American Literature of the Colonial Period by tenkaizen


Study Outline on American Literature of the Colonial Period. Prose, poetry. E.g Cabeza de Vaca, Captain J. Smith, Sarah Kemble Knight, A. Bradstreet.

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									                                   LITERATURE OF THE COLONIAL PERIOD – THE PURITAN IMAGINATION

Historical background:

      -     1607 – Plymouth plantation
      -     New England – the best conditions for developing of literature – people paid more attention to
            literature, education
      -     Cambridge – Harvard, 1636 (M assachusetts)
      -     In Cambridge – 1st printed press 1638
      -     There was strong puritan influence -> majority of newcomers – members of protestant movement. The
            authority of bishops was diminished. Protestants were inspired by John Calvin (1638). They believed in
            predestination (everything is determined by God) and in grace (spiritual reward of God). They also
            believed in original depravity, unconditional election (God elects), limited atonement (only limited
            number of people will enter the heaven). There was evident strong British influence.

Features of literature:

      -     There was no drama, no novel – e verything was non-fiction. It corresponded to the attitude of the
            Puritans – some of them regarded theatre as a sin.
      -     Literature had puritan character; it served to practical intentions.
      -     Genres: histories, chronicles, diaries, journals, travel books, religious books, sermons, theological
      -     At that time, people did not distinguished between fiction and non -fiction. They wrote about political,
            economic, traveling purposes.
      -     Typical feature – strong individualism
      -     Literature reflected clashes between the Indians and immigrants, religious and secular forces, city x
            wilderness, 1st x 2nd generation of colonizers, white x blacks, puritans x protestants, male x female…
      -     Style: plain, majority of books written in it (simplicity – influence of Puritanism), generally, everything
            should be simple (also architecture etc.). People often quoted the Bible, in the center of their lives –

Sever al appr oaches to this lit er atur e – a) has no value, b) gr eat r eser voir of inspir ation

Writers of that period:

         Alvan Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, captain J. Smith, W. Bradford, J. Winthrop, Cotton M ather, J. Edwards,
          M ary Rowlandson
         People who wrote diaries and journals: Sarah Kemble Knight, Samuel Sewall
         Poets: A. Bradstreet, M . Wigglesworth, E. Taylor

      -     Alvan Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

      -     He was captured during his expedition to the west coast of Florida, he wrote:
      -      “CAPTIVITY NARRATIVE” /he describes his imprisonment, descriptions of his journey to New World;
            shows sympathetic attitude towards Indians/

      -     Capt. John Smith

      -     He is regarded as the 1st American writer. He helped to found Jamestown and named the area of New
            England. In Virginia Smith wrote a book:
      -      “A TRUE RELATION OF VIRGINIA” /added maps to that, described various conflicts, adventures…/
      -      “A DESCRIPTION OF NEW ENGLAND” /to attract the Europeans to settle down in the continent/
      -     “A GENERAL HISTORY OF VIRGINIA AND NEW ENGLAND” /captured by the Indians, condemned to
            death, saved by Pocahontas/

      -     William Bradford

      -     Persecuted in England, one of the Pilgrims Fathers on M ayflower.
      -     “HISTORY OF THE PLYMOUTH PLANTATION” /showed his providential view of history – everything –
            God’s will, nothing is accidental. Used emotional language – wanted to show how difficult it was for
            the Pilgrims. /

      -     John Winthrop

      -     Politician (governor of M assachusetts)


-   “JOURNAL” /The History of New England/

-   Cotton Mather

-   Quite intolerant, wrote religious works
-   “MAGNALIA CHRISTI AMERICANA” /conflict with the Indians, witchcraft trials in Salem/

-   Jonathan Edwards

-   “SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD” /he express the idea of depravity of people. It was very
    moving. /

-   Mary Rowlandson

-   Shows the position of woman, experienced captivity by Indians.

-   Sarah Kemble Knight /wrote diaries, journals/

-   Samuel Sewall “DIARY”

-   Anne Bradstreet

-   Called sometimes “10th M use Lately Spring up in America”
-   She was born in England in rich well-situated family. When she was 16, she married Simon Bradstreet –
    decided to go to America. They experienced “cultural shock”, often moved. Her husband was
    governor. She was often ill, wrote many poems.
-   2 kinds of poetry – domestic, religious
-   Poem: “FACES OF LOVE” /domestic, in plain style – puritan’s aesthetics (x decorated style) – Puritans
    wanted to address as many people as possible, claimed that God’s words do not need any decoration.
    The style was also maybe influenced by rough conditions they lived in.
     ◦    Types of words: short, common
     ◦    Verse form: in couplet (iambic – unaccented 1st syllable)
     ◦    Topic – very universal/
-   Poem: “BEFORE THE BIRTH OF ONE OF HER CHILDREN” /she was afraid of death, addressed it to her
    husband, she wants him to remember only her good qualities
     ◦    Verse form – in couplet; unperfect rhyme – in the place of changing theme/
-   Religious poem: “THE POET’S ART” /how god’s creation is perfect, how we are imperfect, have
-   “HUMAN VANITY” /we are too humble in comparison with god/
-   Also wrote prose – “MEDITATIONS”

-   Michael Wigglesworth

-   The most popular poet of his time
-   Poem: “THE DAY OF DOOM ” /poetic description of last judgment
     ◦   Unique, published as “PREPARATORY M EDITATION”/

-   Edward Taylor

-   The best Am. poet of Colonial Period.
     ◦   Wrote metaphysical poetry, inspired by John Donne, George Herbert
-   “CONCEITS” – kind of metaphor based on comparison of 2 totally different things
-   poem “HUSWIFERY” – discuss making clothe – compared to God’s granted grace, becoming of perfect


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