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American Literature
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Power of Prose Index

Power of Prose

Detailed Article Index

  • Part 1: The American Voice
    Over the centuries, American authors have shaped a vast body of work, often reflecting voices that are distinctly American. From the river-raft philosophizing of a poor Mississippi Valley boy, to the "words walking without masters" filling the journey of a woman descended from slaves, to the border-tongue blends increasingly finding a place on the page, American literature speaks with many voices and variations.
  • Part 2: American Debuts
    Part 2 explores the art of local color, beginning with how Herman Melville and Mark Twain pioneered the use of a new American language in their 19th -century novels.
  • Part 3: Harlem Renaissance & Beyond
    Early 20th-century writers associated with the Harlem Renaissance and the New Negro Renaissance broke with standard American English and gave literature a rich new voice.
  • Part 4: The WPA
    During the Depression, the Work Projects Administration (WPA) Writer's Project nurtured talent and collected voices coast to coast.
  • Part 5: African American Women
    In the first half of the 20th century, Zora Neale Hurston's use of black dialect and folk speech drew both praise and criticism. By the end of the century Toni Morrison and Alice Walker had won the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes respectively, for their "voice" driven prose.
  • Part 6: Voices of the South
    To strike effect, Southern writers drew on oral tradition and social conflict.
  • Part 7: Cuban-American Voices
    Cuban Americans add new spice to Florida's bilingual literature.
  • Part 8: Texas and the West
    In Texas they speak a whole 'nuther way … and it's lassoed by talented writers.
  • Part 9: Voices of the American Southwest
    In the Southwest, the cadence of Native American language blends with Mexican-American dialect.
  • Part 10: The Northeast
    True Yankee voices emerge in the literature of the Northeast, from Massachusetts to Maine - where submarine sandwiches are grinders and milkshakes are frappes.
  • Part 11: The Urban Landscape
    Up in the Bronx, urban voices are shaped by immigrants' far-off homes - by the sounds of Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Eastern Europe and more.
  • Part 12: Asian Americans
    Asian language speakers face unique linguistic and cultural challenges in America's multi-ethnic society.
  • Part 13:  Native Americans
    Native American ancestry infuses modern literature with ancient sounds.
  • Part 14: Arab American & South Asian Voices
    Arab Americans and South Asians are speaking up in new American writing, reflecting changing waves of immigrants.
  • Part 15:  Hawaiian Islands
    The Hawaiian islands contribute language variation including Pidgin and Creole, at odds with Standard American English.
  • Part 16: Border Tongue
    On the border between the United States and Mexico, bilingualism breeds a new "border tongue" that's neither English nor Spanish, but somehow both.

Suggested Reading/Additional Resources

  • The Portable American Realism Reader. Eds. James Nagel and Tom Quirk. Penguin Books: New York, NY. 1997.
  • The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Editions 1 & 2. W. W. Norton & Company: New York. (Published in two volumes, the newest edition of THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF AMERICAN LITERATURE presents the work of 212 writers--38 newly included. From trickster tales of the Native American tradition to bestsellers of early women writers to postmodernism, this edition conveys the diversity of American literature from its origins to the present. Volume 1 covers the period of 1620-1865.)

Sponsored by:

National Endowment for the Humanities Hewlett Foundation Ford Foundation   Arthur Vining Davis Foundations Carnegie Corporation

National Endowment
for the Humanities

William and Flora Hewlett


Rosalind P.

Arthur Vining
Davis Foundations

Corporation of New York