Susan Howe approaches early American literature as pet and critic, blending scholarship with passionate commitment and unique view of her subject. The Birth-mark traces the collusive relationships among tradition, the constitution of critical editions, literary history and criticism, the institutionalized roles of poetry and prose, and the status of gender. Through an examination of the texts and editorial histories of Thomas Shepard’s conversion narratives, the captivity narrative of Mary Rowlandson, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Howe reads our intellectual inheritance as a series of civil wars, where each text is a wilderness in which a strange and lawless author confronts interpreters and editors eager for settlement. In a concluding interview, Howe comments on her approach and recounts some the crucial biographical events that sparked her interest in early American literature.
The fabled violence of American patrimony is here tracked and qualified by brilliantly perceptive readings of initial texts of that common inheritance. Susan Howe, herself "a library-cormorant" in Coleridge's phrase, brings to her task the powers of a major poet and the adamant measure of the "Other" she, as all women, have been forced to be. This remarkable book is vivid testimony of that voice we can no longer silence.
SUSAN HOWE is a poet and Professor of English at the State University of New York- Buffalo. She is also the author of numerous critical essays including My Emily Dickinson (1985), and most recently “Sorting Facts; or, Nineteen Ways of Looking at Marker” in Beyond Document: Essays on Nonfiction Film (Wesleyan, 1996), edited by Charles Watten. Her books of poetry include Singularities (1990), The Europe of Trusts: Selected Poems (1989), Articulation of Sound Forms in Time (1987), and most recently, Frame Structures: Early poems, 1974-1979 (1995).
The Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson
These Flames and Generosities of the Hearts: Emily Dickinson and the Illogic of Sumptuary Values
Talisman Interview, with Edward Foster