LITR 4340 American Immigrant Literature

Lecture Notes

"Red Families v. Blue Families."






Midterm2 returns

Pleasure of seeing how much you loved texts that worked for you (review last week?)

meeting requirements

Grades rose, more Model Assignments

Essay and paragraph organization + transitions so that ideas develop, build on each other



questioning, playing with terms, concepts > recombining, new possibilities for identity


not enough attention to all you do right, but reward is yours


mental exercise of writing


social / economic exercise of working with an authority figure on common goal



paragraph requirements, paragraph length (esp. re research reports)

OK to write more paragraphs than minimal requirements


(Instructional materials)



learning categories, classifications

sociology, anthropology, but

literature as entertainment + education

How does literature engage our emotions or feelings as opposed to just being another expression of culture or history?



Literary device or purpose:


introduce it early

define it (working definition)

observe or apply it to examples from texts

how does it help the meaning? make it more feeling?



Today, learn facts and history about origins of dominant culture


facts are good, but too many to remember or tell--no one listens unless directly self-interested.


but people live and learn by stories




cultural narrative







Dominant Culture waves > meritocracy > Scotch-Irish



Pilgrims and ancient Jews 3.4; Bradford & Moses







The Pilgrims and the Hebrew model of national migration; prototype of white exclusiveness and purity? William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation (

Student Research Post on "Plain Style"

Scots Irish review

Not genealogically motivated, but partly autobiographical

I didn't dislike Scots-Irish culture as much as it dislikes me.


Scots-Irish deny ethnicity: "We're just Americans. Why can't everyone just be an American?"--i.e., an American like me! (you assimilate to me, not I to you)

However, Scots-Irish / Red-State culture increasingly plays ethnicity game of victimization and grievance: "Take Back America!"

But they don't go there: If Red State culture becomes ethnic instead of "just American," part of its rhetorical and symbolic power diminishes.

J.D. Vance, Chapter 9, Hillbilly Elegy (PDF emailed 7 November

129 grandma, importance of doing well academically, if anyone in the family "made it," it would be me

130 lawyer, doctor, businessman x high school dropout

130 Mom needs clean urine, a half dozen prescription drugs (cf. Elvis)

130 Mom a survivor, survive encounter with nursing board

131 smoked new stepfather's pot

131 this isn't right, but she's your mother

131 Mamaw always found a way to believe in the people she loved

132 stay with Mamaw permanently

133 get good grades, get a job, and get off your ass and help me

134 I wanted to escape to Jackson; she wanted to escape from it

134 cf. the Sopranos

134 Tony a killer, objectively terrible person x loyalty, family honor

134 [male privilege] sleeping around

136 malpractice but didn't believe in using the legal system

136 [my family] was more non-traditional than most. And we were poor.

136 Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle [class markers + plain style]

137 giant menthol cigarette [class marker]

137 tested into honors Advanced Math class [meritocracy] [contrast bomb threat]

137 obtain calculators

138 grades improve

138 talk about problems of community, got a job > amateur sociologist

138 more harried the customer, more they purchased precooked food, more likely they were poor [stress > poverty]

138-9 why only poor people bought baby formula, x-breast feed children

139 class divide > resentment

139 Cadillac trustworthy

139 people gamed welfare system

139 view working people with distrust

139 tax deductions x T-bone steaks

140 x-Dems as party of working man

140 Appalachia and South to Republicans: race relations, religious faith, social conservatism

140 paying people on welfare to do nothing

140 Plan B vouchers bring bad people into neighborhood, drive down housing values

140-1 shared a lot in common

141 blast govt for doing too much or too little

141 aircraft carriers x drug treatment centers

141 ballot failures of school improvement tax

142 in Mamaw's contradictions lay great wisdom [?]

143 our neighbor's teenage daughter's prospects?

143 other people didn't live like we did [American Dream]

144 books about social policy and the working poor

144 [two phases of migration: first everybody, then educated and well-off]

144 Wilson writing about black people in inner cities

144-5 no single book or theory could explain the problems of hillbillies in America

145 sociology, psychology, culture, community, faith

146 her mother never held a job and seemed interested only "in breeding"; her kids never had a chance

146 truly irrational behavior, spend our way into poorhouse

147 even the best and brightest of us will go to college close to home

147 the lies we tell ourselves to cover our cognitive dissonance, broken connection between the lives we live and the values we preach

148 two separate sets of mores and social pressures [traditional and modern?]

148 not to romanticize my grandparents' world

149 I've always straddled those two worlds

149 work so you can spend weekends with your family, go to college

149 Mamaw showed me what was possible and showed me how to get there.

149 positive effect of a loving and stable home

150 Facebook friend constantly changing boyfriends

151 just wanted a home, strangers stay out




Bradford notes

a plain style, with singular regard unto the simple truth in all things

1.1 light of gospel x darkness of popery  [Protestantism]

churches of God revert to their ancient purity, and recover their primitive order, liberty, and beauty [Protestantism]

1.2 his ancient stratagems, used of old against the first Christians


4.1 30 Years War

4.5 propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world [the Americas]

4.7 vast and unpeopled countries of America, which are fruitful and fit for habitation, being devoid of all civil inhabitants, where there are only savage and brutish men which range up and down, little otherwise than the wild beasts


9.5 God in heaven + Seneca

9.6 amazed at this poor people's condition

9.7 cf. St. Paul at Malta, + savage barbarians

9.8 what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men

9.9 If they looked behind them, there was the mighty ocean which they had passed and was now as a main bar and gulf to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

9.11 What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and his grace?

Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord

no city to dwell in


10.2 espied five or six persons with a dog coming towards them, who were savages; but they [the “savages”] fled from them [the English] and ran up into the woods, and the English followed them

10.3 a good quantity of clear ground where the Indians had formerly set corn, and some of their graves.

[The first evidence of the 1612-1617 epidemic of European disease that killed up to 90% of the Massachusett Indians] cf. John Smith, invisible bullets

10.4 found where lately a house had been, . . . found in them divers fair Indian baskets filled with corn

10.7 a special providence of God, and a great mercy to this poor people, that here they got seed to plant them corn the next year, or else they might have starved

[Instructor’s note: The Pilgrims’ interpretation of the New World of America as a Promised Land overflowing with blessings thanks to their special relation with God is automatically agreeable to the USA’s evangelical dominant culture. However, with no disrespect to the scripture or faith of the Pilgrims, keep in mind how much this interpretation of events blocks reception of the catastrophic story of the Indians as a result of European contact.]

10.8 The weather [the precipitation or rain]  was very cold and it froze so hard as the spray of the sea lighting on their coats, they were as if they had been glazed. [a rare poetic figure] . . .  

10.13 a great and strange cry, which they knew to be the same voices they heard in the night, . . . one of their company being abroad came running in and cried, "Men, Indians! Indians!" And withal, their arrows came flying amongst them.

10.15 a lusty [strong] man, and no less valiant, stood behind a tree within half a musket shot, and let his arrows fly at them . . . an extraordinary shriek


11.1 discontented and mutinous speeches that some of the strangers [non-Pilgrims] amongst them had let fall from them in the ship—That when they came ashore they would use their own liberty; for none had power to command them, the patent they had being for Virginia, and not for New England

11.2 in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick

enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, . .  for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience

11.3 common store

begun some small cottages for their habitation, as time would admitte, they met and consulted of laws and orders, both for their civil and military Government

11.4 starving time

11.5 did all the homely and necessary offices for them which dainty and queasy stomachs cannot endure to hear named; and all this willingly and cheerfully, without any grudging in the least, showing herein their true love unto their friends and brethren. A rare example and worthy to be remembered

11.7 But now amongst his company [the ships' sailors] there was far another kind of carriage [behavior] in this misery than amongst the passengers [the Pilgrims]

11.8 about the sixteenth of March a certain Indian came boldly amongst them, and spoke to them in broken English, which they could well understand, but marveled at it.

11.9 Samoset, Squanto, Massasoit

11.11 He was a native of this place, and scarce any left alive beside himself.

11.12 He was carried away with diverse others by one Hunt, a master of a ship, who thought to sell them for slaves in Spain


12.2 Squanto stood them in great stead, showing them both the manner how to set it, and after how to dress and tend it. Also he told them except they got fish and set with it (in these old grounds) it would come to nothing

12.12 now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees).

great store of wild Turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc

[Mourt's] amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation

12.15-16 Christmas Day


14.1 set corn every man for his own particular [each person or family with their own plot of land], and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number

14.2 made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than other ways would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble

14.2 The women now went willingly into the field, and took their litle-ones with them to set corn, which before would allege weakness, and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.

14.3 The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry [several] years, and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients, applauded by some of after [modern] times;—that the taking away of property, and bringing in communities into a commonwealth, would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser then God.

14.4 young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine [whine, complain] that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children, with out any recompense

14.5 And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook [stand] it.


23.1 people of the plantation began to grow in their outward estates [economic wealth], by reason of the flowing of many people into the country,

corn and cattle rose to a great price, by which many were much enriched, and commodities grew plentiful; and yet in other regards this benefit turned to their hurt, and this accession of strength to their weakness.

23.2 no longer any holding them together,

23.3 the town [Plymouth], in which they lived compactly [close together] till now, was left very thin, and in a short time almost desolate.

23.4 the church must also be divided, and those that had lived so long together in Christian and comfortable fellowship must now part and suffer many divisions

23.6 this, I fear, will be the ruin of New England, at least of the churches of God there, and will provoke the Lord’s displeasure against them.


28.1 great terror

28.2 the Pequots, especially in the winter before, sought to make peace with the Narragansetts, and used very pernicious arguments to move them thereunto: as that the English were strangers and began to overspread their country, and would deprive them thereof in time, if they were suffered to grow and increase; and if the Narragansetts did assist the English to subdue them [the Pequots], they [the Narragansetts] did but make way for their own overthrow

28.3 But again when they [the Narragansetts] considered, how much wrong they had received from the Pequot, and what an opportunity they now had by the help of the English to right themselves, revenge was so sweet unto them, as it prevailed above all the rest; so as they resolved to join with the English against them, and did.

28.5 the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the praise thereof to God


33.1 that so many of them should live to very old age! [sounds biblical]

33.6 Many having left this place (as is before noted) by reason of the straitness [narrowness] and barrenness of the same, and their finding of better accommodations elsewhere, more suitable to their ends and minds; and sundry others still upon every occasion desiring their dismissions, the church began seriously to think whether it were not better jointly to remove to some other place, than to be thus weakened, and as it were insensibly dissolved.

[¶33.9] And thus was this poor church left, like an ancient mother, grown old, and forsaken of her children, (though not in their affections,) yet in regard of their bodily presence and personal helpfulness. Her ancient members being most of them worn away by death; and these of later time being like children translated into other families, and she like a widow left only to trust in God [1 Timothy 5.5]. Thus she that had made many rich became herself poor [2 Corinthians 6.10].



Problem of individualism and family-centered society, accentuated by migration and mobile society (criticize & celebrate)

Can America be a community of individuals?


Earlier semesters: read Exodus story from Bible


compared Jews leaving Egypt for Canaan (Promised Land)


Pilgrims leaving England for America (Promised Land)


migration as a people vs. migration as individuals and families (cf. Mormons)


immigration for religious freedom v. economic opportunity

freedom of religion > religion evolves rapidly in freemarket of ideas

religion again becomes comfortable with comfort, wealth, material gain


two-way motion: western migration & modernization, but religious primitivism

we can't stop moving and changing, but our ancestors or forebears had it right and we don't

hope for progress + fear of decline


Modernization and migration erode communities and extended families

> nuclear families, divorce, people living alone, rugged individualism as model of success 



Pilgrims & Puritans as most community-minded of American immigrants

They migrated as a community and work to establish a community based on more than wealth: Christianity > social welfare

Puritan diaspora as base of liberal US: New England and northern Midwest


significance of literacy: the Puritans were never that numerous, but they're over-represented in American literary & cultural studies.


They wrote everything down, cultivating the most literate middle-class society and the strongest educational systems.



community as repression, meddling, policing of morality: blue laws, Salem Witch Trials

Just as the Jews in the Promised Land swore not to mix with the Canaanites (i.e., to intermarry and assimilate)

the Pilgrims and Puritans in their Promised Land mixed little with American Indians (i.e., no assimilation to previous dominant culture, but became dominant culture themselves)




review Jews & Exodus

Jews as model minority?



Jews as dominant culture?


immigrate, act as group--reinforcing and exclusive (no intermarriage)

don't assimilate--some assimilation to them, or later "falling off" to assimilation (to Canaanites)


literacy--covenant, social contract, constitution > change + continuity

language powers




Information about Bradford--

born 1590 in midlands of England, died 1657


Reasons to like this dead white guy . . . .


born to working people, orphaned at an early age, raised by extended family, worked as a weaver


remarkably studious, taught himself to read Hebrew, Greek, Latin in order to study Bible in original languages and later traditions


attracted to Separatist church at nearby Scrooby


Separatist = radical Protestants


separating from Church of England, of which King or Queen of England is head


Therefore, religious dissent = political dissent


Need or desire of Pilgrims to leave England for a place where they could practice their own religion (NOT exactly the same as our modern concept of freedom of religion)





Jews and Pilgrims as "People of the Book"

Numbers 33.2 Moses wrote their goings out


24.25 covenant, statute, ordinance

14.26 wrote words in book + stone

Ex 32.16 the writing was the writing of God (i. e., not speech)


4 according to scriptures

7 no warrant in the Word of God [People of the Book]

Possible reaction: Americans no longer as dependent on "scriptures" or "Word of God" as Pilgrims / Puritans

But still depend on written forms of law--for instance, last week's decision to remove the Alabama Chief Justice for failing to obey orders regarding the Ten Commandments was based on the Constitution, another written source of laws.



Protestantism contributes:

plain style


modernity + primitivism!