The first literature inspired by Tennessee is not well known. The Tennessean; A Novel, Founded on Facts is a melodramatic novel, published in 1827 and written by Anne Newport Royall. Its plot brings readers along on a three-day journey from Nashville  to Knoxville , and is the first novel set in Tennessee. The first novel written by a Tennessean was Woodville; or, The Anchoret Reclaimed. A Descriptive Tale, published in Knoxville in 1832 and written by Charles W. Todd.
Later Tennessee literature is better known. English novelist Frances Hodgson Burnett lived in New Market and then Knoxville  in the 1860s and 1870s. While best known for her tales Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Secret Garden, Burnett penned several works set in Tennessee.
In the 1920s, a group of writers at Vanderbilt University  emerged under the leadership of John Crowe Ransom. The group’s magazine The Fugitive was published 1922–1925. The Fugitives were succeeded by the Agrarians, who published their manifesto, I’ll Take My Stand, in 1930. Writer Robert Penn Warren was a member of both the Fugitives and the Agrarians, and he went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for All the King’s Men, about governor Huey Long of Louisiana. Warren’s novels The Cave, Flood, and Meet Me in the Green Glen are set in Tennessee.
Another award-winning Tennessee writer is Peter Taylor, who studied at Rhodes College and Vanderbilt University  before moving to North Carolina and writing the Pulitzer Prize–winning A Summons to Memphis in 1986, and In Tennessee Country in 1994.
James Agee is another Pulitzer Prize–winner. Raised in Knoxville , Agee wrote poetry, journalism, and screenplays before his winning A Death in the Family was published. Agee is also known for his singular work Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, with photographer Walker Evans, which documented the lives of poor whites during the Great Depression.
Few people knew Memphis -born writer and historian Shelby Foote until Ken Burns’s landmark Civil War documentary. In addition to his seminal trilogy on the war, Foote wrote the novel Shiloh in 1952.
Women have also excelled as writers in Tennessee. Anne Armstrong published The Seas of God in 1915 and This Day and Time in 1930, both of which were set in her native East Tennessee. Evelyn Scott wrote The Wave, set during the Civil War, as well as an autobiography, Escapade, depicting the six years she and her common-law husband spent living in Brazil.
Perhaps the best-known female Tennessee writer is Nikki Giovanni, of Knoxville , who established herself as a poet of international importance with her 1968 Black Feeling, Black Talk.
No Tennessee writer is better known or more widely acclaimed than Alex Haley, whose Roots won the Pulitzer Prize and inspired a landmark film and television series. Haley’s other works include Queen, which is based on the story of his grandmother, who worked and lived in Savannah, Tennessee, on the Tennessee River.
Knoxville native Cormac McCarthy is widely known for his works, including All the Pretty Horses and The Road, which were both made into films. But McCarthy had started out writing about his native East Tennessee in works such as The Orchard Keeper and Suttree.