LECTURE # 1 THE COLONIAL PERIOD (1607-1775) Revolutionary and Early National period (1776-1830)
I. The historical and cultural background of the period
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The colonial period (1607-1775). Revolutionary and early national period (1776-1830)

1. LECTURE # 1 THE COLONIAL PERIOD (1607-1775) Revolutionary and Early National period (1776-1830)

2. I. The historical and cultural background of the period

• American literature is the youngest of all
national literatures. For a long time it was under
the influence of English literature: it was
neither American, nor really literature: it had a
provincial and strongly Puritan character. The
first books written in America which represent
the so-called colonial literature were an
interesting mixture of travel accounts and
religious writings.


The earliest writers were Englishmen
describing English exploration and
colonization of the new world and the
first settlements. Their books were used
as travel guides for people planning to
move to Virginia or New England. They
were diaries dealing with the experiences
of newcomers.


II. Literary works
American literature begins with the orally
transmitted myths, legends, epics, tales and lyrics
(songs) of Indian culture. Indian tribes had their own
religion worshipping gods, sacred persons, animals,
plants which were the characters of their literary
The most talented books of the newcomers were
written by Captain John Smith, a real adventurer
who gave a description of New England and



The writings of Captain John Smith deal mainly
with Jamestown’s colony – one of the first colonies
of English settlers. Smith was a romantic and
beautified his adventures. To him we owe the
famous story of the Indian girl Pocahontas, the
chief’s favourite daughter. She saved Captain
Smith’s life when he was a prisoner of the chief.
Her gentleness, intelligence and beauty impressed
the English and later she even married an English
gentleman thus initiating peace between the
colonists and the Indians.




Almost from the beginning there were important
differences between the Southern and the New
England colonies.
• The rich and powerful plantation owners in the
South were slow to develop a literature of their
own. They preferred books imported from
• But in the New England the Puritan settlers had
come to the new World in order to form a society
based on strict Christian beliefs. This kind of
literature was represented by histories, sermons,
theological argumentation. The most interesting
works of New England Puritan literature were


The central drama of history is the struggle between
Christ and Satan. The style was rather serious,
didactic, moralizing and matter-of fact. Certain
themes remained constant:
• Life was seen as a test;
• failure led to eternal damnation and hell fire, and
success to heaven.
Puritans laid the foundation of American capitalism,
resting on ambition, hard work, striving for success.
Material success was a sign of election by God.
The first puritans were not democratic: everybody
had to obey the church laws.”.


At the same time many puritans were intelligent and
educated. Among the most important writers of that
period we can mention the members of the Mather
family of Massachusetts Bay.
Richard Mather was the founder of the Mather
The other representatives of the dynasty Increase and
Cotton Mather became famous for their descriptions
of witch trials in Massachusetts.
Anne Bradstreet was the first real American poet.
She wrote about religion, daily life, expressed her
love for her husband and children.


The period from 1775 to 1783 is known as revolutionary
because of the struggle of American colonies for
independence from Great Britain. The period in general
is called cosmopolitan as the settlers were of different
origins. In Revolutionary America both prose and poetry
had a political and practical purpose. The most famous
writers of this period were the Founding Fathers, the
men who led the Revolution of 1775-1783 and wrote the
Constitution of 1789. Their most typical product was the
political pamphlet. They shared the Enlightenment ideas;
• Unlike the Puritans they were sure man could
improve himself.
• They wanted to create a happy society based on
justice and freedom.


The writings of Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), the Father of the
Yankees, are characterized by great optimism, his style is quite
modern and plain.


He had little formal education, but read very much
and got experience in printing matters. When quite
young, he became a political leader in Philadelphia’s
life, initiated many projects to improve the city life.
Then he held important state positions. His
experience helped him to write several serious
political essays and books. He is also famous for his
Poor Richard’s Almanac. Almanacs were a popular
form of practical literature. Together with the Bible
and the newspaper they were the only reading
matter in most households of that time.


Poor Richard’s Almanac included sayings about saving
money and working hard: Lost time is never found
again, God helps them who help themselves, Time is
money. He invented one type of short prose which
greatly influenced the development of a funny storytelling form in America called the hoax or the tall tale
His most valuable contribution to American literature
is his share in drafting the Declaration of
Among the pamphletists the most important are John
Adams and Thomas Paine.





The literature of the Revolution is also represented by a
democrat Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826).


He is the chief author of the Declaration of Independence
who is responsible for the spirit and the phrasing of the


He was born in a prominent family and
practiced law. He also held some important
state positions and was elected President. He
was patron of arts and the founder of the
University of Virginia. Poets of the
Revolutionary era often imitated the neoclassical style and themes of the great English
poets. America’s very first poetic circle was
called the “Connecticut Wits”. They were
more conservative in both their style and


III. Questions for reflection:
- Which genres were typical of the first literary
works written in the New World?
- Who was Captain John Smith?
- What features characterized Puritan
- Who were the Founding Fathers?
- What type of literature prevailed during the
period of American Enlightenment?


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Ключевые слова: Американская литература, Литература США, Хемингуэй Э., Реализм в
литературе, Модернизм в литературе
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практическое пособие для студ. языковых спец. учреждений высшего образования / Ю.В. Маслов,
И.С. Криштоп; Учреждение образования " Барановичский государственный университет". Барановичи : РИО БарГУ, 2015. - 149 с. - ISBN 978-985-498-562-4: 32000 р., 1 экз.
Ключевые слова: Английский язык, Литература США, Английский язык - Методика преподавания
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