See below for definitions of important terms


The literal meaning of "allegory" is a writing that conveys other than its literal meanings, where persons, objects, and actions within a narrative are equated to meanings that lie outside the narrative. One can also think of allegory as an extended metaphor. Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene is an example of an allegory. With The Faerie Queene, the action that is outside the narrative is the rule of Queen Elizabeth and the struggle of the "true" Church, that is the Church of England, over the perceived corruption of the Roman Catholic Church.

  • Characters usually personifications of abstract qualities.
  • Action and setting representative of relationship among abstractions.
  • Story may be religious, moral, political, personal or satiric.

Readers must be careful not to rigidly equate characters to one dimensional notions. while Archimago in The Faerie Queene can be seen as the embodiment of corrupt doctrine, there may be more. To see Duessa as only the embodiment of duplicity and Mary, Queen of Scots, is to read too narrowly.

Captivity Narrative

Captivity Narratives in Puritan Culture; propaganda of narrative tales a staple in Puritan culture

• Typically a single individual, usually female, who stands passively under the strokes of evil, awaiting rescue by the grace of God;
• Represents whole chastened body of puritan society, dual paradigm of bondage of soul and flesh, self-exile from England/Israel, all that is puritan and analogous to ancient Israel;
• Meet and reject temptation of Indian marriage and/or Indian’s cannibal Eucharist;
• Redemption by grace of God and puritan magistrates linked to regeneration of soul in conversion;
• Threats, dangers (tests of faith) result in ultimate salvation which is offered by proxy to other faithful in community.


Character Defined

  • Moral constitution of human personality (ethos)
  • Presence of moral uprightness
  • Presence of creatures in art

Creation of Character

  • Direct exposition
    • Explanation with the narrator telling reader about the character
  • Presentation of character in action
    • Seeing the character engage in actions that demonstrate certain qualities
  • Presentation from within character
    • Impact of actions and emotions on the character’s inner-self

Character Types

  • Protagonist
    • Chief character of the work
    • Originally applied to “first” actor in a Greek drama, leader of the chorus
    • In conflict with the antagonist (agon= contest)
    • Often thought of as the “hero”
  • Antagonist
    • 2nd most important character in the work (deuteragonist)
    • Works in opposition to the protagonist
    • Seen as rival, opponent, foil or enemy The villain
    • Agon = dispute, where Greek chorus split and took sides in the debate
  • Round/Dynamic
    • sufficiently complex so as able to surprise the reader without losing credibility
    • changed by the conflict encountered
    • seem real to life
  • Flat/Static
    • constructed around a single idea or quality
    • does not undergo growth, does not change their personality
    • more often minor members of the cast


Determinism is the belief that all acts that seem to arise from a person's will are actually the result of causes that determine them. Among these causes can be found the following frames of reference, depending on the epoch and attitudes: fate or necessity (neoclassic), will of God (Calvinist), action of scientific law (Naturalist), or operation of economic forces (Marxist) or patriarchal forces (feminism). For the Determinist every act and action has a deeper meaning because these acts and actions are controlled from without and are not really the result of an individual's will or choice. Determinism is not an absolute for most in today’s world, because such a perspective denies the complexity of humanity. Even if the future is predetermined, human actions do influence what happens, but we're controlled by a larger force of some sort. One need not submit to fate.


Didactic means, in brief, "to teach." Didacticism is the instructiveness of a work, the purpose of which is to give guidance in moral, ethical and/or religious matters. Didactic works have as their ultimate effect or meaning outside the work itself and the realms of art proper. The lesson conveyed is more important than the work conveying the lesson. If didacticism is carried too far, it is in danger of subverting the object of art or literature to lesser and ignoble purposes. The early Puritan works are much more didactic than literary, maybe not literary at all as we understand it in the 21st century, so such "subverting" is not of great concern.


Fatalism argues that there is no free will, that we are predetermined by larger forces to do what we do, and history has progressed in the only manner possible. Even those actions that appear "free" work toward a predetermined end. As the Borg might say, for you Star Trek fans, resistance is futile (meaning acceptance is appropriate). All events are inevitable so you may as well accept them. Don't wear a seat belt, because it's either your time, or it isn't. A seatbelt won't change things.


First Wave/Equality Feminism: It primarily focused on gaining the right of women's suffrage and other notions of equality. Focused on the sameness of god given rights, social and moral equality, acknowledge the existence of women's sexual desires, temperance, abolition of slavery (among Americans), abortion rights started in the early 19th century as a reaction to patriarchal social attitudes. Stuck in the cult of domesticity with women still confined primarily to the home.

Second Wave/Difference Feminism: greater focus on economic equality, partly through female admission to previously male only/dominated arenas in business, education and politics; and rights of minority women. The onus was on overcoming or addressing the differences between men and women.

Third Wave Feminism, resulting from an emphasis on the differences between men and women, the adherents of which probably would be considered “femi-nazis” by the likes of Rush Limbaugh. Third Wave Feminists are seen to have a more radical feminist agenda, such as those of lesbian separatists, who saw marriage and heterosexual relations as inherently bad for women (which makes the same-sex marriage push somewhat ironic). Third wave feminists emphasize differences’ between men and women and their needs, be they emotional, psychological, physical or something else.

Post-feminism is something of a backlash against second and third wave feminist notions. The fundamental claim is that feminism is no longer valid.

In literature, Feminism can be seen in "feminist critique," which is the evaluation of writing by men to look at their depiction of women and the establishment of a relationship with women readers. Gynocritcism, not a common term, is the study of women writers and writing.

Three phases of feminist "awareness":

  1. Feminine: Protested against male standards and values, and advocated women’s rights and values, including a demand for autonomy.
  2. Feminist: Focus on plight of slighted women, showing often harsh and cruel treatment of women at hands of more powerful males. “Women wrote in an effort to equal the intellectual achievements of the male culture, and internalized its assumptions about female nature” (Showalter 137). Rejection of prior "protest" standards with a focus on imitating male standards.
  3. Female: Women reject imitation prominent during the feminine stage/phase. Emphasize developing a female understanding of female experience. The female works to uncover misogyny in male produced texts. “Women reject both imitation and protest—two forms of dependency—and turn instead to female experience as the source of an autonomous art, extending the feminist analysis of culture to the forms and techniques of literature” (Showalter 139)

Showalter, Elaine, ed. New Feminist Criticism: Essays on Women, Literature, and Theory. New York: Pantheon Books, 1985.

Free Will & Determinism

Augustine tells us that we are given Free Will in order that we might do right in the world, that we will follow what God intended us to do. He says that "If man is good, and cannot act rightly unless he wills to do so, then he must have free will, without which he cannot act rightly. We must not believe that God gave us free will so that we might sin, just because sin is committed through free will" (73).

The big question is whether we are determined by previous events to do what we do, or whether we can act outside of these influences, whether we are free to do as we wish regardless of the circumstances. Determinists would argue that every event, including human cognition and behavior, decision and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences. Determinism is the belief that all seeming acts of the will are actually the result of causes that determine them.

Free Will might be defined as the absence of fate and/or determinism.

Saint Augustine. "On the Free Will of Choice." Medieval Philosophy. Forrest Baird and Walter Kaufman. Third Edition. 73-99.


Hermeneutics, derived from Hermes, whose ambiguous messages from the gods required interpretation. Hermeneutics, to simplify a complex concept with a long history, assumes that the meaning of a text resides in the text itself, to be discerned by study of the text and only by well-trained and sophisticated readers. That concept differs from other reading theories that argue that the meaning of a text resides in the interaction of readers with the text, including various contextual matters.

White, Ed. "Re: Rubric for judging rubrics." WPA Mailing List. 28 June 2015.


Humors are based on Elizabethan notions of physiology, how our bodies are made and work. There are four: blood, choler, bile and black-bile, each of which is closely allied with the four elements that make up all of the universe: air, water, earth and fire. Healthy people had their humors in balance. The sick had an imbalance. Depending upon the symptoms one might exhibit, a certain excess or shortage of a particular humor might be noted and treated in kind. For instance, if one had too much optimism, if they were manic, they might have some blood let to bring them into balance. Humors were thought to be produced by the liver, based upon what one ate and drank, but they were also the result of a natural disposition--a little bit of nature and nurture--heredity and environment.

  • Blood and air are hot and moist, indicating a ruddy and optimistic humor.
  • Bile (yellow) is hot and dry, like fire. Bile indicates one is fiery complexioned and rageful, hot tempered.
  • Phlegm, like water, is cold and moist, indicating one is heavy, cold, and impassive.
  • Black-bile,, like earth, is cold and dry, indicating one is melancholic pale, thoughtful, and downcast.


"Imagists" is a name given to a group of poets active in England and America between 1909 and 1918, but there are many similarities between the work of these Imagists and Emily Dickinson. Below is a list of characteristics that can be found in Dickinson's work, as well as the later Imagists.
  • Language of common speech is used, employing always the exact word, not the nearly exact;
  • Cliche is to be avoided;
  • New rhythms are created as the expression of a new mood;
  • There is absolute freedom in choice of subject;
  • Images are to be concrete, firm and definite in their pictures, even harsh in outline;
  • Concentration is to be striven for as the essence of poetry;
  • The poetry should suggest rather than offer complete statements.


Tragic Irony: use of terms and words that the character intends to mean one thing, but to the reader/viewer in the know, actually portend the hero’s demise. An example of tragic irony occurs in Oedipus. When confronted with the situation and resolution to the plague of Thebes, Oedipus declares that he will either kill or banish the cause of this plague, not knowing yet that he is the cause. The viewer doesn't yet know this (unless they already know the play which contemporary viewers of the play did) and the other characters do not yet know this either. Viewers learn of the irony later on in the play, when we learn of Oedipus's guilt and we think back to his earlier comments.

Dramatic Irony occurs when the reader shares with the narrator/speaker knowledge of a situation or intention unknown to the other characters. An example of this would be "The Story of an Hour." We know that Mrs. Mallard is rejoicing in the freedom of her husband's death and she dies at the shock of losing that freedom upon his return. The others in the story believe she dies at being overjoyed upon his return. Readers know what all the living characters at the end don't, so we see things much differently. In Oedipus, probably the best examples include the words spoken by Teiresias in his first meeting with Oedipus. Teiresias says such things as “you yourself are the pollution of this country and “I say that you are the murderer whom you seek and “with both your eyes, you are blind: You can not see the wretchedness of your life.” For those readers who know what's going on, while others in the drama itself don't, that's dramatic irony.

With verbal irony, the meaning intended by the speaker differs from the meaning understood by one or more of the characters. An example occurs in Oedipus when he says that “whoever killed King Laios might—who knows?—lay violent hands on me—and soon.“ This is an example of verbal irony because we know so much more than what the speaker intends, particularly in relation to the story’s plot and action.

Magic Realism

Magic Realism is a way of presenting the world that relies, on the surface, for the work to be conventionally realistic while containing contrasting elements that invade the realistic framework of the text. These contrasting elements often consist of the supernatural, myth, dream, and fantasy. Some draw no distinction between such works and pure fantasy writing, a genre in itself. This is often considered a dismissive perspective.


Meter: the recurrence of rhythmic pattern.

Four basic Patterns

Quantitative: established through units containing regular successions of long and short syllables: classical meter. Syllables considered long if they have a long or short vowel followed by two consonants. Others considered short. two short syllables equal in duration to one long syllable. Somewhat like musical notes.

Accentual: occurrence of syllable marked by stress or accent that determines the basic unit regardless of the number of unstressed syllables: old English versification and sprung meter.

Syllabic: the number of syllables in a line is fixed, though the accent varies.

Accentual-Syllabic: number of accents and syllables are fixed or nearly fixed: most common sort today.

The Foot

The rhythmic unit is known as the foot; A standard foot contains two syllables. See the stress patterns below, because there you will see a variety of feet.

monometer--one foot

dimeter--two feet

trimeter--three feet

tetrameter--four feet

pentameter--five feet

hexameter--six feet

heptameter (fourteener if "iambic")--seven feet

Stress Patterns

Iambic--unstressed syllable followed by stressed syllable: "come live / with me / and be / my love."

Trochaic--accented followed by unaccented syllable. often used in children's rhymes because of sing-song quality: "Jack and Jill / went up the hill /to fetch a pail of water; /Jack fell down / and broke his crown / and Jill came tumbling after."

Anapestic--two unaccented followed by an accented syllable: "Like a child / from the womb / like a ghost / from the tomb"

Dactyll--stressed/accented syllable follow by two unaccented: mannikin

Spondaic--a foot of two accented syllables--usually monosyllabic words in succession. "Hot sun / cool fire" It's rare for a polysyllabic word to have two successive accents.

Phyrric--a foot of two unaccented syllables. Some say since there is no accent, it cannot correctly be a foot "On the / bald street / breaks the / blank day"


Mimesis is Greek for "imitation" and generally taken to indicate works of literature that imitate characters on a human level, where correspondence to the physical world is understood as a model for beauty, truth and what is good. In this respect, it is the representation of nature (not as in the woods and the trees, but the world around us). Mimesis is central to Coleridge's concept of the imagination, which where the unity of essence is revealed precisely through different materialities and media. Imitation reveals the sameness of processes in nature.


Myth (loosely) Defined

  • Myth is not a synonym for error or fabrication or falsehood; there is no concern when using this term for a myths truth or falsity.
  • Myths have been traditionally viewed as an often anonymous, non-literary and essentially religious formulation of a cosmic view.
  • Myths are often dramatic or narrative embodiments of a people’s perceptions of their deepest truths
  • Myths attempt to explain creation, divinity, and religion by probing the existence of life and death, by accounting for natural phenomena and by chronicling the adventures of cultural heroes.
  • Myths are generally stories that present supernatural episodes as a means of interpreting natural events
    • Myths make concrete and specific a perception of human beings or a cosmic view
    • Myths project social patterns upward to the superhuman level that sanctions and stabilizes a secular ideology
  • Myths differ from legends with their focus on the supernatural rather than the historical and from fables by being less concerned with moral didacticism (teaching) and by being the product of a racial group rather than an individual

Structuralist qualities of the Hero

  • Mother is royal virgin
  • Father is king and often near relative of mother
  • Circumstances of conception are unusual
  • Reputed to be son of a god
  • Attempt is made at birth to kill hero, usually by father or maternal grandfather
  • But he is spirited away and raised by foster parents in a far-off country
  • We know little/nothing of his childhood
  • On reaching manhood he returns or goes to his future kingdom
  • After victory over some adversary he marries princess, queen, daughter of predecessor
  • Becomes king and reigns uneventfully for a time
  • Prescribes laws but loses favor with gods and/or subjects
  • Is driven from throne and city
  • Meets a mysterious death, often at top of a hill
  • Children, if any, do not succeed him
  • Body is not buried but there are one or more holy sepulchers


Naturalism is the application of the principles of scientific determinism to literature. This can be seen in characters who, as animals in nature, respond to environmental forces and internal stresses and drives, none of which they can control or understand. While realism focuses on the commonplace, naturalism focuses on the representative and arranges details so as to reveal certain patterns of ideas that form the author's view of life. Naturalistic works will often emphasize either a biological or socio-economic determinism, one that is inescapable for those involved.


A poem of rural people and settings or a poem treating of shepherds and rustic life in a clearly unrealistic manner. Pastoral is after the Latin for Shepherd (pastor). These shepherds often speak in courtly language and when depicted visually look more like they belong at court than on some hillside tending sheep. The pastoral often is used to create a rural/urban dichotomy, with the rural being "good," a place of life and sustenance and the urban "bad," a place of decay and degeneracy. The rural is often portrayed as the simple and revered while the urban is complex and to be avoided. Rural life is idealized and urban life, by contrast, demonized. The pastoral can be found in just about any genre of literature, in whole or part.
Sources: The Oxford Companion to English Literature and A Handbook to Literature.

Post Colonialism

Post-Colonialism deals with literature produced in countries that once were colonies of other countries, particularly the European colonial powers Britain, France, and Spain. It also deals with literature written in colonial countries and by their citizens that has colonized people as its subject matter, often addressing cultural identity in the colonized societies. Colonized people, especially of the British Empire, attended British universities; their access to education, still unavailable in the colonies, created a new criticism - mostly literary, and especially in novels. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union during the late 20th century, its former republics became the subject of this study as well. Any literature emanating from these countries and addressing subjects that concern the relationship between master and servant, colonizer and colonized, particularly in which the cultural and beliefs of the colonized are sublimated and denigrated as the culture and beliefs of the colonizer are advanced, can be looked at through the post-colonial lens, an inherently political form of literary criticism.

More at


Calvin defines predestination as "the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. Not all are created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or to death."

"Predestination." Wikipedia. 21 April 2008.


Puritanism: from The Puritan Tradition in America, 1620-1730

Puritanism: springs from the idea that someone, somewhere, might be enjoying themselves. (this is a joke)

Suggestion: Keep these ideas in mind while reading the Puritan writers and preparing to write an essay on some issue taken from early American literature’s colonial period.

Progression of Puritan evolution

  1. 1517: Luther tacks up his 95 thesis to initiate Protestant Reformation (or Revolt from the Catholic perspective)
  2. Henry VIII split with Rome in 1534; daughter Elizabeth’s worldly ambitions took precedence over churchly ambitions. She curbed religious extremism in favor of social stability (2)
  3. Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity. Must attend CofE services; Henry declaring that he was 'the only supreme head in earth of the Church in England' and that the English crown shall enjoy "all honours, dignities, preeminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits, and commodities to the said dignity".
  4. 1563: 39 Articles of Faith fixed forms of worship; still too Popish/Catholic for some
  5. 1572: Sought Non-conformity bill for Puritans. Parliament provided some support for Puritan goals.
  6. Specific complaints emerging from CofE’s administration:
    • Bishops create too many new clergy of men unqualified to positions not needed (4-5)
    • Book of Common Prayer contrary to God’s word (the Bible)
    • Various popes have corrupted the sacraments (of which there really are only two: baptism and communion/feast of last supper) with increased pomp and finery
  7. Mary reestalished relationship with Rome after Edward's death, which Elizabeth again severed.
  8. Elizabeth rejected admonitions from Puritans and supporters in support of greater religious freedoms for dissenters, jailing Puritan critics despite their widespread public support (4, 10), Parliament did not enact meaningful ecclesiastical reform, resulting in anti-Puritan backlash at official levels: jailings, lost jobs, etc.
  9. James I (former James VI of Scotland) sided with Church as a way to extend his powers (11). He feared giving too much sway to the common man and told Puritans “conform or be harried out of the land” However, he did lend more than a sympathetic ear to Puritan concerns, hoping to put them to rest, resulting in Hampton Court Conference
  10. Puritans wanted it understood that the elect can fall from grace; they wanted greater say in the procedure and paraphernalia of worship, along with church organization and fundamental theology (14)
  11. With ascension of Charles I, and promotion of William Laud to Archbishop of Canterbury (ministerial head of CofE), Puritans were pressed to conform or lose positions. Some did, some played game of cat-and-mouse, others, such as Thomas Shepherd, fled (35).
  12. Brownists (followers of Robert Browne) and other “separatists” settled in NE before the Puritan exodus. These folks were generally more radical dissenters than the Puritans who had hopes of reforming the CofE from within; however, theologically the groups were pretty much cut from the same cloth (40).
  13. Some, such as Pilgrims, came to NE via Holland, which wasn’t the greatest place to be. Bad weather, possible trouble with Catholic Spain, aging population, invasive culture and other concerns bedeviled the Puritan émigrés.  The Pilgrims finally decided it was time to move to NE or let the movement die. Also motivated by desire to spread the gospel (43). Emigrate in 1620.
  14. Mayflower compact a result of a broken commercial contract. Secular participants, landing in NE instead of Virginia, felt no obligation to support the Puritans who were the motivating force behind the particular journey. Settlement was also illegal lacking the proper charter from the crown for where they were.
  15. Most Pilgrims dead within the year. Only 20 able bodied men left of 50 people total

Puritan(ism) defined/described: (largely Calvinist in theology)

  • God has supreme authority over Church and human affairs as expressed in the Bible
  • The private study of the Bible is emphasized
  • A desire to see education and enlightenment for the masses (especially so they could read the Bible for themselves)
  • The priesthood is of all believers: likening the whole body of believers to the priesthood of ancient Israel removes the possibility of a spiritual aristocracy or hierarchy within Christianity. God is equally accessible to all the faithful; no Christians have been set above others in matters of faith or worship.
  • The Pope was an Antichrist (someone/thing that looks good but is inherently evil/opposed to God.
  • Called for simplicity in worship, the exclusion of vestments, images, candles, etc.
  • Some approved of the church hierarchy, but others sought to reform the Episcopal (a single hierarchy terminating at the top with a overall leader, such as the Pope) churches on the Presbyterian model (A bishop is the highest office of the church (there is no Patriarch or Pope over bishops),
    • Bishop and elder (or presbyter) are synonymous terms. Bishop describes the function of the elder (literally, overseer), rather than the maturity of the officer.
      • The function of preaching and the administration of the sacraments is ordinarily entrusted to specially trained elders (known as ministers) in each local congregation, approved for these tasks by a governing assembly (presbytery, or classis), and called by the local congregation.
      • Pastoral care, discipline, leadership and legislation are committed to the care of ruling assemblies of presbyters among whom the ministers and other elders are equal participants.
    • All Christian people together are the priesthood, on behalf of whom the elders are called to serve by the consent of the congregation)
  • Some separatist Puritans were Presbyterian, but most were Congregationalists (embodying the theory that (1) every local church is a full realization in miniature of the entire Church of Jesus Christ; and (2) The Church, while on earth, besides the local church, can only be invisible and ideal.)
  • Most prominent Puritans commit life to God publicly, providing a laundry list of their depravity and the manner in which they have struggled and failed to overcome that depravity. 
  • Often attribute natural events, such as a sickness or death, as either a test from God or an act of Satan hoping to derail them in their quest for salvation (21-22). One such leader, John Winthrop, saw NE as a staging ground for heaven, hence the “citty on the hill” appellation (26).

Calvinism: man is a complete ruin in need of God’s salvation; drastic intervention on God’s part needed to overtake man’s sinful nature

  • Total depravity (or total inability): As a consequence of the Fall of man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin. People are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart, mind, or strength, but rather are inclined to serve their own interests over those of their neighbor and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are unable to choose to follow God and be saved.
  • Unconditional election: God's choice of those whom he will bring to himself is not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. Rather, it is unconditionally grounded in God's mercy.
  • Limited atonement: The death of Christ actually takes away the penalty of sins of those on whom God has chosen to have mercy. It is "limited" to taking away the sins of the elect, not of all humanity, and it is "definite" and "particular" because atonement is certain for those particular persons. [past sins are specifically remitted; future sins are potentially remitted/remitted in the person (17). ]
  • Irresistible grace (or efficacious grace): The saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (the elect) and, in God's timing, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith in Christ. [Predestination accompanied by the greatest wisdom, freedom, firmness and immutability Church membership, and in New England, resulting Civil membership, limited to those chosen by God.]
  • Perseverance of the saints: Any person who has once been truly saved from damnation must necessarily persevere and cannot later be condemned. The word saints is used in the sense in which it is used in the Bible to refer to all who are set apart by God. [Sanctification, glorification resulting in eternal happiness, has a beginning, middle, and presumably an end, but not clearly detailed process is provided (19-20). Preachers were noted for their depth of piety, which opened them to scorn, ridicule and criticism when they fell short (20).]

Some Observations on Puritanism

  • For most part, NE puritans no different than OE puritans; they are set apart by their decision to emigrate instead of stay put and clamber for change (xii)
  • Upon their move to America, Puritans changed from a loosely bonded factional movement to a hegemonic faith and administration—sought to assert their views on others (xii)
  • American Puritanism focuses on Congregationalism and the Plymouth separatists were more quasi than wholly separatist (xiii)
  • Conversion and rebirth required adherents to reform their whole lives (xiii)
  • Puritans took lead in best—education—and worst—witchcraft persecution—in the colonies (xiv)
  • Non puritans saw this early experiment in religious reform as either misguided or appalling (xvi), particularly the mixing of church and state roles (xvi)
  • When the puritan movement got out of hand, the backlash resulted in the death of Cromwell’s son, the restoration of Charles II to the throne, end of Congregationalists NE monopoly, franchise being given to non-puritans, by end of 1600’s. Still, most writing on Puritans is laudatory (xvi)
  • Knowledge comes from sermons that have survived, often drafted for special occasions; other documents that have survived, notably less than flattering portrayals of puritans, have colored out notions of them as scofflaws and malcontents and killjoys (xxvi)
  • Puritans settled in West Indies and South as well as NE (xxxii)
  • Rationales for going were often written up with pro/con lists. The pros listed a reason, such as being able to make “better” use of the land than the present inhabitants. The cons would be brief, but thoroughly refuted. IE: the natives were there first, which is not a good thing since we’ll be stealing their land, but since we’ll put it to more productive use, that’s okay. What were viewed as “civil” rights were seen to trump “natural” rights (28-35). Thomas Shepherd was one such person.

Orderly Society

  • With Congregationalists, what is good for the individual is good for society at large (129). “Disorder is the effect of sin” (129)
  • Anglicans sought order in tradition, the church as it more or less always had been. Puritans sought order from and in the Bible. This was God’s intentions versus man’s inventions; society must be remade in a biblical image (129).
  • Society must monitor its members so God doesn’t punish them all for the failings of one or some (130).
  • We were placed by God in our station and to seek to alter that placement was seen as a rebellion against the work of God. God is the author of every lawful calling; all other callings the work of Satan or rebellion. Man’s place in society was seen as analogous to the function of each body part having its place in our life’s functions. Whatever we do must serve the general good and must be done diligently (132).
  • Sloth and negligence violate the social order (134).
  • General calling of all is to be a good Christian, measured by what we do to serve the common good. More particular callings are based on distinctions God made between man and man (each of us) shown by our inward gifts and station of birth (135). This sometimes fostered a dependence on the clergy for their superior knowledge of the Bible and while also leading to excessive introspection (we’ll see this in The Scarlet Letter).
  • There are rich and poor, weak and strong by God’s design. The rich and great need someone to watch over and practice charity on, someone to love, to show mercy to, etc.; the poor are to practice faith, patience, obedience and the like, to their “superiors.” In this respect, each needs the other (139). Justice and mercy requires helping those in distress and all should act out of some sense of the golden rule (140).
  • Pilgrims bound by Christian love with good of the whole placed above the good of the individual. All must be done to serve God and to promote the common good. Others must be put before the selfish-self. God must be obeyed, sin will be punished and God is sanctified by our actions (145).

The above material that lacks a citation was taken and somewhat revised from Wikipedia


The most basic definition of Realism is "fidelity to actuality in representation," which is evidenced by literary method and subject matter. With subject matter, it's about the common actions and minor catastrophes of middle class society. With regard to method, the tone was often expected to be somewhat light, rarely grim or somber. Realists believe that since life lacks symmetry, so too should literature. In this respect, works of realism seek to mimic, to provide a one-to-one relationship between the representation and the subject.



Rhyme likely owes its existence to oral literatures, made it easier to remember lines/stories/myths/folklore/tales. Classified according to position of rhymed syllables in the line and the number of syllables involved.

True--can, ran; boat, tote--based on sounds of vowels and succeeding consonants of accented syllables.

Sight--slant, near, off

imperfect--moved, loved

End--at the end of the line

Front--occurs at first syllable or syllables of the line (alliteration): Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers.

Internal--occurs somewhere between the first and last syllable of the line

masculine--restricted to final accented syllable as in "can" and "ran."

feminine--rhyming stressed syllables followed by rhyming unstressed syllable: "fountain" and "mountain"


The Scarlet Letter should be read as a romance, as a story that does not focus on what actually is, but what could be. The Scarlet Letter is sometimes referred to as a New England Romance because of its setting.

The romancer's aim is to order the raw stuff of human experience into the clearer mode of artifice so that the reader may comprehend the experience emotionally and intellectually. (1439)

Romance requires distance from the time and place in which the events occur. romance is an ordered experience bound more to an emotional or psychological truth than to a historical truth.

Romance balances three contradictory or competing notions. Verisimilitude (what really is) and ideality, the natural and the marvelous (as in the supernatural), and history and fiction. The thinking is that the ideal is incompatible with human life while ideal patterns of meaning are a force in fiction.

Verisimilitude versus Ideality

Hawthorne's writing is concerned with the balance among these three concerns. First, he admires facts (verisimilitude and the real) over the pretense of the ideal. In this way his writing is a reaction against many of the ideals preached at the time his stories take place, The Scarlet Letter in particular. The truth matters more than the external of presentation. His goal is to "create a semblance of the world out of airy matter" (1441).

One way readers see the blending of the ideal and real is with the use of reflections, abstract images of physical objects. There are reflections in eyes, reflections in the Governor's armor, in the creek, and so on. These are strange things that "look" like truth. Another example is Hester's dream on the scaffold, her reflecting back on what brought her to that point in her life.

Marvelous versus Natural

This component of Romance is an outgrowth of the Gothic movement. Romance should emphasize not the marvelous or supernatural itself, which would be more the realm of the Gothic, but should instead emphasize the natural reaction to the marvelous/supernatural events. The marvelous/supernatural should not only be central to plot, but should be dealt with suggestively rather than with tangible detail.

The goal is to incite interest in the marvelous/supernatural without entering into fantasy. Chillingworth and his "black arts" are an example of this. He has mysterious understandings, has dabbled in alchemy, but there is never any direct description of the work he does, of the medicinal arts he practices upon Dimmesdale and so on.

History versus Fiction

In the romance, artistic distance is achieved via history, by placing the story in the past. Romance can then trace the thread between past, present and future, addressing probabilities rather than certainties. One question posed was whether America had enough history at this time to provide the necessary distance.

Romance must not violate the truths of history. Historical figures must be background, rather than central figures. Hester, Pearl, Chillingworth and Dimmesdale certainly fit this criteria. The Scarlet Letter is a fictionalized history based on the materials discovered in the Custom House.

Stubbs, John. "Hawthorne's"The Scarlet Letter: The Theory of The Romance and the Use of the New England Situation." PMLA. 83:5. October, 1968.1439-1447.


Satire is a work or approach that blends a censorious attitude with humor and wit for improving human institutions or humanity. Satirists don’t so much attempt to tear down what they attack but instead seek to inspire the target of their wit to reform themselves. The focus is generally on vice and folly. If a writer simply is abusive, they are engaging in invective. If they are making personal attacks, they are being sarcastic. As a rule, satire spares the individual to do as Joseph Addison, one of the noted 18th century English satirists directs, “to pass over a single foe to charge whole armies.”

Satire generally deals less with the great sinners and criminals of the world and more often with the run of the mill fool, knave, ninny, oaf, fraud and codger. Satire is of two types: direct, usually written in the first person spoken directly to the reader or a character in the satire, or indirect, where the satire is expressed through a narrative and the characters who are the butt of the ridicule are ridiculed by what they themselves say and do. Indirect satire is the more common of the two.

Sentimentalism and Sentimental Novel

Sentimentalism is a reaction against the rather immoral restoration works that in themselves were a reactions against Puritanical works of the mid-seventeenth century. In general terms, sentimentalism is divided into two groups:

  1. An overindulgence in emotion, especially the conscious effort to induce emotion in order to enjoy it, and;
  2. An optimistic overemphasis of the goodness of humanity, representing, in part, a reaction against Calvinism which regarded human nature as depraved.

The sentimental novel has also been called the novel of sensibility. This novel seeks to inculcate virtuous behavior on the part of the reader by giving them a model to imitate. The audience for such works tended to be young women (because educated, mature women, and men in general, shouldn't be wasting their time reading or writing fiction). The characters will have a heightened emotional response to events, with the aim of producing a similar response in the reader.The protagonist will generally be a young woman who encounters the world in a way that challenges and refines her naive but naturally good views.

This also contains elements of what has been termed a novel of manners, in which the novel is dominated by social custom, conventions and habits of a definite social class, one that should be aspired to. Quite often there will also be a religious component to the work depending upon when and where it was written.


Setting is the background against which action takes place.

Elements to consider:

  • The geographical location and physical arrangement of the space
  • The occupations and daily manner of living of the characters
  • The time period in which the action takes place, whether time of year or a historical era
  • The general environment of the characters, such as religious, moral, political, social or mental conditions.

Slave Narrative

Slave narratives were generally written between 1830 and 1860. They are autobiographical accounts of a slave's life, and generally their escape, which are/were part of the abolitionist movement.
General Purpose of Slave Narratives
  • Arouse sympathy in reader to promote humanitarian view of slaves
  • Emphasize Christian values
  • Expose damaging ideals of dominant white society
  • Emphasize cruelty of slave owners and overseers
  • Many parallels with captivity narrative and sentimental novel
Male Slave Narrative Characteristics
  • Contains engraved portrait, signed by narrator
  • Title page indicating "written by himself"
  • Testimonials by prominent sympathizers
  • Sketchy account of parentage, birth
  • Description of cruel masters/overseers and their Christianity
  • Accounts of food and clothing
  • Accounts of slave auctions
  • Description of patrols and escape attempts or night travels
  • Description of actual escape
  • Reflections on slavery
  • Account of extraordinary slave who refuses to be whipped
  • Developing forbidden literacy
  • Quest for freedom where hopes are raised and dashed
  • Freedom preceded by physical altercation
  • Does not end with escape to North due to Fugitive Slave Law
Female Slave Narrative
  • Contains the bulk of the Male Slave Narrative characteristics
  • Less emphasis on developing forbidden literacy
  • War of wits rather than strength
  • Does not end with marriage ala sentimental novel
  • Sexual oppression and challenge to female purity
  • Emphasizes disparity between writer and reader
Thanks to Donna Campbell at WSU, James Olney, Charles T. Davis, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and assorted other sources. More on the slave narrative from Donna Campbell at Washington State University.


See the attached Powerpoint.

sonnets.pptx55.27 KB


The Sublime is said to be characterized by nobility and grandeur that is impressive, exalted and raised above ordinary human qualities. It is said a painful idea creates the sublime passion and concentrates the mind on a facet of experience and produces a momentary suspension of rational activity, uncertainty and self-consciousness. Below are degrees of the sublime:

• Beauty—light reflected off a flower
• Weak sublime—light reflected off rocks in a river
• Sublime—turbulent nature, pleasure derived from objects that cannot sustain the life of the observer
• Full feeling sublime—overpowering turbulent nature; pleasure from violent, destructive objects
• Fullest feeling sublime—understanding immensity of universes extent and duration; pleasure of observer’s nothingness and oneness with nature.


Something that on the surface is its literal self but which also has another meaning or even several meanings. For example, a sword may be a sword and also symbolize justice. A symbol may be said to embody an idea. There are two general types of symbols: universal symbols that embody universally recognizable meanings wherever used, such as light to symbolize knowledge, a skull to symbolize death, etc., and constructed symbols that are given symbolic meaning by the way an author uses them in a literary work, as the white whale becomes a symbol of evil in Moby Dick.


An abstract concept made real/concrete through representation in person, action, and/or image.

A theme is not just a subject/thing or verb/action/activity. For instance, adultery is a "thing" and of itself it cannot be a theme. However, the notion that "while adultery is generally viewed as being sinful, good can come of it" could be a theme.

Similarly, "truth" is a thing, an abstract concept. It can be a theme when we suggest that "searching out the truth is not always a noble act." You can think of theme much as if it is a claim to be demonstrated or articulated through a piece of literature as it unfolds.

It's just fine if different readers pull different themes, different meanings from what is read, just so long as those notions can be tied to the text without making huge leaps.


This is a brief overview of tragedy as distilled from a variety of sources, Aristotle's Poetics chief among them. Conceptually, such plays sought to exemplify the sense that all humans are inevitably doomed through their own failures, errors, ironic consequence of their virtues, or fate. The human condition is to suffer, fail and die. The measure of the person is how they face that suffering, failure and death. when done with courage and dignity, the grandeur of the human spirit is displayed.

A Tragedy is generally a play that recounts an important and causally (as in cause and effect) related series of events in the life of a person of significance (high standing of some sort; perhaps morally, politically, socially or otherwise), such events culminating in the unhappy catastrophe (fall from high estate to low estate, fall from grace to despair or something of that sort, maybe life to death) as the result of some tragic flaw/trait, the whole treated with great dignity and seriousness. Tragedy should arouse pity and fear (for whom remains open to dispute though the tendency is to focus on the audience), the end of the play resulting in the release of these emotions (known as catharsis). Generally speaking in Greek, Roman and Elizabethan tragedies, the violence will happen off-stage.

  • Pity and fear should be the response to plotted actions, spectacle okay but not as good.
  • Must be a person of high character and demise must be faced with nobility of spirit and courage.
  • Demise must result from noble pursuit, which can include the collision of equally noble causes.
  • Tragedy treats human beings in terms of their godlike potential.
  • Tragic flaw/trait (Hamartia) is an integral part of hero’s character. The same thing that leads to the character’s rise leads to his demise.
  • Tragic hero achieves understanding or recognition (anagnorisis) about fate, destiny and/or the will of the gods.
  • Tragic figure experiences a reversal of fortune (Peripeteia), typically from good to bad. If it was from bad to good, it would be comedy.

Revenge Tragedy

  • Generally a son revenges his father's unjustified death. Sometimes a father revenges his son's death
  • hesitancy on part of person seeking revenge resulting in delays, diversions, mistakes and anything that might retard action
  • Feigned insanity
  • Suicide
  • Intrigue
  • Able scheming by antagonist
  • Philosophic Soliloquies
  • Sensational use of horrors
  • Showdown where revenge is exacted

Domestic Tragedy

  • Deals with domestic life of commonplace people
  • Often based on murder stories drawn from bourgeois life


Transcendentalism is not as much concerned with a metaphysics that transcends daily lives than it is with a new view of the mind that replaces Locke's (blank slate) empiricist, materialistic, and passive model with one emphasizing the role of the mind itself in actively shaping experience.

  • Counters Locke's claim that there is nothing in the mind not first put there through the senses; the Transcendentalists answer with nothing except the mind itself.
  • The Unitarians used Locke both negatively, to undermine the orthodox Calvinist belief in original sin-if the mind is a blank slate at birth it cannot be innately depraved-and positively, to underwrite belief in the special dispensation of Christianity through the evidence of Jesus' miracles, sensory testimony of his spiritual power, the flesh testifying to the word.
  • While Kant emphasized the power of the mind he also stressed its limits, its inability to know reality absolutely.
  • The Transcendentalist vision went beyond Kant in insisting that the mind can apprehend absolute spiritual truths directly:
    • without having to go through the detour of the senses,
    • without the dictates of past authorities and institutions, and
    • without the plodding labor of ratiocination. (reasoning methodically)
    • In this sense particularly, it was the logical--or supralogical--extension of both the Protestant reformation and American democratic individualism.
    • major paradigm shift in epistemology, in conceptualizing how the mind knows the world, the divine, and itself.
    • Belief in an ideal spiritual state that transcends the physical and empirical and is realized only through intuition rather than doctrine of established church/religion.
    • Natural evolution of revelation coming first mediated from the pulpit, next unmediated from scripture, now from nature and the self, wholly unmediated.
    • Gospel of spiritual self-sufficiency and exalted god-like nature of human spirit
    • Man a god walking in the flesh, the deity within the self
    • Each person priest, church and Bible.
    • Response to nationalism and the shift from agrarian to industrial society as well as excesses of Congregationalism
    • reply to the skeptical philosophy of Locke by Kant and Swedenborg among others.

    Other transcendental qualities

    • Reliance on intuition and conscience; a way of knowing
    • Within nature of humans there was something that transcended human experience, an intuitive and personal revelation
    • Every person’s relation to God was established directly by the individual rather than through ritualistic church
    • Human beings divine in their own right
    • Self trust and self reliance to be practiced at all times because to trust the self was to trust a creation of God and his voice through that creation
    • Belief in democracy and individualism
    • Women’s suffrage/First Wave Feminism


    Utilitarianism is the philosophy that argues that moral worth is found in the consequences of actions (act utilitarianism) or, for others, the following of the proper rules (rule utilitarianism). John Stuart Mill defines utilitarianism as being those "actions [that are] right as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness." In this respect, happiness is the same as pleasure or the absence of pain. However, this is not a selfish or hedonistic happiness. The pleasures we are to seek, the pleasures that are most "right" in a utilitarian sense, are those that reside in our highest faculties, those that maximize the overall good for the greatest number. These pleasures are to be about each man developing his powers to their complete whole. Happiness, in the utilitarian sense, is described as a first principle, one for which there is no proof. Since it cannot be objectively proved that happiness is a first principle, we must, as a society, agree upon this instead.