Saturday, July 29, 2006

Agent of the State

Nicholas Guyatt, '"An Instrument of National Policy": Perry Miller and the Cold War' Journal of American Studies, 36 (2002), I, 107-149

This is a fascinating article on Perry Miller. If you are working on Edwards this is a must-read study. He has some useful insights on Miller's "biography" of Edwards:

(134) 'The efforts of publishers and editors to produce academically respectable, discretely patriotic Americana for the general public led Miller into some strange alliances. In 1949, William Sloane published his Jonathan Edwards in its American Men of Letters series, introducing a wide audience to what is, in some respects, Miller's most difficult and certainly his oddest book.

(138) 'The decisive battle between Franklin and Edwards took place, for Miller, in his strangest book. Jonathan Edwards is on one level simply an intellectual biography, but is also stands as a kind of completion of The New England framework. Miller very carefully terminated the narrative of From Colony to Province just before Edwards would assume centre-stage, and the force of Miller's 1949 book cannot help but condition how we respond to Miller's putative completion of The New England Mind. Franklin and Edwards appear sporadically in From Colony to Province, but Miller felt little need in that book to express his preference for either. In his Jonathan Edwards, he had already made his selection ...

[Edwards] is a reminder that, although our civilization has chosen to wander in the more genial meadows to which Franklin beckoned it, there come periods, either through disaster or through self-knowledge, when applied science and Benjamin Franklin's The Way to Wealth seem not a sufficient philosophy of national life.

Miller pitched his account of Jonathan Edwards as a story for our times, an intellectual response to crisis of greater promise and utility than the output of a lesser mind like Franklin's."

This is just a taster - there is plenty more in the article.


Blogger C G said...

You're right - this really is a good one. I love the whole Perry Miller as James Bond thing too!

7:21 pm  

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