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  1. 1. American Visions, American Stories: The Puritan World View and Early American Literature English 516 Dr. Roggenkamp
  2. 2. America . . . A Nation of Stories <ul><li>America a nation built upon “stories” </li></ul><ul><li>Not founded on geographical or linguistic unity—immigrant, native experiences </li></ul><ul><li>“ Stories” or ideologies impart a unity to diverse land and people </li></ul><ul><li>Published works, political rhetoric, press determine which stories become “legitimate” and definitive </li></ul><ul><li>Role of colonial, early Republic experience in shaping stories </li></ul>
  3. 3. Dominant stories & patterns emerge from English settlement in America <ul><li>Story of Diversity: Not a single experience or single “story”—diversified in terms of race, colonizing nation, religion, social status, motivations, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Story of Individualism : America as a place to “go it alone”—place not tied to old European alliances, traditions </li></ul><ul><li>Story of Expansionism & Colonialism (and Exploitation) : Right & even duty (God-given) to spread across continent—“civilize” the wilderness </li></ul><ul><li>Story of Capitalism : America as place where personal destiny/wealth can be found—reward for leading a godly life </li></ul>
  4. 4. Dominant stories & patterns emerge from English settlement in America <ul><li>Story of Exceptionalism : America as an exception to the normal state of nations—an exceptional people </li></ul><ul><li>America as beacon to humanity—a “Peculiar Chosen People—the Israel of our time” (Herman Melville) </li></ul>
  5. 5. Why use Puritanism & New England culture as a base for semester? <ul><li>Ideal of universal literacy </li></ul><ul><li>Printing culture </li></ul><ul><li>Influence of ideology on early American literature & beyond </li></ul><ul><li>Influence of ideology on “national character” today </li></ul><ul><li>Establishes several stories of what “America” means—but not THE story! </li></ul><ul><li>Image: Still shot from PBS series “Colonial House,” 2004 </li></ul>
  6. 6. Early American Literature as a Challenge . . . <ul><li>Literature all about challenging way we see world </li></ul><ul><li>Possible challenges to your assumptions about: </li></ul><ul><li>American nationhood </li></ul><ul><li>Religion and spirituality </li></ul><ul><li>Race and bigotry </li></ul><ul><li>Sexism and gender roles </li></ul><ul><li>Politics </li></ul><ul><li>(In)Tolerance of colonial ancestors </li></ul><ul><li>History—“History is written by the victors”—but that never means it’s the ONLY story or the “real” story </li></ul>
  7. 7. Early American Literature as a Challenge . . . <ul><li>Also a challenge because of genre </li></ul><ul><li>For all colonists, “literature” meant history, personal narratives, diaries, sermons, letters, trial transcripts, religious & political tracts, broadsides—as well as poetry & eventually fiction </li></ul><ul><li>But Puritans VERY suspicious of “all products of the flawed human imagination” (Emory Elliot 35) </li></ul><ul><li>Disdained any literature that distracted attention away from spiritual world </li></ul><ul><li>People still read such things—but in New England they were IMPORTS until relatively late in 17 th century </li></ul>
  8. 8. Course Timeline—Early American Milestones <ul><li>Links to keep handy: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  9. 9. Before the Puritans . . . <ul><li>Native American cultures: pre-contact, approx 300 million people, 300+ separate indigenous cultures, 800 languages spoken </li></ul><ul><li>Mostly oral literature—but where “American Literature” really does begin </li></ul><ul><li>Colonizing by Spanish, French, Dutch, and English, in both South (Virginia) and North (New England) </li></ul><ul><li>First permanent European settlement on North American continent: Spanish at St. Augustine (Florida, 1565) </li></ul><ul><li>English: Jamestown (Virginia) 1607 </li></ul><ul><li>Literature produced by colonists and printed in colonies begins 1639, with press set up by Puritans of Massachusetts Bay (Boston) </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>Image: Embarkation of the Pilgrims , Robert W. Weir, U. S. Capitol Building, 1837 </li></ul>
  11. 11. What does “Puritan” mean? <ul><li>Originally meant as an insult: label for those who opposed compromises Queen Elizabeth I made with Catholic church </li></ul><ul><li>Both a religious, theological label and a political, cultural label </li></ul><ul><li>Way of grouping together very diverse set of belief systems – religious, political, social </li></ul><ul><li>Not a single, stable, static group of people </li></ul><ul><li>Most common context: Congregationalists, Calvinists </li></ul><ul><li>Image: The Puritan , Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Springfield, Mass. 1883. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Puritanism – Roots <ul><li>Label “Puritan” emerges 16 th century </li></ul><ul><li>European Protestant reformation of Christianity – reform Roman Catholic Church (THE Christian Church) </li></ul><ul><li>1530s England – Henry VIII parts with Catholic Church to form Church of England (Anglican) </li></ul><ul><li>His government still a POLITICAL THEOCRACY—belief in government by divine guidance </li></ul><ul><li>One official state religion, intolerant of others (crime of heresy) </li></ul>
  13. 13. Puritanism – Roots, 2 <ul><li>Believe Henry and successors haven’t gone far enough in wiping out Catholic influence in England / Church of England </li></ul><ul><li>Purify Church of England – get back to basics of what they think Christianity is about, including: </li></ul><ul><li>Follow only the Christian Bible </li></ul><ul><li>Destroy influence of educated priesthood—individual path to God without intercession of priest (literacy) </li></ul><ul><li>Ban Catholic sacraments / rituals </li></ul><ul><li>Ban altars, images, priesthood, convents, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Ban “pagan” holidays like Christmas, Easter </li></ul><ul><li>Image: St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Northumberland </li></ul>
  14. 14. Public Notice of Christmas Ban England, 1666
  15. 15. Puritans: Separatists and Non-Separatists <ul><li>Most Puritans simply want to PURIFY Church of England, not break with it / separate from it </li></ul><ul><li>Simply want to “fix” Church—too close to Catholic roots </li></ul><ul><li>Some, though, think Church (and by connection government of England) is beyond fixing </li></ul><ul><li>Purify Christianity by separating from established church </li></ul><ul><li>Radical political offense! (Pilgrims) </li></ul><ul><li>Image: Thomas Smith, Self Portrait, circa 1680 </li></ul>
  16. 16. Basic World View (Theology) <ul><li>Most Puritans who come to New England in 17 th century are CALVINISTS (Congregationalists) </li></ul><ul><li>Catholics—Maryland, Virginia, Rhode Island, initially </li></ul><ul><li>Anglicans—Virginia, initially </li></ul><ul><li>John Calvin, Swiss Protestant reformer, 1509-1564 </li></ul><ul><li>Image: John Calvin </li></ul>
  17. 17. Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536)—“TULIP” <ul><li>T otal Depravity : Humanity is completely corrupted, as a result of Original Sin </li></ul><ul><li>U nconditional Election : Everyone is predestined for either salvation or damnation (& most will be damned for eternity) </li></ul><ul><li>L imited Atonement : Christ gives gift of mercy through crucifixion—but ONLY to those PREDESTINED for salvation (the ELECT) </li></ul><ul><li>I rresistible Grace : Nothing can take away God’s grace, offered to the elect—but this grace cannot be earned in any way (nor can it be refused) </li></ul><ul><li>P erseverance of the Saints : The righteousness & justification of the elect will win out over all afflictions </li></ul>
  18. 18. Covenant System <ul><li>Organization of New England’s Calvinist Puritan society based on system of interlocking COVENANTS </li></ul><ul><li>Covenant : Binding agreement made by mutual consent; legal agreement </li></ul><ul><li>Word that pervades early American literature—see world in terms of covenant with God and covenant with each other </li></ul><ul><li>Image: Geneva Bible, 1560 </li></ul>
  19. 19. Covenant of Works <ul><li>God promised Adam/Eve and all their descendants eternal life if they obeyed his law; Adam/Eve accepted this promise (covenant) </li></ul><ul><li>Humanity thus responsible for earning salvation via works (things they DO / way they ACT) </li></ul><ul><li>Adam/Eve broke covenant </li></ul><ul><li>God totally justified in condemning all humanity to eternal damnation from that point on </li></ul>
  20. 20. Covenant of Grace <ul><li>God totally just, but also totally merciful </li></ul><ul><li>New covenant with Abraham in Bible’s Old Testament scriptures: I will be your God and you will be my people. </li></ul><ul><li>Bible’s New Testament: Christ’s death fulfills God’s end of covenant – crucifixion atones for damnation of humanity </li></ul><ul><li>Image: Rembrandt, The Angel Stopping Abraham from Sacrificing Isaac to God , 1835 </li></ul>
  21. 21. Covenant of Grace, 2 <ul><li>Puritans: God offers salvation not to all humanity per se , but to select group: “ the elect ” </li></ul><ul><li>No one knows who is elect and who is not </li></ul><ul><li>Must have more than “intellectual” faith that you MAY be elect – must have spiritual, emotional, moving faith, total devotion to God, church, state </li></ul><ul><li>Constantly watch for signs that you’ve been offered the covenant of grace </li></ul><ul><li>Doctrine of “preparationism” </li></ul><ul><li>Image: Last Judgement , Sanctuary Notre-Dame des Fontaines, La Brigue, France </li></ul>
  22. 22. Social Covenant <ul><li>Idea of covenant organizes Puritan civic life: </li></ul><ul><li>King/Queen of England not in charge of church governance </li></ul><ul><li>Individual church congregations enter into own covenants with each other and govern themselves </li></ul><ul><li>Church and government of colonies also enter into covenants—theocracy </li></ul><ul><li>Extremely threatening to English monarchy </li></ul>
  23. 23. Social and religious congregationalism <ul><li>Organizational system known as congregationalism </li></ul><ul><li>Not the way things run in England </li></ul><ul><li>Conformity in all aspects of life: “Here’s our contract with God and each other.” </li></ul><ul><li>Quashes dissent: break covenant & you’re out of church, land, community </li></ul><ul><li>Image: General Laws and Liberties of the Massachusetts Colony, 1672 </li></ul>
  24. 24. Why bother? What’s in it for me? <ul><li>Those not Puritan definitely not elected </li></ul><ul><li>Be part of exceptional group </li></ul><ul><li>Belief world about to end—Puritans to “make way” for return of Christ </li></ul><ul><li>Emotional charge – extremely charismatic religion </li></ul><ul><li>Social pressures – economic pressures </li></ul><ul><li>Not just about religion – also all about politics and social order </li></ul><ul><li>Sense of order and community in totally disordered / fractured world </li></ul><ul><li>Image: Richard Mather </li></ul>
  25. 25. Massachusetts Coast (modern)
  26. 26. Of Pilgrims and Puritans: What’s the difference? <ul><li>All Pilgrims are Puritans, but not all Puritans are Pilgrims </li></ul><ul><li>Most Puritans are happy to keep the Church of England–simply want to PURIFY it by working from within </li></ul><ul><li>Pilgrims are radical Puritans—Church of England has to go—beyond salvation </li></ul><ul><li>Image: Facsimile of Bradford’s manuscript for Plymouth Plantation </li></ul>
  27. 27. Of Pilgrims and Puritans, 2 <ul><li>“ Separatists” – Separate from Church of England and therefore from England itself </li></ul><ul><li>Social outcasts – radical, subversive, persecuted </li></ul><ul><li>Of Mayflower and First Thanksgiving fame (a myth) </li></ul><ul><li>Image: First Thanksgiving , Jean Louise Gerome Ferris, early 20 th C. </li></ul>
  28. 28. William Bradford, 1590-1657 <ul><li>Separatist Puritans (Pilgrims) to Plymouth, 1620 </li></ul><ul><li>Group most persecuted in England </li></ul><ul><li>Most radical, extreme views </li></ul><ul><li>Images: William Bradford; contemporary </li></ul><ul><li>reconstruction of Plymouth Plantation homes </li></ul>
  29. 29. John Winthrop, 1588-1649 <ul><li>Member of English landed gentry; attorney </li></ul><ul><li>1629 joins other investors to organize trading company—Massachusetts Bay Company </li></ul><ul><li>Unlike most other colonial enterprises, this one not just about making profit </li></ul><ul><li>Leads “Great Migration” to New England (1630-1650) </li></ul><ul><li>Image: John Winthrop </li></ul>
  30. 30. Winthrop and 17 th -Century Puritanism: The Ideal and the Real <ul><li>What are Winthrop’s and Bradford’s ideals all about? </li></ul><ul><li>What reality does Winthrop’s private journal and Bradford’s history show in contrast to “the ideal?” </li></ul><ul><li>Image: Royal Charter, Massachusetts Bay Company, 1629 </li></ul>
  31. 31. Figures and typology <ul><li>Puritan literature explicates prophecies of Biblical Old Testament as foreshadowing of events and people—first in the New Testament, then in contemporary life (by 1640s) </li></ul><ul><li>Biblical forecasts of current events </li></ul><ul><li>E.g.: Atlantic journey of Puritans is “antitype” of Exodus of Israelites, the “chosen people” (the “type”). Image: The First Thanksgiving , Jenny Brownscombe, Pilgrim Hall Museum, 1920. </li></ul>
  32. 32. Figures and typology: Story of American Exceptionalism <ul><li>Individuals are “chosen”—the elect </li></ul><ul><li>But COMMUNITY as whole is “people chosen of God” as well </li></ul><ul><li>New Israelites (Puritans) sent on errand into the wilderness to establish the new Jerusalem in anticipation of Christ’s return </li></ul>