Colonial American Writers Term Papers Example
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The Colonial period in American history reflects the period that occurred within the American colonies and prior to the American Revolution that was fought against the British Crown. In fact American scholars suggest that the colonial period at the start of the development of Jamestown in 1607 and ended in 1787 at the time that the Congress endorsed the Federal Constitution. The era coincides with the Reformation period in England and ended with the Enlightenment or the Neo-classical era. The colonial era saw prominent American writers such as Anne Bradstreet, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Pine among others. Many Americans are not aware of the origin of the term the “American Ideal” or the hard work that the Puritans carried out while they attempted to settle in new land. Still, these colonial writers created a narrative with vibrant colors that drew readers from every angle of the society. Even though colonial literature appears to be different from much of the modern forms of literature, there is a strong presence of emotional and factual significance to literature.
Nevertheless, the early colonists found no pleasure in reading or writing politically correct literature, (Pearlman, p. 5) and William Penn suggest that the new immigrants “be moderate in Expectations, count on Labor Before a Crop, and Coast before Gain,” (Penn 143 as cited by Pearlman, p. 5). These words served as a guide to the colonial period and the literature at the time, (Pearlman, p. 5). Professor Mark Canada writes that some central themes that rose from the colonial literature reflect the “nature of their endeavor,” (Canada, par. 2) in the New World as in John Smith’s works. These works also included other writes who settled in the seventeenth century and “addressed the subjects of will and work, the relationship between humans and nature, and the differences between European and Native American cultures,” (Canada, par. 2). Additionally, Puritan followers including John Winthrop and Anne Bradstreet gave vivid recounts of their spiritual encounters and feelings. Bradstreet became famous for her personal poems and an even more personal journal, while Winthrop became famous for his personal journal and his renowned unrestricted sermon. The tradition expanded through to the century that followed as the Puritan, Jonathan Edwards and other renowned non-Puritans including John Woolman and Phillis Wheatley wrote of their religious beliefs in their journals and through their poetry. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin works were public literature that were created for entertainment purposes and improve their political aims. In essence, the main emphasis of the writers of the colonial era was on mankind’s ability to reason as the literature reflects the enlightenment of the people.
Most individuals have experienced some form of obstacles throughout their lives. In many cases, the challenges are good and in many cases the challenges are not good. Yet, these challenges help to shape the lives of these individuals. It is the hardships and the battles that these individuals face that helps to forge and which build on their perseverance. The authors of the early periods of American literature developed their writings from the challenges of the era and helped to create the types of characters in their stories. From the harsh conditions of kidnapping, slavery, and destitution, colonial American writers attempt to create strong characters that succeed despite their conditions. Still, some of these colonial American writers attempted to recreate the hardships of these individuals and show the growth and individuality that develops into a sense of morality. The “religious and historical writing, sermons; journals and accounts of life in the New World,” (Raab, n.p.) added to the entertainment and education values of the era. Additionally, the “political writing, especially in the 1770s; autobiography (starting with Benjamin Franklin); first American novels in the late 18th century,” are common features that are important to the colonial era, (Raab, n.p.)
The writers who explored the New World represented the enlightening writers of the colonial era. In fact a number of these literary pieces were a result of the outstanding experiences of those writers who felt the need to share their experiences with others. John Smith was a professional explorer, while authors such as Rowlandson and Bradford were settlers. Consequently, each of these writers was able to relate to each other in important ways. In fact, a number of these writers wrote about the opportunities that the American frontier had to offer and informed and encouraged readers to settle in the New World. The Puritan or the Colonial era of 1650 – 1750 reflected the genre that presented sermons, personal narratives and diaries to instruct or reinforce the destination of an individual’s fate or destiny. The works of Bradford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation” and Rowlandson’s “A Narrative of the Captivity” reinforces the power and authority of the church and the Bible. The plain writing style of this era showed that everyone is corrupt and therefore must seek deliverance from Christ as in Edward’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
One could say that “the writings of our colonial era have a much greater importance as history than as literature,” (The Colonial Period 1607-1765, par. 1). The motives of these colonial American writers were religious and non-religious and these motives had a great impact on the literature of that era. A number of the earliest American literature came through the pens of the puritan or colonial writers whose lives were dominated by the influence of religion. Kathryn Van Spanckeren suggests that the Puritan definition of good writing brought along a complete consciousness of the significance of worshipping God and possible the spiritual dangers that one’s soul faced on Earth, (Van Spanckeren, n.p). These writers believed that there was spiritual instruction and insight in their works as they taught moral values. The influence of religion spread to the value that readers placed on the meanings of these works instead of the plain narrative style. The “Bay Psalm Book,” is a classic example of the ideal colonial literary style and the standard hymnal that was common in the era. In addition, Anne Bradstreet’s "Upon the Burning of Our House" had religious motives as she shares her inner emotions when she thinks about her burned home. In the final stages, Bradstreet finds comfort in the teachings of God about the vanity that exists in the world and the mansion that God has for her in heaven. Bradstreet’s poem presents the message that divine wealth is far more valuable than the material goods of the world.
Another colonial writer, Edward Taylor's also has a clear religious motive in his poem; "Huswifery." The poem shows God's grace because the speaker is an agent of God. Taylor's Puritan religious beliefs provided a clear view of the beliefs and views of the Puritans to the readers. A number of these writers, whose writings did not come as a result of their religion, told others of their experiences in the era. Those who wrote of their experiences in the New World believed that they could help to get others to appreciate and understand the way of life in the New World and encourage others to move there to settle. This practice was common to colonial writers in America and resulted in exaggerations and biased views. John Smith’s “General History of Virginia” records Smith’s experiences as a prisoner of a group of Native Americans when he settled in Jamestown. Many critics suggest that the story was grossly exaggerated and reflected the personal biases of Smith. Additionally, William Bradstreet’s “Of Plymouth Plantation” tells of the author’s experiences with the Pilgrims and their first settlement in the New World. Here, the readers find another colonial writer sharing his experiences as he informs the readers of his personal experiences.
John Smith had other works that showed his experiences as he explored the Jamestown. He is credited with 'First American Myth', or the popular Pocahontas episode. His major works includes “A True Relation,” which is the English book that speaks about the experiences in the New World; “General History of Virginia”; describes the general history of the state, Smith write from the third person perspective where he is not the narrator of the story, but acts as a reporter of the events; and finally, “A Description of New England” Smith carries out a remarkable job of removing himself from the events in the book and uses the second person narrative to center on the readers. As a colonial writer in the United States, Smith's main intention is to persuade the British to settle in New England. Additionally, he encourages his other readers to change from the lives that they knew before and restart their lives in another country. Much of Smith’s writing revolves around the American Dream of wealth and the personal satisfaction that comes with hard work.
Unlike John Smith, William Bradford did not write to gain fame, but instead he wrote commentaries in his journals of his experiences in the New World. He wrote of the religious impact of God who provides for the hardworking individuals so that the generations of the future would never forget their morals. Additionally, Bradford’s journals were not meant for publication, but for references in the years to come. Approximately a half of these journals were found in the Church records, but the original was stolen years later when the British explorers burned the town. The major details in these journals were carefully selected, yet the ideas were broad and included detailed commentary of the experiences in the New World, details Bradford included were broad and carefully chosen.
Van Spanckeren writes: “It is likely that no other colonists in the history of the world were as intellectual as the Puritans,” (Van Spanckeren, n.p) and especially those who settled in New England during the 1630s and 1690s. The Puritans wanted execute God's will while they set the foundations of their colonies throughout the state of New England. Michael Wigglesworth is known for his work in “The Day of Doom”. The extended narrative is a “terrifying popularization of Calvinistic doctrine was the most popular poem of the colonial period,” (Van Spanckeren, n.p). The book was one of the first to portray damnation to hell using the ballad meter. Still, it is a fascinating read as the John Calvin is the authority. Similar to most of the literature in the colonial era, the poetry of the early New England settlers reflect the technique and form of the mother country because of the religious passion and common references to the Bible. But, the colonial writers in America imitated a writing style that was no longer prominent in England, but held its value in the New World. Edward Taylor, one of the most prominent American poets at the time creates metaphysical poetry that was outstanding in its originality even as it rose from colonial isolation. Cotton Mather is referred to as the master pendant of colonial literature as he wrote approximately five hundred books and pamphlets that depicts the settlements in the New World.
In concluding, for most of the colonial writers, there was a strong need to reject the great English writers even as they removed their ties to the dramatic models and lyrics of the English Language. Instead, the focus of the colonial writers delved in the belief in the Bible and the experiences of the new settlers in the New World. Famous writers of the era focused their attentions on bringing new settlers into the new world and into New England in particular. Either way, the colonial writers had a tremendous impact on modern literature as these writers influenced the writing style and quality of the literary world.
Canada, Mark (2001) Literature Colonial America, 1607-1783 Viewed at http://www2.uncp.edu
Accessed March 27, 2015.
Melissa A. Pearlman Literature of the Early Americans: Colonial Period up to 1776, Pittsburgh
Raab, Josef (Prof., Dr) (n.d) Periods of American Literature Viewed at https://www.uni-due.de
Accessed March 27, 2015
The Colonial Period 1607 – 1765 The Literature Network, Viewed at http://www.online-
literature.com Accessed March 27, 2015
Van Spanckeren, Kathryn, (2008) Early American and Colonial Period to 1776 - From orally
transmitted works to printed offerings, Excerpt from the U.S. Department of State publication USA Literature in Brief.) Viewed at http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov Accessed March 27, 2008)
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