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The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature



Literary Works and Authors

Historical Context


Colony of Jamestown established in Virginia


First slaves arrive in America


The Mayflower, carrying Pilgrims from Plymouth, England, lands at New Plymouth, Mass.


Anne Hutchinson banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony after Puritan clergy find her guilty of heresy


Charles I deposed and executed


Bradstreet, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America

Oliver Cromwell comes to power


ca. William Bradford


d. Anne Bradstreet


Wampanoag Indians destroyed after attacking English colonists in King Philip's War, 1675–1676

ca. 1680

Taylor, God's Determinations Touching His Elect


Mary Rowlandson, The Captivity Narrative

Taylor, Preparatory Meditations begun (1682–1725)


Witch trials in Salem, Mass., result in 20 executions


Mather, Wonders of the Invisible World



Jewish settlers exiled from Louisiana colony


d. Cotton Mather


d. Edward Taylor



John Peter Zenger, editor of New York Weekly, acquitted of sedition and libel, establishing doctrine of freedom of the press


War of Jenkins's Ear, between England and Spain over control of seaways, 1739–1748

The “Great Awakening,” a religious revival movement spawned by Jonathan Edwards and others, spreads across American colonies


Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God


King George's War, between England and France for control over North America, 1745–1748


French and Indian War, continued territorial struggle pitting France, its Canadian colonies, and its American Indian allies against Britain and its American colonies, 1754–1763


d. Jonathan Edwards


Slavery abolished in mainland Portugal


Stamp Act, a tax imposed by Britain on American colonies, provokes movement against “taxation without representation”


Daniel Boone explores Kentucky Territory


Sampson Occom, A Short Narrative of My Life


Freneau, Father Bombo's Pilgrimage to Mecca

British soldiers fire into a crowd, killing five persons in the Boston Massacre


Freneau, “A Poem on the Rising Glory of America”


Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral

Colonists destroy British tea at Boston Tea Party, signaling American opposition to the Tea Act of 1773


Clashes between American troops and British army at Lexington and Concord, Mass. Begin Revolutionary War

Second Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia

British defeat Americans at Bunker Hill, near Boston


Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense

Second Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence

George Washington's army defeats British at Trenton, New Jersey

First state constitutions written


Articles of Confederation adopted


Americans defeat British in Battle of Cowpens, in South Carolina

Articles of Confederation ratified


Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer


Treaty of Paris with Great Britain recognizes American independence


d. Phillis Wheatley



Daniel Shays leads armed rebellion of debtor farmers against courts in western Mass., spurring drive for stronger national government

Constitutional Convention, meeting in Philadelphia, adopts Constitution

The Federalist Papers, a collection of essays supporting the United States Constitution and the idea of a strong federal government, written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay under the pseudonym “Publius,”, published in New York City newspapers, 1787–1788

States ratify Constitution, 1787–1788


First elections held under Constitution

George Washington becomes first president

Bill of Rights adopted by Congress

French Revolution, abolishing the monarchy and establishing a republican form of government, 1789–1799


d. Benjamin Franklin

First American cotton mill established in Pawtucket, R.I.


Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin


Whiskey Rebellion, an uprising against the federal excise tax on corn liquor in western Pennsylvania, put down by federal troops


Washington leaves presidency


Alien and Sedition Acts, imposing far-reaching restrictions on freedom of speech and of the press, passed by Congress


Thomas Jefferson becomes president


The Library of Congress established


Supreme Court rules in Marbury v. Madison that the court has the power to invalidate acts of Congress when they are determined to be unconstitutional

Louisiana Purchase, the acquisition by the United States of more than 800,000 square miles of territory from France, extends U.S. holdings from Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains

Lewis and Clark begin expedition to investigate the territory added by the Louisiana Purchase (1803–1806)


First edition of Webster's Dictionary


Embargo Act bans all foreign trade


U.S. declares war on Britain, beginning War of 1812


d. J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur

British erect naval blockade


British troops capture and burn Washington

Treaty of Ghent ends war between U.S. and Britain


Irving, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1819–1820)


Cherokee language transcribed


James Monroe issues Monroe Doctrine, declaring that any military incursions by European nations into the Americas would be considered a threat to U.S. sovereignty.


Erie Canal opens, linking the Great Lakes to the Hudson River


Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans


Poe, Tamerlane and Other Poems

First railroad tracks laid on American soil


Indian Removal Act, giving the president power to negotiate the removal of Indian tribes from areas east of the Mississippi River, passed by Congress and signed by President Andrew Jackson


Prince, The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave

William Lloyd Garrison begins publishing abolitionist newspaper The Liberator


d. Philip Freneau


Slavery abolished in British Colonies


Simms, The Yemasee


Emerson, Nature

Transcendentalist movement (ca. 1836–1882), promoting intuitive idealism, the divinity of humankind, and the importance of the individual's own moral insight as opposed to the rule of the many, becomes major influence in American literature, theology, and social thought


Cherokee Nation forced to move from Georgia to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) in Trail of Tears, 1838–1839


Very, Essays and Poems


Dana, Two Years before the Mast

Poe, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque

Tocqueville, Alexis de, Democracy in America (1835–1840)


Cooper, The Deerslayer

Emerson, Essays


Poe, “The Tell-Tale Heart”



Douglass, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Poe, The Raven

Poe, Tales


Longfellow, Evangeline


Women's rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York demands equal rights for women, including the right to vote

John Humphrey Noyes founds Oneida Perfectionist colony, a Christian socialist society that becomes a leading example of the American Utopian movement, 1848–1900


Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

Gold rush in California, 1849–1850

d. Edgar Allan Poe


Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Fugitive Slave Act, part of the Compromise of 1850, denies right of escaped slaves to a trial by jury and authorizes government authorities to return escaped slaves to former owners


Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables

Melville, Moby-Dick

d. James Fenimore Cooper


Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance

Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin


Melville, “Bartleby the Scrivener”


Thoreau, Walden; or, Life in the Woods

Republican Party formed


Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom

Irving, Life of George Washington (five vols., 1855–1859)

Longfellow, The Song of Hiawatha Whitman, Leaves of Grass


Melville, The Piazza Tales


Supreme Court issues decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford case, declaring that a black slave cannot become a citizen under the U.S. Constitution


Longfellow, The Courtship of Miles Standish


d. Washington Irving

John Brown leads raid on U.S. arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, hoping to inspire slave uprising

d. Alexis de Tocqueville


Abraham Lincoln elected president


Confederate States of America formed

Fort Sumter, S.C., falls to Confederate forces, beginning Civil War

In first major armed conflict of Civil War, Confederates defeat Union army in (First) Battle of Bull Run in Virginia


d. Henry David Thoreau

Both armies sustain enormous casualties in battles of Shiloh, (Second) Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg


Thoreau, The Maine Woods

Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves


d. Nathaniel Hawthorne

Antidraft riots break out in New York City; homes of wealthy looted and scores of African Americans lynched

Union armies victorious at crucial battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg

General Sherman captures Atlanta, begins “March to the Sea” to destroy Confederacy

Lincoln re-elected president


Whitman, Drum Taps

General Lee of the Confederacy surrenders to General Grant of the Union Army at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, ending the Civil War

President Lincoln assassinated; Andrew Johnson becomes president. Thirteenth Amendment outlaws slavery

Freedmen's Bureau established to aid and assimilate freed slaves


Congress approves Fourteenth Amendment, granting citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” and prohibiting states from reducing the “privileges and immunities of citizens”

Ku Klux Klan formed in South


Alcott, Little Women

Military Reconstruction Act outlines plan of Reconstruction, placing the South under temporary military occupation, enfranchising African Americans and disenfranchising former Confederate leaders

Alger, Ragged Dick

Andrew Johnson impeached but not convicted

Fourteenth Amendment ratified

Ulysses S. Grant elected president


Twain, The Innocents Abroad

Congress passes Fifteenth Amendment

Transcontinental railroad completed


Harte, The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Sketches

John D. Rockefeller founds Standard Oil

d. William Gilmore Simms


Great Chicago Fire destroys large portion of city's central district


Twain, Roughing It

First national park, Yellowstone, established


Andrew Carnegie founds Carnegie Steel


Financial panic disrupts national economy


Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

General George Custer dies in battle with Sioux at Little Big Horn (Montana)

Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone

Baseball's National League founded


Last federal troops withdrawn from South after “Compromise of 1877,” an agreement between Southern Democrats and Republicans to end federal intervention in South


James, Daisy Miller


Edison invents the light bulb


Harris, Uncle Remus

d. Jones Very


Alger, From Canal Boy to President

President Garfield assassinated

James, The Portrait of a Lady


Howells, A Modern Instance

Congress passes Chinese Exclusion Act, outlawing immigration from China

Lazarus, Songs of a Semite

d. Richard Henry Dana

d. Ralph Waldo Emerson

d. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Twain, Life on the Mississippi

Brooklyn Bridge opens


Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

First steel girder “skyscraper” built in Chicago


Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham


d. Emily Dickinson


d. Emma Lazarus


Bellamy, Looking Backward

d. Louisa May Alcott


Jane Addams opens Hull House in Chicago to help assimilate immigrants


Dickinson, Poems of Emily Dickinson

Battle of Wounded Knee (S. Dakota), the last major clash between federal troops and American Indians, results in massacre of hundreds of Sioux

Sherman Antitrust Act outlaws contracts, combinations, and conspiracies “in restraint of trade”

“Jim Crow” laws establishing strict segregation passed throughout South (ca. 1890s)


d. Herman Melville


Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper

People's Party formed in Omaha on behalf of debtor farmers, launching “Populist” movement

d. Walt Whitman


Depression begins

Chicago World's Fair

Anti-Saloon League founded


Garland, Crumbling Idols

Twain, The Tragedy of Puddn'head Wilson


Crane, The Red Badge of Courage

First Coney Island amusement park opens

d. Frederick Douglass

Insurrection against Spanish begins in Cuba


Dunbar, Lyrics of Lowly Life

William Jennings Bryan wins Democratic nomination after “Cross of Gold” speech denouncing gold standard

Jewett, The Country of the Pointed Firs

d. Harriet Beecher Stowe

William McKinley elected president

Yukon Gold Rush

Plessy v. Ferguson upholds racially segregated railroad cars; further discriminatory (Jim Crow) laws follow


The advent of sensationalistic newspaper reporting known as “Yellow Journalism”


Crane, The Open Boat and Other Tales of Adventure

Spanish-American War, 1898–1899; Treaty of Paris cedes Puerto Rico, Philippines, and other Spanish possessions to U.S. and recognizes Cuban independence

James, The Turn of the Screw

U.S. battleship Maine explodes in Havana harbor

Revolt against American rule begins in Philippines (1898–1902)


Chesnutt, The Conjure Woman

Chopin, The Awakening

Norris, McTeague

d. Horatio Alger


Baum, The Wizard of Oz

Eugene Debs runs for president as candidate of Socialist Party

Chesnutt, The House behind the Cedars

Dreiser, Sister Carrie

Hawaii becomes U.S. territory

d. Stephen Crane


President McKinley assassinated; Theodore Roosevelt becomes president

J. P. Morgan creates United States Steel Corporation

Baseball's American League founded


Hapgood, The Spirit of the Ghetto

James, The Wings of the Dove

Wister, The Virginian

d. Bret Harte

d. Frank Norris


Du Bois, W. E. B., The Souls of Black Folk

Ford Motor Company founded

James, The Ambassadors

Wright brothers launch first airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

London, The Call of the Wild

First motion picture debuts in America


Henry, Cabbages and Kings

Construction of Panama Canal begins

James, The Golden Bowl

d. Kate Chopin


Wharton, The House of Mirth

Roosevelt elected president


London, White Fang

San Francisco earthquake and fire destroy much of the city

Sinclair, The Jungle

d. Paul Laurence Dunbar

Meat Inspection Act, requiring government inspection of slaughterhouses, passed by Congress

Pure Food and Drug Act, restricting sale of dangerous or ineffective medicines, passed by Congress

Henry Ford produces his first automobiles


Adams, The Education of Henry Adams

Sinn Fein, an Irish nationalist movement, founded


d. Sarah Orne Jewett

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) founded

Admiral Peary reaches North Pole


d. O. Henry

Boy Scouts of America founded

d. Mark Twain


Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Standard Oil Company declared a monopoly and broken up

Wharton, Ethan Frome


Lindsay, Rhymes to Be Traded for Bread

Titanic sinks

Girl Guides (later Girl Scouts of America) founded

Woodrow Wilson elected president


Cather, O Pioneers!

Frost, A Boy's Will


Pound, Des Imagistes

Panama Canal opens

Stein, Tender Buttons

Austria invades Serbia, beginning World War I

Tarkington, Penrod

First federal income tax established by Congress

d. Ambrose Bierce


Lindsay, The Art of the Moving Picture

D. W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation features stereotypical images of African Americans and negative portrayal of Reconstruction

Masters, Spoon River Anthology

Great Migration of African Americans from the South to Northern cities begins


Lardner, You Know Me, Al

The Easter Rebellion in Dublin, Ireland; Irish Republican Army is established

d. Henry James

d. Jack London

Margaret Sanger opens first birth control clinic in Brooklyn

Wilson re-elected


Eliot, Prufrock and Other Observations

Russian Revolution, 1917–1921

Lowell, Tendencies in Modern American Poetry

Soviet Union established

Millay, Renascence and Other Poems

U.S. enters World War I

Sinclair, King Coal

Puerto Ricans granted U.S. citizenship


Cather, My Ántonia

Spanish flu epidemic kills millions (1918–1919)

Tarkington, The Magnificent Ambersons

Armistice ends war

d. Henry Adams


Algonquin Round Table begins meeting, 1919–1932

Paris Peace Conference convenes

Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio

Treaty of Versailles signed by Germany, Britain, France, Italy, and Japan, but not ratified by U.S. Senate

Mencken, The American Language

Eighteenth Amendment (Prohibition) ratified

Race riots break out in Chicago and other cities


Lewis, Main Street

In “Red Scare” federal government reacts to radicalism and raids leftist organizations

Wharton, The Age of Innocence

d. William Dean Howells

Prohibition goes into effect

Women given the right to vote (Nineteenth Amendment)

Partition of Ireland


Dos Passos, Three Soldiers

Reader's Digest founded

Robinson, Collected Poems


Cummings, The Enormous Room

Harlem Renaissance, 1922–1929

Eliot, The Waste Land

Motion Picture Association, under Will Hays, founded to regulate film industry

The Fugitive magazine founded, 1922–1925

Garland, A Daughter of the Middle Border

Lewis, Babbitt


Cummings, Tulips and Chimneys

Warren G. Harding dies; Calvin Coolidge becomes president

Frost, New Hampshire

Loy, Lunar Baedeker

Time magazine founded

Millay, The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems

Stevens, Harmonium


Lardner, How to Write Short Stories [with Samples]

Stalin takes power in the Soviet Union after Lenin's death

Melville, Billy Budd, Foretopman

H. L. Mencken cofounds American Mercury

National Origins Act severely restricts immigration from Asia and southern and eastern Europe

Robinson, The Man Who Died Twice

The Ku Klux Klan reaches peak membership


Dreiser, An American Tragedy

Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, highlights attempts by religious fundamentalists to forbid the teaching of evolution

Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Lowell, What's O'Clock?

d. Amy Lowell

The New Yorker begins publication


Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

National Broadcasting Company (NBC) formed

Hughes, Weary Blues

Parker, Enough Rope

Tate, Ode to the Confederate Dead


Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Sacco and Vanzetti, Italian immigrants and admitted anarchists, executed

Lewis, Elmer Gantry

Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop

Charles Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic

Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) formed


Benét, John Brown's Body

Herbert Hoover elected president

Jackson, Anarchism Is Not Enough

Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin

Sandburg, Good Morning, America


Aiken, Selected Poems

Stock market crash

Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

Great Depression begins, 1929–1939

Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel


Auden, Poems

The Dust Bowl, a decade of severe drought and dust storms in U.S. Plains, begins

Crane, The Bridge

Eliot, Ash Wednesday

Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

The Fugitives publish I'll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition


Buck, The Good Earth

Scottsboro case attracts national attention when a group of black teenagers is convicted and sentenced to death for the rape of two white women on a train near Scottsboro, Alabama

Wilson, Axel's Castle

Louis Zukofsky edits objectivist issue of Poetry magazine

d. Vachel Lindsay


Faulkner, Light in August

Franklin Delano Roosevelt elected president

Caldwell, Tobacco Road

Tuskegee syphilis project begins

d. Charles W. Chesnutt

d. Hart Crane


Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

New Deal begins

West, Miss Lonelyhearts

Adolf Hitler becomes chancellor of Germany

d. Ring Lardner

Twenty-first Amendment ends prohibition

U.S. recognizes USSR

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) created to revitalize the region


Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night

Revised Production Code mandates self-censorship among Hollywood studios

Miller, Tropic of Cancer

Pound, Make It New

Roth, Call It Sleep


Moore, Selected Poems

Works Progress Administration and other relief agencies, including Federal Writers' Project and Federal Arts Project, created to keep millions of people employed

O'Hara, Butterfield 8

Wolfe, Of Time and the River

d. Charlotte Perkins Gilman

d. Edwin Arlington Robinson

Social Security Act creates pension system for working Americans and provides government assistance to the poor and elderly

National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) encourages collective bargaining between employers and employees, fostering union growth


Barnes, Nightwood

Roosevelt re-elected president

Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

Spanish civil war, 1936–1939

Sandburg, The People, Yes!

Jesse Owens wins four gold medals in Berlin Olympics

Life begins publication


Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

The Hindenburg hydrogen airship explodes in Lakehurst, New Jersey

Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

d. Edith Wharton


Dos Passos, U.S.A. trilogy (collected)

Germany annexes Austria and Czech Sudetenland

Wilder, Our Town

Munich Conference

Wright, Uncle Tom's Children

d. Thomas Wolfe


Hellman, The Little Foxes

Germany invades Poland

Miller, Tropic of Capricorn

World War II begins, 1939–1945

Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

New York World's Fair

Thurber, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”

West, Nathanael, The Day of the Locust


Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Roosevelt re-elected president

McCullers, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

O'Hara, Pal Joey

O'Neill, The Iceman Cometh

Wright, Native Son

d. Hamlin Garland

d. F. Scott Fitzgerald

d. Nathanael West


Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Japan attacks Pearl Harbor

Glasgow, In This Our Life

U.S. enters World War II

Ransom, The New Criticism

d. Sherwood Anderson


Frost, A Witness Tree

News of the Holocaust reaches U.S.

Kazin, On Native Grounds

Japanese Americans interned

Stevens, Notes toward a Supreme Fiction

Manhattan Project, government-sponsored research that produced atomic bomb, begins

White, One Man's Meat


Eliot, Four Quartets

Zoot-suit riots break out in Los Angeles when white sailors attack Mexican-American youth

d. Stephen Vincent Benét


Williams, The Glass Menagerie

Roosevelt re-elected president

d. Hutchins Hapgood

Allied forces storm the beaches at Normandy (D day)

GI Bill of Rights provides financial and educational support to U.S. WWII veterans


White, Stuart Little

Franklin D. Roosevelt dies; Harry S. Truman becomes president

Wright, Black Boy

d. Theodore Dreiser

Mussolini killed by rioters

d. Ellen Glasgow

Hitler commits suicide

Germany surrenders, ending WWII

America drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan

Japan surrenders

United Nations founded


Lowell, Lord Weary's Castle

Literary figures develop New Criticism, which focuses on text and language in literary analysis

Warren, All the King's Men

Welty, Delta Wedding

Benjamin Spock, pediatrician and pacifist, publishes Baby and Child Care

d. Gertrude Stein

d. Booth Tarkington


Kees, The Fall of Magicians

Jackie Robinson plays with Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking baseball's color line

Stafford, The Mountain Lion

Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) begins its investigation of communists in the Hollywood Motion Picture Industry

d. Willa Cather

Construction begins on Levittown, New York, symbolizing suburban growth


Jackson, “The Lottery”

Truman signs Economic Cooperation Act (the Marshall Plan), sending financial aid to European countries suffering the effects of WWII

Jarrell, Losses

Mailer, The Naked and the Dead

Pound, The Pisan Cantos

State of Israel established

Roethke, The Lost Son and Other Poems

Vidal, The City and the Pillar


Algren, The Man with the Golden Arm

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) established

Brooks, Annie Allen

Mao Zedong declares People's Republic of China a communist state

Miller, Death of a Salesman

d. Margaret Mitchell


Sandburg, Complete Poems

North Korea invades South Korea, beginning Korean War (1950–1953)

Trilling, The Liberal Imagination

d. Edgar Lee Masters

UN troops, led by U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, launch counterattack against North Korea

d. Edna St. Vincent Millay

China enters Korean War

Senator Joseph McCarthy alleges that certain State Department members hold communist loyalties


Hughes, Montage of a Dream Deferred

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg convicted as Soviet spies (executed 1953)

McCullers, The Ballad of the Sad Café

Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Styron, Lie Down in Darkness

d. Sinclair Lewis


Ellison, Invisible Man

U.S. tests hydrogen bomb

Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Dwight D. Eisenhower elected president

Malamud, The Natural

O'Connor, Wise Blood

Steinbeck, East of Eden

White, Charlotte's Web


Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain

Watson and Crick document DNA

Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March

Korean war ends in stalemate

Jarrell, Poetry and the Age

Miller, The Crucible

Roethke, The Waking: Poems, 1933–1953

d. Eugene O'Neill


Stevens, Collected Poems

Supreme Court decides Brown v. Board of Education case, ruling against racial segregation in public schools and declaring separate education facilities unequal

Swenson, Another Animal

Robert Creeley founds The Black Mountain Review

North and South Vietnam divided after communists under Ho Chi Minh defeat French colonials

Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) established


Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott sparked by Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat

Bishop, Poems: North and South—A Cold Spring

Miller, A View from the Bridge

American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations merge to become the AFL-CIO

Nabokov, Lolita

O'Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find

O'Neill, Long Day's Journey into Night

Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

d. James Agee

d. Weldon Kees

d. Wallace Stevens


Barth, The Floating Opera

Eisenhower re-elected president

Ginsberg, Howl

Wilbur, Things of This World

d. H. L. Mencken


Agee, A Death in the Family

Soviet Union launches satellite Sputnik

Cheever, The Wapshot Chronicle

European Economic Community (Common Market) established

Kerouac, On the Road

McCarthy, Memories of a Catholic Girlhood

Federal courts order desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark.

Singer, Gimpel the Fool and Other Stories

Martin Luther King Jr. establishes the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Atlanta


Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) established

Kerouac, Dharma Bums

Kunitz, Selected Poems: 1928–1958

Williams, Paterson (five volumes, 1946–1958)


Albee, The Zoo Story

Revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro overthrow Fulgencio Batista in Cuba

Burroughs, Naked Lunch

Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun

Alaska and Hawaii become states

Lowell, Life Studies

Paley, The Little Disturbances of Man

Roth, Goodbye, Columbus

Schwartz, Summer Knowledge

Thurber, The Years with Ross

White, The Elements of Style


Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor

John F. Kennedy elected president

Kinnell, What a Kingdom It Was

U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the birth control pill

Knowles, A Separate Peace

Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Plath, The Colossus and Other Poems

Sexton, To Bedlam and Part Way Back

Updike, Rabbit, Run

d. Zora Neale Hurston

d. Richard Wright


Ginsberg, Kaddish and Other Poems

Attempted invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs ends in defeat of U.S.-led forces

Gunn, My Sad Captains

Heller, Catch-22

Construction of Berlin Wall begins

Salinger, Franny and Zooey

Peace Corps established

d. H.D.

d. Ernest Hemingway

d. James Thurber


Albee, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Soviet Union removes missile sites from Cuba after U.S. threatens military attack

Ashbery, The Tennis Court Oath

Auden, The Dyer's Hand

Socialist writer Michael Harrington publishes The Other America, documenting poverty in America

Baldwin, Another Country

Nabokov, Pale Fire

Stafford, Traveling through the Dark

d. E. E. Cummings

d. William Faulkner

d. Robinson Jeffers


McCarthy, The Group

Martin Luther King Jr. delivers “I Have a Dream” speech at March on Washington

Plath, The Bell Jar

d. W. E. B. Du Bois

President Kennedy assassinated; Lyndon B. Johnson becomes president

d. Robert Frost

d. Sylvia Plath

Betty Friedan publishes The Feminine Mystique, helping launch “second-wave” feminism

d. Theodore Roethke

d. William Carlos Williams


Berryman, 77 Dream Songs

Civil Rights Act legislates against discrimination

Lowell, For the Union Dead

The Beatles come to the U.S.

d. Flannery O'Connor

Free Speech Movement begins at University of California at Berkeley

Gulf of Tonkin resolution gives president power to “take all necessary measures” against communist insurgents in Vietnam

Johnson elected president


Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X

U.S. sends combat troops to Vietnam, beginning Vietnam War (1965–1973)

Matthiessen, At Play in the Fields of the Lord

Plath, Ariel

Malcolm X assassinated

d. T. S. Eliot

National Endowment for the Arts established

d. Lorraine Hansberry

Race riot breaks out in Watts, Los Angeles

d. Randall Jarrell

Voting Rights Act (Civil Rights Act of 1965) passed, providing federal protection to African Americans exercising their right to vote

d. Shirley Jackson


Capote, In Cold Blood

National Organization for Women established

Hayden, A Ballad of Remembrance

Malamud, The Fixer

Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49

Sexton, Live or Die

d. Mina Loy

d. Delmore Schwartz


Hecht, The Hard Hours

Israel and Arabs clash over territory in Six-Day War

Levertov, The Sorrow Dance

Thurgood Marshall becomes first African-American Supreme Court Justice

McPhee, Oranges

Reed, The Free-lance Pallbearers

Race riots break out in Detroit and Newark

Stone, A Hall of Mirrors

Styron, The Confessions of Nat Turner

Tate, The Lost Pilot

d. Langston Hughes

d. Carson McCullers

d. Dorothy Parker

d. Carl Sandburg


Didion, Slouching towards Bethlehem

Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated

Momaday, House Made of Dawn

Robert Kennedy assassinated

d. Upton Sinclair

Viet Cong launch Tet offensive, intensifying war with U.S.

d. John Steinbeck

Richard Nixon elected president


Bukowski, Notes of a Dirty Old Man

Stonewall Riot in New York City launches gay rights movement

Howard, Untitled Subjects

Oates, them

Americans land on the moon

Roth, Portnoy's Complaint

Woodstock music festival

Stafford, Collected Stories

Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

d. Jack Kerouac


Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

National Guard soldiers shoot antiwar protesters at Kent State University in Ohio, killing four

Dickey, Deliverance

Didion, Play It As It Lays

Merwin, The Carrier of Ladders

Morrison, The Bluest Eye

d. John Dos Passos

d. John O'Hara


Bukowski, Post Office

Gardner, Grendel

Stegner, Angle of Repose

Wright, Collected Poems


Welty, Optimist's Daughter

Nixon re-elected president

d. John Berryman

Watergate break-in

d. Marianne Moore

Israeli athletes killed at Munich Olympics

d. Ezra Pound

Congress approves Equal Rights Amendment, supporting the women's movement

d. Edmund Wilson

Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty (SALT I agreement) between U.S. and Soviet Union

Bloody Sunday sets off civil unrest in Ireland


Jong, Fear of Flying

Roe v. Wade case invalidates anti-abortion laws

Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

Paris Peace Accords produce cease-fire in Vietnam

Rich, Diving into the Wreck

U.S. withdraws from Vietnam

Vidal, Burr

Members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) occupy town of Wounded Knee

Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

d. Conrad Aiken

Arab oil embargo and OPEC price increase creates spurring energy crisis

d. W. H. Auden

d. Pearl S. Buck


Ammons, Sphere: The Form of a Motion

Impeachment proceedings begin against Nixon

Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Nixon resigns; Gerald Ford becomes president

Snyder, Turtle Island

OPEC raises oil prices

d. John Crowe Ransom

“Stagflation” (recession and inflation together) begins

d. Anne Sexton


Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

South Vietnam falls to Communists

Bellow, Humboldt's Gift

Doctorow, Ragtime

Levertov, The Freeing of the Dust

Mamet, American Buffalo

Pinsky, Sadness and Happiness

d. Lionel Trilling

d. Thornton Wilder


Beattie, Distortions

Jimmy Carter elected president

Carver, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?

Viking II space probe lands on Mars

Kingston, The Woman Warrior

Stegner, The Spectator Bird


Hugo, 31 Letters and 13 Dreams

Jordan, Things That I Do in the Dark

King, The Shining

Shepard, Curse of the Starving Class

d. Vladimir Nabokov

d. Robert Lowell


Angelou, And Still I Rise

First test-tube baby born

Gardner, On Moral Fiction

Hayden, American Journal

Irving, The World According to Garp

Lopez, Of Wolves and Men

Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard

Rich, The Dream of a Common Language


Justice, Selected Poems

Ayatollah Khomeini leads revolution in Iran against Shah Reza Pahlavi

Levine, Ashes

Mailer, The Executioner's Song

American diplomats taken hostage in Iran

Styron, Sophie's Choice

SALT II agreement between U.S. and Soviet Union further attempts to control nuclear armaments

d. Elizabeth Bishop

d. Jean Stafford

Soviet troops invade Afghanistan; U.S. backs Muslim guerrilla fighters

d. Allen Tate

Partial meltdown at Three Mile Island nuclear plant


Kingston, China Men

Ronald Reagan elected president

Shepard, True West

U.S. boycotts Moscow Olympics

d. Robert Hayden

d. Henry Miller

d. Katherine Anne Porter

d. Muriel Rukeyser

d. James Wright


Prose, Household Saints

Sandra Day O'Connor becomes first female Supreme Court justice

Silko, Storyteller

d. Nelson Algren

John Hinckley Jr. shoots President Reagan


Kinnell, Selected Poems

First case of AIDS confirmed in America

Merrill, The Changing Light at Sandover

Equal Rights Amendment fails to obtain necessary 38 state ratifications by deadline

Naylor, The Women of Brewster Place

Walker, The Color Purple

U.S. invades Grenada

White, A Boy's Own Story

d. Djuna Barnes

d. John Cheever

d. John Gardner

d. Richard Hugo


Barthelme, Overnight to Many Distant Cities

Carver, Cathedral

Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Kennedy, Ironweed

d. Tennessee Williams


Erdrich, Love Medicine

Reagan re-elected president

Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross

Apple Computer introduces the Macintosh, the first personal computer with graphic user interface

Olds, The Dead and the Living

Wolff, The Barracks Thief

d. Truman Capote

d. Lillian Hellman


Banks, Continental Drift

Mikhail Gorbachev becomes leader of Soviet Union

DeLillo, White Noise

Irving, The Cider House Rules

Kincaid, Annie John

Wilson, Fences

d. E. B. White


Erdrich, The Beet Queen

Space shuttle Challenger explodes

Lopez, Arctic Dreams

Iran-Contra affair exposed; U.S. concedes selling weapons to Iran and illegally funding “contra” rebels in Nicaragua

Ostriker, The Imaginary Lover

Taylor, Summons to Memphis

d. Bernard Malamud

Chernobyl nuclear power accident


Morrison, Beloved

U.S. stock market crashes

McNally, Frankie and Johnny at the Claire de Lune

Stevenson, Selected Poems

d. James Baldwin


White, The Beautiful Room Is Empty

George H. Bush elected president

d. Raymond Carver

Soviet troops withdraw from Afghanistan


Banks, Affliction

Berlin Wall falls; end of the Cold War

Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

Exxon Valdez runs aground in Alaska

Kingston, Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book

Chinese military massacres pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, Beijing

Ozick, The Shawl

Wolff, This Boy's Life

U.S. invades Panama

d. Donald Barthelme

d. Mary McCarthy

d. May Swenson

d. Robert Penn Warren


O'Brien, The Things They Carried

Nelson Mandela released after 27 years in South African prison

Simic, The World Doesn't End

Styron, Darkness Visible

Walcott, Omeros

Wideman, Philadelphia Fire

Wilson, The Piano Lesson


Alvarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

U.S. and allies force Iraq out of Kuwait in (first) Persian Gulf War

Berry, Standing on Earth

Elkin, The MacGuffin

START I agreement between U.S. and Soviet Union calls for reduction and eventual dismantling of each country's nuclear weapons

McNally, Lips Together, Teeth Apart

d. Laura Riding Jackson

d. Isaac Bashevis Singer

Soviet Union collapses

Launch of the World Wide Web

Official end of Apartheid in South Africa


Gioia, Can Poetry Matter?

Los Angeles race riot sparked by acquittal of police officers accused in the Rodney King beating

Glück, The Wild Iris

Kushner, Angels in America (1992–1995)

War breaks out in Yugoslavia as a result of ethnic tensions

McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

Bill Clinton elected president


Ammons, Garbage

First bombing of New York's World Trade Center by Islamic terrorists

Proulx, The Shipping News

d. Wallace Stegner

START II agreement between U.S. and Russia

d. William Stafford

Federal agents besiege and later burn Waco, Texas, compound of the Branch Davidians religious cult after a 51-day standoff


Hacker, Winter Numbers

Proposition 187 denies social services to illegal immigrants in California

Levine, Simple Truth

d. Charles Bukowski

Russian military begins suppression of Chechnyan secessionists

d. Ralph Ellison

d. Peter Taylor

Genocide in Rwanda leaves 800,000 dead

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) eliminates trade barriers between U.S., Canada, and Mexico


Carruth, Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey: 1991–1995

Oklahoma City bombing kills 169

Ford, Independence Day

O. J. Simpson criminal trial ends in acquittal

Kunitz, Passing Through: The Later Poems

Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia sign peace treaty

Soto, New and Selected Poems

Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin assassinated

d. Stanley Elkin

Partial shutdown of U.S. government over budget disputes

d. James Merrill

d. Henry Roth


Brodkey, This Wild Darkness

Montana militia members (freemen) surrender to FBI after 81-day standoff

Kincaid, Autobiography of My Mother

Matthews, Time & Money

U.S. missile strike against Iraq

Ostriker, The Crack in Everything

Bill Clinton re-elected

Pinsky, The Figured Wheel

Snyder, Mountains and Rivers without End

d. Harold Brodkey


Beattie, My Life, Starring Dara Falcon

Diana, Princess of Wales, dies in car accident

DeLillo, Underworld

Kyoto conference addresses global warming

Wright, Black Zodiac

d. William S. Burroughs

d. James Dickey

d. Allen Ginsberg

d. Denise Levertov

d. William Matthews


McPhee, Annals of the Former World

Lewinsky scandal and the Starr Report lead to impeachment of Bill Clinton

Ponsot, The Bird Catcher

Stern, This Time: New and Selected Poems

India and Pakistan begin nuclear testing

Strand, Blizzard of One

d. Alfred Kazin


Ellison, Juneteenth

Columbine High School shootings

d. Joseph Heller

The Euro is officially launched in 11 countries


Oates, Blonde

2000 Census indicates Hispanic Americans become largest minority group in the U.S.

Williams, Leap

d. Gwendolyn Brooks

Controversy over U.S. presidential election ends in victory for George W. Bush

Class-action suit against tobacco industry

Microsoft charged in violation of antitrust laws

Dot-com crash


Collins, Sailing Alone around the Room

Enron scandal disclosed

d. A. R. Ammons

Islamic terrorists destroy twin towers of New York's World Trade Center, damage Pentagon, and kill thousands in September 11 attacks

d. Eudora Welty

Anthrax powder mailed to media and political targets

China joins World Trade Organization


McClatchy, Hazmat

Sniper attacks in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

d. June Jordan


U.S.-led troops invade Iraq; Saddam Hussein regime falls

SARS epidemic strikes Asia and other regions

Space shuttle Columbia breaks apart

North Korea reactivates nuclear program