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Comparing and Contrasting Self-Awareness in the Works of Emerson, Whitman and Poe

Defining Self-Awareness in the works of Emerson, Whitman and Poe

Literature in the American Renaissance influenced the Romantic sentiment that prevailed during this period: the emergence of the individual. This materialization evolved out of the Age of Reason, when the question of using reason (a conscious state) or faith (an unconscious state) as a basis for establishing a set of beliefs divided people into secular and non-secular groups. Reacting to the generally submissive attitudes predominant in America at this time, nineteenth century writers envisioned “the source of religion within consciousness itself” (Chai, 10). This “secularization of religion” ultimately led to the “isolation of the self from others” (Chai, 10), and manifested the persuasive theme in Renaissance literature that promoted independent thinking. The writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, and Walt Whitman all emanate from this Romantic spirit. “Trust thyself” asserts Emerson, do not remain “clapped in jail by [your] consciousness” (261), be “led [out] in triumph by nature” (542). Merging the individual and nature is a common motif in Romanticism, but these writers had contrasting views on the dynamics of this connection. While Emerson and Whitman were on one end of the Romantic meter proclaiming the potential greatness of the individual, Poe was at the other end questioning human nature. Indeed, the literature these authors produced are relative to the Romantic trend in elevating self-awareness, however their work demonstrates Emerson and Whitman differ with Poe regarding the ascendancy of the conscious and unconscious states of the mind.

Emerson and Whitman celebrated the conscious power of the individual, while Poe exposed the hidde…

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… “Being Odd, Getting Even.” The American Face of Edgar Allan Poe. Ed. Shawn Rosenheim and Stephen Rachman. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1995. 3-36.

Chai, Leon. The Romantic Foundations of the American Renaissance. Ithaka: Cornell University Press, 1987.

Coleridge, Samuel. The Portable Coleridge. Ed. I. A. Richards. New York: Penguin Books, 1950.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Essays and Lectures. Comp. Joel Porte. New York: Literary Classics, 1983.

Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Philosophy of Composition. Lauter 1529-37.

Waggoner, Hyatt H. American Poets: From the Puritans to the Present. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1984.

Whitman, Walt. Preface to Leaves of Grass. Lauter 2729-43.

—. Song of Myself. Lauter 2743-94.

A Comparison of Winthrop and Edwards to the Apostles of Christ

A Comparison of Winthrop and Edwards to the Apostles of Christ

I find John Winthrop and Jonathan Edwards to be the most fascinating writers I have ever read. For one, they are the “apostles” of our time. Second, their comparisons to the apostles of Christ are too close to ignore.

There are three historical, Christian milestones. One being after the death of Christ where an evangelical movement of Christ’s disciples, friends and brothers preached on how Jesus Christ was the Messiah and the Son of God. The second milestone was when the Pilgrims came to America for religious freedom, and many ministers guided and directed the pilgrims toward the “City of God”. One of the last historical Christian movements seen is the Great Awakening. This movement was to trade deistic notions of reason and rationality to faith, God, and Divine Providence. Among the apostles of Biblical times, the most influential were Apostles James and Paul. One of the great writers and speakers of his time, John Winthrop represents the second mark, leaving Jonathan Edwards as one of the most remembered preacher of the Great Awakening.

John Winthrop’s writings are intensely related to the Apostle James’ writings. Jonathan Edwards approaches his audience in the same manner as Apostle Paul, and both carry a burden to lead people to their Savior. Interestingly enough, Winthrop and Edwards are speaking the gospel, but one is speaking to a different circle of people than the other and with a totally different message. Likewise, as someone has written, “Paul and James do not stand face to face, fighting each other, but they stand back to back, fighting opposite foes” (McGee 64).

In John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Chari…

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…ave a unity under their great love for God. They persevere, and they press toward the kingdom of God through their writings and teachings.

Works Cited

Bensick, Carol. “Jonathan Edwards.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed.Paul Lauter. Canada: DC Heath and Company, 1990. 561-564.

Edwards, Jonathan. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter. Canada: DC Heath and Company, 1990. 584-595.

McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary Series: James. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

New International Version. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1984.

Wiersbe, Warren N. Be Free. USA: S P Publications, 1975.

Winthrop, John. “from a Modell of Christian Charity.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter. Canada: DC Heath and company, 1990. 226-238.

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