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Cover for the book The House of the Black Ring

The House of the Black Ring

A Romance of the Seven Mountains Fred Lewis Pattee, With an Introduction by Julia Spicher Kasdorf, and Notes by Joshua R. Brown
  • Copyright: 2012
  • Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5
  • Page Count: 256 pages
  • Illustrations: 1 b&w illustration/1 map
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-05420-9
“This book is a gift to those interested in the history of Penn State and the rich cultures that surround it. Julia Spicher Kasdorf does a brilliant job of placing Fred Lewis Pattee and his neglected novel within their historical moment, and her love of this labor shines bright from start to finish.”
“Like the Appalachian writer Mary Noailles Murfree, Fred Lewis Pattee locates his novel in a landscape both recognizable and mysterious; like other local-color and regionalist writers at the turn of the twentieth century, Pattee crafts a prose that contrasts his narrator’s standard English with his characters’ Pennsylvanian and Appalachian dialect. At the same time, his heroine adds ‘New Woman’ determination, horsemanship, and a touch of modernity to regional fiction. Readers who like a mystery—and then appreciate the complexity of plot ties unraveled at the end—will find The House of the Black Ring a real page-turner. Those with additional knowledge of Pattee’s role in the founding and definition of ‘American literature’ will enjoy this example of the influential historian’s imagination.”
“A boyhood gift from my father (Pennsylvania State College Class of 1910), who had studied under Professor Pattee, The House of the Black Ring spurred my own lifelong fascination with Pennsylvania Dutch culture. And it encouraged my ethnographic interest in my own homeland, Central Pennsylvania. Larded with dialect locutions familiar from my Centre County kinfolk’s talk, and with its sensational episodes of powwowing and witchcraft, it fleshed out neglected aspects of Pennsylvania’s rich folklife, even in its fictional form. The introduction capably sets Pattee in the then-new field of American literary scholarship and cites his book as a pioneering example of the turn-of-the-century local-color fiction about Pennsylvania. And worth the price of the book is Pattee’s opening sentence—ascribing the Seven Mountains to the refuse left over by the Great Architect after Creation!”
“Editors Julia Spicher Kasdorf and Joshua Brown not only reproduce a highly entertaining regional story in The House of the Black Ring but also contribute to vital local color and Pennsylvania German studies. Fred Lewis Pattee’s ‘haunting’ style and romantic viewpoint compare interestingly with the work of other writers of Pennsylvania Dutch local color, such as Helen Riemensnyder Martin and Elsie Singmaster.

Pattee’s novel questions the meaning of ‘home’ among turn-of-the-century America’s expanding multicultural population. As an ‘outlander’—a native New Englander living among the Pennsylvania Dutch—Pattee’s personal sense of otherness adds a poignant twist to his portrayal of his ethnic neighbors. Fascinatingly, the over one-hundred-year-old story voices a topic relevant to American society today: the search for ‘belonging’ among a diverse and dynamic people.”

Fred Lewis Pattee, long regarded as the father of American literary study, also wrote fiction. Originally published in 1905 by Henry Holt, The House of the Black Ring was Pattee’s second novel—a local-color romance set in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania. The book’s plot is driven by family feud, forbidden love, and a touch of the supernatural. This new edition makes this novel accessible to new generations of modern-day readers. General readers will find in The House of the Black Ring a thriller that preserves details of rural life and language during the late nineteenth century. Scholars will read it as an expression of cultural anxiety and change in the decades after the Civil War.

An introduction by poet and essayist Julia Spicher Kasdorf situates the novel within the context of social and literary history, as well as Pattee’s own biography, and provides a compelling argument for its importance, not only as a literary artifact or record of local customs, but also as a reflection of Pattee’s own story intertwined with the history of Penn State at the turn of the twentieth century. Joshua Brown draws on his expertise in Pennsylvania German ethno-linguistics to interpret the dialect writing and to give readers a clearer view of the customs and regionalisms depicted in the book.

Fred Lewis Pattee was Professor and Head of the Department of English at the Pennsylvania State College (now the Pennsylvania State University). Pattee is regarded as the first “Professor of American Literature,” having published the groundbreaking works “Is There an American Literature?” in 1896 and A History of American Literature Since 1870 in 1915.

Julia Spicher Kasdorf is Associate Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Penn State. In 2009 Penn State Press released a paperback edition of her collection of essays, The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life.

Joshua R. Brown is Assistant Professor of German at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire.



Introduction Julia Spicher Kasdorf

Note on the Publication History James L. W. West III

The House of the Black Ring

Preface to the 1916 Edition

I. The Affair at Tressler’s Farm

II. Where the Devil Treads, Who Looks for Snow?

III. Rose Hartswick

IV. The Wooing at Hartswick Hall

V. The Horse-Racing on Moon Run

VI. The Windy Side of the Law

VII. The Flitting Dinner

VIII. The Firing of Heller’s Cabin

IX. The Fire on Cherry Creek

X. The Mill Down Foaming Valley

XI. Lona Heller

XII. The Play and the Chorus

XIII. The Pow-wowing at Roaring Run

XIV. In the Wild Azalea

XV. The Murder in Sugar Valley

XVI. The Mob at Heller’s Gap

XVII. The Hour of the Powers of Darkness

XVIII. In the Heart of the Limestone

XIX. The Last of the Hartswicks

XX. The Revenge of Matthew Heller



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Also of Interest

Also of interest book cover

Heart Language

Elsie Singmaster and Her Pennsylvania German Writings
Also of interest book cover

The Body and the Book

Writing from a Mennonite Life: Essays and Poems