History of American Literature: The Colonial Period in New England

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 History of American Literature: The Colonial Period in New England

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مُساهمةموضوع: History of American Literature: The Colonial Period in New England   2011-08-09, 19:34

It is likely that no other colonists in the history of the world were as
intellectual as the Puritans. Between 1630 and 1690, there were as many
university graduates in the northeastern section of the United States,
known as New England, as in the mother country -- an astounding fact
when one considers that most educated people of the time were
aristocrats who were unwilling to risk their lives in wilderness
conditions. The self-made and often self-educated Puritans were notable
exceptions. They wanted education to understand and execute God's will
as they established their colonies throughout New England.
The Puritan definition
of good writing was that which brought home a full awareness of the
importance of worshipping God and of the spiritual dangers that the soul
faced on Earth. Puritan style varied enormously -- from complex
metaphysical poetry to homely journals and crushingly pedantic religious
history. Whatever the style or genre, certain themes remained constant.
Life was seen as a test; failure led to eternal damnation and hellfire,
and success to heavenly bliss. This world was an arena of constant
battle between the forces of God and the forces of Satan, a formidable
enemy with many disguises. Many Puritans excitedly awaited the
"millennium," when Jesus would return to Earth, end human misery, and
inaugurate 1,000 years of peace and prosperity.
Scholars have long
pointed out the link between Puritanism and capitalism: Both rest on
ambition, hard work, and an intense striving for success. Although
individual Puritans could not know, in strict theological terms, whether
they were "saved" and among the elect who would go to heaven, Puritans
tended to feel that earthly success was a sign of election. Wealth and
status were sought not only for themselves, but as welcome reassurances
of spiritual health and promises of eternal life.
Moreover, the
concept of stewardship encouraged success. The Puritans interpreted all
things and events as symbols with deeper spiritual meanings, and felt
that in advancing their own profit and their community's well-being,
they were also furthering God's plans. They did not draw lines of
distinction between the secular and religious spheres: All of life was
an expression of the divine will -- a belief that later resurfaces in
Transcendentalism.
In recording ordinary events to reveal their
spiritual meaning, Puritan authors commonly cited the Bible, chapter and
verse. History was a symbolic religious panorama leading to the Puritan
triumph over the New World and to God's kingdom on Earth.
The first
Puritan colonists who settled New England exemplified the seriousness
of Reformation Christianity. Known as the "Pilgrims," they were a small
group of believers who had migrated from England to Holland -- even then
known for its religious tolerance -- in 1608, during a time of
persecutions.
Like most Puritans, they interpreted the Bible
literally. They read and acted on the text of the Second Book of
Corinthians -- "Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the
Lord." Despairing of purifying the Church of England from within,
"Separatists" formed underground "covenanted" churches that swore
loyalty to the group instead of the king. Seen as traitors to the king
as well as heretics damned to hell, they were often persecuted. Their
separation took them ultimately to the New World.

William Bradford (1590-1657)
William Bradford was elected governor of Plymouth in the Massachusetts
Bay Colony shortly after the Separatists landed. He was a deeply pious,
self-educated man who had learned several languages, including Hebrew,
in order to "see with his own eyes the ancient oracles of God in their
native beauty." His participation in the migration to Holland and the
Mayflower voyage to Plymouth, and his duties as governor, made him
ideally suited to be the first historian of his colony. His history, Of
Plymouth Plantation (1651), is a clear and compelling account of the
colony's beginning. His description of the first view of America is
justly famous:
Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea of
troubles...they had now no friends to welcome them nor inns to entertain
or refresh their weatherbeaten bodies; no houses or much less towns to
repair to, to seek for succor...savage barbarians...were readier to fill
their sides with arrows than otherwise. And for the reason it was
winter, and they that know the winters of that country know them to be
sharp and violent, and subject to cruel and fierce storms...all stand
upon them with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of
woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hue.
Bradford also
recorded the first document of colonial self-governance in the English
New World, the "Mayflower Compact," drawn up while the Pilgrims were
still on board ship. The compact was a harbinger of the Declaration of
Independence to come a century and a half later.
Puritans
disapproved of such secular amusements as dancing and card-playing,
which were associated with ungodly aristocrats and immoral living.
Reading or writing "light" books also fell into this category. Puritan
minds poured their tremendous energies into nonfiction and pious genres:
poetry, sermons, theological tracts, and histories. Their intimate
diaries and meditations record the rich inner lives of this
introspective and intense people.

Anne Bradstreet (c. 1612-1672)
The first published book of poems by an American was also the first
American book to be published by a woman -- Anne Bradstreet. It is not
surprising that the book was published in England, given the lack of
printing presses in the early years of the first American colonies. Born
and educated in England, Anne Bradstreet was the daughter of an earl's
estate manager. She emigrated with her family when she was 18. Her
husband eventually became governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony,
which later grew into the great city of Boston. She preferred her long,
religious poems on conventional subjects such as the seasons, but
contemporary readers most enjoy the witty poems on subjects from daily
life and her warm and loving poems to her husband and children. She was
inspired by English metaphysical poetry, and her book The Tenth Muse
Lately Sprung Up in America (1650) shows the influence of Edmund
Spenser, Philip Sidney, and other English poets as well. She often uses
elaborate conceits or extended metaphors. "To My Dear and Loving
Husband" (1678) uses the oriental imagery, love theme, and idea of
comparison popular in Europe at the time, but gives these a pious
meaning at the poem's conclusion:
If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let s so persevere
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

Edward Taylor (c. 1644-1729)
Like Anne Bradstreet, and, in fact, all of New England's first writers,
the intense, brilliant poet and minister Edward Taylor was born in
England. The son of a yeoman farmer -- an independent farmer who owned
his own land -- Taylor was a teacher who sailed to New England in 1668
rather than take an oath of loyalty to the Church of England. He studied
at Harvard College, and, like most Harvard-trained ministers, he knew
Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. A selfless and pious man, Taylor acted as a
missionary to the settlers when he accepted his lifelong job as a
minister in the frontier town of Westfield, Massachusetts, 160
kilometers into the thickly forested, wild interior. Taylor was the
best-educated man in the area, and he put his knowledge to use, working
as the town minister, doctor, and civic leader.
Modest, pious, and
hard-working, Taylor never published his poetry, which was discovered
only in the 1930s. He would, no doubt, have seen his work's discovery as
divine providence; today's readers should be grateful to have his poems
-- the finest examples of 17th-century poetry in North America.
Taylor
wrote a variety of verse: funeral elegies, lyrics, a medieval "debate,"
and a 500-page Metrical History of Christianity (mainly a history of
martyrs). His best works, according to modern critics, are the series of
short Preparatory Meditations.

Michael Wigglesworth (1631-1705)
Michael Wigglesworth, like Taylor an English-born, Harvard-educated
Puritan minister who practiced medicine, is the third New England
colonial poet of note. He continues the Puritan themes in his best-known
work, The Day of Doom (1662). A long narrative that often falls into
doggerel, this terrifying popularization of Calvinistic doctrine was the
most popular poem of the colonial period. This first American
best-seller is an appalling portrait of damnation to hell in ballad
meter.
It is terrible poetry -- but everybody loved it. It fused the
fascination of a horror story with the authority of John Calvin. For
more than two centuries, people memorized this long, dreadful monument
to religious terror; children proudly recited it, and elders quoted it
in everyday speech. It is not such a leap from the terrible punishments
of this poem to the ghastly self-inflicted wound of Nathaniel
Hawthorne's guilty Puritan minister, Arthur Dimmesdale, in The Scarlet
Letter (1850) or Herman Melville s crippled Captain Ahab, a New England
Faust whose quest for forbidden knowledge sinks the ship of American
humanity in Moby-Dick (1851). (Moby-Dick was the favorite novel of
20th-century American novelist William Faulkner, whose profound and
disturbing works suggest that the dark, metaphysical vision of
Protestant America has not yet been exhausted.)
Like most colonial
literature, the poems of early New England imitate the form and
technique of the mother country, though the religious passion and
frequent biblical references, as well as the new setting, give New
England writing a special identity. Isolated New World writers also
lived before the advent of rapid transportation and electronic
communications. As a result, colonial writers were imitating writing
that was already out of date in England. Thus, Edward Taylor, the best
American poet of his day, wrote metaphysical poetry after it had become
unfashionable in England. At times, as in Taylor's poetry, rich works of
striking originality grew out of colonial isolation.
Colonial
writers often seemed ignorant of such great English authors as Ben
Jonson. Some colonial writers rejected English poets who belonged to a
different sect as well, thereby cutting themselves off from the finest
lyric and dramatic models the English language had produced. In
addition, many colonials remained ignorant due to the lack of books.
The
great model of writing, belief, and conduct was the Bible, in an
authorized English translation that was already outdated when it came
out. The age of the Bible, so much older than the Roman church, made it
authoritative to Puritan eyes.
New England Puritans clung to the
tales of the Jews in the Old Testament, believing that they, like the
Jews, were persecuted for their faith, that they knew the one true God,
and that they were the chosen elect who would establish the New
Jerusalem -- a heaven on Earth. The Puritans were aware of the parallels
between the ancient Jews of the Old Testament and themselves. Moses led
the Israelites out of captivity from Egypt, parted the Red Sea through
God's miraculous assistance so that his people could escape, and
received the divine law in the form of the Ten Commandments. Like Moses,
Puritan leaders felt they were rescuing their people from spiritual
corruption in England, passing miraculously over a wild sea with God's
aid, and fashioning new laws and new forms of government after God's
wishes.
Colonial worlds tend to be archaic, and New England
certainly was no exception. New England Puritans were archaic by choice,
conviction, and circumstance.

Samuel Sewall (1652-1730)
Easier to read than the highly religious poetry full of Biblical
references are the historical and secular accounts that recount real
events using lively details. Governor John Winthrop's Journal (1790)
provides the best information on the early Massachusetts Bay Colony and
Puritan political theory.
Samuel Sewall's Diary, which records the
years 1674 to 1729, is lively and engaging. Sewall fits the pattern of
early New England writers we have seen in Bradford and Taylor. Born in
England, Sewall was brought to the colonies at an early age. He made his
home in the Boston area, where he graduated from Harvard, and made a
career of legal, administrative, and religious work.
Sewall was born
late enough to see the change from the early, strict religious life of
the Puritans to the later, more worldly Yankee period of mercantile
wealth in the New England colonies; his Diary, which is often compared
to Samuel Pepys's English diary of the same period, inadvertently
records the transition.
Like Pepys's diary, Sewall's is a minute
record of his daily life, reflecting his interest in living piously and
well. He notes little purchases of sweets for a woman he was courting,
and their disagreements over whether he should affect aristocratic and
expensive ways such as wearing a wig and using a coach.

Mary Rowlandson (c.1635-c.1678)
The earliest woman prose writer of note is Mary Rowlandson, a
minister's wife who gives a clear, moving account of her 11-week
captivity by Indians during an Indian massacre in 1676. The book
undoubtedly fanned the flame of anti-Indian sentiment, as did John
Williams's The Redeemed Captive (1707), describing his two years in
captivity by French and Indians after a massacre. Such writings as women
produced are usually domestic accounts requiring no special education.
It may be argued that women's literature benefits from its homey realism
and common-sense wit; certainly works like Sarah Kemble Knight's lively
Journal (published posthumously in 1825) of a daring solo trip in 1704
from Boston to New York and back escapes the baroque complexity of much
Puritan writing.

Cotton Mather (1663-1728) No
account of New England colonial literature would be complete without
mentioning Cotton Mather, the master pedant. The third in the
four-generation Mather dynasty of Massachusetts Bay, he wrote at length
of New England in over 500 books and pamphlets. Mather's 1702 Magnalia
Christi Americana (Ecclesiastical History of New England), his most
ambitious work, exhaustively chronicles the settlement of New England
through a series of biographies. The huge book presents the holy Puritan
errand into the wilderness to establish God s kingdom; its structure is
a narrative progression of representative American "Saints' Lives." His
zeal somewhat redeems his pompousness: "I write the wonders of the
Christian religion, flying from the deprivations of Europe to the
American strand."

Roger Williams (c. 1603-1683)
As the 1600s wore on into the 1700s, religious dogmatism gradually
dwindled, despite sporadic, harsh Puritan efforts to stem the tide of
tolerance. The minister Roger Williams suffered for his own views on
religion. An English-born son of a tailor, he was banished from
Massachusetts in the middle of New England's ferocious winter in 1635.
Secretly warned by Governor John Winthrop of Massachusetts, he survived
only by living with Indians; in 1636, he established a new colony at
Rhode Island that would welcome persons of different religions.
A
graduate of Cambridge University (England), he retained sympathy for
working people and diverse views. His ideas were ahead of his time. He
was an early critic of imperialism, insisting that European kings had no
right to grant land charters because American land belonged to the
Indians. Williams also believed in the separation between church and
state -- still a fundamental principle in America today. He held that
the law courts should not have the power to punish people for religious
reasons -- a stand that undermined the strict New England theocracies. A
believer in equality and democracy, he was a lifelong friend of the
Indians. Williams's numerous books include one of the first phrase books
of Indian languages, A Key Into the Languages of America (1643). The
book also is an embryonic ethnography, giving bold descriptions of
Indian life based on the time he had lived among the tribes. Each
chapter is devoted to one topic -- for example, eating and mealtime.
Indian words and phrases pertaining to this topic are mixed with
comments, anecdotes, and a concluding poem. The end of the first chapter
reads:
If nature's sons, both wild and tame,
Humane and courteous be,
How ill becomes it sons of God
To want humanity.
In
the chapter on words about entertainment, he comments that "it is a
strange truth that a man shall generally find more free entertainment
and refreshing among these barbarians, than amongst thousands that call
themselves Christians."
Williams's life is uniquely inspiring. On a
visit to England during the bloody Civil War there, he drew upon his
survival in frigid New England to organize firewood deliveries to the
poor of London during the winter, after their supply of coal had been
cut off. He wrote lively defenses of religious toleration not only for
different Christian sects, but also for non-Christians. "It is the will
and command of God, that...a permission of the most Paganish, Jewish,
Turkish, or Antichristian consciences and worships, be granted to all
men, in all nations...," he wrote in The Bloody Tenet of Persecution for
Cause of Conscience (1644). The intercultural experience of living
among gracious and humane Indians undoubtedly accounts for much of his
wisdom.
Influence was two-way in the colonies. For example, John
Eliot translated the Bible into Narragansett. Some Indians converted to
Christianity. Even today, the Native American church is a mixture of
Christianity and Indian traditional belief.
The spirit of toleration
and religious freedom that gradually grew in the American colonies was
first established in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, home of the Quakers.
The humane and tolerant Quakers, or "Friends," as they were known,
believed in the sacredness of the individual conscience as the
fountainhead of social order and morality. The fundamental Quaker belief
in universal love and brotherhood made them deeply democratic and
opposed to dogmatic religious authority. Driven out of strict
Massachusetts, which feared their influence, they established a very
successful colony, Pennsylvania, under William Penn in 1681.

John Woolman (1720-1772)
The best-known Quaker work is the long Journal (1774) of John Woolman,
documenting his inner life in a pure, heartfelt style of great sweetness
that has drawn praise from many American and English writers. This
remarkable man left his comfortable home in town to sojourn with the
Indians in the wild interior because he thought he might learn from them
and share their ideas. He writes simply of his desire to "feel and
understand their life, and the Spirit they live in." Woolman's
justice-loving spirit naturally turns to social criticism: "I perceived
that many white People do often sell Rum to the Indians, which, I
believe, is a great Evil."
Woolman was also one of the first
antislavery writers, publishing two essays, "Some Considerations on the
Keeping of Negroes," in 1754 and 1762. An ardent humanitarian, he
followed a path of "passive obedience" to authorities and laws he found
unjust, prefiguring Henry David Thoreau's celebrated essay, "Civil
Disobedience" (1849), by generations.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
The
antithesis of John Woolman is Jonathan Edwards, who was born only 17
years before the Quaker notable. Woolman had little formal schooling;
Edwards was highly educated. Woolman followed his inner light; Edwards
was devoted to the law and authority. Both men were fine writers, but
they reveal opposite poles of the colonial religious experience.
Edwards
was molded by his extreme sense of duty and by the rigid Puritan
environment, which conspired to make him defend strict and gloomy
Calvinism from the forces of liberalism springing up around him. He is
best known for his frightening, powerful sermon, "Sinners in the Hands
of an Angry God" (1741):
[I]f God should let you go, you would
immediately sink, and sinfully descend, and plunge into the bottomless
gulf....The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a
spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is
dreadfully provoked....he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but
to be cast into the bottomless gulf.
Edwards's sermons had enormous
impact, sending whole congregations into hysterical fits of weeping. In
the long run, though, their grotesque harshness alienated people from
the Calvinism that Edwards valiantly defended. Edwards's dogmatic,
medieval sermons no longer fit the experiences of relatively peaceful,
prosperous 18th-century colonists. After Edwards, fresh, liberal
currents of tolerance gathered force
الرجوع الى أعلى الصفحة اذهب الى الأسفل
معاينة صفحة البيانات الشخصي للعضو
توفيق بشار



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مُساهمةموضوع: رد: History of American Literature: The Colonial Period in New England   2011-08-12, 16:45

thank you to this topic distinctive and valuable programs make the most wonderful, but I hope that you do not stop there
الرجوع الى أعلى الصفحة اذهب الى الأسفل
معاينة صفحة البيانات الشخصي للعضو
همسة براءة



نوع المتصفح موزيلا

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مُساهمةموضوع: رد: History of American Literature: The Colonial Period in New England   2011-08-13, 07:44

thanku 4 ur sweety word
blassed
الرجوع الى أعلى الصفحة اذهب الى الأسفل
معاينة صفحة البيانات الشخصي للعضو
Roshan



نوع المتصفح موزيلا

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مُساهمةموضوع: رد: History of American Literature: The Colonial Period in New England   2011-08-14, 19:54

بارك الله فيييييييييييييك
موضوع رائع
ومفيد
وقيم
اجمل تحية
الرجوع الى أعلى الصفحة اذهب الى الأسفل
معاينة صفحة البيانات الشخصي للعضو
الأستاذة سمية



نوع المتصفح شروم

صلي على النبي

صل الله عليه وسلم


مُساهمةموضوع: رد: History of American Literature: The Colonial Period in New England   2012-10-11, 18:19

thnx sis for your topic
الرجوع الى أعلى الصفحة اذهب الى الأسفل
معاينة صفحة البيانات الشخصي للعضو
 
History of American Literature: The Colonial Period in New England
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