American Literature before the Civil War

Development of American literature traces back to the oral traditions of indigenous tribes that inhabited the country before arrival of Europeans. Because of lack of a specific written language until later on, American written literature began with European settlers and explorers. Most of these early works by the Europeans were narratives capturing the experiences and adventures of the settlers. With time, as colonies were establishing themselves, creative works came up. Focus among writers moved from personal life experiences to natural beauty of America and its landscapes.

Some Americans got concerned with growth of America as a new nation and started writing literature urging fellow Americans to live justly and wisely. This changed the phase of American literature until the revolutionary war. Most of the literature printed within this period involved the relationship between colonies and British colonialists. In the midst of great debate and concerns over Americans acquiring their freedom from the rule of British, literature relating to anti-slavery began to make initial appearances. This was due to emergence of authors of African American origin and poetry based on African Americans. After the revolutionary war, American literature remained mostly autobiographical in quality, with many of the writers involved in literature publishing stories about their life and expertise.

In the 1880’s, American literature began to really come into its own. Some writers began to write a trifle on American matters. Literature involved stories such as changes the country was experiencing in the transition from a group of European colonies to a unified nation. As writers were devising an identity for literature in America, distinguishable from, but related to works of Europeans, the country was working up to a civil war. The slavery question got attention of many successful writers of that period with some inspiring pro-slavery Americans to write in response. A lot of creative progress took place as the nation divided and polarized over the slavery issue. This saw the birth of many American literary traditions in the mid 19th century with writers like Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman breaking up and inventing poetry rules to suit their needs. Romanticism also made its way to literature at the same time and its influence felt through works of different authors.

American literature prior to the Civil war showed a unique ability to stir emotions that led to the upheaval, by addressing issues such as slavery. In turn, this changed the course of American literature.