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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

3. Utopian

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Activities: Author Activities

Anne Bradstreet - Teaching Tips

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  • When John Woodbridge, Bradstreet's brother-in-law, compiled her poetry for publication, he included a preface vouching for the book's authenticity and for his sister-in-law's character:
    ...the worse effect of his [the reader's] reading will be unbelief, which will make him question whether it be a woman's work, and ask, is it possible? If any do, take this as an answer from him that dares to avow it; it is the work of a woman, honored, and esteemed where she lives, for her gracious demeanor, her eminent parts, her pious conversation, her courteous disposition, her exact diligence in her place, and discreet managing of her family occasions, and more than so, these poems are the fruit but of some few hours, curtailed from her sleep and other refreshments.
    Read this prefatory material aloud to your class and ask students why Woodbridge felt compelled to include it. What does this preface reveal about women's status in Puritan society? What does it tell us about the kinds of anxieties Bradstreet probably felt with regard to her poetry and its publication?

  • Have students read aloud "A Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment." While students may initially respond to this as a conventional love poem, try to stress how unusual its secular tone is within the corpus of Puritan poetry. Even though some of the imagery has spiritual and biblical resonance, what emerges in this poem is Bradstreet's erotic attachment to her husband, not her understanding of her marriage as a metaphor for her union with Christ. Her reliance on pagan imagery (the sun god, the zodiac) is notable in this context.

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