Date of Award

Winter 1991

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

David H Watters


The decade from 1820-30, is a time recognized by many as a cultural moment when a truly "national" identity and its probable origins focused the attention of intellectuals. Part One of the dissertation examines the key moments in Magnalia dedicated to a political and historical appraisal of Puritanism in New England. In Part Two, I consider three works written after the publication of the Robbins edition: Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Grandfather's Chair" (1839); Harriet Beecher Stowe's The Ministers Wooing (1859); and Elizabeth Drew Stoddard's The Morgesons (1862). These works best illustrate the Magnalia's politically astute display of the accordance between a writer's public involvements and literary practices. The three writers I discuss were acutely interested in Mather's text because it suggested, in its portrayal of Mather as a politically aware and historically contingent figure, a means for elaborating democratic problems and potentials that resonated with the later authors and their audiences. These writers capitalized on Mather's attention to political circumstances and his framing of rapidly unfolding events through narrative formula, keywords, and allegorical sequences.

Chapter 2 is a brief examination of the Robbins's edition and its contribution to the archive of the American Renaissance. Chapter 3 examines Nathaniel Hawthorne's invocation of Mather in the "Grandfather's Chair." Chapter 4 discusses Stowe's The Minister's Wooing and her use of Mather's political contributions to find ways of narrating republican conspiracies and the appropriate bases for cultural authority. Finally, Chapter 5 concentrates on Stoddard's use of Mather to write a novel which draws on the radical narrative capacities of spiritualism and witchcraft to contextualize political notions of individual autonomy.