This concise analysis of the poetry of Anne Bradstreet is excerpted from Who Lived Here? A Baker’s Dozen of Historic New England Houses and Their Occupants by Marc Antony DeWolfe Howe, an eminent editor and writer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Anne Bradstreet (1612 – 1672) was the first writer in the American colonies to be published.
She rejected the prevailing notions of women’s inferiority. That opened her to criticism, not for her work itself, but that she dared to write and make her work public. It was considered unacceptable for women of her time to have a voice. She not only used hers effectively but pushed back at her critics. Read More→
Aphra Behn (1640 – 1689) is a forerunner in English literary history in more ways than one; she is not only the first professional woman writer, she is also an important innovator in the form of the novel.
Using the epistolary form of Lettres Portugaises as a model and combining it with elements of the drama, with Love Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister she created the first true epistolary novel.
In Oroonoko she used a narrative voice that combined proximity to her readers with an unusual wealth of detail, while the plot itself involves one of the first examples of the concept of the “noble savage” in literature. Read More→
In “The Gilded Six-Bits,” a short story, as well as her other works of fiction and essays, one sees Zora Neale Hurston’s wide scope as a writer. She takes on various topics from marital bliss to the national welfare, writing as a gifted author of fiction, a knowledgeable anthropologist, and a rigorous critic.
Hurston was a key player in the Harlem Renaissance. Her membership there, however, was never secure. Langston Hughes, once a friend and collaborator, became one of her bitterest detractors.
Always unconventional, she struck many as overly conservative, as she actually promoted southern segregation for a while, arguing that forced integration was an insult to the African-American community. Read More→
In the short story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (Variations on a Theme by William James), Ursula Le Guin presents us with a utopia that turns out to include an imperfect, even nightmarish dystopia.
The tension between these two heaven-and-hell extremes could be summed up in a pull between the impulse to leave in the title and the joyous arrival of the festival that sets the stage.
A carefree community that seems pleasing and just, turns out to be structured on injustice and ultimately untenable for some of its citizens. Read More→
Emily Brontë (1818 – 1848) is best remembered for her haunting and passionate novel Wuthering Heights, but she has also been recognized as a brilliant poet. Among the three sisters, Emily Brontë’s poetry has been acknowledged as more skillful and moving than that of Charlotte or Anne.
In the mid-1840s, Charlotte discovered a stash of Emily’s poems and recognized the genius in them. She undertook the task of finding a home for a collaborative book of poems by herself and her two sisters. They took masculine noms de plume (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne were Currer, Ellis, and Acton, respectively, and shared the faux surname Bell). Read More→