Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

(28) American Puritanism and Colonial Literature.

(T. Morton, J. Winthrop, W. Bradford, A. Bradstreet, and J. Edwards).


E a r l y  A m e r i c a n  L i t e r a t u r e

[See "Background for Topic 28..."]


T h o m a s  M o r t o n  ( c a  1 5 9 0 – 1 6 4 7 )

L i f e :

- >> New England, MA

- a counterpart of the pious Plymouth Protestants: establ. trade relations with the natives, exchanged furs for liquor and guns, etc.

- the Puritans sent Captain Miles Standish & co. to arrest him and deport to En.: 2 x deported, eventually imprisoned in Boston for 2 y.

W o r k :

- an adventurous businessman and author of travel writings and satires

The New English Canaan (1637):

- mingles prose x verse

- combines a serious-minded description of the colonised country and the natives x an irreverent satire on the New Plymouth Puritans’ piety and holiness


J o h n  W i n t h r o p  ( 1 5 8 8 – 1 6 4 9 )

L i f e :

- New En., the MA Bay Colony

- leader in the Puritan colonial life, the 1st governor of the MA Bay Colony

- author of the now-classic sermon delivered on the board of the Arbella twd New En.:

‘For we must consider that we shall be a citty upon the hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world.’

W o r k :

“Model of Christian Charity”: sets the standards of life

The History of New England [= Journal] (1649):

- accounts the achievements and failures of the ‘citty upon the hill’

- mentions Mistress Anne Hutchinson as the centre of a theological controversy

> H. = the major source for N. Hawthorne’s Hester in The Scarlet Letter

> H.’s intellectual power anticipates that of M. Fuller


W i l l i a m  B r a d f o r d  ( 1 5 9 0 – 1 6 5 7 )

L i f e :

- New En., the Plymouth colony

- sailed on the Mayflower in 1620

- the Church of En. too thoroughly corrupted to make its purification accord. to the Puritans possible >> joined the Scrooby group to establ. a new ‘particular’ church

- the ‘Scooby Church’: their covenant modelled on the one made with Adam and then Abraham, the Scriptures = the highest authority

W o r k :

- author of prose and more than 1,000 lines of verse

Of Plymouth Plantation (1646):

- his major work, an account of the New En. Mayflower pilgrims

- incl. the famous “Mayflower Compact” = an agreement among the 41 adult M who pledged themselves to enact, constitute, and frame laws with reference to the general good of the proposed colony

- emphasised the spiritual life => intended to remind the readers to keep the track of their relig. mission

< the Biblical style


A n n e  B r a d s t r e e t  ( 1 6 1 2 – 7 2 )

L i f e :

>> New En., MA

- daughter of Thomas Dudley, wife of Simon B.

- thoroughly educated by her father and by diligent reading: Scriptures, Sir Walter Raleigh’s History of the World, poetry of Sir Philip Sidney, etc.

< relig. controversy: her non-conformist Cambridge educated husband

< her tenuous health, as a child prey to rheumatic fever > dominant images in her poems conc. the human body, illness, and mortality

- her husband’s often absence on business increased her burdens x but: astonishingly found time to write as long as to her death

W o r k :

- as a young girl began writing poetry to please her father x later called poetry a ‘room of my own’

- captured the essence of life as a Puritan and as a woman under tough colonial conditions

S c h o l a r l y  P o e m s :

< the Gr. concept of the 4 elements and the 4 humours: the world composed of earth, air, fire, and water; and the human temperament of warmth, cold, wet, and dry

- long meditative poems on the ages of man and the seasons

The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America (1650):

- publ. without her knowledge in London

- despite the printer’s errors the 1st publ. vol. of poetry written by a New En. colonist

P e r s o n a l  P o e m s :

- took greatest pride in the former x but: her lit. achievement both the latter


- on the tension btw the individual’s wishes and desires x the need to submit to God’s will

D o m e s t i c  P o e m s :

- intimate poems from the POV of a mother and wife conc. for family and home

- poems on the pleasure in everyday life x elegies on the death of her grandchildren

> “As Weary Pilgrim”, “Before the Birth of One of Her Children”, “The Flesh and the Spirit”, “To Her Father with Some Verses”, “To My Dear and Loving Husband”


J o n a t h a n  E d w a r d s  ( 1 7 0 3 – 5 8 )

L i f e :

- b. in CT x but: >> MA

- received uni education (Yale)

- became a preacher and tutor

- determined to improve himself, began writing a didactic-like diary on the college <=> B. Franklin

- championed the orthodox Puritanism = the concept of total depravity, futility of human efforts to achieve salvation, and God as the omnipotent judge

- his Northampton congregation anticipated the New En. ‘Great Awakening’ (1740s) [= wandering priests toured the country to convince people to save themselves]

W o r k :

< the philos. of John Locke and Berkley

R e l i g i o u s  W r i t i n g :

Personal Narrative:

- describes the mystical conversion in his youth to infl. his philos.

A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections:

- seeks to reconcile Puritanism with new theories

- intellectual comprehension of relig. doctrines insufficient, personal experience of the doctrinal truths necessary

- ‘affections’ = not only emotions x but: the force moving an individual twd affirmative possession or repudiation

“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”: a sulphurous sermon to induce a personal experience of depravity as the necessary 1st step to conversion

P h i l o s o p h i c a l  W r i t i n g :

- wrote when he served as a frontier minister

- seeks to build up a philos. based on the Puritan faith

- examine the nature and place of free will in a predetermined universe

- creates a bridge btw the old Puritan world and the new world of scientific studies

Freedom of the Will: his philos.-theological masterpiece

The Doctrine of Original Sin Defended

The Nature of True Virtue


Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.

Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Cambridge History of American  Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Cunliffe, Marcus. The Literature of the United States. London: Penguin, 1991.

Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.

McQuade, Donald, gen.ed. The Harper American Literature. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.

Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od  puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.

Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.

Other Sources

Peprník, Michal. Semináře: Americká literatura 1. ZS 2004/05.


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