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A Brief History of American Literature

Richard Gray

ISBN: 978-1-405-19230-9 February 2011 Wiley-Blackwell 420 Pages


  • A Brief History of American Literature offers students and general readers a concise and up-to-date history of the full range of American writing from its origins until the present day. 
  • Represents the only up-to-date concise history of American literature 
  • Covers fiction, poetry, drama and non-fiction, as well as looking  at other forms of literature including folktales, spirituals, the detective story, the thriller and science fiction
  • Considers how our understanding of American literature has changed over the past twenty years
  • Offers students an abridged version of History of American Literature, a book widely considered the standard   survey text 
  • Provides an invaluable introduction to the subject for students of American literature, American studies and all those interested in the literature and culture of the United States

Preface and Acknowledgments ix

1 The First Americans: American Literature During the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods 1

Imagining Eden 1

Writing of the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods 1

2 Inventing Americas: The Making of American Literature 1800–1865 47

Making a Nation 47

The Making of American Myths 47

The Making of American Selves 59

The Making of Many Americas 71

The Making of an American Fiction and Poetry 90

3 Reconstructing the Past, Reimagining the Future: The Development of American Literature 1865–1900 115

Rebuilding a Nation 115

The Development of Literary Regionalisms 115

The Development of Literary Realism and Naturalism 130

The Development of Women’s Writing 143

The Development of Many Americas 148

4 Making It New: The Emergence of Modern American Literature 1900–1945 159

Changing National Identities 159

Between Victorianism and Modernism 159

The Inventions of Modernism 176

Traditionalism, Politics, and Prophecy 211

Community and Identity 226

Mass Culture and the Writer 242

5 Negotiating the American Century: American Literature since 1945 249

Towards a Transnational Nation 249

Formalists and Confessionals 249

Public and Private Histories 263

Beats, Prophets, and Aesthetes 281

The Art and Politics of Race 296

Realism and Its Discontents 314

Language and Genre 328

Creating New Americas 345

Index 373