"He that is not with us is against us". Apocalypticism and millennialism in American literature and culture: 1630--1860
Stone, Raymond Cary
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This dissertation examines the influence of apocalypticism in American literature and culture over the period 1630--1860. George W. Bush's rhetoric of war and imperial mission in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 serves a starting point for linking Puritan eschatology to a strand of millennial expectation in American culture which has proven deep and enduring, and a theoretical introduction provides the necessary background to read American apocalypticism in light of Hans Blumenberg's reoccupation thesis. I then move to an examination of the origins of apocalypticism in Second Temple Judaism's "reoccupation" of biblical Deuteronomic History and explore Christian millennialism through readings of the biblical Book of Daniel, 1 and 2 Maccabees, John of Patmos's Book of Revelation, and Augustine of Hippo's The City of God . Augustine's doctrine of the "two cities" provides a framework for exploring the exemplary purpose of the Puritan migration to New England in the writings of John Winthrop, Thomas Hooker, John Cotton, and Edward Johnson amongst others. During the course of the seventeenth century, angst over Puritan New England's declension from this original "mission" is examined in the premillennialism of Michael Wigglesworth, Increase Mather, and Cotton Mather. The devaluation of the natural world in these later Puritan texts provides an epistemological linkage with contemporary reactions to environmental degradation and the cult of the self in late capitalism which is briefly explored. In America's transition from theocracy to secular republic, I argue that the rapid expansion of Anglo-American settlers into the western frontier in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War and the formulation of a "manifest destiny" for continental expansion in the nineteenth century are "reoccupations" of Puritan millennialism, in which subjugation of the wilderness becomes the defining criteria for national mission. James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales and The Crater are seen to formulate an "environmental" critique of this secular postmillennialism that stands in contradistinction to Frederick Jackson Turner's glorification of Anglo-American imperialism. I conclude by reading Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance and The Scarlet Letter as critical of the coercive aspects of postmillennial utopianism and examine Hawthorne's proffering of sympathetic connection as a vehicle for eschatological fulfillment.