Timely and beautifully written, New England Beyond Criticism provides a passionate defense of the importance of the literature of New England to the American literary canon, and its impact on the development of spirituality, community, and culture in America. An exploration and defense of the prominence of New England's literary tradition within the canon of American literature Traces the impact of the literature of New England on the development of spirituality, community, and culture in America Includes in-depth studies of work from authors and poets such as William Bradford, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Henry David Thoreau, Susan Howe, and Marilynne Robinson Examines the place and impression of New England literature in the nation's intellectual history and the lives of its readers Literary criticism of the past thirty years has undercut what the canonizers of the 19th and early 20th centuries saw as the fundamental role of early New England in the development of American literary culture. And yet, a determination in literary circles to topple perceived Ivy League elitism and Protestant cultural creationism, overlooks the continuing value, beauty, and even practical utility of a canon still cherished by lay readers around the world. This manifesto raises questions about how academic specialization and the academic study of New England has affected enthusiasm for reading. Using a range of interpretive practices, including those most often deployed by contemporary academic critics, Elisa New cuts across firmly established subfields, mixing literary exegesis with autobiographical reflection, close reading with cultural history, archival and antiquarian inquiry with experiments in style, and lays bare editorial orthodoxies, raising to question the whole hierarchy of values now governing the study of American and other literatures. Taking New England as a test case for a wider more accessible set of critical practices, New England Beyond Criticism demands that the domain of literary study be opened further to the tastes of the general reader.