First chapter – Early American and colonial period to 1776.
American literature begins with the orally transmitted myths, legends, tales, and lyrics of Indian cultures. The closest equivalents to Old World spiritual narratives are often accounts of shamans´ initiations and voyages. Apart from these, there are stories about culture heroes such as the Ojibwa tribe´s Manabozho or the Navajo tribe´s Coyote. Examples of almost every oral genre can be found in American Indian literature: lyrics, chants, myths, fairy tales, humorous anecdotes, incantations, riddles, proverbs, epics, and legendary histories. The literature of exploration:
The first European record of exploration in America is in a Scandinavian language. The old Norse Vinland Saga recounts how the adventurous Leif Ericson and a band of wandering Norsemen settled briefly somewhere on the north-east coast of America, in the first decade of the 11th century, almost 400 years before the next recorded European discovery of the New World. The first known and sustained contact between the Americas and the rest of the world, however, began with the famous voyage of an Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus, funded by the Spanish rulers Ferdinand and Isabella. Columbus´s journal in his “Epistola” printed in 1493, recounts the trip´s drama – the terror of the men, who feared monsters and thought they might fall off the edge of the world. Bartolomé de las Casas is the richest source of information about the early contact between American Indians and Europeans. As a young priest he helped conquer Cuba. He transcribed Columbus´s journal, and late in life wrote a long vivid History of the Indians criticising their enslavement by the Spanish. The first colony was set up in 1585 at Roanoke and the second colony was more permanent Jamestown, established in 1607. The exploration of Roanoke was carefully recorded by Thomas Hariot in A Brief and True Report of the New-Found Land of Virginia. The Jamestown colony´s main record are the writings of Captain John Smith.
The colonial period in New England:
The first settlers who came to settle here were so called Puritans. They were seeking for political and religious freedom. The Puritan definition of good writing was that which brought home a full awareness of the importance of worshipping God and of the spiritual dangers that the soul faced on Earth.
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