Caroline Winterer

Oct 18, 2016

American Enlightenments

Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason

Yale University Press 2016

purchase at Caroline Winterer is the Anthony P. Meier Family Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University. American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason (Yale University Press, 2016) gives us a glimpse into how eighteenth-century Americans, as the "first prophets of tomorrow," thought of enlightenment, what it meant and how to achieve it. For centuries, enlightenment had a religious meaning of the soul awakening to divine light; increasingly it meant using reason and empirical evidence as guides and exchanging tradition and divine revelation for a humanistic and historical view of the world. The aim was nothing short of the pursuit of happiness. Winterer challenges mid-twentieth-century Cold War conceptualization of an American Enlightenment, as largely an appropriation of European ideas. The language of enlightenment was ubiquitous among educated Americans and applied to a broad range of endeavors. She demonstrates how the encounter with Indians, the expansion of slavery, the application of political economy, and the emergence of natural religion allowed Americans to contribute to a transatlantic conversation. By placing American thinkers within a transnational and a fresh hemispheric context and by adding local particularity Winterer allows us to see the diversity of American Enlightenments.
Lilian Calles Barger,, is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her current book project is entitled The World Come of Age: Religion, Intellectuals and the Challenge of Human Liberation.

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Lilian Calles Barger

Lilian Calles Barger is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her most recent book is entitled The World Come of Age: An Intellectual History of Liberation Theology (Oxford University Press, 2018). Her current writing project is on the cultural and intellectual history of women and the origins of feminism seen through the emblematic life and work of Simone de Beauvoir.

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