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Copyright 2006 by University of Notre Dame,Notre Dame Indiana 46556. www undpress nd edu,All Rights Reserved,Manufactured in the United States of America. Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data. Colacurcio Michael J, Godly letters the literature of the American Puritans Michael J Colacurcio. Includes bibliographical references and index,isbn 13 978 0 268 02290 7 alk paper. isbn 10 0 268 02290 9 alk paper, 1 American literature Puritan authors History and criticism.
2 American literature Colonial period ca 1600 1775 History and criticism. 3 American literature New England History and criticism. 4 Christian literature American History and criticism. 5 Puritans New England Intellectual life I Title,ps153 p87c65 2006. 810 9 001 dc22,2006012839, The paper in this book meets the guidelines for permanence and durability of the Committee. on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity of the Council on Library Resources. 2006 University of Notre Dame Press,chapter one,a cost ly c a n a a n. Morton and the Margins of American Literature, One founding fact of American literary history as we have known it is that the. conscientious memorials of William Bradford have pretty well succeeded in mar. ginalizing the more whimsical if also more literary observations of Thomas. Morton Morton has had his champions from the timely editing of Charles Fran. cis Adams to the eccentric advertisement of William Carlos Williams to the. countercultural sponsorship of Richard Slotkin to the academic explication of. Donald Connors and Bradford has had his share of revisionists reminding us. that his wonderful manner of simple truth telling covers some blatant misrepre. sentations some of them probably deliberate 1 But a quick roundup of the usual. anthologies including those whose canonic reformism is much in vogue will. quickly establish the point beginning students of American literary culture are. regularly asked to read much more of Bradford s Plymouth than of Morton s. Canaan And over in the research library a quick global search of books and. articles will establish a similar preference for Bradford among the scholars 2. It would not be difficult to protest in the scale of this preference a certain. disproportion surely Morton s Nature counts as much as Bradford s Grace in the. unfolding of the national literary project Or with more political conviction we. could suggest that Morton does better by the Native Americans in prose and. probably in fact Yet we ought also to ask ourselves whether the present critical. situation might have been otherwise Can we imagine that Morton might have. won not the mock heroic encounter at the much renamed Mount of Mer. riment but in the long aftermath the more important contest for the loyalty of. the New England generations and then of the larger American audience Is this. 2006 University of Notre Dame Press,4 prologue, one of those cases now famous in the literature of canon revision in which.
reputation is shaped by the mere pleasure of persons with privilege of gender. and power of the press Or can we actually defend the clear cut of Bradford s. To ask the question at all is to risk the embarrassment of trying to rewrite. Hawthorne s May pole of Merry Mount and to do that as I have taken pains. to show elsewhere is to get caught up in the allegory in which whenever faced. with some dialectical opposite Puritanism seems destined always to win Suit. ably deconstructed however what Hawthorne s little story actually reveals is that. Puritanism always wins because Puritans are always there to create the dialectic. and to structure their story just so and because conversely no line of prophets. has arisen on purpose to dispute their claim with comparable resources and. equal vigor wherever it should arise 4 But even this tautological discovery is not. without relevance revealing as it does the fact that literary history is no less. written than any other sort and reminding us perhaps that Puritans tend to. write more profusely perhaps more uncontrollably than other social types But. sooner or later we come back to the root question Granted that history is written. by the winners can we yet discover any apolitical reason why Bradford s annals. of certain weather beaten Pilgrims have proved more largely repeatable than. Morton s racier account of love and sport in the New World Canaan. Surely Morton s text is not without its distinct pleasures and some of these. it seems fair to observe may lie closer to Renaissance traditions of witty writing. that lent their pleasing example to the formulators of the notion of the beautiful. letters definition of literature in the next century Yet British literature has been. as happy to concede the playful Morton to their Americanist colleagues as they. have the more sober work of Bradford himself For the moment at least a small. paradox Morton s book is altogether more literary than Bradford s without being. in any significant sense better We need to locate the pleasure or Bradford s vic. tory will seem empty because uncontested But unless we can also notice the. problems not much else in the literary history of New England will make suffi. cient sense, Only by the famous Third Book do we realize that Morton s gift is not for an. thropological insight or even for pastoral evocation but for satire particularly in. the emergent subgenre of Puritan baiting There in an extended account of the. author s Pyrrhic defeat at the hands of certain allegorically named Separatists. who seem to have marked him for some special enmity Morton makes his bid to. discredit the claims of an adversary whose culture he scorns and whose source of. 2006 University of Notre Dame Press,A Costly Canaan 5. authority he hesitates even to name But something of his whimsy appears from. the outset pleasant and playful and suggestive enough to help us to misidentify. the reasons why Morton has been able to make and maintain a modest canonical. After a verse prologue assuring us that the rich resources of the New En. glish Canaan are as eager to be ravished as any fair virgin 10 5 Morton launches. his hyperbolic praise of the geographic bliss of the Zona Temperata in which his. wondrous discovery happens to lie Zonas Frigida and Torrida are disqualified as. easily as an unlucky demographic guess of Aristotle and the knightly personage. of the noble minded Ferdinando Georges 15 is smoothly enlisted as patron. of Morton s enthusiastic ideal of the golden mean New Canaan or not New. England is a middle class opportunity as Englishmen already knew from the less. stylized evocations of John Smith And though students are often struck by the. ethics of Morton s very next discovery that New England s aboriginal popula. tion of Infidels are most full of humanity 17 than the Christians newly. arrived their sober sensibility is troubled by the quasi puritanic complacency. with which Morton confesses that a recent plague has indeed made this Canaan. more fit for the English nation to inhabit in 24 And what but unregulated. satire can anyone make of a zany classicism which discovers that as the language. of these New World followers of Pan is derived from Latin and Greek so the. Natives of New England may derive from the scattered Trojans after Brutus. departed from Latium 20 Maybe someone having miscounted they are. the thirteenth tribe of Israel Maybe they came from the moon. Elsewhere this not unloving anthropology notices that though they have no. religion properly so called Algonquians at least have the wit to cover their naked. ness Less symbolically they acknowledge a Creator and hope for a form of im. mortality They are by no means a dull or slender witted people 43 and their. senses are remarkably well developed They may indeed incline to drunken. ness but they have not Morton insists been abetted in this practice by himself. or his associates Then in conclusion and as if to specify the out setting theme of. the golden mean the Salvages of this Canaan are seen to have been living all. along an altogether contented life poor only by some inflated standard of civi. lized luxury they have learned without the benefit of Thoreau s experiment. that it is but food and raiment that living men need and that the rarity of the. air they breathe well displaces any imaginable variety of sauces to procure ap. petite Lacking nothing needful why cannot these Natives be said to live. Nor is there any falling off from this will to appreciation as Morton moves. into his Second Book on the beauty of the country with her natural endow. 2006 University of Notre Dame Press,6 prologue, ments Elsewhere criticism might labor to found the episteme of modernism on. Columbus minimalist discovery that the farther one goes the more one learns 6. but Morton s mantra is simpler still His arrival in June Anno Salutis 1622. may have been but one more chance in the life of a traveling man but his re. sponse was like any judgment of taste altogether fatal The more I looked. the more I liked it 60 61 Any justification of this judgment would have itself. to be poetical and thus Morton breaks into a short list of natural occasions for. pleasure bordering on transport Trees hillocks and plains set down in haste. sweet crystal fountains and clear running streams that twine in fine me. anders through the meads making so sweet a murmuring noise to hear as. would even lull the senses with delight a sleep so pleasantly do they glide. upon the pebble stones, all hurrying down poetically to Neptune s Court And then as if to insist that. diction alone cannot a poem make this preliminary evocation of Pastoral Plea. sure and previous invitation to Romantic Joy this fulsome praise of Nature s. master piece lapses to the meter of its own mimesis. Her chiefest magazine of all where lives her store. If this land be not rich then is the whole world poor 60. The needless alexandrine for those who stay awake to count in Lotus Land. But reason not the need these lovely facts themselves the greatest poem. Or more nearly so at any rate than the familiar list of lists thus introduced. Trees so loved of old Columbus 7 in daunting difference and numberless ex. cess herbs for sallets if only in a line or two birds and feathered fowls. including for the gourmand turkeys which can hardly keep from crowding. themselves into our cook room and which are by many degrees sweeter than. the tame turkeys of England feed them how you can 69 and including also. for the American born too soon for a visit to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris a cer. tain humming bird no bigger than a great beetle that lives upon the bee. which he eateth and catcheth amongst flowers 73 and beasts of the forest. and stones and minerals and fishes so abundant that the inhabitants of. New England do dung their grounds with cod and which is yet as Smith had. clearly implied a commodity better than the golden mines of the Spanish In. dies 86 And so forth Until one comes to appreciate the wisdom of an honest. 2006 University of Notre Dame Press,A Costly Canaan 7.
book on the subject of this not quite settler literature sooner or later readers will. have to develop an esthetics of the list 8 Evidently it comes with the territory. In spite of this generic demand however Book 2 manages a proper climax. on the goodness of the country and its waters especially those of the Great. Lake of Erocoise and it has proved strong enough to attract the bemused notice. of that prophet of Prophetic Waters John Seelye Everywhere the water excel. leth Canaan by much and indeed at Ma re Mount there was a water most. excellent for the cure of melancholy 92 93 No milk and honey to be sure. but this definitional lack is more than supplied by the redundant overflow of. every other good thing so that no sensible man will hold this land unworthy to. be entitled by the name of the second Canaan And then while scholarship. pauses to consider how studied may be this insult to the self denying Separat. ists and to those later Puritan immigrants who stoutly insisted that the only. proper fulfillment of Canaan s typological promise was that otherworldly para. dise of heaven itself Morton goes on to predict that the green and golden venue. of some really Great Lake as yet by him unseen is surely the principalist place. for a plantation in all New Canaan both for pleasure and profit 97 Enticing. prediction indeed less than is suggested by Seelye s evocation of green fire. perhaps and far off from Slotkin s intimation of violent redemption but quite. enough to indicate the possibility of a New World project most unlike either ver. sion of Miller s famous Errand 9, But as it would be a mistake to stop reading Morton just here before his. climactic and carefully arranged confrontation with that very enterprise so. would it be misleading to think of the enticing and perhaps subversive Project of. Nature as beginning with Morton s witty advertisement Columbus himself was. at times almost distracted from his overwhelming desire to discover treasure or. to meet the Great Khan by the transporting sight of trees whose green is so. intense that it is no longer green Indeed as Todorov observes there is no end. to the enumeration of all of Columbus s admirations and the forms of beauty he. encounters are everywhere a threat to worldly purpose of any sort at one moment. the singing of the small birds is such that it would seem that a man would never. Godly letters the literature of the American Puritans Michael J Colacurcio p cm Includes bibliographical references and index isbn 13 978 0 268 02290 7 alk paper isbn 10 0 268 02290 9 alk paper 1 American literature Puritan authors History and criticism 2 American literature Colonial period ca 1600 1775 History and criticism 3 American literature New

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