Craig White's Literature Courses

Terms / Themes


New England Puritans overall for Americans

  • Not easy to like but essential to American identity, political organization, progressive movements and conservative reaction

  • Literary connection: Puritans were highly literate (other immigrants hit-or-miss, but less so)

  • read, wrote, documented experience—organized society through literacy

  • New England as center of American education and literature: Ivy League; Hawthorne, Emerson, Dickinson, James, Eliot, Frost, Cummings, Elizabeth Bishop, the Lowells, Thomas Pynchon, many more


Historical context

1619-20 Pilgrims arrive at Plymouth (Mayflower, Plymouth Rock, first Thanksgiving, small settlement led by Bradford)

1630s Puritans arrive at Boston (Great Migration of thousands led by Winthrop)


English History

Shakespeare 1564-1616

Queen Elizabeth I 1533-1603

Stuart Kings—James I 1566-1625

Charles I 1600-1649 (executed)


English Civil Wars 1640s

Political battle b/w Parliament (Puritans, emerging middle class) & King (Royalists, aristocracy)


Commonwealth of England 1649-1660

Only period of English history w/o king

some millennial effort to restore “godly kingdom”

leadership problems > “Restoration” of Charles II to throne

But Parliament prevailed: “Constitutional Monarchy”

Consequences of Puritans for England: mostly political--parliament increasingly powerful, monarchy increasingly weak


In America, however, the Puritan effort remained strong both politically and culturally

Politically: Puritans as strong larger community rather than anti-government individualism

Culturally--2 diverse influences

Most progressive political movements like Abolition, Woman's Suffrage, progressive taxation, peace movements, health care reform, and public education have originated in or been supported by New England

Puritan attention to family love, patriarchal responsibility, monogamous covenant marriage, child discipline (though discipline for them meant training, not hitting) have had strong influence on cultural conservatives and family values