Through a Glass Darkly: Reflections on Personal Identity in Early America

Overview

These thirteen original essays are provocative explorations in the construction and representation of self in America's colonial and early republican eras. Highlighting the increasing importance of interdisciplinary research for the field of early American history, these leading scholars in the field extend their reach to literary criticism, anthropology, psychology, and material culture. The collection is organized into three parts--Histories of Self, Texts of Self, and Reflections on Defining Self. Individual ...
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Overview

These thirteen original essays are provocative explorations in the construction and representation of self in America's colonial and early republican eras. Highlighting the increasing importance of interdisciplinary research for the field of early American history, these leading scholars in the field extend their reach to literary criticism, anthropology, psychology, and material culture. The collection is organized into three parts--Histories of Self, Texts of Self, and Reflections on Defining Self. Individual essays examine the significance of dreams, diaries, and carved chests, murder and suicide, Indian kinship, and the experiences of African American sailors. Gathered in celebration of the Institute of Early American History and Culture's fiftieth anniversary, these imaginative inquiries will stimulate critical thinking and open new avenues of investigation on the forging of self-identity in early America. The contributors are W. Jeffrey Bolster, T. H. Breen, Elaine Forman Crane, Greg Dening, Philip Greven, Rhys Isaac, Kenneth A. Lockridge, James H. Merrell, Donna Merwick, Mary Beth Norton, Mechal Sobel, Alan Taylor, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and Richard White.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
[V]iews of daily life are broadened and what it meant to live in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century America is reexamined.

Journal of American Culture

A compelling look at a growing trend in writing early American history.

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

[R]ich and diverse.

Reviews in American History

Every historian serious about early America, or historiography in general, should own this landmark collection.

Choice

In addition to offering fresh insight into problems of identity, the book in all its variety makes terrific reading.

Patricia Meyer Spacks, University of Virginia

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Ronald Hoffman is director of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.

Mechal Sobel is professor of history at the University of Haifa.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction: In Search of a Metaphor 1
Histories of Self 9
"The Cast of His Countenance": Reading Andrew Montour 13
Communal Definitions of Gendered Identity in Seventeenth-Century English America 40
Making History: The Force of Public Opinion and the Last Years of Slavery in Revolutionary Massachusetts 67
"The Unhappy Stephen Arnold": An Episode of Murder and Penitence in the Early Republic 96
The Suicide of a Notary: Language, Personal Identity, and Conquest in Colonial New York 122
Texts of Self 157
The Revolution in Selves: Black and White Inner Aliens 163
Stories and Constructions of Identity: Folk Tellings and Diary Inscriptions in Revolutionary Virginia 206
Hannah Barnard's Cupboard: Female Property and Identity in Eighteenth-Century New England 238
Colonial Self-Fashioning: Paradoxes and Pathologies in the Construction of Genteel Identity in Eighteenth-Century America 274
Reflections on Defining Self 343
The Self Shaped and Misshaped: The Protestant Temperament Reconsidered 348
"I Have Suffer'd Much Today": The Defining Force of Pain in Early America 370
"Although I am dead, I am not entirely dead. I have left a second of myself": Constructing Self and Persons on the Middle Ground of Early America 404
An Inner Diaspora: Black Sailors Making Selves 419
Index 449
Notes on the Contributors 463
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