Early American Literature 1700-1800 (also known as the Age of Reason, Enlightenment, & Naturalism) Writers: John Adams and Abigail Adams, Elizabeth Ashbridge, John Woolman I. Common Beliefs
1. Faith in natural goodness - a human is born without taint or sin; the concept of tabula rasa or blank slate. 2. Perfectibility of a human being - it is possible to improve situations of birth, economy, society, and religion. 3. The sovereignty of reason - echoes of Rene Descartes' cogito ergo sum or I think, therefore, I am (as the first certitude in resolving universal doubt.) 4. Universal benevolence - the attitude of helping everyone. 5. Outdated social institutions cause unsociable behavior - religious, social, economic, and political institutions, which have not modernized, force individuals into unacceptable behavior. II. Functions of the Writers of this Period
1. A searching inquiry in all aspects of the world around.
2. Interest in the classics as well as in the Bible.
3. Interest in nature - the "absentee landlord" phenomenon. 4. Interest in science and scientific experiments.
5. Optimism - experiments in utopian communities
6. Sense of a person's duty to succeed.
7. Constant search of the self - emphasis on individualism in: a. personal religion. b. study of the Bible for personal interpretation.
III. Characteristics of the 18th Century
Dawn of liberalism: freedom from restraint; age of revolutions in America and in France (1789); experimentation in science; economic concept of laissez-faire; the presence of the frontier; the development of rational religion known as deism; scientific curiosity; growth in nationalism; growth in materialism; the age of the gifted amateur; and belief in progressivism. IV. Deism and Traditional Religions (like Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, or Islam)
"My mind is my church." - Thomas Paine
"Members of the United Deist Community hold the belief that God is discovered through Reason -- but the task of...
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