Institutional Individualism: Conversion, Exile, and Nostalgia in Puritan New England

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Wesleyan University Press, 1998 - History - 155 pages
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Traditional approaches to American history and letters see colonial religious institutions as a coercive force that produced an illusion of freedom aimed at achieving political dominance more than religious truth. Challenging these approaches, Michael Kaufman argues that modern notions of freedom arise out of an individual's affiliation with-rather than domination by-religious institutions. He posits a new way of seeing the paradoxical relationship of individuals and institutions by examining the New England Puritans' commitment to change in the individual, which took the form of spiritual conversion, and to change in the church and state, which took the form of challenges to institutional hierarchies. His focus on the lives, writings, and roles of Anne Hutchinson, John Cotton, and Roger Williams allows him o reinterpret concepts he says have long been accepted, often uncritically, as historical "givens" in American studies: ideas of identity, individualism, autonomy, submission, oppression, patriarchy, and affiliation. Arguing that individuals exert their influences not only by making choices about which institutions to join, but also by re-imagining their relations to patriarchal authority, Kaufmann provides new ways of evaluating institutional affiliations in Puritan culture, and, implicitly, in our own.
 

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Contents

Acknowledgments ix
1
Puritanism and the Family Analogy
15
John Cotton and the Conversion of Rhetoric
38
Roger Williams and the Conversion of Persecution
55
The Case of Anne Hutchinson
74
Institutions and Nostalgia
92
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