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Ch 8: AP English: American Literary Periods and Movements

About This Chapter

Watch American literature video lessons and learn literary periods, famous authors, characteristics of different movements, and more. These lessons are just a portion of our AP English course.

AP English: American Literary Periods and Movements - Chapter Summary and Learning Objectives

American literature has a unique history, beginning with the first settlers who encountered the Native Americans. In this chapter, you'll learn about the tradition of oral storytelling in North America, how American writers worked within a subset of Romanticism, how generations of artists reacted to world wars, and what they wrote when it seemed everything had already been written. Each lesson covers a different movement and explains the elements that characterize each movement. You'll also learn about important authors of each period and their famous works. This chapter is designed to teach you:

  • The shifts in perspectives throughout American history
  • Characteristics of various literary periods
  • Famous authors and their works
  • How to classify American literature within a movement

VideoObjective
Native and Colonial LiteratureLearn about the Native American oral storytelling tradition, the writing of the Puritans, and early American political writing.
The Romantic Period in American Literature and ArtExplore the Romantic era and the characteristics of Romantic writing.
The Dark Romantics in American LiteratureUnderstand how Dark Romantics added supernatural elements to their stories.
Transcendentalism: Impact on American LiteratureLearn about individuality and the Transcendentalist movement in the U.S.
The Literary Realism Movement: A Response to RomanticismExplore authors like Mark Twain who wanted to truly represent life on the page.
Naturalism in Literature: Authors and CharacteristicsUnderstand this branch of Realism through the work of Stephen Crane.
Modernism in American LiteratureLearn about how writers tried to 'make it new' in this literary period.
The Imagist Movement: Poems, Examples, and Key PoetsExplore this poetic movement that focused on precise imagery and sharp language.
The Harlem Renaissance: Novels and Poetry from the Jazz AgeUnderstand African-American literature from this period in history.
The Contemporary Period in American LiteratureLearn about the characteristics of this post-WWII literary period.
Contemporary American Literature: Authors and Major WorksExplore the quest for identity and expressionism in contemporary literature.

11 Lessons in Chapter 8: AP English: American Literary Periods and Movements
Native American and Colonial Literature

1. Native American and Colonial Literature

What types of writing were popular during the early days of the United States? In this lesson, we'll look at three major categories of 17th and 18th century American writing in more detail: Native American oral stories, Puritan writing, and early American political writing.

The Romantic Period in American Literature and Art

2. The Romantic Period in American Literature and Art

This video introduces American Romanticism, a movement where literature focused on intuition, imagination and individualism. Authors such as Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow contributed to what became known as the American identity, as the new country did its best to distance itself from European tradition.

The Dark Romantics in American Literature

3. The Dark Romantics in American Literature

This video introduces the characteristics of Dark Romanticism, a movement at the end of the Romantic period where literature embodied creepy symbols, horrific themes, and explored the psychological effects of guilt and sin. Authors, such as Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, wrote short stories, poems, and novels that encouraged Americans to see evil in everything.

Transcendentalism: Impact on American Literature

4. Transcendentalism: Impact on American Literature

This video defines Transcendentalism, a literary movement of the mid-19th century. Authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman used their literary platforms to encourage Americans to transcend society's presumptions and create a personal, progressive relationship with spirituality and nature.

The Literary Realism Movement: A Response to Romanticism

5. The Literary Realism Movement: A Response to Romanticism

In this lesson, we will learn about Realism in American literature, how this new literary movement grew out of Romanticism and what circumstances in our changing nation made that literary shift possible.

Naturalism in Literature: Authors and Characteristics

6. Naturalism in Literature: Authors and Characteristics

Nature is indifferent; humans are just animals. So it goes in naturalism. In this lesson, we'll explore this literary movement. Authors discussed include Stephen Crane, Jack London and Theodore Dreiser.

Modernism in American Literature

7. Modernism in American Literature

In this lesson, we will discuss the concept of literary modernism in the United States. We will explore its historical backdrop along with the very unique characteristics and authors that define American modernism which lasted from 1914-1945.

The Imagist Movement: Poems, Examples & Key Poets

8. The Imagist Movement: Poems, Examples & Key Poets

The Imagist movement in modern poetry focused on describing objects as opposed to the long philosophical discussions of traditional poetry. Read on to find out more about Imagism and read poems by two of its founders, H.D. and Amy Lowell.

The Harlem Renaissance: Novels and Poetry from the Jazz Age

9. The Harlem Renaissance: Novels and Poetry from the Jazz Age

The Harlem Renaissance was a movement in the 1920s and 1930s during which there was an explosion of African-American art and literature. This lesson looks at the themes, causes, and important figures of the Harlem Renaissance.

The Contemporary Period in American Literature

10. The Contemporary Period in American Literature

Learn about how Contemporary literature developed and understand its fundamental characteristics. Find out how American history and cultural norms really defined and developed the Contemporary period in American literature.

Contemporary American Literature: Authors and Major Works

11. Contemporary American Literature: Authors and Major Works

This lesson helps you decipher pieces of contemporary American literature by looking at famous examples from some of the greatest authors of the time.

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