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Major Works of Literature and Writing

  • Pamphlets regarding the Colonies

    Pamphlets regarding the Colonies
    Some of the American literature were pamphlets about the benefits of the colonies to both a European and colonist audience. Captain John Smith could be considered the first American author with his work, "A True Relation of Such Occurrences and Accidents of Noate as Hath Happened in Virginia..." (1608). Other writers included Daniel Denton, Thomas Ashe, William Penn, and George Percy.
  • Michael Wigglesworth’s “Day of Doom"

    Michael Wigglesworth’s “Day of Doom"
    Michael Wigglesworth’s “Day of Doom,” written in 1662, sold one copy for every twenty people. The book was an epic poem that depicted the Judgement Day.
  • Ben Franklin’s "Poor Richard’s Almanac"

    Ben Franklin’s "Poor Richard’s Almanac"
    Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac was very influential, containing many common sayings and phrases, and was more widely read in America and Europe than anything except for the Bible.
  • Phillis Wheatley

    Phillis Wheatley
    Phillis Wheatley was the first published African American poet and first African-American woman whose writings were published. Born in Gambia, Senegal, she was made a slave at age seven. She was purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston, who taught her to read and write, and helped encourage her poetry.
  • Pioneer Presses

    Pioneer Presses
    Few libraries were found in early America, and few Americans were rich enough to buy books. Before the revolution, many hand-operated presses made leaflets, pamphlets, and journals signed with pseudonyms. In one case, John Peter Zenger, a New York newspaper printer, was taken to court and charged with seditious libel.
  • Thomas Paine's Common Sense

    Thomas Paine's Common Sense
    Thomas Paine wrote this pamphlet in order to inspire colonists to join the revolutionary movement.
  • The Declaration of Independence

    The Declaration of Independence
    Primarily written by Thomas Jefferson, already renown as a great writer in America. He come up with a list of grievances against King George III and explained why the colonies had the right to revolt.
  • Thomas Paine's "The Age of Reason"

    Thomas Paine's "The Age of Reason"
    Paine shocked many in his popular book when he claimed that all churches were "set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit." He influenced many Deists, such as Jefferson and Franklin, who eventually caused the Second Great Awakening.
  • Washington Irving's "Knickerbocker's History of New York"

    Washington Irving's "Knickerbocker's History of New York"
    Irving amusingly depicts the Dutch of New Netherland in this novel. He also wrote "The Sketch Book" (1819-1820) and short stories "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". He was the first American author to recieve mass recognition on the world stage.
  • James Fenimore Cooper's "The Last of the Mohicans"

    James Fenimore Cooper's "The Last of the Mohicans"
    The Last of the Mohicans was an influential novel because of it's interesting use of point of view. The novel was important in illiciting support for Native Americans.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Nature"

    Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Nature"
    in 1836, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote "Nature," in which he influenced not only the writers who gathered around him, forming a movement known as Transcendentalism, but also the public, who heard him lecture.
  • William Lloyd Garrison's "The Liberator"

    William Lloyd Garrison's "The Liberator"
    Garrison's newspaper defended and promoted the abolition of slavery. His words were one of many sparks of the Civil War.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self-Reliance"

    Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self-Reliance"
    In this essay, Emerson highlights the importance of the individual. He and many other authors used similar themes in their works, glorifying frontier life and stressing the importance of "rugged individualism".
  • Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"

    Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"
    Poe echoed his unfortunate life experiences in dark poems and stories such as "The Raven", "The Gold Bug" and "The Fall of the House of Usher". The morbid tone he wrote in contrradicted the exuberant themes that were prominent in American literature.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin"

    Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
    Horrified by the Fugitive Slave Law, Stowe published this novel that exposed the cruelty that African Americans endured every day. It helped raise racial tensions that sparked the Civil War.
  • Henry David Thoreau's "Walden: Or Life in the Woods"

    Henry David Thoreau's "Walden: Or Life in the Woods"
    Thoreau, one of the major Transcendentalist figures of the period, wrote "Walden" and "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience" (1849) focused on the importance of individualism and following one's inner voice.
  • Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass"

    Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass"
    Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" is a collection of unconventional poems with Transcendentalist motifs. It originally failed, but Americans ended up embracing his optimistic take on this new era.
  • Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species"

    Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species"
    In 1859, Charles Darwin published his On the Origin of Species, which set forth the new doctrine of evolutionism and caused disprution in the Catholic Church.
  • Walt Whitman's "Oh Captain! My Captain!"

    Walt Whitman's "Oh Captain! My Captain!"
    Walt Whitman wrote this poem in 1865. It was a response to the death of Abraham Lincoln.
  • Edwin L. Godkin's "New York Nation"

    Edwin L. Godkin's "New York Nation"
    Edwin L. Godkin, a merciless critic, launched this magazine in 1865. It was part of a movement in the country where many people were reading magazines more often.
  • Horatio Alger's "Ragged Dick"

    Horatio Alger's "Ragged Dick"
    Horatio Alger was very popular,during the Gilder Age. This was mainly because his books told that virtue and honesty was rewarded with success. "Ragged Dick" was his first popular publication.
  • Bret Harte's "The Luck of the Roaring Camp"

    Bret Harte's "The Luck of the Roaring Camp"
    Bret Harte wrote mainly about gold mining in California. His "strike it rich" stories enticed many readers across the country. Sadly, Harte never wrote another novel that had the same effect as "The Luck of The Roaring Camp."
  • Harland F. Halsey's Dime Novels

     Harland F. Halsey's Dime Novels
    Harland F. Halsey wrote over 600 of these books, often finishing one a day. These novelas were popular throughout the GIlded Age. Usually these fiction books depicted the wild west and the excitement of the US cities.
  • Mark Twain's "The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today"

    Mark Twain's "The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today"
    This book by Mark Twain was the first time that someone used the term "The Gilded Age". This term became popular in describing this time period because of the corruption and indecency of many major corporations.
  • Sidney Lanier's "The Marshes of Glynn" (1878),

    Sidney Lanier's "The Marshes of Glynn" (1878),
    In an effort to support hi wife and their three sons, Lanier wrote poetry for magazines and composed music. "The Marshes of Glynn" is considered one of his most famous poems.
  • Lewis Wallace's "Ben Hur; A Tale of Christ"

    Lewis Wallace's "Ben Hur; A Tale of Christ"
    This sucessful book sold about 2 million copies in many languages. Wallace wrote it in order to show Anti-Darwinian skepticism to the world. This book got a lot of its recognition from the Catholic Church.
  • Helen Hunt Jackson's A Century of Dishonor

    Helen Hunt Jackson's A Century of Dishonor
    In this book, Jackson highlighed the importance of treating Indians with kindness. She believed that instead of killing Native Americans, the government should try and make an effort to make them assimilate to American culture by sending children to Christian schools, where they would be educated, converted and recieve Christian names and haircuts so that they could grow up and be able to participate in society.
  • Henry James' "The Bostonians"

    Henry James' "The Bostonians"
    This novel, by William James' brother, was centered around the beginings of the feminist movement in America. James wrote about women frequently and usually dissected their reactions to complex situations.
  • William Dean Howells' "A Modern Instance"

    William Dean Howells' "A Modern Instance"
    Howells dealt with controvercial and sometimes taboo situations in his best selling novels. "A Modern Instance" has to do with divorce, a topic that was barely ever spoken of at the time.
  • Mark Twain's Gilded Age Novels

    Mark Twain's Gilded Age Novels
    Mark Twain (a.k.a. Samuel Clemens) wrote many books, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Some of his writings were controversial because of the language he used. He was the first author to write in a casual style.
  • Reverend Josiah Strong's "Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis"

    Reverend Josiah Strong's "Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis"
    In Strong's opinion, it was the duty of the Anglo-Saxon race to spread their religion and educate the rest of the world on their values. Through this book, he promoted missionary activity overseas and in the West.
  • Emily Dickinson's Lyric Poems

    Emily Dickinson's Lyric Poems
    Emily Dickinson wrote these poems during her life as a recluse. They were on scraps of paper found around her house. During her life, only two of her works were published, and they were against her will.
  • Edward Bellamy's "Looking Backward"

    Edward Bellamy's "Looking Backward"
    In this socialistic novel, Bellamy sets up a world in which a man, in the year 2000, looks back at the 1880's. He eventually finds that the "injustices" of the socialistic government in he 1880's have "melted away." This is because, in Bellamy's year 2000, there is an "idyllic" government that condones big business.
  • William James' psychology books

    William James' psychology books
    William James helped establish the discipline of behavioral psychology, and his books Principles of Psychology (1890), The Will to Believe (1897), and Varieties of Religious Experience (1902).
  • Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan's "The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783"

    Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan's "The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783"
    In this book, Mahan highlighted the importance of a strong navy. He believed that in order to become a world power, a country had to dominate the seas. Mahan's advice influenced America, England, Germany, and Japan to build up their artillery, resulting in the arms race that partially caused World War I.
  • Jacob A. Riis's "How the Other Half Lives"

    Jacob A. Riis's "How the Other Half Lives"
    Jacob Riis, a reporter for the New York Sun, exposed the disturbing reality of life in the slums of New York. His shocking account of the rampant diseases and overall disgusting conditions was appalling to many Americans, especially Theodore Roosevelt, and influenced cities to make social and political reforms.
  • Stephen Crane's "Maggie: A Girl of the Streets"

    Stephen Crane's "Maggie: A Girl of the Streets"
    Stephen Crane, the son of a minister, wrote about the understated slums of US cities. "Maggie" takes place in urban, indusrtrial America. The main character, Maggie, works as a prostitute and her lifestyle drives her to suicide. This novel was found too grim to be published, but eventually it took its place among Crane's other novels.
  • William Hope Harvey's Coin's Financial School

    William Hope Harvey's Coin's Financial School
    A very popular pamphlet which described a gold ogre beheading a beautiful silver woman. His clever writing gained much momentum for the Populist's belief that silver would cure their debt problems.
  • Paul Lawrence Dunbar's "Lyrics of Lowly Life"

    Paul Lawrence Dunbar's "Lyrics of Lowly Life"
    Lyrics of Lowly Life was Paul Laurence Dunbar's first commercially published book and probably the best-selling Black poetry book before the Harlem Renaissance. There were 105 poems in this anthology.
  • William R. Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer's Yellow Journalism

    William R. Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer's Yellow Journalism
    Hearst and Pulitzer invented a new style of writing during this period called yellow journalism. It sensationalized news, sometimes stretching facts, to encourage the public to buy more newspapers. Yellow journalism was at its' peak during the conflict with Cuba and Spain, especially when the Maine blew up. Americans suspected foul play on Spain's part, and began crying, "Remember the Maine! To hell with Spain!"
  • Kate Chopin's "The Awakening"

    Kate Chopin's "The Awakening"
    Kate Chopin was a fenimist writer who wrote about women's abilities, suicide, and adultery. She worte about these touchy topics candidly. During her life, she was not a writer of noteriety, but she was rediscovered later.
  • Charles W. Chesnett's "The Conjure Woman"

    Charles W. Chesnett's "The Conjure Woman"
    In this short story, Chesnutt embraced the use od casual voice when writing. He used his own Black Dialect freely, as well as African American folklore.
  • Rudyard Kipling's "The White Man's Burden"

    Rudyard Kipling's "The White Man's Burden"
    This poem by Rudyard Kipling encourages imperialism. He depicts the rest of the world as "savage" and "heathen" peoples, and states that it is the duty of wealthy Americans to civilize them.
  • Theodore Dreiser's "Sister Carrie"

    Theodore Dreiser's "Sister Carrie"
    The main character in this novel, Carrie Meeker, helps to illustrate the draw towards the cities of America during the turn of the century.
  • Frank Norris' "The Octopus"

    Frank Norris' "The Octopus"
    The Octopus is a 1901 novel by Frank Norris and the first part of a planned but uncompleted trilogy. It describes the raising of wheat and the deciet of railway companies.
  • Magazine Muckracking

    Magazine Muckracking
    Beginning in 1902, many popular magazines began to feature exposés of corruption, especially in the government. Journalists such as Ida Tarbell wrote brutal accounts of unfair business practices, child labor, and false labeling. These writers were nicknamed muckrakers by President Roosevelt.
  • Jack London's "The Call of The Wild"

    Jack London's "The Call of The Wild"
    The Call of the Wild is a novel by American writer Jack London. The plot concerns a previously domesticated dog named Buck, whose primordial instincts return after a series of
    Published in 1903, The Call of the Wild is London's most-read book, and it is generally considered his best novel.
  • Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle"

    Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle"
    In this novel, Upton Sinclair, though origionally intending to draw attention to the suffering of workers in the meat packing industry, instead shocked the public with his alarming report of unsanitary practices. The atrocities that he discovered appalled Americans, and as a result, the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act were both passed.
  • Herbert Croly's "The Promise of American Life

    Herbert Croly's "The Promise of American Life
    Roosevelt’s New Nationalism was inspired by this book. The novel stated that the government should control the bad trusts, leaving the good trusts alone and free to operate.
  • Louis D Brandeis’s "Other People’s Money and How the Banker’s Use It"

    Louis D Brandeis’s "Other People’s Money and How the Banker’s Use It"
    This book showed the problems of American finances at the time. Louis D Brandeis was a Supreme Court Justice, who took a straong stance on the corruption of the banks in the early 1900's.
  • Sherwood Anderson's "Winesburg, Ohio"

    Sherwood Anderson's "Winesburg, Ohio"
    This novel was about small- town life in the 1920s. Anderson's opinion was that small towns are warped by thier "cramped psychological surroundings."
  • Sinclair Lewis' "Main Street"

    Sinclair Lewis' "Main Street"
    In this satirical novel, Lewis wrote about a woman's unsuccessful battles with conformity. Lewis was a "hot- headed' journalist, a heavy drinker, and a "master of satire."
  • Sinclair Lewis' "Babbitt"

    Sinclair Lewis' "Babbitt"
    Babbitt was a novel about George F. Babbitt, a middle class real estate broker who was proserous and vulgar. The novel delt with conformity and materialism in America in the 1920s.
  • H.L. Mencken's “American Mercury"

    H.L. Mencken's “American Mercury"
    This monthy magazine found fault in lots of things in America. HL Mencken was dubbed the "Bad Boy of Baltimore" for his satirical views. The "American Mercury," developed a national circulation and became an influential part of college education.
  • Hitler's "Mein Kampf"

    Hitler's "Mein Kampf"
    Adolf Hitler's book, "Mein Kampf", or my struggle, was written while he was in prison. In his book, he described parts of his life and his political philosiphy. He blamed Germany's fall on the Treaty of Versailles and non-Aryan races, and promised to help Germany regain its former glory.
  • Theodore Dreiser's "An American Tragedy"

    Theodore Dreiser's "An American Tragedy"
    This novel dealt with the theme of the glamour and cruelty of an achievement-oriented society. The story was about the murder of a pregnant working girl by were abitious lover.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby"

    F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby"
    This novel accuratley captured the culture of the "Roaring 20s." With the soaring economy, life in America was also in the midst of prohibition. The novel showed millionaires becoming bootleggers in order to illeagally buy and sell alcohol.
  • Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"

    Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"
    This novel was about "dissillusioned, spiritually numb expatriates in Europe. Hemingway was an author who was affected by WW1, and his expiriences translated into literature.
  • Langston Hughes' "The Weary Blues"

    Langston Hughes' "The Weary Blues"
    A poem by Langston Hughes. This poem was part of the Harlem Renaissance, and exemplified the African American culture that was blossoming in the 1920s.
  • William Faulkner's Novels

    William Faulkner's Novels
    William Faulkner wrote many novels in the 1920s. These included "Soldier's Pay," a bitter war novel. His other novels were, "the Sound and The Fury" and "As I Lay Dying." They were set in fictional towns in the Depp South and filled with historical references.
  • Eugene O'Neill's "Strange Interlude"

    Eugene O'Neill's "Strange Interlude"
    O'Neill was a New York dramatist and a Princeton drop out. He wrote "Strange Interlude," a play that used Freudian views of sex and earned many awards. O'Neill wrote many plays in the 1920s, and won the Nobel Prize in 1936.
  • Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms"

    Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms"
    This novel was a semi- biographical story about Hemingway's experiences on the Italian warfront during WW1.
  • John Stienbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath"

    John Stienbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath"
    This novel was sometimes called the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" of the Dust Bowl. The book followed a dust bowl family as they traveled from Oklahoma to California in the hopes of finding work outside of thier farms.
  • Richard Wright's "Native Son"

    Richard Wright's "Native Son"
    Wright's novel describes the life of a black serial killer from Chicago. It's especially important to note that Wright was African American, and the fact that his book was a best-seller was unusual.
  • Dr. Benjamin Spock’s "The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care"

    Dr. Benjamin Spock’s "The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care"
    Dr. Benjamin Spock’s "The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care" was published in 1945. This book became popular because of the large migrations of the American people in the Sunbelt and Suburbs. Families were strained by the migration, and Dr. Spock's book was important to giving common sense advice regarding children.
  • Robert Penn Warren's "All the King's Men"

    Robert Penn Warren's "All the King's Men"
    Warren, a member of the Southern literary renassaince led by William Faulkner, wrote "All the King's Men" about a man named Willie Stark and his dramatic rise into politics, based on Louisiana's Huey Long.
  • Tennessee Williams's "A Streetcar Named Desire"

    Tennessee Williams's "A Streetcar Named Desire"
    Williams, who also wrote "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1955), focused his plays on nonconformists who struggle to survive in the times they are living in.
  • Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman"

    Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman"
    Miller expressed his discontent with society through his plays. In "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible" (1953), he focused on the effects of failure and McCarthyism on society.
  • J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye"

    J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye"
    Salinger, a Jewish novelist, wrote about an upper-class teenager suffering to find his place in society and his identity.
  • John Updike's "Rabbit, Run"

    John Updike's "Rabbit, Run"
    This novel descrives a few months in the life of a 26 year old man attempting to break free from the boundaries that society imposed on him. Updike also wrote "Couples" (1968), which focused on adultery in a town in Massachusetts. Both of these books explored the problems that people now faced due to the conformity of the 50's.
  • Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique"

    Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique"
    In this book, Betty Friedan expressed the frustration that many women felt during the 1950's that sprouted from the conformist society that existed. Women began to speak out for their rights and drew attention to the emerging feminist movement, influenced by Friedan's work.
  • Sylvia Plath's "Ariel"

    Sylvia Plath's "Ariel"
    Sylvia Plath expressed her critical point of view on American life through her poetry. She also wrote a disturbing novel, "The Bell-Jar" (1963), a partially autobiographical story about a woman with a mental illness.
  • The Federalist Papers

    The Federalist Papers
    The Federalist Papers advocate the ratification of the United States Constitution. They were published between October 1787 and August 1788. They were written by John Jay, Hamilton, and Madison.