Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rowlandson, Captivity Narrative

Please answer one of the following questions:

--We can see Mary Rowlandson's narrative of her captivity as a "contact zone" text, akin to Cabeza de Vaca's Relation. Compare the two texts, with their descriptions of and their attitudes toward the Native Americans.

--Like Thomas Shepard's autobiography, Rowlandson presents a narrative of her spiritual experience as well as her temporal/physical one. What similarities or differences to Shepard do you find here?

--In Danforth's sermon, he cites from the Bible and takes up the role of Jeremiah to remind Puritans of their covenant with God and their present-day failings. What sorts of Bible figures does Rowlandson cite and identify herself with here? What does this suggest about how she envisions herself?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shepard & Danforth

-The excerpts from Shepard's autobiography, written for his son, reflect classic dynamics of Puritan spiritual autobiography, tracing God's providence through life's events, trying to see each event in light of the God's plan for the individual. So, they have a personal purpose of making sense of life, but they also had a public purpose of instructing others and proving one's own salvation. If you look at contemporary best seller lists, you will see that memoirs and autobiographies are still very important and popular forms in American life: what differences do you in the purpose in writing and interest in reading autobiographies between Puritan times and present?

--Danforth's sermon, given 40 years after Winthrop's, seems to be a response to the promise offered in Winthrop's vision of the Puritan community as "a city upon a hill." How is Danforth's message similar or different? What are the stylistic differences? Is there a difference in the kind of biblical evidence called upon here (not all scripture passages have the same intent or purpose).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Winthrop, "A Modell of Christian Charity"

--Winthrop takes as his starting point a fairly major topic, the notion that God has "disposed" to make social inequality among mankind. What is his explanation of this and to what extent does this fit or not fit with your own social values (or your general sense of the social values and attitudes toward inequality in our times)?

--This text takes the form of a sermon, with frequent citations of scripture and elaborate rhetorical structures (naming of points, interpolated questions and answers, etc.). How effective is this as a persuasive document to you?

--The second part of the sermon applies the ideas of the first to the notion of a Puritan community and likens the Puritans to the Old Testament Jews, as the chosen people of God. This is both a promise and a threat: New England can become a "city upon a hill," but it can also become a "shipwreck" which all the world will witness. Do you think this self-consciousness, the awareness that others are watching your community, would have a positive or negative effect upon the workings of the community?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cabeza de Vaca & Poma de Ayala

Please answer one of the following questions:

--Cabeza de Vaca is, like Columbus, writing about places that have never been seen by Europeans. But instead of a conqueror or discoverer, he is sometimes a slave, sometimes a member of a Native community and, by the end, a leader of a troupe of Natives. How does this difference affect the way he represents the land and people he encounters in the excerpt from his text we read?

--Poma de Ayala's text is a cultural oddity, an 800 page letter to the King of Spain written by Incan aristocrat. In this imagined q & a session, Poma de Ayala writes of the problems of Spanish rule and offers solutions. How does his text reflect the author's ambivalent position between Native (oppressed) and Spanish (Christian and dominant)? Compare his depiction of the divide between Native and Christian/Spanish with de las Casas?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Columbus & de las Casas, Exploration & Exploitation

Please do not respond to all of these questions. It is preferable that you respond to one more substantially.

--Columbus writes in the form of letters, personal expressions from one person to another. In what ways do these letters reflect the conventions of what you expect to find in a letter? How do they differ from what you think letters do?

--What do you notice about the way Columbus describes the new world in his letter to Santangel? In what ways is it defined in relationship to the old world or on its own terms?

--Both Columbus (in his letter to Spanish royalty) and de las Casas in his "Relation" describe conditions of Spanish colonies after the initial discovery. What is their complaint or critique of behavior of the Spanish colonists and the colonial project more generally?


Hello, this is the blog page for John Evelev's Spring 2011 English 3300: Survey of American Literature, beginnings to 1865. In addition to a reading discussion forum, it is a place for the professor and students to post ideas or images that connect to the course materials in whatever fashion they find compelling.