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Although American literature emerged during late 18th century when the United States got independence, I think the delay in emergence relative to other parts of the world was due to the fact that ‘Americans’ lacked common ancestral and cultural context. The literature of American grew gradually but richly due to interaction of diverse religious, cultural, social, ethnical, racial, and political values in America.
These diverse societal values transformed the United States from a country of diversity to a united country of Americans. I concur with Hector’s description of Americans as “…cultivators, scattered over an immense territory, communicating with each other by means of good roads, navigable rivers, united by the silken bands of mild government, all respecting the law without dreading their power, because they are equitable” (431).
Emerging from colonialism, slavery, racial discrimination, and inequality during agrarian democracy, many patriots like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams among others made their significant contribution to American literature as they attempted to define identity of Americans. I therefore know that agrarian democracy was an age of enlightenment that shaped American literature for it provided ideal social structure where diverse cultural, religious, philosophical, social, and political values effectively interacted.
Agrarian democracy was an era when ‘Americans’ transitioned from primitive society to the civilized society, and found their identity as Americans. The fact that, development of common religious, political, cultural and social values during agrarian revolution united diverse ‘Americans’ from different parts of the world and made them to embrace the American culture as a hybrid culture, fascinates me.
According to the philosophies of 18th century, natural laws governed the morality in the society because Americans perceived that they were the product of their environment and at the same time, they could govern their environment using human and physical laws. Rapping argues that, “the American continent, where land was fertile and abundant, was an ideal setting in which to bring the model to life; and so the establishment of a perfect society became an actual possibility for the first time in history” (708). The fertile and expansive land of American attracted many immigrants from various parts of the world who came with diverse beliefs and values that eventually shaped development of American culture and literature.
In my opinion, attracted by fertile and expansive land during agrarian revolution, many immigrants came to America, thus increasing the pool of values and beliefs, which later become helpful in the formation and development of American culture and literature. Populations in other parts of the world like Europe had increased tremendously and they squeezed themselves in the limited land. Moreover, stringent regulations of their respective governments limited their freedom and rights; hence, America was the land of freedom to them.
Hector argues that, immigrants took refuge in America and ‘…brought along with them their national genius …here he sees the industry of his native country displayed in a new manner, and traces in their works the embrios of all the arts, sciences, and ingenuity which flourish in Europe” (430). Therefore, knowledge, skills, beliefs, and values of diverse immigrants played a critical role in the formation and development of American cultural identity and literature.
I think that the impression of the assigned reading did not complicate the impression of the critical article since both agree that agrarian democracy was the origin of American culture and literature. Comparative study of the two articles shows that European countries had advanced in their cultural identity and literature as compared to America because they had common cultural, political, social, and religious values, which united them.
In contrast, America was grappling with the issues of identity amidst diverse identities that competed for dominance in an emerging country. Moreover, American government was still emerging, thus had no elaborate legal and political structures. I support Hector’s argument that, America was the land of freedom where natural laws applied because there were “…no aristocratical families, no courts, no kings, no bishops, no ecclesiastical dominion, and no invisible power giving to few very visible on…” (431).
Therefore, formation and gradual growth of American culture and identity depended on political freedom, application of natural laws and effective interaction of diverse societal factors leading to development of American literature. According to Rapping, through application of natural laws, “…man would presumably use his rational knowledge of these laws to pursue a moderate way of life and to develop machines and institutions for his improvement and happiness” (714). Hence, natural laws became the foundation of American government that guarantees freedom to humanity in exercising diverse beliefs and values, which become central to the development and formulation of American literature.
In my opinion, the assigned reading and critical article are very relevant to the study of American culture and literature as they describe the evolution of American identity in a diverse society. The critical article illustrates that enlightenment of a society depends on the effective interaction of individual and distinct members of the society in various aspects of society such as religion, politics, culture, and educational systems.
It also fits into the study of African American literature for it shows how various cultures, races, and ethnicities contributed to the formation and development of American literature. In addition, the critical article shows how Europeans perceived and shaped American culture and literature during agrarian democracy. Hence, immigrants played significant roles in shaping and defining the American culture and literature. However, I do not agree with the critical article’s observation that, natural laws can only contribute to the evolution of America culture and literatures for there are other aspects of civilization emanating from immigrants who flooded America during agrarian revolution.
Hector, Jean. “American Contexts: The Emerging Idea of ‘American.’” American Literature (n.d): 427-433.
Rapping, Ealyne. “Theory and Experience in Crevecoeur’s America.” American Quarterly 19.4 (1967): 707-718.