American Literature

American literature can reflect past, present, and future depictions of the country and its history. Therefore a study of American literature leads us to better understand the America of the past. Furthermore, the literature itself shaped history. Reading influential literature can shed light on how and why certain events and movements occurred in history.

American Literature helps us to understand the history of our country. Literature joins generations together by helping the younger to understand the older. Vice versa, history itself, and generations themselves, are shaped by literature.
America often embodies contrast itself. Especially in early America, the encounters between white settlers and Native Americans set a precedence for America becoming a land where conflicting cultures join.
A common discussion throughout all of American literature is what makes America and Americans. DeCrevecoeur was one of the first to discuss this, and set the forth many common ideas concerning what makes an American. He ironically excluded frontiersman from Americans, as they were too wild. That which was wild, or natural was excluded, therefore making America a constructed land.
While John Adams is a great American political figure, we see from his letters with his wife, Abigail, that America was more than the radical political and revolutionary world we read in literature common of this time period.
Emerson, 60 or so years after the revolution, believed that America still needed to escape from European influences. This was possible, he said, through becoming one with mankind by connecting to nature.
"My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun." In this poem, Dickinson expresses her power as a poet. Indeed, the American poet has the potential to shape history itself, as well as our perception of it.
During Reconstruction, literature often discussed issues of race equality, and how the color of skin was no longer an accurate way to separate and distinguish people. Literature would be, and still is, a power to further eliminate race distinctions.
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