Harriet Jacobs, writer of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
The problems and ideologies that define American culture were formed in the 19th century.
Michael via Flickr
Some of the most exciting fiction and memoir is being done in the form of graphic novels. Here are some of the very best.
Robert Redford played the golden Gatsby in 1974.
Status anxiety and conspicuous consumption generate a dazzling, often surreal poetry in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. But Gatsby’s rise and fall exposes deep fissures underlying the American Dream.
Toni Morrison’s legacy echoes across the world.
In some ways, perhaps Morrison is even more relevant in South African universities today than she's ever been.
An 1870 portrait of Herman Melville painted by Joseph Oriel Eaton.
While clear-eyed about the country's injustices, Melville never succumbed to cynicism. On the author's bicentennial, American readers could use a dose of his ability to fuse realism with idealism.
Catch 22 as seen by George Clooney is just far too good looking.
Poet Walt Whitman in his home in New Jersey in 1891. Born 200 years ago this week, Whitman is celebrated in America for his daring poetry collection Leaves of Grass.
Samuel Murray/Wikimedia Commons
Walt Whitman is perhaps America's most admired poet. His work, now praised for its themes of equality and democracy, was once shunned for its experimental verse and discussion of sexuality.
Sharp-eyed Victorian writers exploded the myth of tranquil village life.
Bilocation is a popular Christian myth but also one that is known to modern physics.
Many authors born in Latin America have produced some of their finest work while living in the United States.
Spanish-speaking writers have made exceptional contributions to American literature. Here are the best Latin American and Latino authors you probably haven't heard of.
His recent death will lead to some old debates about his work returning – but are they still valid?
Mondadori Publishing House/HAND/EPA
Whether you loved him or hated him, his canonical status is beyond question.
George Saunders has become the second American to win the Man Booker.
Hopper's brand of Americanism was a counterpoint to American optimism. Fifty years after his death, his legacy lives on.
Twain was an opinionated, prolific commentator on the personalities and political issues of his day.
He probably would have been amused by – and maybe even befriended – Trump the entertainer. Trump the president? Not so much.
Henry James in 1912.
The American writer remains as elusive 100 years after his death as he was at the time.
President George W. Bush awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Harper Lee in 2007.
Why the death of Harper Lee is bigger news than the deaths of many major writers.
In order to support his young family, William Faulkner took a job shoveling coal at a power plant on Ole Miss’s campus.
Slated to be demolished this year, a crumbling brick building on Ole Miss' campus once operated as a power plant where novelist William Faulkner shoveled coal – and feverishly wrote.
Anne Tyler’s Booker short-listed novel is an exquisite meditation on family life.
© Jenny Westerhoff
Male friendship is often overlooked in the 20th-century novel, but in her Booker short-listed novel Yanagihara places it centre.