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The Chronology of American Literature:
America's Literary Achievements from the Colonial Era to Modern Times

by Daniel S. Burt (Editor)

The Chronology of American Literature
If you are looking to brush up on your literary knowledge, check a favorite author's work, or see a year's bestsellers at a glance, The Chronology of American Literature is the perfect resource. At once an authoritative reference and an ideal browser's guide, this book outlines the indispensable information in America's rich literary past — from major publications to lesser-known gems — while also identifying larger trends along the literary timeline. Who wrote the first published book in America? When did Edgar Allan Poe achieve notoriety as a mystery writer? What was Hemingway's breakout title? With more than 8,000 works by 5,000 authors, The Chronology makes it easy to find answers to these questions and more. Authors and their works are grouped within each year by category: fiction and nonfiction; poetry; drama; literary criticism; and publishing events. Short, concise entries describe an author's major works for a particular year while placing them within the larger context of that writer's career. The result is a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of some of America's most prominent writers. Perhaps most important, The Chronology offers an invaluable line through our literary past, tying literature to the American experience — war and peace, boom and bust, and reaction to social change. You'll find everything here from Benjamin Franklin's "Experiments and Observations on Electricity" to Davy Crockett's first memoir; from Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" to Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome; from meditations by James Weldon Johnson and James Agee to poetry by Elizabeth Bishop. Also included here are seminal works by authors such as Rachel Carson, Toni Morrison, John Updike, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Lavishly illustrated — and rounded out with handy bestseller lists from throughout the twentieth century, lists of literary awards and prizes, and authors' birth and death dates — The Chronology of American Literature belongs on the shelf of every bibliophile and literary enthusiast. It is the essential link to our literary past and present.

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JANE ANDREWS (1833–1887): The Seven Little Sisters Who Live on a Round Ball That Floats in the Air. The most popular of the Massachusetts schoolteacher's books for children, which teach geography, history, and natural history through stories. Her other popular titles include The Boys Who Lived on the Road from Long Ago to Now (1885) and The Stories Mother Nature Told Her Children (1888).

GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS: Trumps. First published in Harper's Weekly between 1859 and 1860, the only novel by the Rhode Island–born Near Eastern correspondent for the New York Tribune combines a romantic story with a realistic depiction of New York society and politics. According to the North American Review, "It seems to us the best of Mr. Curtis's works and among the very best of American novels." Curtis became the editor of Harper's Weekly in 1863.

REBECCA HARDING DAVIS (1831–1910): "Life in the Iron Mills." Based on Davis's experiences among mill workers in Wheeling, Virginia (later West Virginia), the story highlights the horrific conditions endured by the workers and contrasts their virtue to the self-serving attitude of the mill owners. First published in the Atlantic Monthly, it wins acclaim for Davis and is considered one of the first works of American realism, in which she invited her readers, "Come right down with me — here in the thickest fog and mud and effluvia."

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES: Elsie Venner: A Romance of Destiny. Holmes's first novel, a controversial and popular work, had been originally published in the Atlantic Monthly serially beginning in 1859. Drawing on new ideas about genetics and serving as an allegory of original sin and family heritage, the work concerns the title character, who is born with serpentlike qualities because her mother had been bitten by a snake while pregnant.

THEODORE WINTHROP (1828–1861): Cecil Dreeme. The Connecticut writer's first published manuscript after he gained posthumous fame as reputedly the first Union soldier killed in the Civil War. The gothic story, about a girl who disguises herself as a man to avoid marriage, immediately becomes popular and goes through three printings in one week and nineteen printings by 1866.