Making the American Self: Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln

Paperback | September 10, 2009

byDaniel Walker Howe

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Originally published in 1997 and now back in print, Making the American Self by Daniel Walker Howe, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of What Hath God Wrought, charts the genesis and fascinating trajectory of a central idea in American history.One of the most precious liberties Americans have always cherished is the ability to "make something of themselves"--to choose not only an occupation but an identity. Examining works by Benjamin Franklin, Jonathan Edwards, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph WaldoEmerson, Margaret Fuller, and others, Howe investigates how Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries engaged in the process of "self-construction," "self-improvement," and the "pursuit of happiness." He explores as well how Americans understood individual identity in relation to the larger bodypolitic, and argues that the conscious construction of the autonomous self was in fact essential to American democracy - that it both shaped and was in turn shaped by American democratic institutions. "The thinkers described in this book," Howe writes, "believed that, to the extent individualsexercised self-control, they were making free institutions - liberal, republican, and democratic - possible." And as the scope of American democracy widened so too did the practice of self-construction, moving beyond the preserve of elite white males to potentially all Americans. Howe concludes thatthe time has come to ground our democracy once again in habits of personal responsibility, civility, and self-discipline esteemed by some of America's most important thinkers.Erudite, beautifully written, and more pertinent than ever as we enter a new era of individual and governmental responsibility, Making the American Self illuminates an impulse at the very heart of the American experience.

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Originally published in 1997 and now back in print, Making the American Self by Daniel Walker Howe, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of What Hath God Wrought, charts the genesis and fascinating trajectory of a central idea in American history.One of the most precious liberties Americans have always cherished is the ability to "make so...

Daniel Walker Howe is Rhodes Professor of American History Emeritus, Oxford University and Professor of History Emeritus, University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of What Hath God Wrought (OUP 2007), which won the Pulitzer Prize in History, The Unitarian Conscience, and The Political Culture of the American Whigs. He li...

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Making The American Self : Jonathan Edwards To Abraham Lincoln
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Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.68 inPublished:September 10, 2009Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195387899

ISBN - 13:9780195387896

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Table of Contents

IntroductionPart I: Virtue and Passion in the American Enlightenment1. Benjamin Franklin, Jonathan Edwards, and the Problem of Human Nature2. The American Founders and the Scottish Enlightenment3. The Political Psychology of The FederalistPart II: Constructing Character in Antebellum America4. The Emerging Ideal of Self-Improvement5. Self-Made Men: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass6. Shaping the Selves of OthersPart III: The Cultivation of the Self Among the New England Romantics7. The Platonic Quest in New England8. Margaret Fuller's Heroic Ideal of Womanhood9. The Constructed Self Against the StateConclusionNotes