The Puritan conversion narrative : the beginnings of American expression


The Puritan conversion narrative : the beginnings of American expression

Patricia Caldwell

(Cambridge studies in American literature and culture)(Cambridge paperback library)

Cambridge University Press, 1985, c1983

1st pbk. ed

  • : pbk

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Bibliography: p. 199-204

Includes index



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'.


  • 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.

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