By John McWilliams
John McWilliams' ebook is an bold try to overview New England background and literature from the Puritans during the progressive interval to the antebellum period. McWilliams demonstrates how successive narratives of crises, actual or imagined, mirrored historic realities which proved adaptable to later settlers. providing an all-encompassing narrative of 1 an important zone within the American literary and ancient event, he brings to gentle new contexts for realizing an important occasions in early American literature and historical past.
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Extra info for New England’s Crises and Cultural Memory: Literature, Politics, History, Religion, 1620-1860
Unlike Sewall’s prose poem, Webster’s speech asks its audience to believe that the Pilgrims had as early as 1621 become “at home in their country” because the body of a family member was already dissolving into New England soil (22). Grief and suffering thus pass away as the loved one’s body is absorbed into the new land. “That which we sow in weakness shall be raised in strength” (29), intones Webster’s hypothetical Pilgrim forefather, whose nameless voice transforms today’s orator back into William Bradford, the pilgrim into the contemporary, and all New England’s generations ultimately into one.
Under the circumstances, Pryse’s reasoning seems a troublingly logical conclusion. For him to allege “that if there were a God, He would not suffer his creatures whom He had made and framed to endure those miseries” is a plausible outcry that, on the one hand, takes us back to the Book of Job, but on the other constitutes clearly unacceptable behavior within a Christian community struggling for a foothold in a new world. It may be that George Percy was driven to write about Hugh Pryse because Percy was inwardly drawn to accept the logic of Pryse’s blasphemy.
Perceiving the achievements of New England’s past thus becomes inseparable from forewarning that all the golden candlesticks might be extinguished. In one way, Mather’s sentence justifies the labors involved in making his massive book (New England “must live in our History” – italics mine), but in another way Mather’s sentence advertises his book as already an anachronism, a memorial to all he fears is dead. No wonder that the 18 New England’s Crises and Cultural Memory Magnalia repeatedly searches out those providential forces that might turn the newly created Province of Massachusetts into a New England/American polity still more glorious than the former Commonwealth.
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