Making the American Self: Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln

Making the American Self: Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln

by Daniel Walker Howe
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0195387899

ISBN-13: 9780195387896

Pub. Date: 09/02/2009

Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA

Originally published in 1997 and now back in print, Making the American Self by Daniel Walker Howe, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of What Hath God Wrought, charts the genesis and fascinating trajectory of a central idea in American history.

One of the most precious liberties Americans have always cherished is the ability to "make something of

Overview

Originally published in 1997 and now back in print, Making the American Self by Daniel Walker Howe, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of What Hath God Wrought, charts the genesis and fascinating trajectory of a central idea in American history.

One of the most precious liberties Americans have always cherished is the ability to "make something of themselves"—to choose not only an occupation but an identity. Examining works by Benjamin Franklin, Jonathan Edwards, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and others, Howe investigates how Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries engaged in the process of "self-construction," "self-improvement," and the "pursuit of happiness." He explores as well how Americans understood individual identity in relation to the larger body politic, and argues that the conscious construction of the autonomous self was in fact essential to American democracy—that it both shaped and was in turn shaped by American democratic institutions. "The thinkers described in this book," Howe writes, "believed that, to the extent individuals exercised self-control, they were making free institutions—liberal, republican, and democratic—possible." And as the scope of American democracy widened so too did the practice of self-construction, moving beyond the preserve of elite white males to potentially all Americans. Howe concludes that the time has come to ground our democracy once again in habits of personal responsibility, civility, and self-discipline esteemed by some of America's most important thinkers.

Erudite, beautifully written, and more pertinent than ever as we enter a new era of individual and governmental responsibility, Making the American Self illuminates an impulse at the very heart of the American experience.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195387896
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
09/02/2009
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
1,222,880
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents

Introduction

I Virtue and Passion in the American Enlightenment
1 Benjamin Franklin, Jonathan Edwards, and the Problem of Human Nature
2 The American Founders and the Scottish Enlightenment
3 The Political Psychology of The Federalist

II Constructing Character in Antebellum America
4 The Emerging Ideal of Self-Improvement
5 Self-Made Men: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass
6 Shaping the Selves of Others

III The Cultivation of the Self Among the New England Romantics
7 The Platonic Quest in New England
8 Margaret Fuller's Heroic Ideal of Womanhood
9 The Constructed Self Against the State

Conclusion

Notes

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