Thornton Wilder and the Puritan Narrative Tradition

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Overview

Thornton Wilder and the Puritan Narrative Tradition is the first reading of Wilder’s life, fiction, drama, and criticism as a product of American culture. Early American studies by Sacvan Bercovitch, Mason Lowance Jr., Emory Elliott, and others have identified aspects of the American literary tradition stemming from New England Puritan writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Lincoln Konkle extends the argument for continuity into both the twentieth century and the profane space of the theater.
            Konkle shows that Thornton Wilder, as a literary descendant of Edward Taylor, inherited the best of the Puritans’ worldview and drew upon those attributes of the Puritan tradition within American literature that would strike a fundamental chord with his American audience. By providing close readings of Wilder’s texts against seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Puritan culture and literature, Konkle demonstrates that Wilder’s aesthetic was not just generically allegorical but also typically American and his religious sensibility was not just generally Christian, but specifically Calvinist. He alsoemphasizes aspects of Puritan theology, ideology, and aesthetics that have been suppressed or repressed into our cultural unconscious but are manifested in Wilder’s texts in response to various historical or personal stimuli.
             Konkle makes an original contribution to Wilder scholarship by providing the first in-depth readings of the full-length play The Trumpet Shall Sound and of the film Shadow of a Doubt (as a major work of Wilder). Also included are readings of little-known and seldom-discussed dramatic pieces, including Proserpina and the Devil, And the Sea Shall Give Up Its Dead, and Our Century. With its emphasis on the continuities of thought and form found in American literature from the seventeenth century to the twentieth, this analysis of Wilder’s drama and fiction will reclaim him as an intrinsically American writer, deserving to be read within the context of American literary and cultural traditions.  

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This exhaustive and provocative study of Thornton Wilder is long overdue. Wilder was one of America's most important dramatists (one masterpiece for certain) and a fine novelist, and his present neglect is inexcusable.  Mr. Konkle's book brings focus and insight and light to the sometimes dark corners which were the source of Wilder's gifts."— Edward Albee 

 "Reading this important study is like watching someone draw back the curtain on a long neglected stage. We cannot be too grateful to Professor Konkle for revealing the New World sources of Thornton Wilder's art."—Tappan Wilder

   "Lincoln Konkle’s study of Thornton Wilder and the New England origins of the American literary tradition is a bold and provocative rediscovery of the power and significance of Wilder’s works.  Placing Wilder within the cultural contexts of Calvinism, Puritanism, and the American jeremiad, Konkle reveals Wilder’s enduring capacity for exploring the ideals, desires, politics, and broad human issues troubling and driving contemporary American society.  This book may well generate a Wilder revival that will reestablish him at the core of the American literary canon."—Emory Elliott

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826216243
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2006
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Lincoln Konkle is Associate Professor of English at the College of New Jersey in Ewing. He is the coeditor of Stephen Vincent Benét: Essays on His Life and Work.

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