In 1745 Jonathan Edwards suggested that "the mind makes use of signs instead of the ideas themselves." In his conception, elegant language’s appeal to common aesthetic norms masked the subjective nature of man’s "unregenerate" perception. Using capricious signs rather than innate ideas, individuals were unable to maintain a common form of ethical reasoning. With "painful seriousness" Edwards encountered "Locke’s theory that words are separable from all reality, natural or spiritual, and in themselves are only noises." Without acknowledging this isolating predicament, he believed, individuals were prevented from achieving the communal salvation of grace.1 During the early-national era, several decades after the death of America’s most famous divine, the "democratization of American Christianity" popularized these evangelical precepts, particularly among women.2 Acknowledging their perceptual flaws in common with men entailed an equalizing realization: after conversion, an abstract and even gender-neutral form of description could be applied to human moral perception, which had become divinely illuminated. Edwardsean evangelicalism had "opened a representational space that women in the antebellum period seized as their own, creating new roles for themselves as speakers and writers."3.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Title of host publication||Atlantic Worlds in the Long Eighteenth Century|
|Subtitle of host publication||Seduction and Sentiment|
|Number of pages||16|
|State||Published - Jan 1 2012|