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  • II Literature to 1800
  • William J. Scheick

The highlight of this year is A Companion to the Literatures of Early America, ed. Susan Castillo and Ivy Schweitzer (Blackwell). Devoted to recent developments in comparative or cross-cultural colonial studies, the 33 essays in this book cover such topics as New World encounters, national identities, narrative genres, and methodological issues. Several of these essays are noted below.

i First Encounters, Native Americans, and John Smith

In The Juan Pardo Expeditions: Exploration of the Carolinas and Tennessee, 1566-1568 (Alabama) Charles Hudson provides a new edition of an early Spanish account of the first sustained European contact with Native Americans. The experiences of the Costanoan and Esselen peoples in the Monterey region are recovered in Steven W. Hackel's Children of Coyote, Missionaries of St. Francis: Indian-Spanish Relations in Colonial California, 1769-1850 (No. Car.). By combining textual and demographic evidence, Hackel documents the impact of Spanish disease, jurisprudence, economics, and religion on these Indians who struggled to survive physically and culturally within the confines of missionary institutions.

New World encounters interpreted from the viewpoint of commercial possibilities interest Nan Goodman, whose "Mercantilism and Cultural Difference in Cabeza de Vaca's Relación" (EAL 40: 229-50) portrays a narrator who speaks of himself primarily in economic terms. Vaca's Relación also figures in "The Genres of Exploration and Conquest Literatures" [End Page 217] by E. Thomas Shields Jr. (Companion, pp. 353-68). Although the genre of exploration and conquest does not exhibit any formal literary properties, Shields contends, it does commonly exhibit recurrent rhetorical effects determined by attempts to describe or claim new lands.

How a chronicler's account of Native American behavior contradicts his narrative representation of peaceful coexistence in the New World is Lisa Voigt's topic in " 'Por Andarmos Todos Casy Mesturados': The Politics of Intermingling in Caminha's Carta and Colonial American Anthologies" (EAL 40: 407-39). On the other hand, Ed White's "Invisible Taganysough" (PMLA 120: 751-67) challenges the standard scholarly belief that Thomas Harriot's subjectivity in A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia displaces reliable information about the Algonkians' reaction to their first contact with the Roanoke settlers. White identifies textual instances of "counter-ethnography" that effectively bridge European and Native American viewpoints.

Envisioning an English Empire: Jamestown and the Making of the North Atlantic World, ed. Robert Appelbaum and John Wood Sweet (Penn.), consists of 14 essays on such subjects as the ideological implications of Smith's maps of Virginia, the impact of the Spanish colonial presence on Smith's interpretation of his New World experiences, and the influence of the Ottoman Empire on Smith's attitude toward miscegenation. One essay, Peter C. Herman's " 'We All Smoke Here': Behn's The Widdow Ranter and the Invention of American Identity" (pp. 254-74), considers how Aphra Behn's last play reflects a widespread English expectation: that the American colonies would eventually become independent. However, English colonists were actually trying to conserve their homeland heritage.

ii Bradstreet, Taylor, and Colonial Poetry

In Popular Measures: Poetry and Church Order in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts (Delaware) Amy M. E. Morris delves into the performative nature of several critically resistant Puritan poems. Her thesis is straight-forward: in refashioning poetic English models Puritan poets developed an art that replicated their New England religious culture's peculiar and inconsistent effort to reconcile conformity and nonconformity, as well as ritualistic liturgical practice and unmediated individual spirituality. Morris finds that despite its compilers' claims about a necessary imperfection in their translation, the Bay Psalm Book in fact reinstates [End Page 218] established liturgies. Michael Wigglesworth's The Day of Doom, which was influenced by the Bay Psalm Book, likewise underscores the inadequacy of art even as this public poem is presented as an artistic spiritual agency. As another example of a facilitating tension between formulaic prototype and personal piety, Edward Taylor's Gods Determinations withdraws from such models as hymn, prayer, and antiphon, while at the same time this long poem echoes these very forms in a common language similar to conventional personal spiritual relations.

Morris advances a parallel discussion in "Plainness...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2125
Print ISSN
0065-9142
Pages
pp. 217-232
Launched on MUSE
2007-09-19
Open Access
No
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