The American Adam

R. W. B. Lewis

The American Adam
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R. W. B. Lewis

208 pages | © 1955
Paper $26.00 ISBN: 9780226476810 Published September 1959
E-book $22.50 ISBN: 9780226219509 Will Publish September 2009
Intellectual history is viewed in this book as a series of "great conversations"—dramatic dialogues in which a culture's spokesmen wrestle with the leading questions of their times. In nineteenth-century America the great argument centered about De Crèvecoeur's "new man," the American, an innocent Adam in a bright new world dissociating himself from the historic past. Mr. Lewis reveals this vital preoccupation as a pervasive, transforming ingredient of the American mind, illuminating history and theology as well as art, shaping the consciousness of lesser thinkers as fully as it shaped the giants of the age. He traces the Adamic theme in the writings of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Henry James, and others, and in an Epilogue he exposes their continuing spirit in the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, J. D. Salinger, and Saul Bellow.
Prologue: The Myth and the Dialogue
I. The Danger of Innocence
1. The Case against the Past
2. The New Adam: Holmes and Whitman
3. The Fortunate Fall: The Elder James and Horace Bushnell
II. The Narrative Image
4. The Fable of the Critics
5. The Hero in Space: Brown, Cooper, Bird
6. The Return into Time: Hawthorne
7. Melville: The Apotheosis of Adam
III. The Past and the Perfect
8. The Function of History: Bancroft and Parkman
9. The Real Presence: Parker and Brownson
Epilogue: The Contemporary Situation
Adam as Hero in the Age of Containment
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