Anne Bradstreet Rhetorical Devices

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Anne Bradstreet’s Strategic Use of the Rhetoric of Modesty

Writing in seventeenth century New England presented itself to be difficult; the society was so deeply rooted in puritanism, that any form of arrogance or blaspheme would inevitably lead to disgrace. Therefore, it was common for writers to use a modest rhetoric, thereby aiming to pre-empt imminent criticism. Anne Bradstreet, a woman writing in Puritan New England likewise attended to this propriety, often denouncing her own works. Nevertheless, it can be questioned whether this humility was always sincere. According to Stanford, an apology for lack of skill was a device present in much poetry of her [Bradstreet] time” (63). It may even have been used as manipulative device. Therefore, …show more content…

In this poem, written in 1666 and published posthumously in 1678, Bradstreet “treats her poetry anthropomorphically by comparing it with a child” (Day-Lindsey, 66). Using imagery of motherhood to disclose her emotional disposition towards her poetry. Day-Lindsey states that the first six lines of the poem “call attention to the defects in her book, compared with the features of a deformed newborn” (68). Bradstreet frantically tries to improve on the flaws of her offspring, using compelling maternal imagery: “I washed thy face” (l. 13) and “nought save homespun cloth i’ th’ house I find” (l. 18). The poem, additionally, defining a mother’s perpetual love for her child: “Yet being my own, at length affection would / Thy blemishes amend” (ll. 11-12). This poem, nevertheless, does not play on women’s inferiority as “The Prologue” does, instead, it: “conveys the anxiety of Puritan women who feared (not only an abnormal childbirth, but also) the public castigation of her motivation and influences” (Day-Lindsey, 68). Choosing no culprit to lay blame on for the flaws in her poetry, instead, Day-Lindsey claims “The Author to Her Book”: “is filled with a degree of shame, guilt, and fear of repercussions” (68). There is a real dissimilarity in tone from “The Prologue”, in this instance; Bradstreet does not turn to sarcasm, irony or defiance. Instead, she remains apologetic for the flaws of her poetry, in tone as well as language. Bradstreet in this poem solely blames herself for the failure of her offspring, even claiming it has no father to take away any criticism of her husband: “If for thy father asked, say thou hadst none” (l. 23). One could argue Bradstreet pre-empts critics by already stating all the flaws in the poetry and her desperate attempt to correct those flaws. Although she may gain

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