This A-Z, cross-referenced and illustrated title provides an overview of the critical period that spans the early national era through the Civil War, and which witnessed the birth of a truly American literature. The set features more than 250 survey entries. Subjects include - political topics (Manifest Destiny, Underground Railroad); ideas in context (Transcendentalism); values (Sentimentalism, Mourning); genres (Dime Novels, Oratory); popular entertainment (Theatre); publishing (Harper's Monthly, Editors); works of literature and nonfiction ('Hiawatha', 'Life in the Iron Mills'); and much more. The analysis of a wide range of classics in American literature, viewed as cultural and historical documents, cultivates critical skills in reading texts from various perspectives, including aesthetic, biographical, social, historical, racial and gendered. Along with its companion title on the period covering 1870 to 1920, this set provides an overview of a key century in American historical and literary studies.