Home  »  Volume XVIII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART III  »  § 1. The Interest of Amerind Literature

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXXII. Non-English Writings II

§ 1. The Interest of Amerind Literature

PROBABLY never before has a people risen to need a history of its national literature with so little conscious relation to its own aboriginal literature. Yet if we extend the term America to include the geographical and racial continuity of the continent, unbroken at its discovery, we have here the richest field of unexploited aboriginal literature it is possible to discover anywhere in the world.

It begins in the archaic and nearly inarticulate cry of awakening consciousness, and carries us to about the point at which Greek literature began to exhibit continuity of thought and style. Only in America we have the advantage of having all these literary patterns developed on a consistent warp of language, and with the woof of an unmixed racial psychology. Varied as all its tribal manifestations were, from Aleut to Fuegian, the aboriginal American was of one uncontaminated strain.