American Puritanism

By Larry Flores,2014-06-16 10:35
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American Puritanism

American Puritanism

    美国清教主义简介American Puritanism


    1. The beliefs and practices characteristic of Puritans (most of whom were Calvinists who wished to purify the Church of England of its Catholic aspects)

    2. Strictness and austerity in conduct and religion

    重要地位?American Puritanism was one of the most enduring shaping influences in American thought and American literature. It has become, to some extent, so much a state of mind, rather than a set of tenets, so much a part of the national cultural atmosphere that the Americans breathe. Without some understanding of Puritanism, there can be no real understanding of American culture and literature.


    Puritans was the name given in the 16th century to the more extreme Protestants?新教徒?基督教徒? within the Church of England who thought the

    English Reformation ?英国宗教改革?had not gone far enough in reforming the

    doctrines and structure of the church. They wanted to purify their national church by eliminating every shred of Catholic influence. In the 17th century many Puritans emigrated to the New World, where they sought to found a holy Commonwealth in New England. Puritanism remained the dominant cultural force in that area into the 19th century.

    Puritans believed that human beings were predestined by God before they were born. Some were God's chosen people (God's elect 上帝的选

    )while others were predestined to be damned to hell. The success of one's work or the prosperity in his calling given by God was the sign of being God's elect. Therefore, everyone must work hard, spend little and invest for more business. Working hard and living a moral life were their ethics. They regarded Bible to be the authority of their doctrine. To be able to read the Bible and understand God's will, education was essential for Puritans.

    Puritanism in New England (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island) made a great influence on American culture. The Puritans hoped to build "a city upon hill"an ideal community.

    New England also established another American traditiona strain of often

    intolerant moralism. The Puritans believed that government should enforce God's morality. They strictly punished drunks, adulterers, violators of the Sabbath?安息日? and other religious believers different from themselves. The

    American values such as individualism, hard work, and respect of education owe very much to the Puritan beliefs.


    Pushing the frontiers with them as they moved further and further westward, they became more and more preoccupied with business and profits. They became more practical. The very severity of the frontier conditions taught the Americans Puritans to be tougher, to be ever ready for any misfortune and tragic failures that might lie in wait for them.

    All through the nineteenth century and especially in the first few decades of the twentieth, Americans Puritans came under violent and often virulent attacks for their religious intolerance and bigotry, for their austerity of taste and killjoy way of life, for the very heritage they bequeathed to the new nation. But the fact still remains that Puritanism alone has been the most powerful shaping factor in the cultural maturity of the American nation. It has burned its way into the very fabric of American social life, and way down into the American consciousness, so that even the most incorruptible anti-Puritans cannot escape its influence.



    American literatureor Anglo-American literatureis based on the

    Biblical myth of the Garden of Eden. The Puritans dreamed of living under a perfect order and worked with indomitable courage and confident hope toward building a new Garden of Eden in America. With such a sense of mission, the Puritans looked even the worst of life in the face with a tremendous amount of optimism.

    Emerson saw the American as Adam himself reborn, standing simple and sincere before the world. Thoreau portrayed himself as an Adam in his Eden. Whitman felt rapturous at the sight of the Americans bustling with activity as the children of Adam restored to their lost paradise. Henry James talked about the innocence and simplicity of his Americans as so many Newmans. The spirit of optimism burst out of the pages of so many American authors. Optimistic Puritan has exerted a great influence on American literature. American authors have been the outset conditioned by the puritan heritage to which American authors have been the most communicative heirs.


    The American Puritan’s metaphorical mode of perception was chiefly instrumental in calling into being a literary symbolism which is distinctly American. Puritan doctrine and literary practice contributed to no small extent to the development of an indigenous symbolism. To the pious Puritan the physical phenomenal world was nothing but a symbol of God. Physical life was simultaneously spiritual; every passage of life, en-meshed in the vast context of God’s plan, possessed a delegated meaning. The world was one of multiple


    Charles Feidelson: “instinct with meaning by reason of God’s concurrence and susceptible of interpretation by reason of God’s salient act.” Jonathan Edwards saw nature and even the Bible as “radically figurative”. Emerson’s

    Nature is like a “continuous monologue”. With Hawthorne, Melville, Howells and many others, symbolism as a technique has become a common practice, it is indeed as it should be. This peculiar mode of perception was an essential part of their upbringing.


    With regard to technique one naturally thinks of the simplicity, which characterizes the Puritan style of writing. The Puritans have been abhorred for their austerity and rigidity in matters of taste, “notorious” for their distaste for the arts and for any manifestation of sensuous beauty. Although there is an amount of truth in all this, it is perhaps too much a distortion.

    As Perry Miller tells us, the Puritans drank and dressed themselves in all the hues of the rainbow. They build schools, encouraged learning, and loved reading, making New England and the east seaboard centers of culture comparable in more ways than one to England and Europe. With regard to their writing, the style is fresh, simple and direct; the rhetoric is plain and honest, not without a touch of nobility often traceable to the direct influence of the Bible. All this has left an indelible imprint on American writing. American Puritanism has been, by and large, a healthy legacy to the Americans.

    Free Verse

    Free verse is a form of poetry that refrains from consistent meter patterns,

    rhyme, or any other musical pattern.

    Some poets have explained that free verse, despite its freedom, must still display some elements of form. Most free verse, for example,

    self-evidently continues to observe a convention of the poetic line in

    some sense, at least in written representations, thus retaining a potential degree of linkage, however nebulous, with more traditional forms. Donald Hall goes as far as to say that "the form of free verse is

    [1]as binding and as liberating as the form of a rondeau." and T. S. Eliot [2]wrote, "No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job."

    Some poets have considered free verse restrictive in its own way. In 1922 Robert Bridges voiced his reservations in the essay 'Humdrum and

    Harum-Scarum.' Robert Frost later remarked that writing free verse was like "playing tennis without a net".


    This article is about the 19th-century American movement. For other uses, see Transcendence (disambiguation) and Transcendental (disambiguation).

    Transcendentalism is a group of ideas in literature and philosophy that developed in the 1830s and 1840s as a protest against the general state of culture and society, and in particular, the state of intellectualism

    at Harvard University and the doctrine of the Unitarian church taught at

    Harvard Divinity School. Among the transcendentalists' core beliefs was the belief in an ideal spirituality that "transcends" the physical and

    empirical and is realized only through the individual's intuition, rather

    than through the doctrines of established religions.

    The major figures in the movement were Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David

    Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Margaret Fuller, and Amos Bronson

    Alcott. Other prominent transcendentalists included Charles Timothy

    Brooks, Orestes Brownson, William Ellery Channing, William Henry Channing,

    James Freeman Clarke, Christopher Pearse Cranch, John Sullivan Dwight,

    Convers Francis, William Henry Furness, Frederic Henry Hedge, Sylvester

    Judd, Theodore Parker, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, George Ripley, Jones [1] Very, and Blake Simpson.

     The lost generation

     The Lost Generation is a term used to describe a group of American writers who were rebelling against what America

    had become by the 1900’s. At this point in time, America had become a great place to, “go into some area of business”

    (Crunden, 185). However, the Lost Generation writers felt that America was not such a success story because the country

    was devoid of a cosmopolitan culture. Their solution to this issue was to pack up their bags and travel to Europe’s

    cosmopolitan cultures, such as Paris and London. Here they expected to find literary freedom and a cosmopolitan way of life.

     A cosmopolitan culture is one which includes and values a variety of backgrounds and cultures. In the 1920's the White

    Anglo Saxon Protestant work ethic was the only culture that was considered valued by the majority of Americans. It was

    because of ethics such as this which made the cosmopolitan culture of Paris so alluring.

     American Literature went through a profound change in the post WWI era. Up until this point, American writers were

    still expected to use the rigid Victorian styles of the 19th Century. The lost generation writers were above, or apart from,

    American society, not only in geographic terms, but also in their style of writing and subjects they chose to write about.

    Although they were unhappy with American culture, the writers were instrumental in changing their country's style of

    writing, from Victorian to modern.

Ernest Hemingway Gertrude Stein Ezra Pound T.S.Eliot

    Black humor

    black humor, in literature, drama, and film, grotesque or morbid humor used to express the absurdity, insensitivity, paradox, and cruelty of the modern world. Ordinary characters or situations are usually exaggerated far beyond the limits of normal satire or irony. Black humor uses devices often associated with tragedy and is sometimes equated with tragic farce. For example, Stanley Kubrick's film Dr. Strangelove; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1963) is a terrifying comic treatment of the circumstances surrounding the dropping of an atom bomb, while Jules Feiffer's comedy Little

    Murders (1965) is a delineation of the horrors of modern urban life, focusing particularly on random assassinations. The novels of such writers as Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Joseph Heller, and Philip Roth contain elements of black humor.

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