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Anne Bradstreet

A Timeline for Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672):

1607: Jamestown is founded.
1608: Pocahontas saves John Smith.
1612: Anne Bradstreet is born in England (as Anne Dudley).
1613: Pocahontas is held hostage in Jamestown , is converted to Christianity, and marries John Rolfe.
1616: Pocahontas goes to England with Rolfe and dies there the next year.
1619: Black slavery is introduced in Virginia.
1620: Voyage of Mayflower.
1628: Anne Dudley marries Simon Bradstreet in England , becomes Anne Bradstreet.
1629: Massachusetts Bay Colony is chartered.
1630: Anne Bradstreet comes with her father and husband to Massachusetts Bay Colony.
1636: Harvard College is founded; first college in North America . ( University of Iowa is still 220 years in the future.)
1637: Pequot War, between Algonquin Indians and New England settlers.
1638: Anne Hutchinson is banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony for holding meetings of women and teaching that a direct relation with God was more important than following the doctrines and rules of the Puritan church.
1642: Anne Hutchinson and her family are massacred by Indians in New York .
1650: First edition of Anne Bradstreet's poems is published in England . Population of American colonies would fit easily into Kinnick Stadiumójust over 50,000 people.
1660: Population of American colonies is now nearly 85,000, just a bit larger than Iowa City today.
1670: Population of American colonies is now nearly 115,000.
1672: Anne Bradstreet dies.
1675-76: King Philip's War: the major war between Indians and New England settlers, with many raids on border towns. This war in effect destroyed traditional tribal structures in New England . The Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War are still a century in the future.

Further reading and study:

The criticism on Bradstreet is still sparse and not very imaginative, though an interesting essay or two appear each year, and there are signs that things are picking up as more and more critics examine her work in relation to feminist concerns of the past few decades.

Two short books that go through all the poetry and offer some interesting, if not very detailed, readings, are Josephine Piercy's Anne Bradstreet (1965), one of the Twayne series books (which means it tries to say a little bit about everything the author wrote), and Ann Stanford's Anne Bradstreet: The Worldly Puritan (1974), a persuasive reading of Bradstreet as a rebel against the Puritan orthodox theocracy, as a kind of anti-Puritan poet. Robert Daly's God's Altar: The World and the Flesh in Puritan Poetry (1978) is a corrective to Stanford's "anti-Puritan" book; he offers a detailed examination of how Puritan beliefs and Puritan attitudes toward art underlie all of Bradstreet's poetry, and he argues convincingly for an orthodox reading of her work, with some surprising results. Pattie Cowell and Ann Stanford collected a fairly strong group of essays on Bradstreet in Critical Essays on Anne Bradstreet (1983). And Jeffrey Hammond's Sinful Self, Saintly Self: The Puritan Experience of Poetry (1993) has a good section on Bradstreet, exploring her poetry in relation to the nature of the Puritan self. Two recent books, Jim Egan's Authorizing Experience (1999) and Phillip Round's By Nature and Custom Cursed (1999), contain chapters that re-examine Bradstreet's work in a detailed historical context and offer careful counter-arguments to some of the more radical claims about Bradstreet as an early feminist and a poetic radical: Egan emphasizes Bradstreet's renunciation of the physical world and of the physical body, while Round views her work as a complex interplay between England and New England and between family members.

With few facts to go on, Elizabeth Wade White has nevertheless come up with a long and remarkably detailed biography of Bradstreet, Anne Bradstreet: The Tenth Muse (1971); White uses a wide variety of source materials to give a good sense of Bradstreet's time and environment. Charlotte Gordon's Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Life of America's First Poet (2005) is a nice exercise in historical recovery. A sourcebook for getting a good background of Puritan times and Puritan writings is The Puritans, edited by Perry Miller and Thomas H. Johnson (rev. ed., 1963); its two volumes of writings cover a broad range of topics--the Puritan notions of history, of poetry, of literary theory, of science, of government, etc.

The standard text for Bradstreet's work is the one you are using--The Works of Anne Bradstreet, edited by Jeannine Hensley (1967). In Hensley's text, though, Bradstreet's orginal spellings have been modernized, and for detailed textual work and accurate transcriptions, you need to go to The Complete Works of Anne Bradstreet, edited by Joseph R. McElrath, Jr., and Allan P. Robb (1981). Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints published a facsimile edition of The Tenth Muse, Bradstreet's original 1650 book, in 1965; it includes photoplates of all her surviving manuscripts. There is also a new concordance to her poetry, by Raymond Craig, so you can look up particular words and find everywhere they appear in Bradstreet's poems: Concordance to the Complete Works of Anne Bradstreet (2000).

To explore the history of response to Bradstreet's work, see Raymond Dolle's Anne Bradstreet: A Reference Guide (1990), which lists everything written about her up to 1990. One fascinating reading of "Contemplations" is by John Lynen in his book called The Design of the Present (1969); the reading is embedded in a long and complex view of American poetry. Wendy Martin has investigated the interplay of three American women poets whom we'll be reading this term--Bradstreet, Dickinson, and Rich; her book is called An American Triptych (1984), and it contains some interesting readings of Bradstreet in the context of women's roles in Puritan culture and early feminist concerns.

 

Electronic Resources on Anne Bradstreet:

There is unfortunately not much available yet. On the following site, you can see sample pages from The Tenth Muse, Anne Bradstreet's original published book of poems (1650)., and you will find a link to "Representative Poetry Online," where you can get online versions of a number of Bradstreet's poems. There is also a brief biography available. Click here. An even better short biography is here.

If the links to poetry in the above page don't function properly, go here, where you can find "Contemplations," "Upon the Burning of Our House," and others.

This site has substantial information on Bradstreet's life and a lot of nonfunctioning links (and a few good ones). Click here.

The most exciting and valuable Bradstreet site is this one, where you will find beautiful color scans of the amazing manuscript notebook, from which come all of Bradstreet's "personal" poems and prose. As you leaf through this amazing notebook (from Stevens Memorial Library in North Andover, Massachusetts), the first 41 pages are prose and poetry in Anne Bradstreet's own hand. Following those 41 pages is a blank page 42, and then, in Anne's husband Simon's handwriting, his careful copy of another of her manuscript books found after her death (the original in Anne's hand has been lost). Here is where you will find the poems about the death of her grandchildren, the burning of her house, and so on. At the back of the book, after many blank pages, you'll find her poem, "As weary pilgrim, now at rest," in her own hand.

For a quick guide to Calvinism, the religious doctrines on which Bradstreet's faith was based, and for other information about Calvinism and John Calvin, check out this site.

 

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