Search this website:

This web page location:

home page  >   Literature and Writing  >   American Literature: Prose

Literature and Writing

American Literature: Prose

clamor, American literature, American colonies, young nation, world stage

Deeper web pages:

>  Beginnings: the 1500s and 1600s

>  Toward Independence: the 1700s

>  Nationhood: 1800s

>  Modernism: 1900s

>  Current Trends

American Literature: Prose, fiction and nonfiction of the American colonies and the United States, written in the English language from about 1600 to the present. This literature captures America’s quest to understand and define itself. From the beginning America was unique in the diversity of its inhabitants; over time they arrived from all parts of the world. Although English quickly became the language of America, regional and ethnic dialects have enlivened and enriched the country’s literature almost from the start. Today American prose encompasses a variety of traditions and voices that share a common context: the geographical region now known as the United States. Native American literatures, which were largely oral at the time of colonial settlement, stand apart as a separate tradition that is itself strong and varied.

For its first 200 years American prose reflected the settlement and growth of the American colonies, largely through histories, religious writings, and expedition and travel narratives. Biography also played an important role, especially in America’s search for native heroes. Fiction appeared only after the colonies gained independence, when the clamor for a uniquely American literature brought forth novels based on events in America’s past. With a flowering of prose in the mid-1800s, the young nation found its own voice. By then fiction had become the dominant literary genre in America. In the 20th century, American literature took its place on the world stage and began to exert influence on other literatures.


Reid, Margaret, A.B., M.A., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of English, Marquette University.

Article key phrases:

clamor, American literature, American colonies, young nation, world stage, geographical region, nonfiction, quest, inhabitants, voice, expedition, diversity, United States, world, century, place, Biography, start, present, Fiction, novels, influence, settlement, English language, country, growth, histories, voices, past, search, events, parts

Search this website: