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After the Digging
Alan Shapiro
University of Chicago Press, 1998
After the Digging provides an exceptional look at the early work of acclaimed poet Alan Shapiro. His first collection of poems allows readers to realize his strong sense of historical narrative and gives them reference on how to read his later poems. Inspired by his time at Stanford in the late seventies, the book is divided into two parts: the first is a sequence on the Irish Famine in the mid-nineteenth century; the second, a series on demonic possession in late seventeenth-century New England. These poems give voice to the pain and delusion of those from other periods and inevitably recall the many evils of our own century.

"Powerful. . . . That a young poet can handle this subject so well in a first book is . . . a pleasure in itself."—Robert von Hallberg, Contemporary Literature, 1981
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American Elegy
The Poetry of Mourning from the Puritans to Whitman
Max Cavitch
University of Minnesota Press, 2007
The most widely practiced and read form of verse in America, “elegies are poems about being left behind,” writes Max Cavitch. American Elegy is the history of a diverse people’s poetic experience of mourning and of mortality’s profound challenge to creative living. By telling this history in political, psychological, and aesthetic terms, American Elegy powerfully reconnects the study of early American poetry to the broadest currents of literary and cultural criticism.Cavitch begins by considering eighteenth-century elegists such as Franklin, Bradstreet, Mather, Wheatley, Freneau, and Annis Stockton, highlighting their defiance of boundaries—between public and private, male and female, rational and sentimental—and demonstrating how closely intertwined the work of mourning and the work of nationalism were in the revolutionary era. He then turns to elegy’s adaptations during the market-driven Jacksonian age, including more obliquely elegiac poems like those of William Cullen Bryant and the popular child elegies of Emerson, Lydia Sigourney, and others. Devoting unprecedented attention to the early African-American elegy, Cavitch discusses poems written by free blacks and slaves, as well as white abolitionists, seeing in them the development of an African-American genealogical imagination. In addition to a major new reading of Whitman’s great elegy for Lincoln, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” Cavitch takes up less familiar passages from Whitman as well as Melville’s and Lazarus’s poems following Lincoln’s death. American Elegy offers critical and often poignant insights into the place of mourning in American culture. Cavitch examines literary responses to historical events—such as the American Revolution, Native American removal, African-American slavery, and the Civil War—and illuminates the states of loss, hope, desire, and love in American studies today.Max Cavitch is assistant professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.
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The Antinomian Controversy, 1636-1638
A Documentary History
David D. Hall, ed.
Duke University Press, 1990
The Antinomian controversy—a seventeenth-century theological crisis concerning salvation—was the first great intellectual crisis in the settlement of New England. Transcending the theological questions from which it arose, this symbolic controversy became a conflict between power and freedom of conscience. David D. Hall’s thorough documentary history of this episode sheds important light on religion, society, and gender in early American history.
This new edition of the 1968 volume, published now for the first time in paperback, includes an expanding bibliography and a new preface, treating in more detail the prime figures of Anne Hutchinson and her chief clerical supporter, John Cotton. Among the documents gathered here are transcripts of Anne Hutchinson’s trial, several of Cotton’s writings defending the Antinomian position, and John Winthrop’s account of the controversy. Hall’s increased focus on Hutchinson reveals the harshness and excesses with which the New England ministry tried to discredit her and reaffirms her place of prime importance in the history of American women.
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Catholics, Anglicans, and Puritans
Seventeenth-Century Essays
Hugh Trevor-Roper
University of Chicago Press, 1988
Renaissance Essays, published in 1985, confirmed Hugh Trevor-Roper's reputation as one of the most distinguished writers of history and as an unequaled master of the historical essay. Received with critical acclaim in both England and the United States, the volume gathered wide-ranging essays on both British and European history from the fifteenth century to the early seventeenth centuries. This sequel, Catholics, Anglicans, and Puritans, is composed of five previously unpublished essays on the intellectual and religious movements which lay behind the Puritan revolution in England and Ireland.

The opening essay, a skillful work of historical detection, investigates the strange career of Nicholas Hill. In "Laudianism and Political Power," Trevor-Roper returns to the subject of his first, now classic, book. He analyzes the real significance of the ecclesiastical movement associated with Archbishop Laud and speculates on what might have happened if the Stuarts had not abandoned it. "James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh" deals with a key figure in the intellectual and religious life of his time. A long essay on "The Great Tew Circle" reinstates Lord Falkland as an important influence on the continuity of ideas through the English revolution. The final essay reassesses the political ideology of Milton.

English intellectual history, as Trevor-Roper constructs it here for the seventeenth century, is conditioned by its social and political context. Always engaging and fresh, these essays deal with currently interesting historical topics and up-to-date controversies.
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City on a Hill
Urban Idealism in America from the Puritans to the Present
Alex Krieger
Harvard University Press, 2019

A sweeping history of American cities and towns, and the utopian aspirations that shaped them, by one of America’s leading urban planners and scholars.

The first European settlers saw America as a paradise regained. The continent seemed to offer a God-given opportunity to start again and build the perfect community. Those messianic days are gone. But as Alex Krieger argues in City on a Hill, any attempt at deep understanding of how the country has developed must recognize the persistent and dramatic consequences of utopian dreaming. Even as ideals have changed, idealism itself has for better and worse shaped our world of bricks and mortar, macadam, parks, and farmland. As he traces this uniquely American story from the Pilgrims to the “smart city,” Krieger delivers a striking new history of our built environment.

The Puritans were the first utopians, seeking a New Jerusalem in the New England villages that still stand as models of small-town life. In the Age of Revolution, Thomas Jefferson dreamed of citizen farmers tending plots laid out across the continent in a grid of enlightened rationality. As industrialization brought urbanization, reformers answered emerging slums with a zealous crusade of grand civic architecture and designed the vast urban parks vital to so many cities today. The twentieth century brought cycles of suburban dreaming and urban renewal—one generation’s utopia forming the next one’s nightmare—and experiments as diverse as Walt Disney’s EPCOT, hippie communes, and Las Vegas.

Krieger’s compelling and richly illustrated narrative reminds us, as we formulate new ideals today, that we chase our visions surrounded by the glories and failures of dreams gone by.

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The Evolution of College English
Literacy Studies from the Puritans to the Postmoderns
Thomas P. Miller
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011

Thomas P. Miller defines college English studies as literacy studies and examines how it has evolved in tandem with broader developments in literacy and the literate. He maps out “four corners” of English departments: literature, language studies, teacher education, and writing studies. Miller identifies their development with broader changes in the technologies and economies of literacy that have redefined what students write and read, which careers they enter, and how literature represents their experiences and aspirations.


Miller locates the origins of college English studies in the colonial transition from a religious to an oratorical conception of literature. A belletristic model of literature emerged in the nineteenth century in response to the spread of the “penny” press and state-mandated schooling. Since literary studies became a common school subject, professors of literature have distanced themselves from teachers of literacy.  In the Progressive era, that distinction came to structure scholarly organizations such as the MLA, while NCTE was established to develop more broadly based teacher coalitions. In the twentieth century New Criticism came to provide the operating assumptions for the rise of English departments, until those assumptions became critically overloaded with the crash of majors and jobs that began in 1970s and continues today.


For models that will help the discipline respond to such challenges, Miller looks to comprehensive departments of English that value studies of teaching, writing, and language as well as literature.  According to Miller, departments in more broadly based institutions have the potential to redress the historical alienation of English departments from their institutional base in work with literacy. Such departments have a potentially quite expansive articulation apparatus. Many are engaged with writing at work in public life, with schools and public agencies, with access issues, and with media, ethnic, and cultural studies. With the privatization of higher education, such pragmatic engagements become vital to sustaining a civic vision of English studies and the humanities generally.

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Female Piety and the Invention of American Puritanism
Bryce Traister
The Ohio State University Press, 2016
Female Piety and the Invention of American Puritanism reconsiders the standard critical view that women’s religious experiences were either silent consent or hostile response to mainstream Puritan institutions. In this groundbreaking new approach to American Puritanism, Bryce Traister asks how gendered understandings of authentic religious experience contributed to the development of seventeenth-century religious culture and to the “post-religious” historiography of Puritanism in secular modernity. He argues that women were neither marginal nor hostile to the theological and cultural ambitions of seventeenth-century New England religious culture and, indeed, that radicalized female piety was in certain key respects the driving force of New England Puritan culture.
 
Uncovering the feminine interiority of New England Protestantism, Female Piety and the Invention of American Puritanism positions itself against prevalent historical arguments about the rise of secularism in the modern West. Traister demonstrates that female spirituality became a principal vehicle through which Puritan identity became both absorbed within and foundational for pre-national secular culture. Engaging broadly with debates about religion and secularization, national origins and transnational unsettlements, and gender and cultural authority, this is a foundational reconsideration both of American Puritanism itself and of “American Puritanism” as it has been understood in relation to secular modernity.
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First Founders
American Puritans and Puritanism in an Atlantic World
Francis J. Bremer
University of New Hampshire Press, 2012
Francis J. Bremer has spent his entire career broadening our understanding of America's colonial founders. Now, in this eminently readable collection of biographies, Bremer brings us a surprisingly varied and dynamic group of characters who continue to guide and influence America today. With its cast of magistrates, women, clergy, merchants, and Native Americans, First Founders underscores the breadth of early American experience and the profound transatlantic roots of our country's forebears. Bremer succeeds in bringing little-known figures out of the shadows, while allowing us to appreciate better known figures in an entirely new light.

This is a truly fascinating look at the Puritans with keenly drawn portraits and the insight that only a lifetime of scholarship can achieve. It should become the standard introduction to the field. Written in the mold of Joseph Ellis's Founding Brothers and Gordon Wood's Revolutionary Characters, the book will appeal to general readers, students, and scholars alike.
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From the Puritans to the Projects
Lawrence J. Vale
Harvard University Press, 2000

From the almshouses of seventeenth-century Puritans to the massive housing projects of the mid-twentieth century, the struggle over housing assistance in the United States has exposed a deep-seated ambivalence about the place of the urban poor. Lawrence J. Vale's groundbreaking book is both a comprehensive institutional history of public housing in Boston and a broader examination of the nature and extent of public obligation to house socially and economically marginal Americans during the past 350 years.

First, Vale highlights startling continuities both in the way housing assistance has been delivered to the American poor and in the policies used to reward the nonpoor. He traces the stormy history of the Boston Housing Authority, a saga of entrenched patronage and virulent racism tempered, and partially overcome, by the efforts of unyielding reformers. He explores the birth of public housing as a program intended to reward the upwardly mobile working poor, details its painful transformation into a system designed to cope with society's least advantaged, and questions current policy efforts aimed at returning to a system of rewards for responsible members of the working class. The troubled story of Boston public housing exposes the mixed motives and ideological complexity that have long characterized housing in America, from the Puritans to the projects.

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Godly Republicanism
Puritans, Pilgrims, and a City on a Hill
Michael P. Winship
Harvard University Press, 2012

Puritans did not find a life free from tyranny in the New World—they created it there. Massachusetts emerged a republic as they hammered out a vision of popular participation and limited government in church and state, spurred by Plymouth Pilgrims. Godly Republicanism underscores how pathbreaking yet rooted in puritanism’s history the project was.

Michael Winship takes us first to England, where he uncovers the roots of the puritans’ republican ideals in the aspirations and struggles of Elizabethan Presbyterians. Faced with the twin tyrannies of Catholicism and the crown, Presbyterians turned to the ancient New Testament churches for guidance. What they discovered there—whether it existed or not—was a republican structure that suggested better models for governing than monarchy.

The puritans took their ideals to Massachusetts, but they did not forge their godly republic alone. In this book, for the first time, the separatists’ contentious, creative interaction with the puritans is given its due. Winship looks at the emergence of separatism and puritanism from shared origins in Elizabethan England, considers their split, and narrates the story of their reunion in Massachusetts. Out of the encounter between the separatist Plymouth Pilgrims and the puritans of Massachusetts Bay arose Massachusetts Congregationalism.

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The Heavenly Contract
Ideology and Organization in Pre-Revolutionary Puritanism
David Zaret
University of Chicago Press, 1985
The idea of a heavenly contract, uniting God and humanity in a bargain of salvation, emerged as the keystone of Puritan theology in early modern England. Yet this concept, with its connotations of exchange and reciprocity, runs counter to other tenets of Calvinism, such as predestination, that were also central to Puritan thought. With bold analytic intelligence, David Zaret explores this puzzling conflict between covenant theology and pure Calvinism. In the process he demonstrates that popular beliefs and activities had tremendous influence on Puritan religion.
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The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience
Geoffrey F. Nuttall
University of Chicago Press, 1992
Geoffrey F. Nuttall establishes the primacy of the doctrines of the Holy Spirit in seventeenth-century English Puritanism and demonstrates the continuity of the Reformation tradition from the more conservative views of Luther to the more radical interpretations of the Quakers. Nuttall illuminates prominent spokesmen, including Richard Sibbes, Richard Baxter, John Owen, Walter Cradock, Morgan Llwyd, and George Fox.

In a new Introduction, Peter Lake discusses the relevance of Nuttall's book to, and its influence on, major works in seventeenth-century English history written since 1946.
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Invisible Masters
Gender, Race, and the Economy of Service in Early New England
Elisabeth Ceppi
Dartmouth College Press, 2018
Invisible Masters rewrites the familiar narrative of the relation between Puritan religious culture and New England’s economic culture as a history of the primary discourse that connected them: service. The understanding early Puritans had of themselves as God’s servants and earthly masters was shaped by their immersion in an Atlantic culture of service and the worldly pressures and opportunities generated by New England’s particular place in it. Concepts of spiritual service and mastery determined Puritan views of the men, women, and children who were servants and slaves in that world. So, too, did these concepts shape the experience of family, labor, law, and economy for those men, women, and children—the very bedrock of their lives. This strikingly original look at Puritan culture will appeal to a wide range of Americanists and historians.
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John Eliot’s Mission to the Indians before King Philip’s War
Richard W. Cogley
Harvard University Press, 1999

No previous work on John Eliot's mission to the Indians has told such a comprehensive and engaging story. Richard Cogley takes a dual approach: he delves deeply into Eliot's theological writings and describes the historical development of Eliot's missionary work. By relating the two, he presents fresh perspectives that challenge widely accepted assessments of the Puritan mission.

Cogley incorporates Eliot's eschatology into the history of the mission, takes into account the biographies of the proselytes (the "praying Indians") and the individual histories of the Christian Indian settlements (the "praying towns"), and corrects misperceptions about the mission's role in English expansion. He also addresses other interpretive problems in Eliot's mission, such as why the Puritans postponed their evangelizing mission until 1646, why Indians accepted or rejected the mission, and whether the mission played a role in causing King Philip's War.

This book makes signal contributions to New England history, Native American history, and religious studies.

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John Winthrop's World
History as a Story; The Story as History
James G. Moseley
University of Wisconsin Press, 1992
One of the most famous American journals is that of seventeenth-century Puritan leader John Winthrop. As the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, an office he held with few interruptions for two decades, he worked to establish a society in which he thought true Christianity could flourish, beyond the reach of the unfaithful Church of England. Winthrop recorded the daily events of his life—the political infighting and religious disputes among Puritans, as well as their relations with other colonists, Indians, and England. His journal is a window into a world that, while unfamiliar, continues to influence our sense of the meaning of America.
    In the first in-depth study of Winthrop since 1958, James G. Moseley provides a fascinating new look at this extraordinary man, paying careful attention to the connections between Winthrop’s political activity and his writing. Moseley first examines Winthrop as a writer, using the journal to analyze Winthrop as a man resolving challenges based as much on his acutely pragmatic intelligence as on his deeply felt religious convictions. Second, Moseley traces how historians have responded to Winthrop—how his famous journal has been read and misread by those who have filtered the man and his cultural context through many lenses.
    By examining Winthrop’s ancestors and early life in England, especially the religious changes he experienced, Moseley removes the blinders of modernism, portraying Winthrop as never before. He shows how Winthrop’s successful struggle to accept the deaths of his first two wives led him away from moralistic views of Christianity, himself, and his world to more magnanimous views.
    Arguing that writing was the medium through which Winthrop developed his capacity for leadership, Moseley shows how the journal enabled Winthrop to reflect objectively on his situation and to adjust his behavior. Winthrop was, Moseley suggests, not only a politician but a historian, and his interpretations of foundational events in American history in his journal are an invaluable resource for understanding the nature of leadership and the meaning of liberty in Puritan America.
    Winthrop’s World is a very graceful, well-written, and engaging narrative that provides new insight into the Puritan way of life and into the man who provided a window between our world and his.
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The New England Mind
Perry Miller
Harvard University Press, 1953
The New England Mind: From Colony to Province is one of Perry Miller’s masterworks, exploring the intellectual history of the Puritans through a deep investigation of the thought of the Puritan divines. In this book, as well as its predecessor The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century, Miller asserts a single intellectual history for America that could be traced to the Puritan belief system.
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The New England Mind
The Seventeenth Century
Perry Miller
Harvard University Press, 1982
In The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century, as well as successor The New England Mind: From Colony to Province, Perry Miller asserts a single intellectual history for America that could be traced to the Puritan belief system.
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New Israel / New England
Jews and Puritans in Early America
Michael Hoberman
University of Massachusetts Press, 2011
The New England Puritans' fascination with the legacy of the Jewish religion has been well documented, but their interactions with actual Jews have escaped sustained historical attention. New Israel/New England tells the story of the Sephardic merchants who traded and sojourned in Boston and Newport between the mid-seventeenth century and the era of the American Revolution. It also explores the complex and often contradictory meanings that the Puritans attached to Judaism and the fraught attitudes that they bore toward the Jews as a people.

More often than not, Michael Hoberman shows, Puritans thought and wrote about Jews in order to resolve their own theological and cultural dilemmas. A number of prominent New Englanders, including Roger Williams, Increase Mather, Samuel Sewall, Benjamin Colman, Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, and Ezra Stiles, wrote extensively about post-biblical Jews, in some cases drawing on their own personal acquaintance with Jewish contemporaries.

Among the intriguing episodes that Hoberman investigates is the recruitment and conversion of Harvard's first permanent instructor of Hebrew, the Jewish-born Judah Monis. Later chapters describe the ecumenical friendship between Newport minister Ezra Stiles and Haim Carigal, an itinerant rabbi from Palestine, as well as the life and career of Moses Michael Hays, the prominent freemason who was Boston's first permanently established Jewish businessman, a founder of its insurance industry, an early sponsor of the Bank of Massachusetts, and a personal friend of Paul Revere.
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Opening Scripture
Bible Reading and Interpretive Authority in Puritan New England
Lisa M. Gordis
University of Chicago Press, 2003
"Opening Scripture provides a thorough and original account of ministerial and lay strategies for interpreting Scripture in the Massachusetts Bay. Demonstrating an impressive command of the vast literature and history of the period, Lisa Gordis moves deftly through discussions of major figures and events. This is a significant intervention in the study of Puritan New England."—Sandra M. Gustafson, University of Notre Dame

What role did the Bible really play in Puritan New England? Many have treated it as a blunt instrument used to cudgel dissenters into submission, but Lisa M. Gordis reveals instead that Puritan readings of the Bible showed great complexity and literary sophistication—so much complexity, in fact, that controversies over biblical interpretation threatened to tear Puritan society apart.

Drawing on Puritan preaching manuals and sermons as well as the texts of early religious controversies, Gordis argues that Puritan ministers did not expect to impose their views on their congregations. Instead they believed that interpretive consensus would emerge from the process of reading the Bible, with the Holy Spirit assisting readers to understand God's will. Treating the conflict over Roger Williams, the Antinomian Controversy, and the reluctant compromises of the Halfway Covenant as symptoms of a crisis that was as much literary as it was social or spiritual, Opening Scripture explores the profound consequences of Puritan negotiations over biblical interpretation for New England's literature and history.
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Orthodoxies in Massachusetts
Rereading American Puritanism
Janice Knight
Harvard University Press, 1994

Reexamining religious culture in seventeenth-century New England, Janice Knight discovers a contest of rival factions within the Puritan orthodoxy. Arguing that two distinctive strains of Puritan piety emerged in England prior to the migration to America, Knight describes a split between rationalism and mysticism, between theologies based on God’s command and on God’s love. A strong countervoice, expressed by such American divines as John Cotton, John Davenport, and John Norton and the Englishmen Richard Sibbes and John Preston, articulated a theology rooted in Divine Benevolence rather than Almighty Power, substituting free testament for conditional covenant to describe God’s relationship to human beings.

Knight argues that the terms and content of orthodoxy itself were hotly contested in New England and that the dominance of rationalist preachers like Thomas Hooker and Peter Bulkeley has been overestimated by scholars. Establishing the English origins of the differences, Knight rereads the controversies of New England’s first decades as proof of a continuing conflict between the two religious ideologies. The Antinomian Controversy provides the focus for a new understanding of the volatile processes whereby orthodoxies are produced and contested. This book gives voice to this alternative piety within what is usually read as the univocal orthodoxy of New England, and shows the political, social, and literary implications of those differences.

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The Puritan Experiment
New England Society from Bradford to Edwards
Francis J. Bremer
University Press of New England, 1995
This revised and updated edition of an out-of-print classic once again makes the broad background of Puritanism accessible to students and general readers. Based on a chronology that begins with the Act of Supremacy in 1534 and ends with Jonathan Edwards's death in 1758, Francis J. Bremer's interpretive synthesis of the causes and contexts of the Puritan movement integrates analyses of the religious, political, sociological, economic, and cultural changes wrought by the movement in both Old and New England. From meeting house architecture to Salem witch trials, from relations with Native Americans to the founding of the nation's first colleges, he details with style and grace "a living system of faith" that not only had profound significance for tens of thousands of Englishmen and Americans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but also affected the course of history in the New World.
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The Puritan Moment
The Coming of Revolution in an English County
William Hunt
Harvard University Press, 1983

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The Puritan Ordeal
Andrew Delbanco
Harvard University Press, 1989
More than an ecclesiastical or political history, this book is a vivid description of the earliest American immigrant experience. It depicts the dramatic tale of the seventeenth-century newcomers to our shores as they were drawn and pushed to make their way in an unsettled and unsettling world.
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Puritan Spirits in the Abolitionist Imagination
Kenyon Gradert
University of Chicago Press, 2020
The Puritans of popular memory are dour figures, characterized by humorless toil at best and witch trials at worst. “Puritan” is an insult reserved for prudes, prigs, or oppressors. Antebellum American abolitionists, however, would be shocked to hear this. They fervently embraced the idea that Puritans were in fact pioneers of revolutionary dissent and invoked their name and ideas as part of their antislavery crusade.

Puritan Spirits in the Abolitionist Imagination reveals how the leaders of the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement—from landmark figures like Ralph Waldo Emerson to scores of lesser-known writers and orators—drew upon the Puritan tradition to shape their politics and personae. In a striking instance of selective memory, reimagined aspects of Puritan history proved to be potent catalysts for abolitionist minds. Black writers lauded slave rebels as new Puritan soldiers, female antislavery militias in Kansas were cast as modern Pilgrims, and a direct lineage of radical democracy was traced from these early New Englanders through the American and French Revolutions to the abolitionist movement, deemed a “Second Reformation” by some. Kenyon Gradert recovers a striking influence on abolitionism and recasts our understanding of puritanism, often seen as a strictly conservative ideology, averse to the worldly rebellion demanded by abolitionists.
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The Puritan Tradition in America, 1620–1730
Edited by Alden T. Vaughan
University Press of New England, 1997
Many students of our national character would agree that, for better or worse, the Puritan tradition had an enormous effect on the assumptions and aspirations of today's Americans. This book tells the story, largely through the participants' own words, of the emergence of that tradition. It provides a broad range of primary documents--religious, political, social, legal, familial, and economic--for an understanding of Puritanism in early New England. Originally published in 1972, it is reissued here with a new introduction and two new documents: extracts from Anne Hutchinson's trial and from John Winthrop's "Experiencia".
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Puritans among the Indians
Accounts of Captivity and Redemption, 1676–1724
Alden T. Vaughan
Harvard University Press, 1981
These eight reports by white settlers held captive by Indians gripped the imagination not only of early settlers but also of American writers through our history. Puritans among the Indians presents, in modern spelling, the best of the New England narratives. These both delineate the social and ideological struggle between the captors and the settlers, and constitute a dramatic rendition of the Puritans’ spiritual struggle for redemption.
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The Puritans in America
Alan Heimert
Harvard University Press, 1985

The whole destiny of America is contained in the first Puritans who landed on these shores, wrote de Tocqueville. These newcomers, and the range of their intellectual achievements and failures, are vividly depicted in The Puritans in America. Exiled from England, the Puritans settled in what Cromwell called “a poor, cold, and useless” place—where they created a body of ideas and aspirations that were essential in the shaping of American religion, politics, and culture.

In a felicitous blend of documents and narrative Alan Heimert and Andrew Delbanco recapture the sweep and restless change of Puritan thought from its incipient Americanism through its dominance in New England society to its fragmentation in the face of dissent from within and without. A general introduction sketches the Puritan environment, and shorter introductions open each of the six sections of the collection. Thirty-eight writers are included—among these Cotton, Bradford, Bradstreet, Winthrop, Rowlandson, Taylor, and the Mathers—as well as the testimony of Anne Hutchinson and documents illustrating the witchcraft crisis. The works, several of which are published here for the first time since the seventeenth century, are presented in modern spelling and punctuation.

Despite numerous scholarly probings, Puritanism remains resistant to categories, whether those of Perry Miller, Max Weber, or Christopher Hill. This new anthology—the first major interpretive collection in nearly fifty years—reveals the beauty and power of Puritan literature as it emerged from the pursuit of self-knowledge in the New World.

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The Real American Dream
A Meditation on Hope
Andrew Delbanco
Harvard University Press, 1999

Since we discovered that, in Tocqueville’s words, “the incomplete joys of this world will never satisfy the heart,” how have we Americans made do? In The Real American Dream one of the nation’s premier literary scholars searches out the symbols and stories by which Americans have reached for something beyond worldly desire. A spiritual history ranging from the first English settlements to the present day, the book is also a lively, deeply learned meditation on hope.

Andrew Delbanco tells of the stringent God of Protestant Christianity, who exerted immense force over the language, institutions, and customs of the culture for nearly 200 years. He describes the falling away of this God and the rise of the idea of a sacred nation-state. And, finally, he speaks of our own moment, when symbols of nationalism are in decline, leaving us with nothing to satisfy the longing for transcendence once sustained by God and nation.

From the Christian story that expressed the earliest Puritan yearnings to New Age spirituality, apocalyptic environmentalism, and the multicultural search for ancestral roots that divert our own, The Real American Dream evokes the tidal rhythm of American history. It shows how Americans have organized their days and ordered their lives—and ultimately created a culture—to make sense of the pain, desire, pleasure, and fear that are the stuff of human experience. In a time of cultural crisis, when the old stories seem to be faltering, this book offers a lesson in the painstaking remaking of the American dream.

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Religion, Order, and Law
David Little
University of Chicago Press, 1984
"The issue of the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism has been debated endlessly, but few scholars have seriously continued Weber's own research into the Reformation sources of seventeenth-century England. David Little's study was one of the first to do so, and remains an important contribution."—Guenther Roth, University of Washington
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The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Harvard University Press, 2009

Hawthorne’s greatest romance, The Scarlet Letter, is often simplistically seen as a timeless tale of desire, sin, and redemption. In his introduction, Michael J. Colacurcio argues that The Scarlet Letter is a serious historical novel. If Hawthorne’s fiction rigorously and faithfully subjects Hester and Dimmesdale to the limits of seventeenth-century possibility, it nonetheless looks forward to the better, brighter world of Margaret Fuller and Fanny Fern, of Charles Fourier and John Humphrey Noyes.

The John Harvard Library edition reproduces the authoritative text of The Scarlet Letter in the Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

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Selected Poetry, Prose, and Translations, with Contextual Materials
Anne Vaughan Lock
Iter Press, 2021
Born to merchant-class parents who served in the court of Henry VIII and his queens, Anne Vaughan Lock lived in London and Exeter, spent time in Geneva as a religious exile, belonged to the Cooke sisters’ political-religious circle, maintained friendships with prominent Protestant leaders, and engaged the issues of her day. As a recognized public figure, she took on the roles of reformer, poet, translator, correspondent, spiritual counselor, and political advocate. During her lifetime, she published two books, both of which were reprinted several times.

This volume provides a collection of Lock’s works presented in modern spelling, and it includes additional contemporary materials that place her voice in the larger context of the Tudor period, offering insight into the intertwined complexities of political, social, and religious life in sixteenth-century England.
 
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The Story upon a Hill
The Puritan Myth in Contemporary American Fiction
Christopher Leise
University of Alabama Press, 2017
In this provocative and thought-provoking volume, Christopher Leise sheds new light on modern American novelists who question not only the assumption that Puritans founded New England—and, by extension, American identity—but also whether Puritanism ever existed in the United States at all.

The Story upon a Hill: The Puritan Myth in Contemporary American Fiction analyzes the work of several of the most important contemporary writers in the United States as reinterpreting commonplace narratives of the country’s origins with a keen eye on the effects of inclusion and exclusion that Puritan myths promote. In 1989, Ronald Reagan recalled the words of Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop, who imagined the colony as a “city upon a hill” for future nations to emulate. In Reagan’s speech, Winthrop’s signature rhetoric became an emblem of American idealism, and for many Americans, the Puritans’ New England was the place where the United States forged its original identity.
 
But what if Winthrop never gave that speech? What if he did not even write it? Historians cannot definitively answer these questions. In fact, no group that we refer to as American Puritans thought of themselves as Puritans. Rather, they were a group of dissident Christians often better defined by their disagreements than their shared beliefs.
 
Literary scholars interested in Anglo-American literary production from the seventeenth century through the present, historians, and readers interested in how ideas about Christianity circulate in popular culture will find fascinating the ways in which William Gaddis, Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, and Marilynne Robinson repurpose so-called Puritan forms of expression to forge a new narrative of New England’s Congregationalist legacy in American letters. Works by Colson Whitehead, Paul Auster, Toni Morrison, and others are also considered. The Story upon a Hill raises a provocative question: if the Puritans never existed as we understand them, what might American history look like in that context?
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Thornton Wilder and the Puritan Narrative Tradition
Lincoln Konkle
University of Missouri Press, 2005
Thornton Wilder and the Puritan Narrative Tradition is the first reading of Wilder’s life, fiction, drama, and criticism as a product of American culture. Early American studies by Sacvan Bercovitch, Mason Lowance Jr., Emory Elliott, and others have identified aspects of the American literary tradition stemming from New England Puritan writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Lincoln Konkle extends the argument for continuity into both the twentieth century and the profane space of the theater.
            Konkle shows that Thornton Wilder, as a literary descendant of Edward Taylor, inherited the best of the Puritans’ worldview and drew upon those attributes of the Puritan tradition within American literature that would strike a fundamental chord with his American audience. By providing close readings of Wilder’s texts against seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Puritan culture and literature, Konkle demonstrates that Wilder’s aesthetic was not just generically allegorical but also typically American and his religious sensibility was not just generally Christian, but specifically Calvinist. He alsoemphasizes aspects of Puritan theology, ideology, and aesthetics that have been suppressed or repressed into our cultural unconscious but are manifested in Wilder’s texts in response to various historical or personal stimuli.
             Konkle makes an original contribution to Wilder scholarship by providing the first in-depth readings of the full-length play The Trumpet Shall Sound and of the film Shadow of a Doubt (as a major work of Wilder). Also included are readings of little-known and seldom-discussed dramatic pieces, including Proserpina and the Devil, And the Sea Shall Give Up Its Dead, and Our Century. With its emphasis on the continuities of thought and form found in American literature from the seventeenth century to the twentieth, this analysis of Wilder’s drama and fiction will reclaim him as an intrinsically American writer, deserving to be read within the context of American literary and cultural traditions.  
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Under Household Government
Sex and Family in Puritan Massachusetts
M. Michelle Jarrett Morris
Harvard University Press, 2012

Seventeenth-century New Englanders were not as busy policing their neighbors’ behavior as Nathaniel Hawthorne or many historians of early America would have us believe. Keeping their own households in line occupied too much of their time. Under Household Government reveals the extent to which family members took on the role of watchdog in matters of sexual indiscretion.

In a society where one’s sister’s husband’s brother’s wife was referred to as “sister,” kinship networks could be immense. When out-of-wedlock pregnancies, paternity suits, and infidelity resulted in legal cases, courtrooms became battlegrounds for warring clans. Families flooded the courts with testimony, sometimes resorting to slander and jury-tampering to defend their kin. Even slaves merited defense as household members—and as valuable property. Servants, on the other hand, could expect to be cast out and left to fend for themselves.

As she elaborates the ways family policing undermined the administration of justice, M. Michelle Jarrett Morris shows how ordinary colonists understood sexual, marital, and familial relationships. Long-buried tales are resurrected here, such as that of Thomas Wilkinson’s (unsuccessful) attempt to exchange cheese for sex with Mary Toothaker, and the discovery of a headless baby along the shore of Boston’s Mill Pond. The Puritans that we meet in Morris’s account are not the cardboard caricatures of myth, but are rendered with both skill and sensitivity. Their stories of love, sex, and betrayal allow us to understand anew the depth and complexity of family life in early New England.

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Vida y muerte de San Cristóbal
Juan de Benavides
Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2020

As the patron of travelers, Saint Christopher inspired one of the most popular cults in the medieval era, which spread across Europe and especially the Iberian Peninsula. Artistic renderings of the saint were found near the doors of most Spanish Gothic churches, and paratheatrical representations of Saint Christopher were also commonplace in religious processions. His conversion and martyrdom were often staged between the fifteenth and early eighteenth centuries. 

In the theater, Juan de Benavides’s Vida y muerte de San Cristóbal is one of two known comedias dealing with the saint, but it was heavily censored after its premiere. The immense popularity of St. Christopher and other primitive saints first drew the attention of the Council of Trent in the mid-1500s, when the Catholic Church attempted to suppress the influence of the earlier saints due to their fantastical nature. The stories of these saints were censored, rewritten or even omitted in the post-Tridentine martyrologies. This publication is the first critical edition of the only extant copy of Benavides’s playscript. The circumstances surrounding Benavides’s play continue a dialogue about such important topics as censorship and the influence of the church over artistic production.

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The Virtuous and Violent Women of Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts
Emily C.K. Romeo
University of Massachusetts Press, 2020
Dismantling the image of the peaceful and serene colonial goodwife and countering the assumption that New England was inherently less violent than other regions of colonial America, Emily C. K. Romeo offers a revealing look at acts of violence by Anglo-American women in colonial Massachusetts, from the everyday to the extraordinary. Using Essex County as a case study, Romeo deftly utilizes seventeenth- and eighteenth-century sources to demonstrate that Puritan women, both "virtuous" and otherwise, learned to negotiate the shifting boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable violence in their daily lives and communities.

The Virtuous and Violent Women of Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts shows that more dramatic violence by women—including infanticide, the scalping of captors during the Indian Wars, and even witchcraft accusations—was not necessarily intended to challenge the structures of authority but often sprung from women's desire to protect property, safety, and standing for themselves and their families. The situations in which women chose to flout powerful social conventions and resort to overt violence expose the underlying, often unspoken, priorities and gendered expectations that shaped this society.
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Voices in the Wilderness
Public Discourse and the Paradox of Puritan Rhetoric
Patricia Roberts-Miller
University of Alabama Press, 1999
What has gone wrong with discourse and deliberation in the United States? It remains monologic, argues Patricia Roberts-Miller in Voices in the Wilderness, which traces America’s dominant form of argumentation back to its roots in the rhetorical tradition of 17th-century American Puritans. A work of composition theory, rhetorical theory, and cultural criticism, this volume ultimately provides not only new approaches to argumentation and the teaching of rhetoric, composition, and communication but also an original perspective on the current debate over public discourse

Both Jürgen Habermas and Wayne Booth—two of the most influential theorists in the domain of public discourse and good citizenry—argue for an inclusive public deliberation that involves people who are willing to listen to one another, to identify points of agreement and disagreement, and to make good faith attempts to validate any disputed claims. The Puritan voice crying in the wilderness, Roberts-Miller shows, does none of these things. To this individual of conscience engaged in a ceaseless battle of right and wrong against greedy philistines, all inclusion, mediation, and reciprocity are seen as evil, corrupting, and unnecessary. Hence, the voice in the wilderness does not in any real sense participate in public deliberation, only in public pronouncement.

Arguing that our culture’s continuing affection for the ethos of the voice crying in the wilderness is one of our more troubling inheritances from the early American ambivalence to public discourse—including the Puritan denigration of rhetoric—Roberts-Miller contends that the monologic discourse of the Puritans in fact contains within it arguments for dialogism. Thus, the history of rhetoric can provide much richer fields for reimagining discourse than heretofore credited. Roberts-Miller concludes by extending her findings into their practical applications for argumentation in the public sphere and in the composition classroom.
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front cover of Writing New England
Writing New England
An Anthology from the Puritans to the Present
Andrew Delbanco
Harvard University Press, 2001


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