On Trying to Hate Anne Bradstreet

When I first began to look at the works of Anne Bradstreet, I felt like I didn’t like her. I couldn’t understand why, but I didn’t. It’s like the first time I skimmed through the Twilight bullshit. Stephanie Meyer sucks at writing, but she’s more famous than I’ll ever be, and, subsequently, still a better writer than me, which goes to show you how well my writing career is taking shape. Nevertheless, I couldn’t stand it, but you got to giver her credit. Meyer wrote about wolves and vampires falling in love with babies and epic battles on frozen tundras when everyone thought it was cool. Luckily, I think society has shifted off of vampires, but I digress. I hate Stephanie Meyer as much as I like Anne Bradstreet. Let me explain.

So, I’m all about showing someone up. I really am. You give me something I’m good at, and someone who’s bad at the thing I’m good at, and I’ll be set for weeks. If you read through Bradstreet’s work, that’s exactly what it is. She isn’t saying directly that she’s better than anyone, but she’s basically saying that she’s better than everyone at writing. Not just that, but she”s saying indirectly that she’s better because she’s a woman. “I am obnoxious to each carping tongue/ who says my hand a needle better fits. /A poet’s pen all scorn I should thus wrong; /For such despite they cast on female wits, /If what I do prove well, it won’t advance– /They’ll say it was stolen, or else it was by chance” (OpenAmLit). So basically, she’s saying that most guys want her to sew, but instead she’s not going to. I mean, in real life, she’s going to, but she doesn’t want to. Furthermore, she says that anyone who views her work is probably going to think that it was stolen from someone else. That line, to me, was almost like a watermark; saying that she probably stole it because that’s what society thinks really means that she literally couldn’t have stolen it. Right?

She continues to talk about her terrible writing, saying “If e’er you deign these lowly lines your eyes, /Give thyme or parsley wreath; I ask no bays. /This mean and unrefinéd ore of mine /Will make your glistening gold but more to shine” (OpenAmLit). Kind of like, ‘if you ever are, like, really bored and read that stuff, just know that it’s so bad, it will make your writing look awesome. That’s how small-brained and terrible I am.’ Which is where the feminist aspect comes in. Many people who dissect Bradstreet’s work see it as being very feminist-minded. Realistically, if you can’t see it in her writing, you’re blind. But in reality, I can’t actually tell if she’s a feminist or not. Which makes me not like her.

It’s not like I hate her though. How can I? She’s either the Sarah Silverman of the 17th century, sassin’ it up and feminizin’ and stuff, or she’s actually believing what she writes. I don’t care how much people say that she was a total feminist, I don’t fully buy it. I buy it, but I don’t. I try so hard to put myself in people’s shoes and I just can’t seem to believe that Bradstreet and her brother-in-law concocted a plan to publish her works in a feminist lens. I also have a hard time believing that Bradstreet merely thought she was nothing more than a puny woman, at the hands of intellectual men and couldn’t write as well as they could, but she wanted to get her work out there anyways. I don’t have a side here, which is why I hate her, even though I don’t really.


50 Shades of God, by Jonathan Edwards

Funny as the title might be, I would do a lot of things to see the look on Jonathan Edwards’ face if he found out that his religious Playboy column would still be talked about today. Of course, I’m talking about his personal narrative, written about how he really felt towards God, and how God might have felt him back, and often. Although you can see vivid lines throughout Edwards’ writing, I think it’s pretty clear that he truly gets down on his knees to pray.

“I experienced I know not what kind of delight in religion. My mind was much engaged in it, and had much self­righteous pleasure; and it was my delight to abound in religious duties” (OpenAmLit). So, first time we see Jonathan Edwards talking about pleasure, it’s hard to say exactly what he meant. Maybe, he loves this religion. He was so happy and delighted with it, he just couldn’t express what it was actually called. Was there a name for this delight? Of course, back when he wrote this, masturbation wasn’t really something that was written or talked about. But who am I to say that this religious fellow is, dare I say it, ‘pleasuring’ himself to his religion? C’mon, get your mind out of the gutter.

He then talks a bit about how he would talk about the religion to boys of his age, and how even after his talks, he would pray five times a day in secret. He says, “My affections seemed to be lively and easily moved, and I seemed to be in my element when engaged in religious duties. And I am ready to think, many are deceived with such affections, and such a kind of delight as I then had in religion, and mistake it for grace.” Okay, maybe a little bit more here. Am I reading into this too much? I mean, he’s ‘in his element’ when engaged in these duties, and that they shouldn’t be mistaken for grace. I am. I’m reading into it a little too much. Tone it down.

Edwards recollects in his time being a terrible sinner in his college years, saying that he was nothing more than “a dog returning to his vomit,” (possibly the only non-sexual reference he uses in this, unless he’s into weird shit…) and recalls that even if his old, terrible days were upon him, that he should not part with God. “I kept saying, and as it were singing over these words of scripture to myself; and went to pray to God that I might enjoy him, and prayed in a manner quite different from what I used to do; with a new sort of affection. But it never came into my thought, that there was any thing spiritual, or of a saving nature in this,” he says. How does one normally pray? I mean, I’ve been to CCD when I was younger, went to church on Christmas if my parents thought I was a bad kid that year, and sometimes on Easter, but all we ever did was read the Bible and sing hymns and eat the bread and give out like 18 donations (of course, I was usually about as lost looking for the correct passage in the Bible as Jonathan Edwards would be looking for ‘religious pleasuring tools’ in Spencer’s, but I’d always get there). So how do you show more affection than singing about stories and handing out spare dollars? Definitely NOT pleasuring yourself.

From this, there’s a passage here from his narrative where I got the title for this piece. You can read the whole thing at OpenAmLit, but about a third of the way down he says “From about that time, I began to have a new kind of apprehensions and ideas of Christ. and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him. An inward, sweet sense of these things, at times, came into my heart; and my soul was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them. And my mind was greatly engaged to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ, on the beauty and excellency of his person, and the lovely way of salvation by free grace in him… The sense I had of divine things, would often of a sudden kindle up, as it were, a sweet burning in my heart; an ardor of soul, that I know not how to express.” I didn’t read one page of 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James, but I was dragged out to watch the movie. And this seems like something Anastasia Steele would say. Literally, if you replaced ‘God’ with the name ‘Christian’ and said it out loud, someone would think you were reciting the book.

Which still does NOT mean Jonathan Edwards is pleasuring himself to God.

“I was almost constantly in ejaculatory prayer, wherever I was.” When I first read this, I tried to think of the last time I was in ejaculatory prayer. Or if I saw someone else in ejaculatory prayer. Sitting downstairs in the Plymouth State University library, I once saw a girl who looked as though she was down on her knees, helping out a student pray. I bet that was when.

“Those former delights never reached the heart; and did not arise from any sight of the divine excellency of the things of God; or any taste of the soul satisfying and life­giving good there is in them…I do certainly know that I love holiness, such as the gospel prescribes.” Definitely don’t think that the gospel prescribes for you to go out to the wild outdoors, find serenity, and drop your pants, but whatever gets you through the day I guess.

I think that it’s very safe to say that Jonathan Edwards really did ‘jack to Jesus.’ I am going to claim that I own that term, and probably shouldn’t say it out of context of this situation.