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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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2. Exploring Borders   

2. Exploring

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Activities: Author Activities

Adriaen Van der Donck - Author Questions

Back Back to Adriaen Van der Donck Activities
  1. Comprehension: In "Why This Country is Called New Netherland," Van der Donck is concerned with proving that the region was "first found or discovered by the Netherlanders." What evidence does he provide to refute other nations' potential claims to the Dutch colony?

  2. Context: How does Van der Donck describe his own and other Dutch colonists' relationships with Native Americans in the region? When does he draw on Indian oral traditions to bolster his own historical account of New Netherland? When do the Dutch colonists rely on (and adopt) Indian knowledge and skills? How does Van der Donck's account of the relationship between colonists and natives compare to accounts by representatives of other European groups in North America, such as Samuel de Champlain or John Smith?

  3. Context: How does Van der Donck's frequent discussion of "sublime" natural occurrences (such as waterfalls and bush fires) compare to the discourse of the "marvelous" as it appears in early contact narratives (such as those by Columbus, Smith, or Bernal Díaz del Castillo)?

  4. Exploration: Compare Van der Donck's description of the falls to Thomas Cole's nineteenth-century masterpiece The Falls of the Kaaterskill. How does each create a sense of grandeur and awe? How do their visions of the sublime differ?

  5. Exploration: How does Van der Donck's description of life in the New Netherland colony compare to the accounts of English colonists living in New England (such as William Bradford or John Winthrop) around the same time? How does Van der Donck's portrait of the Dutch relationship with Native Americans compare to Puritans' accounts of their interactions with native tribes?

  6. Exploration: What is the role of timber in a European colonial or frontier settlement? How does Van der Donck's description of the abundance of lumber and of the settlers' and Indians' manner of dealing with the woods that are "always in our way" compare to James Fenimore Cooper's descriptions of the role of the woods in The Pioneers? How do these two writers characterize settlers' and natives' efforts to clear the land of woods and brush? How does each writer describe the effects of forest fires?

  7. Exploration: Nineteenth-century writer Washington Irving (Unit 6) claimed in his fiction that the Dutch origins of New York could still be felt in the regional culture and geography. What, according to Van der Donck, are the essential attributes of New Netherland and of its Dutch colonizers? How does his portrait of New Netherland compare to Irving's nostalgic and mythic presentation of the area's Dutch ancestry in stories such as "Rip Van Winkle"?

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