Writing New England: An Anthology from the Puritans to the Presentby Andrew Delbanco
The story of New England writing begins some 400 years ago, when a group of English Puritans crossed the Atlantic believing that God had appointed them to bring light and truth to the New World. Over the centuries since, the people of New England have produced one of the great literary traditions of the world--an outpouring of poetry, fiction, history, memoirs,… See more details below
The story of New England writing begins some 400 years ago, when a group of English Puritans crossed the Atlantic believing that God had appointed them to bring light and truth to the New World. Over the centuries since, the people of New England have produced one of the great literary traditions of the world--an outpouring of poetry, fiction, history, memoirs, letters, and essays that records how the original dream of a godly commonwealth has been both sustained and transformed into a modern secular culture enriched by people of many backgrounds and convictions.
Writing New England, edited by the literary scholar and critic Andrew Delbanco, is the most comprehensive anthology of this tradition, offering a full range of thought and style. The major figures of New England literature--from John Winthrop and Anne Bradstreet to Emerson, Hawthorne, Dickinson, and Thoreau, to Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, and John Updike--are of course represented, often with fresh and less familiar selections from their works. But Writing New England also samples a wide range of writings including Puritan sermons, court records from the Salem witch trials, Felix Frankfurter's account of the case of Sacco and Vanzetti, William Apess's eulogy for the Native American King Philip, pamphlets and poems of the Revolution and the Civil War, natural history, autobiographical writings of W. E. B. Du Bois and Malcolm X, Mary Antin's account of the immigrant experience, John F. Kennedy's broadcast address on civil rights, and A. Bartlett Giamatti's memoir of a Red Sox fan.
Organized thematically, this anthology provides a collective self-portrait of the New England mind. With an introductory essay on the origins of New England, a detailed chronology, and explanatory headnotes for each selection, the book is a welcoming introduction to a great American literary tradition and a treasury of vivid writing that defines what it has meant, over nearly four centuries, to be a New Englander.
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Long before the modern dogma took hold that early childhood experience determines adult character, Alexis de Tocqueville applied the idea to America. Convinced that the childhood of the United States was to be found in colonial New England, he wrote, "if we would understand the prejudices, the habits, and the passions which rule" the life of the mature man, "we must watch the infant in his mother's arms." Today, however, not many Americansnot even, perhaps, many New Englandersfeel that in observing the strict Protestants who emigrated to New England nearly four centuries ago they are watching their younger selves.
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