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Making the American Self: Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln Paperback – Bargain Price, September 22, 2009
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Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"An erudite, original, and often eloquent reconstruction of, and tribute to, a vital and protean tradition in American liberal culture."--Charles Capper, Boston University
"By reinvigorating a vanished past...Howe provides also much to ponder for the present. We have no better historian on broad questions at the intersection of mind and culture in the American past than Howe."--Mark A. Noll, University of Notre Dame
"Howe succeeds triumphantly in linking the cultural gestures of politicos like Madison and Lincoln with the formal systems of thinkers like Edwards, and middle-brow culture brokers like Mann, Emerson, and Fuller. His skill in dovetailing these otherwise angular and resistant minds illuminates landscapes of the American intellect...long closed off to view."--Allen C. Guelzo, Books & Culture
Top Customer Reviews
Walker Howe shows how the idea of faculty psychology influenced and reflected important currents in American life. The idea of separation of powers in the period of constitutional formation paralleled the idea of balanced faculties in individuals. The general democratization that occurred in the early 19th century saw the widespread dissemination and diversification of faculty psychology. Individuals from humble backgrounds like Lincoln and Douglass would draw on faculty psychology in their quests of distinctive and self-consciously American identities. Like all of Walker Howe's work, this book is written very well and exhibits Walker Howe's comprehensive knowledge of American history.
The book begins by comparing and contrasting Benjamin Franklin with Jonathan Edwards in the earliest part of the American narrative. Benjamin Franklin fashioned himself to fit neatly with his social situations, sometimes with and sometimes without moral constraints. To be thrifty, he starved himself to get the books he used to gain the knowledge that proved useful for his entire life. Later in life, he tried to appear to be an honest and plain Quaker to increase his diplomatic agenda with the French. Essentially, he altered his identity as a means to a utilitarian end. Jonathan Edwards, however, wanted the activity of molding the self to be spiritually provoked. For Edwards, self improvement was deemed a requirement for salvation not just for the person but for the community as well. Although one individual could achieve self enlightenment, salvation was seen as community oriented. In this way, construction of the self was a very selfless act because of the corporate outcome. The selfish versus selfless attributes given to the each man is the main difference Howe presents between Franklin and Edwards. The authors jabs at the notion of a socially constructed character implicitly by presenting these two paths of active self molding.
Despite this difference, similar qualities were both ingredients in Franklin's and Edward's personal development.Read more ›