Puritan or Colonial Period is the time period in America from about 1615-1750



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Characteristics of the Puritans/Colonial Period
The Puritan or Colonial Period is the time period in America from about 1615-1750. During this time, common beliefs were:


  • The Bible is the literal word of God.

  • There is an “elect” who are saved from hell and damnation and those who are not saved will end up going to hell.

  • They believed God was everywhere working directly in their lives.

  • Satan is real and always looking to corrupt good, Godly people.

Literature we read set in this time period: The Crucible about the Salem witch trials.

Characteristics of the Age of Reason

Also called the Revolutionary Period

(This is because the Revolutionary War took place during this time)
The Age of Reason/Revolutionary Period is the time period in America from about 1750-1800. During this time, common beliefs were:


  • People arrive at truths in life by using reason and logic (their ability to think), not relying on religious explanations.

  • God created the universe, but He doesn’t interfere with what happens in the world.

  • Through the use of logic and reason, we can discover God’s rules

  • God wants people to be happy.

  • The best way to worship God is to help others.

  • People can become perfect if they work hard enough at it

  • The city is the best place to be.

  • Progress and being successful were what was valued. “Make something of yourself!”

Literature we read from this time period: The Declaration of Independence. (Thomas Jefferson and founding fathers)


Characteristics of American Romanticism
Romanticism is the time period in America from 1800-1860. During this time, common beliefs were:


  • People valued feelings and intuition (emotions) over using logic and reason (thinking) to know truths about life.

  • People valued the use of imagination (being creative).

  • Romantics loved nature and the countryside. They did NOT like the city and “civilized” life.

  • They celebrated individual freedom and the unique worth of the individual person.

  • They liked to sit around and think thoughts about nature’s beauty. It was a spiritual experience for them, and it helped develop their morals (sense of right and wrong).

  • They don’t like the idea of quick progress in the world. They believe people should move slowly so they can enjoy the beauty around them. (“Stop and smell the roses.”)

  • They like the idea of supernatural powers, to imagine the impossible.

  • Poetry is the greatest way to express your imagination. It is the best type of writing.

  • The people loved folklore, legends, and mythological stories.



    • Another category of Romantics were the Dark Romantics. They shared many of the same beliefs as the Transcendentalists (see below), but additionally they also:

      • Used symbolism very often in their writing.

      • Liked to explore the conflict between good and evil and the psychological effects of guilt and sin in their writing.

      • They were interested in the ability of the human mind (psyche) when it is mad (crazy) and deranged. (Topics about torture, revenge, obsessive thoughts, etc.)

Literature we read from this time period is “Rip Van Winkle” (short story) by Washington Irving and “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls” (poem) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Characteristics of the American Renaissance:

A Literary Coming of Age



(This overlaps with Romanticism!!! It is part of the same overall time period!)
The American Renaissance is the time period from about 1840-1860. It overlaps with American Romanticism. Common beliefs for this time were:


  • Renaissance means “rebirth.” This time is called the Renaissance because it is the rebirth of American Literature. This is when American literary writer’s exploded into styles of their own, breaking away from England/ European styles and traditions. American Literature was “reborn.”

  • A sub-group of writer’s during this time called themselves transcendentalists. Transcendentalism is the belief that the idea of something is more perfect than the thing itself. For example, if you think about a perfect rainbow in your mind, it is more perfect then one you could draw with crayons. Therefore, the thought of a rainbow is what a rainbow really is. The one you draw with crayons is just an imperfect representation. (This was way before computers existed!)

  • Transcendentalists believed that humans can be perfect if they work hard enough at it.

  • People can use their emotions and feelings to feel God’s presence in nature. (If I go sit in the woods in a beautiful spot, and I let my thoughts wandering and focus on how I feel and my emotions, then I will be able to sense God’s presence.)

  • What an individual person wants in life and the ability of the individual person to take care of him/herself is more important than following the rules and traditions in society.

  • It is better to suddenly feel strong emotions about something and act on them rather than using your logic skills to think through a situation. (If you were angry at your best friend, it is better to speak from the heart right away about how you feel rather than stop to think things through and plan your words carefully.)


Literature we read from this time period: “The Fall of the House of Usher” (short story) by Edgar Allen Poe


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