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Puritanism

Selected Bibliography

Caldwell, Patricia. The Puritan Conversion Narrative: The Beginnings of American Expansion. New York: Cambridge UP, 1983. BX9354.2 .C34

Cooper Jr., James F. "Higher Law, Free consent, Limited Authority: Church Government and Political Culture in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts." New England Quarterly 69.2 (Jun 1996): 201-223.

Covici, Pascal, Jr. Humor and Revelation in American Literature: The Puritan Connection. Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 1997.

Delbanco, Andrew. The Puritan Ordeal. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1989. BX9322 .D45

Hall, David D. The Faithful Shepherd: A History of the new England Ministry in the Seventeenth Century. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1972. BR520 H3

Harlan, David. The Clergy and the Great Awakening in New England. Ann Arbor: UMI Research P, 1980. BR520 .H33

Harris, Trudier. Afro-American Writers Before the Harlem Renaissance. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Volume Fifty. Detroit: Gale, 1986. PN 451 .D52

Schneider, Herbert W. The Puritan Mind. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1958. BX9321 .S4

Simpson, Alan. Puritanism In Old And New England. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1961. BX9321 .S55

 

Introduction: I. Basic Puritan Beliefs

1. Total Depravity - through Adam's fall, every human is born sinful - concept of Original Sin.

2. Unconditional Election - God "saves" those he wishes - only a few are selected for salvation - concept of predestination.

3. Limited Atonement - Jesus died for the chosen only, not for everyone.

4. Irresistible Grace - God's grace is freely given, it cannot be earned or denied. Grace is defined as the saving and transfiguring power of God.

5. Perseverance of the "saints" - those elected by God have full power to interpret the will of God, and to live uprightly. If anyone rejects grace after feeling its power in his life, he will be going against the will of God - something impossible in Puritanism.

II. The Function of Puritan Writers

1. To transform a mysterious God - mysterious because he is separate from the world.

2. To make him more relevant to the universe.

3. To glorify God.

III. The Style of Puritan Writing

1. Protestant - against ornateness; reverence for the Bible.

2. Purposiveness - there was a purpose to Puritan writing - described in Part II above.

3. Puritan writing reflected the character and scope of the reading public, which was literate and well-grounded in religion.

IV. Reasons for Puritan Literary Dominance over the Virginians

1. Puritans were basically middle class and fairly well-educated.

2. Virginians were tradesmen and separated from English writing.

3. Puritans were children of the covenant; gave them a drive and a purpose to write.

V. Common Themes in Early Puritan Writing

1. Idealism - both religious and political.

2. Pragmaticism - practicality and purposiveness.

VI. Important Puritan Writers

1. William Bradford (1590-1657)

One of the leaders of colonial America, Bradford arrived at Cape Cod on November 11, 1620, on the flagship Mayflower. He was one of the authors of The Mayflower Compact. His greatest contribution to early writing is his History of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647.

Selected Bibliography: Smith, Bradford. Bradford of Plymouth. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1951. (F68 .B827); Westbrook, Perry D. William Bradford. Boston: Twayne P, 1978. (PS708.B7 Z94); F. Ogburn, Style as Structure and Meaning, William Bradfords of Plymouth Plantation. 1981.

2. John Winthrop (1588-1649)

(painted in the 1640s. American Antiquarian Society; reproduced from Alistair Cooke, Alistair Cooke's America. NY: Knopf, 1973, 80; downloaded, 10/24/96, from the Society of Early Americanist home page)

The Winthrop Society

One of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Winthrop arrived in 1630 aboard the flagship Arbella. As governor of the Colony, he established the center of government at Boston. Winthrop began writing his Journal in 1630 and continued it till his death. On board the Arbella, he prepared his famous sermon "A Model of Christian Charity."

Selected Bibliography: R. Black, The Younger John Winthrop, 1966; R. Dunn, "John Winthrop Writes his Journal." William and Mary Q. 41 (1984): 185-212; E. Morgan, "John Winthrop's `Modell of Christian Charity' in a Wider Context." The Huntington Library Q. 50 (Winter 1987): 145-51; Morgan; Edmund S., ed. The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop. Boston: Little, Brown, 1958. (F67 .W798); Rutman, Darrett B. Winthrop's Boston: Portrait of a Puritan Town, 1630-1649. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1965. (F73.4 .R8); Schweninger, Lee. John Winthrop. Boston: Twayne, 1990. (F 67 .W79 S39)

 

3. Anne Bradstreet(1612?-1672)

Famous as the first American poet, Bradstreet's first work, published in London in 1650, was called The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America. Her complete works are available in The Works of Anne Bradstreet in Prose and Verse, edited by J. H. Ellis, 1932.

Selected Bibliography:

Cowell, Pattie and Ann Stanford, eds. Critical Essays on Anne Bradstreet. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1983. (PS712 .C7) contains, among others, these essays:

Eberwein, J. "`No Ret'ric We Expect': Argumentation in Bradstreet's `The Prologue,'" 218-25.
Richardson, Jr., R. "The Puritan Poetry of Anne Bradstreet,: 101-15.
Stanford, A. "Anne Bradstreet: Dogmatist and Rebel," 76-88.
White, E. "The Tenth Muse - A Tercentenary Appraisal of Anne Bradstreet," 56-75.

Piercy, Josephine K. Anne Bradstreet. New York: Twayne P, 1965. PS712 .P5

White, Elizabeth. Anne Bradstreet, "the tenth muse." New York: Oxford UP, 1971. PS712 W54

Stanford, Ann. Anne Bradstreet, The Worldly Puritan: An Introduction to her Poetry. New York: B. Franklin, 1975. PS712 S8

Martin, Wendy. An American Triptych: Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1984. PS310 .F45 M3

Rosenmeier, Rosamond. Anne Bradstreet Revisited. Boston: Twayne, 1991. PS712 .R6 1991

 

4. Michael Wigglesworth (1631-1705) - a minister, Wigglesworth is today remembered for two works -The Day of Doom (1662) and God's Controversy with New England (written in 1662 but published more than two hundred years later). The first book is known as the first American bestseller. It contains an expression of the basic Puritan beliefs described earlier.

Bosco, Ronald A. The poems of Michael Wigglesworth. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1989.

 

5. Edward Taylor - (1645?-1729)

Known as the best writer of the Puritan times, Taylor's works were not published until 1939. A minister for sixty years, Taylor's poetry captures the attitudes of the second generation Puritans in its emphasis on self-examination, particularly in an individual's relations to God. A good edition's of Taylor's poetry is The Poems of Edward Taylor edited by Donald E. Stanford, 1960.

Selected Bibliography:

Davis, Thomas & Virginia, eds. Edward Taylor's "Church Records," and Related Sermons. Boston: Twayne, 1981. BX7255 .W488 W477

---. Edward Taylor vs. Solomon Stoddard: The Nature of the Lord's Supper. Boston: Twayne, 1981. BV824 .T39

Grabo, Norman S. Edward Taylor. Boston: Twayne, 1988. PS850 .T2 Z67

Munk, Linda. "Edward Taylor: Typology and Puritanism." History of European Ideas 17.1 (Jan 1993): 85-94.

Scheick, William J. The Will And The Word: The Poetry of Edward Taylor. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1974. PS850 .T2 Z773

 

6. Samuel Sewall(1652-1730) - famous for his Diary, Sewall was a representative of a new breed of Puritans who took more interest in secular matters like business, politics, and good living. Sewall kept a diary for almost fifty-seven years (1673-1729). It was an excellent indicator of the manners and mores of the times. A good edition is The Diary of Samuel Sewall edited by M. Halsey Thomas, 1973.

Lovejoy, David S. "Between Hell and Plum Island: Samuel Sewall and the Legacy of the Witches, 1692-97." New England Quarterly 70.3 (Sep 1997): 355-68.

 

7. Cotton Mather (1663-1728) - a member of the powerful Mather family, Cotton Mather produced 444 volumes of written work. Although his writing is didactic, moralistic, and filled with references to the Bible, it reveals important information on the history and society of his time. His best known work is the Magnalia Christi Americana (1702) which gives an insight into Mather's views on Puritan society. A good edition of his works is Selections from Cotton Mather edited by Kenneth B. Murdock, 1926. Mather Portrait Engraving by Peter Pelham; American Antiquarian Society; downloaded, 10/24/96, from the Society of Early Americanist home page.

 

VII. Forces Undermining Puritanism

1. A person's natural desire to do good - this works against predestination.

2. Dislike of a "closed" life.

3. Resentment of the power of the few over many.

4. Change in economic conditions - growth of fishery, farms, etc.

5. Presence of the leaders of dissent - Anne Hutchinson, Roger Williams.

6. The presence of the frontier - concept of self-reliance, individualism, and optimism.

7. Change in political conditions - Massachusetts became a Crown colony.

8. Theocracy suffered from a lack of flexibility.

9. Growth of rationality - use of the mind to know God - less dependence on the Bible.

10. Cosmopolitanism of the new immigrants.

VIII. Visible Signs of Puritan Decay

1. Visible decay of godliness.

2. Manifestations of pride - especially among the new rich.

3. Presence of "heretics" - Quakers and Anabaptists.

4. Violations of the Sabbath and swearing and sleeping during sermons.

5. Decay in family government.

6. People full of contention - rise in lawsuits and lawyers.

7. Sins of sex and alcohol on the increase.

8. Decay in business morality - lying, laborers underpaid, etc.

9. No disposition to reform.

10. Lacking in social behavior.

(Ideas in Sections VII & VIII are discussed in detail in Perry Miller's Errand Into the Wilderness 1956.)

 

IX. Some Aspects of the Puritan Legacy: each has positive and negative implications.

a. The need for moral justification for private, public, and governmental acts.

b. The Questing for Freedom - personal, political, economic, and social.

c. The Puritan work ethic.

d. Elegiac verse - morbid fascination with death.

e. The city upon the hill - concept of manifest destiny.

 

(from Shucard, Alan. American Poetry: The Puritans through Walt Whitman. Amherst: U. of Massachusetts P., 1988.)

 

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