Puritan Literature: Characteristics & Authors

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  • 0:03 What Is Puritanism?
  • 1:05 Puritan Literature…
  • 3:29 Puritan Literature Authors
  • 5:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Puritanism literature meant a religious focus and a simple style of writing. In this lesson, you'll learn more about the Puritan literary movement and discover some examples of authors of the period.

What Is Puritanism?

If you're going to understand what Puritan literature is, you need to know a thing or two about Puritanism. Both rose to popularity in the 17th century in the New England area of the United States. Puritanism, as a religious movement, believed in cleansing the church of all of its remaining Roman Catholic ties. Its followers, dubbed Puritans, lived by a moral and religious code that not only influenced their own lives, but sought to impact the lives of everyone around them.

Even today, one of the simplest ways to impact the lives of people around the world is through the written word. Puritans understood that and undertook it with a goal of honoring God and the Bible through their work. Not surprisingly, authors of Puritan literature were deeply religious and wrote in such a way to make God became easier for everyone to understand and more relevant in their day-to-day lives. But, what else characterized Puritan literature? Plenty! Let's take a look at some of the central characteristics of this literary movement.

Puritan Literature Characteristics

Puritan literature was direct and focused on offering instruction from a Biblical point of view. However, there were many other central characteristics. Let's take a look at some of them:

Puritan literature relied on a first-person narrative. Puritan authors approached writing from a personal point of view, with many of their writings coming in the form of journals, diaries, and day-to-day experiences. By writing from a first-person perspective, thoughts are conveyed from the author speaking about him or herself.

Puritan literature relied on a religious, rather than an entertainment, theme. Puritans didn't believe in writing for entertainment; rather, they thought of writing as a tool to reach people with the story of God. Works focused on realistic messages illustrating the idea that everyone was born a sinner and that his or her salvation had been pre-determined, a concept known as predestination.

Puritan literature also relied on specific genres. Taking into account the first-person narrative and religious focus, most Puritan literature took the form of a sermon, poem, letter, or historical narrative. There was often an underlying purpose to these types of communications, illustrating their values and the importance of the Bible and God in their daily lives.

Puritan literature relied on a simple style of writing. Puritans lived simple lives, so it stands to reason that their style of writing would mimic the same pattern. Puritan authors used direct and simple language and sentence structure to convey their point, shunning the more elaborate style of writing that was popular in many circles at the time.

Puritan literature relied on Biblical allusions. Biblical allusions, or references to Biblical events or characters, were used heavily in Puritan writing. Many authors would compare themselves or current struggles to hardships endured by characters illustrated in the Bible.

Puritan literature relied on fear. In many works, authors relied on their readers' sense of fear about God and hell to effect change in the readers' minds and souls. By using fear to reach the readers, the author thought there was better potential for change. After all, sinners who did not conform to their religious beliefs were believed to be headed for an eternity of torment in hell.

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