With the beginning of the American tradition in literature, two prevalent themes arise:
- Preoccupation with the meaning of America
- Self-transformation and its arising conflict with the demands of society.
In this first unit entitled "Age of Faith," we will seek to understand the following:
- How the earliest American writers viewed America, and how they viewed the settlers' difficulties in surviving a new land
- Important features of Puritan experience, especially the idea of grace, the view of America as divinely appointed, the use of the plain style, and brief revival of Puritanism in the Great Awakening
- The subject matter and technique of the first significant American poet Edward Taylor
- Differences between life in early New England and in the early South.
- Pilgrims and the Puritans
- Separated from the Anglican church of England
- Aligned with a religion that dominated their lives and writings
- Work ethic - belief in hard work and simple, no-frills living
- The Bay Psalm Book
- Sermons, diaries, personal narratives, slave narratives
- Plain style
Major Writers and Works
- John Smith (1580-1631)
General History of Virginia
Jamestown settlement and Pocahontas legend
Adventurer and writer
- William Bradford (1590-1657) Of Plymouth Plantation
- Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672)
First published American poet
"To My Dear and Loving Husband"
"Upon the Burning of Our House”
- Edward Taylor (1645-1729)
Minister considered the finest Puritan poet
"Make me, O Lord, Thy spinning wheel complete"
- Jonathan Edwards
Minister and President of Princeton
"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"
View of God as punitive and distant and view of man as basically evil
- The Bay Psalm Book: "This humble and well-worn hymnal was printed in 1640 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by Stephen Daye, first printer of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It is the very first book printed in what is now the United States. Known as The Bay Psalm Book, but really titled The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre, it represents what was most sacred to the Puritans--a faithful translation of God's Word, to be sung in worship by the entire congregation. Other Protestant denominations relied on selected paraphrases of the Scripture, but the Puritans believed this could compromise their salvation. The same faith that compelled them to leave England and strike out for the New World prompted them to commit this text to print before all others" (Library of Congress).
In the selection from Of Plymouth Plantation, there are peace terms with the Indians. Explain in a paragraph whether the terms were more favorable to the settlers or the Indians.
Who are the Puritans?
What are three main Puritan characteristics?
Who are the significant Puritan leaders?
How did the earliest American writers view America? Support in a paragraph with examples.
Discuss the differences between life in early New England and the early South. How did these affect the literature of the time?
Write an interpretation of “Upon the Burning of Our House.”
Edwards’ sermon is a classic statement of the Puritans’ literal vision of Hell and of their belief in humanity’s utter dependence upon God. He compares God’s wrath to several things. In a paragraph cite at least three comparisons.