Beginnings of the American Literary Tradition:
Characteristics of American Literature during the Seventeenth Century
Purposes of Early American Writing
Unit Essential Question:
How did the earliest American writers view America?
How did the earliest American writers view the settler's difficulties in surviving a new land?
Essential Skill or Concept: Each student will
Visit the Plimouth Plantation Museum on-line and watch museum videos and photo images.
Read selections from Of Plymouth Plantation, in the text, pages 17 - 23 .
Answer the assigned questions # 1 -4 on page 23 in a notebook.
A. The teacher will present the following by means of the multimedia projector and background notes:
Overview of the founding of Plymouth Settlement
- Who were the Pilgrims?
- In your own summary, tell about the Voyage of the Speedwell and the Mayflower.
- What was the Mayflower Compact?
- Write what you discover about the Native People.
- Summarize the existing information about the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving.
* Teacher's Background Notes:
See Colonial North America
from notes based on Professor Walter Fuller Taylor's notes and lectures - Michael S. Seiferth
"William Bradford (1590-1657) and Plymouth Plantation: The earliest writings done in Virginia are...products of the Renaissance. The earliest writings of New England are products of the Reformation as well. Like Smith, the authors in the Pilgrim colony of Plymouth describe the impact of expanding Europe on primitive America. Unlike him, they are concerned chiefly with a people whose thought was shaped in the heat of the Protestant revolt against priesthood and ceremonialism, and whose urge to colonization was less economic than religious."
"The Mayflower Pilgrims belonged to the Separatist class of English Puritans - that is, to the class which broke away entirely from the communion of the church of England. Originally an obscure village people, they had been forced by persecution out of England into Holland. dissatisfied with the economic hardships of their new home, they re-emigrated and planted the colony of Plymouth in 1620. Among those who had persistently urged emigration was a young man named William Bradford, who was later to govern the struggling colony for thirty years and to record its fortunes in the most attractive of early New England histories."
"The earliest piece of formal writing produced at Plymouth is, like Smith's A True Relation, a history of the new colony during its birth year. This work, published anonymously as Mourt's Relation (so called from a prefatory note signed "G. Mourt") in 1622, was probably the joint work of Bradford, Edward Winslow, and others. Though Mourt's Relation is both interesting and authentic, its fame has been overshadowed by that of Bradford's more extensive work, the History of Plymouth Plantation (written 1630-1650)."
"The scope of Bradford's History is large. Beginning with the rise of the Separatists in England, Bradford follows the Pilgrims through their vicissitudes in Holland, their voyage to America, the founding of Plymouth, and the slow growth of their colony during its first quarter-century. The author's style -homely, deliberate, and lucid - is well suited to his subject. His phrasing reflects perfectly the sober, unpretentious matter-of-fact heroism of the simple, unimaginative, colonists."
"From Bradford's picture the traditional hell-fire and bigotry of Puritanism are conspicuously absent. There is no posing for posterity, no flow of self-conscious heroics, no spectacular disembarkation on the mythical Plymouth Rock. The Puritans of Bradford's account are sturdy, honest, sensible folk who seek out their building site and construct their village with methodical energy. They are, moreover, folk with a deep substratum of simple heroism - a heroism that faces the stormy Atlantic, the terrible first-winter plague, and the savage Pequod warriors with the same stoical strength and endurance. Nor do these people lack in tenderness, in the most trying duties of the support and care of the sick. They are plain-minded withal, devout in worship, and quite certain that God is constantly directing their lives by special providences, for chastisement, punishment, or reward."
"Though the obscure Pilgrims never made such a great figure in American history as their later neighbors at Massachusetts Bay, their history as written by Bradford comes near being the literary classic of the American seventeenth century. The situation of civilized people struggling with a savage environment has proved perennially attractive in literature; consequently, despite many an arid stretch, Bradford's history abounds in material of rich human interest. And the story is admirably told with a biblical simplicity that rises at times to restrained and solemn eloquence."