The Birth-mark: Unsettling the Wilderness in American Literary History
Susan Howe approaches early American literature as pet and critic, blending scholarship with passionate commitment and unique view of her subject. The Birth-mark traces the collusive relationships among tradition, the constitution of critical editions, literary history and criticism, the institutionalized roles of poetry and prose, and the status of gender. Through an examination of the texts and editorial histories of Thomas Shepard’s conversion narratives, the captivity narrative of Mary Rowlandson, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Howe reads our intellectual inheritance as a series of civil wars, where each text is a wilderness in which a strange and lawless author confronts interpreters and editors eager for settlement. In a concluding interview, Howe comments on her approach and recounts some the crucial biographical events that sparked her interest in early American literature.
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