By Douglas Anderson

ISBN-10: 052110730X

ISBN-13: 9780521107303

An entire variety of yank writers have interested in photographs of family, household advantage, and the female or feminized hero. this crucial new booklet examines the patience and adaptability of such subject matters within the paintings of vintage writers from Ann Bradstreet via Jefferson and Franklin to Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, and Emily Dickinson. with no minimizing the variations that divide those figures, Anderson exhibits the level to which, of their a variety of conditions, they have been all devoted to a standard enterprise--a social and cultural reconstruction in keeping with the household values of the precise deepest family.

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If for thy father asked, say thou hadst none; And for thy mother - she, alas, is poor, Which caused her thus to send thee out of door. (221) These poems, Bradstreet claims, are perhaps imperfect, but they are also unfathered, created out of nothing but the author's "feeble brain," harshly judged for their failings yet forgiven by a mother whose nurturing hand seems at once affectionate and heavy with nearly an excess of formative power: I cast thee by as one unfit for light, Thy visage was so irksome in my sight; Yet being mine own, at length affection would Thy blemishes amend, if so I could: I washed thy face, but more defects I saw, And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.

Lord, whilst my fleeting time shall last, Thy goodness let me tell, And new experience I have gained My future doubts repel. An humble, faithful life, O Lord, Forever let me walk; Let my obedience testify My praise lies not in talk. Accept, O Lord, my simple mite, For more I cannot give. What Thou bestow'st I shall restore, For of thine alms I live. (259-60) When Bradstreet's powers are fully engaged, her poetry manages to sustain an unusually effective balance between the genuine humility of these private laments and the kind of forthright self-confidence ("My praise lies not in talk") that conventional humility disguises.

Jefferson's fiercely partisan politics and his optimism about the American future suggest that, in Winthrop's terms, he viewed the Revolution as a clear triumph of life over death, of plainness and simplicity over riot and tumult. But he shares with Winthrop, too, the acute sense of a mixture of peril and promise. The calm that is faintly visible through the breach in the Virginia mountains is but a "small catch . . " It invites human participation but at the same time hints at the fundamental insecurity of human hopes.

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A House Undivided: Domesticity and Community in American Literature by Douglas Anderson


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