research paper writing

Brainstorming American Literature Research Paper Ideas

Research papers that are centered around American literature often require a student to explore one particular author's work. What were their main views? What was the author's guiding philosophy and moral principles? It is only natural that these should play a part in determining the topics they chose to write about, and how they portrayed the characters and events in their compositions.

It is also common for American literature papers to focus on a specific period in the literary history of the U.S. Here are some historical periods and their respective writers that may help inspire a topic for your next assignment:

  • The Colonial Period Between 1607 and 1765

  • Benjamin Franklin, William Bradford and Anne Bradstreet were some of the most influential writers of this time. Your paper could be based around early plantation life and the influence that the Puritans had on the development of local government and civil society.

  • The Revolutionary Period Between 1765 And 1789

  • Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington wrote extensively during this period. Many scholars would argue that this was perhaps the most important period in terms of the way it shaped American political ideology, and their definitions of freedom.

  • The Nationalist And Romantic Periods Between 1789 And 1830

  • During these years, the American people continued to refine their political ideals and system of government. A strong sense of nationalism began to develop, and this is reflected in many of the literary works of the time.

  • The American Renaissance Of 1830 To 1870

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow are three of the most well-respected and prolific writers of the American Renaissance Period. “The Scarlet Letter”, and Thoreau's “Civil Disobedience” are two famous works produced during this time. Students could approach this period from the perspective of women, who were just beginning to gain political influence.

  • The Realist Period And The Influence Of Colonial Africans

  • The years between 1870 and 1914 are sometimes referred to as the “Rise of Realism” in American literary circles. Woman's suffrage, and the struggle of African Americans continue to be strong themes in the writings of this period. Famous works include “Uncle Tom's Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe, and “My Bondage and My Freedom” by Frederick Douglass.

  • The Contemporary Period Of American Literature From 1914 To Now

  • There is certainly no shortage of contemporary authors or works to choose from at present! William Faulkner, Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg are just three of the hundreds of influential American writers whose works students could explore. Comparative studies can also make for excellent research papers in the field of American literature.