Wilderness lost : the religious origins of the American mind /
David R. Williams.
Selinsgrove : Susquehanna University Press ; Toronto : Associated University Presses, c1987.
293 p. ; 25 cm.
094166421X (alk. paper)
More Details
Selinsgrove : Susquehanna University Press ; Toronto : Associated University Presses, c1987.
094166421X (alk. paper)
general note
Includes index.
catalogue key
Bibliography: p. 274-286.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 1987-02:
In this scholarly, clearly written monograph, Williams traces the influence of Calvinism on American literature and thought from the 17th century to the present. Along the way, he insightfully summarizes the views of such significant figures as Dickinson, Edwards, Emerson, Hawthorne, Holmes, Melville, and Thoreau. Williams admires the Calvinist tradition's willingness to face both literal and figurative wilderness and contends that American culture lost something significant when Calvinism decayed in the 19th century. Recommended for all academic American studies collections, particularly those interested in the relationship between literature, psychology, and theology. Susan A. Stussy, Marian Coll. Lib., Indianapolis (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 1987-09:
From the very beginning, Americans viewed themselves as God's chosen people. Having left the Egypt of England behind, they were tested in the wilderness, an actual place and a symbol for the struggle with evil: ``Each individual had to face God in the wilderness alone.'' Williams is extremely effective in explaining the spiritual and psychological conflicts of the 17th century as evidenced primarily by Puritan sermons but also by works such as the Narrative of the Captivity ... of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1791). The wilderness experience is also crucial to an understanding of both the Great Awakening and the American Revolution in the 18th century and of certain major authors in the 19th century. Williams's discussion of Emerson and Thoreau is somewhat thin since they are really negative examples of his thesis. But Hawthorne and Melville, as might be expected, fit the argument nicely, and Williams's treatment of their work, though not original, clearly demonstrates the persistence of the Puritan image of the wilderness into the American Renaissance. One of the most important insights of this study is that Dickinson's poetry was ``a personal response to the Calvinist conversion crisis.'' In general, surely Williams is correct when he concludes that the best American literature, past and present, belongs to the wilderness tradition. The writing we value most reminds us that life is a wrestling with the evil without and within and that we have not yet reached the Promised Land. This book will be useful to all mature readers interested in the American character.-D.F. Warders, University of Kansas
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, February 1987
Choice, September 1987
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