Seduced by the self: Susanna Rowson, moral sense philosophy, and evangelicalism

Gideon Mailer, Karen Collis

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    1 Scopus citations

    Abstract

    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 languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationAtlantic Worlds in the Long Eighteenth Century
    Subtitle of host publicationSeduction and Sentiment
    PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
    Pages205-220
    Number of pages16
    ISBN (Electronic)9781137014610
    ISBN (Print)9780230108677
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

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