Literature of the usa. Colonial period literature


IMPORTANCE OF EUROPEAN TRADITIONS AND ENLIGHTENMENT PHILOSOPHY FOR THE AMERICAN LITERATURE



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IMPORTANCE OF EUROPEAN TRADITIONS AND ENLIGHTENMENT PHILOSOPHY FOR THE AMERICAN LITERATURE.

The ideas of the Age of Reason in America were expressed in the Revolution. The outstanding writers of the time were Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and the poet Philip Freneau. The chief aim of the writers of Enlightenment was to diffuse republican ideas among the people: to expose the tyranny of monarchism, and defend the rights of man against the church and the outdated feudal laws. Rationalism applied to theology produced Deism4 and in some cases as in the works of Paine, atheism.

Unlike the French philosophers of the early 18th century who never lived to see their revolution, the American writers if their Age of Reason were able to see their ideas materializing. They all contributed to the success of Revolution.

The appeal to reason prompted men of all ranks to discuss existing social problems. It brought about a vast spiritual and social upheaval in literature and accounted for a tremendous development of journalism. People wanted to share their ideas with their fellow-countrymen. When Franklin was born, there was only one American newspaper; by the time of the Revolution there were nearly fifty. As for periodicals, the number of magazines had grown to forty when George Washington was elected President of the United States.



Similarly to what happened in the movement of Enlightenment in Europe, the American political leaders and writers too had a firm belief in the reality of the world as revealed to the senses – hence the interest in science; a distrust of the mystical – hence another step towards religious tolerance and atheism; confidence in the attainment of progress by education and humanitarianism – hence new methods of teaching at schools ; a belief in progress as the exercise of reason , and the exercise of reason as a means to solve the problems of society and the state.

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