WRITING NEW ENGLAND: An Anthology from the Puritans to the Present

Andrew Delbanco, Editor
Andrew Delbanco, Editor Harvard/Belknap $29.95 (512p) ISBN 978-0-674-00603-4
Reviewed on: 07/30/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
Hardcover - 512 pages - 978-0-674-33547-9
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Despite the proliferation of regional studies, particularly of the American South, there are relatively few collections of or studies about New England writing. Perhaps it's because New England was the original region. Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry James are not generally considered New Englanders so much as Americans. Delbanco, a renowned scholar of the Puritan experience in America (author of The Puritan Ordeal), wants to call attention to the fact that these writers were not simply from New England but of it. In this beautifully conceived collection, Delbanco has interspersed with unchallenged figures such as Thoreau and Hawthorne a few pieces that have been all but lost to the general reading public. William Apess, for example, is represented by an excerpt from his 1836 Eulogy on King Philip, chastising white for dispossessing Native Americans. Apess was a New Englander of Indian descent who became a Methodist preacher and eventually joined the Mashpee Indians on Cape Cod, leading a rebellion against their white overseers: "And while you ask yourselves, 'What do they, the Indians, want?' you have only to look at the unjust laws made for them and say, 'They want what I want.'… " In his introduction, Delbanco sounds the "keynote" of the original New England identity as "the throbbing heart of Christianity in the New World." As the new Eden did not fulfill itself, he concludes, New Englanders began an "inward turn toward self-admonition [which] is the hallmark of what Henry James called 'the New England conscience.' " This is an excellent gathering of letters, poems, stories, essays and excerpts from novels and histories. (Sept.)

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