Age of Reason (The Enlightenment)



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AMERICAN LITERATURE REVIEW #4

Age of Reason (The Enlightenment)

  • 1750-1800
  • Began in Europe with philosophers and scientists
    • [Sir Isaac Newton (God as a clockmaker), René Descartes ( “I think, therefore I am.”), Voltaire (anti-institutional religion) ]
  • Focused on reasoning rather than church doctrine
  • Cultivated a sense of American patriotism
  • Concerned with relations with England

Literature from the Age of Reason

  • Pamphlets, essay, journal articles, newspapers, and the political documents we use still
  • Dominated by politics
  • Meant to be public
  • Expressed a rising sentiment for independence
  • Included well-known authors such as …
    • Thomas Paine Common Sense
    • Ben Franklin *most well-known
    • Thomas Jefferson Declaration of Independence

Authors from A.O.R.

  • Ben Franklin
    • Excerpt from Poor Richard’s Almanack
      • annual publication containing info., observations and advice
      • Under alias Richard Saunders
      • Earned B.F. respect as a talented writer
      • Published from 1733-1758
      • Aphorisms
      • –short, concise statements expressing wise or clever
      • observations or general truths
          • Most B.F.’s adapted from proverbs
      • -techniques include rhyme or repeated words or sounds to make remembering aphorisms easier

Identify Franklin’s techniques in each of the following aphorisms and state the meaning of each

  • “ A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a lsip of the tongue you may never get over.”
  • “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
  • “Fools make feasts and wise men eat them.”

View the Aphorisms from B.F. Poor Richard’s Alamanac

  • List your favorite 5
  • Explain the meaning
  • List the techniques used (rhyme, repetition of words, sounds)
  • Discuss why each is a favorite

“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech -Patrick Henry

      • Reaction to Stamp Act 1765 (later repealed)
      • Oratory- skilled, eloquent public speaking
        • Charged words
        • Rhetorical questions
        • Restatement
        • Repetition
        • Parallelism
      • America owes its independence in part to talented speakers like Henry for influencing colonists to resist British rule

“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech -Patrick Henry

  • Charged words are words with strong connotations beyond their literal meaning that are likely to produce an emotional response.
    • Tyranny (evokes a feeling of fear, suggests living in a state of terror)
    • Liberty (suggests an ideal life characterized by freedom)
    • Justice (can be associated with freedom and equality)
    • Honor (evokes a sense of morality and dignity)

“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech -Patrick Henry

  • Rhetorical question/questions are the questions the speaker asks the audience. However, the audience internalizes the answer. Nothing is answered orally.
  • Restatement is stating the same idea in different words
  • Repetition is repeating the exact same words over again.

“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech -Patrick Henry

  • Parallelism refers to the repeated use of phrases, clauses, or sentences that are similar in structure or meaning. Writers use this technique to emphasize important ideas, create rhythm, and make their writing more forceful and direct.

Understanding Parallelism

  • Faulty Parallelism
    • “For my own part, what ever anguish of spirit it my cost, I am willing to know the whole truth: to know the worst and I will provide for it.”
  • Effective Parallelism

Identifying Parallel Structure

  • Directions: Circle the parallel elements in each of the following sentences.
  • Are we disposed to be of the number of those who having eyes see not, and having ears hear not?
  • Ask yourself how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land.
  • They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other.
  • Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded.

Identifying Parallel Structure (continued)

  • Directions: Circle the parallel elements in each of the following sentences.
  • If we wish to be free, if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges. . .,if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged…,we must fight!

Revising Sentences for Parallel Structure

  • Directions: Rewrite the following sentences so that all elements are parallel.
  • Patrick Henry stirred the colonists to action through emotional appeals to patriotism, by threatening loss of freedom, and by logically arguing about Britain’s goals.
  • Compromise, arguing, and making petitions are not workable solutions to Henry.

Constructed Response

  • Why does Patrick Henry begin his speech with this statement: “With all due respect, I have a different opinion”?

Within “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech by Patrick Henry find the following examples of oratory characteristics:

  • Charged words (3)
  • Rhetorical questions (2)
  • Parallelism (1)
  • Repetition (1)
  • Restatement (1)

From Michel Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur’s Letters from an American Farmer

  • What then is the American, this new man? . . . He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater. Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world. Americans are the western pilgrims, who are carrying along with them that great mass of arts, sciences, vigor, and industry which began long since in the east; they will finish the great circle.”


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