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Writing New England: An Anthology from the Puritans to the Present written by Andrew Delbanco

 

Writing New England: An Anthology from the Puritans to the Present written by Andrew Delbanco

Overview:

The story of New England writing begins some 400 years ago, when a group of English Puritans crossed the Atlantic believing that God had appointed them to bring light and truth to the New World. Over the centuries since, the people of New England have produced one of the great literary traditions of the world—an outpouring of poetry, fiction, history, memoirs, letters, and essays that records how the original dream of a godly commonwealth has been both sustained and transformed into a modern secular culture enriched by people of many backgrounds and convictions.

Writing New England, edited by the literary scholar and critic Andrew Delbanco, is the most comprehensive anthology of this tradition, offering a full range of thought and style. The major figures of New England literature—from John Winthrop and Anne Bradstreet to Emerson, Hawthorne, Dickinson, and Thoreau, to Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, and John Updike—are of course represented, often with fresh and less familiar selections from their works. But Writing New England also samples a wide range of writings including Puritan sermons, court records from the Salem witch trials, Felix Frankfurter's account of the case of Sacco and Vanzetti, William Apess's eulogy for the Native American King Philip, pamphlets and poems of the Revolution and the Civil War, natural history, autobiographical writings of W. E. B. Du Bois and Malcolm X, Mary Antin's account of the immigrant experience, John F. Kennedy's broadcast address on civil rights, and A. Bartlett Giamatti's memoir of a Red Sox fan.

Organized thematically, this anthology provides a collective self-portrait of the New England mind. With an introductory essay on the origins of New England, a detailed chronology, and explanatory headnotes for each selection, the book is a welcoming introduction to a great American literary tradition and a treasury of vivid writing that defines what it has meant, over nearly four centuries, to be a New Englander.

From the Preface:

"Imposing one unitary meaning on New England would be as foolish as it would be unconvincing. Yet one purpose of this book is to convey some sense of New England's continuities and coherence...Not all the writers in this book are major figures (a few are barely known), but all are here because of the bracing freshness with which they describe places, people, ideas, and events to which, even if the subject is familiar, we are re-awakened."

Synopsis:

The story of New England writing begins some 400 years ago, when a group of English Puritans crossed the Atlantic believing that God had appointed them to bring light and truth to the New World. Over the centuries since, the people of New England have produced one of the great literary traditions of the world--an outpouring of poetry, fiction, history, memoirs, letters, and essays that records how the original dream of a godly commonwealth has been both sustained and transformed into a modern secular culture enriched by people of many backgrounds and convictions.

Writing New England, edited by the literary scholar and critic Andrew Delbanco, is the most comprehensive anthology of this tradition, offering a full range of thought and style. The major figures of New England literature--from John Winthrop and Anne Bradstreet to Emerson, Hawthorne, Dickinson, and Thoreau, to Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, and John Updike--are of course represented, often with fresh and less familiar selections from their works. But Writing New England also samples a wide range of writings including Puritan sermons, court records from the Salem witch trials, Felix Frankfurter's account of the case of Sacco and Vanzetti, William Apess's eulogy for the Native American King Philip, pamphlets and poems of the Revolution and the Civil War, natural history, autobiographical writings of W. E. B. Du Bois and Malcolm X, Mary Antin's account of the immigrant experience, John F. Kennedy's broadcast address on civil rights, and A. Bartlett Giamatti's memoir of a Red Sox fan.

Organized thematically, this anthology provides a collective self-portrait of the New England mind. With an introductory essay on the origins of New England, a detailed chronology, and explanatory headnotes for each selection, the book is a welcoming introduction to a great American literary tradition and a treasury of vivid writing that defines what it has meant, over nearly four centuries, to be a New Englander.

Publishers Weekly

Despite the proliferation of regional studies, particularly of the American South, there are relatively few collections of or studies about New England writing. Perhaps it's because New England was the original region. Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry James are not generally considered New Englanders so much as Americans. Delbanco, a renowned scholar of the Puritan experience in America (author of The Puritan Ordeal), wants to call attention to the fact that these writers were not simply from New England but of it. In this beautifully conceived collection, Delbanco has interspersed with unchallenged figures such as Thoreau and Hawthorne a few pieces that have been all but lost to the general reading public. William Apess, for example, is represented by an excerpt from his 1836 Eulogy on King Philip, chastising white for dispossessing Native Americans. Apess was a New Englander of Indian descent who became a Methodist preacher and eventually joined the Mashpee Indians on Cape Cod, leading a rebellion against their white overseers: "And while you ask yourselves, 'What do they, the Indians, want?' you have only to look at the unjust laws made for them and say, 'They want what I want.' " In his introduction, Delbanco sounds the "keynote" of the original New England identity as "the throbbing heart of Christianity in the New World." As the new Eden did not fulfill itself, he concludes, New Englanders began an "inward turn toward self-admonition [which] is the hallmark of what Henry James called 'the New England conscience.' " This is an excellent gathering of letters, poems, stories, essays and excerpts from novels and histories. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners BusinessInformation.

Excerpt:

Long before the modern dogma took hold that early childhood experience determines adult character, Alexis de Tocqueville applied the idea to America. Convinced that the childhood of the United States was to be found in colonial New England, he wrote, "if we would understand the prejudices, the habits, and the passions which rule" the life of the mature man, "we must watch the infant in his mother's arms." Today, however, not many Americans—not even, perhaps, many New Englanders—feel that in observing the strict Protestants who emigrated to New England nearly four centuries ago they are watching their younger selves.

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Title: Writing New England: An Anthology from the Puritans to the Present

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