The writing of history, like other forms of art, requires distance before it can acquire perspective"" and this study attempts to give the history of American literature with such a singleness of vision. Beginning with Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, it devotes each of a dozen or more chapters to two or three of the undoubtedly outstanding literary men of each period- such universally accepted figures as Cooper, Irving, Bryant, Poe, Melville, Hawthorne, James, Henry Adams, Hemingway and Faulkner. Its main contention, one that has already been proved, is that the United States has a body of literature wholly its own and independent of European literature. And it offers, primarily, a brief, comprehensive survey of this field, without the brilliance of Parrington, the profundity of Edmund Wilson, or the sprightliness of Van Wyck Brooks. Mr. Spiller is a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and his book is largely for academic usage and reference.