Talk:American literature

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One or two things:-

-Seems strange to cite Bellow's 'Henderson the Rain King', set, for the most part, in Africa, as one of Saul's Great American Novels. Surely 'Herzog' would have been a better choice, particularly in keeping with the theme of madness in U.S. postwar lit. -Kerouac claimed the term 'Beat' came from the street talk of Herbert Huncke, meaning beat down by life. -No John Fante? -William Saroyan? -And, as someone else said - Thomas Wolfe... surely... —Preceding unsigned comment added by Pepelemoko75 (talkcontribs) 23:06, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

—Preceding unsigned comment added by Pepelemoko75 (talkcontribs) 23:03, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

Attention needed[edit]

This article is seriously in need of attention. It does not even start at the beginnings of American literature, in the colonial period, but rather the early 1800s.

This seems to be fixed

Jack London?[edit]

My big complaint is: Where's Jack London? I'd think he would merit mention. I would add him, but I'm not entirely sure where...the realism section, with Twain and James?

—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:44, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

Sci-fi section?[edit]

I'd like to suggest a greater section for science-fiction literature. Its one of the major American contributions to popular literature and deserves more than a couple sentences. Why not mention SF authors along with others in the piece?

I agree. Arthur C Clarke, Ray Bradbury and perhaps even Orson Scott Card merit a line here. Moabalan


I guess this is just an aside, but is the fact that Walt Whitman "manages not to sound like a crass egotist" really NPOV? That's how he always came off to me, to tell the truth. Also, although I guess the "literary value" could be disputed, but I'm surprised not to see Stephen King listed among more recent American writers. I've never personally read any of his books, but they've been undeniably popular. Of course, as the previous writer(s) says, discussing current literature in this light is dangerous. :) Seems like I should be able to think of more writers if I put my mind to it, too.

This whole article is a mess. I got as far as Washington Irving sounding "comfortably European" and realized it was very much POV. Claining Poe is the first "American" fiction author is certainly not an opinion that is beyond dispute. -- Decumanus 20:38, 1 Mar 2004 (UTC)

I didn't really think it was that bad, although the claim about Poe bothered me, too. (I'd forgotten by the time I got to the Whitman thing.) The article roughly parallels works of American fiction I read in high school. Maybe my teacher wasn't very NPOV. :)


Does literature encompass non-fiction? Certainly one of the great early contributions to American writing would be Thomas Paine's Common Sense, which was found in an enormous percentage of households of the day. (This is often cited as evidence that the early U.S. had an amazingly high rate of literacy before compulsory education.)

Slave narratives should be included[edit]

I would include a section for "slave narrative" with Olaudah Equiano and Phillis Wheatley —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:25, 17 December 2008 (UTC)

Postmodernism section[edit]

I've moved the postmodernism section here, because it's unencyclopedic nonsense. At the very least it needs to be rewritten before being reinserted.

Former content was:

Some names may serve to adumbrate postmodernism: Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis, Robert Coover, William H. Gass, John Barth, Raymond Federman, James Merrill, Don DeLillo. One pattern for all of them: every cultural structure must be part of a larger structure; none can be complete. The ideal of a structure of all possible structures is unrealizable. Knowledge must remain finally indeterminate. All this leads to the "Pattern of the pattern", the "Finnegan's Wake" matrix. Whatever. For the time being, we must not choose between the One and the Many, Humanism and Deconstruction, Community and Dissemination. We can only reopen such terms to constant negotiations, perpetual transformation of desire. As Thomas Pynchon, Raymond Federman, Oswald Wiener, Hans Wollschläger, Jacques Derrida, James Joyce, Arno Schmidt, Vladimir Sorokin, Elfriede Jelinek, writers of the postmodern novel, did.

"Whatever", indeed. --Delirium 01:13, July 17, 2005 (UTC)

I've fixed Postmodernism, I think. --J.Dayton 00:35, 28 March 2007 (UTC)


From reading the Post-modernism section that was omitted, I definitely agree that it should have been cut. On the other hand, should a post-postmodernism section then be included? And is this really an academic term anyway? It gets some hits on google, but I have never heard of a style called post-postmodernism in any of my undergrad or graduate Lit classes nor have any other of my student acquaintances that I've asked. A great many critics are trying to retool or cast off the label of postmodernism itself because it is too broad and widely abused, so, I would think post-postmodernism is probably a label that many writers and critics would not want to apply to anything.

It also says this movement started in 1970, but Gravity's Rainbow, the most widely recognized po-mo text, wasn't published until 1973. Morrison and DeLillo are frequently described as postmodernists, but the bulk of their work is from the 70s and 80s. How could post-postmodernism have begun while postmodernism itself was at best a nascent movement? As far as the description of the movement, the characteristics mentioned are either vacuous (what is a "soulful plot" anyway?) or identical to those associated with postmodernism. And the John Irving and David Sedaris works that I am aware of hardly qualify under the description offered; I'd seriously question if the latter, at least, even has any business in the article. I think maybe the whole section should just be ditched, but I didn't want to just do it without posting this first.

Also, with the postmodernism section cut, there is no mention of Pynchon, DeLillo, or Barth. These are three of the most highly regarded post-WWII American authors (three of the top four for Harold Bloom), and it seems like they should be mentioned. Roth and Morrison are relegated to being mentioned in lists in the ethnic writers sections, as though they are footnotes. Roth is Bloom's fourth author, and Toni Morrison is one of the few American authors to have won a Nobel. I think they deserve a little better treatment. 09:38, 3 November 2005 (UTC)MOB

Postmodernism is most definitely a term that is used, unfortunately, and often. Contemporary fiction is also used, though, and I think we might consider changing the title here to Contemporary American Fiction. Essentially, this category should include all notable literary contributors who are not, well, dead. Thoughts?
Also, we absolutely do not need a "post-postmodernism." That's just silly. -Solana-

American literature[edit]

I moved the article back to American literature. I believe the reason this article gets so few edits and attention is because it is listed under a strange title that is rarely used to identify the subject. American literature appears on Google a hundred times more frequently than "literature of the United States". You can see that the Wikilinks mostly direct to American literature. Also, 'of the United States' does not include literature of the American colonies. It also implies a contemporary focus, as in the body of the United States literary culture today. Other Wikipedias use American literature, and it is overwhelming the term used in the academic discourse. Most other literature articles use a national or ethnic adjective to introduce them. I don't think we should change this just because a few people object to the adjective that has mostly defined this subject. If they want to counter the most widely used term in the field, they can add a section at the bottom of the article with their objections. Tfine80 22:15, 30 November 2005 (UTC)


Well said. -Solana-


It may be the most widely used term, but it is undisputably wrong. "America" designates "the US" only for most people in the US. From the perspective of the rest of the world, "America" designates a very big continent: a container of many countries. The consensus (even international academical consensus considering works in English) is only possible because of the cultural hegemony of the U.S. In other languages, "American" literature is "Literature of the U. S." I do not object the designation of the article, but it must be said that it is evidently a wrong designation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:14, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

I agree: "America" actually includes two continents. It might be more convenient for Google searches (though that fact didn't stop the American theater page from being renamed Theater of the United States). The only advantage I see is that most other American-literature pages would have other names: Canadian literature, Mexican literature, Brazilian literature, etc. Aristophanes68 (talk) 17:06, 31 July 2010 (UTC)

I disagree. In English, the term "America" applies to the US. This includes other English speaking places such as England. In Spanish, the term "America" refers to the continents of North and South America, or what would be called "the Americas" in English. That said, it is inaccurate to claim that "the rest of the world" designates America as the two continents of North and South America, since more people in the world speak English over Spanish. Furthermore, it is not 'wrong' to use American Literature in this article, because this is the correct and common usage in English, and this article is written in English. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:19, 1 February 2011 (UTC)

Thomas Wolfe?[edit]

Should not this article at least mention Thomas Wolfe of Asheville, North Carolina? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by ScottHutchinson (talkcontribs) 04:13, 22 January 2007 (UTC).


If you don't like it, change it.

WHAT ![edit]

OK, this article represents 1-2% at best of American literature worth mentioning. Where's Ring Lardner? Where are so many people from the past? Will anyone work on this?

-- 07:23, 27 January 2007 (UTC)

--I really, really hope this Ring Lardner comment is a joke. -Solana-

Southern Literature, "Minority" Literature, etc.[edit]

Does anyone else feel as if a work of literature should either stand alone as American Literature or go unlisted on this particular page? We might put a list at the bottom, with links, but a work is either American Literature or it isn't. It either fits into one of our (sloppy) periods of time, or it doesn't.

In short, I think that these works need to either be integrated or removed. Toni Morrison shouldn't be listed as a "black" author. She should be listed as an author - an American author. Much of the lower half of this page is ridiculous, and I'm going to start working on it if there aren't any objections.--J.Dayton 15:05, 22 March 2007 (UTC)


Theater isn't literature. Theater is theater. If we're going to start working with mediums outside of straightforward prose we'll need to decide how far we're willing to go. What about the Graphic Novel? I almost placed a section in on the American comic, myself, before I considered the problem of medium. The title of this page is not American Narrative, it's American Literature.

A section on American Theater should be added to the American main page, linked to the American Theater page, and removed completely from the American Literature page. --J.Dayton 15:05, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

  • I am of the opinion (and I'm sure others agree) that literature is literature, whether it is in the style of a script, in verse, or in prose. My proof lies in a work such as Ulysses by James Joyce (though it is not American literature). It is not a theatre piece strictly, yet it includes sections of scriptwriting, of prose, and of poetry. Is it therefore not literature? To examine a work by Eugene O'Neill or Tennessee Williams solely as a piece of theatre is to be missing the point. They are valid pieces of literature, and very much enform the American style as much as Mark Twain and Nathaniel Hawthorne. In fact, several courses in American literature have included theatrical works as well as your "straightforward prose." Is the graphic novel literature? Probably not, as the graphic novel emphasises art, not literature. This is similar with the comic strip. The work of theatre deserves as much the heading of "literature" as any work of fiction or non-fiction would. Therefore, it might behoove us to include a bit about O'Neill (considering he did win a Nobel Prize in Literature). Kevin F. Story (talk) 18:07, 3 June 2007 (UTC)
    • Have you ever read a graphic novel (Watchmen, for instance)? Have you ever read a script for a graphic novel? They're written almost the exact way that screenplays are. Should we include culturally important screenplays in the entry? And what is the difference between a screenplay and a script for a staged play? Neither are intended to stand alone, and so how can they do just that (stand alone)? You noted that the comic emphasizes art, but the film, and the play emphasizes performance (as well as set design). Really, the script is just a skeleton. I've performed and directed several plays multiple times, and no performance matches another (even in the same run there are variations date to date) - that doesn't happen with Huckleberry Finn.--J.Dayton 17:20, 1 July 2007 (UTC)
      • Yet how can you refute the fact that the works of Eugene O'Neill are considered literature by the world, as validated by the Nobel Prize? I submit that a play can stand alone, without performance, but that a graphic novel has a difficult time standing alone from its art. I have indeed read graphic novels and comic books and find them fantastic pieces of art. Graphic novels are not written the same way as screenplays; a well-written screenplay uses prose to create a scene. Works of theatre and film are more than just lines the actors say. Tennesse Williams writes a full two pages of stage direction before the first line of A Streetcar Named Desire. One would find it very difficult to convince the world that the works of William Shakespeare are not literature. Also, one would find it difficult to convince the world that the works of Homer, meant to be performed live, are not literature. The words of the play, like the words of a novel, do not change. The interpretation of them changes, and that is as true for Beyond the Horizon as it is for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I would venture to guess that if some book writer in the graphic art world were to earn the Nobel Prize in Literature, or any literary honors (plays can earn Pulitzer Prizes, too) then that writer would have achieved a place in the grand scheme of American Literature. Kevin F. Story (talk) 21:55, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
        • This: "Graphic novels are not written the same way as screenplays; a well-written screenplay uses prose to create a scene" is simply not true. I write comics, and I went to film school.--J.Dayton (talk) 19:20, 10 October 2008 (UTC)

If theatre is only theatre, play writing is a great deal more. I think American literature must mean mainly fiction written by Americans. I'd hoped to find something here on Lillian Hellman and Eugene O'Neill. I've read them much more than I've gone to see them presented on stage. If nothing else, let's put a line at the top directing readers elsewhere to learn about American playwrights.

I don't think it helps much to compare A Streetcar Named Desire, a worthy heir to the Shakespearean tradition of English language play writing, to graphic novels. The latter are too new to have stood the test of time. We don't know what they will amount to. We don't have to wonder about that for The Little Foxes and Death of a Salesman. ==Moabalan —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:22, 14 January 2009 (UTC)

If we have a section on poetry, then we should have at least a section on drama, especially since the linked article, Theater of the United States really doesn't address play-writing. Aristophanes68 (talk) 22:15, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
I added a short section, comparable to the section on the rise of poetry (but even shorter). Aristophanes68 (talk) 22:54, 25 July 2010 (UTC)

Post-World War II Literature[edit]

Is there a reason my image of J.D. Salinger keeps getting deleted? --J.Dayton 15:20, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

And, speaking of the Post-World War II Lit page, might we adjust the title to American Modernism? This, coming from most of the professors who I've spoken with on the matter, seems more appropriate. In general, the various sub-categories on this page make little to no academic sense.

Just so you all know, I've completely re-written Post-World War II. I think it's making sense now. Cheers. --J.Dayton 00:37, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

I don't think it's NPOV to say that this was the last innovative period in American literature. How could it be? Tfine80 19:55, 7 April 2007 (UTC)
Then take that out. You neutered the rest of the article though. The Beatniks were not the only notable literary figures of the time (they weren't even the most dominant). I put my article back up. You can take out the "last great" bit. You'll have to make an argument for the rest of it.--J.Dayton 17:36, 14 April 2007 (UTC)hi

Where's Oz?[edit]

Just curious -- 12:50, 21 August 2007 (UTC)

Charles Chesnutt[edit]

Why does Charles Chesnutt (or any other prominent figures in African American literature) have no mention in this article? African American literature should not be excluded from the American Literature canon. Lwnf360 (talk) 01:18, 11 July 2008 (UTC)

Because the writers of this page are all racist, obviously. You can't see, so I'll let you know: I'm rolling my eyes right now. Toni Morrison is mentioned under Postmodern American lit, where she belongs. Zora-Neale Hurston should be placed under Post-World War II, I think. As for your question --- why not ask about Jewish lit? Catholic lit? GLBT lit? Asian lit? South American lit? The answer is, this page isn't so concerned with race (avoids racism, it looks like to me) as it is concerned with literary contributions. Also, there are links at the bottom of the page for movements in literature that center themselves specifically on such things as color and racial background, just above the genres.--J.Dayton (talk) 19:14, 10 October 2008 (UTC)

The Salmagundi link goes directly to the food. It should link to the periodical directly. (talk) 02:58, 23 October 2008 (UTC)

Native American Literature[edit]

This page should have a complete review of Native American Literature.

Brat Pack[edit]

Can anyone explain to me how you justify the inclusion of writers whose very name is a mocking gesture? Whose work was explicitly marketed to teenagers? Are we going to add Judy Blume and Stephen King now? The paragraph, under 1970-2000, was added without discussion even as it had been taken out previously... In any case, pending a real justification for their inclusion, I think it's denigrating to Don DeLillo to be followed by Bret Easton Ellis. (talk) 10:24, 25 July 2010 (UTC)

My copy of the recent Columbia History of American History does in fact discuss not only Ellis and McInerney but also Stephen King. I wouldn't claim they're at the level of DeLillo & Co., but part of the history of that period was the collapse of the distinction between high and low literature, the return to genre fiction, etc. Aristophanes68 (talk) 21:54, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
I think we may be in this case misconstruing the purpose and sweep of this article. I'm certain it also mentioned H.P. Lovecraft, etc. etc., and any number of what in retrospect are referred to as dime-novel authors, forerunners of the modern 'airport novel'; it's its purpose to be as thoroughgoing as possible about the literary landscape because it is designed to provide a full image of all literary output. It calls itself a History, all things considered. This article, though, is an overview, not a history. Mr. King's contributions would be more at home in another article addressing, for instance, horror as a novelistic genre and the blurring of the distinction between high- and lowbrow literature. As it is, this last bit is well-represented by Thomas Pynchon, who employs the technique subversively. Likewise, Messrs. Ellis and McInerney and their like can be mentioned in the same way, say, the confessional poets were, or as the Beats should have been, namely, as minor movements within the broader literary tapestry. The Brat Pack page can be expanded upon instead of adding unnecessary (and unmerited) bulk to the existing article, I think. (talk) 08:12, 26 July 2010 (UTC)
Ideally, this article would be the base page for a set of independent articles (either by period, e.g., Colonial American Literature, or by century, e.g., 16th Century American Literature). See how the French Literature article is more of an index for the topics listed, with a topic box giving links to more detailed articles by period, genre, etc. I think American literature deserves something similar. In that situation, I would agree that King, McInerney, et al. would not need to be posted here. Aristophanes68 (talk) 17:23, 31 July 2010 (UTC)
I saw that someone also took the blurb at the end of the minority literature heading and inserted it into the 1970 - 2000 heading; that was probably right to do... In any case, given that a few of the novels listed there came out in recent years (i.e., post-2000), I've provisionally changed the name to "Contemporary American literature." Please do write back if you have any better suggestions--maybe there's something in the Columbia History that would better describe the period. (talk) 22:14, 31 July 2010 (UTC)

List of critics[edit]

Who should be included/left off? I started the list with the central academic critics--the kinds of names you'd read in grad school. Should we include journalists and reviewers as well? Or stick with theorists? (Or change the name to theorists?) Aristophanes68 (talk) 21:13, 2 August 2010 (UTC)

Nice to see there's someone else working so diligently on this page. I think only the best-known of the print critics should be included; Kakutani, for instance, is almost a cultural fixture, at least as far as literature is concerned, and so too is Bloom, etc. My thinking on James Wood was, though he's a pretty straightforward naturalistic critic (with streaks of Benjamin and Barthes), he did end up turning some phrases that have since caught on if not so much in academia at least in the broader dialogue of literature, the most prominent of which is so-called hysterical realism. Also, I think situating the names in particular schools or movements is tremendously helpful, and certainly better than having them floating out in the ether. Good job... in the space of a few days this article is looking a great deal better. Now I wonder whether we can extract the most significant contributions under the minority heading and maybe add the rest to another list... it sort of smacks of segregation to consign them to their own little island at the end [especially in a country as diverse as this], unintended though it is. (talk) 03:17, 3 August 2010 (UTC)

Additional genres[edit]

These aren't real genres: Haiku in English, Lovecraftianism? Any objections to deleting them? Rwood128 (talk) 19:54, 18 October 2012 (UTC)

Cabeza de Vaca?[edit]

The Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca wrote his Relación in Spain in the 1540s after living 10 years with the Native Americans of the Southwest. This is the first book (travelogue) ever written on the peoples of North America. Could it be possible to include a reference to this book? He is only mentioned among a bunch of English names as if he were just another guy in a very anglocentric list. Why does the article consider John Smith the first "American" author if he was born 4 decades after the publication of Cabeza de Vaca's books? Cabeza de Vaca entered into contact with Native Americans just as much as John Smith (if not more). The only difference I see is that one wrote his books in English and the other one did it in Spanish. Cervantista (talk) 21:30, 8 September 2014 (UTC)

He's already mentioned in the second paragraph of the Colonial Literature section. If you want to add more details, go for it! Aristophanes68 (talk) 20:00, 9 September 2014 (UTC)

Gone with the Wind?[edit]

Gone with the Wind seemed to have an important impact, one of those that is often taught and talked about. It is controversial, but it is also those discussions that can lead to seeing what sorts of things we dismiss in contemporary society. (talk) 16:43, 18 June 2015 (UTC)

Wikipedia Visiting Scholars at Rollins College[edit]

Of potential interest to people watching this page, Rollins College is looking to sponsor a Wikipedia Visiting Scholar to improve Wikipedia articles on 19th and 20th century American writers and/or on the connections between American literature and feminist thought, desegregation, the civil rights movement, environmentalism, or political activism.

This is a great way to get access to university library databases and other resources while making an impact in areas you may already contribute to. For more information, including an overview of library resources, see the Rollins College Visiting Scholars page. Thanks. --Ryan (Wiki Ed) (talk) 14:04, 14 January 2016 (UTC)

Popular fiction v. "literature"[edit]

A curious dichotomy: the earlier sections of the article include genuinely popular writers now scoffed at by academics, but more recent citations veer away from popular fiction to authors considered more "literary" (academically acceptable). Thus before 1910 we have Harriet Beecher Stowe and O. Henry cited, but after 1910 no mention of Zane Grey or Larry McMurtry. But oh dear, there's just no "category" for such authors, is there? Just millions of readers.--Stevensaylor (talk) 22:58, 4 June 2016 (UTC)

Correction: Under "First American Novels"[edit]

In line 3 of the first paragraph under the heading "First American Novels", the date of publication of The Power of Sympathy by William Hill Brown is incorrectly given as 1791. In fact, it was published on January 21, 1789 in Boston by Isaiah Thomas, as shown in the main article on this book. FAMiniter (talk) 17:58, 12 September 2016 (UTC)

Feel free to make that change yourself! Be bold! Aristophanes68 (talk) 01:09, 13 September 2016 (UTC)

discuss two themes of early american literature[edit]

discuss two themes of early american literature — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:02, 16 February 2017 (UTC)