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Studies in Puritan American Spirituality

From Anne Bradstreet to Abraham Lincoln. Puritanism in America. Studies in Puritan American Spirituality S. v. 8

Edited by Michael Schuldiner
Format: Hardback
Publisher: The Edwin Mellen Press Ltd, New York, United States
Imprint: Edwin Mellen Press Ltd
Published: 28th Feb 2005
Dimensions: w 159mm h 235mm d 19mm
Weight: 431g
ISBN-10: 0773461280
ISBN-13: 9780773461284
Barcode No: 9780773461284
ISSN: 1048-8553
Synopsis
Roxanne Harde "Then Soul And Body Shall Unite": Anne Bradstreet's Theology Of Embodiment It pleased God to keep me a long time without a child, which was a great grief to me and cost me many prayers and tears before I obtained one, and after him gave me many more of whom I now take the care, that as I have brought you into the world, and with great pains, weakness, cares, and fears brought you to this, I now travail in birth again of you till Christ be formed in you. (241) Anne Bradstreet, To My Dear Children; A theology of embodiment does not seek to develop a new theology, but it does seek to open up a forgotten place which is important today, from which there can be theological thought and action: the human body. [...] A theological return to embodiment recalls the distinctive feature of Christianity, that God became body and in so doing has confirmed and healed all our bodily nature. (104) Elizabeth Moltmann-Wendel, I Am My Body; "Rapt were my senses": Writing Poetry, Writing the Body In the personal narrative written towards the end of her life, Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) remembers her immigration to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 as an event that provoked a crisis of faith, but a faith understood through her body: "I found a new world and new manners, at which my heart rose" (241).1 She then describes the end of her rebellion and return to faith as a theologically reasoned conformity: "But after I was convinced it was the way of God, I submitted to it and joined to the church at Boston" (241). Resistance, emotional and bodily, subdued through a theologically reasoned assurance of faith forms a pattern that was repeated frequently throughout Bradstreet's life, a pattern that reveals the tension caused by being a devout Puritan woman. On the one hand, Calvinism taught Bradstreet that her soul was as important as a man's, that she was as worthy of education in order to better understand the scriptures, and that her time must be spent on self-scrutiny in order to explore and articulate her relationship with God. In granting authority to Bradstreet's soul and conscience, the self-consciousness of Puritanism made possible her meditative poetry. On the other hand, Puritan women were forbidden to participate publicly in scriptural interpretation and the theocratic governance of the colony; the excommunication of Bradstreet's sister, Sarah, and the excommunication and banishment of Ann Hutchinson for sedition provided clear examples of the consequences for women breaching cultural codes. Overall, the Calvinist ethos that explicitly denied Bradstreet any public role implicitly authorized her personal and poetic theologizing. A thoroughgoing Calvinist and a woman who lived largely within the restrictions of her culture, Bradstreet must be read in those terms. She did not write poetry or personal narrative to change her religion and her world, but to live more fully, as a woman, within them, and for that reason she should be seen as part of a usable past that prefigures feminist theology, especially in light of the religious underpinnings to everything she did and wrote.2 Paula Kopacz points out the widely held Puritan belief, best articulated by Bradstreet's contemporary John Cotton, that everything one does receives divine attention and all writing is equally devoted to the service of God. Kopacz makes this point to argue that all of Bradstreet's poems, public and private, "are forms of prayer, whether explicit or not" (177). To that, I would add that whether Bradstreet's poems/prayers are written as confession, worship, intercession, petition, or thanksgiving, they are aesthetically expressed examinations of lived experience, offered up to God. Pamela Dickey Young provides insight into the creation of devotional art, noting that aesthetic value is part of the Christian tradition, because "creation of the aesthetically pleasing is part and parcel of the desire to experience life satisfyingly or well, to experience life to its fullest" (109). She suggests that women seek satisfaction in religious aesthetic experience for "the embodiment of value in the self or in the creation," and "because traditional religions have not taken women's experiences seriously" (111, 117). Following the Calvinist tenet that all creative acts are devotional, and inspired by Young's connection among the aesthetic dimension, embodiment, and religious poetry, I contend that writing provided Bradstreet a space within which she could examine seriously her experiences as a woman and a believer, where she could theologize her embodied self as part of God's creation. Her writing thus can contribute to a fuller history of women taking part in their religious tradition; her aesthetics are inseparable from cultural determinants. While Bradstreet did not, as do today's feminist theologians, publicly work to "lay to rest the pernicious dualisms about sex and God, sexuality and spirituality, body and spirit" (Heyward Touching 4), her writing shows some private resistance, in part by regenerating the place of the female body in her religious understanding. Bradstreet's experiences, as Rosemary Radford Ruether writes of all women's experiences, were "created by the social and cultural appropriation of biological differences in a male-dominated society" ("Feminist" 113). While she argues that "women experience even their biological differences in ways filtered and biased by male dominance," Ruether also points out that even in the face of dualism, "women have historically always found some measure of empowerment and freedom through religious belief" (113). She supports this idea with close readings of the Bible and argues that "wherever women have heard the good news as the setting at liberty of those who are oppressed, they have applied it to themselves as women as well" (122-23). In a reading of Bradstreet's use of biblical texts, Rosamond Rosenmeier makes the same type of argument. She points out that Bradstreet "has disrupted, switched, reordered, or curiously combined texts in a design that reexpresses and gives new voice to the original. In so doing the original is reaffirmed while the writer claims, possesses, owns it" (5). While Rosenmeier does not go so far as to call Bradstreet's exegesis a form of theologizing, she does note the power Bradstreet gains through incorporating a reshaped biblical voice into her poetry. I see in Bradstreet's work a developing theology that is rooted in bodily experiences. Her focus on bodily nature emerges even in her biblical exegesis. For example, in "Meditations Divine and Moral," the seventy-seven maxims with which she closes To My Dear Children, Bradstreet includes a theology of embodiment in the midst of writing that dictates the physical, political, economic, parental, and religious actions of her children. Meditation 75 uses the terms of embodiment to discuss the power of faith as tough and immediate. Bradstreet describes faith as a physical power that has "made the water become firm footing for Peter to walk on," then makes explicit that faith seems an embodied power, using the example of Moses's interventions with God (Ex. 32.7-14, Num. 14.13-19), "as if Moses had been able by the hand of faith to hold the everlasting arms of the mighty God" (290-91). Since Moses's interventions do not include bodily contact between the human body and divinity, Bradstreet turns to the story of "Jacob himself when he wrestled with God face to face" for her most persuasive analogy (291). This meditation concludes with her conclusions about the necessity of faith for salvation, but in describing faith as "potent" and seeking biblical examples that show faith emanating from and empowering body and soul, Bradstreet can be read as one of the women Ruether discusses. Her writing reveals her struggles with the conventions and constrictions of her faith - the examinations of her rebellious heart are the most obvious - and though she always submitted to religious and social expectations, she gained religious understanding and empowerment through the development of a theology of embodiment. The claims of Carter Heyward, that "we have been stripped - spiritually, physically, emotionally, and intellectually - of our capacities to delight in ourselves, one another, the creation, and its holy wellsprings" (Touching 4), and Mary E. Hunt, that "centuries of disembodied writings [...] have shaped the Christian ethical tradition" (102), elide the fact that women have in the past gloried in those capacities as connections to the sacred. Even in light of the religious and cultural inscriptions on the colonial female body, Bradstreet recognized her bodily experiences as a source of religious knowledge, and that being a sexual and maternal body influenced her understanding of herself and of God.3 This essay examines how embodied experience becomes, for Bradstreet, the matrix of the theology that she develops in her poetry and personal narrative. There are several readings of Bradstreet's acuity with religious thought and sacred texts. Beth Maclay Doriani discusses Bradstreet's experimentation with a full range of psalmic techniques. Raymond A. Craig reads Bradstreet's poems as psalms that rely on biblical allusion for their power. Eileen Razzari Elrod argues that biblical literature and thought was the greatest influence on Bradstreet's poetic voice and authority, even to the point of allowing her to overcome some of the misogyny of her culture. Although Bradstreet does not write fully articulated theological systems, the structured coherence of her religious writings, her sustained and developed arguments and conclusions, deserves to be called theology. To support my claims, I will first survey some of the relevant criticism, historical and literary, and the early, public poetry from The Tenth Muse to demonstrate that issues of embodiment and women's experience were never far from Bradstreet's purview. Historian Marilyn J. Westerkamp argues that Bradstreet theologizes, but only in her private poetry with its four themes of "childbirth, sickness and death, family members and engagement with God" (28). Even in early work, such as "Contemplations" and "The Flesh and the Spirit," Bradstreet prefigures today's feminist theologians by looking to that "forgotten place," the body, as described by Elizabeth Moltmann-Wendel in the epigraph (104). After surveying her early work, I examine Bradstreet's readings of the sexual body in her poems to her husband and then her depictions of the maternal and suffering body. While there is scholarly consensus regarding the endorsement of women's private religious practices and the historical view of the innate corruptness of women's bodies, there is some critical debate over the political meaning of Puritan and early modern women's writing as a public and therefore subversive practice. In the case of the latter, I will not engage with the large body of commentary on early women's writing and publishing as subversive other than to point out that the press was not Bradstreet's goal, and if she was subversive it was in subtle ways, such as giving secular advice to her children and writing about the woman's body. In the case of the former, Bradstreet's writing fits fully within the cultural endorsement of women's religious practices, except for her view of women's bodies as part of God's good creation. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich finds in the writings of Puritan ministers (all male and including Cotton Mather), and in the writing of the women themselves, evidence that Puritan women were not denied an active spiritual life, as long as they did their theologizing in private. Margaret R. Sommerville finds that early modern Protestant theologians "believed that in certain matters male and female were equal; in particular, woman was deemed naturally - not spiritually - inferior" (40). She further notes that while early modern theorists were willing to accord spiritual equality to women, that concession had no necessary implications for social or political relations.4 Where there is consensus that a woman in Bradstreet's historical situation had social endorsement for an active spiritual life, there is equal consensus that if man was viewed as fallen, woman was viewed as farther fallen; her soul may be up to religious concerns, but her body was another matter. Critical commentary on John Calvin repeatedly notes his view of women's spiritual equality with man, but as John Lee Thompson points out, Calvin also "teaches a doctrine of women's subordination which is rooted in creation but which is made more severe by the fall" (17). As Jane Dempsey Douglass suggests, Calvin "understood the theological possibility of giving freedom to women, but decided not to make any practical attempt to do so" (10). Similarly, Margaret Olofson Thickstun reads Puritan texts to ascertain how women were perceived in the period. Her argument turns on the point that in Puritan literature, men "can transcend biological reality," but "women, spiritually defined by their biological capability - as wife, mother, adulteress, whore - remain trapped in their physical bodies" (133). Even in light of Western thought's long and strongly held view of soul/body dualism, Puritan women's bodies were a special, and extreme, case of embodied sinfulness, a view that Bradstreet questions throughout her body of work. She is not the only early American woman to do so, however. Jane Coleman Turell (1708-1735) writes about finding evidence of grace, "some outgoings of Soul to my Savior," while "sweet in my Bed" (114). Turell's awareness of her body, a healthy and comfortable body at this moment, suggests she sees it as other than unclean or defiled, even as she is focused on the state of her soul. Similarly, Martha Brewster (1710-after 1759) writes poetic prayers that welcome grace as a sensual perfume poured by God into her body. Though my focus is on Bradstreet, a far more accomplished writer with a much larger body of extant work, I mention Turell and Brewster to make clear that Bradstreet was not anomalous. She provides a usable past of colonial women who wrote their faith in ways that regenerated women's bodies, but she was not the only one. Her discourses of embodiment - her physical labor over her children's bodies and souls, her passion as a sign of grace, her suffering as a means to understanding her state of grace - prefigure the concerns of Turell and Brewster. For example, Turell's illness affords her a renewed confidence in salvation, and Brewster links her and her husband's marital happiness to assurance of their grace, to "Love us up to Heaven" (33). Even as these three writers conform to their religion's doctrine and practice, they negotiate perception of the female body as God's good creation, which is a basic tenet in feminist theology. My contention that Bradstreet prefigures the concerns of today's feminist theologies is not an argument that removes her from her time and place, nor do I suggest that she writes outside contemporary conventions or differs from her male contemporaries in other than subtle ways. In the writings of Puritan ministers, including minister-poet Edward Taylor (1642-1729), the body figures as a common trope and the site of struggles of faith. Taylor follows the Puritan convention of figuring the body outside of grace as "Unclean, unclean," too defiled by sin to be cleansed by sacrifice or soap (Meditation 26, Second Series) and then sweetened and purified by communion with God and awareness of grace. This convention, however, usually rests on an ungendered nonspecific body and soul. When the body at stake is specifically male or female, other cultural pressures come into play. Ivy Schweitzer asks in her work on Puritan self-representation, "if 'woman' served as a figure for the regenerate soul, and if womanly functions such as marrying, giving birth, and mothering were used to describe spiritual processes, why were women and their functions not elevated and ennobled by this use?" (27). In her reading of Taylor's "appropriation of female functions to signify the operations of grace," she notes his reliance on orthodox exegesis and Puritan theology, which then "inscribes difference by taking on feminine gender and transcends it by locating that difference in the spiritual realm" (121, 125). Walter Hughes reads the Puritan approach to God as lover in Bradstreet, Taylor, and Michael Wigglesworth and contrasts Bradstreet's rather comfortable figuration of bodily tropes against the homoerotic tensions and homosexual panic that arise when men figure a male deity as lover. In his brief overview of her work, Hughes finds Bradstreet's maternal and marital imagery a theologizing that relies on Puritan tradition but roots itself in her lived experiences. Hughes uses Bradstreet more as a case study to offset the kinds of tensions inherent in the work of Wigglesworth and Taylor: "nothing Bradstreet wrote in her prose and poetry is unorthodox, or would be any less applicable to a male believer. But unlike Bradstreet, male Puritans could not use their socially sanctioned experiences of love, marriage, and sexuality as a model for the construction of their religious experience" (107). In his reading of Taylor, Hughes connects the Calvinist doctrine of irresistible grace, which insists on the individual's passivity, to Taylor's figuring himself as "empty, open, and ready for God to fill him with a fluid form of grace" (117). Hughes suggests that this receptive role is responsible for Taylor's frequent meditations on his own sinfulness and filth: "the scatological imagery he uses strongly suggests that his protestations of unworthiness are in fact expressions of male panic at the prospect of divine sodomy" (118). Hughes contends that Taylor creates a "poetics of panic" in which he figures himself and God in a stream of figurative language, with God often objectified with phallic imagery and Taylor with some object of reception. One notable feature of Hughes's argument is that it draws attention to Taylor's fraught relationship with the body. If Bradstreet could easily combine her spiritual and erotic lives, Taylor's gender and homoerotic panic insisted he could not. His most comfortable unions with God come to his soul and his heart, as the seat of faith and love rather than the site of passion; Meditation 116, Second Series offers one example in which Taylor pours out a pure love that elides the body. Similarly, Puritan divine Thomas Shepard (1605-1649) relies on the condition of his heart to tell him how he stands with God and discusses his body with general metaphors: "the Lord let me see I was nothing else but a mass of sin and that all I did was very vile, which when my heart was somewhat touched with, immediately the Lord revealed himself to me in his fullness of goodness with much sweet affection" (88). Like Bradstreet, Puritan men used the states of their bodies, passionate, loving or suffering, as indicators of their state of grace; her theology of embodiment does not go beyond that of her male contemporaries but she connects womanly functions to spirituality in ways they cannot. Critical work on Bradstreet's connection of bodily and religious experience occasionally takes notice of her preoccupation with the body, which does not mean there is consensus. Ann Stanford reveals Bradstreet's concern with this world through her use of images of the human body as an "assertion of the self against the dogma she encountered" (287-88). Amanda Porterfield argues that images of female piety, such as the maternal or suffering female body, were means by which colonial Puritans represented faith, negotiated economic and domestic life, mediated the exercise of authority, and invested themselves with responsibility for social order. In contending that Bradstreet went further than her medieval foremothers "in her ability to equate divine and human love," Porterfield argues against historians like Thickstun, Lyle Koehler, and Eleanor McLaughlin, who find in Puritanism only oppression of women, and notes that they do not explain the appeal that Puritan theology held for women (Female 111). Rosenmeier also finds Bradstreet's writing of the body to be wholly conventional and sees her tendency to merge this world and the next as typical of Massachusetts Puritanism. Although William Scheick refutes Rosenmeier's assertion that Bradstreet "believed the body to be filled with the presence of Christ" (Rosenmeier 117), he does propose that because of the Puritans' valuation of the material world, valuation of the human body "posed no real gap between the order of nature and the order of nature and the order of grace" (Authority 68). Bradstreet follows her faith tradition by positing bodily nature as a referent for grace, and she resists dualism to depict female bodily nature, even in her impersonal poetry. Literary criticism on Bradstreet's work tends to diverge into readings of her early, public, and formal verse or her later private and personal writings. Like many others, Adrienne Rich turns with relief from the public to the private poems. In her prefatory essay to the Collected Works, Rich writes: "No more Ages of Man, no more Assyrian monarchs; but poems in response to the simple events in a woman's life" (xvii).5 However, "a woman's life" also enriches Bradstreet's formal and derivative early poetry. Jeffrey A. Hammond reads Puritan poetry within its historical and political contexts and notes a general agreement in Puritanism regarding the nature of all verse as articulating the "deepest human dimension" (Sinful xi), and he argues the inseparability, in poetic strategies, of Puritan conceptions of the self and of experience. Even in the poems that deal with early modern politics and culture, Bradstreet never loses sight of the female speaker and the female body. She may be trying to shape her readers' experience of self in the early public poems, although they are much less effective in this regard than her personal writing, but she reveals these are the experiences of a female self. Unless the poem is an elegy or in a specific male voice, like "David's Lamentation," Bradstreet figures her speakers as female throughout The Tenth Muse.6 Her four monarchies, elements, humors, and seasons feature a variety of speakers, all depicted as female. Further, these poems make other egalitarian gestures; as Wendy Martin points out, they regularly stress "the unity of life rather than the dominance of one group over another" ("Anne" 27-28).7 Bradstreet moves past simply denoting her speakers as female in the Quaternions; she often pauses to develop their characters and to focus on their bodiliness. For example, while all the speakers in "The Four Elements" are female, rather than setting earth as an abstracted growing medium or receptacle, she figures her as Mother Earth bragging about her fruitfulness. Where the other three elements are girlish servants to "man," Earth holds herself as productive and powerful while giving a tour of her maternal body in sensuous detail.8 Although the trope of mother earth is conventional in the extreme, Bradstreet makes this speaker immediate to the experience of the Puritan self, and she does so by linking bodily to religious experience. First, this commonplace relates to women's experience, beginning with the link between the mother's body and subjectivity, and acquiring depth through descriptions of earth's bounty. Second, the monologue ends with mortal death, as Earth reminds her readers that they came from her body and will return to it; implicit in this ending is the primary question of the Puritan consciousness: "what shall I do to be saved?" Rather than developing a specific salvific experience, however, Earth ends with the natural process of returning the dead body to her mother body, a movement that foreshadows both Christian feminist theologies of embodiment, and post-Christian nature/goddess theologies. In her meditative and personal poems, at no point does Bradstreet fully separate bodily from religious experience; she cannot separate creation, or the creative impulse, from redemption. As Mary Grey argues, for "women it is particularly vital to begin from a creation-centered perspective. No redemptive process can begin without a sense of experiencing oneself as God's good creation" (6-7). Bradstreet begins her very fine long poem "Contemplations" with reverent descriptions of the physical world: the first stanza describes a beauty that seems painted, "but was true," and the speaker's physical engagement with the scene: "Rapt were my senses at this delectable view" (204.7). Hammond argues that the movement of the poem from nature to a discussion of biblical sin comes out of these descriptions, which cause "meditative failure. Having glorified nature and thus her own senses, she must confront the source of her blocked vision and eloquence in the biblical legacy of sin" (Sinful 111). Taking notice of the poem's return to contemplations of nature, he argues that "she describes a corrected view of mankind consistent with her revitalized assurance as an earthly pilgrim who recognizes the paradoxical nature of worldly creatures who can, through grace, transcend the world" (114). In light of feminist theological views of bodily experience, Bradstreet's physical engagements with nature are not just the means to religious experience but part of the end. Her bodily experience leads her, like any Puritan, to meditate on the fallen body; the fallen body and its place on earth return her to a contemplation of nature, but the return engages in praise of God and praise of nature as God's good creation. Each stanza becomes a site of worship as it links praise of natural glory with prayer to God. For example, while the third stanza, like many of the others, seems to summarily dismiss the wonders of nature as faint things in comparison to salvation and the promise of eternity, the speaker does spend six of seven lines on the oak tree, then concludes with a view of eternity but as inspired by the ancient tree. The mention of its beginnings also suggests the miracle of the acorn's growth into this massive tree. Even as this miracle becomes "as nought," its impressive image refuses to go away and only fades as the Sun draws the speaker's attention from "the leavie tree" in the fourth stanza (205.23). The fifth stanza inverts the usual course of the stanzaic focus that shifts from nature to divinity, as it ties the course of the sun to womanly nature: Thou as a bridegroom from thy chamber rushes, And a strong man, joys to run a race; The morn doth usher thee with smiles and blushes; The Earth reflects her glances in thy face. Birds, insects, animals with vegative, Thy heat from death and dullness doth revive, And in the darksome womb of fruitful nature dive. (29-35) The word bridegroom, drawn from Jesus's metaphor for his continued presence (Matt. 9.15, Mark 2.19, Luke 5.2 4), makes a stronger connection between the sun and the Son. The interaction between the sun/ Son and the earth is erotic and prefigures the work of today's feminist theologians in contesting patriarchal religion, whose goal, according to Elizabeth Dodson Gray, "is to get away from the ordinary, the natural, the unsacred - away from women, fleshly bodies, decaying nature, away from all that is rooted in mortality and dying," which Gray notes has "given us a strange landscape of the sacred" (2). The speaker of "Contemplations" restores a familiar landscape in this stanza as the sun and the earth follow the natural course of things, connected to the sacred through the bridegroom. Instead of pulling away from earthly life, Bradstreet recognizes the value in bodily experience of nature as a means of connection to God: "If so much excellence abide below, / How excellent is He that dwells on high" (205.9-10). While the recognition of the goodness of the natural world leads to contemplation of its creator, considering salvation allows renewed recognition of the natural world: "more heaven than earth was here" (205.14).9 Further, the heaven on earth seems centered in nature's "darksome womb," as God's creation begins with the female body as the site of earthly and sacred experience. Criticism of the poem tends to focus on Bradstreet's assumption of religious roles; she is often described as prophet, biblical interpreter, or parochial teacher.10 Walker characterizes her voice as that of teacher (20), for example. In her examination of the natural world as a way to understand and speak about the sacred, Bradstreet writes as a theologian. Throughout "Contemplations," by looking at the reality of the forest, the stream, flora and fauna, "the emblem true of what I count best" (211.159), by recording bodily reactions to them through the engagement of her senses, and by using those reactions as pointers toward heaven, Bradstreet finds a sacrality in bodily experience that is "life-affirming rather than life-separating or life-distancing" (Gray 2). She outlines women's bodily experience throughout the poem, celebrating the erotic power of nature in the early stanzas, then recounting biblical history germane to women's religious lives (207.64). While the fall may be a definitive moment in Calvinist theology, Bradstreet gives that moment to Adam and the apple; to Eve she gives her "retired place, / And in her lap her bloody Cain new-born" (207.78-79). Eve may sigh over lost paradise, and the child may bewail his "unknown hap and fate forlorn," but the lasting impression from this stanza is a mother and her baby. Furthermore, when the section returns to a discussion of nature as worthy of praise, it concludes by praising humans as God's creation, "made for endless immortality" (210.140). In its concluding stanzas, the poem gestures towards the Puritan convention of the human body's frailty and corruptness. Following the poem's pattern of shifting focus from the natural world to the sacred, Bradstreet sees the lapsed state of humankind, but posits it as waiting "for that divine translation" (213.210). Where she is able to translate the earth and the human body as God's good creation, she understands that God, whose existence is confirmed by creation, must translate the earthly body through salvation. Early in "The Flesh and the Spirit," the poem that follows "Contemplations" in all editions of Bradstreet's work, the speaking Flesh accuses her sister Spirit of living on nothing but contemplation and "regardlessly" letting earth go. The poem plays out the conventions of Puritan dualistic thought that privilege the soul over the body, as Flesh revels in the world her sister denies. Like other feminist readers of the poem, Porterfield recognizes the conventionality of its subject matter but finds in it antidualistic thought just the same, as she points out that both Flesh and Spirit have ability to appreciate physical pleasure, and their kinship allowed Bradstreet "to imagine her salvation at death as a pleasure that was simultaneously spiritual and physical" (Female 109-10). In my view, there is more going on than Flesh tempting her sister and Spirit describing the wonders of heaven. In detailing what the world has to offer, Flesh makes earth not just a lapsed place of physical satisfaction but something to love. However, she does much more than that. After asking Spirit if she can continue to feed only on contemplation, Flesh poses very worldly questions: Doth contemplation feed thee so Regardlessly to let earth go? Can speculation satisfy Notion without reality? Dost dream of things beyond the moon, And dost thou hope to dwell there soon? (214.12-17) The second question wonders how Spirit can be satisfied only by her imaginings of heaven. The early use of the word indicates "Contemplations" is a crucial intertext. Given that poem's connection of both body and spirit to the natural world, this poem asks how Spirit's contemplations can take her so far from bodily nature. In the light of creation, how can "speculation satisfy / Notion?" With "Contemplations" behind her, Flesh critiques a life solely of the spirit as it derides Spirit for claiming satisfaction without knowing what satisfaction is. In the next question, Flesh locates both of these twin sisters in their female bodiliness. Both are creatures of the moon, the heavenly indicator of the menstrual cycle, but Spirit, as she must, looks past the moon to the heaven where she hopes to dwell. In going beyond, not away from, the moon, Flesh suggests that the moon will remain part of her salvation. In using "beyond," Bradstreet might mean outside the scope of the moon, but she might also mean to include the moon and all it represents with Spirit's move to salvation; etymologically, the word began as Old English for the back of something. Therefore, Spirit's move beyond does not really take her that far away from female embodiment. Spirit begins her part of the dialogue, more than twice as long as her sister's, by silencing Flesh's temptations with "Be still thou unregenerate part" (216.38). Unregenerate, like beyond, is a puzzling word. To regenerate is to bring into new, usually spiritual, existence, to res-

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