Professor Mary Eyring discussed her new research on Colonial Ecology and Atlantic Sympathy at a Humanities Center event last Thursday.
“Canonical texts of the early American settlement period often include–and frequently even open with–the image of a house on fire. Temporary homelessness was a precondition of North American settlement, and given what we imagine about Puritans’ preference for eternal verities over worldly belongings, we might not assume the first settlers of New England felt the loss of a home keenly at all. Certainly that material loss pales in comparison to the illness, injury, death, and violence these canonical texts go on to describe. But the prevalence and prominence of the burning home in the literature of settlement suggests that lost homes mattered in early America and summoned rituals of memorialization and mourning. As they wrote about and published their experiences, early New Englanders gave the burning home pride of place. In this presentation, I’ll consider both the fact that these texts show settlers grappling with their relationship to North American ecology and the possibility that they foregrounded the burning home in texts they published in London or Native space in North America in order to imaginatively unsettle North America and forge bonds of sympathy with readers across oceans and continents.”