"Now in an artificial world like ours, the soul of man is further removed from its God and the Heavenly Truth, than the chronometer carried to China, is from Greenwich. And, as that chronometer, if at all accurate, will pronounce it to be 12 o'clock high-noon, when the China local watches say, perhaps, it is 12 o'clock midnight; so the chronometric soul, if in this world true to its Greenwich in the other, will always, in its so-called intuitions of right and wrong, be contradicting the mere local standards and watchmaker's brains of this earth.... And yet it follows not from this, that God's truth is one thing and man's truth another; but---as hinted above, and as will be further elucidated in subsequent lectures---by their very contradictions they are made to correspond." Melville, Pierre; or, The Ambiguities
[Now just marinate on that....]
All right. Everyone get on board the magic rocket ship. I got the book Saturday and I've had a sick kid all weekend-so if this isn't as linguistically scholarly-ish as you're all used to...I apologize.
Here we go:
The American Jeremiad...is
summed up through the following series of quotes and statements. My words are in red. Bercovitch’s appear in black.
No special meaning attached to colors folks. None at all.
- Rhetoric functions within a culture (xi). Ba-duh.
- This [above statement] is true of the American jeremiad, a mode of public exhortation that originated in the European pulpit, was transformed in both form and content by the New England Puritans, persisted through the 18th century, and helped sustain a national dream through 200 years of turbulence and change (xi).
- The American jeremiad was a ritual designed to join social criticism to spiritual renewal, public to private identity, the shifting “signs of the times” to certain traditional metaphors, themes, and symbols. Now begin to consider the following: is this where the historically strong adhesion of God and country begin? This phenomenon stems from the Puritan jeremiad? We have mentioned several times in class about controlling society through spirituality…is this the official name for that?
- It should also be mentioned that Jeremiah was a prophet in the bible and Bercovitch marvels at the ability of the American “prophets” to “read their own destiny in the landscape” (11). Apparently our forefathers innate ability to read landscape was a talent that did not spill over in to our neighbors to the south [Mexico] or our hat to the north [Canada-Bercovitch notes this as a Canadian immigrant].
- I am suggesting that ‘the process of Americanization’ began not with the decline of Puritanism but with the Great Migration, and that the jeremiad, accordingly, played a significant role in the development of what was to become modern middle-class American culture. I hope that in suggesting this I do not seem to be overstraining the worn links between Puritanism and the rise of capitalism. My point is simply that certain elements in Puritanism lent themselves powerfully to the conjunction, and precisely those elements came to the fore when the Bay emigrants severed their ties with the feudal forms of Old England and set up a relatively fluid society on the American strand—a society that devalued aristocracy, denounced buggary, and opened up political, educational, and commercial opportunities to a relatively broad spectrum of the population (18-9).
juxtapose the European and the New England jeremiad:
- European-the jeremiad pertained to mundane, social matters, to the city of man rather than the city of God. It required not conversion by moral obedience and civic virtue. It held of the prospect of temporal, worldly success, and only threatened secular calamity.
- New England-the jeremiad entailed a fusion of secular and sacred history. The purpose of their jeremiads was to direct an imperiled people of God toward the fulfillment of their destiny, to guide them individually toward salvation, and collectively toward the American city of God. [Flashback to “city on a hill” and the fact that it now appears to be some sort of giant bug-zapper]
- The feminist struggle shows that the rhetoric of the jeremiad not only allowed for but actually elicited social criticism (159). (In short-your only choice as a female was to be a part of the “cult of domesticity”-pg 157.)
- The anti-jeremiad: the denunciation of all ideals, sacred and secular, on the grounds that America is a lie. I use the term anti-jeremiad to recall the ubiquity of the national symbol. In this country, both the jeremiad and the anti-jeremiad foreclosed alternatives: the one by absorbing the hopes of mankind into the meaning of America, the other by reading into America the futility and fraud of hope itself (191).
In short: it is essential to note that the American jeremiad confirms our suspicions of Puritanical control of society via the pulpit, and that this control created [for better or worse] the America we know today. Bercovitch does point out the catch-22 of the jeremiad—in that it cannot exist with out something to rage against. It depends on the buggary [if you will] of society in order to spout its damnation and spur on its message of ‘hope’.