Hermit essay

Hermit essay - Caputo 1 Kyle Caputo Professor Crain...

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Caputo 1 Kyle Caputo Professor Crain American Literature I March 7, 2008 “A Wonderful Discovery of a Hermit” and the Conflict between Society and the Self Man has always been tensely bound between the calls of selfhood and the obligations owed to society and the public sphere. Within the figure of the hermit, however, the domineering shackles of the social world are spurned for a life of complete solitude and utter self-liberation. In “A Wonderful Discovery of a Hermit,” a short anonymous narrative undergoing 10 editions between 1786 and 1800 and detailing the finding of a recluse in the deep woods of early America by a troupe of adventurers, the fantasies of a life bereft of governmental and societal duties is played out to reveal the individualist undercurrents of political thought in a time of ever- increasing federalist intervention in America. This popular text, published in editions all over New England in low-class broadsides, chapbooks, and an almanac, serves several functions in the nascent, post-Revolutionary America. Firstly, it implicitly legitimates a mythos of European privatization in an unconquered American West through its glorification of nature and the power of knowledge. Additionally, the text radically establishes society as unjust, corrupt, and artificially stratified in opposition to the American bourgeois narratives of social union and federation, and it formulates seclusion from the social compact as a successful means of profoundly understanding and being at peace with oneself and the world around one. The hermit narrative thus manifests a counter-current of thought upon selfhood and privacy in an early America under increasing federal power.
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Caputo 2 The significance of “A Wonderful Discovery of a Hermit” on the popular consciousness of 1790s New England is closely tied, however, to its material aspects and numerous print manifestations which allowed the narrative to more easily translate itself from the page to the minds of its readers. “A Wonderful Discovery of a Hermit, Who Lived Upwards of 200 Years” concerns two gentleman adventurers from Virginia, Captain James Buckland and Mr. John Fielding, and their pair of slaves, who are sent on a state-commissioned project in June of 1785 to “explore the regions which belong to these United States, which are yet unknown to us.” The adventurers are met by the beauteous natural imagery of the American hinterlands, and
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This note was uploaded on 04/14/2008 for the course ENG V41.0230 taught by Professor Crain during the Spring '08 term at NYU.

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Hermit essay - Caputo 1 Kyle Caputo Professor Crain...

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