Flying from the Depravities of Europe to the American Strand: Chaucer and the Chaucer Tradition in Early America
This essay considers the largely ignored presence of Chaucer and texts in the Chaucerian tradition in seventeenth- and early-eighteenth-century New England. It focuses on Cotton Mather, Anne Bradstreet, and Nathaniel Ward, writers who had connections to each other. Mather, Bradstreet, and Ward engage with Chaucer and the Chaucerian tradition to forge relationships between past and present, between old and new, as they establish positions of textual, political, and spiritual authority. Chaucer and texts associated with him play key roles in their processes of shaping distinctively colonial religio-political visions and developing modes of New English identity in relation to Old England. Anne Bradstreet’s father, Thomas Dudley, brought a copy of Robert Crowley’s edition of PPl to New England, and it may be that Bradstreet herself read the poem. Bradstreet’s own allegorical dialogue between Old and New England in The Tenth Muse resembles in places the language and rhetoric of the Marprelate tradition, which appropriated Piers as a Protestant reformer.