Distinguishing English Literature from American Literature

English Literature vs American Literature

English literature and American literature are essential subcategories of literature, playing important roles in the discipline. Identifying the differences between the two is crucial for literature students. Literature encompasses a variety of written works, often with eternal artistic value, and is not confined to specific geographical areas. It is spread across almost every country, with published works in France generally called French literature, and published works in India referred to as Indian literature. Although literature varies from one country to another, the outcome of studying it remains the same: the development of critical thinking and personal growth. This article will explore the geographically separated sections of English literature and American literature, which were once considered the same when America was a British colony. The distinction between the two emerged in the early 17th century when America was no longer a British colony and literary works were beginning to bloom.

What is English literature?

English literature refers to the collection of written literary work in Great Britain and its colonies from the 7th century to the present day. It has a rich history and is chronologically categorized into several eras, including Old English literature (c.658-1100), Middle English literature (1100–1500), English Renaissance (1500–1660), Neo-Classical Period (1660–1798), 19th-century literature, and English literature since 1901, which includes modern, post-modern, and 20th-century literature. Key contributors to the development of English literature include William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf, William Wordsworth, W.B. Keats, and Robert Frost. English literature reflects British culture and features wit, depictions of manners, disparities between classes, and themes emphasized on plots and characterization.

What is American Literature?

American literature is a more recent concept and refers to the production of literary work written in the context of America, portraying American culture and themes. America was originally part of English literature, being a British colony until the country won independence and aspects such as the economy, education, literature, arts, culture, and social aspects changed and new brands emerged. The origin of American literature dates back to the early 17th century and was largely shaped by the country’s history and revolutionary ideas that emerged during civil and revolutionary wars.

Key Takeaways

  • English literature refers to literary works written and published in Great Britain and British colonies, while American literature refers to literary works written and published in America.
  • English literature mainly reflects English culture and mannerisms, while American literature mirrors American culture, history, and revolutionary concepts, such as relationships with the church, the state, and supernatural elements.
  • American literature is often considered more realistic in portraying characters, while English literature is known for its wit and portrayal of themes in plots and characterization.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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