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American literature refers to all works of literature in English produced in the United States.

The 19th Century


 William Cullen Bryant (1794 - 1878) became famous for “Thanatopsis” (1817). This poem marked a new
beginning for American poetry.
 Washington Irving (1783 - 1859) was known for “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” the
first American short stories. They were part of his work The Sketch Book, the first American work to become
successful internationally.
 Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849) became famous for his macabre stories like “The Fall of the House of Usher”
(1839) and “The Cask of Amontillado” (1846). Also, he wrote “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841), the
first detective story, and the poem “Raven” (1845), with which he achieved instant fame.
 Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 - 1864) became known for his symbolical tales like “The Hollow of the Three
Hills” (1830) and “Young Goodman Brown” (1835). Also, he wrote the gothic romance The Scarlet
Letter(1850).
 Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892) became well-known for Leaves of Grass, first published in 1855. In this poetry
collection, Whitman showed the experiences of the common man.
 Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886) wrote odd poems. She mostly used the imperfect rhyme and avoided regular
rhythms. A collection of her poems, Poems by Emily Dickinson, came out in 1890.

The 20th Century


 Robert Frost (1874 - 1963) wrote poems with traditional stanzas and a blank verse, a verse in iambic
pentameter with no rhyme. His poems portray ordinary people in everyday situations like “Mending Wall,”
"The Road Not Taken," and “After Apple-Picking,” both of which were published in 1914.
 E. E. cummings (1894 - 1962) was known for his unconventional punctuation and phrasing. His poems were
compiled in Complete Poems (1968).
 Ezra Pound (1885 - 1972) was a leader of the Imagists, who emphasized the use of direct and sparse language
and precise images in writing poetry. Two of his works are Ripostes (1912) and Lustra (1916).
 Sherwood Anderson (1876 - 1941) wrote prose using everyday speech. His best works appeared
in Winesburg, Ohio (1919) and Death in the Woods (1933).
 Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961) was known for his succinct writing, which was widely imitated. His writing
was very straightforward and objective - not verbose and sentimental. Two of his finest stories are “The
Killers” (1927) and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” (1936).
 Allen Ginsberg (1926 - 1997) was known for his work “Howl” (1956), a poem with incantatory rhythms and
raw emotion. He was one of the Beat poets, who aimed to bring poetry back to the streets.
 Anne Sexton (1928 - 1974) became known for her confessional poetry, a kind of poetry that deals with the
private experiences of the speaker. Her work Live or Die (1966) won a Pulitzer Prize.

European Literature, also called Western Literature, refers to literature in the Indo-European languages including
Latin, Greek, the Romance languages, and Russian. It is considered as the largest body of literature in the world.
Latin Literature

 Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BCE–43 BCE) was the greatest Roman orator. The first part of the Golden Age
of Latin Literature (70 BC–AD 18) is named after him, the Ciceronian period (70–43 BC). Using Latin as a
literary medium, he was able to express abstract and complicated thoughts clearly in his speeches. One of his
well-known speeches is Pro Cluentio.
 Virgil (70 BCE–19 BCE), the greatest Roman poet, was known for Aeneid, an epic poem. He wrote it during
the Augustan Age (43 BC–AD 18), the second part of the Golden Age.

Greek Literature

 Homer is known for the The Iliad and the The Odyssey. These epics are about the heroic achievements of
Achilles and Odysseus, respectively.
 Sophocles (496 BC–406 BC) was a tragic playwright. He was known for Oedipus the King, which marks the
highest level of achievement of Greek drama.

Italian Literature
 Francesco Petrarca, or Petrarch (1304–1374) perfected the Italian sonnet, a major influence on European
poetry. Written in the vernacular, his sonnets were published in the Canzoniere.
 Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375) is known for Decameron, a classic Italian masterpiece. The stories were
written in the vernacular.

Spanish Literature

 Two well-known Spanish writers of Siglo De Oro (1500–1681) are Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616) and
Lope de Vega (1562–1635).
 Miguel de Cervantes was known for his novel Don Quixote, one of the most widely read works of Western
Literature. Its titular character’s name is the origin of the word “quixotic,” meaning hopeful or romantic in a
way that is not practical.
 Lope de Vega, an outstanding dramatist, wrote as many as 1800 plays during his lifetime, including cloak and
sword drama, which are plays of upper middle class manners and intrigue.

French Literature

 Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880), a novelist, was a major influence on the realist school. His
masterpiece, Madame Bovary (1857), marked the beginning of a new age of realism.
 Guy de Maupassant (1850–1893) is considered as the greatest French short story writer. A Naturalist, he
wrote objective stories which present a real “slice of life.”

Russian Literature

 Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) is known for his novels War and Peace (1865–1869) and Anna Karenina(1875–
1877). A master of realistic fiction, he is considered as one of the world’s greatest novelists.
 Anton Chekhov (1860–1904) is a master of the modern short story and a Russian playwright. His works such
as, "The Bet" and "The Misfortune" reveal his clinical approach to ordinary life.

European Literature refers to literatures in the Indo-European languages. It is considered as the largest body of
literature in the world.
Latin American Literature refers to all works of literature in Latin American countries like Chile, Argentina,
Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, Colombia, and Peru.

The Vanguardia
 The Vanguardia (avant-garde in English) took place in Latin America between approximately 1916 and 1935.
It collectively referred to different literary movements. Four of those were the following:
o Creacionismo, founded by Vicente Huidobro (1893–1948), a Chilean poet, in 1916
o Ultraismo, introduced to South America by Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986), an Argentine writer, in
1921
o Estridentismo, founded in Mexico City by Manuel Maples Arce (1898–1981), a Mexican writer, in
1921
o Surrealism, which is said to have started in Argentina when the Argentinian poet Aldo
Pellegrini (1903–1973) launched the first Surrealist magazine in 1928
 Surrealism, an art form that combines unrelated images or events in a very strange and dreamlike way,
became a major influence in Latin American Literature throughout the 20th century.
 Pablo Neruda (1904–1973), a Chilean poet, wrote Residence on Earth (1933), a collection of poetry inspired
by surrealism.
 Octavio Paz (1914–1998), a Mexican poet, wrote poems with surrealist imagery. His major works were
published in Freedom Under Parole (1960).
 Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986) was known for his fantastic stories, published later as a collection
entitled Ficciones (1944).
 Alejo Carpentier (1904–1980), a Cuban writer, wrote The Kingdom of This World (1949), a novel of the
magic realism genre, in which elements of fantasy or myth are included matter-of-factly in seemingly realistic
fiction.
 Miguel Angel Asturias (1899–1974), a Guatemalan writer, wrote the novel The President (1946). This novel
along with Carpentier’s novel introduced magic realism.
The Boom Novels
These were essentially modernist novels, which appeared in the second half of the 20th century. They had features that
were different or absent from the works of the regionalist writers of the past. (Regionalist writers were those that used
local color, which refers to interesting information about a particular place or its people.)

The boom novels were the following:

 The Death of Artemio Cruz (1962) by Carlos Fuentes (1928–2012), a Mexican writer
 Hopscotch (1963) by Julio Cortazar (1914–1984), an Argentine fictionist
 The Time of the Hero (1963) by Mario Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian writer
 One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927–2014), a Colombian fictionist

“Post-Boom” Writers
These writers included a host of women who published works in the last twenty years of the 20th century. Three of
them were Isabel Allende, a Chilean writer who wrote The House of Spirits (1982); Diamela Eltit, a Chilean writer
who wrote E. Luminata (1983); and Luisa Valenzuela, an Argentine writer who wrote Black Novel with
Argentines (1990).

Latin American Literature refers to all works of literature in Latin American countries. The 20th century saw some
of its best writers.
African Literature
The literary works of African writers in English are part of the African literature. This body of works refers to the
ones not only produced in Afro-Asiatic and African languages, but also to those works by Africans in English, French,
and other European languages.

A few of the common themes in the works of African writers are the oppression of African people by the colonizers,
the European influences on the native African culture, racial discrimination, and pride in African past and resilience.

Chinua Achebe (1930–2013) – This Nigerian writer was known for his novel Things Fall Apart (1958), considered as
the best known African novel of the 20th century. It deals with emergent Africa, where native communities, like
Achebe’s Igbo community, came in contact with white missionaries and its colonizers. The novel is the first in
sometimes called The African Trilogy. It was followed by No Longer at Ease, published in 1960, and then Arrow of
God in 1964.

Wole Soyinka – This Nigerian writer received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, becoming the first black African
to receive such award. As a playwright, he wrote the satire A Dance of the Forests (1963), his first important play that
depicts the traditions of his people, the Yoruba. It was staged in 1960 during the Nigerian independence celebrations.
Also, he wrote fiction and poetry.

Example
“The Telephone Conversation” by Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka’s poem “The Telephone Conversation” first appeared in his collection Modern Poetry from Africa
(1963). As the title suggests, the poem is about a telephone conversation between an African man and a white woman.
Considering to rent the apartment owned by the white woman, the African man confesses, saying “I hate a wasted
journey—I am African.” Then as the conversation goes, the woman shows her true colors. She asks, “HOW DARK?”
then follows it up with another question, “ARE YOU LIGHT/ OR VERY DARK.” Then asks again, “ARE YOU
DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?” Then the African man clarifies the question, saying “You mean—like plain or milk
chocolate?” Then he settles on this response “West African sepia... Down in my passport.” Perhaps, out of ignorance,
the woman says that she does not know the color. To simplify, the African man says, “Like brunette.” Confirming
what she already thinks about the African man, the woman says “THAT’S DARK, ISN’T IT?” Towards the end of the
poetry, the African man tries to describe the colors of the different parts of his body to the woman. The poem ends
with an invitation from the African man for the white woman, saying “Madam . . . wouldn’t you rather/ see for
yourself?”
Nadine Gordimer (1923–2014) – This South African writer received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991. She was
known for her works that dealt with the effects of apartheid on her country. Apartheid was a system in which people
of color had less political and economic rights than that of the white people, so the former was forced to live
separately from the latter. An ardent opponent of such system, she wrote novels that focused on the oppression of
nonwhite characters like A World of Strangers (1958), The Late Bourgeois World (1966), Burger’s Daughter (1979),
and July’s People (1981), all of which were banned in her country.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – This Nigerian writer is known for her widely-acclaimed novels Purple
Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), and Americanah (2013), all of which won awards. The story of Purple
Hibiscus is told through a fifteen-year-old girl named Kambili as she together with her family endured domestic
violence in the hands of her father. The story of Half of a Yellow Sun took place during the Nigerian Civil War or
Biafran War (1967–1970). Lastly, Americanah tells the story of a young Nigerian woman that came to the US to study
and to stay for work.

Example:
“A Private Experience” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“A Private Experience” is one of the short stories in the author’s collection The Thing Around Your Neck published in
2009. It tells the story of two women, one named Chika and the other unnamed. Chika is an Igbo, one of the largest
ethnic groups of Africa, and an outward Christian (she wears a rosary that her mother gave her, but she does not pray
or believe in God). On the other hand, the unnamed woman is a Hausa, another large African ethnic group, and a
devout Muslim. They cross paths during a riot at a market in the city of Kano, northern Nigeria. Both confused and
scared, they ran away from the market and hid in a small, abandoned store. Stuck together, the two women start to
talk and eventually learn more things about each other. Chika tells the woman that her sister Nnedi was with her at
the market and that they are both university students. She learns that the woman sells onions for a living. The two
women become closer when the woman shows Chika her breasts with cracked nipples. Chika, who is studying
medicine, examines the breasts and learns that the woman has just had her fifth child. She then advises the woman to
drub some lotion on her nipples after feeding her baby and to put the nipple and the areola into the baby’s mouth
while it feeds. The woman’s eldest daughter, Halima, was at the bus stop selling groundnuts when the confusion
began. At the mention of her daughter’s name, the woman cries. As she wipes her tears away, she says, “Allah keep
your sister and Halima in safe place.” After more than three hours, Chika ventures out into the street to go home,
anxious to see her sister and her auntie. She leaves the woman and promises to come back for her and her daughter.
However, when she sees and smells a recently burned body in the street, she gets terrified and runs back to the small
store, accidentally cutting her leg. The woman at the store cleans the wound and wraps it with her scarf. Chika stays
there with the woman until morning when it is safe to leave the store.

Explanation:
In different parts of the narrative, the narrator gives a brief glimpse of what happens in the future. For instance, after
Chika shuts the windows of the small store where she and the unnamed woman are hiding, the narrator tells the reader
what Chika will find out eventually—that Chika will see the burned cars and will learn that the riot started when some
Muslims chopped off an Igbo man’s head for driving over a Koran with his car. Another instance is that after Chika
mentions her sister’s name to the woman, the narrator tells the reader what Chika will later do—that Chika will go to
hospital mortuaries to look for her sister, but she will never find her.

Literary works by African writers in English like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Chimamanda Adichie, and Nadine
Gordimer are part of African literature, a body of works produced in Afro-Asiatic and African languages as well as
those made by Africans in English, French, and other European languages.