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American Great Literary Figures

American has throughout history produced writers and authors who have contributed not only to the literary history but also to the making of the nation. This paper explores four writers who are considered to be great due to their works before the 1800s. The paper explores their history and the contribution of their work in history.

Ben Franklin was a second generation Scottish immigrant who is known as a philanthropist, writer, and printer. He lived between 1706 and 1790 and as a Democrat and a Christian he contributed greatly to the writings of letters and autobiographies in Boston and Pennsylvania. Cotton Mather was also a Christian writer who concentrated on the historical writings. Living in the same period, the 1750s in New England, he contributed to the spread of Christianity in America. Jonathan Edwards lived and wrote in the 18th century in New Jersey and was also a Christian and a religious writer. He concentrated on sermons writing rather than history. Phyllis Wheatley is another great American writer who concentrated on poetry. She was of African descent and lived and wrote in Massachusetts in the 1770s. Her poetry themes were largely religious (Christian) in neoclassical style.

Ben Franklin is well known for his ability to enlighten other writers and Americans on human rationality through his writing. On his part, Jonathan Edwards was a notable preacher who wrote powerful sermons that demonstrate the infiltration of Christianity in American literature and its effects. Cotton Mather was also popularized as a Christian writer whose main focus was to use literature to interpret Christianity in a contemporary perspective. This was also true for Phyllis Wheatley whose poems depicted the Christianity perspective of life in America and the importance of religious indoctrination. These writers have individually and collectively shaped the history of America on a religious perspective. Their ability to manifest the contemporary life in religion is the foundation of the American sociopolitical movements.

Ben Franklin is described as the ‘first American great man of letters’ for his love of writing and the impact that his writings had on the society. Jonathan Edwards is on his part known for his sermon on the sinners and their God. In his religiosity, he says that “The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked…”. This depicts the anger that God has due to sins and helps push the sinners away from their ways. Cotton Mather is also quite fascinated about religion and says that he “…write the wonders of the Christian religion, flying from the deprivations of Europe to the American strand.” This shows how he wants America to be and desires to make history of America. Phyllis Wheatley also praises Christianity in America by denouncing her African ancestral land as unworthy. In one of her poems, she writes “…Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land”.

These writings first describe America as a land worthy of its religion and which is headed the write way guided by religion. The ability of these writers to influence thinking and affect the people’s ways of life is seen in how their writing changed the people’s mentality and hence contributed to the making of American history.

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