The American Adam

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University of Chicago Press, 1955 - Literary Criticism - 200 pages
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Intellectual history is viewed in this book as a series of "great conversations"—dramatic dialogues in which a culture's spokesmen wrestle with the leading questions of their times. In nineteenth-century America the great argument centered about De Crèvecoeur's "new man," the American, an innocent Adam in a bright new world dissociating himself from the historic past. Mr. Lewis reveals this vital preoccupation as a pervasive, transforming ingredient of the American mind, illuminating history and theology as well as art, shaping the consciousness of lesser thinkers as fully as it shaped the giants of the age. He traces the Adamic theme in the writings of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Henry James, and others, and in an Epilogue he exposes their continuing spirit in the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, J. D. Salinger, and Saul Bellow.
 

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aged very well. Read full review

Contents

THE CASE AGAINST THE PAST
13
THE NEW ADAM HOLMES AND WHITMAN
28
THE FORTUNATE FALL THE ELDER JAMES AND HORACE BUSHNELL
54
THE FABLE OF THE CRITICS
77
THE HERO IN SPACE BROWN COOPER BIRD
90
THE RETURN INTO TIME HAWTHORNE
110
MELVILLE THE APOTHEOSIS OF ADAM
127
THE FUNCTION OF HISTORY BANCROFT AND PARKMAN
159
THE REAL PRESENCE PARKER AND BROWNSON
174
ADAM AS HERO IN THE AGE OF CONTAINMENT
195
INDEX
199
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Page 5 - On the contrary, our national birth was the beginning of a new history, the formation and progress of an untried political system, which separates us from the past and connects us with the future only; and so far as regards the entire development of the natural rights of man, in moral, political, and national life, we may confidently assume that our country is destined to be the great nation of futurity.

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About the author (1955)

R. W. B. Lewis is professor emeritus of English and American Studies at Yale University.

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