Abolitionism: An active movement to end slavery in the U.S. North before the Civil War in the 1860s.
Allusion: An implied or indirect reference in a literary text to another text.
Beatnik: The artistic and literary rebellion against established society of the 1950s and early 1960s associated with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and others. "Beat" suggests holiness ("beatification") and suffering ("beaten down").
Boston Brahmins: Influential and respected 19th-century New England writers who maintained the genteel tradition of upper-class values.
Calvinism: A strict theological doctrine of the French Protestant church reformer John Calvin (1509-1564) and the basis of Puritan society. Calvin held that all humans were born sinful and only God's grace (not the church) could save a person from hell.
Canon: An accepted or sanctioned body of literary works considered to be permanently established and of high quality.
Captivity narrative: An account of capture by Native-American tribes, such as those created by writers Mary Rowlandson and John Williams in colonial times.
Character writing: A popular 17th- and 18th-century literary sketch of a character who represents a group or type.
Similar in style to the works of the Russian author Anton Pavlovitch Chekhov. Chekhov (1860-1904), one of the major short story writers and dramatists of modern times, is known for both his humorous one-act plays and his full-length tragedies.
Civil War: The war (1861-1865) between the northern U.S. states, which remained in the Union, and the southern states, which seceded and formed the Confederacy. The victory of the North ended slavery and preserved the Union.
Conceit: An extended metaphor. The term is used to characterize aspects of Renaissance metaphysical poetry in England and colonial poetry, such as that of Anne Bradstreet, in colonial America.
Cowboy poetry: Verse based on oral tradition, and often rhymed or metered, that celebrates the traditions of the western U.S. cattle culture. Its subjects include nature, history, folklore, family, friends, and work. Cowboy poetry has its antecedents in the ballad style of England and the Appalachian South.
Domestic novel: A novel about home life and family that often emphasizes the personalities and attributes of its characters over the plot. Many domestic novels of the 19th and early 20th centuries employed a certain amount of sentimentality -- usually a blend of pathos and humor.
Enlightenment: An 18th-century movement that focused on the ideals of good sense, benevolence, and a belief in liberty, justice, and equality as the natural rights of man.
Existentialism: A philosophical movement embracing the view that the suffering individual must create meaning in an unknowable, chaotic, and seemingly empty universe.
Expressionism: A post-World War I artistic movement, of German origin, that distorted appearances to communicate inner emotional states.
Fabulist: A creator or writer of fables (short narratives with a moral, typically featuring animals as characters) or of supernatural stories incorporating elements of myth and legend.
Faulknerian: In a style reminiscent of William Faulkner (1897-1962), one of America's major 20th-century novelists, who chronicled the decline and decay of the aristocratic South. Unlike earlier regionalists who wrote about local color, Faulkner created literary works that are complex in form and often violent and tragic in content.
Faust: A literary character who sells his soul to the devil in order to become all-knowing, or godlike; protagonist of plays by English Renaissance dramatist Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) and German Romantic writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832).
Feminism: The view, articulated in the 19th century, that women are inherently equal to men and deserve equal rights and opportunities. More recently, feminism is a social and political movement that took hold in the United States in the late 1960s and soon spread globally.
Fugitives: Poets who collaborated in The Fugitive, a magazine published between 1922 and 1928 in Nashville, Tennessee. The collaborators, including such luminaries as John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, and Allen Tate, rejected "northern" urban, commercial values, which they felt had taken over America, and called for a return to the land and to American traditions that could be found in the South.
Genre: A category of literary forms (novel, lyric poem, epic, for example).
Global literature: Contemporary writing from the many cultures of the world. Selections include literature ascribed to various religious, ideological, and ethnic groups within and across geographic boundaries.
Hartford Wits: A patriotic but conservative late 18th-century literary circle centered at Yale College in Connecticut (also known as the Connecticut Wits).
Hip-hop poetry: Poetry that is written on a page but performed for an audience. Hip-hop poetry, with its roots in African-American rhetorical tradition, stresses rhythm, improvisation, free association, rhymes, and the use of hybrid language.
Hudibras: A mock-heroic satire by English writer Samuel Butler (1612-1680). Hudibras was imitated by early American revolutionary-era satirists.
Iambic: A metrical foot consisting of one short syllable followed by one long syllable, or of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable.
Image: Concrete representation of an object, or something seen.
Imagists: A group of mainly American poets, including Ezra Pound and Amy Lowell, who used sharp visual images and colloquial speech; active from 1912 to 1914.
Iowa Writers' Workshop: A graduate program in creative writing at the University of Iowa in which talented, generally young writers work on manuscripts and exchange ideas about writing with each other and with established poets and prose writers.
Irony: A meaning, often contradictory, concealed behind the apparent meaning of a word or phrase.
Kafkaesque: Reminiscent of the style of Czech-born novelist and short story writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924). Kafka's works portray the oppressiveness of modern life, and his characters frequently find themselves in threatening situations for which there is no explanation and from which there is no escape.
Knickerbocker School: New York City-based writers of the early 1800s who imitated English and European literary fashions.
Language poetry: Poetry that stretches language to reveal its potential for ambiguity, fragmentation, and self-assertion within chaos. Language poets favor open forms and multicultural texts; they appropriate images from popular culture and the media, and refashion them.
McCarthy era: The period of the Cold War (late 1940s and early 1950s) during which U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy pursued American citizens whom he and his followers suspected of being members or former members of, or sympathizers with, the Communist party. His efforts included the creation of "blacklists" in various professions -- rosters of people who were excluded from working in those fields. McCarthy ultimately was denounced by his Senate colleagues.
Metafiction: Fiction that emphasizes the nature of fiction, the techniques and conventions used to write it, and the role of the author.
Metaphysical poetry: Intricate type of 17th-century English poetry employing wit and unexpected images.
Middle Colonies: The present-day U.S. mid-Atlantic states -- New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware -- known originally for commercial activities centered around New York City and Philadelphia.
Midwest: The central area of the United States, from the Ohio River to the Rocky Mountains, including the Prairie and Great Plains regions (also known as the Middle West).
Minimalism: A writing style, exemplified in the works of Raymond Carver, that is characterized by spareness and simplicity.
Mock-epic: A parody using epic form (also known as mock-heroic).
Modernism: An international cultural movement after World War I expressing disillusionment with tradition and interest in new technologies and visions.
Motif: A recurring element, such as an image, theme, or type of incident.
Muckrakers: American journalists and novelists (1900-1912) whose spotlight on corruption in business and government led to social reform.
Multicultural: The creative interchange of numerous ethnic and racial subcultures.
Myth: A legendary narrative, usually of gods and heroes, or a theme that expresses the ideology of a culture.
Naturalism: A late 19th- and early 20th-century literary approach of French origin that vividly depicted social problems and viewed human beings as helpless victims of larger social and economic forces.
Neoclassicism: An 18th-century artistic movement, associated with the Enlightenment, drawing on classical models and emphasizing reason, harmony, and restraint.
New England: The region of the United States comprising the present-day northeastern states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut and noted for its early industrialization and intellectual life. Traditionally, New England is the home of the shrewd, independent, thrifty "Yankee" trader.
New Journalism: A style of writing made popular in the United States in the 1960s by Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote, and Norman Mailer, who used the techniques of story-telling and characterization of fiction writers in creating nonfiction works.
Objectivist: A mid-20th-century poetic movement, associated with William Carlos Williams, stressing images and colloquial speech.
Old Norse: The ancient Norwegian language of the sagas, virtually identical to modern Icelandic.
Oral tradition: Transmission by word of mouth; tradition passed down through generations; verbal folk tradition.
Plains Region: The middle region of the United States that slopes eastward from the Rocky Mountains to the Prairie.
Poet Laureate: An individual appointed as a consultant in poetry to the U.S. Library of Congress for a term of generally one year. During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of poetry.
Poetry slam: A spoken-word poetry competition.
Postmodernism: A media-influenced aesthetic sensibility of the late 20th century characterized by open-endedness and collage. Postmodernism questions the foundations of cultural and artistic forms through self-referential irony and the juxtaposition of elements from popular culture and electronic technology.
Prairie: The level, unforested farm region of the midwestern United States.
Primitivism: A belief that nature provides truer and more healthful models than does culture. An example is the myth of the "noble savage."
Puritans: English religious and political reformers who fled their native land in search of religious freedom, and who settled and colonized New England in the 17th century.
Reformation: A northern European political and religious movement of the 15th through 17th centuries that attempted to reform Catholicism; eventually gave rise to Protestantism.
Reflexive: Self-referential. A literary work is reflexive when it refers to itself.
Regional writing: Writing that explores the customs and landscape of a region of the United States.
Revolutionary War: The War of Independence, 1775-1783, fought by the American colonies against Great Britain.
Romance: Emotionally heightened, symbolic American novels associated with the Romantic period.
Romanticism: An early 19th-century movement that elevated the individual, the passions, and the inner life. Romanticism, a reaction against neoclassicism, stressed strong emotion, imagination, freedom from classical correctness in art forms, and rebellion against social conventions.
Saga: An ancient Scandinavian narrative of historical or mythical events.
Salem Witch Trials: Proceedings for alleged witchcraft held in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. Nineteen persons were hanged and numerous others were intimidated into confessing or accusing others of witchcraft.
Self-help book: A book telling readers how to improve their lives through their own efforts. The self-help book has been a popular American genre from the mid-19th century to the present.
Separatists: A strict Puritan sect of the 16th and 17th centuries that preferred to separate from the Church of England rather than reform. Many of those who first settled America were separatists.
Slave narrative: The first black literary prose genre in the United States, featuring accounts of the lives of African Americans under slavery.
South: A region of the United States comprising the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, as well as eastern Texas.
Surrealism: A European literary and artistic movement that uses illogical, dreamlike images and events to suggest the unconscious.
Syllabic versification: Poetic meter based on the number of syllables in a line.
Synthesis: A blending of two senses; used by Edgar Allan Poe and others to suggest hidden correspondences and create exotic effects.
Tall tale: A humorous, exaggerated story common on the American frontier, often focusing on cases of superhuman strength.
Theme: An abstract idea embodied in a literary work.
Tory: A wealthy pro-English faction in America at the time of the Revolutionary War in the late 1700s.
Transcendentalism: A broad, philosophical movement in New England during the Romantic era (peaking between 1835 and 1845). It stressed the role of divinity in nature and the individual's intuition, and exalted feeling over reason.
Trickster: A cunning character of tribal folk narratives (for example those of African Americans and Native Americans) who breaks cultural codes of behavior; often a culture hero.
Vision song: A poetic song that members of some Native-American tribes created when purifying themselves through solitary fasting and meditation.
SELECTED INTERNET RESOURCES
African American Literature Maintained at the University of Southern California, provides links to resources on African-American literature, literary criticism, articles, dissertations, and general reference materials, as well as links to specific genres of literature -- poetry, drama, novels, and short fiction.
African American Writers: Online E-texts Includes biographical information on as well as the writings of a host of African-American writers, ranging over time from Jupiter Hammon in the 1700s to contemporary writers.
American Authors on the Web A very comprehensive site from Nagoya University that presents a chronological listing of almost 800 American authors and includes biographical authors and/or writing samples for the majority of them.
American Collection: Educators Site A Web site posted in connection with a U.S. Public Broadcasting Service television series on nine American authors. Designed for educators, the site contains teaching resources, lesson plans, background information, and author profiles. The site also includes an "American Writing Gateway" that links to Web sites focused on some 50 of America's most prominent authors.
American Literary Classics: A Chapter A Day Library Contains the complete texts of some 25 popular American literary classics, along with a handful of British works, each arranged in a large-type chapter-by-chapter format. Among the selections are "Uncle Tom's Cabin," "Main Street," "Moby-Dick," "The Red Badge of Courage," and "The House of Seven Gables."
American Literature, Keele Includes three virtual libraries that contain, respectively, electronic texts and resources for 18th and 19th century American literature, electronic texts and resources for 20th century American literature, and literature by and on black Americans. Also includes links to other American and global literature Web sites, as well as an electronic archives for teaching American literature.
American Plays and Playwrights: Intro to Drama An on-line bibliography maintained by the Thomas Byrne Library at Spring Hill College that directs the reader to printed titles about American plays and playwrights, including biography, bibliographies and guides to criticism, and theater and drama journals.
A Brief Chronology of African American Literature From San Antonio College, a listing and several links to the foremost African-American writers and their works, from the mid-1700s to the present day.
A Celebration of Women Writers A comprehensive site that lists upwards of 900 American women writers from the country's beginning until the present time and includes links to information on and the works of many of them. Also includes links to women writers in some 90 other countries. A product of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie-Mellon University.
C-Span American Writers: A Journey Through History An on-line companion to a spring 2002 American history series that looks at the lives and works of selected American writers who have been influential in the course of the nation. The series currently covers eight time periods, beginning with the founding of America and continuing through the Vietnam era, and features 45 writers and their works.
Electronic Archives for Teaching the American Literatures Contains essays, syllabi, bibliographies, and other resources for teaching the multiple literatures of the United States; created and maintained by the Center for Electronic Projects in American Culture Studies at Georgetown University.
Electronic Poetry Center From Kathy Acker to Louis Zukofsky, a site at the State University of New York at Buffalo that contains information on and the writings of more than 150 American poets.
Glossary of Poetic Terms Contain a list of terms, arranged alphabetically, related to poetry; provides the phonetic pronunciation of each term, its definition, and examples of its use, as well as poetic quotations.
Index of Native American Book Resources Includes extensive links to organizations, online and printed journals, and presses specializing in Native American literature, as well as links to books with Native American content, home pages for Native American authors, and much more.
Internet Public Library Online Literary Criticism Collection A literary metasite containing annotations of sites and articles devoted to literary criticism and information on authors. In addition to 200 American and British authors, more than 50 international authors are featured. The collection indexes over 2,500 resources.
Internet Sites Related to Electronic Literature, ChoiceMagazine Includes information on publishers of electronic literature, library sites, Web-accessible Gopher lists, lists of electronic literature resources, and resources by period or nationality. Choice is a publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association.
Literary Resources -- American Includes links to home pages covering various aspects of American literature, as well as home pages dedicated to more than 50 individual writers and poets. Maintained by Jack Lynch, a doctoral candidate in English literature at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Mississippi Writers Page: The Internet Guide to Mississippi Writers Presented by the University of Mississippi, the site contains information on some 270 writers of drama, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry who have called the state of Mississippi their home. Biographies of the writers, information about their books and other publications, and bibliographies of other information sources (including literary criticism) are featured.
Norton Websource to American Literature An online companion to The Norton Anthnology of American Literature (fifth edition) covering 120 American writers. The site provides for each writer a brief biography, "an exploration" in which one of the writer's works is examined, and a list of other sites to consult. The site also groups this information by "topic clusters," permitting comparison of works of the same genré or time period.
PAL: Perspectives in American Literature: A Research and Reference Guide Encompasses American literature in various time periods; includes special sections on American drama and African-American writers. Maintained by Paul P. Reuben of the Department of English, California State University.
Poets.Org Maintained by the Academy of American Poets, this site includes biographies, photos, and other information on more than 200 hundred poets and some 600 poems. The site features a unique "listening booth" in which the Web reader can also hear 80 poets, predominantly American, read their own works.
San Antonio College LitWeb, 1865 - Present Features a page for each of more than 60 of America's most prominent writers; each page contains listings of and subsequent links to each writer's major works, as well as information about him or her.
A Small Anthology of Poems A considerable sampling of English-language poetry in which the work of American poets is well represented; maintained by Seamus Cooney of Western Michigan University, the site also links to what Cooney identifies as "my collection of really bad poetry."
Voices From the Gaps: Women Writers of Color A project from the University of Minnesota that focuses on the lives and works of women writers of color in North America. Designed primarily to serve as an active learning component in the literature classroom, the site relies upon students and scholars from around the world to contribute author "home pages" for women writers of color.
COLONIAL AND 19TH CENTURY AMERICAN LITERATURE AND POETRY
African American Women Writers of the 19th Century A collection of 52 published works by black women writers that provides access to the perspectives and creative abilities of black women as captured in books and pamphlets published prior to 1920.
Early American Literature 1600-1900 Links to Internet resources aimed mainly at elementary and secondary school students and covering history and criticism, movements, study and teaching, online text collections, and writers of America's earliest days.
San Antonio College LitWeb, From Earliest Times to 1865 Links to the authors and their works from the period of exploration and colonization in the United States to the early 19th century.
A Student's History of American Literature From Bibliomania, descriptive information on the various periods in American literature from early colonial times (1607-1700) to "modern literature," which ends for this offering in the very early 20th century. Includes an extensive alphabetical index of authors and their works.
Wright American Fiction (1851-1875) A collection of American fiction that attempts to include every novel published in the United States from 1851 to 1875. It features works by well-known writers such as Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville, along with a great many forgotten authors whose works may have been very popular in their own time. The collection, which is hosted by the Indiana University Digital Library, currently has 1,752 texts by 845 authors.
MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN LITERATURE AND POETRY
American Cultural History: The Twentieth Century A series of Web guides for the 20th century, the guide for each decade include brief facts about the decade and events defining it, as well as links to the notable "Books & Literature" of the time.
American Dramatists A brief page that contains biographical information for three noted American playwrights -- Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Lorraine Hansberry -- along with the dialogue from playwright Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes."
Native American Authors Provides information on Native North American authors with bibliographies of their published works, biographical information, and links to online resources including interviews, online texts, and tribal websites.
Storytellers: Native American Authors Online Includes links to official and unofficial home pages of Native American authors, as well as some full-text publications, reviews, and information on upcoming events.
Twentieth-century Poetry in English From professor Eiichi Hishikawa at Kobe University, a site containing links to the works of more than 140 poets writing in English and "poet pages" for 11 of these, including T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Marianne Moore, and William Carolos Williams.
The U.S. Department of State assumes no responsibility for the content and availability of the resources from other agencies and organizations listed above. All Internet links were active as of December 2006.
The following text materials may not be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder.
"Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock" by Wallace Stevens. From Selected Poems by Wallace Stevens. Copyright 1923 and renewed 1951 by Wallace Stevens. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
"The Red Wheelbarrow" and "The Young Housewife" by William Carlos Williams. Collected Poems. 1909-1939. Vol. I. Copyright 1938 by New Directions Publishing Corp. Reprinted by permission of New Directions.
"The Negro Speaks of Rivers" by Langston Hughes. From Selected Poems by Langston Hughes. Copyright 1926 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. and renewed 1954 by Langston Hughes. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.