My week in Plymouth

My week in Plymouth

I was excited to publish “Inventing the Pilgrims in American Literature” for the May 2017 edition of the Mayflower Journal, the members-only journal for the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.  But I was even more excited when the director invited me to come to Plymouth for a week to conduct research in local archives and meet historians and others who work with Pilgrim and Plymouth history. I flew to Plymouth on May 19 and spent eight busy days trying to accomplish as much as I could. I finished up my week with a lunch talk with the Mayflower Society staff

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Why the Pilgrims and Puritans?

Now that I’m explaining this project to friends and colleagues, I find they’re often a little puzzled.  Many think that I’m researching the actual Pilgrims and Puritans, but I’m mostly interested in what happened to their story after they were long gone. But I still get some questions, mostly about why this project is relevant in 2017. Originally, I was fascinated by all the ways that literature got the facts wrong. Then I was intrigued by the ways history borrowed from literature. Then I started to see all of those texts as very closely related, as a process of representation

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Bluestocking Bulletin biography of Jane Goodwin Austin

I’m so excited to share a link to a profile of Austin that I wrote for Anne Boyd Rioux’s Bluestocking Bulletin, a newsletter with updates about her own work and which features a profile of a woman writer. I thoroughly enjoyed Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist, which Dr. Rioux published to great acclaim in 2016. I first encountered Woolson in a course of American women regionalist writers several years ago. While the class was nearly unanimous in admiring her work, Woolson’s relationship with Henry James overshadowed our discussions. Rioux’s biography shows that Woolson was a talented and ambitious writer who achieved success on

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Snow in fiction and in real life

I am a native Floridian who never even saw snow until I was sixteen. The closest I would get were the freezes when the fern farmers had to run their sprinklers so the ice would insulate the ferns. The sprinklers and the ferns would be covered in icicles, creating what to me was a magical winter wonderland. So winter weather was one of the things that captivated me the most when I was an avid young reader. It seemed so exotic and cozy. I wanted to ice skate like Jo and Amy did in Little Women, although naturally I would not be as foolish as

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Blurred lines: history versus romance

Why are some sources on the Pilgrims considered reliable or useful, while others are ignored or even ridiculed? There is a fair amount of speculation and imaginative reconstruction in even the driest of histories, and those are the points I find the most fascinating. What truly separates a historical novel from history? Jane G Austin made no secret of the fact that she was writing a “romance” of the Plymouth Colony in Standish of Standish (1889). The preface begins, “The history of the Old Colony includes, among some very stern facts, a deal of sweet and tender romance, hitherto hardly

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Inventing Thanksgiving: Pilgrims, America, and Immigration

This semester has been incredibly busy, so much so that I have not posted here in way too long. But I’m getting ready for this presentation next week, and I love the way that the publicity pictures turned out. The image of Columbia stirring Pilgrim and Thanksgiving iconography in a giant melting pot is perfect for this speech.

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