"Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom."
-John Adams, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government
Since today is "Patriot Day," I thought I would focus on ten things in American history that I think it is important for SC to know about. However, this is me, and rather than simply focus on major things that everyone might expect to find on a top ten list of American history, I have decided instead to focus on ten lesser-known important American literary figures.
1. Anne Bradstreet: While most of the so-called literature from the early colonial period consists of non-fiction works like letters, descriptions of land and indigenous peoples and lectures on morality, Anne Bradstreet spent what little free time she had writing beautiful poems, and was certainly the first American woman to have her work published. She is one of my favorite poets, and though writing hundreds of years ago, much of her writing is still relevant today.
2. Washington Irving: Considered by many America's first creator of literature, he wrote satirical works, short stories such as "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," "Rip van Winkle," as well as many historical and biographical works meant for leisure reading.
3. Louisa May Alcott: This was a tough one to include, because most young girls read Alcott, but she is not really considered part of the "literary" cannon by most true American literary historians. I think she is important because not only did she write from the perspective of a woman at a time when few women offered their perspective, but she wrote from the perspective of a young woman/child. Her most well known works include Little Women and its sequels.
4. Henry James: Brother to the famed psychologist William James, Henry James wrote essays, novels, non-fiction and short stories, all in a variety of styles. He is included on the list because he has written something for everyone, though I personally enjoyed The Turn of the Screw.
5. Kate Chopin: One of my favorite authors, Chopin wrote very little in her lifetime (especially compared to James), but what she did write was had a large impact on the early feminism movement around the turn of the 1900s. Her novel The Awakening is incredible, and is very much an intimate look at the common struggles of marriage at that time. She also wrote short stories, including "The Story of an Hour," also an intimate look at a marriage, but vastly different in how the story comes together.
6. Paul Laurence Dunbar: One of the first African-American poets, Dunbar is much less known than the later Harlem poets like Langston Hughes. However, Dunbar left a lasting impression on those who followed, including Maya Angelou. He wrote both in English, as well as what he called "Negro dialect," similar to the style author Mark Twain used when writing African-Americans. The poem "We Wear the Mask" is one of his most well known.
7. Ezra Pound: A poet most notably considered a "father" of modernism, whose influence helped guide and promote more well-known poets such as T.S. Eliot and Robert Frost. My favorite poem by Pound is "In a Station of the Metro."
8. F. Scott Fitzgerald: Yes, Fitzgerald is anything but lesser-known, but I have included him on the list because though many know of his The Great Gatsby, I highly prefer his short stories, like "Absolution," found in Babylon Revisited. Personally, I think he is a better short story writer than novelist, and I think the short stories are worth the read.
9. John Ashbery: Contemporary American poets are simply lesser-known in general because our society has pushed poetry to the back in favor of other forms of literature (or media, in all honesty). Ashbery has won every major poetry award that can be won, and still keeps writing. He was a finalist for the National Book Award for his 2005 work Where Shall I Wander, and is due to publish another poetry collection in December 2012 titled Quick Question.
10. John Green: As the "young adult" genre of literature has quickly emerged through the past twenty or so years, John Green has shown himself to be the voice of this genre. He has both won the Printz award, as well as received "honor" status, for his first two books respectively, Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines.
Any comments, advice or opinions are welcomed. Don't forget to check out other "Top Ten Tuesday" posts here.
**This post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosure statement.