2. Variety as Religious Experience

Four Case Studies: Dickinson, Edwards, Taylor, and Cotton

  1. Elisa New

Published Online: 28 MAR 2014

DOI: 10.1002/9781118854587.ch2

New England Beyond Criticism

New England Beyond Criticism

How to Cite

New, E. (ed) (2014) Variety as Religious Experience, in New England Beyond Criticism, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118854587.ch2

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 28 MAR 2014
  2. Published Print: 9 MAY 2014

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781118854532

Online ISBN: 9781118854587



  • American poetry;
  • Edward Taylor;
  • Emily Dickinson;
  • John Cotton;
  • Jonathan Edwards;
  • metaphor;
  • religious experience;
  • variety


This chapter presents four case studies on Emily Dickinson, Jonathan Edwards, Edward Taylor, and John Cotton. It proceeds backward through New England literary history, from Dickinson back toward the early seventeenth-century work of John Cotton, by way of two other virtuosos – Jonathan Edwards, America's premier impresario of gravity, buoyancy, and complex beauty, and Taylor, American champion of the mixed metaphor. There are inglorious moments in metaphor's New England career, moments when the fullness of grace, an exquisite condition, attenuates itself in more conspicuous convulsions of style. The chapter shows where the metaphoric not only describes, but sustains, spiritual liveliness. Cotton's Moses is made by and of metaphor; his outward carriage is the meter in which God makes argument. In Cotton's homiletics, as in later American poetics, the test of grace is not unity but the variety that gives life to religious, as to aesthetic, experience.