Reinventing Cotton Mather in the American Renaissance
GOOGLE BOOKS, University Presses of New England, 1994
Posted: 21 Jul 2011
Date Written: 1994
In this engaging study of the politics of literary antiquarianism in antebellum America. Christopher Felker's main argument is that Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana, republished in 1829 by the Reverend Thomas Robbins, provided a "tutor-text" or "masterplot" for nineteenth-century historical fictionists' highly sophisticated meditations on the immediate problems of democracy in America.
The subject of democratic politics in antebellum America, informs Hawthorne's Grandfather's Chair (1839), Stowe's The Minister's Wooing (1859), and The Stoddards's Morgesons(1862). The discussion of both colonial and early national historical writing brilliantly articulates it as a cultural practice in which authors engage contemporary issues and thereby inscribe their political identities on the texts themselves.
Felker situates the emergence of Mather's Magnalia in the context of the tumultuous era between 1684 and 1691 during which Massachusetts Bay experienced a "loss of chartered identity." The period's instabilities complicated both the Puritan claim to a New World millennial mission and the Puritan historian's claim to authentic, historical "truth."
Keywords: Magnalia Christi Americana, Cotton Mather, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Elizabeth Drew Stoddard, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Puritans
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