Evolution of Colonial Literature

Astounding changes and progress occurred in colonial America between the time of the Pilgrims’ arrival and the Revolutionary War. As life in the colonies changed, so did literature.

As colonists became more settled, marginally greater leisure allowed more time for reflection and writing. Letters, diaries, journals, and descriptive narratives were created in increasing numbers. In the South, as labor-intensive and nutrient-robbing tobacco crops left once-rich farms drained of productivity, planters moved westward and southward to seek new land. This movement to the frontier engendered a spirit of exploration and expectation that is evident in Southern writings of the time; a similar sense can also be found in the frontier texts of those New England and Middle colonies settlers who decided to expand to the west.

Literature produced toward the end of the colonial period bears the hallmarks of Enlightenment thought. While topics and interests of previous years often persisted, these later texts view such interests through the lens of reason, often critically questioning previously held truths. New England Puritanism largely gave way to Deism, and Enlightenment thought encouraged writers to seek deeper meaning in empirical knowledge. By the dawn of the Revolution, colonial literature had a firm foundation from which to address the growing crisis with Britain.

Evolution of Colonial Literature Photo Gallery

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