Providence Tales and the Birth of American Literature

Overview

In colonial America, tales about the capture of English settlers by Native American war parties and the captives' subsequent suffering and privations were wildly popular among readers. Despite their importance in the development of American literature, however, the origins of the captivity narrative have until now been largely unexplored.

In Providence Tales and the Birth of American Literature, James Hartman uncovers the genesis of the captivity narrative in the English ...

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Overview

In colonial America, tales about the capture of English settlers by Native American war parties and the captives' subsequent suffering and privations were wildly popular among readers. Despite their importance in the development of American literature, however, the origins of the captivity narrative have until now been largely unexplored.

In Providence Tales and the Birth of American Literature, James Hartman uncovers the genesis of the captivity narrative in the English providence tale and its transformation in the seventeenth century. Exploring the cultural context in which both English providence tales and their American counterparts emerged—focusing in particular on the way in which the providence tale folded the religious spirit of inquiry and truth-seeking into the new science and empiricism of the seventeenth century—Hartman offers a provocative reassessment of the origins of American literature.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Carla Mulford

By elucidating the transatlantic literary conversation that took place between Britain and the North American colonies, Hartman has made a welcome addition to the growing body of scholarly writing that places issues in 'American' nation-formation not in the nineteenth century but squarely in the middle of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Anglo-American literary marketplace of ideas. This is an interesting and indeed splendid study in English colonial intellectual and literary history, and an important contribution to the study of American letters.

Frank Shuffelton

Hartman's impressive grounding of the captivity stories in a well-established tradition of providential narratives revises interpretations that attempt to describe the writings of Mary Rowlandson and other early Indian captives as indigenous productions that reflect an exceptionalist frontier experience. An important contribution to our understanding of the early captivity narratives as well as to our knowledge of the imaginative world of late seventeenth-century England and New England.

American Literature - Elizabeth Barnes

Hartman has written an undeniably significant work that will be an invaluable source for those researching providential literature as well as for those seeking to understand the providential roots of the American novel... the scholarship is impeccable.

Modern Philology - Christopher Castiglia

There is a real wealth of information in this book, and Hartman provides several stimulating interpretive frameworks through which to approach a wide-ranging body of work.

American Literature
Hartman has written an undeniably significant work that will be an invaluable source for those researching providential literature as well as for those seeking to understand the providential roots of the American novel... the scholarship is impeccable.

— Elizabeth Barnes

Modern Philology
There is a real wealth of information in this book, and Hartman provides several stimulating interpretive frameworks through which to approach a wide-ranging body of work.

— Christopher Castiglia

Booknews
Analyzes the Indian captivity narratives which were a very popular literary genre in early America. Hartman (literature, City U. of New York) places these narratives in the tradition of providence tales, a form imported from England, which presented purportedly true stories of miraculous redemption against impossible odds. These tales were used by their readers both for entertainment and to provide quasi-scientific proof of the existence of God. Both the European and American providence tales are placed in cultural context, demonstrating how they responded to religious, scientific, and literary developments of their historical period. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknew.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801872518
  • Publisher: Hopkins Fulfillment Service
  • Publication date: 7/1/2002
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

James D. Hartman teaches English and humanities at the the DeVry Institute in Long Island City, New York.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction 1
1 Remapping Colonial Discourse from Providence Tale to Indian Captivity Narrative 15
2 The Providence Tale in England, 1597-1697 39
3 Witchcraft Relations in England and on the Continent, 1484-1697 64
4 Providence Tales in the New World: New England Witchcraft Narratives, 1684-1702 100
5 The Birth of the Indian Captivity Narrative 128
Notes 165
Works Consulted 177
Index 195
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