A few dozen writers have penned much of the nation's literary heritage
While the United States has produced thousands of talented writers, a few dozen have penned the novels, poems and stories that comprise much of the nation's literary heritage. Here's a summary of 20 of America's most celebrated and influential writers.
Willa Cather (1873-1947)
Born in Virginia's Back Creek Valley in 1873, Cather was 9 years old when her family moved to Red Cloud, Neb., where she drew inspiration for some of her most famous works—O Pioneers!, 1913; and My √Åntonia, 1918—about life on the American frontier.
James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851)
Cooper, who grew up in Cooperstown, N.Y., is best known for his five-book Leatherstocking series, including The Last of the Mohicans, first published in 1826. In his frontier tales, Cooper introduces the first American hero, Natty Bumppo, a white child raised by Delaware Indians who matures into an adventurous, honorable and fearless woodsman.
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
One of the nation's most prolific poets, Dickinson wrote nearly 1,800 poems while leading a reclusive life at her family's home in Amherst, Mass. Few of Dickinson's poems about art, gardens, joy, love, death and grief were published during her lifetime, and most of her work was discovered in her bedroom after her death.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
An ordained minister, Boston-born Emerson was a philosopher, essayist and poet whose insightful prose explored the mind of man and his relationship with nature. Emerson's uniquely American vision and writing style is illustrated in the 1836 essay Nature and the 1841 essay Self-Reliance.
William Faulkner (1897-1962)
The Nobel Prize-winning novelist and short story writer depicted the people, history and settings of his native Mississippi in most of his works, including the literary classics The Sound and the Fury, 1929; Absalom, Absalom!, 1936; Go Down, Moses, 1942; and The Reivers, 1962.
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
A native of St. Paul, Minn., Fitzgerald wrote novels and short stories about the optimism, aspirations and excesses of the Jazz Age, including This Side of Paradise, 1920; The Beautiful and the Damned, 1922; and The Great Gatsby, his 1925 masterpiece. While sales of its initial printing were disappointing, The Great Gatsby is considered among the greatest novels of the 20th century.