Unit I: The New Land, 1500-1800
- William Bradford, 38-41
- Comment, 43
- Sarah Kemble Knight, 44-47
- Cotton Mather, 52-57
- Jonathan Edwards, 58-61
- Anne Bradstreet, 62-65
- Edward Taylor, 66-69
- You should now be about two thirds of the way through The Scarlet Letter.
CONSIDER for discussion:
- You should now be finishing The Scarlet Letter, if you have not already. How do your impressions about the Puritan experience from the novel square with the Puritan writings you have been reading for this week?
- Read and consider the questions under the "Applying" section of the text: in particular consider the author's use of allusion. What function does it perform? How does it affect the tone of the whole?
- Bradford is clearly writing from many years after the facts he is relating. What is the effect of this time-frame on the narrative? Does it affect your perspective as a reader?
Sarah Kemble Knight
- For the most part, this passage offers a closely-examined slice of life in the day-to-day existence of a Puritan woman. How does she create a sense of immediacy in her narrative? Compare her characterization of the innkeeper's daughter with some of the characters you have met in novels -- say, for example, in Hawthorne or perhaps Dickens?
- What effect does the use of such occasionally lavish vocabulary (such as "The Glorious Luminary with his swift Coursers arrived at his Stage," or "the Kind Conductress of the Night", etc.") have on your overall perception of Knight and her view of the world? Does her use of mythological reference surprise you? What purpose does it serve?
- Try to put aside your contemporary presuppositions, and consider the evidence objectively as if such witchcraft were possible. How thorough a case does Mather build against Martha Carrier? Is it responsibly put together? (The following article, "Witchcraft as Seen Through the Ages" may be of some help here.)
- Bear in mind that Edwards is writing over a hundred years after the establishment of the Plymouth colony -- to some extent, he belongs to a later age, and is considered the last of the great Puritan preachers. What effect would a sermon like this have on you?
- How does Edwards use metaphor to shape his argument? Does Edwards' scientific examination of spiders in his early life seem to have any bearing on the sermon?
- If Edwards' approach interests you, you may want to check out more of his sermons and other writings at the "Island of Freedom" site.
- Those who have taken English Literature, compare Anne Bradstreet's "To My Dear and Loving Husband" with contemporary love poetry in England -- say, for example, Donne's "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" or Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress". Does this seem more in touch with religious themes or less so? Does Bradstreet use metaphorical language to any great extent? How would you characterize this poem -- especially its narrative voice and dictional level?
- Look at "Upon the Burning of Our House". How do you account for the syntax of line 19? What does it mean? What is the overall thrust of the poem?
- From the point of view of technique, how sophisticated does Bradstreet seem? Do her rhymes seem natural? Her writing is roughly contemporary with Dryden and Pope in England.
- In English Literature (esp. in regard to "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning") we discussed the idea of the so-called metaphysical conceit. The article following "Huswifery" discusses this use of an elaborated metaphor. How well does Taylor do with it? Is it a useful metaphor? Does it cover what he is trying to represent? Can you think of any similar things that might have served as a source for this kind of writing?
- Consider Job 38-41 as a possible source for the main ideas in the poem, "Upon What Base"? Does he cover roughly the same material? How does his treatment differ? Is the point the same? What is the point?
- What are some of the metrical irregularities in Taylor's poetry? How do they affect your perception of the whole? Have you encountered similar irregularities before?
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