In his early chapters, the author defines the psychological needs of the second- and third-generation Puritans, arguing that these needs arose from the generational conflict between the founders and their children and from the methods of child rearing and religious education employed in Puritan New England. In the later chapters, he reveals how the ministers responded to the crisis in their society by reshaping theology and constructing in their sermons a religious language that helped to fulfill the most urgent psychological needs of the people.
Originally published in 1975.
The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.
"The arguments in this book will resonate in the study of American culture for years to come...There is much to recommend this book ... historians and literary critics alike will be challenged by [it]. The Puritan Ordeal shows great promise for the continuing study of the life of the mind in America." DD--Bruce Tucker, Journal of American History
"Delbanco's singular achievement in The Puritan Ordeal remains his sensitive, attentive, and generous recovery of the first emigrants' voices...[This book] may well provide the richest transcription we have of the hesitant, bewildered yet ultimately hopeful new-world inflections that register everywhere in early American culture." DD--Donald Weber, American Literary History
"The author of this study, displaying an ideal combination of sensibility and judgement, discusses the Puritans who fled to New England and traces the effect of their immigrant experience on American literature. Like later immigrants, they found that emotional rifts opened between the first and second generations, and, like other English religious radicals, they were disturbed by women's demands for religious equality. The Puritan hope of creating a Christian--nonexploitative--economy in the New World was disappointed, and the dominant strand in Puritan thought became the need to constrain sinful human beings. However, Mr. Delbanco believes that it was the other strand in Puritan thought--the aspiration toward a community of saints--which became an important influence on American literature." DD--New Yorker
"Against those historians whose primary interest has been the life of the mind or the development of the ecclesia, Delbanco emphasizes the fact that the Puritans were first and foremost a group of immigrants. This book offers a perceptive look at the inner history of that particular group." DD--American Journal of Theology and Philosophy
"Andrew Delbanco's book is concerned with one of the most famous achievements of the Puritan spirit, the colonisation of New England. Popular American mythology depicts this as a classic triumph of faith over adversity. Mr. Delbanco shows convincingly that it is more truly seen as an 'ordeal', marked by tensions already present in the old world and intensified in the new." DD--The Economist
"A noteworthy historical analysis." DD--Kirkus Reviews
"This is a learned, well-researched, quotable text, delving deeply into matters of scholastic debate; yet the most interesting parts illuminate the felt experience of the earliest New Englanders: their passion for sermons, their Pauline belief in sudden transformations through grace." DD--Virginia Quarterly Review
For the most part, religious motives underlay reading instruction in colonial America, while secular motives led to writing instruction. Monaghan illuminates the history of these activities through a series of deeply researched and readable case studies. An Anglican missionary battles mosquitoes and loneliness to teach the New York Mohawks to write in their own tongue. Puritan fathers model scriptural reading for their children as they struggle with bereavement. Boys in writing schools, preparing for careers in counting houses, wield their quill pens in the difficult task of mastering a "good hand." Benjamin Franklin learns how to compose essays with no teacher but himself. Young orphans in Georgia write precocious letters to their benefactor, George Whitefield, while schools in South Carolina teach enslaved black children to read but never to write.
As she tells these stories, Monaghan clears new pathways in the analysis of colonial literacy. She pioneers in exploring the implications of the separation of reading and writing instruction, a topic that still resonates in today's classrooms.
Monaghan argues that major improvements occurred in literacy instruction and acquisition after about 1750, visible in rising rates of signature literacy. Spelling books were widely adopted as they key text for teaching young children to read; prosperity, commercialism, and a parental urge for gentility aided writing instruction, benefiting girls in particular. And a gentler vision of childhood arose, portraying children as more malleable than sinful. It promoted and even commercialized a new kind of children's book designed to amuse instead of convert, laying the groundwork for the "reading revolution" of the new republic.