The concept of “nature” is a recurring theme in early American literature, but its meaning and significance evolve over time. This paper aims to compare and contrast the concept of “nature” as portrayed in the earliest writings, such as the Iroquois League and the works of Jonathan Edwards, with the later American idea of nature found in the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman. By analyzing these literary works in their historical context, this paper seeks to understand how the earlier works influenced the later pieces and how they reflected the culture of the time.
Thesis Statement: The concept of “nature” in early American literature undergoes a transformation from being intertwined with political and religious beliefs to becoming a source of spiritual inspiration and individualistic identity, reflecting the changing cultural and philosophical landscape of America.
I. Nature in Early American Literature: The Iroquois League and Jonathan Edwards A. The Iroquois League’s view of nature and its political implications B. Jonathan Edwards’ interpretation of nature as a reflection of divine power and human depravity
II. Transitioning Views of Nature: Emerson’s Transcendentalism A. Emerson’s concept of nature as a source of spiritual and moral truth B. Nature as a means of self-reliance and individualism
III. Embracing Nature: Thoreau’s Walden A. Thoreau’s exploration of nature as a means of simplifying and reevaluating life B. Nature as a source of spiritual and philosophical enlightenment
IV. Celebrating Nature: Whitman’s Leaves of Grass A. Whitman’s embrace of nature as a symbol of democracy and universal unity B. Nature as a source of personal and collective identity
V. Influence of Early Works on Later Literature A. How the Iroquois League and Jonathan Edwards laid the groundwork for the exploration of nature in American literature B. The impact of early religious and political beliefs on the evolving concept of nature in later works
VI. Reflection of Culture and Historical Context A. The influence of religious and political ideologies on early American literature B. The changing societal and philosophical landscape of America and its reflection in literature
Conclusion: The concept of “nature” in early American literature evolves from its early associations with political and religious beliefs to become a source of spiritual inspiration, individualism, and collective identity. The transition from the Iroquois League and Jonathan Edwards to Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman reflects the changing cultural and philosophical landscape of America during that time. By analyzing these literary works in their historical context, we gain a deeper understanding of how the concept of “nature” shapes and is shaped by the literature and culture of the era.
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