The following are some interesting ideas from "A History of the Book in America," that relate to our class discussion. These ideas and sentences have been taken directly from the book so I will cite as follows:
Hall, David D. A history of the Book in America. Volume One. The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World.
Cambridge, United Kingdom:Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Pg. 26 - Lawrence C. Wroth, in his standard account of colonial American printing, claims a "spiritual force" for the printing press that is, apparently, denied to "a spinning wheel of the same period"; once more, the man's "spiritual" machine seems to triumph over the woman's merely "material" one.
I found this to be an interesting comment and it shows that this man in particular was asserting a spiritual nature over the ability to print and automatically connected it with men whereas the spinning wheel was only thought to be a tool for material needs - I wonder if he was wearing clothing when he made that statement.
Pg. 28 - The "colonial book" was what the colonists bought and read, as well as what they printed or reprinted, and no special importance was attached to its place of manufacture - in marked contrast to the protectionism that prospered from the Revolution to the Second World War.
This is a comment about how the American mind-set changed as time went on - the colonists did not care at first whether books were printed in New England and most often sought out what was coming from England itself. Once the Revolution took hold, that mind-set changed.
Pg 34 - London's commerce with the Colonies - As seen from London, the colonies were only another, more distant province of England, and the mechanisms by which the London trade supplied books to Norwich, York, or Exeter also operated to supply Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.
This statement illuminates how England viewed the colonies - that they were just another port in which to exchange commerce.
Pg 45 - In London, printing was a separate trade, but in the colonies it was generally combined with a "bookshop," - the colonial trade thus differed from London's in its lack of specialization.
Pg 55 - The history of the book trades in the 17th century Chesapeake is a history of absences and censorship. Books were an insignificant element in the trade that brought scores of ships to the Chesapeake each year to exchange European goods for tobacco.
Pg. 65 - In the absence of retail trade, books arrived in the colonies because someone chose to bring them over, as a schoolmaster was doing shortly after the turn of the century, or because a local institution deemed them necessary. Books were significant for several reasons - there were books that helped root the two dominant religious faiths - protestant and catholic, there were books that were utilitarian in nature, ie. manuals for surgery or pharmacology, and there were books written by those that were eager to share their impressions of the new world with the rest of the world as we have seen in our readings in class.
The excerpts that I read in Hall's writing allowed me to better understand the relationship that evolved and changed between the colonies and England. As we have eluded to in class, it is clear to see that England saw the colonies as a way to make money, just as they saw any other new land venture. The colonies had a need to be attached to the homeland in the face of the wilderness that they found. As the colonies moved toward revolution, the nature of the writing and publishing changed to reflect the mind-set of the what was becoming a new nation as writers found the need to separate themselves in print from England.
As we shift from the Reformation to the Enlightenment as the overarching intellectual paradigm informing our reading, "episteme" is a term that will be useful to know and consider. I could not find a satisfactory compact definition of the term in its contemporary use, so I will take a stab at doing one myself.
For "episteme," the OED has "Scientific knowledge, a system of understanding; spec. Foucault's term for the body of ideas which shape the perception of knowledge at a particular period. Cf.EPISTEMOLOGY."
"Epistemology," says the OED, is "The theory or science of the method or grounds of knowledge." This makes it sound less interesting than it really is, for what "method or grounds of knowledge" means is essentially how we know what we know, and more specifically, how we know what is true. Thus, we can consider an episteme as a structure, or "discursive formation" to use Foucault's phrase, that we understand as producing truth. The question of how we know what we know is important in a Calvinist context, but equally important as we move towards more secular texts that show a greater engagement with the physical world. To make a somewhat crude comparison, the figure of Mary Rowlandson we see in the text of Sovereignty and Goodness of God knows what she knows because of the Bible. Conversely, Josselyn knows what he knows because of a combination of observation and hearsay. In a more contemporary context, it's not hard to see evidence of battling epistemes on debates over how to teach the origin of human beings in public schools.
The usefulness of the idea of structures that produce knowledge within a particular culture, (as opposed to the more familiar idea of a world of facts discovered/awaiting discovery) is easy to see in the world of academia. If we pick up a journal of astronomy, say, our sense that what we read is true is underscored by the knowledge that the journal is peer-reviewed. An article with outlandish, unsupportable statements would be spotted by other experts in the field, and the article would be rejected. So we, in general terms, trust peer-reviewed research as having a measure of credibility.
But consider this journal, and this journal. If the criteria is "peer-reviewed scholarship," both journals have the same hallmarks of truth, but it would be hard to find a scholar who would be comfortable citing from both in the same article. If nothing else this crude example demonstrates that much of what we consider to be facts rests on the unstable ground of custom and social relations. Truth, rather than a fixed constellation of facts, has what Steven Shapin calls a "social history."
Outside of an academic context, the idea of the episteme helps to explain who can tell the truth about what. As Foucault details, knowledge and power are interlinked. As we saw with Anne Hutchinson, what came out of her womb was truer that what came out of her mouth -- more generally, male physicians can make authoritative statements about the diseases of women, while the reverse was unthinkable until recently. On a global scale, the discourse of Orientalism, for example, is a discursive structure, or episteme, that governs what Westerners (Europeans and North Americans) can say and know about the "Orient." To consider this globally imbalanced episteme, it may be useful to compare Indiana Jones (ca. Raiders of the Lost Ark), and Borat. Who produces truth, and why?
In the context of our class, this question of where truth comes from will be important when we read Josselyn and Ward this week. It may also explain how, when we gets to Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson can talk about black people in the way that he does.
Jill Lepore's book, "The Name of War" is a different sort of text regarding the nature of war. Instead of merely studying the cut-and-dry facts of King Phillip's War, she explores both sides of the conflict, and traces four specific elements of the war to demonstrate how the English came to view themselves in regards to the Indians, and how the outcomes of this war shaped the initial foundations of American identity.
In the introduction of the book, Lepore writes about how the English had the "literall advantage", which was the ability to read and write. Essentially, this translates into the Englishmen's overwhelming advantage to record history as they saw fit. This notion of having the literall advantage in a war feeds directly into Lepore's opinion that "war is a contest for meaning" (page xxi). This book is about how the English manipulated their literall advantage to write the course of history. To explain this point, Lepore uses language, war, bondage, and memory.
Some background on the situation is necessary. The conflict began when a Christian Indian, Sassamon, confessed to a colonial governor that the Indian Sachem, Phillip was planning a rebellion against the colonies. Sassamon departed, and then he mysteriously died a few days later. Three Indians were charged with Sassamon's death, and were sentenced to execution. It is largely believed that this was the spark that ignited the conflict.
Something that I found very interesting was what Lepore wrote about the actual title of the war. The English referred to it as King Phillip's War. Phillip was renamed from Metacom to Phillip by the English. His brother was also renamed Alexander. This is significant because the English renamed them after Macedonian leaders, in reference to Acts 16:9, when the Apostle Paul sees a vision of Macedonia citizens begging for help. The act of renaming these Indian leaders, and then titling the war after them, demonstrates part of the English justification for participating in this war. They manipulated the conflict into the righteous desire to convert the Indians, and spread God's love. They did this in order to conceal an insidious fear.
A dominant theme in the book is that the English greatly feared the possibility of becoming like the Indians, and losing their inherent "Englishness". One incredibly accurate illustration of this fear is seen in the event that Lepore describes in the beginning of her book. There is text that provides evidence that at one point during the war, an Indian was captured. As his punishment, he was encircled by his captors, a group of Indians whom fought with the English. In this instance, the English gave their Indian allies permission to torture and kill the prisoner, while they stood by and watched. This example portrays the English as wanting to witness the savagery, but unwilling to take up the mantle of responsibility. Essentially, they have the Indians do their dirty work, in order to maintain their pristine image as a civilized people. This is a perfect example of their fear of becoming "savages". Interestingly enough, from an Indian's cultural perspective, this circle was representative of a sort of emotional catharsis, and a means of mourning, a far cry from the spectacle that the English viewed as barbaric.
The first way that Lepore describes this war is in context to language. She often says in her book that the English sought to achieve a "victory of wounds and words", meaning that they wanted to win the actual war, as well as the right to mold history into such a way as to portray them and their cause in the most appropriate light. It is common knowledge that the victor determines how a war is generally viewed, and this case is no different. The English managed to kill Phillip, so they "won" the right to dictate history as they saw fit. Also, their ability to record the happenings of that time also creates a substantial bias in how we percieve this conflict today. The Indians possessed limited means of passing their messages and reasons for going to war, so there is very little that we can learn from their perspective.
Next, Lepore describes this conflict in reference to war. One of the primary themes that I noticed in this section was the allusion to nakedness as equated with savagery. There are several examples that relate to this, such as the incident involving Goody Thurston. After an Indian attack, she was stripped naked and partially scalped, so as she ran for help, she was shunned by her neighbors, because she was clad only in a blanket, and covered in blood. During this time, painters were also commissioned to create works of art that depicted bloody and gruesome pictures, and portrayed the Indians in an infinitely ignorant and negative way. Lepore also writes of how there was a fear that these attacks from the Indians were God's punishment for failing to convert them. Again, this mindset created the illusion that the English were simply retaliating, as opposed to taking an active position in the war.
Bondage was another thing that Lepore wrote about in this book. There was a lot of contrast regarding particular victims, and this section details specific gender stereotypes that were associated with male and female captives. For example, Mary Rowlandson's captivity was regarded as a spiritual journey, and a means of testing her ability to maintain her "Englishness" while living among the Indians. She even wrote a book about her experiences, which was later published. On the other hand, Joshua Tift was also taken into captivity, but when he was released from Indian society, the English convicted him of treason, and he was executed. The mindset regarding his particular situation was that he was a man, and therefore possessed the ability to defend his freedom. Also, there were some questions pertaining to how he lived while in captivity. The book details that he worked, ate, and associated with the Indians. In large part, he became acclimated to their culture, as opposed to remaining a stoic Englishman. This adaptation to the Indian culture cost him his life.
Memory was the final element that Lepore wrote about. Since the English won the war, they were able to write the history of it. They created the memories after the participants were gone, and they were the ones to continually depict the Indian "savagery" as opposed to the English "righteousness". This is made evident in the play that was written, called The Last of Wampanoags, which detailed the supposed history of King Phillip's War, and passed off dramatized fiction as historical fact.
The general point of the book is to examine how King Phillip's War was constructed by the English. Because they were the victors, they were able to chronicle the events, which in turn became a part of the American history that we know today. Lepore also traces the Englishmen's great fear of becoming savages, and examines how that fear motivated their courses of action, and how it shaped the very way that America first identified herself.
"By birth more noble than those creatures all,
Yet seems by nature and by custom cursed,
No sooner born, but grief and care makes fall
That state obliterate he had at first..."
---Anne Bradstreet, "Contemplations"
This book is Round's attempt at providing an explanation of Bradstreet's words "by nature and by custom cursed" and how it is an essential concept in the understanding of 17th century New England culture.
I found the most useful and interesting information in the Introduction. Round states that the book is not a book about Puritanism, but rather a book involving Puritans. Further, it is a study of New England cultural formation which begins with Bradstreet's "mediation on the vanity of the natural world precisely because its primary terms--nature and custom--were employed by a wide variety of early modern English men and women to set the parameters of conversations about everything custom" (1).
He then focuses directly on Bradstreet's choice of the words "nature" and "custom" in the poem. He says that when she wrote this, she was speaking in at least two registers: 1. of English civil society, and 2. of Reformed Protestantism, with their different resonances depending on the social context in which they are uttered. He then says that with Bradstreet in particular, "to orthodox members of her own Puritan community, nature and custom referred to natural depravity at one extreme and to the newly invented 'customs' of Archbishop Laud's Anglican Church at the other" (1).
Round also makes an argument that "the various and competing discourses that adhered to debates about the meaning of custom and nature during the English 17th century had a profound impact on first generation New England's own self-representation" (2).
Round discusses one very important topic pertaining to 17th century New England: civil conversation. According to Round, New England's cultural formation arose within "the ferment of the broader English discourse of 'civil conversation,' a discursive sphere whose limits were fixed by nature and custom, and within which early modern English men and women negotiated their increasing anxieties about social hierarchy, a topic that dominated 17th century English political though" (2). He further describes this idea by calling it a "discursive engine for an emerging moral economy based on social change, contractual relationships, and colonial expansion" (3).
He explains in detail this "engine" by saying that it offers to preserve social order in the emerging nation by:
1. Promoting the continuance of communication
2. Exhibition of "noble" manners
3. Performance of a gentlemanly ethos over all other rhetorical concerns
This is especially important with regard to the poetry of Anne Bradstreet because during the period of her Lincolnshire upbringing, civil conversation was a vital component of the efforts of English men and women to come to terms with the social fragmentation that had resulted from: rapid population growth, inflation, enclosure, polarization of wealth, increasing poverty and a general fear of disorder. He explains that under this "menacing social climate," English citizens turned their attention toward the popular culture of English villages because change was most visible in these areas.
Round then goes on to explain the concept of a "curse" in terms of 17th century Puritanism in New England. He explains that the Old World social positions continued to haunt English me and women in the New World, shadowing much of what was "truly innovative, saintly and progressive in their social institutions" They remained somewhat "cursed" by both nature and custom in the sense that they were "held in thrall to English civil conversation long after they settled in the New World" He explains that in this sense, Bradstreet's choice of word "cursed" was appropriate because by designating a predestination of a curse, she cleverly but covertly acknowledges that the colonists' destiny remained tied to the problems of the mother country--a situation that Round argues was formative in New England cultural development.
Round also discusses Bradstreet with regard to her similarities with Anne Hutchinson. He writes that both women, whether by immediate or later recollection, were fearful and dreadful of the "new world [with] new manners" that awaited them on the New England shore. Round claims that this similarity proves that New England's emigrant women were "immediately placed in a tense discursive position in which they rarely felt free to release their cultural productions into the public world of male judgment."
Also, both Hutchinson and Bradstreet seemed to have benefited from very strong, educative relationships with their fathers, which is evident especially when Bradstreet writes a manuscript to of her poetry to her father allowing him to determine it's literary faith. He explains that in 17th century New England, it was common practice among educated reformers for fathers and daughters to share cultural spaces like the study. Having been educated by her father, Bradstreet was well aware that her writing would be perceived as suspect and an "unnatural" act and Round states that by writing the manuscript, Bradstreet was "participating in a long-established Renaissance tradition strongly marked by class implications"
Kaplan, “Left Alone with
Amy Kaplan’s article is an introduction to the book Cultures of Unites States Imperialism, which explores “the multiple histories of continental and overseas expansion, conquest, conflict, and resistance” that have impacted the
Kaplan begins her article with two quotes, which I think are important to the understanding and comprehension of this text. I have reproduced these quotes below.
One of the central themes of American historiography is that there is no American Empire. Most historians will admit, if pressed, that the
Through significant and underscored omissions, startling contradictions, heavily nuanced conflicts, through the way writers peopled their work with the sign and bodies of the presence—one can see that a real or fabricated Africanist presence was crucial to their sense of Americanness. –Toni Morrison, 1992
Kaplan relates heavily to Perry Miller’s 1959 preface to Errand into the Wilderness. Kaplan recaps the preface to Miller’s book throughout this article. Kaplan presents the argument that when, as a society, we speak of the
In this article, Kaplan argues that Miller’s model of American studies remains today and that we still have a lot to learn. Kaplan expands on this idea by also looking at Toni Morrison and noting that culture impacts
This text relates directly to our course through its analysis of Miller.
Kaplan attributes the beginning of American Studies to Miller, noting:
In the 1956 preface Miller recalls how as a college dropout in the 1920s
he boarded an oil tanker for
Much like the Puritan errand, Miller’s trip to
Miller’s preface argues that to understand a nation one must look at multiple aspects of that nation. He realized this when moving oil in
This article is two-fold: noting Miller’s work in the
American Studies is multi-faceted.
"Now in an artificial world like ours, the soul of man is further removed from its God and the Heavenly Truth, than the chronometer carried to China, is from Greenwich. And, as that chronometer, if at all accurate, will pronounce it to be 12 o'clock high-noon, when the China local watches say, perhaps, it is 12 o'clock midnight; so the chronometric soul, if in this world true to its Greenwich in the other, will always, in its so-called intuitions of right and wrong, be contradicting the mere local standards and watchmaker's brains of this earth.... And yet it follows not from this, that God's truth is one thing and man's truth another; but---as hinted above, and as will be further elucidated in subsequent lectures---by their very contradictions they are made to correspond." Melville, Pierre; or, The Ambiguities
[Now just marinate on that....]
All right. Everyone get on board the magic rocket ship. I got the book Saturday and I've had a sick kid all weekend-so if this isn't as linguistically scholarly-ish as you're all used to...I apologize.
Here we go:
The American Jeremiad...is
summed up through the following series of quotes and statements. My words are in red. Bercovitch’s appear in black.
No special meaning attached to colors folks. None at all.
In short: it is essential to note that the American jeremiad confirms our suspicions of Puritanical control of society via the pulpit, and that this control created [for better or worse] the America we know today. Bercovitch does point out the catch-22 of the jeremiad—in that it cannot exist with out something to rage against. It depends on the buggary [if you will] of society in order to spout its damnation and spur on its message of ‘hope’.
I apologize for this coming a day late; there were some complications with finding the book.
I’m going to have to ask the class to think back to “New England’s First Fruits”, while I talk about “The Poor Indians” because the text pertains to what Laura M. Stevens discusses in her book. The first section of “New England’s First Fruits” was a missionary writing that referred to the conversion of several Indians to Christianity. Essentially, Stevens’s entire book focuses on the English missionary writings that were sent back to Britain. Throughout her book she discusses the language used in the missionary writings that sparked an emotional wave through Britain which helped induce a British nationalist pride of high ethical and moral standards.
It’s an interesting thought and one which the class might have been on the brink of touching on Monday. Several people brought up the language that was used in the writing of “New England’s First Fruits” and commented on the strange choice of words used to describe the Indians. The majority of the adjectives used to describe the Indians weren’t words that one might use in sympathy for a person one considered equal. Some of the common words that were used to stir emotional feelings for the Indians were, “Wretched, wretch, poor, pity, pitiable, miserable, etc.” Stevens claims that the choice of adjectives used were very important. To a modern ear, the majority of the adjectives used might be considered derogatory, like “wretched” or “miserable”. However, when reading some of the descriptions that use “pity” or “poor”, a modern ear might consider these to have a sympathetic connotation. According to Stevens it’s a simple mistake that must be fixed by reminding the reader to realize that most missionary writings did intend to evoke an emotional response from their readers, but were not intended to bring sympathy from the readers. “Missionary writings were more likely to ask for readers’ pity than their sympathy for Indians, and for good reason. Sympathy—which comes from the Greek word pathos, meaning feeling or suffering, and a prefix meaning like or same—has to do, of course, with an imagined or authentic experience of shared feeling...Pity comes from the Latin word pietas, or piety, which in turn comes from the pius, meaning duty. In its most literal form this word does not describe an emotion born of sameness, but rather the mercy born of religious devotion.” (Stevens 8)
Therefore, these religious advertisements, which is basically what they were, were drawing upon the English readers’ pity. During the 17th century, being able to feel pity meant that one was made of a higher moral standard and essentially a better person than the one being pitied. The missionary writings drew upon the British people’s desire to be considered a nation of higher standards. In reality, the writings about the “poor Indians” were probably more of a spectacle or voyeurism for the British. The Indians were very far away, and distance is an important factor when one is trying to promote action or even a reaction from others. The British people had their own day to day sufferings and problems to deal with so why should they be bothered with the American Indians? This was why the missionary writings made sure to play up nationalism and give the readers’ a sense of unity in their shared endeavor to save the Indians! Furthermore, it drew up upon Britain’s imperialism which desired the world, but still wanted to go about conquering it in an honorable and moral way.
Stevens says that, “the history of British mission in North America was one in which words outweighed deeds and textual production exceeded conversions.” (Stevens 3) The missionary writings did accomplish their goal of fundraising, because according to Stevens they brought in a nice amount of money. However, the money did not seem to bring about many results because while there were a few conversions, “they were few and feeble” (Stevens 3).
I hope I was able to explain enough. There was so much to the book that it was difficult to keep this blog short and to the point while still trying to discuss the main idea.
Jonathan Beecher Field’s “A Key for the Gate: Roger
Williams, Parliament, and Providence,” is, at its worst, a highly accessible
text that fully explains how Roger Williams’ “A Key into the Language of
America” works as not only a guide for translation between the Native Americans
and the English, but as a metaphorical key that attempts to open a dialogue of
civility between the Native Americans, the new settlers of America, and the
English peoples as a whole, and at its best is a fascinating study of how Roger
Williams single-handedly won over the English parliament in favor of treating
the Native Americans as a body of people, while at the same time securing a
piece of land (recognized by both the Native Americans and the English Parliamentary
members as legitimate) where he would be free to practice his dissenting views
Let me sum this up for you in short and in a way only JBF
himself could do:
JBF <3 Roger Williams
Roger Williams was a Puritan migrant who showed up on the
western shores of the Atlantic during the early 1600’s. He was a highly intellectual individual, but
he “soon began to make enemies among Boston’s ministers and magistrates.”
(355). This was because: “he challenged the prevalent English conviction that,
because the American continent lay beyond the pale of Christendom, the English
sovereign had the prerogative, with a mere stroke of his pen, to grant vast
tracts of it to his subjects.” (355). In other words, he challenged the idea
that the newly arrived American settlers could simply take land from the Native
Thus, after acquiring a grant of land from the Native
Americans, Roger Williams set out on a trip across the Atlantic to meet with
the English Parliamentary members, who were themselves in the midst of a
separate revolution, to attempt to legitimize the idea that Native Americans “are
autonomous peoples, who have, like their European counterparts, sovereignty over
their land.” (366).
Perhaps of most importance to Williams’ successful argument
was his creation of a book of Native American and English phrases, called A Key into the Language of America: or an
help to the language of the Natives in that part of America, called
New-England. This book, though built
in what could easily be considered a didactic manner, is “not so much to teach
Londoners how to speak to Native Americans but rather to teach them how to
think about America.” (366).
Up until the writing of this book, the American natives were
considered, for various reasons, to have been a race of savage people. Through his book, Williams “imbues his London
readers with a sense of the Narragansett’s’ humanity.” (367). Williams creates
a people that are civil; through this book, he gives them a societal structure,
a language that can be comprehended by all, and through this he reinforces the
idea that ownership of land cannot be parceled out in grand chunks from across
It should be said, however, that Williams’ achievements were
not simply limited to creating the beginnings of an equal footing between the
Native Americans and the English, but also the beginnings of a state government
without religion. The statement Williams
received from the English parliament also “proclaims that the government of
Providence Plantations will enjoy equal status with that of Massachusetts,”
(377), and offers Williams the opportunity to practice his own religion as he
pleases. “The physical space he created on the shore of Narragansett Bay became
the ground from which further religious dissent could be promulgated.” (380).
My assessment of JBF’s assessment of Williams’ work has become a bit of a book review, so I can’t help but add it in: Go read the damn thing. It’ll be the most accessible and enjoyable bit of reading you’ve done so far this semester; I promise.