As we transition from literature of the Puritan period to literature of the American Revolution, it is important for you to understand that history and its accompanying literature transition SLOWLY – the colonist did not simply wake up one day and realize ‘Hey, we’re in a new literary time period! Let’s change our writing style and beliefs overnight!’. We began to see the slow shift from theocratic colonies obsessed with religion to a more secular, democratic society as we read The Crucible and discussed the real life events of the Salem Witch Trails. Below you will find our notes from class outlining what exactly happened to transition the ideas of the Puritan period to the ideas of the Revolutionary period. Additionally, you will also find a complete list of ideas, concepts, beliefs and characteristics of the Revolutionary period that you may refer to throughout this unit.

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Common Beliefs

  1. Faith in natural goodness – a human is born without taint or sin; the concept of tabula rasa or blank slate
  2. Perfectibility of a human being – it is possible to improve situations of birth, economy, society, and religion
  3. The sovereignty of reason – echoes of Rene Descartes’ cogito ergo sum or “I think, therefore, I am” (as the first certitude in resolving universal doubt)
  4. Universal benevolence – the attitude of helping everyone
  5. Outdated social institutions cause unsociable behavior – religious, social, economic, and political institutions, which have not modernized, force individuals into unacceptable behavior

Functions of the Writers of this Period

  1. A searching inquiry in all aspects of the world around
  2. Interest in the classics as well as in the Bible
  3. Interest in nature – the “absentee landlord” phenomenon
  4. Interest in science and scientific experiments
  5. Optimism – experiments in utopian communities
  6. Sense of a person’s duty to succeed
  7. Constant search of the self – emphasis on individualism in: a. personal religion. b. study of the Bible for personal interpretation

Characteristics of the 18th Century

Dawn of liberalism: freedom from restraint; age of revolutions in America and in France (1789); experimentation in science; economic concept of laissez-faire; the presence of the frontier; the development of rational religion known as deism; scientific curiosity; growth in nationalism; growth in materialism; the age of the gifted amateur; and belief in progressivism

(*note: the end of the above video covers Revolutionary literature)