Between the American Revolution and the Civil War there developed in the United States something dramatically new: a modern liberal culture, replete with a new concept of community, a new vision of nationality, an intricately interwoven set of institutions, legal, political, and religious. Linking all of these was a complex set of symbols, rituals and beliefs designed to sustain the society at large. Like the ideas (and reality) of the United States, the symbol of "America" is at once powerfully unifying and conspicuously various, even contradictory in its meanings. What are the cultural strategies through which "America" has served as a vehicle simultaneously for diversity and cohesion, fusion and fragmentation?
Taking an ethnographic, cross-cultural approach, "The Rites of Assent" describes the process by which "America," as appropriated by the United States, developed into the most powerful cultural symbol of the modern world. Sacvan Bercovitch traces the meanings and purposes of "America" back to the colonial typology of mission, and specifically (in chapters on Puritan rhetoric, Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, and the movement from Revival to Revolution) to the legacy of early New England. He analyzes the manifold functions of "America"--as a view of history, a spiritual ideal, a myth of origins, a mode of identity, personal and collective--in the work of George Bancroft and other influential figures from the Revolution to the Civil War.
"The Rites of Assent" focuses particularly on these themes in the works of three classic American writers, Hawthorne, Melville, and Emerson, who together may be said to span the aesthetic and ideological response to the promise of "America." Taking a revisionary perspective of 2he American literary renaissance, Bercovitch argues for the profound embeddedness of their work in the history of the times, and more broadly discusses his view of "literary master-works" as works of ideological mimesis. His focus is broadly cultural, emphasizing the connection between politics and language, popular and high literature, and social action and creative expression.
Bercovitch brings these implications up to date in wide-ranging discussions of "Americanness" as rhetoric and fact, multiculturalism, American literary history, and current literary and historical debates. "The Rites of Assent" will be essential reading for Americanists in every field, and generally to students of literature and culture. _
Acknowledgments 1. Introduction: The Music of America 2. The Ritual of Consensus 3. The Ends of Puritan Rhetoric 4. Cotton Mather and the Vision of America 5. The Typology of Mission, from Edwards to Independence 6. Continuing Revolution: George Bancroft and the Myth of Progress 7. The Return of Hester Prynne 8. Pierre, or the Ambiguities of Literary History 9. Emerson, Individualism, and Liberal Dissent 10. The Problem of Ideology in American Literary Studies Endnotes Index
For Ages: 18 years old
Number Of Pages: 432
Published: 10th November 1992
Publisher: TAYLOR & FRANCIS
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 22.86 x 15.24
Weight (kg): 0.59
Edition Number: 1