The University of Wisconsin Press
Literature and Criticism--American
Early American Poetry
Selections from Bradstreet, Taylor, Dwight, Frenea & Bryant
Edited by Jane Donahue Eberwein
Here is the first major-figure anthology of American poetry of the colonial and early national periods, an indespensable volume for both students and scholars of American literature and civilization.
Five major literary figures are spotlighted: Anne Bradstreet (1612–1672), Edward Taylor (1642–1729), Timothy Dwight (1752–1817), Philip Freneau (1752–1832), and William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878). An introduction to each chapter summarizes the life of the poet, reviews his or her literary career, describes and evaluates artistic achievement, and places the poet in an intellectual context. The writer's relationship to changing religious, philosophical, political, and cultural patterns is established.The contemporary perspective is augmented by the inclusion of an appendix which presents three important poems by other writers: Michael Wigglesworth's "God's Controversy with New England," Ebenezer Cook's The Sot-Weed Factor, and Joel Barlow's "Hasty Pudding."
Eberwein goes beyond the most popular and familiar works to include those of unrecognized literary merit, presenting a thoroughly unique approach which illuminates the full rangeof the writers' themes, forms, and poetic voices. For example, several of Anne Bradstreet's extended works on political and intellectual topics accompany her more accessible and enjoyable personal lyrics. Further, Eberwein has annotated the poems to clarify historical and literary allusions and to define words likely to puzzle the student and general reader. The result is a fascinating and varied collection of poetry which presents a well-rounded view of the American colonial heritage.
The early American intellectual climate emerges as the book develops cultural continuities and transitions in literature. Changing emphases in American Puritanism can be traced, for instance, by reading Bradstreet, Taylor, and Dwight in sequence and by considering Bryant's roots in New England Calvinism. The Enlightenment and neoclassicism are examined in relation to Dwight, Freneau, and early Bryant, while romanticism emerges in Freneau to flower in Bryant. Democratic political values gradually displace the hierarchical sssumptions found in Bradstreet's poems on public issuses, and a growing consciousness of specifically American identity can be traced.
Eberwein adresses the aesthetic question as well as the historical aspect. In her selection and elucidation of the works, she illustrates changes in the poets' estimates of the importance and fuction of art.
In short, the seedbed of American poetry is sampled and explored as never before. This is the only anthology of colonial poety aspiring to depth rather than breadth. The general reader, as well as the student, will enjoy this collection, which familiarizes him with a few special writers rather than introducing him hastily to a bewildering range of archaic work.
Jane Donahue Eberwein is Professor of English at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Her articles on early American literature have appeared in numerous literary journals, including Papers on Language and Literature, American Transcendental Quarterly, and Early American Literature.
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LC: 91-026346 PS
398 pp. 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
The cloth edition, ISBN 0-299-07440-4 is out of print
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