Catalogue


The American Aeneas : classical origins of the American self /
John C. Shields.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
Knoxville : University of Tennessee Press, c2001.
description
xlv, 432 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
1572331321 (hardcover : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Knoxville : University of Tennessee Press, c2001.
isbn
1572331321 (hardcover : alk. paper)
catalogue key
4589158
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2002-04-01:
In this startlingly original, provocative, and rigorous study, Shields (Illlinois State Univ.) argues that Americans have lost half of their identity, indeed their American selves, because of a radical shift in discourse beginning around 1784. The author claims that whereas Europeans recognize that the two modes of discourse that govern their cultures are the Judeo-Christian and the Greco-Roman, most American scholars believe that the Anglo-Americans who colonized early America brought only the Judeo-Christian half of the European inheritance. Shields finds this half, the Adamic myth, incapable of explaining the secularism of the American people and particularly unhelpful in discussing the time of the writing of the US Constitution, which is the product of the classical mode. Thus, Shields attempts here to establish the presence and persistence of the classical Aeneas myth, which was lost in that radical shift in discourse "whereby all things classical became debased and all things Adamic were valorized." He hopes that the recovery of the Adam/Aeneas dialectic can develop not only an understanding in the US of American literature and culture, but also a tolerance and respect for multiculturalism. Excellent thorough notes and bibliography. For students and scholars of literature, myth, and culture at all levels. N. B. Palmer Western Maryland College
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, April 2002
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Summaries
Publisher Fact Sheet
In The American Aeneas, John C. Shields exposes a significant cultural blindness within American consciousness. Noting that the biblical myth of Adam has long dominated ideas of what it means to be American, Shields argues that an equally important component of our nation's cultural identity--a secular one deriving from the classical tradition--has been seriously neglected. The author finds various Early American texts, including pastorals, pastoral elegies, literary independence poems, tracts on educational theories, religious discourses, & political writings, laden with elements of classicism, particularly the myth of Aeneas as depicted by Vergil. Shields demonstrates that Aeneas, Vergil's hero of the Aeneid, was an especially apt figure for New World discourse in that he epitomized "the sailor who struck out onto dangerous, uncharted seas in order to discover a new land in which to build a new civilization." Shields shows how both the myth of Adam & the myth of Aeneas, in crossing over to America from Europe, dynamically intermingled in the thought of the earliest American writers. This rearticulation of the myths of Adam & Aeneas became peculiarly adapted to the demands of the American adventure in freedom. Shields argues that uncovering & acknowledging the classical roots of our culture can allay the American fear of "pastlessness" that the long-standing emphasis on the Adamic myth has generated. The author's probing analysis sheds new light on the works of such seminal figures as Edward Taylor, Cotton Mather, Phillis Wheatley, George Washington, Nathaniel Hawthorne, & Herman Melville. But it does much more than that--it posits a new model for American studies. "This model," Shields writes, "is not composed of a single strand which can only direct the struggle to explore the dimensions of American culture in a linear fashion--an inevitable dead end. The image of two strands coming together, intertwining & interconnecting so as to accommodate virtually infinite possibilities, more accurately captures the dynamic of Americanness."
Main Description
"John Shields's book is a provocative challenge to the venerable Adamic myth so exhaustively deployed in examinations of early American literature and in American studies. Moreover, The American Aeneas builds wonderfully on Shields's considerable work on Phillis Wheatley. "?-American Literature? "The American Aeneas should be of interest to classicists and American studies scholars alike." ?-The New England Quarterly? John Shields exposes a significant cultural blindness within American consciousness. Noting the biblical character Adam as an archetype who has long dominated ideas of what it means to be American, Shields argues that an equally important component of our nation's cultural identity-a secular one deriving from the classical tradition-has been seriously neglected.'?Shields shows how Adam and Aeneas-Vergil's hero of the Aeneid- in crossing over to American from Europe, dynamically intermingled in the thought of the earliest American writers. Shields argues that uncovering and acknowledging the classical roots of our culture can allay the American fear of "pastlessness" that the long-standing emphasis on the Adamic myth has generated. John C. Shields is the editor of The Collected Works of Phillis Wheatley and the author of The American Aeneas: Classical Origins of the American Self, which won a Choice Outstanding Academic Book award and an honorable mention in the Harry Levin Prize competition, sponsored by the American Comparative Literature Association.
Unpaid Annotation
In The American Aeneas, John C. Shields exposes a significant cultural blindness within American consciousness. Noting that the biblical myth of Adam has long dominated ideas of what it means to be American, Shields argues that an equally important component of our nation's cultural identity -- a secular one deriving from the classical tradition -- has been seriously neglected.The author finds various Early American texts, including pastorals, pastoral elegies, literary independence poems, tracts on educational theories, religious discourses, and political writings, laden with elements of classicism, particularly the myth of Aeneas as depicted by Vergil. Shields demonstrates that Aeneas, Vergil's hero of the Aeneid, was an especially apt figure for New World discourse in that he epitomized "the sailor who struck out onto dangerous, uncharted seas in order to discover a new land in which to build a new civilization".Shields shows how both the myth of Adam and the myth of Aeneas, in crossing over to America from Europe, dynamically intermingled in the thought of the earliest American writers. This rearticulation of the myths of Adam and Aeneas became peculiarly adapted to the demands of the American adventure in freedom. Shields argues that uncovering and acknowledging the classical roots of our culture can allay the American fear of "pastlessness" that the long-standing emphasis on the Adamic myth has generated.The author's probing analysis sheds new light on the works of such seminal figures as Edward Taylor, Cotton Mather, Phillis Wheatley, George Washington, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville. But it does much more than that -- it posits a new model for Americanstudies. "This model", Shields writes, "is not composed of a single strand which can only direct the struggle to explore the dimensions of American culture in a linear fashion -- an inevitable dead end. The image of two strands com
Main Description
"John Shields's book is a provocative challenge to the venerable Adamic myth so exhaustively deployed in examinations of early American literature and in American studies. Moreover, The American Aeneas builds wonderfully on Shields's considerable work on Phillis Wheatley. "?--American Literature?? "The American Aeneas should be of interest to classicists and American studies scholars alike." ?--The New England Quarterly?? John Shields exposes a significant cultural blindness within American consciousness. Noting the biblical character Adam as an archetype who has long dominated ideas of what it means to be American, Shields argues that an equally important component of our nation's cultural identity--a secular one deriving from the classical tradition--has been seriously neglected.??Shields shows how Adam and Aeneas--Vergil's hero of the Aeneid-- in crossing over to American from Europe, dynamically intermingled in the thought of the earliest American writers. Shields argues that uncovering and acknowledging the classical roots of our culture can allay the American fear of "pastlessness" that the long-standing emphasis on the Adamic myth has generated. John C. Shields is the editor of The Collected Works of Phillis Wheatley and the author of The American Aeneas: Classical Origins of the American Self, which won a Choice Outstanding Academic Book award and an honorable mention in the Harry Levin Prize competition, sponsored by the American Comparative Literature Association.
Table of Contents
Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Quest for the American Aeneas
Adam and Aeneas: 1500-1720
Translatio Cultusp. 3
Edward Taylor's Classicismp. 38
Cotton Mather's Epic in Prosep. 56
Adam Becomes Aeneas: 1720-1784
Surge for Cultural Independence: The Flourishing of American Classicismp. 75
George Washington and the Vergilian Momentp. 165
The American Epic Writ Large: The Example of Phillis Wheatleyp. 216
Aeneas Becomes Adam: 1784 to the Present
The Radical Shift in Discoursep. 255
The Persistance of the American Aeneas in Hawthornep. 297
The Persistance of the American Aeneas in Melvillep. 311
Conclusion: America's Classical Origins Besiegedp. 334
Notesp. 363
Bibliographyp. 393
Indexp. 423
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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