Synopses & Reviews
In the mid-seventeenth century, persons on both sides of the Atlantic wishing to join a Puritan church had to appear before all of its members and tell the story of their religious conversion - in effect, to give convincing verbal evidence that their souls were saved. New England's Puritans widely adopted this practice, and in this book Patricia Caldwell attempts to unravel the mystery of this procedure by viewing it as a literary phenomenon that met the special imaginative and expressive needs of troubled people in a time of great turmoil. In the first comparative reading of conversion stories as literary expression, Caldwell shows that these symbolic and deeply religious narratives represent 'the first faint murmurings of a truly American voice'.
' ... one of the two most essential reference works in early American literature ...' Early American Literature
'Rarely does a colonialist put aesthetic sensibility on the line, but that is precisely what Caldwell does here in a critical performance both important and audacious ... it is intelligent, judiciously speculative, deeply learned in its materials, and insofar as the subject allows, witty and sprightly.' American Literature
'Of special value in The Puritan Conversion Narrative is the author's concern with the genre as a unique form of expression that flourished in both Englands at the same time. In this regard the book deserves high praise, not only because of the vigor of its approach, but also because it takes on a subject of great complexity that has not until now been thoroughly discussed.' New England Quarterly
' ... it offers striking insights into the nature of Puritan piety ...' New York Review of Books
' ... Patricia Caldwell entirely succeeds in persuading us to hear 'the faint murmurings of a truly American voice.' Times Higher Education Supplement
This book explores the testimonies of spiritual experience delivered by puritans in the mid-seventeenth century in order to qualify for membership of their local churches.
Table of Contents
Preface; Introduction; Part I. The Conversion Narrative as a Form of Expression in the Puritan Gathered Churches: 1. Origins; 2. Controversy; Part II. Sea Change: The Conversion Narrative in The New World: 3. Disappointment; 4. The problem of expression; 5. The American morphology of conversion; 6. Epilogue; Bibliography; Index.