Online Guide to American Literature for High School & College

Any literature written in the United States or the original colonies is part of what is today considered American Literature. The variety of cultures that were welcomed into America gave way to a fantastic diversity in the types of literature it spawned. Over the centuries, American literature has experienced several different eras which are outlined below. From the 1500s to today, America has delivered some of the finest writers of our time.

General Resources for American Literature

  • American Poetry – A listing of American poets with further detailed information on their work.
  • Reference Guide – A comprehensive guide to American Literature, sorted by era.
  • American Authors – An index of websites of hundreds of famous American authors, both historic and modern.
  • Native American Authors – A website focused on Native American authors, searchable by name, book title or tribe.
  • Literary Movements – An explanation of various genres throughout American literature.
  • Characteristics of Literary Periods – A chart of each American literary period showing its defining characteristics.
  • American Literature Resources – A compendium of links to help students research and learn about American literature and its background.
  • Library of America – Features an extensive collection of archival images and additional information to give further background information on American authors and literary movements.

Teaching Resources for American Literature

  • Timeline – A timeline of trends in American literature from the 1600s onwards.
  • Learning Resources – A government-provided collection of American literature resources.
  • Lesson Plans – Numerous lesson plans and study guides for teaching different aspects of American literature.
  • Norton Anthology of American Literature – Well-organized site for students with notes by era, information on authors and quizzes.
  • Teaching American Literature – A quarterly journal by and for literature teachers and professors, featuring articles on how to teach American Literature.
  • Heath Anthology of American Literature – An assortment of teaching resources for instructors as well as additional resources for readers or students.

Early American Literature (Before 1830)

Romanticism (Early 19thCentury)

Realism & Naturalism (1880s-1940s)

  • American Realism – Definitions of American realism along with explanations of literary aspects such as plot, character and structure.
  • Naturalism – An explanation of naturalism and how it pertains to American literature.
  • Realist Authors – A guide to American realist authors and related scholarly articles and texts.
  • Late 19th Century Authors – A resource list of American authors between the late 1800s to early 1900s.
  • Realism, Naturalism and Culture – A candid guide explaining the differences between realism and naturalism and why they became so popular.
  • Oppression of Minorities – A paper examining the oppression of minorities used as a theme in American literature.

Modernism (19th Century & Early 20th Century)

  • What is Modernism? – An article explaining the modernist movement in literature.
  • Intro to Modernism – An educational guide on modernism (and also postmodernism) explaining the different aspects and historical context.
  • Ernest Hemingway – A website dedicated to Nobel Prize-winner, Ernest Hemingway, with a catalog of his works, as well as related videos, images, quotes and more.
  • Depression-Era Authors – An introduction to four outstanding American authors from 1929 to 1945.
  • Late Modernism – Full online book on how politics influenced modernist literature.
  • Between the Wars – How American literature evolved between the two World Wars.
  • Picturing Literary Modernism – A pictorial guide of modernist writers.
  • Attributes – Various literary devices commonly used in modernist literature.

Contemporary (After WWII)

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