storie e leggende americane: l’inizio della letteratura

The beginning of America: a story, a legend

The first European attempt to exploit (sfruttare) North America was when the London Company sent out its expedition to begin colonizing Virginia on December 20, 1606. Meanwhile (nel frattempo), Basque, English, and French fishing fleets (flotte di pescherecci) became regular visitors to the coasts from Newfoundland to Cape Cod. Some of these fishing fleets set up (stabilirono) camps on the coasts to trade with local Indians, exchanging furs (pelli) for manufactured goods (in cambio di merci già confezionate). For the next two decades, Europeans’ presence in North America was limited to these incursions. In the 1580s, the English tried to establish a permanent colony on Roanoke Island (on the coast of present-day North Carolina), but their effort (sforzo) did not last (durò).

In the early 1600s, in rapid succession, the English began a colony (Jamestown) in Chesapeake Bay in 1607, the French built Quebec in 1608, and the Dutch began their interest in the region that is now New York. Afterwards, English, French and Dutch trade companies (compagnie commerciali) began to send thousands of colonists, including families, to North America. The interest in North America started to mean contest among European powers to exploit these lands. The European colonization and settlement of North America was an invasion of territory where Native Americans had been living for centuries. Indian groups perceived the Europeans’ arrival as an intrusion and tried to resist that invasion. But they were then defeated (sconfitti) and chased (scacciati) both because of European diseases (malattie) and of superior force of arms. The third group of people that must be considered that played an active role in the European invasion is the Africans. From the very beginning, Europeans had problems establishing colonies because of the lack (mancanza) of labourers (lavoratori) to do the hard work of colony-building. The story of European colonization of America was a complex one, as the members of these very diverse peoples confronted situations that they had not chosen.

The Pilgrim Fathers: gli Inglesi in America

There was a time when the people of England were not allowed (permitted = non era permesso) to pray (pregare) to God in the way they thought right, but were punished if they did not worship ( adoravano, credevano) as the king ordered. This was very hard, and when James I was king, a little band (group = gruppo) of brave people, who found that they could not obey the king, left their country to make a new home (settle = farsi una nuova casa) across the sea, where they could be free. They are the Pilgrim Fathers. A hundred people – men, women, children – set sail (salparono) in a little ship called the Mayflowers for the New World which a great explorer called Columbus had discovered away in the west, and which we now call America. They had long a stormy (tempestoso) voyage, but at last, in mid –winter (a metà inverno), they landed (atterrarono) on the shores ( coast = costa) of North America, and set up ( stabilirono) their huts (capanne). At first they had much trouble, for the ground was frozen (ice covered= ghiacciato) and sterile. They suffered from hunger (fame) and sickness (disease, illness = malattie) , and the wild Indians who lived in that land came down upon them and tried to drive them away. But the Pilgrim Fathers did not lose ( perdere) courage. They were free, and they worked hard, and waited in patience for brighter (better = migliori) days. By and by (a poco a poco) other ships from England brought (portarono) food to keep them alive (make them survive = per tenerli in vita), and more people to help them. Then they made friends (fecero amicizia) with the Indians, and when spring came, they planted (piantarono) seeds semi) and grew crops (fecero raccolti) for themselves. After a time many other Englishmen, who wished (desired = desideravano) to be free, followed the Pilgrim Fathers and settled (si stabilirono) in America. They founded (fondarono) the colonies of New England, which are now a part of the United States.

David Davy Crockett 1786 -1836 , American frontiersman and politician, became a folk hero during his life. Mainly known, as a hunter and a soldier, Crockett also worked for land for settlers, relief for people in debt, and an expanded banking system for Tennessee.Crockett was born in East Tennessee. When he was twelve, he drove cattle to Virginia but soon he ran away from home because his father beat him and travelled throughout Virginia. He learned to read and to write a little by himself.In 1806 Crockett married Mary Finely and became a farmer. In 1813 the family moved to Franklin County, Tennessee. Unfortunately shortly after some frontiersmen attacked a band of Creek Indian warriors and the Native Americans responded attacking Fort Mims killing over five hundred people. Crockett then started to serve with the frontier military forces in the fight against the Native Americans as a scout and a hunter. In 1815 after his first wife’s death, Crockett married Elizabeth Patton. He contracted malaria, and was thought dead , but he came back to his family. He worked as a justice of the peace, as county commissioner and as lieutenant colonel of the local military regiment. In 1821 he campaigned for a seat in the state legislature: having grown up among the poor settlers, Crockett served as their spokesman and in 1823 Crockett was elected to the Tennessee legislature. In 1827 he won a seat in the U.S. Congress in and was re-elected twice. He fought against Native American removal and land policy. In 1834 he published his autobiography, A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee. In 1835 Crockett moved to Texas looking for new land. Crockett joined Texans in their fight to hold the Alamo against a Mexican army and died during the siege. Crockett’s death at the Alamo made him more famous than his political activities did. He was usually described as a man about 5 feet 8 inches tall, with brown hair, blue eyes, and rosy cheeks famous for his humour and his honesty, and a very good public speaker.


The story of American literature: the very beginning – la letteratura americana all’inizio….una storia.

From the beginning America was unique in the diversity of its inhabitants arrived from all parts of the world, however (comunque) English quickly became the official language, and regional and ethnic dialects enriched (arricchirono) its literature. When European explorers first came to North America, Native American cultures had rich forms of oral literature passed down from generation to generation. Some of them were translated into English, but most disappeared with the destruction of Native American cultures that followed (seguì) white settlements (colonizzazione) of the continent. Until the 19th century American poetry took inspiration from works written in British. They were set (avevano luogo) in a new physical environment (ambiente) and took into account the evolving culture of the colonies. Puritans who settled (si stanziarono) in New England were the first poets of the American colonies. For most of them poetry is the literary form that allowed (permise) pious believers to express divine lessons. According to (secondo) the Puritan tradition, poetry was to be read mainly in family and with closest friends. Whereas public poetry was more didactic or instructive and often involved (coinvolta) the transformation into verse of important biblical lessons that guidedPuritan belief. Sermons and other religious writings dominated literature in America in the 1600s. Histories of early America, especially in New England, were filled with (erano piene di) references to the Bible and to God’s will.

le prime storie d’America in prosa – diaries and accounts

Long before settlers (coloni) arrived in America, explorers reported (raccontavano) on their voyages to the continent. The earliest literature about America consists of impressions of America recorded (raccontati) by European explorers after they returned home. The writings of the explorer Captain John Smith (A Description of New England ,1616) are the first accounts (resoconti) that deal both with (trattano) the terrors of the unknown (ignoto) , and with sense of novelty in front of the new land and people. Another important historian of early America was Thomas Morton, who in New English Canaan (1634-1635) used humour in portraying what he considered being the intolerant qualities of the Puritans. Increase Mather, a prominent theologians, wrote a history of the first conflict between Native Americans and colonial settlers. The Sovereignty (sovranità) and Goodness of God … A Narrative of the Captivity (prigionia) and Restoration of Mary Rowlandson (1682) is an account by a colonist who was taken captive by Narragansett Indians during King Philip’s War. This story became the model for a new genre, the captivity narratives, and provides material for American fiction. The Salem witch trials (processi) of 1692 was another dark period in early American history: in a Massachusetts’s town 14 women and 6 men were executed for witchcraft (magia, stregoneria). One of the most famous report of these facts, Cotton Mather’s Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcraft and Possessions (1689), indicates a growing (crescente) interest in the occult on the part of religious leaders.

American stories – le prime storie Americane in versi (Painting: The Hudson River School)

When European explorers first came to North America, Native American cultures already existed and had rich forms of oral literature passed down from generation to generation. People arrived in America from all parts of the world with their different languages; as English prevailed, some forms of cultures already present were translated into English, but most disappeared with the destruction of the Natives.

Until the 19th century American literature took inspiration from works written in British. Most of the works were in verses and dealt with (trattavano) the new physical environment and the evolving (in evoluzione) culture of the colonies. Puritans who settled (si stanziarono) in New England followed the Puritan tradition and read poetry in family and with closest (più intimi) friends. Public poetry was more didactic or instructive and often involved the transformation into verse of important biblical and divine lessons that guided Puritan belief (credo). Anne Bradstreet (1612-72), come to Massachusetts from Britain at the age 18, was the first poet in America to publish a volume The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America (La decima musa sorta recentemente in America) The verses (i versi) reveal her attraction to the new world, and the problems he met while facing (affrontava) a new life and the wilderness (termine usato per definire la natura selvaggia in America; non viene tradotto con una parola) . Further ( in seguito) , she showed early ideas of female reaction to women situation (The Prologue, 1650).

The story of American Independence – gli scrittori che “scrissero” la storia

During the 1700s, American writers moved towards (si mossero) their independence from British examples. The poets felt the necessity to produce a serious national poetry which celebrated their democratic ideals and America as the future culmination of civilization.

David Humphreys, John Trumbull, and Joel Barlow, called the Connecticut Wits (or Hartford Wits) continued the tradition of satirical poems. They produced The Anarchiad (1786-1787), a mock epic poem (poema epico satirico) which warned (metteva in guardia) against the chaos that would develop if a strong central government, as supported by the Federalists, was not put into practice (messo in pratica) in the United States. American poets used the British literary model of the mock epic to satirize and criticize British culture. Philip Freneau’s poems are about America’s future greatness, showing a deep spiritual engagement (attaccamento) with nature (The Rising Glory of America, 1772; The Wild Honey Suckle, 1786; and On a Honey Bee, 1809). As to prose, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson supported the American Revolution and, together with a committee made up of Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. wrote The Declaration of Independence (1787), an important realization in both politics and American prose. In the document there were key statements (frasi chiave) of American freedom. But there were also compromises and the most evident was the absence of any mention (menzione) of slavery (schiavitù) to maintain the unity with the Southern colonies, whose economy was rooted (era radicata) in slavery. It was a great contradiction in document that affirmed that “all men are created equal”. African American poets wrote about American Revolution, liberty, independence, equality, and identity. Just as the white Americans experienced the division between their new American identity and their European past, the African Americans, looked always to their African past and to their problematic American present.

yankee, a story about a word….. la storia di una parola famosa

The Americans are now also known as YANKEES. But these nickname(soprannome) has a story, better, many stories. It is a word which dates back (risale) about 300 years old. First it was used as a nickname to call New England settlers, but the origins of the world are uncertain. Most experts say it is a Hollandaise word. The Hollanders made cheese and for this reason they were called Jan Kees (John Cheese) by the Germans. Some of the Hollanders went to America in the early 1600s and settled in New England. They were farmers and laughed at (deridevano) the colonists who tried to build farms on the mountain rocks and started calling them with their nickname. During the American civil war the word Yankee assumed another meaning: the soldiers of the southern states named Yankee the soldiers of the northern army.

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