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Ch 15: Overview of 20th Century American Literature

About This Chapter

This chapter provides an overview of 20th century American literature, including the major works and authors of the time. Use the self-paced video lessons to learn more about contemporary authors and poets.

Overview of 20th Century American Literature - Chapter Summary

This chapter analyzes the works and styles of major American authors of the 20th century. Review the lessons to see biographies and writings of some of the major authors from this time, such as J.D. Salinger and Ralph Ellison. You'll also be able to see an analysis of some of their works as well as characteristics of their writing styles.. After completing this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

  • Discuss the contemporary period in American literature and list major works and authors of the time
  • Provide characterizations of American feminist literature
  • Explain what the Beat Generation is and provide characteristics of beat poetry
  • Provide an analysis of such works as 'Invisible Man,' 'Black Boy,' 'Catcher in the Rye,' and 'On the Road'
  • Discuss the biography and works of William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, J.D. Salinger, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Arthur Miller, and Tennessee Williams

Each video lesson has an available text transcript for those who are more comfortable reading, and this can be printed to study offline. Use the quizzes to test your understanding of these literature topics, and the dashboard helps you keep track of where you are and allows you to jump to specific authors or works at your convenience.

11 Lessons in Chapter 15: Overview of 20th Century American Literature
Test your knowledge with a 30-question chapter practice test
The Contemporary Period in American Literature

1. 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

2. 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.

Tennessee Williams: Biography, Works, and Style

3. Tennessee Williams: Biography, Works, and Style

This lesson provides insight into the life, work and style of one of the most influential playwrights of our time, Tennessee Williams. His major works include 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.'

Arthur Miller: Biography and Major Plays

4. Arthur Miller: Biography and Major Plays

In this lesson, we will talk about the life of one of America's greatest playwrights, Arthur Miller. We will take a close look at his role in the American political scene of the 1950s and give insight into some of his most influential works.

Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man Summary and Analysis

5. Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man Summary and Analysis

If people only see you as a part of a race, and not as an individual, are you still a person? In this lesson, we'll analyze Ralph Ellison's important and critically acclaimed novel, 'Invisible Man.'

Richard Wright's Black Boy: Summary and Analysis

6. Richard Wright's Black Boy: Summary and Analysis

After his fiction masterpiece 'Native Son,' Richard Wright wrote a deeply personal and moving autobiography, covering his childhood in the South and his life as an adult in Chicago. In this lesson, we'll explore 'Black Boy.'

J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye: Summary and Analysis

7. J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye: Summary and Analysis

J.D. Salinger's novel tells the story of Holden Caulfield, a literary figure you'll either love or hate. Watch this video to find out which camp you fall into!

The Beat Generation: Characteristics of Beat Poetry

8. The Beat Generation: Characteristics of Beat Poetry

It's a movement that began with a howl, and it had a major impact on both poetry and culture in America. In this lesson, we'll cover the Beat Generation and review the defining characteristics of their style.

Jack Kerouac: On the Road and Other Works

9. Jack Kerouac: On the Road and Other Works

Jack Kerouac didn't just name the Beat Generation, for many people, he defines it. In this lesson, we'll explore 'On the Road, his seminal work, while also reviewing his biography and other notable novels.

William S. Burroughs: Biography, Writings, and Style of a Beat

10. William S. Burroughs: Biography, Writings, and Style of a Beat

Writer, traveler, collaborator, painter, addict, icon...the labels that describe William S. Burroughs never stop. In this lesson, we'll look at the life and writings of the member of the Beat generation who gave us 'Naked Lunch' and much more.

American Feminist Literature: Definition & Characteristics

11. American Feminist Literature: Definition & Characteristics

Welcome to the world of American feminist literature! Meet a few well-known American feminist writers. Learn their histories and what inspired them. Read on to learn more about this fascinating genre!

Chapter Practice Exam
Test your knowledge of this chapter with a 30 question practice chapter exam.
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Practice Final Exam
Test your knowledge of the entire course with a 50 question practice final exam.
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