Due to the strong desire of the American nation to create unique literature, Enlightenment ideals such as reason, liberty, and the revolutionary method brought about by European philosophers have influenced American literature. During the revolutionary period, many political writings emerged, and the most popular form of political literature was found in pamphlets. American society began to reject many of the concepts of the current social institutions of the time and instead honored the ideas and theories of European Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau, among others. This period started in the early 18th century, wherein most of the works of literature were inspired by the ideals of these figures.
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Enlightenment thinkers and writers were devoted to the ideals of justice, liberty, and equality as the natural rights of man (VanSpanckeren 16). As a result, literature transformed from a variety of genres, from speeches to pamphlets, as well as poetry and essays (Oglesby). Benjamin Franklin, with his famous Autobiography, embodied the Enlightenment ideal of humane society by which he learned from Enlightenment writers like Locke to apply reasons to his own life and break with tradition, particularly the old-fashioned Puritan tradition (VanSpanckeren 16). Rousseau, on the other hand, agreed with Locke that the individual should never be forced to give up his or her natural rights to a king (Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau 10).
American literature developed from the strong desire to create unique literature through the ideals of Enlightenment of philosophers like Locke and Rousseau. American society has disregarded Puritan ideals and embraced Enlightenment concepts such as reason and liberty in their literary undertakings. The revolutionary method also influenced American literature though political writings and literary movements until such time that American colonies won freedom from the British forces. Thus, it is important to study American literature, shaped by its history, as it helped cultivate significant aspects of American culture and society.
Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau on Government. California: Constitutional Rights Foundation, n.d. PDF file.
Oglesby, Kaitlin. American Enlightenment Literature. Study.com, study.com/academy/lesson/american-enlightenment-literature.html. Accessed 6 Aug. 2019.
VanSpanckeren, Kathryn. Outline of American Literature: Revised Edition. United States: United States Department of State, 1994.
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The American Enlightenment was time of intellectual excitement in the thirteen American colonies. It took place in the 17th to 18th century and brought the nation to the American Revolution. The period of Enlightenment is the leading cause of the creation of the United States of America. By the 17th century, the European Enlightenment had an impact on the American nation and its own native philosophy. According to James MacGregor Burns, the spirit of the American Enlightenment ideals definition was to give Enlightenment ideals a usable form in the life of the nation and its people.
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