the New England colonies have often been regarded as the centerpiece of early American literature, the first European settlements in North America had been founded elsewhere many years earlier. Many towns are older than Boston, such as Saint Augustine, Jamestown, Santa Fe, Albany, and New York. Furthermore, English was not the only language in which early North American texts were written—Spanish and French were two of the strongest colonial literary traditions in the colonies that now comprise the United States, and it is common to include texts by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and Samuel de Champlain alongside English language texts by Thomas Harriot and John Smith in discussions of early American literature. The eventual emergence of the English language was hardly inevitable.[1] Moreover, we are now aware of the wealth of oral literary traditions already existing on the continent among the numerous different Native American groups. The large initial immigration to Boston in the 1630s, the high articulation of Puritan cultural ideals, and the early establishment of a college and a printing press in Cambridge all gave New England...