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March 28, 2007

Richard Beal Davis Prize Award Citation 2006 for Timothy Sweet

     The Davis Prize Selection Committee decided to award 2006's Richard Beale Davis prize to Timothy Sweet for his article, “‘What Concernment Hath America in These Things!’: Local and Global in Samuel Sewall's Plum Island Passage” (41:2 213-240). Sweet’s article has many strengths. In the spirit of the Early Ibero/Anglo-American Summit, Sweet opens up a canonical text from New England to its broader hemispheric contexts, in particular the relationship between New England and Mexico. Readers come away from Sweet’s article with new ways to understand expressions of insularity and distinction at the end of the 17th century as New England Puritans sought to “develop and maintain [their] sense of connected apartness.” Sweet also continues to refine the eco-critical approach to American nature writing, convincingly demonstrating the nexus of natural, divine, and aesthetic tropes. Finally, Sweet explores the commercial and imperial forces that vied within the Puritan self-imaginary to indicate both “harmonious connection” to the broad Atlantic economy and “separation and relative political autonomy” from England. The result is a tour de force, both synthesizing and breaking new ground in the poetics of nature and the global dimensions of millennial and apocalyptic aspiration.
     The Richard Beale Davis Prize honors the best article published in Early American Literature in a publishing year. Named in memory of the great scholar of early southern literature and intellectual history at the University of Tennessee, it celebrates original contributions to our understanding of American literature and culture before 1820.

Davis Prize Committee:
Michael Drexler, Richard Frohock, and Janice Knight


Print Culture, Enlightenment, and Revolution in the Americas, 1776-1826
La cultura de la imprenta, la ilustración y las revoluciones en las Américas, 1776-1826
La culture de l'imprimé, les lumières, et les révolutions aux Amériques, 1776-1826

June 16-18, 2006

     This conference will explore the circulation, translation, revision, cross-cultural interpretation, and influence of key texts inciting revolt against colonial dominion and establishing independent states in the western hemisphere during the first age of Revolution. Matters to be treated include the effect of European Enlightenment books and pamphlets on independence movements throughout the Americas; the representation of Revolutions in North America, France, Haiti, Central and South America, and the 1808-1814 Spanish War of Independence against France in the press; the publication of public documents, charters, and political declarations and their international influence; print and the reaction against Revolution in the Americas; the literature of Revolution and the creation of the "vox populi" in new American nation states; the role of print in defining norms and excesses in liberated polities-particularly in respect to Jacobinism, factionalism, radical libertarianism, and filibusterism; and print's function in highlighting the problem of slavery in newly independent American nations.

Program Chair, David S. Shields

To attend, please contact: jhench@mwa.org (508) 471-2128

November 05, 2004


Volume 39, Number 3, 2004

The Face of the Public

Frances Brooke's "Circle of Friends":
The Limits of Epistolarity in The History of Emily Montague

The Imperfect Dead:
Mourning Women in Eighteenth-Century Oratory and Fiction

"Affecting History":
Impersonating Women in the Early Republic

Aristocracy, Aaron Burr, and the Poetry of Conspiracy

New Media's Prospect:
A Review of Web Resources in Early American Studies
Democracy, Memory, and Methodology


Editor's Notes

Notes on Contributors

November 19, 2003

Beyond Colonial Studies—An Inter-American Encounter
(Providence, Rhode Island, November 4-6, 2004)

     The intent of this conference and of the collection of essays to result from it is to advance an understanding of the colonial Americas that transcends the national, linguistic, cultural and epistemological boundaries commonly found in academia today. In this, the conference seeks to build upon the dialogue initiated with the Summit of Early Ibero- and Anglo-Americanists in Tucson, Arizona, in May 2002. Whereas the latter sought to address the mutual ignorance of colonialists working in English, Spanish and Portuguese through a review of key texts and problems in each of these languages, we will (1) broaden discussion by including scholars of the French and Dutch colonies, and (2) go beyond the side-by-side presentation of examples drawn from and conceptualized in terms of particular linguistic or national traditions in favor of more explicitly comparative analysis. There will be twelve plenary sessions, each focusing not on the usual topics of colonial studies (exploration, conquest, settlement, etc.), but on the consequence of the ways in which these activities are conceptualized, performed or recorded. Each session will comprise three 20-minute talks, a formal response and discussion. By this means, and through workshops on more specialized topics, we will explore what is common, different and distinctly American in colonial American studies. For general information, see:


Application procedure:
For the themes and topics to be addressed in the plenary sessions, see:


     You may also propose workshops on companion topics in colonial American studies. Papers and workshops will be selected in accordance with the objectives described above. All papers are to be written and presented in English. Comparative analyses, transcending linguistic and national boundaries, are strongly preferred. More particular case studies will nevertheless be considered, providing that their conclusions explicitly address broader issues common to the colonial Americas.

     Applicants should send a c.v. and a 1-page, single-spaced proposal as attachments in Word for Windows to both conference directors at the addresses listed below. Proposals for more than one session may be submitted with the understanding that only one will be accepted. Each proposal should indicate the session and topic to which it corresponds. Work previously published or under consideration for publication, whether in whole or in part, will not be accepted.

All proposals must be received by March 15, 2004.

Conference Directors:
Ralph Bauer, University of Maryland
David A. Boruchoff, McGill University

Program Committee:
David Shields, University of South Carolina
Raquel Chang-Rodríguez, CUNY
Christopher Conway, Brown University
Leonard Tennenhouse, Brown University

Local Arrangements Chair:
Nancy Armstrong, Brown.

November 12, 2003

     Sargent Bush, Jr., Professor of American Literature at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has died. Educated at Princeton and the University of Iowa, he was one of the greatest expositors of the intellectual history of New England. While his renown as a scholar lies as an expositor and editor of the theological and political writings of the first generation N. E. Puritan divines, particularly Thomas Hooker and John Cotton, and the antinomian John Wheelwright, he wrote on a broad range of authors and subjects, including Longfellow, Twain, and Cather. He was the greatest expert on early American epistolary writings, a remarkably talented textual editor capable of bringing order to the notoriously difficult manuscript letters of John Cotton, and an intellectual historian who invariably assumed a transatlantic frame of reference. He collaborated in writing the history of the library of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, the institution that trained many of the early New England Puritans. He also edited the journal of Sarah Kemble Knight. At the time of his death he was working on a study of Robert Keayne’s notes on the sermons of John Cotton in the 1640s.

     A personable yet professional man, Sarge Bush will be sorely missed by the community of Early Americanists. “A great tree has fallen in Zion.”

David S. Shields

Richard Beale Davis Prize Citation

The best article to have appeared in Volume 37

Gordon Sayre, “Plotting the Natchez Massacre: Le Page du Pratz, Dumont de Montigny, Chateaubriand” Volume 37, #3

     In a year that saw a singularly distinguished group of articles appear in the pages of Early American Literature, Gordon Sayre’s “Plotting the Natchez Massacre” promises to be the work of scholarship that will have the most enduring influence. Recovering a French literary tradition treating the 1729 “Natchez Massacre,” a Native war of resistance against la Louisiane, Sayre shows how the gradual erosion of French imperial hopes became inscribed in a series of texts treating the destruction of up river settlements of France by the Natchez Indians. Epic imperial ambitions decay into mock epic frustrations in Dumont’s “Poème” on the establishment of Louisiana & the Natchez massacre. In Le Page du Pratz’s Histoire de la Louisiane one sees the descent of French policy into paranoia at the possibility of pan-Indian conspiracy (“the plot”) and the culpability of French leaders, particularly Sieur de Chépar, the commander of Fort Rosalie. But the allegiance that both have for the French imperial adventure causes them to celebrate the reprisals wrought upon the Natives in the aftermath of the “massacre.” At the commencement of the 19th century and in the wake of the French Revolution, Chateaubriand reverses the emotional valences of the war narrative and makes the injured Natchez an emotional correlative of a France dispossessed of empire. Sayre performs a service to students of Early American letters by locating the tragic history of the Natchez & the French in tension with the narratives of the 1622 war in Virginia and the histories of the Spanish conquest of America. He demonstrates how a century of wars and confused imperial adventures so complicated the meaning of the original events that Chateaubriand’s romantic politics of sympathy become incoherent. The only certitude that can be seized upon is the notion that the Natchez did attempt a pan-Indian plot against Louisiana. In the end, Sayre suggests that the plot, a projection of both the French literary and imperial imagination, is the only shape that Native intentionality can assume. It is the story in Lousiana’s colonial history.

The Richard Beale Davis prize is named in honor of the late historian of colonial southern letters at the University at Tennessee, a man whose investigations plumbed archives on both sides of the Atlantic, whose historical narratives shaped our understanding of a large segment of Anglo-American literary production, and whose energy and originality was unmatched in his generation of scholars.
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