A Harmony of the Spirits
Translation and the Language of Community in Early Pennsylvania
Cloth price: $32.5Add to Cart
Publisher: Omohundro Institute and University of North Carolina Press
Cloth/Hardcover Publication Date: 02/2017
Cloth ISBN: 9781469633466
DescriptionIn early Pennsylvania, translation served as a utopian tool creating harmony across linguistic, religious, and ethnic differences. Patrick Erben challenges the long-standing historical myth--first promulgated by Benjamin Franklin--that language diversity posed a threat to communal coherence. He deftly traces the pansophist and Neoplatonist philosophies of European reformers that informed the radical English and German Protestants who founded the "holy experiment." Their belief in hidden yet persistent links between human language and the word of God impelled their vision of a common spiritual idiom. Translation became the search for underlying correspondences between diverse human expressions of the divine and served as a model for reconciliation and inclusiveness.
Drawing on German and English archival sources, Erben examines iconic translations that engendered community in colonial Pennsylvania, including William Penn's translingual promotional literature, Francis Daniel Pastorius's multilingual poetics, Ephrata's "angelic" singing and transcendent calligraphy, the Moravians' polyglot missions, and the common language of suffering for peace among Quakers, Pietists, and Mennonites. By revealing a mystical quest for unity, Erben presents a compelling counternarrative to monolingualism and Enlightenment empiricism in eighteenth-century America.
About The AuthorPatrick M. Erben is associate professor of English at the University of West Georgia.
ReviewsErben brilliantly demonstrates how religion, language, and affect come together in the interrelationships among nations, faiths, and individuals. . . . [This book] redefine[s] the parameters of discussion for colonial English and Germany literary culture in early Pennsylvania.--Journal of American Studies
Erben's work uses previously unexploited sources to give a fresh perspective on the founding and early history of Pennsylvania. . . . This is a magnificent book that deserves to be widely read and emulated.--American Historical Review
[A] wonderfully imaginative work on language and translation. . . . A Harmony of the Spirits is thoroughly worth reading for those interested in the religious and ideological underpinnings of American colonization.--Journal of American History
Erben has masterfully translated the multilingual sectarian voices of the past into an academic treatise on spiritual cooperation.--William and Mary Quarterly
Erben makes compelling arguments. . . . [He] successfully broadens our view of early Pennsylvanians and their efforts to create a harmony of the spirits.--Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
Intriguing. . . [and] remarkably successful in helping readers understand the broader context for many of the religious groups of early Pennsylvania.--Journal of Moravian History
An extraordinary book. . . . Beautifully recaptures the lost voice and vision of the early American Philadelphian mystics.--Nova Religio
Erben's project powerfully reconstructs another lost hermeneutic that will hopefully inspire future scholarship.--American Literature
Scholars interested in transatlantic conversations and in particular Pietist and Quaker studies will find this well-researched and well-written book a welcome volume. Erben's method of providing translation and quotations invites a continued conversation among those who have a shared interest in the spiritual, social and even political life of seventeenth- and eighteenth- century Pennsylvania.--H-Pietism
Highly readable. . . . The book is wonderfully written and profound in its observations." -- Mennonite Quarterly Review