Fachbereich Anglistik und Amerikanistik Sommersemester 2010 History of American Literature Prof. Dr. Ralph J. Poole Revolution and the Word: Early Republic

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Fachbereich Anglistik und Amerikanistik Sommersemester 2010     History of American Literature   Prof. Dr. Ralph J. Poole

Revolution and the Word: Early Republic

  • Autobiography:
  • Benjamin Franklin. The Autobiography
  • Philosophy:
  • Thomas Paine. Common Sense: Addressed to the inhabitants of America (1776)
  • Document:
  • "The Declaration of Independence" (1776)
  • Essay:
  • Hector St. John Crèvecoeur. Letters From an American Farmer (1782)
  • Poetry:
  • Philip Freneau. "The Indian Student" (1788)
  • Sentimental Novel:
  • Susanna Rowson. Charlotte Temple (1791)
  • Gothic Tale:
  • Charles Brockden Brown. Wieland: or, The Transformation (1798)
  • Historical Romance:
  • Washington Irving. "Rip van Winkle" (1819)

18th Century Migration

  • 18th century: immigrants from various ethnic, religious backgrounds
  • Diversification in motivation for emigration
  • Cultural exchange
  • How does America become American?
  • Whom do the colonies belong to?
  • Who defines American identity?

Age of Revolutions

  • Glorious Revolution 1688
  • American War of Independence 1775 – 1783
  • American Declaration of Independence 1776
  • John Trumbull‘s Declration of Independence

Rivalries and Benevolence

  • Rivalries between European powers
  • William and Mary of Orange
  • Salutary Neglect: benevolent passivity towards colonies

Secularization and Political Consciousness

  • Sir Isaac Newton
  • “natural laws”
  • John Locke
  • An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)

Reason and Liberty

  • “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity.” (Kant)
  • “natural laws”  “natural rights”
  • “natural” form of governance, based on a common consensus and legitimized by those to be ruled (Locke)

American Revolution

  • Demographics: rise in population
  • Politics: territorial realignment
  • Economics: taxation, trade regulation
  • Demand for self-governance:
  • Rebellion or Revolution?

The Text and the Public

  • Newspapers, pamphlets
  • Self-education via texts
  • “natural right” for knowledge

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

  • what can he do? . . . The husbandman is in honor . . . and even the mechanic, because their employments are useful. The people have a saying, that God Almighty is Himself a Mechanic, the Greatest in the Universe; and he is respected and admired more for the variety, ingenuity, and utility of his handyworks, than for the Antiquity of his family.”

Self-Made Man

  • “You are what you do or achieve.” (Franklin)
  • Anonymous satires:
    • Silence Dogood Papers (1722)
    • Poor Richard’s Almanach (1733-38)


  • Self-determination as literary concept
  • Instruction and self-definition
  • self-made Adam: “Help yourself, then help you God” (Franklin)
  • Self-made man as book-made self
  • “The next thing most like living one's life over again, seems to be a Recollection of that Life; and to make that Recollection as durable as possible, the putting it down in writing.” (Franklin)

“bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection”

  • Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  • Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  • Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  • Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  • Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  • Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  • Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  • Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  • Moderation. Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  • Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
  • Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  • Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
  • Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Compulsive Self-Control

  • “I made a little book, in which I allotted a page for each of the virtues. I rul'd each page with red ink, so as to have seven columns, one for each day of the week, marking each column with a letter for the day. I cross'd these columns with thirteen red lines, marking the beginning of each line with the first letter of one of the virtues, on which line, and in its proper column, I might mark, by a little black spot, every fault I found upon examination to have been committed respecting that virtue upon that day.” (Franklin)
  • THE MORNING.Question. What good shall I do this day?
  •  5
  •  6
  •  7
  • Rise, wash, and address Powerful Goodness! Contrive day’s business, and take the resolution of the day; prosecute the present study, and breakfast.
  •  8
  •  9
  • 10
  • 11
  • Work.
  • NOON.
  • 12
  •  1
  • Read, or overlook my accounts, and dine.
  •  2
  •  3
  •  4
  •  5
  • Work.
  • Question. What good have I have done            to-day?
  •  6
  •  7
  •  8
  •  9
  • Put things in their places. Supper. Music or diversion, or conversation. Examination of the day.
  • NIGHT.
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  •  1
  •  2
  •  3
  •  4

J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur: Letters from an American Farmer (1782)

  • “What, then, is the American, this new man? He is either an European or the descendant of an European; hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country . . . 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 . . . The Americans were once scattered all over Europe; here they are incorporated into one of the finest systems of population which has ever appeared . . . The American is a new man, who acts upon new principles; he must therefore entertain new ideas and form new opinions. From involuntary idleness, servile dependence, penury, and useless labour, he has passed to toils of a very different nature, rewarded by ample subsistence. This is an American . . “ (3rd Letter, “What Is an American?)

Thomas Paine: The Age of Reason (1794-95)

  • “All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”

Thomas Paine: Common Sense: Addressed to the Inhabitants of America (1776)

  • “In the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense.”
  • ”The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.“
  • “By referring the matter from argument to arms, a new era for politics is struck – a new method of thinking hath arisen.”
  • “I have heard it asserted by some, that as America has flourished under her former connection with Great-Britain, the same connection is necessary towards her future happiness. . . Nothing can be more fallacious than this kind of argument. . . . for I answer roundly, that America would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no European power taken any notice of her.”
  • “'Tis not the affair of a City, a County, a Province, or a Kingdom; but of a Continent . . . 'Tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age: posterity are virtually involved in the contest, and will be more or less affected even to the end of time . . .”

Declaration of Independence

  • Thomas Jefferson
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?hl=de&v=jYyttEu_NLU&gl=DE
  • Introduction
  • Preamble
  • Accusing the King
  • Passage addressed to “British brethren”
  • Final passage with celebratory oath
  • Signatures
  • “When in the Course of human Events it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth the separate & equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.” (Introduction)

“We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal.”

  • 18th cent. race discourse
  • Evil versus noble savage
  • Lincoln 1861: “It was [the Declaration] which gave promise that in due time the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance.”
  • Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention in 1848: “Declaration of Sentiments”
  • “All men and women are created equal.”
  • Women’s right to vote granted in 1920

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