Literature and Colonial America

America as a country has a rich cultural diversity. This country has been in existence for many centuries. As such, there is a lot of literature in the country, and most of it have been written by the early Americans, like Christopher Columbus who discovered the land and the people who settled on it. These people who founded America encountered quite a number of challenges in their endeavors and they documented them in a number of ways that contributed to literature on colonial America. McMichael states that  the European explorers who discovered these lands, the merchants going through them and white missionaries settlers spoke of their hopes, their conquests and recurrent calamities that befell them and thereby created a pool of  literature that is enormous, diversified and exceedingly wealthy (1). It is this literature that forms the foundations of this paper. This paper illuminates the different types or genres of colonial literature in America. To be able to do so effectively, I have subdivided the main topic into a number of subtopics and organized this paper into six subsections namely: Diaries and Journals, Histories and Personal Narratives, Poetry, Religious writings and sermons, School Books and Creation Myths Suggestions.

Diaries and Journals

The main contributors in this section of Diaries and Journals of colonial America would be with no doubt none other than the man deemed as the father of America, Christopher Columbus and his men. Christopher Columbus has written a wealth of literature on the country. He wrote diaries and letters of his daily endeavors in America, some of which he sent home to Europe. In his letters to Europe about his personal expeditions, Columbus describes some parts of the American country as being profoundly endowed in mineral resources. Columbus cited that in accordance to  the descriptions of the native Indians who were on board of his ship, gold was in so much abundance on the land that the inhabitants wore it in bracelets upon their legs, arms, necks, as well as in their ears and at their noses as jewelry ( Columbus, ed., The journal of Christopher Columbus, 1492). The letters sent by Columbus back home inspired other people to come to America). These descriptions of the country were followed by massive immigrations into the country by people from Europe who sought fortune or felt oppressed by the regime.

However, later, Columbus letters started being a contradiction of what he had initially written about the abundance and the accommodating nature of the American country. Later on he described Sal Salvador, the islands he had renamed, as full of savages and brutes. In his letters to Luis de Santangel, a countryman of his, Columbus speaks of hostility and resistance he faces during his occupation of the country.

History and personal narratives

Other writers argued that America offered them the nature, beauty and liberty, things that their homelands in Europe could not afford to offer them, or which cost them profoundly to achieve (Smith, Description of New England, 1616). Captain John Smith founded Jamestown in 1607. Smith describes his conquests and occupation in America. Smith narrates about his ordeal following his capture by the native Indians where he argues that “in the grace of God, his life was spared and he was raised in adoration and was awed at by these devils”. (Smith, History of Virginia, 3). He narrates of how the Indians showcased him in the villages. According to the narratives, Smith’s life was sent on the verge of execution by the King’s daughter. Pocahontas as  the king’s dearest daughter, when no compromise could be settled upon, took his head in her lap and substituted him with her own saving him from an eminent and cruel death in the hands of the natives (Smith, What happened till the first supply, 2). Later, she helps him escape to his men who had survived and offered food which helped them to survive.


There is a very rich ground for colonial American poetry having many renowned poets. Most of these poets in colonial America were puritans, totally believing in God and the religious doctrine with very strong religious beliefs. Joel Barlow describes Christopher Columbus, in his poem “The Vision of Columbus; A Poem in Nine Books”as a man who had accomplished most of his dreams and goals and nearing his grave but with a dream of American land and as a blessed explorer. Other poets contributing to colonial literature in America included Anna Bradstreet who wrote many imitative poems. In her poem collection book, “The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America” Bradstreet explores all spheres of life. She writes about her father, her heritage and her nation, America. Phillis Wheatley, initially an American slave but later freed is also another well-known poet of colonial America. In her poem book collection, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral” (1773), she talked mainly on the subject of liberty.

Religious writings and sermons

Jonathan Edwards was a puritan, born of a minister father had an incredible belief in God and in religion. In the sermon, sinners in the hands of an angry God, Edwards compares the people of America to the Israelites, stating how they have fallen short of God’s glory and were consequently exposed to the risk of destruction. This sermon exposes people's bad actions before God, where he warned the men by telling them that they should not have solace by the absence of physical or visible death means at all, and that the fact that the men, seemingly healthy took it for granted that they could not possibly fathom a way that would lead them to their deaths, rather they should know of a greater power and entity in God’s name and have their paths purified (Edward, Sinners in the hands of an angry God, 1 ). This sermon is deemed to be the most popular sermon in colonial America. These sermons as well as others from different ministers in America are addedto the wealth of colonial literature in the country.

School Books and Creation Myths Suggestions.

The world of academics saw the advent of many literary scholars but one of the most polished and suave writers and academics was Benjamin Franklin. Franklin is revered as one of the makers of the nation, America. He wrote many books, stories, quotes and publications mostly under a pseudonym. Franklin was among the first great contributors to the academic world. Some of his works are documented and one of his most favorite quotes is “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety” (Franklin, n.d).  Creation of myth in America colonial literature is passed through a number of ways, through oral traditions and word of mouth. These creation myths argue “Christopher Columbus created America” (Causici, The landing of the pilgrims, 24). He renamed the places he passed by and after that, he invited other people from his native country to settle on the land, America.

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