April 12, 2011
Response 4- What Makes American Literature American
American Literature is in some ways like studying American History. Many of the literary works we've read this semester tells a great deal of the history of the nation. However, literature is not always "sugar coated" like some American History textbook and lectures are. American History textbooks are written by historians, usually from this century. American Literature authors may tell the history of the United States by sharing with the reader some of their personal experiences they've encountered during the early development of this great nation.
From the fifteenth century through the end of the seventeenth century, American Literature authors discussed the beginning of the development of this nation, starting with explorers such as Christopher Columbus, Bartolome De Las Casas and Alvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca. This period of American Literature also give some details about European migration and their encounters with Native Americans, as well as introduction of Puritan values to the Americas.
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In the passage "The Iroquois Creation Story" by David Cusik, the author gives his version of how America came into existence. In the beginning of the story, Cusik wrote, "Among the ancients there were two worlds in existence. The lower world was in great darkness; - the possession of the great monster; but the upper world was inhabited by mankind" (pg. 18). There is some similarity with this quote and the book of Genesis in the bible, which states "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness." Although details in this passage are not found in history textbooks, it does give one of the first accounts Native American existence in the Americas and was written by a Native American. Other passages such as "The Story of the Creation" and "The Story of the Flood" give different versions of the creation of the nation with biblical references; however they are regarded as being myths.
Christopher Columbus, Bartolome De Las Casa, and Alvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca are known for being explorers; however, some of their letters and biographies are studied in American Literature. They wrote about their voyage to the New World and their encounters with the Indians.
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Puritan settlers left Europe and settled in North America during these centuries.