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Writing is not, in short, an end in itself, but a work done in the service of something greater--whether God or mankind.Both had been influenced by Enlightenment thinkers like Newton and Locke, but where Edwards strove to ameliorate the effects of the new rationalism by putting it in the service of Puritan theology, Franklin embraced Enlightenment thought.Although she offers many exact perceptions, the real pleasures of her essays are their resonances and intimations.
“The message arrives as a departure.” The sorting of facts is a kind of poetry here.
The productivity of her historical consciousness proves that “Poetry brings similitude and representation to configurations waiting from forever to be spoken.” [Published December 7, 2015.
His theology, such as it was, remained "deistic." This means that he conceived of God as a necessary cause; a creative force that had designed the cosmos and set it in motion according to rational laws, but, having done so, had withdrawn from human affairs.
To Franklin, this deity was no longer a present, providential force in one's daily life, but a distant and detached fact.
his writing locates, rescues, and delivers what is various and vagrant in the near at hand.” A failure to consider the near at hand was the crime that Randall Jarrell accused Stevens of committing, but Howe does what Jarrell could not – she reads the poems as they insist on being read. One shivery sentence sums up her mode: “Secret perceptions in readers draw near to the secret perceptions in authors.” The most affecting essay here is “The Disappearance Approach” (2010), an extended elegy for her second husband, the philosopher Peter Hare, who died in 2008.
The essay leaps to Spinoza, quoting Stevens’ correspondence on that philosopher. She speaks about the day he died, pivots to the death of Jonathan Edwards, and shoots vectors to Auden, Poussin, Ovid, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale, William Gass, Hölderlin, and Milton.Through an “instinctive attraction for living facts,” she plainly describes her early family life and its provenance among the New England family histories of the Howes, de Wolfes, Quincys and Mannings (her mother’s Irish family).Personal memory, lyrical observation, intuitive speculation, historical facts, quotations, obscure fragments – all are cut and pasted into a field of relations through the sure hand of an assiduous, unsentimental antiquarian.There’s something that we do, a Romantic, utopian ideal of poetry as revelation at the same instant it’s a fall into fracture and trespass.” As a literary scholar, Howe is predisposed to iconoclasm and animism in the manner of those who have sought or portrayed revelation through unorthodox ways.“The patriotic zeal of local antiquarian scholarship is often doctrinal [and] it confirms a community’s need to flatter current misconceptions,” she warns in “Frame Structures.” In contrast, her project excavates experiential and intuitive truths; in “Errand” she writes, “I believed in an American aesthetic of uncertainty that could represent beauty in syllables so scarce and rushed they would appear to expand though they lay half-smothered in local history.” Her Dickinson text was followed by interview as “my favorite twentieth-century poet.” Of Stevens’ often neglected final poems, she writes, “As if from some unfathomable source, knowledge derived from sense perception fails, and the unreality of what seems most real floods over us …She has noted, without the need to elaborate, that Perry Miller dedicated (1985), an innovative and impassioned commentary that convinced Robert Creeley to offer her a faculty post at SUNY Buffalo.In Dickinson, she discovers “a contradiction to canonical social power.” In herself, she finds an “Americanist …As she states it, “The genteel American tradition is not to kill an original: we only remove the embarrassment.” His papers were removed to the Beineke at Yale where Howe studied them.“Malice dominates the history of Power and Progress,” she writes in “There Are Not Leaves Enough to Crown to Cover to Crown to Cover.” One of her forebears, James d’Wolf, was charged by a federal grand jury in Rhode Island “with throwing a female African slave overboard during the Middle Passage because she was sick with smallpox.” She also tells of Weetamoo, “squaw-sachem of the Wampanoags,” who during King Philip’s War “escaped the murderous Christian soldiers again and again until on August 6, 1676, she was drowned while trying to float by raft to her kingdom of Pocasset.In such moments the difference between Edwards and Franklin becomes quite clear.Yet Franklin's debts to the Puritan culture that bore him were enormous.