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American Literature 1700- 1820 The Enlightenment and the Age of Reason.

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Presentation on theme: "American Literature 1700- 1820 The Enlightenment and the Age of Reason."— Presentation transcript:

1 American Literature 1700- 1820 The Enlightenment and the Age of Reason

2 Let’s Party Like It’s 1699! 18 th century was a period of major change in American ideas and ideals… 18 th century was a period of major change in American ideas and ideals… As with beliefs of Puritans, changes originated in England, but took on new spirit and meaning in colonies. As with beliefs of Puritans, changes originated in England, but took on new spirit and meaning in colonies. What factors help explain the movement away from the severe faith of the Puritans? What factors help explain the movement away from the severe faith of the Puritans?

3 Newton and His Apple (not a fig) How did people like Locke and Newton change the way we understand the world? How did people like Locke and Newton change the way we understand the world? What are “physics” and “metaphysics”? What are “physics” and “metaphysics”? To what does “reason” refer? What does it exclude? To what does “reason” refer? What does it exclude?

4 Say What?!?! Enlightenment thinkers de-emphasized “grace” and “pre-destination” in favor of “moral choice” and scientific inquiry. Enlightenment thinkers de-emphasized “grace” and “pre-destination” in favor of “moral choice” and scientific inquiry. –“virtue,” “order,” “reason,” “sympathy” How do you think religious figures felt about this changing view of the universe and how people should function within it? How do you think religious figures felt about this changing view of the universe and how people should function within it?

5 But What About Providence? Enlightenment brought a new, exciting way of seeing the universe… Enlightenment brought a new, exciting way of seeing the universe… universe as an orderly system universe as an orderly system With application of reason, humanity would comprehend universe (think of Newton’s Laws). With application of reason, humanity would comprehend universe (think of Newton’s Laws). How might this change the way the common man felt about religion and God ? How might this change the way the common man felt about religion and God ? –Not necessarily a rejection…

6 “Benjamin Franklin Drawing Down Electricity from the Sky” Down Electricity from the Sky” (Benjamin West, ca. 1816) (Benjamin West, ca. 1816) (listen to this link)

7 “I Just Believe in Science, Okay!” “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan/The proper study of mankind is man.” (Alexander Pope) “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan/The proper study of mankind is man.” (Alexander Pope) What does that mean? What does that mean?

8 Deism Many of these thinkers (including Jefferson and Franklin) called themselves “Deists.” Many of these thinkers (including Jefferson and Franklin) called themselves “Deists.” Man can deduce the existence of a supreme being from the fact that the universe exists rather than because of what the Bible says. Man can deduce the existence of a supreme being from the fact that the universe exists rather than because of what the Bible says.

9 What about Fire and Brimstone? Deists also thought that a harmonious universe proves the beneficence of God. Deists also thought that a harmonious universe proves the beneficence of God. How might that be? How might that be?

10 Take Your Buckled Shoes and Shove ‘Em! Humankind is naturally good. (What was the Puritan stance on this, again?) Humankind is naturally good. (What was the Puritan stance on this, again?) “Tabula Rasa” “Tabula Rasa” The more we understand and sympathize with each other, the richer our social and spiritual lives will be. The more we understand and sympathize with each other, the richer our social and spiritual lives will be.

11 And Furthermore… “Our business here on Earth is not to know all things, but those which concern our conduct.” (Locke) “Our business here on Earth is not to know all things, but those which concern our conduct.” (Locke) So are these people entirely different from the Puritans? What’s similar? So are these people entirely different from the Puritans? What’s similar? Founders and Faith? Founders and Faith? –“Nature’s God,” “natural rights” and “public religion”

12 Neo-Classicism What would be the best way for writers in this era to articulate their views? What would be the best way for writers in this era to articulate their views? What is the function of their writing, and how does it differ from the function of Puritan writing? What is the function of their writing, and how does it differ from the function of Puritan writing? Are there similarities? Are there similarities?

13 Rhetoric Today this term means “the art of speaking or writing effectively (especially persuasive speaking or writing).” In Franklin’s time the term meant the same thing, but more precisely it stood for “the study of principles and rules of composition formulated by critics of ancient times.” Logic A system of rules used to express reasoning Reason If one is “rational,” then he has the ability “to reason.” What does it mean to reason? Reasoning is a type of thinking used to seek a truth through cause and effect and through drawing conclusions. Socratic Method A technique in which a debater does not argue directly but instead asks a series of questions, with the result that the opponent comes either to the desired knowledge by answering the questions or to a deeper awareness of the limits of his knowledge.

14 Those Greeks Had It Right… These writers saw the lit. of the ancient Greeks and Romans as the ideal to which all must aspire. These writers saw the lit. of the ancient Greeks and Romans as the ideal to which all must aspire. Emulation of these “classical” styles and traditions Emulation of these “classical” styles and traditions Restraint rather than emotion Restraint rather than emotion Dignified, refined and decorous language Dignified, refined and decorous language

15 Should We Be Wearing Togas? Writing, especially poetry, was seen as having a public function; it was not seen as a means for private, individual expression. Writing, especially poetry, was seen as having a public function; it was not seen as a means for private, individual expression. A mode through which timeless truths could be imparted. A mode through which timeless truths could be imparted. “self-help” “self-help” “Chicken Soup for the Rational Soul”? “Chicken Soup for the Rational Soul”?

16 Artifacts of Different Eras Thou hast a house on high erect, Framed by that mighty Architect, With glory richly furnished, Stands permanent though this be fled. It’s purchased and paid for too By Him who hath enough to do. A price so vast as is unknown Yet by His gift is made thine own; There’s wealth enough, I need no more, Farewell, my pelf, farewell my store. The world no longer let me love, My hope and treasure lies above. (Bradstreet, 1666) While virtue warms the generous breast, There heaven-born freedom shall reside, Nor shall the voice of war molest, Nor Europe’s all-aspiring pride – There Reason shall new laws devise, And order from confusion rise. Forsaking kings and regal state, With all their pomp and fancied bliss, The traveler [admits], convinced though late, No realm so free, so blessed as this – The east is half to slaves consigned, Where kings and priests enchain the mind. (“On the Religion of Nature,” Philip Freneau, 1785)

17 Order and Virtue We should organize our lives into an ordered sequence of reasoned and virtuous thoughts and behaviors We should organize our lives into an ordered sequence of reasoned and virtuous thoughts and behaviors Aim is “human perfection” Aim is “human perfection” How would the Puritans have felt about the concept of humans perfecting themselves for themselves and by themselves? How would the Puritans have felt about the concept of humans perfecting themselves for themselves and by themselves?


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