Why do we study American literature?

We study American literature to develop a more thorough understanding of the totality of the American experience, which spans centuries and widely different populations. By reading a wide variety of authors from various eras, readers can more fully understand how Americans have changed over time and how they are all connected to each other.

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Some schools throughout the United States teach American literature alongside American history, and I think the pairing is brilliant as an instructional tool. Indeed, works of literature from any particular era often reflect the social constructs, challenges, and victories which the authors have personally experienced.

John Smith, who was an explorer and a president of the Jamestown colony, is considered one of the first American writers. His first work of Virginian history was published in 1608, meaning that American literature now encompasses hundreds of years. By studying American literature, our modern society can more fully understand the struggles and victories of various populations of Americans during the last five centuries.

It's one thing to read a detached and factual account of historical events. It's quite another to read the firsthand account of Frederick Douglass's escape from slavery or to experience the tragic existence of migrant workers such as George and Lennie in Of...

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