The sea and Great Lakes have inspired American authors from colonial times to the present to produce enduring literary works. This reference is a comprehensive survey of American sea literature. The scope of the encyclopedia ranges from the earliest printed matter produced in the colonies to contemporary experiments in published prose, poetry, and drama. The book also acknowledges how literature gives rise to adaptations and resonances in music and film and includes coverage of nonliterary topics that have nonetheless shaped American literature of the sea and Great Lakes.
The alphabetical arrangement of the reference facilitates access to facts about major literary works, characters, authors, themes, vessels, places, and ideas that are central to American sea literature. Each of the several hundred entries is written by an expert contributor and many provide bibliographical information. While the encyclopedia includes entries for white male canonical writers such as Herman Melville and Jack London, it also gives considerable attention to women at sea and to ethnically diverse authors, works, and themes. The volume concludes with a chronology and a list of works for further reading.