Puritan Literature

Literature in Early America
• Early colonists did not call themselves
“Americans” until the mid 18th century
• Roanoke Island, 1580
• Jamestown, 1607
• Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, 1620
• Puritans founded Mass Bay Colony, 1630
Mass Bay Colony
• The Puritans were the center of colonial
– Found Harvard, 1636
– First colonial press, 1638
– First American published book, 1640
– First colonial newspaper, 1690
Puritan Beliefs
Doctrine of the Original Depravity
Adam and Eve broke the covenant with God
All people were sinners and damned
Doctrine of the Elect
Predestination – only a select few would go to
All sinners must live a holy life – you never knew
Being good would not change your damnation
Puritan Concepts
Supremacy of Divine Will
Natural phenomena is the will of God
Un-natural events caused by the Devil’s
Government controlled by the church
The Devil
Puritan Values
Education – created America’s first schools
Hard Work
Family Life
Community Service
The forest is evil and home to the Devil
Characteristics of Puritan Writing
• The Bible provided a model for
Puritan writing – each
individual life was a journey to
• They saw a direct connection
between Biblical events
(allusions) and their own lives.
Characteristics of Puritan Writing
• They used writing to explore the inner and outer
lives for signs of the workings of God.
• Diaries and histories were the most common types of
• They favored a “plain style” similar to that of the
Geneva Bible and stressed clear expressions over
complicated figures of speech.
William Bradford
• 1590-1657
• Of Plymouth Plantation
• Described hardships of
journey to New World;
unshakeable belief in
• Plain Style of writing few figures of speech or
Mary Rowlandson
• 1636-1678
• A Narrative of Captivity
• Story of capture by Native
Americans; endured many
• Saw her story as reflection
of Bible stories of
hardship- used allusions
to Biblical stories.
Anne Bradstreet
• 1612-1672
• The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America…By a
Gentlewoman in Those Parts
• Published in England without her knowledge.
• Explores religion and personal relationship with God.
• Difference - Use of metaphor in writing.
Edward Taylor
• 1642-1729
• The Poetical Works of Edward Taylor
• Differed from other Puritan writers - use of
metaphor in writing.
• Explored how his identity was shaped by
“God’s Grace”.
Huswifery by Edward Taylor
Make me, O Lord, thy Spinning Wheel complete.
Thy Holy Word my Distaff make for me.
Make mine Affections thy Swift Fliers neat
And make my Soul thy holy Spool to be.
My Conversation make to be thy Reel
And reel the yarn thereon spun of thy Wheel.
Analysis of “Huswifery”
• Examines personal relationship with God.
• Shows belief in God’s “grace” and rebirth as a
“saint” here on earth.
• Differences: Use of metaphor to compare life
and self to weaving and spinning wheel avoids the “plain style.”
Jonathan Edwards
• 1703-1758
• Fire and brimstone
• Helped bring about the
Great Awakening.
• Tyrannical pastor extreme and strict humans “lowly sinners.”
• The last Puritan (Elements
of Literature, Fifth Course, 77 ).
Works Cited
Dolan, Jennifer. Puritan Literature in America.
Henry County Schools, McDonaugh, GA.
2001. PPT.