American Literary history conventionally interprets the sixty or seventy years between the Stamp Act crisis and the beginning of the “American Renaissance” by highlighting the theme of the “quest for nationality” or the effort to achieve “literary independence.” Accounts of what are considered the formative years of a native literary tradition trace the gradual development of a climate of opinion more conducive to American authorship and belles lettres than the one that prevailed in the colonial period. Revolutionary nationalism was obviously a major factor in the shift of attitude. Beginning even before the war, at Princeton, Yale, and a few other redoubts of civilization, and gathering momentum on a broad front after 1776, a campaign for an instant, if not indeed an indigenous, high culture gradually produced a shrill literary nationalism. The persistent clamor for the Americanization of poems, plays, and novels helped beat back the long-standing puritanical fear of the imagination as an ambush of the devil. It also made headway in combating the closely related American prejudice against activity that seemed to serve no immediate practical purpose. Gradually a legion of enthusiastic amateur and semiprofessional authors ventured into belles lettres, beyond the more utilitarian literary forms—history, biography, autobiography, sermon, promotional tract, almanac, and captivity narrative—which, together with religious verse, had predominated in the colonial period. However crudely constructed or awkwardly styled, American epic poems were written, as were long pastorals. By 1800 Americans had produced an abundance of satire in both verse and prose. With William Cullen Bryant's early work added to Francis Hopkinson's and Philip Freneau's, American lyric poetry achieved some respectability by 1820, the year of the completion of Washington Irving's Sketch-Book, with its two remarkable short stories, “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” American theaters were producing native comedies and tragedies. Successful magazines were in operation. And the reading of novels had become a craze, which American writers were helping to nourish.