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Literature notes :

Puritanism in America :

- The most intellectual colonists of the world

- Religious and intellectual
- Many of them were university graduates, others were self-educated

The beginnings of English colonization in America:

- 1598, Sir Walter Raleigh, Virginia
- 1607, Jamestown, Virginia, plantations
- 1620, Pilgrim Fathers on MAYFLOWER
- 1630, ,,Arabella”, John Winthrop

The Pilgrim Fathers:

- The Plymouth Colony set up leader William Bradford
- The Mayflower compact
- John Calvin’s idea of predestination ( ,,elects” and ,,preterites”)
- The idea of ,,covenant” of God with his people

1630 ,,Arabella”, John Winthrop

- The City of Boston, Massachusetts Bay colony
- 1636, Harvard College
- Non-separatists. Presbyterians
- Theocratic system
- Their aim : to shield faith and build New Jerusalem in America the new Promised Land.
They wanted to build THE CITY ON THE HILL
- 1691, Plymouth Colony

Puritans :

- Extremely religious
- Life as a battle between the forces of God and Satan
- Convinced of their mission
- Belief predestination, original depravity of man, irresistible grace, limited atonement,
priesthood of all believers, perseverance of the saints

INTROSPECTION – journals, diaries

- The puritan work ethics, culture was business oriented

- The cult of labour and success
- Prosperity in business and earthly deeds

Emphasis on culture and education:

- 1636 Harvard University
- The cult of reason

Puritan influences on American culture;

- Sense of mission, cult of labour, money and success, pragmatism, inwardness, self-analysis,
individualism, America as the Promised Land, democracy, confrontation with the wilderness,
forming attitudes towards nature
- Theatre spread lies (because they created fiction)

The puritan literature:

- No fiction, no novels
- No drama- fiction falsifies reality, fiction was forbidden
- Religious literature; The Bible
- Logical, intellectual and rational literature
- A tendency to interpret nature

Poetry :
- Usually conventional, didactic, religious, simple in style. The aim of poetry: to reveal the truth
by means of logical reasoning
- Michael Wigglesworth. The Day of Doom (1662)
- Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America (1650)
- Edward Taylor, Preparatory Meditations, ,,Upon a Spider Catching a Fly”, metaphysical
poetry, full of conceits and sensual poetic images

"Upon a Spider Catching a Fly" by Edward Taylor is an allegory warning readers of the pitfalls
of evil.

- Puritans were known for their religious devotion and fear of Satan lingering around every
corner. In his poem, Taylor uses the image of a spider catching a fly to represent Satan and his
schemes to entrap men in sin.
- The poem's subject is a spider, who weaves a web to catch his prey. A wasp lands on the web
and fights ferociously to escape. The spider, knowing the wasp can sting, gently creeps and
taps its back. When the wasp tries to attack, the spider retreats. Next, a fly is caught on the
web. The spider quickly approaches the defenseless insect and kills it. The poem becomes
more universal, and it explains that Satan tries to entangle man into his trap through sin. God,
however, can easily break Satan's web and save man. Because of God's goodness and
protection, man can live in joy, like a nightingale singing in a cage.
- Because this poem is a clear allegory, the creatures described represent mankind and the devil.
The spider, described by Taylor as "Hell's Spider," clearly symbolizes Satan because both
weave traps for their prey. The wasp represents a person strong in faith who is ready to battle
sin, as the wasp is able to escape. The fly embodies those who get caught in the web of sin and
are eventually killed by Satan. The nightingale, a creature who eats spiders, appears at the end,
singing in its cage. The nightingale symbolizes devout Christians, who are protected by God
and living in glory.
- The poem is meant to teach a lesson to readers, which is clearly outlined in the sixth stanza.
Taylor posits that a man should avoid the pitfalls of sin because he may not be strong enough
to battle temptation and fall. The wasp and fly demonstrate how some are ready to battle
against sin while others are swallowed up by it and die. The image of a nightingale in "Glories
Cage" reassures readers that God can and will protect men from sin.

The Author to Her Book by Anne Bradstreet

Summary of The Author to Her Book

“The Author to Her Book” by Anne Bradstreet describes the disappointment that a writer feels over the
finished product she has created and her fruitless attempts to improve it.

The poem begins with the speaker describing her finished book as being malformed. It is incorrect, in
some fundamental way. She believes this to be of no one’s fault but her own as her brain is “feeble.”
This book that she does not wish to share with anyone, was taken from her by friends, and published.
The result is spread around the world for all to see.

When the author finally gets her own copy of her book she is still unhappy. It is just as bad, if not
worse than she remembers. She wants to throw it out of her sight, but knows that it belongs to her, as
if it were her own child, and she is unable to. She decides to take it under her wing and attempt to
improve it. All of her efforts are in vain though and she is forced to send her “child” away. She tells it
to go somewhere that it is not known, and to pretend that it’s mother was too poor to take care of it.

Anne Bradstreet: Poems Summary and Analysis of "Before the Birth of One of Her Children"


Everything in this world must come to an end, and joy is often matched by grief. There are no ties
between people and no friendships so strong that death cannot part them. The sentence of death is
common and inevitable.

The poet wonders how soon death will come for her, and how soon her husband might lose his friend.
They are both "ignorant" at the moment, but the poet feels beholden to write these lines so she can say
farewell when the knot that binds them comes untied.

She hopes that the days she will not get to live will be given to her husband, and that her faults will be
buried with her. She hopes that only her virtuous or valuable traits will live on in his memories, and
she hopes he will love her even after the grief of losing her has passed. She wants him to look to their
children as her "dear remains" and protect them from a future stepmother's "injury." If there is a
chance that her husband must see these verses, she hopes he will honor her and kiss the paper in
recognition of their love, crying "salt tears."

Anne Bradstreet: Poems Summary and Analysis of "To My Dear and Loving Husband"


The poet speaks to her husband, celebrating their unity and saying that there is no man in the world
whose wife loves him more. If there was ever a wife more happy with her husband, the poet asks those
women to compare themselves to her. She prizes her husband's love more than gold or the riches of the
East. Rivers cannot quench her love and no love but his can ever satisfy her. There is no way she can
ever repay him for his love. She believes they should love each other so much that when they die, their
love will live on.

Anne Bradstreet: Poems Summary and Analysis of "Verses Upon the Burning of our House"

When the poet goes to bed one night, she is not expecting any sorrow. However, she awakens to a
thundering noise and screams of "Fire!" She leaps up and cries out to God, asking him not to leave her
helpless. She goes outside and watches flames engulf her home.

When she can no longer watch her house burn, she gives thanks to God, who has reduced her house
and possessions to dust. It is just, she believes, for those things are His, not hers, and she knows He
has the right and ability to take things from humans when He wants.

Now, whenever she passes the ruins, she looks at all of the places where she once sat and relaxed. She
sees her old trunk and the chest that was filled with the things she loved best. No guests will ever
come under the roof again, no dinners will be eaten at the table, no candles will ever shine in the
window. The house will forever lie in silence.

She bids the house goodbye, for "All's Vanity." She knows that she has a better house waiting for her
in Heaven, built by the "mighty Architect" Himself. It will be richly furnished and will stand
permanently. The price He paid for the house is unknown, but it will be His gift to her. She bids
farewell to her money and the ruins of her things, satisfied with the fact that her "hope and Treasure
lies above."

Enlightenment in America (Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin)

European Enlightenment :

- ENGLISH: Joseph Locke, David Hume, George Berkeley, Joseph Addison, Sir Richard
Steele (Essayists, The Spectator)
- Alexander Pope (poetry)

- Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe), Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels), Samuel Richardson
(Pamela), Henry Fielding (Tom Jones), Lawrence Sterne (Tristan Shandy) – Novelists

- FRENCH : Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot

- POLAND: Kołłątaj, Staszic, Ignacy Krasicki, Śniadeccy

Sources of enlightenment in America:

Ideas from Europe:

- John Locke , tabula rasa, experience: empiricism and sensualism

- Isaac Newton – mechanistic theory of the Universe

- Empiricism - the theory that all knowledge is based on experience derived from the senses
(John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume.)

- Rationalism - the theory that reason rather than experience is the foundation of certainty in
- Deism - belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not
intervene in the universe.

- Sensualism - theory of knowledge, according to which sensations and perception are the basic
and most important form of true cognition. It may oppose abstract ideas.

- Rational and harmonious design of the world. World is beautiful and man is good. God as a
clock-maker, he created the world but he does not intervene. Good and benign father.

Weakening of Puritan doctrines:

- 1662 : Half-way covenant

- Transformations in the economic, social and cultural life of the colonies: prosperity, influx of
new settlers

- 1691 – all owners have voting rights, a strong class of farmers

Results of Enlightenment in the colonies:

- The War of Independence, The Declaration of Independence in 1776 (Thomas Jefferson), The
Treaty of Paris (1783); INDEPENCENCE
- New universities in the 18th Century – Harvard (1636), William and Mary (1693), Yale (1701),
Princeton (1746), and King’s College (1754)

- American Philosophical society set up in Philadelphia in 1743

- Popularity of newspapers, magazines and almanacs (‘’Poor Richard’s Almanac” – Benjamin

Franklin). Essays, poems, passages of novels, histories, biographies, but also proverbs

- Press: “New England Courant”, American Magazine a Monthly Chronicle for the British

The Great Awakening (1735-1750) Jonathan Edwards, Gilbert Tennent, James


- A sudden religious revival, the last attempt to oppose the growing secularization of life on the
one hand and ascetic practices of the Puritan church on the other
- The Great Awakening resulted in a great number of conversions

- It stood in opposition to Puritanism – everybody may be saved without help of the church;
importance of self responsibility

- Emotional sermons, vivid images of Hell

Jonathan Edwards:

- His early scientific interests : “of insects”

- Personal Narrative, his journal, emotional and mystic character of confessions
- One of the most famous sermons in American History: ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God’
(1741). Terrifying images of vindictive God; disgust towards sin and human weaknesses; the
atmosphere of terror

- He was idealist

- The forerunner of Romanticism

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

- He was born in Boston ( the centre of the Puritan thought), but then moved to Philadelphia
- Mostly self-educated: John Locke, Daniel Defoe, Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and Cotton

- He had his own printing press from which he issued The Pennsylvania Gazette, then Poor
Richard’s Almanack

- He set up the American Philosophical society, was active in science, politics and diplomacy

- In 1756 he became a member of the British Royal society

- The Declaration of Independence

- Pragmatic, down-to-earth, materialistic success. He made a career of a self-educated man, a

symbol of typically American diligence, industry, enterprise and limitless possibilities of man
in the New World


- Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin are often juxtaposed as representatives of two opposite
currents of the American Enlightenment

- While Edwards was a mystic and an idealist, Franklin was a pragmatist and materialist, advocate of
useful, simple morality and material success

- Benjamin Franklin was the forerunner of American pragmatism. The preposition is true if it proves
useful and if it can be applied practically. He is also the symbol of American self-made man and of the
American Dream.


Ben Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues :

1. Temperance
Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

2. Silence
Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
3. Order
Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

4. Resolution
Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

5. Frugality
Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

6. Industry
Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

7. Sincerity
Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

8. Justice
Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

9. Moderation
Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. Cleanliness
Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.

11. Tranquility
Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

12. Chastity
Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or
another's peace or reputation.

13. Humility
Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Born 1706 in Boston, Benjamin Franklin was the 15th of his father's 17 children. He went to school as
a child with the intent of becoming a minister, as his father, Josiah, intended. However, that idea was
dropped after Franklin showed a keen interest in reading and writing. He was apprenticed to his
brother, James at a young age, but after fighting with his brother he quit the job and moved to
Philadelphia, where he worked for a man named Samuel Keimer. After befriending some prominent
political figures, including the royal Governor, Franklin left for England, where he spent 18 months
working for a printer with his friend James Ralph, with whom he later became estranged. Shortly after
returning to America in 1726, Franklin formed a debating club called the Junto. Two years later, he
took over The Pennsylvania Gazette from Keimer and turned it into a successful publication with
tools from London. In 1730, Franklin wed his old sweetheart, Deborah Read, with whom he had two
children. The first, William Franklin, was born approximately one year later; he is the man to whom
the Autobiography is addressed in Part One.

Throughout the 1730s, Franklin held some minor positions doing printing work for the government. In
that time, he began Poor Richard's Almanac and became postmaster of Philadelphia. Towards the
end of the decade, he invented the Franklin stove. In the 1740s, Franklin worked on several projects,
including the fire brigade, the police force, the University of Pennsylvania, the street sweeping service
and some other smaller public works projects. He retired from the printing business in 1748 and began
to conduct scientific experiments in lightning. In 1753, he was awarded honorary degrees from
Harvard and Yale, and he became Postmaster General of America. The following year, when war
broke out between England and France (the French and Indian War Franklin began to draft
proposals outlining means by which funds could be raised for colonial defense. He succeeded in many
of his proposals, and he personally played a large part in organizing the war effort. The
Autobiography, however, breaks off in 1757; it is left unfinished.

The Autobiography itself was written in three different times: 1771 in England, 1783-83 in France, and
1788 in America. If Franklin meant to complete it, he died before he got the chance.

When Franklin was about 16 years old he read a book by Thomas Tryon extolling the health benefits
of a vegetable diet. Although Franklin did not adhere to such a diet for prolonged periods of time, he
periodically would become a vegetarian because it "promoted clearness of ideas and quickness of

During his life, Franklin's views on slavery changed dramatically. In 1748, he purchased his first slave,
but by 1760 he had freed all of his slaves. He became a staunch abolitionist and spent much of his later
life campaigning for an end to slavery.

Washington Irving : William Cullen Bryant

Beginnings of Romanticism in America (1800-1830)

- The Americans strove to achieve artistic autonomy and independence from British influence
- Before the Revolution American literature (from Christopher Columbus’s travel accounts to
Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography) consisted mainly of nonfictional narratives, sermons,
essays, diaries and imitations of English verse

- Political revolution against England – cultural revolution, Americans begun to build slowly
independent cultural identity, e.g. literature

Conflict between Neo-classicists and Romantics ;

- Growing popularity of British Romantic literature in America

- In 1820s North American Review, the first American literary magazine, the literary
establishment that shaped literary tastes of the Americans, started publishing works of
Coleridge, Wordsworth, Bryan and Scott

- The strong influence of Scottish Common Sense Philosophy upon the American culture (1800-

Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin :

- They were the followers of Reid, it was popularized in American universities

- 18thc, Edinburgh, Glasgow – Thomas Reid, Archibald Alison

- They strongly believed in the existence of mind as well as reality external to it (contrarily to
Plato’s idealism). Common sense thinking
- The theory of association –abstract ideas should be conveyed be means of concrete images in
poetry; beauty is the result of associating our emotions with things that evoke them

- Poetry is supposed to teach, instruct and please at the same time. Emotions should be mixed
with the standards of taste. Didactic role of literature.

After 1830s – growing impact of English, German and French Romantics:

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schlegel, Schiller, Goethe, Victor Cousin

Distinctive features of emerging Romanticism:

- It propagated individualism, social and political freedom, the value of national history and
- It sought for literary topics in folklore, nature, myths and historical events

- Frequent use of folk fairy tales and legends, ruins of old castles, mysterious nature

- The atmosphere of melancholy and mystery prevailed

Difficulties to adjust romantic topics to American reality:

- Almost no history, no medieval castles, no monasteries, poverty of tradition and culture

- Solution : Puritan past, American Revolution, Indians, American wilderness, folk legends and
stories, folk heroes, both American and the ones taken from Europe

Washington Irving (1783-1859)

- He was deeply concerned with the problem of adapting romantic motifs to the American
- He suggested using imagination as well as ideas from American and European folklore

Rip Van Winkle summary:

The time frame is in the years before and after the American Revolutionary War, which took place
from 1775-1783. Rip Van Winkle escapes to the mountains to get away from his wife, who wants him
to do work on their farm. He meets a group of men, accepts a drink from them, and then falls asleep
for 20 years!

Rip Van Winkle lives in a village in the Catskills with his wife and children. He's an easygoing man
with a nagging wife who constantly criticizes him. Rip Van Winkle is descended from gallant soldiers
but is a peaceful man himself, known for being a kind and gentle neighbor. His single flaw is an utter
inability to do any work that could turn a profit. He also is well-known for being an obedient,
henpecked husband, for Dame Van Winkle. One day, Rip goes for hunting in the mountains and meets
Henry Hudson, the famed explorer who discovered the Hudson River. Rip eats and drinks with
Hudson and his crew, then falls asleep under a tree.

 Twenty years later, Rip Van Winkle wakes up to find that the world has changed. His wife has
died. His kids are grown. At first, the only person in his village who recognizes him is Peter
Vanderdonk, the eldest man in the village.
 Eventually, Rip's daughter Judith accepts Rip as her father and brings him into her home.
Judith has since grown up, married a man named Gardenier, and had a child. Though Rip
loves his family, he feels alienated from them, unable to adjust to the fact that twenty years
have passed. He tells and retells his story in hopes of keeping alive the old traditions.

 Knickerbocker closes the story with an impassioned declaration of its veracity on personal
examination. He also gives a brief history of the magic and fables associated with the
Catskills, suggesting that even the Indians tell of similar experiences in the area in their own
stories and myths.