Early American Literature

Essay by szsoomroUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, May 2004

download word file, 4 pages 3.0

American literature begins with the trends of orally conveyed myths, legends, tales, and lyrics of Indian cultures. There was no written literature among the more than 500 different Indian languages and tribal cultures that existed in North America before the first Europeans arrived. As a result, Native American oral literature is quite assorted.

Examples of nearly every oral genre can be found in American Indian literature: lyrics, hymns, myths, fairy tales, humorous anecdotes, incantations, riddles, proverbs, epics, and legendary histories. Accounts of migrations and ancestors are in abundance, as fantasy songs and tricksters' tales. Creative stories are particularly eminent with every tribe's variations. The very first European record of exploration in American literature is in a Scandinavian language; not in English, Spanish or French.

The first acknowledged and enduring contact of the Americans with the rest of the world began with the famous voyage of an Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus, subsidized by the Spanish rulers Ferdinand and Isabella.

Scholars have long pointed out the link between Puritanism and capitalism in American history: Both hinge on ambition, hard work, and success. Wealth and status were required not only for themselves, but eloquently for spiritual health and promises of eternal lifetime.

The Puritans construed all things and events as symbols with deeper religious meanings with the feeling to advance their own profit and their community's well-being; they were also promoting God's plans. They did not draw lines of distinction between the secular and religious spheres: All of life was an expression of the divine will, and this idea is interpreted in early American literature. Such works mostly included records of ordinary spiritual events, Puritan authors generally cited the Bible, chapter and verse. History was mainly a symbolic religious panorama leading to the Puritan triumph over the New World.

Europe's discovery and conquest...