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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,

Mass Bay Colony
• The Puritans were the center of
colonial culture
– Founded 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 witches
Government controlled by the church
The Devil

Puritan Values
Education – created America’s first
Hard Work
Family Life
Community Service
The forest is evil and home to the Devil

Characteristics of Puritan
• The Bible provided a
model for Puritan writing
– each individual life was
a journey to salvation.
• They saw a direct
connection between
Biblical events
(allusions) and their own

Characteristics of Puritan
• They used writing to explore the inner and
outer lives for signs of the workings of
• Diaries and histories were the most
common types of literature.
• They favored a “plain style” similar to that
of the Geneva Bible and stressed clear
expressions over complicated figures of

William Bradford
• 1590-1657
• Of Plymouth

• Described
hardships of
journey to New
World; unshakeable
belief in God.
• Plain Style of
writing - few
figures of speech
or metaphors.

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 hardshipused allusions to
Biblical stories.

Anne Bradstreet
• 1612-1672
• The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in
America…By a Gentlewoman in Those
• Published in England without her
• 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
• 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

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.