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Document Type

Article

Abstract

This article explores the interface between textuality and materiality—of bodies, things, and places—in Bradstreet’s writings, an intersection where Bradstreet resists and revises the spiritual metaphors of the male coterie within which she produced and published her poems, turning them instead toward living engagements with place. Focusing on her poem “Contemplations” and the manuscript writings in the “Andover Manuscript,” I argue that Bradstreet’s sustained involvement with the local, immediate, material world grafts Puritanism’s spiritual and spatial allegories to the physical actualities of place, with results that trouble and decenter their univocal force. Reintroducing materiality into a reading of Bradstreet’s works, I contend, brings realignment of orthodoxy to originality to the fore. This project pursues three aims. First, I wish to bring critical attention to the “Andover Manuscript” (Harvard MS AM 1007.1), a largely unexamined work containing a holograph collection of seventy-seven “Meditations Diuine and morall” and a “Book by Any yet unread,” composed in prose and poetry, and copied by Bradstreet’s son after her death. Second, I pursue a reintroduction of materiality into the study of women’s writing in order to demonstrate the benefit of new materialist critique to readings of early modern women’s writing. By both defining and deploying this method, I recover an archive that takes into account matter as existing beyond text. Finally, I respond to the bifurcated critical reception of Bradstreet’s works, which has tended to draw a line between the “private” manuscript writings and the “political” poems of The Tenth Muse. I argue that it is not the medium of Bradstreet’s writings—manuscript or print—that determines her relative publicity or privacy, conformity or challenge. Rather, I encourage a shift in focus to consider materiality, not only of the book but more broadly of its author and environment, arguing that a reading grounded in the physical actualities of place can unite these polarized views.

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