Resources for The Crucible

We’ll start The Crucible on Monday. I will ask for portfolio notes on supplementary materials next week in the hopes that we can “read” the film critically, as we would any of the texts we’ve covered. There are no requirements for which texts to consult, so feel free to read widely among these resources.

The attachment is a selected excerpt from the phenomenal Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project at the University of Virginia. You can browse the court records, maps, notable people, and literary works as you wish. The literary works include Longfellow’s dramatic poem, Giles Corey of the Salem Farms, which might have influenced Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

In keeping with our discussion today, it will be helpful to consider how Arthur Miller intended his 1952 play to address the particular social pressures of his time, and how these themes speak to our time (if they do). This overview of the play and the movie will add some context. More to the point is Miller’s essay, “Are You Now or Were You Ever?”, published in 2000, which offers his reflections on how Salem echoes in American thought in the 21st century.

These resources will help us more intelligently discuss what Salem ought to mean to us now and how effective this film is in conveying the meaning of that event, as you understand it.

Questions for Mather and Sewall

  • Pick a larger course theme that you might want to pursue on the exam and explain how Mather’s narrative and Sewall’s text might contribute to that theme.
  • What echoes of other Puritan writers do you hear in Mather’s “The Wonders of the Invisible World”? What does Mather’s text add to your understanding of colonial New England?
  • What do you make of Mather’s claim to be “report[ing] matters not as an advocate, but as an historian”? How does this historical narrative compare to Bradford’s history of Plymouth?
  • Compare and contrast Sewall’s account of events in Salem with Mather’s account. What further evidence do you find in the Salem Witch Trials Archive that helps you make sense of what happened? Browse the court records or notable people.
  • Compare the trial of Martha Carrier (as well as Bridget Bishop and Tituba) to the trial of Anne Hutchinson and to Bradford’s prosecution of Thomas Morton. What are the turning points in these trials? What is the evidence presented against the accused? What do these trials add to our understanding of justice system in Puritan New England?

Soundtrack for A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson

I don’t have explanations for all of the scenes that these songs would help frame in a film adaptation, but they present a very broad array of representations of Rowlandson’s mental and emotional state throughout the narrative.

For the death of Mary’s daughter, Sarah:

For the scene where Mary’s captors comfort her in a canoe:

For the opening battle scene:

For Rowlandson’s psychological breakdown in the Fourth Remove:

For the hopeful scene after the council, when Mary learns she might be ransomed:

For Rowlandson’s homecoming:

Other songs:

Questions for Rowlandson – Day Two

Intertextual reading:

  1. Your theme: Pick a theme that you believe encompasses the readings we’ve discussed so far and identifies an important trend in colonial American literature. Explain how Rowlandson’s text reflects this theme and how her treatment of it compares/contrasts with other authors.
  2. Race relations: How do the other texts we’ve read that pertain to race relations help you make sense of Rowlandson’s portraits of Native Americans? Remember that the publication date for this text is 1682, nearly two hundred years after Columbus’s first contact. What has changed about race relations in this span of time? What has stayed the same?
  3. Religion: How do you make sense of Rowlandson’s phrase “strange providence”? How does her discussion of religion compare and contrast with other texts that we’ve read? In what ways might she be similar to other Calvinists? In what ways might she be different? What might these comparisons and contrasts suggest about religion in early America?
  4. Gender: Like Anne Bradstreet’s poetry collection, the original version of Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative contained a preface by a Puritan minister endorsing her writing as beneficial reading for other Puritans. See the original preface here. Why do you think the Norton anthology might omit these prefatory comments and begin directly with Rowlandson’s captivity account? How does Rowlandson compare to the other women we’ve seen in colonial American literature (female figures in Iroquois and Pima tradition, Eve, Hutchinson, and Bradstreet)?

The following template might also help you develop an intertextual reading:

A crucial theme in Rowlandson’s memoir is ______. More specifically, Rowlandson shows that ______. She writes, “______.” [add more examples for depth] In these examples, Rowlandson is suggesting that ______. This emphasizes Rowlandson’s central theme of ______.

This theme of ______ in “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson” is similar to Author X’s work, ______. Author X deals with this theme similarly in these ways ______. For instance, Author X writes, “______.” Like Rowlandson, Author X concludes that ______. However, Author X differs from Rowlandson in these ways ______. Where Rowlandson suggests ______, Author X suggests ______. If Author X were reading “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson,” he/she might raise these questions ______. The differences between Author X and Rowlandson are especially evident in these textual examples ______. [balance quotations and paraphrases to show breadth, but also to avoid excessively long quotations] These parallels and contrasts between Rowlandson’s memoir and Author X’s work lead me to the following conclusions ______.

Reading against the grain:

We had a good start today challenging some of Rowlandson’s views by looking at exceptions in her own text. For instance, acts of kindness by Native Americans during her captivity undermines her larger claims about their “diabolical” nature. One of the accusations English settlers made against neighboring tribes was that their methods of warfare were devious, since they attacked at night and by stealth, rather than fighting in the open, as Europeans were accustomed to. (see excerpt from The Last of the Mohicans below). However, Bradford explains in his account of the Pequot War that English soldiers sought advice from Narragansett allies for attacking a Pequot village. Similarly, the ambush style of warfare was adopted by American revolutionaries while fighting against the British, as dramatized by The Patriot. Cases like these suggest a cultural double standard. How else might you use Rowlandson’s text to read against its own assertions?

Questions for Rowlandson – Day One

Close reading:

  1. Typology: How does the book of Job or the story of David or the the character of Daniel relate to Rowlandson’s captivity experience? How might this biblical context clarify her use of phrases like “ravenous Beasts” or “Barbarous Creatures” to describe indigenous people? What examples of Calvinism do you find in her narrative? Consider using this searchable online Bible to track down some of those biblical allusions.
  2. Captivity narratives: See this overview of the captivity narrative genre. In what ways do you see Rowlandson following these conventions or deviating from them in her personal account of captivity?

Intertextual reading:

  1. Race relations: How do the other texts we’ve read that pertain to race relations help you make sense of Rowlandson’s portraits of Native Americans? Remember that the publication date for this text is 1682, nearly two hundred years after Columbus’s first contact. What has changed about race relations in this span of time? What has stayed the same? This synopsis of King Phillip’s War will add historical context for Rowlandson’s narrative.
  2. Religion: How does her discussion of religion compare and contrast with other texts that we’ve read? In what ways might she be similar to other Calvinists? In what ways might she be different? What might these comparisons and contrasts suggest about religion in early America?
  3. Gender: What is the purpose of the anonymous preface? How might this compare to the preface Bradstreet’s brother-in-law wrote for her poetry collection? How does Rowlandson compare to the other women we’ve seen in colonial American literature (female figures in the origin stories, Eve, Hutchinson, and Bradstreet)?

Why did some white women prefer to remain with Native American tribes even after they had been ransomed?

Schedule for upcoming presentations

Edward Taylor                      Sept. 19                                  Amanda

Mary Rowlandson               Sept. 22 or 24                       Jasmine

Mather and Sewall              Sept. 26                                  Kaylee

H.S.J. Crévecoeur                Oct. 20 or 22                         Joe

Phillis Wheatley                  Oct. 24                                   Bailey

Harriet Jacobs                      Oct. 27 or 29                         Taylor

Ralph Waldo Emerson       Nov. 3                                     Kyle

Margaret Fuller                   Nov. 7                                     Aaron

Henry D. Thoreau               Nov. 10 or 12                         Chris

Washington Irving              Nov. 14                                   Kaitlyn

Nathaniel Hawthorne        Nov. 17                                   Justin

Herman Melville                 Dec. 1                                      Jessup

Walt Whitman                     Dec. 3 or 5                             Trevor

Close reading and intertextual reading for Taylor

Here are three ways of reading Taylor’s poetry that will help you prepare for the kind of writing we’ll be doing on the exams. Pick or adapt one to develop for your notes.

Do a close reading of Taylor’s “The Prologue,” “Upon Wedlock, & Death of Children,” or “Huswifery” in three separate paragraphs. This definition of the Meditative tradition could be useful context. Both Taylor and Bradstreet write in the Metaphysical tradition, as well.

  • Read the poem once asking what seems distinct about the language: word choices, alliteration, rhyme, memorable imagery?
  • The second time through reflect on the larger themes or ideas you hear Taylor addressing. How might this poem resonate with the meditative or metaphysical traditions?
  • The third time through, consider how these themes or ideas connect to the bigger picture of American history or identity: what you see this particular poem contributing to our discussions of the colonial period in New England.

For an intertextual reading of “The Prologue,” “Upon Wedlock, & Death of Children,” or “Huswifery,” try the following in at least three paragraphs:

  • Identify two or three important themes that connect this poem to other readings. Explain these connections as specifically as you can, using textual examples.
  • Identify two other readings we’ve already discussed that deal with the themes you’ve chosen. Explain how these other readings address the theme similarly or differently.
  • What conclusions do you draw from these intertextual connections How have these comparisons and contrasts affected your understanding of the two poems you selected?

The following template could also be adapted for an intertextual reading of one of the three poems:

Two core themes in Taylor’s poem, “X,” are ______ and ______. These are significant themes for early American literature because ______.  Taylor illustrates ______ [theme 1] as follows: “______.” [add more examples for depth]  Theme 2 is evident in the following: “______.” [add more examples for depth] In these passages, Taylor is suggesting that ______. This emphasizes Taylor’s central themes of ______ and ______.

The themes of ______ and ______ in Taylor’s poem is similar to Author X’s work, ______. Author X deals with these themes similarly in these ways ______. For instance, Author X writes, “______.” Like Taylor, Author X concludes that ______. However, Author X differs from Taylor in these ways ______. Where Taylor suggests ______, Author X suggests ______. If Author X were reading Taylor’s poem, “X,” he/she might raise these questions ______. The differences between Author X and Taylor are especially evident in these textual examples ______. [balance quotations and paraphrases to show breadth, but also to avoid excessively long quotations] These parallels and contrasts between Taylor’s letter and Author X’s work suggest the following conclusions ______.