The themes in this exhibit represent the beginning of American literature, spanning from Native American oral storytelling traditions to the recent past. Each portrait you see represents a single author who significantly influenced their time period. Feel free to turn each portrait to view biographical information, quotes, and other fun facts about each author and their literary movement.
The time periods shown were carefully curated by a team of experts on American literature from across the country. Since there is an overwhelming wealth of knowledge in this section, here are some markers to help orient you through 400 years of history:
Pre-Settlement (before 1500): The yellow section at the beginning of the timeline covers some Native American ways of telling stories and documenting history.
Colonial (1500-1760): The orange section includes daring accounts by explorers and early settlers, as well as reflective Puritan writers and writers of Native American captivity narratives.
Revolutionary (1761-1790): The purple section represents a key shift in national thinking; creators of political pamphlets and documents, poems, scientific essays and letters are featured here.
New Nation (1791-1834): After the Revolutionary War, Americans began to find their national voice through writers of biographies, early novels, American myths, Gothic romances, and even diaries.
The themes in the second half of this exhibit highlight a maturation of the American style.
Literary Independence (1835-1877): The dark blue section shows diversification through makers of memoirs, essays, speeches, works of philosophy, journalism, poems, novels, diaries, histories, scientific works, and short stories.
One Nation, Many Experiences (1878-1917): The light blue section focuses on the diversity that makes America wonderful by showcasing representatives of immigrant writing, naturalism, horror, science fiction, sociology, journalism, and regionalism.
Modernism and More (1918-1945): The era following World War I (represented in green) allowed many branches of American literature to flourish including Modernist poetry, novels, and short stories, along with autobiographies, histories, and children's literature.
New Voice (1946-1970): The purple section at the end of this exhibit shows an explosion of new perspectives as increasingly diverse writers were published.
A gift of Julia and Roger Baskes