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By Robert Blair St. George

The writer demonstrates how New England colonialists lived in a densely metaphoric panorama, exploring the hyperlinks among such cultural expressions as witchcraft narratives and 18th-century crowd violence. He questions the particular impression of the Enlightenment in this weather of worry and instability.

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Additional info for Conversing by signs: poetics of implication in colonial New England culture

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Conjectural view of Guilford farmstead from the southwest, ca. 1641. (Drawing by the author) paradoxically, in the retention of enclosed and protective settlement forms that looked back toward the fixed security of feudal social relations at the same time that commodity relations were loosening the parameters of social place. The case was little different outside Guilford. Elsewhere in New England other leading citizens sought to contain mercantile activity within a neofeudal social order. " 4 An overemphasis on defense and the sad politics of colonization can obscure other lines of inquiry.

Because of these (and other) continuities in social discipline, I regard New England culture as still "colonial" in the 1790s (and later), even though the periodicity of the "early Republic" had already begun. It may be possible, however, to approach the uncomfortable reality of overlapping political structures from an opposite position. A rhetoric of national affiliation extends back to seventeenth-century England and mingles with the providential mythology of the founding generation. " Thus the inhabitants of New England actually belonged simultaneously to two imagined nations and saw their position in each as predestined and privileged.

Page 1 Introduction On Implication PERINTHIA'S ASTRONOMERS ARE FACED WITH A DIFFICULT CHOICE. EITHER THEY MUST ADMIT THAT ALL THEIR CALCULATIONS WERE WRONG AND THEIR FIGURES ARE UNABLE TO DESCRIBE THE HEAVENS, OR ELSE THEY MUST REVEAL THAT THE ORDER OF THE GODS IS EFLECTED EXACTLY IN THE CITY OF MONSTERS. ITALO CALVINO, INVISIBLE CITIES Page 2 People in colonial New England lived in a densely metaphoric world. The sermons they heard, the Bible verses they read aloud, and the cries of the afflicted suggest the dense layering of meanings they shaped on a daily basis.

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