This new biographical survey of American literature presents the works of 509 American authors in a standardized fashion. Each entry begins with dates and places of birth and death, nationality at birth, principle genres, a list of major works, and a paragraph on the individual’s literary significance. A section entitled "Works in Biographical and Historical Context" chronologically traces the early life and career of the writer. "Works in Literary Context" notes influences and related genres or literary movements. "Works in Critical Context" describes the critical reception that each writer received from early reviews to later academic reappraisals. Sidebars list contemporary figures and related literary works. The latter may include influences upon the author or other writers of similar themes, genres or style. A "Responses to Literature" section poses questions for the student to pursue as further research. Selective bibliographies include reviews, literary criticism and occasional biographies.
All periods and genres of American literature are represented. Discussions of colonial writers include William Bradford’s tale of Pilgrim survival, the sermons of Cotton Mather, and the captivity narrative of Mary Rowlandson. The early republic offers appraisals of the novels of Charles Brockden Brown, the letters of Abigail Adams, the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the exploration accounts of Meriwether Lewis. By the late nineteenth century, newspaper reporting, children’s books, westerns and adventure stories are featured along with poetry, plays, novels and short stories. During the twentieth century, the net widens to include new genres of mystery, science fiction, fantasy, and historical novels. Even scientists, feminists and politicians are represented. Only biographers, historians and early naturalists are somewhat neglected. Coverage extends to both the critically acclaimed and popular. Thus, the scope includes Zane Grey, L. Frank Baum, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Will Eisner as well as Theodore Dreiser, Willa Cather, Sherwood Anderson and William Faulkner. A large number of ethnic and currently active authors are also featured, including Ana Castillo, Frank Chin, Harvey Fierstein, Stephen King, Gary Soto, Alice Sebold, Amy Tan and Alice Walker. A selective chronology relates political and cultural events to landmarks in American literature, while the index provides access by author, titles, genres and literary themes. In short, this guide provides an excellent introduction to a wide range of American literature. The set is recommended for high school, public and undergraduate libraries.