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Title: Language and identity in the literature of the seventeenth-century New England Puritans
Author: Stanley, Alison
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2012
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Abstract:
Seventeenth-century migrants to New England found themselves in a new and unsettling situation, surrounded by alien European and indigenous groups, whose different languages, cultures and religious beliefs questioned and sometimes threatened the beliefs of the settlers. This thesis examines the points at which the colonists came into contact with other cultures, and analyses what these interactions can tell us about how identity was constructed and displayed in the period. I do this largely through analysis of the ways language was used and discussed in contemporary texts printed in London and Massachusetts which aimed to influence readers’ views of colonial identities. By looking at a series of specific challenges when language or issues relating to it became contentious or important, as detailed below, I argue that language was intrinsically connected to English Puritan identity in the period. My first chapter discusses contemporary language textbooks by Williams and Eliot, analysing the ways in which different presentations of similar Native American languages offer insights into the ways contemporary thought linked language to culture and identity. The next two chapters examine the ways language was linked to Puritan religious identity by discussing colonial responses to two new challenges to their beliefs in the 1650s: firstly, the request of the Praying Indians to be accepted into the colonial churches; and secondly, the denunciations of the colonial churches made by visiting Quakers. The final two chapters discuss questions of language and translation during the traumatic events of King Philip’s War. Chapter four analyses war writing which used Old Testament narratives to re-interpret early defeats, and to excuse acts of violence and destruction perpetrated by colonial forces. The final chapter examines depictions of Indian language during the war, and argues that refusals to discuss the problems of intercultural translation and descriptions of Indians speaking broken English are two manifestations of the same changing attitude to language and identity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.631272  DOI: Not available
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