The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought

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Macmillan, Nov 1, 2005 - History - 262 pages
20 Reviews
"My intention, my hope, is to revive interest in... John Calvin. If I had been forthright about my subject, I doubt that the average reader would have read this far." That's the introduction to one essay, but it could also apply to most of Robinson's (Housekeeping) first book in nearly a decade. Among the 10 essays here is one on the idea of wilderness and an intensely personal meditation on growing up Presbyterian, but these are essentially afterthoughts to an impassioned argument against America's contemporary social Darwinists cum free marketeers. And here's where Calvin comes in. She rebuts the characterization of Calvin as protocapitalist and the quick dismissal of his Puritan followers as prigs. Instead, she finds in their example a more fulfilling morality, one that substitutes personal responsibility for contemptuous condemnation of our fellows and a more personal, independent relationship with God and conscience. The corollary of the notion that "our unhappiness is caused by society, is that society can make us happy," she writes, adding, "Whatever else it is, morality is a covenant with oneself, which can only be imposed and enforced by oneself." Though there are occasional problems, for example, the argument "an important historical 'proof' very current among us now is that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence unconscious of the irony of the existence of slavery" is simply a straw man. But for the most part her moral integrity is accompanied by an equally rigorous intellectual integrity, and rather than accepting received wisdom she hunts it out for herself among original texts. In the process, she revives founding beliefs as a possible solution for current ills.

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Review: The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought

User Review  - Cindy Dyson Eitelman - Goodreads

I'm going to do something uncharacteristic and embarrassing. I'm going to give up on a book. I can't read it. No doubt it's erudite, coherent and mind-expanding to some readers--but not to me. I guess ... Read full review

Review: The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought

User Review  - Jane - Goodreads

It is a tribute to how compelling Marilynne Robinson is that when I finished this book, moved and discomposed, one of my first thoughts was that I could now turn to her novel Home. Robinson says so ... Read full review


Facing Reality
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
McGuffey and the Abolitionists
Puritans and Prigs
Marguerite de Navarre
Marguerite de Navarre Part II
Psalm Eight

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About the author (2005)

Marilynne Robinson is the author of the modern classic Housekeeping--winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award--and two books of nonfiction, Mother Country (FSG, 1989) and The Death of Adam. She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.

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