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American Literature

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To prepare for the American Literature exam, you should read critically the contents of at least one anthology. Most textbook anthologies contain a representative sample of readings as well as discussions of historical background, literary styles and devices characteristic of various authors and periods, and other material relevant to the test. The anthologies vary somewhat in their content, approach and emphasis; you are advised to consult more than one or to consult some specialized books on major authors, periods, and literary forms and terminology.


  • Baym, ed., Norton Anthology of American Literature (Norton)
  • Belasco and Johnson, Bedford Anthology of American Literature (Bedford/St. Martin's)
  • Cain, American Literature (Penguin/Longman)
  • Cushman and Newlin, Nation of Letters (Brandywine/Blackwell)
  • Lauter, ed., Heath Anthology of American Literature (Wadsworth)
  • McMichael, Anthology of American Literature (Prentice Hall)
  • McQuade et al., Harper American Literature, Single Volume Edition (Longman)
  • Perkins and Perkins, The American Tradition in Literature (McGraw-Hill)

You should also read as many as possible of the major novels that are mentioned or excerpted in the anthologies, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Kate Chopin's The Awakening. Other novelists whose major works you should be familiar with include Melville, Crane, Wharton, Cather, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, Ellison and Wright. You can likely obtain an extensive reading list of American literature from a college English department, library or bookstore.

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