PAL: Perspectives in American Literature:
A Research and Reference Guide

An Ongoing Online Project © Paul P. Reuben

| E-Mail: | Chap 1 - Index | Table Of Contents | Home Page | MLA Style Citation of this Web Page |

"Chapter 1: Early American Literature to 1700 - A Brief Introduction "

| Society of Early Americanists Website | Visible Signs of Puritan Decay | Forces Undermining Puritanism | Puritan Legacy | Study Questions |

Selected Bibliography

Aldridge, Alfred O. Early American literature: a comparatist approach. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton U P, 1982. PS185 .A38 PS185 E4

Bercovitch, Sacvan. The Puritan Origins of the American Self. 1975.

- - -. Typology and early American literature. Amherst U of Massachusetts P, 1972. BS478 B47

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

Early American literature. (magazine) Volumes: 5-33.2 (Sprg 1998).

Gallagher, Edward J. and Thomas Werge. eds. Early puritan writers: a reference guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1976. Z1227 .G34

Gilmore, Michael T. Early American literature: a collection of critical essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1980. PS185 .E2

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

Kenney, William H. ed. Laughter in the wilderness: early American humor to 1783. Kent, Ohio : Kent State U P, 1976. PS530 L35

Leary, Lewis G. Soundings: some early American writers. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1975. PS193 L4

Nelson, Dana D. The word in black and white: reading "race" in American literature, 1638-1867. NY: Oxford U P, 1992. PS173 .E8 N45

Porter, Dorothy B. Early Negro writing, 1760-1837. Boston: Beacon P, 1971 PS508.N3 P6

Promis Ojeda, Jose. The identity of Hispanoamerica: an interpretation of colonial literature. Translated from the Spanish by Alita Kelley and Alec E. Kelley. Tucson: U of Arizona P, 1991. PQ7081 .P7613

Samuels, Shirley. Romances of the republic: women, the family, and violence in the literature of the early American nation. NY: Oxford U P, 1996. PS374 .H5 S26

Seelye, John D. Prophetic waters: the river in early American life and literature. NY: Oxford U P, 1977.. PS195 R55 S4

Spengemann, William C. A new world of words: redefining early American literature. New Haven: Yale U P, 1994. PS185 .S67

Waller, George M. Puritanism in early America. Lexington, Mass., Heath 1973. (Problems in Amererican civilization series) E169.1 .P897 v.89

Miller, Perry. Errand Into the Wilderness. 1981.

Murdock, Kenneth. Literature and Theology in Colonial New England. 1963.

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

| Top | 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.

Two Important New England Settlements

The Plymouth Colony
Flagship Mayflower arrives - 1620
Leader - William Bradford
Settlers known as Pilgrim Fathers
The Mayflower Compact provides for
social, religious, and economic freedom,
while still maintaining ties to Great Britain.
The Separatists - Pilgrims

The Massachusetts Bay Colony
Flagship Arbella arrives - 1630
Leader - John Winthrop
Settlers are mostly Puritans
The Arbella Covenant clearly establishes
a religious and theocratic settlement,
free of ties to Great Britain.
The Congregational Puritans

| Top | The Mayflower Compact (1620)

(The Mayflower Compact and the Arbella Covenant shaped the politics, religion, and social behavior of those who first landed and settled in the New England. These were the early constitutions and they will eventually influence the shape, style, and content of the U. S. Constitution.)

In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain. France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, & etc. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and the advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together in a civil body politick, for our better ordering and preservation, and the of the ends aforesaid: and by virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient of the general good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the eleventh of November, in the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland, the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.

List of Signatories

| Top | From The Arbella Covenant or "A Modell of Christian Charity" (1630)


God Almighty in His most holy and wise providence, hath so disposed of the condition of mankind as in all times some must be rich, some poor; some high and eminent in power and dignity, others mean and in subjection. First, to hold conformity with rest of His works, ... Secondly, that He might have the more occasion to manifest the work of His spirit, ... Thirdly, that every man might have need of other, ... All men thus (by divine providence) ranked into two sorts, rich and poor, under the first are comprehended all such as are able to live comfortably by their own means duly improved, and all others are poor, according to the former distribution. There are two rules whereby we are to walk, one toward another; justice and mercy. ... There is likewise a double law by which we are regulated in our conversation, one towards another; in both the former respects, the law of nature and the law of grace, or the moral law of the Gospel. (1) For the persons, we are a company professing ourselves fellow members of Christ; (2) the care of the public must oversway all private respects by which not only conscience but mere civil policy doth bind us; (3) the end is to improve our lives to do more service to the Lord, the comfort and increase of the body of Christ whereof we are members; (4) for the means whereby this must be effected, they are twofold: a conformity with the work and the end we aim at. ... Thus stands the cause between God and us: we are entered into covenant with Him for this work; we have taken out a commission, the Lord hath given us leave to draw our own articles, ... if we shall neglect the observation of these articles ... the Lord will surely break out in wrath against us. ... Therefore, let us choose life, that we, and our seed may live; by obeying. His voice and cleaving to Him, for He is our life and our prosperity.

(John Winthrop is supposed to be the principal author of the Covenant)


VI. Important Puritan Personalities

| Top | 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)

John Winthrop Portrait

(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)
| Top | 3. Anne Bradstreet(1612?-1672)

A Brief Biography

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.
| Top | 5. Edward Taylor (1645?-1729)

A Brief Biography

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)

A Brief Biography

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.

| Top | 8. Anne Marbury Hutchinson (1591-1643)

From "Hutchinson, Anne" Britannica Online. <> [Accessed 05 April 1998]

née MARBURY (baptized July 20, 1591, Alford, Lincolnshire, Eng.--d. August or September 1643, Pelham Bay, N.Y.), religious liberal who became one of the founders of Rhode Island after her banishment from Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The daughter of a clergyman, she married William Hutchinson, a merchant, in 1612, and in 1634 they migrated to Massachusetts. Anne soon organized weekly meetings of Boston women to discuss recent sermons and to give expression to her own theological views. Before long her sessions attracted ministers and magistrates as well. She stressed the individual's intuition as a means of reaching God and salvation, rather than the observance of institutionalized beliefs and the precepts of ministers. Her opponents accused her of antinomianism--the view that God's grace has freed the Christian from the need to observe established moral precepts.

Her criticism of the Massachusetts Puritans for what she considered to be their narrowly legalistic concept of morality and her protests against the authority of the clergy were at first widely supported by Bostonians. John Winthrop, however, opposed her, and she lost much of her support after he won election as governor. She was tried by the General Court chiefly for "traducing the ministers," was convicted in 1637, and was sentenced to banishment. For a time in 1637-38 she was held in custody at the house of Joseph Weld, marshal of Roxbury, Mass. Refusing to recant, she was then tried before the Boston Church and formally excommunicated.  

With some of her followers she established a settlement on the island of Aquidneck (now part of Rhode Island) in 1638. After the death of her husband in 1642, she settled on Long Island Sound, near present Pelham Bay. In 1643 she and all her servants and children save one were killed by Indians, an event regarded by some in Massachusetts as a manifestation of divine judgment.

Selected Bibliography

Bremer, Francis J. ed. Anne Hutchinson: Troubler of the Puritan Zion. Huntington, NY : Krieger, 1981. F67 .H92 A56

Chinn, Sarah E. "'Much Madness Is Divinest Sense': Heresy as a Trajectory in America Women's Writing from Anne Hutchinson to Gertrude Stein." DAI 57.5 (Nov 1996): 2035A 36A DAI No.: DA9631676.

Dillon, Elizabeth M. "Representing the Subject of Freedom: Liberalism, Hysteria, and Dispossessive Individualism." DAI 56.9 (Mar 1996): 3579A DAI No.: DA9602531.

Egan, James F. "Ideology and the Study of American Culture: Early New England Writing and the Idea of Experience." DAI 52.11 (May 1992): 3927A DAI No.: DA9211508.

Etulain, Richard. "John Cotton and the Anne Hutchinson Controversy." Rendezvous 2.2 (1967): 9-18.

George, Carol V. R. "Anne Hutchinson and the 'Revolution Which Never Happened'.; Essays in Honor of Nelson Manfred Blake." "Remember the Ladies":New Perspectives on Women in American History. Eds. Carol V. R. George and Ray A. Billington. Syracuse : Syracuse UP, 1975. 13-37.

Goldman, Maureen. "American Women and the Puritan Heritage: Anne Hutchinson to Harriet Beecher Stowe." DAI 36 (1975): 1503A 04A.

Hall, David D. ed. The Antinomian controversy, 1636-1638; a documentary history. Middletown, Conn., Wesleyan University Press, 1968. F67 .H92 H3

Heidish, Marcy. Witnesses: a novel. Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1980. PS3558.E4514 W5 (subject: Anne Hutchinson).

Johnston, Paul K. "Killing the Spirit: Anne Hutchinson and The Office of the Scarlet Letter." Nathaniel Hawthorne Review 22.1 (Sprg 1996): 26-35.

King, Anne. Anne Hutchinson and Anne Bradstreet: Literature and Experience, Faith and Works in Massachusetts Bay Colony." International Journal of Women's Studies 1 (1978): 445-67.

Lang, Amy S. Prophetic Woman: Anne Hutchinson and the Problem of Dissent in the Literature of New England. Berkeley : U of California P, 1987.

Lewis, Mary J. "An American Inquisition: Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian Controversy." Symposium Presented as a Public Service on 17 19 Apr. 1980 in the Alumni House Conf. Center, State Univ. of New York at Albany; 2 Vols. Proceedings of Asclepius at Syracuse: Thomas Szasz, Libertarian Humanist. Ed. M. E. Grenander. (Albany : Inst. for Humanistic Studies, State Univ. of New York.)

Porterfield, Amanda. "Beames of Wrathe and Brides of Christ: Anger and Female Piety in Puritan New England." Connecticut Review 11.2 (Sumr 1989): 1-12.

Schutte, Anne J. "'Such Monstrous Births': A Neglected Aspect of the Antinomian Controversy." Renaissance Quarterly 38.1 (Sprg 1985): 85-106.

Stout, Harry S. "Word and Order in Colonial New England." The Bible in America: Essays in Cultural History. NY: Oxford UP, 1982. 19-38.

Tobin, Lad. "A Radically Different Voice: Gender and Language in the Trials of Anne Hutchinson." Early American Literature 25.2 (1990): 253-70.

| Top | 9. Mary White Rowlandson (1637?-1711)

A Brief Biography

Primary Work

The sovereignty and goodness of God, together with the faithfulness of his promises displayed, being a narrative of the captivity and restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, commended by her, to all that desires to know the Lord's doings to, and dealings with her. ..., 1682 (known as the Narrative).

Selected Bibliography

Van Der Beets, Richard. Held Captive By the Indians: Selected Narratives 1642-1836. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1973.

Burke, Charles. Puritans at Bay. New York: Exposition Press, 1967.

Drimmer, Frederick, ed. Captured By the Indians. New York: Dover, 1961.

Slotkin, Richard, and James Folsom. So Dreadful a Judgment. Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1978.

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.

| Top | 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.)

| Top | Study Questions


1. Define some of the basic concepts of Puritan ideology and illustrate their significance in specific works. Choose from among the following: (a) "new world" consciousness, (b) covenant theology, (c) typology, (d) innate depravity, and (e) irresistible grace. A few of the writers who address each of these concepts, and whom you will need to discuss, include (a) Bradford and Bradstreet; (b) Bradford, Wigglesworth, and Edwards; (c) Bradstreet (in Here Follows Some Verses upon the Burning of Our House), Taylor, Winthrop, and Wigglesworth; (d) Taylor, Wigglesworth, and Edwards; and (e) Winthrop and Edwards.

2. Trace the connection between the Puritans' reliance on written covenant in Bradford's [The Mayflower Compact] and their emphasis on didactic to the exclusion of dramatic or personal vision in their literature.

3. Octavio Paz, among others, has called Puritan society a culture based on the principle of exclusion. Discuss, with particular references to literary works, the evidence of this principle in Puritan life and culture.

4. Consider secular consequences of Puritan theology: the Puritans' attitudes toward Native Americans, ordinary life, witches, house servants, slavery, and infant damnation. Choose two of these topics and explore their treatment in literary works from the period.

5. Identify and discuss literary texts that reveal stresses on Puritanism or that illustrate schisms within Puritan and colonial consciousness.

6. Explore the contrast between personal and didactic voice in Puritan and early colonial literature.

7. Identify the literary forms available to colonial American writers. What limited their choice? How did they invent within these forms? What forms would survive for later writers to work within?

8. Cite several fundamental differences between Puritan thinking and deist thinking. Analyze specific literary works that illustrate these differences.

9. Describe the way the concepts of the self and of self-reliance develop and find expression in colonial and early American literature. Identify those specific figures or works that you see as significant and explain their contributions.

10. Trace the power of the written convenant in colonial and early American literature, beginning with [The Mayflower Compact].

11. Discuss the ways in which Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson alter the content of Puritan thinking without changing its form. How do their writings reflect earlier forms?

12. Slavery is an issue of conscience for some colonial and early American writers; for others it is fraught with ambivalence. Discuss the issue with references to several specific texts.

13. Discuss the major similarities and differences between The Mayflower Compact and The Arbella Covenant.

14. Describe the way concepts of the self and of self-reliance develop and find expression in colonial and early American literature. Identify those specific figures or works that you see as significant and explain their contributions.

15. The United States has been criticized in recent years for assuming an air of moral superiority and for trying to impose its opinion on the rest of the world. Can you find the seeds of these American attitudes in the literature of the first two centuries? Explain your answer by referring to specific works you have read.

16. (a) What motivated the Puritans to flee England? (b) Did the Puritans have a "blueprint" for organizing their new communities, or did the social structure evolve slowly? (c) From what type of social, cultural, religious, and economic background did Winthrop emerge?

17. (a) Examine Winthrop's 1645 speech in which he responds to charges that he exceeded his authority as governor. Is this a fruition (or expression) of the Puritan ambiguity between the value of religion and the value of individual liberty? (b) How did the Hutchinson controversy potentially threaten Puritan oligarchy? (c) Explore the "spiritual autobiography" and its characteristics. What philosophical purposes did it serve? What pragmatic purposes? (d) In Modell, trace image patterns Winthrop uses, i.e. allusions to Biblical passages, discursive form of sermon, etc.

18. Define some of the basic concepts of Puritan ideology and illustrate their significance in specific works. Choose from among the following: (a) "new world" consciousness, (b) covenant theology, (c) typology, (d) innate depravity, and (e) irresistible grace. A few of the writers who address each of these concepts, and whom you will need to discuss, include (a) Bradford and Bradstreet; (b) Bradford, Wigglesworth, and Edwards; (c) Bradstreet (in Here Follows Some Verses upon the Burning of Our House), Taylor, Winthrop, and Wigglesworth; (d) Taylor, Wigglesworth, and Edwards; and (e) Winthrop and Edwards.

19. Consider secular consequences of Puritan theology: the Puritans' attitudes toward Native Americans, ordinary life, witches, house servants, slavery, and infant damnation. Choose two of these topics and explore their treatment in literary works from the period.

| Top | Anne Bradstreet

1. Discuss the extent to which Bradstreet's poetry reflects Puritan thinking. Analyze in particular the way Bradstreet reflects her own spiritual and metaphysical fears in the process of describing an actual event in Here Follows Some Verses upon the Burning of Our House.

2. Analyze the contrast between form and feeling in Bradstreet's work. In what ways does she use self-disclosure as a challenge to Puritan theology?

3. What does Anne Bradstreet's poetry reveal about Puritan ideas of the proper role of women? What is her defense of her poetry? Is her assertion that she had a secondary and defective talent genuine, or was it a calculated, rhetorical pose designed to offset criticism?

Edward Taylor

1. Write a close analysis of any of the poems from Preparatory Meditations. Identify the central metaphor or series of related metaphors and describe the process by which Taylor converts the terms of each metaphor into an assurance of his own salvation.

2. Discuss the title of Taylor's group of poems Preparatory Meditations. How does the title reflect his sense of the purpose of poetry?

3. Trace Taylor's use of objects from the natural world or of secular experience in Upon Wedlock, and Death of Children; Upon a Wasp Chilled with Cold; or A Fig for Thee, Oh! Death and examine the relationship in the poem between earthly life and spiritual salvation.

4. Discuss the extent to which Taylor's poetry reflects specific concepts of Puritan theology.

5. Edward Taylor's poetry displays the influence of English metaphysical poets. How valid is the view that Taylor's metaphors are too homely for sacred poetry, that their vividness and oddity distract the reader from the poems' messages?

| Top | Mary Rowlandson

1. How does the Narrative demonstrate Puritan theology and thinking at work?

2. In what ways does Rowlandson use her experience to reaffirm Puritan beliefs? How does she view herself and her fellow Christians? How does she see the Indians? What do her dehumanizing descriptions of the Indians accomplish?

3. Are there any instances where she seems to waver in her faith?

4. Why does Rowlandson distrust the "praying Indians"?

5. How does she use the Bible and varied scriptural allusions in her analysis of her captivity and restoration?

6. Does her world view change at all during her eleven weeks of captivity? Why or why not?

MLA Style Citation of this Web Page:

Reuben, Paul P. "Chapter 1: Early American Literature to1700 - A Brief Introduction." PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. WWW URL: (provide your date of logon; sample: November 10, 1998).

Top | Chap 1 - Index | Table Of Contents | Paul P. Reuben's Home Page |