Pillars of Salt, Monuments of Grace: New England Crime Literature and the Origins of American Popular Culture, 1674-1860

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In this innovative study, Daniel A. Cohen explores a major cultural shift embodied in hundreds of early New England crime publications. Tracing the declining authority of Puritan ministers, he shows how the arbiters of an increasingly pluralistic literary marketplace gradually supplanted pious execution sermons with last-speech broadsides, gallows verses, criminal autobiographies, trial reports, newspaper stories, and romantic docudramas. Pillars of Salt, Monuments of Grace probes the forgotten origins of our modern mass media's pre-occupation with crime and punishment.