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The American Jeremiad

Sacvan Bercovitch

Publication Year: 2012

When Sacvan Bercovitch’s The American Jeremiad first appeared in 1978, it was hailed as a landmark study of dissent and cultural formation in America, from the Puritans’ writings through the major literary works of the antebellum era. For this long-awaited anniversary edition, Bercovitch has written a deeply thoughtful and challenging new preface that reflects on his classic study of the role of the political sermon, or jeremiad, in America from a contemporary perspective, while assessing developments in the field of American studies and the culture at large.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. ix-ix

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Preface to the 2012 Edition

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pp. xi-xl

This new preface comes as a challenge as well as a privilege. The American Jeremiad was in many ways a product of the radical sixties and seventies. Now that the protest has borne fruit—students’ rights in the universities, women’s rights in the workplace, gay rights in ...

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Preface to the 1978 Edition

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pp. xli-xlvi

Rhetoric functions within a culture. It reflects and affects a set of particular psychic, social, and historical needs. This is conspicuously true of the American jeremiad, a mode of public exhortation that originated in the European pulpit ...

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1. Introduction: The Puritan Errand Reassessed

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pp. 3-30

On board the Arbella, on the Atlantic Ocean, John Winthrop set forth the prospects of the infant theocracy* in a provisional but sweeping prophecy of doom. The passengers were entering into covenant with God, as into a marriage bond - and therefore, ...

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2. The Blessings of Time and Eternity

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pp. 31-61

Considered in Plinlimmon's perspective, the term jeremiad is an apt one. Jeremiah is at once a historian of horologicals and a chronometer of the future; he both laments an apostasy and heralds a restoration. In Hebrew tradition this dual function is something of a ...

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3. The Genetics of Salvation

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pp. 62-92

The American jeremiad was born in an effort to impose metaphor upon reality. It was nourished by an imagination at once defiant of history and profoundly attuned to the historical forces that were shaping the community. And in this dual capacity it blossomed with ...

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4. The Typology of America’s Mission

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pp. 93-131

The Puritan jeremiad set out the sacred history of the New World; the eighteenth-century jeremiad established the typology of America's mission. That outlook, to be sure, had become almost explicit by the last decades of the seventeenth century. But the Puritans were ...

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5. Ritual of Consensus

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pp. 132-175

By all accounts, the jeremiad played a central role in the war of independence, and the war in turn confirmed the jeremiad as a national ritual. The Whig sermons and tracts express a rite of passage into nationhood, an official coming-of-age ceremony, which had ...

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6. Epilogue: The Symbol of America

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pp. 176-210

The ritual of the jeremiad bespeaks an ideological consensus - in moral, religious, economic, social, and intellectual matters - unmatched in any other modern culture. And the power of consensus is nowhere more evident than in the symboIic meaning that the ...


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pp. 213-231


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pp. 233-239

E-ISBN-13: 9780299288631
E-ISBN-10: 0299288633
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299288648
Print-ISBN-10: 0299288641

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 300881119
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The American Jeremiad

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • American prose literature -- History and criticism.
  • Jeremiads -- United States -- History and criticism.
  • Christianity and politics -- History.
  • Preaching -- United States -- History.
  • Puritan movements in literature.
  • Oratory -- United States -- History.
  • United States -- Civilization.
  • Puritans -- New England.
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