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Chapter 4 - Rereading Puritan Masculinity through Trans Theory

from Part I - Intimacies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 April 2021

Jean M. Lutes
Affiliation:
Villanova University, Pennsylvania
Jennifer Travis
Affiliation:
St John's University, New York
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Summary

In 1991, I argued that, “The Puritan patrimony has exacted a heavy toll on men, a fact borne out by our present ‘crisis in masculinity,’” which second wave feminists identified as the existence of “a rape culture” in the United States. A contributing factor was the narrative of religious conversion innovated by early New England Puritanism, which required believers to become spiritual “brides of Christ” in order to be saved. This devotional rhetoric not only colored Puritan poetry but indicated deeply held attitudes about spirituality, embodied gender, and social power, which shaped subsequent US poetry. In this chapter, I revisit and update these claims in the light of trans theory, reread poetry on spiritual gender by Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor, early New England’s two major poets; and conclude with a discussion of Emily Dickinson, who was raised in a Puritan culture but makes irreverent, even subversive, use of this legacy.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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